Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Capsize Matters

Cheap pun aside, it's time to drink a toast to the final Stooge short of the Fake Shemp era, and of Real and Fake Shemp combined.  It's called Commotion on the Ocean and I think we can all agree that it's not the size of the remake that matters, but what's in its heart... something like that.
...yup, it's a Fake Shemp short, all right.  A part where Fake Shemp covers his face?  Check.  One of the living Stooges asks "Hey, what became of Shemp?"?  Check.  And then, right after that, I was reminded of the moment just before Tommy DeVito shot Samuel L. Jackson in GoodFellas for some reason.
And so, almost as timely as it was in 1949's Dunked in the Deep, the Stooges find themselves on the front lines of the Cold War, looking for microfilm in oversized seasonal edibles, to use as broad and bland a phrase as possible to cover pumpkins and watermelons.  But there seems to be new footage here... please don't make me go back and watch Dunked in the Deep!!!  Anyway, how fortuitous that they find someone eating fish under a fake fish hanging off the wall.  The "real" fish on the dinner plate must be some kind of rare delicacy, long before the modern times where the landscape is positively littered with bacon-wrapped tilapia, deep fried.  How the fake fish gets onto that plate... priceless.  For everything else there's MasterCard... they're still around?  I think Visa's winning the war, and they don't even advertise anymore!  How unfair is that?  Anyway, there will be belabored chewing, then coughing and spitting.  The Stooges are nothing if not creatures of habit.  Here, filling in for Shemp is Gene Roth, the secret star of this and Dunked in the Deep.  Every so often the Stooges find themselves working with above average actors able to get work outside of Stooge shorts.
On to part 2.  God bless you, Darius69789!  You know, this segue reminds me of something Martin Short once said about following Tony Bennett on some Canadian TV show: "You can't follow a singer with a singer!"  And so, we follow the scene of eating a fake fish with the Stooges eating an all-too-real bit of summer sausage... getting hungry, Billy?  Anyway, Shemp is at last overcome by sea sickness, and this part they preserve in all its gross glory!  Where's the Hays Code when you need it?  From there, we get the buckets of water from Back from the Front which the IMDb seems incapable of giving a reference to.  Wotta day!
Now, I haven't made reference to it in a while, but make no mistake kids... even Fake Shemp shorts have to be padded out to the length of two reels.  Before the Stooges find the microfilm hidden in the melons, it's time to get some sleep.  Shemp runs afoul of what can only be called Angry Hammock.  And then, the question becomes: which will burn first?  Shemp's ass or the hammock ropes?  The answer may surprise you... or maybe not.  Cross-fade to next scene.  Shemp sets the stage after being rudely awoken, saying that they should've left him asleep so he wouldn't know how hungry he is.  Down to the last of the foodstuffs, it's time to eat some watermelon.  But hunger quickly gives way to the higher patriotic duty once the microfilm is discovered.  The bad guy eventually gets defeated, Stooge style, new footage of Moe is added to tie it in to the amalgamated plot of the instant case, and Shemp gets hit in the face with mud instead of water.  All is right with the universe.


Whew!  Glad that's over.  All the Stooge shorts reviewed and....... oh, right.  Now I'm getting seasick!  Excuse me whilst I spill a couple drops of water upon Moe's head.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Mission Impossikible

Welp, here it is, folks.  Popeye has officially entered the matrix.  This is truly the greatest philosophical dilemma Popeye has ever had to face.  I hate to spoil it too much, but those who have also seen Hello, How am I? know exactly what I'm talking about, and it ain't diamonds on the soles of my shoes.  Not that that's not a classic in its own way.
Anyway, before people were tearing realistic masks off their faces, like at the beginning of From Russia with Love (spoiler alert), we have Wimpy putting on an apparently very convincing Popeye mask, and wearing a super girdle to mask his massive belly.  And why?  All for a hamburger dinner that Olive's preparing.  That's what Olive gets for straying from Popeye's diet.  Now, some may feel sorry for Popeye, and I do... but the older I get, the more I see both sides of everything, just like Tommy Lee Jones' Two-Face in Batman Forever.  Boy, is that the wrong title or what?  Anyway, that's what Popeye gets for not inviting Wimpy to a hamburger dinner!... oh, I don't know.  Maybe Popeye's just trying to keep Wimpy alive a few more years.  I mean, I'm sure Popeye likes to share the wealth as much as the next sailor, but he also knows what an absolute pig Wimpy is.  He'll be on his tenth hamburger before anyone else gets to their first.
But that's what I'm getting at!  It's this kind of philosophical dilemma that's got Popeye all tied up in knots, and he's not loving it lots and lots!  But Wimpy as Fake Popeye is quite the ladies man, as he's able to turn Olive against the real Popeye.  It's probably for the best that Olive never find out.  Hell hath no fury, so I've heard... and if that's not an invite to the angry feminists out there, I don't know what is!
To cut to the chase, Wimpy is unmasked and runs off into the horizon, as we can see through another gaping hole in the wall!  What is it about cartoons and that vantage point?  I hate to say it, but it was awfully easy for the real Popeye to beat up a fake one.  One punch?  Where's the Fist Tornado?  Where's the twisker punch?  Oh well.  It'll just have to do.  Anyway, after Popeye's ultimate identity crisis, he is practically required to sing the ending theme that's fallen out of popularity lately.  Depending on your point of view, it's either got the funniest lyrics or the laziest.  Today, I can't help but think laziest, and as usual, the grammar's all shot to hell, I tells ya.  This is another one of those Popeye cartoons with commentary, so it must be a good one... despite the lack of 3D background.  The Fleischers seem to have given up on that or something.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - André Braugher

Every brother out there wants to direct.  Well, when you've been in something like Edward Zwick's Glory, and forced to play the part that my man André had to play... well, I'm sure even the best of us would want to direct after that, if only out of a feeling of revenge.  His opposite role would have to be in A Better Way to Die which, I hate to say it, may be the first and last time I felt sympathy for Joe Pantoliano's character.  He's like if Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson had a baby... or maybe William Devane, one of those.  Anyway, after being directed by Scott Wiper, well, the thought of becoming a director just gets stronger and stronger.  Of course, the way Hollywood's going, directors have to look as pretty as the movie stars these days.  Michael Bay, Scott Wiper, Walt Becker... handsome, handsome, hansdome.  There's probably young people out there right now in film school, and they're probably being asked why they want to direct, and they're probably answering "I've got a hat!"
Reminds me of the repellent person I met at college once, and she told me "Okay, there's about a billion people right now trying to get into the film business, and here you are.  Lookatcha."  I guess she was a personal assistant to Don Rickles once or something, working on her lesbian road trip script on weekends.  But back to the case at hand.  Enough snark for now.  Has this dude got it?  Has André B-thousand got what it takes to sit in the folding chair and spend the next 24/7/90 putting the damn thing on film?  And then another 24/7/90 in editing?  Another 24/7/90 in sound editing?  WHAT'S THE GUY DIRECTED?!!!!  As it turns out, one third of the 1999 TV movie, Love Songs.
Okay, it's a start.  I guess he hasn't found another good project yet to do himself.  It's all good.

Spiders, Rhinos, and glowing Jamie Foxx! Oh my!

Well, the big story this week... okay, second to Donald Sterling, is that Rutgers students protested the pending commencement speech of former Secretary of State and unconvicted war criminal Condoleezza Rice.  Apparently, Rutgers' board of governors, starstruck as they are, were going to pay Rice $35,000 for her appearance.  Here's my problem... only $35,000?  What kind of insult is this?  If I were Rice, I'd be indignant and play the race card.  Same old story.  Rice drops out, Snooki goes in and gets $70,000.  Say what you will about Snooki, at least she's not a war criminal... yet.  You'd be surprised what people will do to increase sales of their latest book.
But even though he caved to public pressure, I think Rutgers president Robert Barchi should stand by his principles, and at least give the embattled and embittered Condoleezza something.  Who's going to miss a few thousand dollars?  Embezzle some funds for Condoleezza somehow.  The girl's gotta eat, am I right?  Or maybe set up an account for her at Tiffany's!  Something!  Anything!  Be a man of principle, Barchi!
Anyway, the big news is that the critics are attacking Spider Man 5 already.  Boy!  There's just no pleasing some people.  I think it's because the Spider Man franchise used to have something.  Specifically, director Sam Raimi.  He brought panache to it... at least, til the third installment.  Sure, he has trouble ending trilogies, but no more than most directors.  Raimi brought more critical acclaim to a Marvel franchise than any other director so far... or is that too much of a generalization?  I just can't get into all this worship of Joss Whedon, even though he's made a lot of money.
And Spider-Man himself kinda lost me when he started playing with lasers.  Or is that what underdogs do now?  Anyway, as expected, Spidey positively CRUSHES the competition.  Okay, no one's talking about how much money per hour it's raking in, but still!  Also, I saw on Facebook that May 4th is now Star Wars day, but they still have to compete with the Spider Man franchise which has traditionally been released the first week of May.
So not only is the competition crushed, Spidey is the only debut this week.  So let's take a short look back.  Heaven is for Real stays at #3 for the third week in a row.  It's kinda creepy!  The one the mortals call Oculus is gone, but it may have turned a profit, even after only two weeks in the Top 10.  God's Not Dead and The Grand Budapset Hotel got resurrected, getting sucked back into the Top 10.  See, that's how big a hit Spider Man 2 is!  It created this weird vacuum where no new debuts can get in, but some of the old fogeys still in theaters do!  I'm freakin' out.  Some lucky employable so-and-so is going to do their Ph.D. thesis about that.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Shemping Shempers

Almost there, folks!  The Shemp Era's only got one more film after this, so it may be a happy occasion for those of you who don't care for Shemp... or a sad occasion, knowing what's to come after.  We'll get to that soon enough.
And so we get the rather generically titled Scheming Schemers.  It's a remake of Vagabond Loafers, which is itself a remake of the classic A Plumbing We Will Go.  So we got a remake of a remake, which also has pie fight footage from Half Wits Holiday... at least, I think the footage from Half Wits Holiday is all original footage.  It didn't seem familiar in the grand scheme of things when I saw it in the context of my little venture here.  The point being, it takes a village... I mean, a good Stooge remake can be made from more than just one Stooge film.  And I hate to say it, but probably the funniest line in Scheming Schemers is from the earlier film, where Shemp slides down the fireman / plumber pole, just missing the Jeep as it drives off.  Shemp says "We gotta get a longer Jeep!"
Now, according to Wikipedia, the last three Fake Shemp Stooge shorts were done a month apart.  Then again, most of the Real Shemp shorts were done in a month.  Looking at the data we're given a little more closely, 1954 and 1955 had Stooge shorts also completed in September, October and November.  The boys were working harder than they should have, that's for sure!  Don't most guys get to actually enjoy their retirement?  But there is one new sign here that production was rushed: instead of filming new footage to incorporate the ring subplot, Moe just dubbed new lines over old footage!!!  Then Lawrence does it!  The ultimate cinematic crime!  And yet, bad English dubbing in Chinese kung fu chopsockie movies gets all the attention from stand-up comedians.  That's the real crime, right folks?
Anyway, they've got all the new hallmarks of a Fake Shemp short.  A Stooge asking "Hey, where's Shemp?"  Check.  Fake Shemp covering his face?  Check.  Moe acting like Curly?  Check.  Oh, I can't take it, I tells ya.  Moe seems especially wigged out in this new footage.  Maybe he had a little too much to drink that day or something.  And sure, I could do like The Onion and wonder aloud why someone would call a plumber to retrieve a ring that fell into a sink, especially a Stooge plumber but... well, that just misses the point, doesn't it?  I mean, why does the sun shine?  Why does the flower bloom?  Why must the Stooges bring chaos to order?
What else?  Oh, Larry continues his tradition of referring to himself as an idiot.  Always good to try new things.  It must get old having others refer to you as an idiot.  Why not eliminate the middleman?
And, of course, the same old tired footage of Dudley Dickerson from A Plumbing We Will Go.  He probably didn't get residuals for it, alas.  Might've helped cover the medical bills he surely incurred for falling on his ass so much.  And I didn't particularly care for the way the picture ended with the slow fade on recycled footage of Shemp, but I guess it's appropriate in a way, seeing as how he was dead at the time.  Emil Sitka and Kenneth MacDonald seem to have some fun with their roles, so I won't go too far below three stars for this one.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Longshoreman Medium

Our next Popeye toon is called Ghosks is the Bunk, and our favourite cartoon threesome put the band back together, so to speak.  Olive's reading ghost stories to Popeye and Bluto, and they sit there, half-bored, half-attentive.  Like me, they like the scary parts, but not all that boring setting-the-scene crap that we all skip over on the second reading/viewing and beyond.
Anyway, Bluto's back... but he sounds a little different.  A little goofy, if you will!  Copyright infrigement aside, I miss Gus Wickie, and even Jackson Beck to an extent.  And it's not long before Bluto's up to his old alpha-male ways, messing with Popeye's mind.  In this instant case, the notion is bourne (at this exact moment) when Popeye emerges from under the couch, saying "Ya don't thinks I was scared, does ya?  I knows there ain't no such things as ghosts and things!"
Bluto yawns and pretends to go to bed... and sets off on his greatest prank yet.  I hate to spurl it, but it's an important part of my job.  Needles to say, as part of Bluto's prank, Olive and Popeye end up going to an abandoned hotel looking for someone in trouble.  Alas, Bluto didn't think it completely through, unlike J. J. Abrams or M. Night Shyamalan, and he ends up enjoying a good laugh at the other two's expense... almost to the brink of tears, Bluto is!
The tables get turned on Bluto, especially when Popeye runs across that old cartoon stand-by... yup, a can of invisible paint.  Only in cartoons.  In The Invisible Mouse, it was invisible ink.  As Dave Letterman might quip, whoever actually invents invisible paint will make "a million damn dollars."  And so, Popeye sneaks up on Bluto while wearing the invisible paint, but Bluto's able to wring Popeye's invisible neck.  Time for spinach!  And for the first and possibly last time, an invisible reign of fists rains down upon Bluto.  It's a one-man Fist Tornado, and Bluto hits the road.  We have another staple of cartoons, and that is a giant hole in the wall where you can see a long and winding road into the distance, and boy, do we see Bluto run down that.  Popeye pours a can of paint remover upon himself, and then on his invisible arm, and he's visible again.  But what about invisible Olive?  Well, she got painted invisible too!  Hard to say if she contributed to the revenge against Bluto or not, but Popeye did forget she was invisible, spoiler alert.  Time for another ending where she beats up Popeye, and then it's their turn to run off into the distance as we watch through the hole in the wall.  To be fair, she did take a swipe at Popeye.  This is something you do not do, even in jest.
So even though there's no extras associated with it on the DVD... I must be in a good mood or something.  Four stars.

Good double bill with: ...what else?  Shiver Me Timbers!!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Pearl Bowser

Directing's admittedly not for everyone.  Sure, there's the glory if you're good at it, but even Richard Donner does more producing now.  Sometimes you just wanna be a few footsteps away from the furnace; the director has to live in the furnace for x number of months, and hopefully the heat dies down in post production.  Oh, how the studio heads look down their noses upon directors!  Poo pooh!  Glorified mail room boys, those directors are!
In Pearl Bowser's case, two films in ten years was enough.  But she didn't a-hole her way out of the documentary community, and so the 2000s were spent being an interview subject.  Ain't it the life, though?

Midnight Ramble on Wikipedia

Heaven on Earth

Crap!!! My taxes... oh, right.  Still waiting for my refund, guys!  Anyway, every once in a long while, you push and push and push, and the occasional chick flick breaks through the ceaseless shuffle of superhero pics.  In this case, it's a film called The Other Guys... no, wait, that was Will Ferrell's 2010 project.  It's a film called The Others... no, that was that 2001 film from the guy who made the film that inspired Vanilla Sky.  His sophomore slump, if you will.  No, it's called The Other Boleyn Girl... no, wait, that was that thing with ScarJo and NatPo.  It's called The Other Sister... no, wait, that was that thing about the retar... The Lives of Others?  Love & Other Drugs?  The Other (1972)?  The Other (1999)?  The Other (2007) ?  Damn it!  Okay, I got it this time.  It's definitely called The Other Woman... no, wait, that's a film from 2009.  Ooh!  NatPo again!  Man, I'm exhausted now.  Let's just say Spring 2014 Untitled Kate Upton Project, as the IMDb will occasionally refer to a film whose title is yet to be determined.  Standout titles are kinda hard to come by.  And you know, with all the attention paid to the stars, I didn't even concern myself with the producers (probably Judd Apatow, esp. if Leslie Mann's involved), writers or directors!  ...Nick Cassavetes?  Neat-o!  Well, the 1990s were kinda hard on him, as well as the 2000s, especially after he unleashed novelist Nick Fury upon an unsuspecting world... I mean, Nicholas Sparks.  I know I should like Nicholas Sparks, and that not liking Nicholas Sparks makes me a bad person, but something in me is making me resist.  I think it's my immortal soul.  Also, he gave Miley Cyrus some movie work.  That's much worse.
Speaking of afterlife-related things, Paul Walker lives on past his premature passing with Luc Besson's latest random thought for the American market written on a Post-It Note for Robert Mark Kamen to turn into a movie.  It's called Brick Mansions, quite the opposite of The Glass House.  In fact, they've got a whole floor dedicated to throwing stones!  You know, to keep your reflexes sharp, like Mel Gibson in that Braveheart flick... okay, bad example.  Let's move on, and not start a new paragraph.  The only other debut this week is the Western flick The Quiet Ones about Richard Nixon coming up with the phrase "The Silent Majority"... no, wait, that can't be right.  Actually, it's the latest script from fresh-faced auteur Oren Moverman!  Well, no harm in paying a few bills.  Plus, he's branching out and not working with Woody Harrelson all the time.  I just hope Woody's okay with that.  Besides, doesn't he have True Detective to do?
In other heaven-box office-related news, God's Not Dead is below #10, but Heaven is for Real holds steady at #3.  IT'S A MIRACLE!!!!!!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

America Needs Philomena

I was asked to write a report about Philomena which I saw a couple days ago, so here goes.  You know, just when the Catholic Church could use some good news... well, I guess the new Pope's doing okay, but still.  It wasn't so long ago that the more observant and brave stand-up comedians amongst us would observe that the Catholic Church was a big player in the real estate market.  Okay, George Carlin.  And then came the child molestations, which happened to catch the attention of far more stand-up comedians than the real estate angle.  Now we've got the true story of Philomena Lee, which I must say was executed flawlessly by auteur Stephen Frears... damn!  I should've made the headline "Tears for Frears"!  Oh well.
Allow me to take a second to complain about the music.  I suppose all movie music has to be monotonous to a degree, repeating their same choruses over and over, and all the composer can hope is that it sticks in the mind in a good way.  In this case, it's almost as Oscar-worthy as the Lawrence of Arabia theme.  Philomena was up for four Oscars.  Unfortunately, it didn't win any, but I seem to remember the music perfectly from the ceremony, and it just seemed like it won something.  Oh well.  As someone once said, every generation throws a new movie composer up the pop charts.  It will always be John Williams, of course, but then there was Danny Elfman, and then Carter Burwell and all his imitators... and now it's apparently this Desplat guy.  I don't understand it, and I don't like it, because I'm a grumpy old man, but progress is progress.  Besides, we need something other than the constant throbbing that is any Hans Zimmer soundtrack these days.  And just remember, Steve Coogan, you're closer to Oscar's neighborhood than Ricky Gervais ever will be!
Okay, now the fun part.  And even though the majority of the atrocities took place in Ireland, I must warn you that I'm about to launch an attack on good old fashioned American family values.  Spoiler alerts ahead.  First of all, I must be getting older and more negative in outlook because the church says they lost a bunch of paperwork in the "big fire."  Fortunately, they had a contract they gave to Philomena saying that she signed away all her rights to contact her orphaned child.  The Steve Coogan character soon wondered aloud about that irony.  To back up slightly, Philomena had a baby out of wedlock, so in addition to her crime of being poor in Ireland, there's that.  Her punishment is of course depending on the Catholic Church for help.  As you might be aware, the Catholic Church doesn't take kindly to sinners, especially poor ones, but they will gladly use slave labor to take care of all of life's menial chores that come with large, venerated institutions.  Mo power, mo problems, right?
For those worried about plot, Philomena's odyssey has enough twists and turns and meta-commentary vis-a-vis the reporter angle to keep everyone satisfied, me thinks.  There's also the rather satisfying moment when the reporter barges into the older nun's private quarters.  Frankly, the Catholic Church could use more of that... maybe some Baptists too, who knows.  I know some people are struggling with the threat of atheism right now, but seeing how vindictive and unyielding in their doctrine some of those old nuns can be, maybe atheism's a viable alternative at this point.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lookin' For Some Hot Stuff Baby This Evening...

Gotta go with the Donna Summer reference, I'm sorry.  Steve Allen be damned... hah!  YouTube doesn't have everything yet!  Wikipedia's got it, though.  Anyway, it's phony country time again in Stoogeville... Urania?  Urania Daily Bladder?!!  Man, where's the Hays Code when you need it?  As always, the Stooges stay topical with Cold War-type stuff, as well as touching on the geopolitical with the rocket fuel angle.  Reminds me of that passage from Vonnegut's novel "Slaughterhouse Five" where the Tralfamadorians explain to William Pilgrim that the universe gets destroyed when an alien race is testing out a new rocket fuel... I may have said that before, because this is a remake of the Stooges' previous classic, Fuelin' Around.
Now, the Stooges have violent scenes, and they have violent scenes... too bad someone hasn't catalogued them better!  Maybe I'm just honing in on the latest and the greatest, and the cleets in Moe's face from They Stooge to Conga is pretty bad, but somehow the sequence here is much worse.  Here's the situation: Moe's in a state of bliss after seeing Christine McIntyre, and frankly, who can blame him.  I guess Larry's in a similar state, but unfortunately he's trying to multitask.  He's ogling McIntyre whilst cutting some carpet at the same time.  He cuts the toe right off Moe's shoe, and it looks like he cuts enough to take all of Moe's toes off, and enough of the foot so that none of the individual toes get away!  But as always, the foot is fine, and only the shoe's been cut and some feelings hurt.  Moe picks up a hammer and starts wailing away on Lawrence's head.  Besides the series premiere of Fargo, it also puts me in mind of that Looney Tunes classic, Easter Yeggs.  Warning: it wasn't directed by either the epic Chuck Jones or the iconic Robert Clampett, which is probably why it's a couple notches below top quality.
Anyway, the plot.  Moe and Larry... and fake Shemp... are undercover agents who have no luck with their countries' secretaries; they're just as bad as the Stooges!!  Their job is similar to the job in Fuelin' Around: the Stooges get kidnapped by bumbling idiots who confuse Larry for the ones the mortals call Professor Sneed, inventor of rocket fuel (thanks to Prometheus, probably).  Professor Moe has to explain to the other two that they need to keep pretending that Larry's the real professor, or they'll go back and kidnap the real professor and execute the Stooges at dawn.  Cold-blooded!
Now, Larry was multitasking in a blissful state earlier.  Now it's Shemp's turn.  He accidentally drops an empty jug on his own head, and ends up in a half-conscious state.  Unfortuantely for science, he keeps trying to work.  He puts the funnel into a jug... or does he?  Lol.  Anyway, he starts to pour.  Moe eventually figures it all out.  Kinda like how in all them Tom and Jerry cartoons, the mouse takes the cat's tail and ties it around stuff.  I guess it's a funny gag; all I know is whenever I grab a hold of a cat's tail, they know about it right away.  And I usually get clawed, which is why I eventually stopped trying.
Meanwhile, Vernon Dent comes into the room, looking strangely calm, as though the Stooges weren't in the same room when they filmed that part!  That'd make anyone calmer.  Alas, Dent has a secret up his marching band sleeve: they have the real Professor Sneed and his lovely daughter McIntyre.  The boys try to leap out the open window, but are stopped by iron bars.  You know, the kind that drop at the push of a button... do they even make those anymore?  Did they ever to begin with?
And so, cross-fade to the next scene... wow, that was a bad edit!  Apparently, there was no repercussions for the Stooges, but they'll probably be trying to liberate Professor Sneed, if only for his purdy daughter.  Now, the fake Shemp doesn't say much, but here he tries to do Shemp's trademark laugh or... whatever the hell that noise is.  And so, as before, Larry gets the idea to burn a hole in the floor, because Professor Sneed's jail cell is right below their lab!  How architecturally convenient!  Oh, Larry's such a wuss; his stunt double falls through the floor.  Moe climbs down after him, and it looks like Moe actually takes his fall!  A true professional.


Just like Harry Potter solves mysteries that a kid can solve, so too do the Stooges break out of a jail guarded by guards as dumb as the Stooges.  If there's a moral to the story here, and I don't think there is, it might be a variation on "Careful what you wish for."  In this case, if you pretend to make rocket fuel, try to make the real deal because you just might get a chance to use it.  The quintet (the Stooges, Professor Sneed and hot daughter) climb into a getaway jeep... but the jeep's empty!  Shemp brings a jug of the rocket fuel with him; Lord knows where or how he got it.  Shemp pours it into the jeep.  A handful of Anemia's finest sharpshooters is firing at the quintet.  The jeep starts, causing a giant explosion that sears all of the Anemian soldiers' outfits.  The jeep burns rubber and heads for the border in a hail of fireworks.  I guess we'll never get to see them try to get through customs.  Oh well.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

A Nitemare on Spinach Street

One way you can tell that a cartoon is special is by the DVD packaging.  If there are extras, like commentaries or a mini-documentary about its making, then that's how you can tell... well, for the most part.  I mean, It's the Natural Thing to Do?  Seriously?  I haven't gotten to it yet.  Anyway, Wotta Nitemare has a bonus commentary by Jerry Beck, the man himself.  And that guy's the real deal!  He's seen all the Looney Tunes / Merrie Melodies cartoons.  Maybe he can tell me which is the one where Sylvester sounds drunk.  I mean actual drunk, not just pretend drunk that Mel Blanc does so well.
And so we start with Popeye's face... hey, wait a second.  See?  This one's a classic!  All the elements are there in Popeye's dream: the love triangle that is Popeye, Bluto and Olive.  Popeye always starts off as the omega, or the weakest link in the triangle, if you like.
Anyway, here's a bad analogy for you: we were watching Duck Soup this weekend.  Personally, I think I've seen it too much, and now I'm focusing on small details I never noticed before, like the first time Groucho... I mean, Firefly, goes to his car, and half of his shirt's sticking out.  Lol.  The mirror scene is of course the stuff of movie legend, but I'm as originalist as the next guy, and Max Linder did originate the idea before anyone else, even before Buster Keaton probably.  However, the Marx Brothers put a better spin on it, and it's still the go-to reference to mirror gags... wait a second.  Anyway, I'm sure the psychology of dreams was well known, especially by the likes of Winsor McCay and his Little Nemo series, but for me, Wotta Nitemare gets all the high points of the dream arc just right.  The struggles to get nowhere, the attempts in vain to run away, the proverbial marshmallow pillow, what have you.  Moments of pleasure often quickly give way to moments of anguish and struggle, and you will believe anything your brain throws at you.  Popeye's dreams are literally in the clouds, and we see Olive in an angel's outfit tickling his enormous chin.  Suddenly, Bluto materializes out of fat air in his devil's outfit and whisks Olive away.  We'll leave the Battle of the Sexes commentary for another day; all girls want bad boys, all boys want bad girls, that kinda crap.  Popeye struggles to keep up with Bluto and Olive, but he's always close enough to see what's going on.
As always in dreams, things are in a state of constant flux.  A giant boulder in Popeye's way turns into an attacking steamroller, and Popeye's unicycle turns into a giant snail, and not the fast kind in The Neverending Story, either.  Popeye tries to run away, but... this probably says horrible things about me, but it's one of my favourite parts of the cartoon.  The music's perfect, Popeye's struggles are perfect... has everyone not had this dream?  The Fleischers even throw in a musical reference to their previous A Dream Walking.  I guess eating too much spinach has the same effects as Ambien today.
Soon the dream takes an unseemly turn.  Olive's finally had enough of Bluto when Bluto starts stuffing his face much like Wimpy often does.  "Yecch!" she cries.  Lol.  It's Breathless Mahoney and Lips Manlis all over again, folks.  An epic struggle breaks out between dream Bluto and dream Popeye until... yup, even Popeye's final safety net isn't safe in the world of dreams.  Popeye eventually wakes up before he's able to eat all the stuffing out of his mattress, and gives real-life Bluto the old Fist Tornado for good measure, even though Bluto doesn't know why.  That's right, even a bully like Bluto sometimes doesn't understand why he's hated so much.
Anyway, Popeye goes back to sleep and his dream has a happy ending.  It's what Hollywood's all about, of course.  The concept of lucid dreaming hasn't been explored too much beyond Vanilla Sky and the film it's based on, apparently.  Still, a classic Popeye cartoon, even though it doesn't have the doors at the beginning.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - George Bowers

Alas, even in Hollywood, some people just have to stick with the day job.  Stuart Baird knows it, and George Bowers knew it.  Directing's actually a day and night, 24/7/365 always-on job, despite the stories you've heard about the easygoing Coen brothers.  If you do it well, sure, fortune and glory's all yours, but for the other 99% of directors, it's a grind.  But for some like George Bowers, you'll always be a hero for directing night owl cable classics like My Tutor and Private Resort, even if it's just being a hero to those you're directing.  Johnny Depp was in Private Resort, and I can't help but wonder if it's that connection that got Bowers his job later on editing From Hell, also starring Johnny Depp.  I guess it doesn't hurt.

... oh Crap! My taxes!!!!

Heh heh heh..... a bunny that hands out hard-boiled chicken eggs?  Boy, what were the people smoking who came up with that?  And the eggs aren't plain either.  No, they're all painted up like cheap harlots riddled with genital herpes.  No thank you, I say.  And speaking of getting high... the Koch brothers.  (pronounced "Coke")  There was a thing on MSNBC about them, and perhaps you saw it too.  Reminds me of that latest incarnation of The Parable of the Talents.  The master Koch brother summoned the slave Koch brother and entrusted his property to him.  To the slave Koch brother he gave 44 billion talents, each according to his ability.  Then the slave Koch brother went upon his journey.  He had received 44 billion talents, went off right away and put his money to work and gained 44 billion more.  After what seemed like an eternity, the master Koch brother came and settled his accounts.  The slave Koch brother said, 'Sir, you entrusted me with 44 billion talents.  See, I have gained 44 billion more.'  His master answered, 'Evil and lazy slave!  You should have deposited my money with the bankers, and upon my return I would have received my money back with interest.  And seeing as I have no other slave to give these 44 billion talents to, I will take them back myself.  And throw that worthless Koch brother into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'  See, people forget that the Bible is not only the one book most people will ever need for spiritual guidance, it's also the only book most people will ever need for financial guidance as well!  Anyway, the MSNBC story seemed to be saying that the cream of the 1% crop seems to do the most complaining, even though they're making the most money.  And by most money, I mean all the money in the known universe.  No wonder people say we're headed for another big financial crash.
Not Hollywood, of course.  Hollywood will live on forever.  God bless that dream-fueled bubble!  And which film will be the big winner this weekend?... I haven't seen commercials since The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are on vacation, so I don't know.
...boy, I thought I was catty!  One of the headlines is "Johnny Depp Bombs Again."  Yeah, yeah, we know.  Depp's just trying to audition for Christopher Nolan's 2016 pic, that's all.  When Pirates 5 bombs, then we know there's a problem.  But Depp's new movie, Transcendence, did perform poorly, even being beaten out by Heaven is for Real, for God's sake!  Also, God's Not Dead is at #10, so God's got both ends of the box office covered this weekend.  The only other debut this week is the sequel to A Haunted House called A Haunted House 2.  Now there's some rare bravery.  Sequel numbers are slowly making a comeback!  Take Rio 2, for example.  And the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man 2. (Spider Man 5?)  Most else are ashamed of the numbers, like the Twilight series or the Harry Potter series or Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  It's already spring!  Duh!! Der!!!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Bale of Justice

As per usual, a movie doesn't usually live up to what I hear about it.  In the case of Out of the Furnace, I was expecting a gritty story about how we don't make anything in America anymore, and how that has a rather negative impact on personalities, especially in the small towns where the factories shut down.  Well, spoiler alerts: the factory is perhaps the only thing in the movie that's not shut down.  Christian Bale plays the quiet, hard working older brother, and Casey Affleck plays the younger, reckless brother.  Most families seem to pan out that way, don't they?  Affleck gets involved in the very seamy underground fight club circuit.  The story seems to take place in Pennsylvania, and it just so happens that it's next door to the armpit of the South, where even Penn's finest police officers fear to tread, or due to some fancy gerrymandering, they're not allowed to go.  To make this tangled web of a three-legged chair complete, Forest Whitaker plays the cop that tries going after the bad guy, but has successfully stolen Bale's fiancée away after Bale goes to prison on a drunk driving charge.  The crushing weight of the grittiness of the story's setting is lifted when the purity of the thirst for vengeance takes over: ultra-redneck and arch underground fight club kingpin Woody Harrelson ends up killing Casey Affleck and local Moe Syzslak-ish arch-criminal Willem Dafoe.  Bale seeks justice.  Whitaker tells Bale that Harrelson lives outside of his jurisdiction... wasn't there a few Westerns like that?  Anyway, it all wraps up a little too neat and tidy for my tastes, but my friend's a Christian Bale fan, so he cut it more slack than me.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Friday, April 11, 2014

Remake Rumpus

And so, with the premature passing of Shemp, the hunt is on for America's Next Big Stooge.  Apparently, having made only four films without him, Moe and Larry didn't have the stamina to use a fake Shemp for the long haul.  For most, though, it's still better than a real Joe Besser.  Nothing less than an act of Congress will change that.
And with that, we get a remake of the public domain classic, Malice in the Palace, and this time it's called Rumpus in the Harem.  With the very first scene, there's already a huge Shemp-sized hole in the proceedings, but the Stooges had good writers.  Spoiler alert: Shemp left a note in his bed.  That's right; he's got a separate bed now.  Only Moe and Larry are left to sleep, but their slumber is disturbed by... what else?  Their three granddaughters... I mean, their three love interests.  Like McConaughey in Dazed and Confused, the Stooges get older, but their love interests stay the same age.  As usual, love threatens to fly out the window when money problems come innuendo.  The Stooges need to pay a fine or something to get their girlfriends back... even though they seem a little reluctant to do it.  But can you blame these girls for crying so much?  For one thing... they're in love with THE THREE STOOGES!  That'd bring anybody to tears.
And so, cross-fade to the old footage.  The funny gags like this one, alas, are few and far between.  What has been reused, in all its awful glory, is Lawrence's cooking sketch.  You know, where everyone thinks he's hacking up a cat and dog.  I hate to say this, but all of you who like that bit are idiots.  Why you don't skip over that part completely is beyond me.  Okay, the best part is Larry chasing after the cat, I'll give you that.  So let's say the bit starts there... and it ENDS HERE.  Moving on.
Oh, and there's a fake Shemp in there someplace.  Oh, I just can't bear to point him out.  Too painful.  And so, this other dude got to the diamond before Vernon Dent and his partner could.  They give up, and the Stooges kick their grieving asses out of their joint.  They decide to steal the diamond back and return it to its rightful owner... for the reward money, of course.  Even heroes got bills to pay, you know!  Even Moore and Mankiw know that.  There's some new footage of Moe and Larry fighting with two girls in Santa outfits.  Boy, even Cannery Row pulls out all the stops from time to time!  For a second there, I thought the girls were going to turn out to be their girlfriends, but no.  Also, at some point, Larry gets to steal Shemp's "a terrific headache" bit.  See what I mean?  Depressing!  Too painful.  At least with Joe Besser they get sort of a fresh start...........................................................

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Pet Shop Popeye

Leave Well Enough Alone, indeed!  Well, even Popeye has to have an off day or two.  I mean, no spinach, no Bluto, no courting of Olive?  No ending Popeye theme?!!!!  No wonder that flea-bitten parrot is the star!  Apparently, Jack Mercer himself does double duty as the parrot's voice, so that's kinda fun.  I didn't know parrots could snort like a pig!
Oh, right.  The plot.  As you can see from the attached jpeg, Popeye's overcome with emotion, seeing all those cute little puppies clamoring over each other.  Do they not clamor for freedom?  Popeye goes inside and buys the lot.  And I mean, all the pets in Olive Oyl's Pet Shop.  Of course, they all seem to be dogs.  After some mental calculations, Olive arrives at an inflation-proof figure of $500 for all the pets.  I'll leave the haughtier economics discussions to smarter minds than mine, like Stephen Moore and Mankiw... you're welcome very much.  Popeye takes out his bankroll, peels a few lettuce sheets off it, and starts liberating all the pets en masse.  All that's left is the one lone parrot.  Popeye tries to tell the mule-stubborn bird that it's free to fly around.  The bird retorts that it's got everything it needs: a roof over its head, and three squares a day... or did I imagine that latter part?  The point being, society's turned that exotic bird into a pensioner!  Then again, even spiders and flies would rather be indoors!  They get enough fresh air as it is.
To make matters worse, the parrot points out what too much freedom has done to the dogs: society starts going to the dogs.  We see two dogs rooting around in the garbage.  Cue the dog catcher, who nabs two dogs at once.  A third dog emerges and gets a laugh out of the others' misfortune.  The icy hand of Disney-ified animation takes hold.  Popeye runs after the dog catcher who's never had a busier day in his life.  Popeye manages to catch up to the dog catcher and, before the dog catcher gets to dump all the dogs into the underground chute, Popeye gives the dog catcher some money, probably another $500.  Popeye scoops  up all the dogs, and carries them all back to Olive's pet shop, where they all quickly lock themselves back into their cages.  Their '60s over in one six minute short; something depressing about that.  The parrot gets the last verse; something even more depressing about that... but it's Jack Mercer, so it's all good.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - St. Claire Bourne

Oh, sure, Mr. Bourne was a producer and director and many other things in his own right, especially during the go-go activist '70s, but even he has to step aside and take notice of greatness passing him by, which is why he did a documentary on the making of Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing.  Nearly all of Spike's films have shouting matches in them, but the shouting matches in Do The Right Thing are among the most powerful.

Blame it on Rio

There is no joy in Marvel-ville.  I mean, look at how much Rio 2 raked in this weekend!  Whew.  Meanwhile, the one the mortals call Oculus came in third.  Wonder if Akiva Goldsman had anything to do with it.  The only other debut this week is... oh, right!  Draft Day.  Ivan Reitman's doing a film more along the lines of son Jason for a change!  Yes, despite two of the non-Costner leads going on the John Daly show to promote it, it only came in fourth.  Oh, Colbert's going to have a field day with that.
In other news, Pompeii is still gone... oh, I can't resist!  Pompeii is gone, but director Paul W. S. Anderson's busy working on Resident Evil 6.  Better change that!  Gotta replace that numeral with a word, like Mutation or Asymptote or Wearing out its Welcome.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

False Detective

Welp, according to Wikipedia, this is it, folks!  The last Stooge short with living Shemp.  And as Sam Raimi should remember, it's Fake Shemp after that.  This time, it's a remake of their 1949 whodunit called Who Done It.  This one's called For Crimin' Out Loud, and for some reason, the VHS Lords of long ago preferred the remake to the original.  Why, they cut out all of Moe's best lines, like when he asks Larry "You've been around me many years.  Dontcha know what I look like?"
To make matters worse, the Stooges get downgraded from "Alert Detective Agency" to "Miracle Detective Agency."  They also get a slightly more dignified entrance than in Who Done It, if I may be so bold... but it quickly slides down the slippery slope from there.  Emil Sitka dons the old guy makeup for a new narrative intro from him.  The comedy names of roads and rivers abound!  Even he's a little taken aback by it!
Stooge director Edward Bernds did Who Done It, and Jules White directed this here remake, so the emphasis on childish violence is front and center where it belongs.  Moe gets a little sloppy with a double hit that bounces back upon him!  Wotta goof.
The supporting cast does a fine job once again... actually, I think they're just in the old footage.  Charles Knight makes a fine British butler... you know, to class up the joint.  And of the 342 credits to arch bad guy Ralph Dunn's name, Who Done It is in his IMDb Top 4.  Something wrong with that.  But most of the "air time" goes to the lovely Christine McIntyre.  Femme fatale, talented ingenou ... doesn't really matter, does it?  The camera loves her... especially Shemp's!!!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Nora Ephron's "Aladdin"

Well, since this is the last two-reel color Popeye extravaganza from the Fleischers, and it's probably the least favourite amongst the fans, it therefore makes sense that I pay the most attention to it.  And once again, I'll leave the cultural implications of it all to the experts.  Besides, only Disney is forgiven their racial insensitivities because they're the most successful animation studio of all time... including Cretaceous and Devonian.  I just can't think of a good example...

...looks like I'm not going to get any extra time this week.  Okay, I'll just stick with the highlights.  Yes, this film is overloaded with evil Arab stereotypes, and yes, Popeye himself doesn't even look all that Arabic.  What's up with that, anyway?  I'm not even able to tell who the genie is supposed to offend... Ed Wynn, maybe?  But I do like that there doesn't seem to be all that "three wishes" crap that bad joke tellers have way too much fun with.  I don't need to tell you; a quick search of jokes on the internet will bear me out... and probably lead to a lot of porn, so never mind.
I think I was trying to make a point, but I forgot what it was... oh, right.  Speaking of prejudice, you know which character in this prejudice fest is the most prejudiced of all?  THE GENIE HIM/HER/ITSELF!  Take the villain, for example.  All he's asking for in his first wish is to whisk Princess Olive's castle away to a far and distant land.  Child's play for a wish-granting genie, as you'd think.  How does the genie react?  He points at the guy, first of all.  Incredibly violent gesture.  Second, the genie screams "You're CRAZY!!!"  Well, I never!  So much for all that peace and love crap, am I right?  I think the genie's just prejudiced against James Woods, or whoever the bad guy's supposed to be.  The bad guy whips the genie into submission, of course.  The genie says "I didn't say I wouldn't!!" then whisks the castle away to a far and distant land.  Good help is so hard to find.
Of course, spinach is just as powerful as the genie, and Popeye rubs a can of spinach to fight the genie-aided villain.  And even though this two-reeler is the least loved of the three color Popeyes, you gotta give kudos to the Third Act.  The bad guy uses the genie to make himself invisible, and he fights Popeye with a sword.  When I first saw that, many many moons ago... wow.  I was thunderstruck.  Diabolical! I think that I thought.  Seems like an apt word to me, anyhow.  Of course, the 1992 Disney version outdoes all of that, I'm sure.  I haven't re-watched that one in a while.
Popeye's got a few good lines here, like when he's blushing and mutters "I've never made love in Technicolor before!"  We'll leave that aside for now.  And what kind of hard-hearted person wouldn't like it when Popeye tries to get out of the cave and asks the genie "Can ya show me the entrance to the exit?"  From there, Popeye moves quickly up Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.  Popeye mutters to himself that he needs to test this genie to see if it's really telling the truth.  "I wishk I was a wealth-key prince!" Popeye declares.  You know, because no one's ever thought to wish that.  The wish is granted, and Popeye ends up singing "What Can I Do For You?," as good a Broadway tune as any in my blogger's opinion.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Angelique Bones

What is this?  Is Tyler Perry going through the phone book or what?  Frankly, I'm shocked they'd let this Bones character anywhere near Tyler Perry with such a disreputable title like an entry in the Trois franchise.

Marvel Superhero Weekend

Ah, the semi-annual pilgrimage of mucous from my lungs at a slightly accelerated pace.  Why it makes things so uncomfortable for the body, I'll never understand... Intelligent Design (TM), my ass!  Anyway, before I start binging on episodes of Game of Thrones, ... it'll probably be Noah at #1 for the 2nd week in a row, no?  Especially if there's a sequence of Russell Crowe walking around with his back to the camera.  Love that trick.  Aronofsky, you've got a signature piece!!
...oh, right.  Should've figured that.  After all, Samuel L. Jackson did go on the John Daly show to promote his little film and all.  Yes, Hollywood's hatred of sequels with numbers continues as Marvel comic's latest juggernaut comes to town.  This time, it's a sequel to Captain America.  Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but Captain America grew up during World War II, and now here he is fighting the Russians during the Cold War.  He's kinda like John Wayne, except even John Wayne had to give it up at some point, probably around the time of The Green Berets.  A G-rated war epic about Vietnam... boy, those were the days.  Yes, another blockbuster that lifts all other boats by taking all their money away.  Why, The Grand Budapest Hotel rose to #5, for God's sake!  Speaking of which, God's Not Dead rose from fifth place to fourth.  I wonder what will become of the egos involved in both of those projects... Alas, not all are faring well.  Muppets Most Wanted slips from third place last week to sixth, and Ah-nold's latest geriatric action-fest Sabotage drops from #7 to #8.  Mr. Peabody and Sherman drops from fourth to seventh; nothing for Colbert to brag about, apparently.  If it were Bill O'Reilly's movie, we'd never hear the end of it.