Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Short Reviews - December 2014

"Homeland" - The next new series to get addicted to.  Why, we ordered Showtime just for that!  And of course to catch up on all those great Paramount movies we've been missing out on, like A Night at the Roxbury.  Sheeeeesh... Anyway, I saw cinematographer David Klein's name in the credits.  A fitting choice, I thought to myself, because after working with Kevin Smith for the last sixteen years, if there's one thing Klein knows about... it's torture.

Block Party - A little unsolicited career advice for Dave Chappelle.  I just saw him on Dave Letterman and, even though Letterman's retiring soon, I have a feeling the question will persist, those nagging questions... why?  Why did you walk away from $50 million?  Perhaps the best thing to do... well, I don't know exactly.  All I know is it's gotta be big, and it's gotta be profitable.  And once that happens... poof!  Questions gone.  Dave Chappelle is back and better than ever, enjoying the Second Act of his career.  Can you do a good Samuel L. Jackson impersonation?  Or maybe do Blue Streak 2 and do that scene in drag!  Just kidding... now, first of all, if you watch the mash-up at the end, some of those scenes aren't even women characters!  One is Chris Tucker from The Fifth Element and he was just flamboyant... anyone remember what he does to the one stewardess?  PG-13, my ass!  And the two gay characters from In Living Color ARE GAY MEN!!!  I say Dave Chappelle wasn't crazy at all!  That $50 mill comes with a price.

Bewitched (2005) - Directed by Nora Ephron, the Nicole Kidman character at one point is talking on the phone and, confused by what the person on the other line meant, says "You're right.  He is a great big male reproductive organ!"

Heartburn - Based on the best-selling novel by Nora Ephron about how she was married to a great big male reproductive organ

Chappie - Available through Hammacher Schlemmer

So I Married an Axe Murderer - I said Hammacher Schlemmer!!!

The Producers (2005) - Started watching it and... I dunno.  I mean, I love Nathan Lane and Ferris Bueller and all, and I'm happy for Mel Brooks that it swept the Tonys and what not, but it's still the 1968 original version or nothin' for me.

Inherent Vice - Paul Thomas Anderson decides to leave the writing aspect of writing/directing aside for a while.  Probably for the best.  I guess The Master did better than I thought!

Saving Christmas - Christmas is f... screwed.

Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & 30 Nights - Hollywood to the Heartland - Oh my God... this is Vince Vaughn's Madonna: Truth or Dare!

"The Affair" - I hate to say it, but I think Maura Tierney's getting typecast again as the long-suffering wife who just can't believe what's going on around her!  Well, some people were just bourne to play certain types of roles.  That's her specialty.

Jobs - The truth shall set you free, Sony!  Frankly, I think your employees are kinder to Adam Sandler's movies than, say, I am.  As for David Fincher, well, I think he can take some comfort in knowing that people want him to do stuff... but the Steve Jobs bio-pic?  Seriously?  Well, it's like Donald Rumsfeld's war, I suppose.  You go into principal photography with the director you have, not necessarily the director you'd like to have, what have you.  And how far down the food chain did they have to go from Fincher?  Well, as great as Swing Vote must have been...

The Longshot - Tim Conway's The Big Lebowski.  But even I have to admit... I once heard that Tim wrote the script for this over a weekend, or something like that.  Aspiring screenwriters... take that extra thirty minutes or so to polish up your screenplay.  You'd be surprised what you find!

The Woman in Black 2: Angle of Death - They left off the best part of the title in the TV spots!  Obviously it's yet another adaptation of Flatland, where all women are, of course, death in one form or another. What a timeless and spaceless classic.

"Seasons of Love" - Richard Portnow is the coolest patriarch ever!!!  Take that, Big Daddy!

The Big Country - Incidentally... Burl Ives won the Oscar for this, but really, it was actually for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

The Angriest Man in Brooklyn - I'm just listening to it here in the next room, but it seems to be living up to its title!

Grandma's Boy - A timeless classic... I mean, the 1922 Harold Lloyd short, not the 2006 Adam Sandler abomination.  Frankly, I think the Estate of Harold Lloyd should sue.

The Code Conspiracy - The only conspiracy here is the one that made Mr. Whetstone decide to leave showbiz on a high note, and never direct another movie ever again.  Get thee back to the church, you male crone!

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - They paired Marilyn up with a nerd to give us mere mortals a self-confidence boost.  Poor Marilyn!

My Week with Marilyn - More salt in the wound

The Wolf of Wall Street - I dunno... didn't there used to be an NC-17 rating?  Oh well.  They'll really have to cut this down to show it on TBS, etc.

Cage - Starring Nicolas Rage.  I mean...

Rage - Starring Nicolas Cage

Farewell, My Queen - Starring half the cast of Inglourious Basterds.  I'm telling you, this Léa Seydoux is going places!  She's the French Ellen Page!

Please Don't Eat The Daisies - GONNA GIT THEM KERR BOYS AND THEIR PAPER BAGS FULL OF WATER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Unsinkable Molly Brown - Well, I tell you one thing: they sure couldn't get away today with filming an infant crawling out of a river!  And second, well... Molly's a raging aphorist, and for me personally, not terribly likable.  I'm glad it worked out well for Debbie Reynolds and all, of course.

Ticket to the Circus - ...oh my God.  Catherine Keener HAS A SISTER????!!!!!!!!!!!!

Back to the Future, Part II - Welp, there it is.  If you were on Facebook today, you may have seen the "headline" about this movie, and all the predictions for 2015 that it got wrong.  Okay, sure, we don't have self-tying shoes or flying cars, thank God, or even Hoverboards, engine-powered and non.  Besides, they don't work on water anyway!  Wouldn't that be half of the point?  And sure, we're not going to the movies to see Jaws 19, and the alleys aren't lined with old laserdiscs; people are loathe to throw them out for some reason.  But I'll tell you one thing the film definitely got right... seems like every time we elect Republicans to the White House, we end up living in that alternate 1985, where Biff Tannen is lording over an American barter economy with his giant theme hotel, where tanks are rolling through downtown Hill Valley, where libraries and schools are boarded up, what have you.  But I'm nothing if not an optimist, and I'm going to wait until January 2016 for the flying cars.


Doubling Down on Troilus and Cressida

Our next Tom and Jerry cartoon is called Tom and Jerry in The Hollywood Bowl... whew!  Wotta moniker.  And if you're feeling a bit cynical on this, the day after Thanksgiving... yup, it's a virtual remake of The Cat Concerto.  It's the same old Hollywood story: when you have a success like The Cat Concerto, especially at the Oscars, it just begs remake, so you get a larger budget, you get bigger stars... the same producer... alas, it seems the trilogy was never completed.  Tom and Jerry didn't practice enough, so they never got to trash ... I mean, play Carnegie Hall.
I do like that opening theme, however.  I'll give you that.  And they decided against using the same music that every cartoon like this uses... you know, the music from The Cat Concerto and Rhapsody Rabbit... okay, I'll look it up... the Hungarian Rhapsody, that's the one.  But once the credits are over, the formula repeats.  The cat walks out amidst tepid applause.  To be fair, he's been upgraded from mere pianist to the damn conductor!  He starts conducting and everything's going fine.  Cut to the gilded mouse hole just off to the side.  To be fair, Jerry's sleep isn't disturbed this time!  He's dressed in his finest tux and is about as ready to conduct as Mozart was in Amadeus when we first meet him.  Tom doesn't like being co-conductor with the mere mouse, so he keeps heaping physical and mental abuse upon the mouse.  The mouse retaliates.  The cat re-retaliates.  Rinse and repeat.  Oh, and the cat ends up with a violin bow through his head.  You can see the bow behind his eyes.  That's apparently the visual highlight of the picture.  Remember, they didn't have Adobe Flash back then.
I'm probably just feeling pro-cat right now, but the highlight for me is probably when the cat rips the mouse's tux and tails in half.  I forget if that's the last straw or not.  But undoubtedly this cartoon has to end at some point, and once the last straw is broken, Jerry takes out his revenge on the other musicians in the orchestra... all cats, by the way.  Not a mouse in the bunch.  Jerry literally and actually saws the floor out from underneath all the orchestra.  But the show must go on, and all those that remain try to keep playing.  Tom ends up playing all the instruments himself (in particular) and getting just plain worn out (in general).  The mouse enjoys his round of applause.  We go back to Tom, and in a nice twist, also ends up falling through the floor.  That mouse must have a twin or something!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

The Mighty Navy II

Our next Popeye cartoon is called Blunder Below and it tells the story of what happened after Popeye went to the casino buffet and... I'm sorry, it's actually a virtual remake of The Mighty NaVy but with a few slight differences, the largest one being that the enemy has definitely been named now... I think it's supposed to be the Japanese.  They do have the sun flag with the rays... anyway, let's dive into it, so to speak.  I feel like keeping this one short.


Rather than learning the various functions of the whole ship, this one focuses on the anti-submarine guns of a battleship.  Popeye once again finds himself the lone brown-eyed brunette amidst an army of blond, blue-eyed... I mean, tall, muscular sailors who all look like the quarterback of their college football team.  As usuelle, Popeye's a cylinder having trouble fitting into this square peg they call the modern navy... ooh, almost forgot.  A cloud salutes the American navy ship as it passes.  Always with the visual gags, those Fleischer brothers.
I know people always complain about the jibberish in these movie classroom settings, but maybe I just don't watch the right movies or something.  This seems to be some real stuff here about this anti-sub gun!


This doesn't seem to break down well in terms of the three Act structure.  Act Two involves target practice, much like The Mighty Navy before it.  Apparently, these guns are on an extending mechanism like old phones used to be... what are those called again?  They seem to be hidden so that the enemy will think the ship is more harmless than it actually is, but apparently the shooter sits in the gun, the gun pops out of its hole in the ship, you fire the gun, then the gun goes back into place.  Ah, sometimes I wish I was an engineer.  We have one of the automaton sailors demonstrate the gun first, then Popeye gives the gun a try, and all hell breaks loose.  For some reason, I don't find it as funny as I should when the gun gets pointed at Popeye's commanding officer.
And so, Popeye and the gun start galloping all over the ship.  This gag must've killed in showings with just sailors.  To be fair, Popeye does hit the bullseye on the target.  He unfortunately also sinks the ship hauling the target.  It's a comedy sinking, of course, and everyone survives and swims safely back to the battleship.
Act Two and a Half: the bitter, bitter aftermath.  Popeye and his commanding officer head down to the engine room where they dump coal into one of the boilers.  Spoiler alert: There's a good gag where it seems like, for a second there, that the officer is going to shovel Popeye into the boiler... but no.  Popeye's crime against the navy wasn't that severe.  Have they forgotten that he's an emblem, for Christ sake?  No, it's time for some grueling manual labor.  Not as tear-raising as slicing onions, but still.  Popeye's gifts are once again squandered by the navy on menial tasks.  The boiler fire pants like a dog, lol.


...well, that didn't take long!  Popeye shoveled only two loads of coal, and the ship's under attack.  Somehow the enemy is displeased at Popeye's demotion, but they'll be sorry later on!  Once again, the clean-cut sailors couldn't hit the broad side of an enemy sub, for God's sake!  And once again, Popeye sticks his head out the porthole to get a better look, but the enemy's not shelling his head yet.  Popeye does, however, run afoul of an enemy periscope.  Popeye gives the periscope a good punch in its eye for good measure, then he... he congas out of the ship's window!  The callback!  Popeye ends up having to lift up a part of the ship when an enemy... I'm sorry, emeny torpedo heads towards it.  But where's his parade?  Be patient, dear reader... we'll get to that part soon enough.  Popeye heads up to the main deck, gives a twist to that old phrase about regretting that one has but one life to give for their country... does he call the submarine a "skunk-marine"?  Oh well.
And so, Popeye holds aloft a particularly leafy can of spinach.  Note the tiny leaves, the deep grey color.  Popeye downs the can, doesn't make his usual funny eating noises, then holds his arm aloft.  The muscle turns into... war bonds or something.  American Imperialism is armed and ready to strike.  Popeye jumps out of his sailor uniform and, in only his polka-dot briefs, dives into the brine to take on that sub all by his spinached-up self.
There's one part where Popeye spins the sub around, and the sub looks like it's in 3D, but other than that, the sub doesn't stand a chance.  "So sorry!" says the Japanese caricature within said sub.  Well, Popeye punches that dude the second time he tries to pull that stuff.  It's post-Pearl Harbor time and the fun and games are over for now.  There's a war to win.  Popeye's fellow sailors cheer as he hauls that sub in as though it were a mere shark.


And so, the commanding officer who once fought with Popeye is now lavishing him with all kinds of medals.  The officer even gets to do Popeye's ending song, more or less!  He's not much of a singer, you see.  This is one of those cartoons that must have done well with crowds back in '42, but jingoism like this has a short shelf life.  Hopefully the plot formula will be a little different by the time we get to the ones where the Japanese are referenced in the titles, hoh boy.....

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Topper Carew

Yeah, Hollywood's like that sometimes if you don't have a career plan.  After getting burned on D.C. Cab, Mr. Carew drifted awhile until he got into the Martin Lawrence business, lock, stock and barrel.  And yet, after the inevitable concert movie... oh, right, that was You So Crazy... anyway, after working together on the inevitable feature, egos clashed, ways were parted, and it was adrift again.  But who knows?  Maybe it's not too late to cash in that one last chip to get to Spielberg!  I don't even need my software for that.  It's quite easy, actually.

Carew worked with Joel Schumacher, director of D.C. Cab,
who also directed The Lost Boys, produced by Richard Donner
who directed The Goonies, produced by...

...well, you're on your own after that.  I'm no Hollywood insider or anything.

Saw a Penguin drinking a Piña Colada at Trader Vic's..............

...his hair was perfect.  D'oh!  As expected, Mockingjay crushed it once again at the box office.  Probably should've gone with "Mock... yeah... ing... yeah..." for the title.  Next week, my Louisville slugger... next week.  I'm mildly curious as to what reason the writers will have next for Josh Hutcherson to have that trademark look of shock on his face; at least, all the shock he can possibly muster.  Don't strain yourself, dude!  Anyway, I'm so out of the loop.  Where was the ad campaign for Penguins of Madagascar?  Looks like you're no longer relegated to the short feature section of Madagascar DVDs, guys!  Good job.
The only other debut this week is Horrible Bosses 2.  And once again, sequels are taking the numbers back.  Don't be ashamed of sequels, Hollywood!  Mockingjay seems to be, as well as Penguins of Madagascar as well as Big Hero 6... oh, right.  I mean, Big Hero 6 isn't.  That's how out of it I am.  How could I miss Big Hero 1 through 5?  And Dumb and Dumber To puts a delightful spin on the enumeration of sequels by misspelling the 2.  I'm assuming that Christoph Waltz is savvy enough to realize that this movie probably doesn't mean Oscar #3 for him.  And speaking of unorthodox casting... Key is in this, but not Peele?  Dude... the rift begins.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

All Creatures Great and Small

So who's going to be raiding Tom's kitchen this week?  Well, we've nearly done the mouse-smaller-than-Jerry bit to death, so why not go the opposite way for a change?  Enter Jerry and the Lion.  Sometimes I forget to mention the titles in these things, which always seems to end up biting me in the ass later on when I'm searching for something.


Opening bit: I seem to remember this one from cable TV, but forgot what cartoon it was associated with.  While Tom is sitting quietly, listening to the loud radio, there's a loud crash.  Time to investigate.  Well, while Tom was resting, Jerry's been busy... very busy.  So busy, in fact, that you'd almost swear there was no food left in the fridge at this point!  Time for an illustration of potential energy.  If you remember from your schooling, something way up high is just waiting to fall on you, probably a can on a shelf, or a boulder on a cliff.  It has the potential to fall, were it not for our fine engineers what built the structures to keep all these things in their proper places on high.  In the instant case, Jerry has built a ramp from the fridge on high that leads to his mouse hole down low.  Naturally, things go smoothly... very smoothly.  So smoothly, in fact, that a giant turkey just needs a gentle nudge from the thing behind it... a bottle of milk... and pop!  In it goes.  Jerry the mouse invented Buckyballs, so it would seem!
After what seems like an eternity, Tom puts a stop to Jerry's fun.  And yes, it's no accident that Jerry's holding a tomato: a big, red, gooey tomato.  Jerry of course easily empties the contents of said tomato onto Tom's face, and grabs another one before taking off.  Now, does the mouse just really like eating tomatoes?  Or is this a setup for the callback?  I'll let you decide... (hint: the latter)


Tom angrily marches back to his post by the radio.  Epic fail!  Epic fail!  God, but I grow weary of that phrase.  Tom's anger quickly passes, however, breathing a big sigh of... relief?  I mean, what?  Him worry?  It's not his groceries, is it?  And then... the genius bit of plotting.  Much like Bugs Bunny hijacked the radio in Hare Tonic, Tom's calming music is interrupted by a news flash.  A lion has escaped from the circus!  Tom looks worried, and probably rightly so.  Apparently, there's no comraderie between lions and house cats... incidentally, how come there are no large dogs?  I guess a hippopotamus is as close as we'll get.  The guy on the radio advises people to bar their windows and doors, and Tom does just that... well, close them, anyway, and he puts the couch in front of the front door.  Jerry hides when Tom runs down to the basement to close the basement windows.  Tom runs back upstairs and grabs the hunting rifle off the mantle and, more importantly, of course... the hunting hat.
Now, I hate to think that I'm getting jaded to these kinds of things, or that I'm turning into one of the script jockies from Sunset Boulevard... the 1950 classic, not the Adam Sandler remake; I'm under the assumption that there'll be one at some point in the future... but SPOILER ALERT, the thought flashed through my mind that the lion's already in the house.  And, sure enough... yup.  And this time it's not Jerry mistaking his own eyes in a mirror!  Oh no.  It's the real deal Holyfield.  Jerry tries to run away, but the lion leaps out of the shadows and puts its paws down on poor ol' Jerry... I'm telling you!  Lions and housecats have more in common than you'd think!  And yet, Tom and this lion are probably going to be adversaries.
Now some of you are probably thinking about that old Aesop fable about the mouse and the lion with a thorn in its paw.  Or it's in the New Testament or whatever.  If you Google it, it will come.  Personally, I think the New Testament probably ripped off Aesop.  In a slight twist, however, the thorn is buried deep in the lion's soul.  The lion lists his grievances to our little mouse friend.  All the lion really wants at this stage in the game is to go home to Africa.  And so, the premise of the Madagascar series was bourne.
...okay, two things.  The lion wants two things: return to Africa, and get something to eat.  He's hungry all the time, just like Nibbles!  And a teentsy morsel like Jerry would simply arouse his appetite further without bedding it back down... sumpthing like that.  Well, maybe Jerry could sacrifice some of the stuff he confiscated, like that whole turkey, right?  Oh, dear reader... so naïve.  Such a babe in the woods, so unaware of the gears that grind the world merrily along on its way.  You're just not thinking like a screenwriter, pals and gals!  Well, Momma's going to give you the first lesson... once again.
And so, the mouse and the lion quietly sneak up on Tom, who's still in position with hat on head and rifle in paws.  Tom has a view of the corridor in front of him, unaware of what's hiding behind the wall just to the left of it.  Jerry manages to sneak under the rug undetected, heads over to the kitchen and gets a giant piece of ham... I don't know my pork cuts.  Is that a leg?  The point is, it's what... about 300 times the size of the mouse, but the mouse carries it like it's a tiny hunk of cheese.  I think the mouse is a vampire!
And so, Jerry crawls under the rug with the giant piece of ham.  It's all for the greater good, folks... I mean, the greater plot machinations.  This sight is one that even trigger-happy Tom can't miss, so he goes to investi-ma-gate.  Tom holds the rifle on Jerry and easily confiscates the bit of ham, holding it behind him for good measure.  You know, where the lion can see it.  The lion gives the bit of ham the old sniff test, smiles, then engulfs it in one giant toothy bite with as much finesse as a lion can muster under the circumstances.  Meanwhile, Tom's got Jerry right where he wants him.  Tom goes to take a bite of the prized ham... no, two bites.  Tom starts chewing and... but wait!  Tom's mouth isn't full!  And where are those crunching noises coming from, incidentally?
Welp, there it is, folks.  The nightmare of nightmares made flesh, rendered in Technicolor as plain as the day on your face.  There's the lion hiding behind those ugly bright blue drapes, and Tom's got the gun.  Tom aims at the drapes, but suddenly develops a bad case of butterflies.  Not as ready to use a bullet as he thought he was, so it would seem.  He's going to need a bigger gun.  Maybe a cannon, too, while you're at it.  Reacting in haste, Jerry takes Tom's intent more seriously than Tom does, and aims the gun at the ceiling.  A shot rings out.  Now, it's debatable whether Tom actually fired or if Jerry's aiming of the gun caused the gun to misfire, so I'll skip that.  Creating another diversion, Jerry... the mouse... acts like he was wounded in the blast, grasping his chest, groaning in pain, stepping around in a small circle as though he's drunk... you know the routine.  Tom did it himself on a previous occasion, for slightly different reasons.  The point being: don't think about it too much.  Tom rushes off to get a first aid kit, and the mouse and the lion run away to f... mess with Tom's head some more.
Next episode: like dogs, cats apparently can't look up either, because the lion's hiding on top of a lamp... boy, that's a strong lamp!  Probably not a WWII era lamp, as all the metal would be diverted for tanks and shells and what not.  Still, things used to be built to last back then.  Jerry starts boxing and Tom sticks out his chin.  Gimme your best shot, Tom says in pantomime.  The lion, from atop aforementioned lamp, gladly obliges.  (almost forgot... I love lamp)  Tom ends up making a Tom-shaped outline in the fireplace, ending up with a massive collection of freshly displaced bricks upon his head.  (See also: Laurel and Hardy's Hog Wild and Dirty Work)
Next mini-sode: pure cartoon buffoonery as the mouse and the lion hide in the teeny umbrella stand.  Tom runs up and sees the umbrella moving around, and decides to investi-ma-gate.  Tom removes the umbrella and opens it inside the house.  Bad luck instantly smites him in the form of the lion, and the mouse follows soon after.  The scene ends with us looking at a flattened Tom sitting there on the floor like a rug, looking incredulously skyward.  It's all he can muster in his two-dimensional state.


Okay, we've had some fun, we've had episodes quick and long... but now it's time to wrap this party up.  And what better way than in either a) a locked closet, or b) inside the bulldog's house?  Well, we already did b) on a previous occasion... oh, don't make me look it up.  It's a rich tradition indeed.  Off the top, I recall the Chuck Jones cartoon, The Aristo-Cat where an overly pampered spoiled brat of a cat tells the filthiest joke ever... I mean, it's about a cat who's so pampered and spoiled that he doesn't know what a mouse is.  It ends inside the bulldog's doghouse, with the house bouncing around, noises of conflict emanating outward from it, in order to engage the imagination of the audience, allowing them to imagine the carnage within.
And so, still unaware of the lion, and still uncurious about its god-awful stench, Tom thinks he has Jerry trapped in the closet all alone.  Tom lets out a laugh (... Bletcher?  Kinda didn't sound like it) then locks the closet door behind him.  More cartoon lunchy... lunacy: (must be hungry) Tom closes the door on his wrist, then pulls his hand... paw inside, all too ready to kick some mouse ass.  You'll never guess what happens in a million years... never.
And so, Tom lands on the other side of the ... living room?  I thought they were in the basement.  Dayamn, but they've got a large house!  Bigger than Bob Dole's place during the Depression... I mean, he had to take in boarders, for God's sake!  Boarders!!!!  ...sorry, back to the instant case.  And so, after his ass-whooping by the lion, Jerry pretends it was he that did it and marches all big-as-you-please out of that closet.  Definitely not wanting a repeat of that level of ass-kicking, Tom makes a Tom-shaped hole in the brick wall of the house as he exits.  As Tom revs up, we hear the sound of a plane engine, as it would take that kind of power to make a hole in a house's brick wall exterior.


Ultimate revenge accomplished, the lion and the mouse shake hands.  Cross fade to... a boat headed for Africa!  Whew.  I thought I was going to have to sit through thirty minutes of logistics for that.  But there is some light mayhem as the mouse attempts to shove the lion into one of those covered lifeboats.  I keep forgetting how strong that little mouse is.  "So long pal!" says the lion.  Both the lion and the mouse shed a tear, and frankly I'm getting a little boo-hoo-hoo-y myself.  That mouse never had it so good.  Maybe if it were a lioness Jerry could give her a kiss before they depart!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Four Conga Café

Whew!  This one's not as racist as the title might suggest, but maybe that's just my privileged view of things, on the other hand.  In any event, Bluto returns as Popeye's oldest and heaviest foil in Kickin' the Conga Round.  That must be a play on words.


In a slight twist, the title of the cartoon comes before the credits.  Clearly this is not a Famous Studios Popeye cartoon.  And so, we find a massive navy battleship off the coast of... an unnamed South American country.  Bluto and Popeye are bunkmates... probably not a good idea.  Popeye spends some time admiring a note from his goil in this picture: Olivia Oyla.  I dare not ruin the surprise... oh, right.  It's there in the attached jpeg file.  The note has Olivia's phone number on it, which Bluto quickly memorizes.  Normally Bluto's not into the thin chicks, but he never misses a chance to f... mess with Popeye.  Bluto beats Popeye to the "ferry boat" to shore.  Oh, I don't like this new voice of Bluto, whose name is... Dave Barry?  The writer for that Miami newspaper?  ...no, different guy.  Ooh!  He did some old Warner Brothers cartoons.  I think he was Old King Cole in Have You Got Any Castles?... nah, different guy.  Never mind.  Back to the current one.  And so, Popeye misses the boat, and Bluto gives Popeye one last taunt for good measure.  Fade to black.
Fade in: dang!  Bluto works fast!  He's already sitting at a table someplace with Olivia, impressing her with slick magic tricks.  "Aw, dat's nuttin... Watch this!"  Bluto says as he stands up and walks away from the table a bit... good Lord, but he's fat.  Bluto is apparently looking around for something to prestidigitate with... hold on while I make sure I'm using that word right... meh, close enough for the internet, know whut I mean?  Alas, for poor old, long-suffering Bluto, Popeye shows up and ruins everything for him.  Popeye tries a couple magic tricks of his own.  To be fair, I think Bluto's were a little more clever.  But as you can see from the look of defeat on Bluto's face, Popeye's won this round.  Olivia laughs equally at all acts of cruelty the boys heap upon one another, but her loyalty's ultimately with Popeye.


"This is my favourite conga café!" says Olivia, as she and Popeye arrive at the Café La Conga.  Bluto is close behind, reconnoitering.  And once inside, the music is going and everyone has fallen prey to it.  Olivia and Popeye conga over to their table.  There's a dude on stage doing the conga... a "Censored" sign is placed in front of him at one point in the dance.  Lol!  What is this, a Bob Clampett cartoon?  Even the waiter's doing the conga!  But Popeye's not having any of it, even after Olivia invites him to dance.  Bluto seizes the opportunity and says "May I have da honor of this conga?"  I don't know who says "Uh, pardon me" before that, but it don't sound like the same Bluto.  And so, Olivia's loyalty belongs to he who can conga best.  Popeye's in a real prickly pickle now as he enviously watches Bluto and Olivia dance.  Does he dare betray his strict moral code and dance?  Or does he continue to sit there and fester?  For now, he chooses to fester... ugh.  Wish I hadn't seen the outline of Bluto's enormous booty.  Must... have... antidote!
At one point, I can see you now in the kitchen, bending over a hot stove... but I can't see the stove... I mean,  at one point, Bluto and Olivia are dancing, and we can't see Olivia.  Reminds me of Hollywood Steps Out, I think it is.  Did the same gag with Oliver Hardy.  Also a conga!  And so, Bluto, the alpha dog that he is, congas over to Popeye's table, and gives it a good nudge with his ass... twice!  Man, but that dude can put multi-tasking on his résumé.


And so, as if through some kind of psychic connection, the waiter from earlier brings over a can of spinach in one of them hemispherical covered trays.  The dude ends up wearing said platter cover on his damn head like some kind of fool!  Similar thing happened in an Art Davis Warner Brothers cartoon, but that led to an unfortunate Chinese stereotype.  I'd try to find it on one of my Warner Brothers Looney Tunes DVDs, but I think they're saving all of his cartoons for Volume 18 or so... man, but I've never seen Popeye in such a funk before!  He seems to have lost all zest for life or something.  He barely even touches his spinach!  As he munchy-wunches on the tiny pinch of it that he took, he mumbles "I don't like no conjure..."  Boy, even his mumbling while he eats spinach is down in the dumps.  But then.....
And then, the spinach kicks in, and Popeye gets the goofiest expressions on his face that I think I've ever seen in any Popeye cartoon ever.  Popeye's spinach-eating theme has been hijacked by the conga beat, but never mind that.  Popeye's happy again, caught, caught in time.  It's really a bone setter; thank you for mending him, Spinach.
Popeye wolfs down the whole damn can.  Ah, that's the old stuff!  Popeye's a slovenly eater once again.  Ah, spinach.  Is there nothing it cannot do?  It can create electromagnets, cure broken backs, and even teach Popeye how to be a master conga dancer.  Sure, this isn't Popeye's first spinach-enhanced dance, but it's his first conga.  And so, Popeye congas over to kick Bluto's ass and win Olivia back.  But before that, the animators throw in a little joke of their own.
And so, Popeye removes Bluto from the scene with one fell swoop.  Olivia's a little concerned at first, but Popeye soon wins her over with his slick new moves.  Olivia couldn't have a bigger smile on her face.  Then, the two threaten to win first prize, if there was a dance contest.  Again, American Imperialism.  They do some stunt poses, but arguably, Olivia's not too terribly thrilled with that third one.


It ain't over yet?  I mean... it ain't over yet, folks!  Bluto makes a resurgence, kicking obstacles out of his way to that infectious conga beat.  Bluto gets Popeye's attention when a giant vase that Bluto kicked at Popeye knocks Popeye over.  Popeye starts beating Bluto up and Olivia gets out of the way.  The boys' fighting eventually turns into several Fist Tornados (TM), stopping of course for that fourth beat.  Olivia calls for help, and a couple of MPs show up.  They take Popeye and Bluto away, kicking them in the ass on that fourth conga beat!  It ain't the old endings anymore, folks.  No more sending Bluto all the way around the world.  They're in the Navy now, and they'll always have their chow.  I kinda like the novelty of that ending, but I'm afraid they're going to end every Popeye cartoon that way... okay, maybe I'm overreacting.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Nick Cannon

...no.  I can't.  The only question is: is Spielberg cool enough for Mr. Cannon?  Uh, no!  Der!

Show 'em how it's done, Girl!

Ah, the market for celebrities continues to expand into unknown spaces and places... that's the Dire Straits guy, right?  I'm more of a fan of his brother, George Strait.  Like the IMDb says, he's best known for Showgirls.  As for the whole Cosby mess, well, I suppose I have a morbid fascination with a star's fall from grace, and the legal and nonlegal controls in place, the proverbial dam holding back the river.  Why did it break all of a sudden?  Who did he stop paying dues to?  It's a shame.  He was just on The Colbert Report, for God's sake!  Meanwhile, the gyroscope of Tiger Woods seems to be back on an even keel, at least in terms of public image.  And of course, Roman Polanski.  These things still seemed to be ruled by the Court of Public Opinion.
(Sunday proper) Oh, this kid's still got it, I tells ya.  She's winning the blue ribbon and showing the other kids how, no question about it.  The latest installment of Hunger Games rakes in one weekend as much as Interstellar, and will easily surpass Big Hero 6 and Gone Girl by Wednesday or so.  That's how you know a movie's a big phenom these days when they talk about how many days it takes to reach the various hundreds of millions benchmarks.  But as an amateur statistician and dangerously close to being a professional one, I've finally noticed a different trend here in all this data I've been keeping.  Say you've got a movie like Gone Girl which Rosamund's
hoping people will remember come Oscar time.  When it debuted on October 5th, it debuted with Annabelle and the latest incarnation of Left Behind.  Now, Left Behind lasted two weeks, and Annabelle three, but G.G.'s still going strong after... EIGHT WEEKS!  How's that work?  Well, Fincher's got the magic touch.  Only he could make a film like Panic Room be #1 for two weeks.
Here's another example.  Take the film Fury.  When it debuted, it debuted with The Book of Life and The Best of Me.  Best of Me was gone after two weeks, Life after four.  It's still hanging in there after six weeks, if only barely... okay, okay.  Another extreme example.  When Guardians of the Galaxy came out, it debuted with a film called Get on Up that disappeared after two weeks.  Guardians?  Hung in there for ten weeks, thus assuring at least three more bad indie flicks from director James Gunn.
Here's an example from the indie side of the equation.  When St. Vincent debuted at #6, its newbie competitors were John Wick and Ouija.  Wick disappeared after three weeks, Ouija after four.  Meanwhile, St. Vincent is hanging strong at #7 for five weeks.
Is there a lesson in all of this?  Probably not, but I think the lesson just might be... they ain't all winners, folks!  But my friendly local video store, Scarecrow Video, is threatening to carry them all for all of eternity.  They're going to need to buy a new building, I'm afraid.  How about the library across the street?  The city's probably going to dump that waste of space one of these days.  I mean, how many homeless people playing MMORPG video games can they stand?  Right, library employees?
Oh, I forgot to mention The Theory of Everything.  It's the story of Stephen Hawking, so finally!  The title fits the subject matter, unlike that Clarissa Explains it All crap.  I mean, seriously?  Five seasons?  Will our grandchildren ever forgive us?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Unhappy, Texas

What is it about a Texas motif that has to change everything?  We forego the usual Tom and Jerry theme this time and go with an old country western song.  Maybe that's the wrong label for it.  Apparently it's an old-timey song called "Riding down the Trail to Santa Fe."  The lyrics are pretty funny, I must admit.  Things haven't changed a whole lot, have they?
ACT ONE - And so, we find Tom and Jerry going through the usual ritual, but with aforementioned Texas theme.  Instead of a fishing pole like in Sufferin' Cats, Tom is letting Jerry run away, then he lassos him and pulls him back.  The forces of gravity are on Tom's side for now.  But Jerry will ultimately get some sweet, sweet revenge.  After slapping Tom's face with a bit of cactus, Tom's about to shoot Jerry with a six shooter.  Jerry blows out the bullets of the gun with one big breath, and the bullets end up in Tom's mouth.  Jerry whacks Tom on the back of the head with the empty gun and BOOM!  All six bullets explode while still between Tom's teeth.  Tom's teeth seem to be okay.  Kids... do NOT try this at home yourself.  Have we learned nothing from Hope and Glory, for one?  I don't seem to remember that part from cable TV...


And then... she arrives.  It's never explained why, and the mystery driver in the dorky 50s era sedan is never seen again, but really, why complicate things?  This picture needs a token chick to woo, and now it's got one.  Arguably, a rather thankless role compared to Salt Water Tabby, but you can't win them all.  Tom's yellow eyes bug out all big as ya please and, after a cold shower or two, he lays on the charm.  I believe they use this sequence again someplace... Smitten Kitten!  That must be it.  After the into, time for a song.  Jerry runs the record player for Tom, but then starts fiddling with the speed control.  Same thing happened to Harpo in Monkey Business.  Let's watch that now instead!... hmm.  Can't seem to find it.  Well, here's the song, anyway.
Well, can't argue with results!  I tell you darling, this pretty but kinda dull cat chick is getting into Tom!  Is she the Tom and Jerry equivalent of Sharon Stone in Broken Flowers?  Maybe as close as the Hays Code will allow.  But then, at some point, Jerry's antics go too far and Tom does the old lasso routine again.  Remember, folks: in the world of Tom and Jerry, chasing Jerry comes first.  Everything else?  A distant second.  Enter the bull and the giant bale of hay.  Genius, I tell ya.  Jack Brown Genius.


And so, in Tom's adrenaline-fueled fit of rage, not only does he have the strength to drag a hay-covered bull over to him from round the corner, but he accidentally rips off one of the bull's horns.  As with the Stooges and time wasters, Tom kills some time putting the horn back on.  Now it's Tom's turn to get chased.  After scaring the chickens out of the outhouse... doesn't their coop look more like an outhouse?... the cat runs and runs and runs, then stops.  He's trapped!  The bull is still charging and Tom is trapped... well, not really.  I mean, really?  Seriously?  All of a sudden, Tom can't climb over a wooden fence like that?  Or maybe slip under it?  I mean, seriously?  Really?  Frankly, he's just not trying at this point.  It's near the end of the cartoon and we need a big finish.  And so, Tom ties a kerchief around his eyes and takes a puff on one last cigarette.  Boy, you gotta hand it to those cigarette companies.  Their product is there with you at your downfall, one way or another.  Yes, Tom is going to be hit by that oncoming train of a bull cow, and he has accepted his fate.  Hmm!  Chicks kinda dig that.


...I thought Tom ran away from the ranch house!  Oh well.  One way or another, Tom goes flying through the air, and where he lands the screenwriters don't care... I mean, they do care, because he has to be at the ranch house to witness Jerry's ultimate revenge.  The logical consistency of the means toward said end will have to be denied.  And so, since Jerry had to aid in Tom's wooing, so now he will succeed where Tom clearly has failed.  Jerry walks up in a similar nice-looking cowboy outfit, leaps up and plants a big ol' smooch on the girl cat's lips.  To be fair, she has the same confused look on her face, but Jerry seems to be happy.  Jerry then rides a dazed Tom into the proverbial sunset, poking him all the way with his tiny spurs.  You know, just once I'd like to see the girl cat just eat that little rat.  Just once.  Maybe Tom and her could fight over the guts.  Get to work on that, Sick and Twisted!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

A Dream Walking, Pt. 2

Literally.  It's A Dream Walking all over again, complete with the gravitational pull to a construction site, Popeye having his moment of unconsciousness, and Olive getting upset after waking and seeing Popeye.  But I suppose there are enough differences to warrant the full treatment, so let's just dive right into it.


Scene: the offices/residence of Professor I. Stare... hmm!  That's more of a Three Stooges gag, isn't it?  Well, first names that start with an 'i' are naturally funnier, as any comedian will tell you.  Eventually, after the introductions, we get to meet this professor that we've heard so much, yet seen so little... about!  At first, you think it's Bluto in disguise.  From the view outside the apartment, he seems to be acting like Bluto, looking out the window nervously then quickly shutting the shades.  His days of standing proudly on the streetcorner smoking a manly stogie are long behind him.  But then... we get inside the apartment and... yeah, that's probably not him.  Maybe it's his short, thin cousin!  They've got the same bearded face, that's for sure.  Must've been a writer's strike that week.
Poor guy.  Even his fish thinks he's an a... kind of a jerk.  And so, as Reuben Abel once wrote, man is the measure.  Any two bit hustler can hypnotize a fish.  A real supervillain gets an army of zombies to do his bidding!  TO THE PHONE BOOK!
...oh and, what's with the cat in the bird cage?  Lol.  Always with the visual jokes, these cartoon peoples.  The bad guy is voiced by the multi-talented voice actor Billy West... well, kinda sounds like it, anyhow.  And so, after pacing to and fro a little in front of the wall phone in his apartment, the muse strikes him and he grabs the phone book.  He's not quite as far gone as this guy, but close.  And would you believe it?  The first name he points to is ... wait for it... Olive Oyl!  Shock upon shock.  Clearly the hypnotist is under the filmmakers' control.
Cross-fade to Olive's place.  We see Olive on one end of the couch, bashful as ever.  Popeye's on the right, cramming for the big exam.  What exam is that, you ask?  Trying to come up with the right words to woo Olive.  Shakespeare's the go-to guy for that, of course.  If you listen closely you can hear Popeye mumble "Romeo, O Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?  Parting is such sweet sorrow, etc. etc."  Can't go wrong with the bard's greatest hits!  And so, Popeye launches into it.  "Olive Oyl, O Olive Oyl... what's in a name?"  I won't spoil the rest of it, lol.  I think it's worth it though.  Olive's legs twitch at about 1:43 or so.  Sloppy work, guys.  Sloppy work.


And then... the modern world gets in the way.  It usually does.  Oh, what did we ever do before answering machines?  She's obviously just not that into you, Popeye, if she gets up to go to the phone like that.  Olive smacks his head on the arm of the couch.  Olive answers the phone, saying in her best Southern twang, "Hello!  Miss Olive Oyl's residence!"
And so, it begins.  The first telemarketer is born.  I think Og Mandino wrote a book or to about that.  Love that guy.  This Professor Stare must be stopped!  His over-the-phone hypnotism works!  I think Peter Gabriel's got another song about that.  Then there was this one that was used in some phone commercials a long time ago.  Why not?  Then of course, there's this by Reba McIntyre... McEntire?  Remember, this was before Wikipedia!  They must've used this on Sesame Street at some point.  Well, kids are a lot more jaded these days.
And so, Professor Stare's zombie army of one is on the move.  Worse yet, Olive's gait has a catchy percussion beat to it.  Popeye watches as Olive grabs her hat and walks out the door.  He goes over to the phone to inveski-ma-gate.  He hears the professor over the phone.  His pipe falls under the spell, but somehow it just doesn't do anything for Popeye proper.  "My garsh!  A hypnotisk!" exclaims Popeye.  Maybe I've got no memory for these things, but I think this is the first instance where Popeye uses the word "garsh." ...nah, Wikipedia's not going to back me up on that.  Time for Popeye to spring into action.
Next scene: Olive walks along and goes through an intersection.  Traffic's a lot fiercer now in the 40s than it was in the 30s.  Hypnotized Olive makes it across, of course, but conscious Popeye has a little harder time.  He ends up in the back of a taxi... lol.  Oh, that is so based on someone's bitter experience.  Popeye reluctantly pays the driver and says "Get that hole in your roof fixed!!"  He's just having a bad day in general, no question.
And now, the transition into A Dream Walking begins in earnest, as hypnotized Olive is carried aloft on the thinnest of platforms raised skyward.  Lagging behind, all Popeye can do is watch in horror.  He closes the gap between buildings to keep Olive from dropping, then starts to climb up to her.  "She's a victim of circum-trances!" says Popeye in yet another ode to the Stooges in general and Curly in particular.
Next scene: by the time Popeye lifts himself up to the top of the building with his pipe, Olive's already found her way to a wire between buildings.  Is she nuts?  Where's her pole for balance?  What if a gust of wind suddenly picks up?!!  What, is she hypnotized or something?... oh, right.  Just before the wire breaks, Popeye grabs onto the other end of it.  It's attached to a specific phone, of course.  So not only does Popeye have to hang on to the wire to keep Olive from falling, he has to do battle with a combative operator on the phone.  I haven't heard Popeye so bashful and tongue-tied lately!  I mean... ah, skip it.  But like any mediocre debater, Popeye latches on to the operator's words when she says "hold the line."  Oh, that tears it.  Plus, Olive's already made it over to the other side.  Time to play catch-up.  And once again, Popeye's barely one step ahead of gravity... if only there were some sort of blog that went over these Popeye cartoons exhaustively.
Popeye has finally caught up and tries to speak to Olive to wake her up.  No dice.  The powerful spell of Professor Stare has taken root.  Will nothing break it?  In Popeye's desperation, he doesn't notice that another gap between buildings is coming up, and so he falls but catches himself and, thanks to all the pilates he's done in his life, he quickly raises his feet up so Olive can use him as a human bridge to walk across.  So, gravity's been kind to Popeye up til now, but Mother Nature's clearly displeased.  Time for a plague of birds to attack!  The birds annoy Popeye at first, but eventually he slips and catches himself on an awning below.  Now he's paying homage to Buster Keaton's Seven Ages, I believe it's called... The Three Ages, forgive me.


Concurrently, a swinging hook carries Olive into the construction site proper, and about damn time, too.  Popeye eventually catches up, and I like how he just barely grabs the hook.  Well, sometimes you gotta give the animators a little break.  There's just no stopping that hook's mischief, however, and in a moment of small genius, the hook grabs on to a brick chimney.  The chimney breaks off, it swings back and DING!  Popeye gets hit in the head... I mean, bang bang, the Fleischer's silver chimney came down upon Popeye's head.  There's dazed regaining of proper footing, there's the proverbial bird whistle and then... equanimity is complete.  Popeye's now in a trance, walking at Olive's tempo.  There's a near collision, but Popeye tips his hat to Olive.  Being unconscious is no reason to not be cordial, for God's sake!
Okay, so there's at least one difference between the instant case and A Dream Walking.  The way Popeye is awoken from his trance here is quite different from the other one.  Here, he just misses stepping onto a girder, in another moment of quiet genius, plummets to the ground and lands in a garbage can full of cats.  A lot more painful... or is it?  Maybe waking up after bumping into Bluto, then getting into a giant Fist Tornado with the guy is more painful.  Clearly I'm no expert.
And so, Popeye is awoken and, to his horror, he finally gets an eyeful of Professor Stare.  Olive's walking along more window ledges again, but this time it's on Stare's building.  That tears it.  It's so spinach time.  This time, Popeye's can of spinach has a giant capital 's' on it.  Hmm!  The 's' rips off the can and lands on Popeye's chest.  Double hmm!!!  I think the Fleischers are finally putting two and two together.
And so, Professor Stare turns his attention to this other wannabe alpha-male, sending the hypno-waves Popeye's way, but Popeye punches every last one into submission.  Popeye ends up unfurling the Professor's headgear, and Professor Stare ends up waving like a flag from the flagpole... hmm.  This probably qualifies as one of those unfortunate stereotypes the DVD warns us about that were rampant in those days.  We must always remember that hypnotists are equal in the eyes of the law... something like that.


Okay, so the bad guy's been defeated.  But what about Olive?  Well, she's on top of a water tower... how'd she get up there?!!!  So many unanswered questions.  And so, in yet another homage to Buster Keaton, Popeye ties some of the turban's cloth around his waist, grabs Olive as she falls.  In the twist, however, Popeye swings over to a vertical flagpole and slides down to ground level.  And so, back to waking Olive up.  Even though Professor Stare's been defeated, the spell remains.  What to do?  What to do?  In Popeye's desperation, he slaps Olive on the face.  Olive wakes up and lightly reprimands Popeye.  Clearly the days of Wild Elephinks are long gone, and for good reason.
Well, this one's more Disney-fied than its predecessor, I'll give you that.  The animation's much more slick.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Sheldon Candis

Looks like a young guy, so this shouldn't take long.  But from a first glance, I'd say his path to Spielberg will have to go through Common from LUV.  That's Sheldon's LUV from 2012 and not Clive Donner's Luv from 1967 starring Jack Lemmon and a then-unknown Harrison Ford....

...stupid software.  That's what I get for using a breadth-first paradigm.  No, Common's definitely the way, because Common was in Terminator Salvation with Christian Bale
who was in Empire of the Sun directed by.... STEVEN SPIELBERG!  That's the way to go, Sheld!

An Indie Thanksgiving?

I had that weird dream again where giant man-sized half-man half-bird creatures land in our backyard.  And even though I politely close the door on them, they still manage to peck their way in.  How rude!  One of them seemed to be Eric Idle of Monty Python fame.  I forget what routine he did.  Maybe it was the aftershave lotion bit.  Anyway, if I were Christopher Nolan, I'd take some comfort in the fact that, even though your movie (Interstellar) came in second, it made just about as much money as a movie half its length.  But the month is still young!  The Dumb and Dumber sequel is on its way, and already I have questions.  The Farrellys were on The Tonight Show talking about how great the movie is, and they said that Kathleen Turner plays a character from the first one.  Well, I checked the cast list of the first one, and the 2003 prequel, and that character's name is nowhere to be found!  Can anyone clarify that for me?  Anyone at all?  Or is it even worth it?
Meanwhile, this Taylor Swift 'thin-shaming' story just won't go away!  I'm fascinated by it for some reason.  Apparently, and I haven't read the whole story, but she was thin-shamed either by a Jimmy Fallon character or Rand Paul after he got his head shaved at an ROTC event for charity.  Looks better, incidentally!  But I think I have the solution to all of this: a new song by "Weird Al" Yankovic.  He should change Swift's "Fifteen" to "Fat-Shamed".  Sure, it's a ripoff of his Michael Jackson parody, "Fat", but hey, it's show business!  Originality is just a quaint guideline at this point.  Because when you're fat-shamed, somebody tells you you look fat, you're gonna believe it, and when you're fat-shamed, your head will spin round.  But remember to fall in love before you fall, and there's more to life than not being able to date the football player, but you won't know it when you're fat-shamed!
(Sunday) The results are finally in!  As expected, the carpet bombing campaign for Dumb and Dumber To paid off.  It's #1 with 38.05 million in the bank... unfortunately, it cost $50 million in advertising to get that 38.05 million, but who knows?  By week 3 it should cross that pesky $100 million barrier.  Now, I hate to disagree with the critics over at The Onion, but they did give Rosewater a C.  I guess they're not no board.  They gave Dumb 2 a D+, but they cite the original movie as some kind of modern comedy classic.  Honestly, I don't think it's that great.  Sure, Jim Carrey's all right and all, and God bless the Farrellys, but I thought There's Something About Mary was their best work, not Dumb and Dumber 1.  Oh well.  Shows you what I know... notice how everyone skips over Kingpin?  And probably Shallow Hal?  It's just mean.  It's just mean the way they do that.
Meanwhile, look at these other new entries!  Beyond the Lights comes in at #4, and the critically acclaimed Birdman finally cracks the top 10.  And St. Vincent is still in the top 10.  It's an indie Thanksgiving, I tells ya!  You know, I hate to say I told you so, but... did I call it or what, Reggie?  A-List!  That's about as modest as a blogger can get.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The Devil and the Deep Blue Cat

For some reason, I'm resisting giving this one four stars out of four, but it probably deserves it.  Maybe I can eventually convince myself to soften my heart.  Of course, it's no Pluto's Judgement Day, but I'll let someone else review that one.  I have enough troubles with Disney's copyright lawyers as it is.


Ah, Heaven and Hell.  Is there any duet of locations more suitable for the various animated mediums?  So ripe with possibilities, so much easier to visualize in a cartoon than in a live-action film... at least, back then.  The way Heavenly Puss explores the Great Beyond is through the usual Tom and Jerry formula, but with a few slight twists.  We start with the duet living in rather deluxe accommodations.  And as you can see, Jerry's got a little golden rope around the top of his hole in the wall!  Alas, this doesn't mean that he's an equal in the eyes of Tom.  Wealth and privilege hold no truck in the animal kingdom.  To make matters worse, Tom's only pretending to sleep while Jerry nervously tiptoes around Tom and up to the table to find some delicious edibulates to munch upon.  But no sooner does Jerry reach for the slices of hard boiled egg, when Tom strikes ... and in a rather upper-crust way, I might add!  Tom goes after Jerry with a rather sword-like knife.  He's using the good china, for Gawd'z zake!  Yes, it's the Middle Ages all over again, and Tom thinks he's some kind of knight or something, but he's not rescuing maidens from dragons' lairs.  No, this is more of the dungeon-type stuff.  Death to the peasants and rodents!  Jerry takes off running and tries to make his getaway up the stairs.
Tom catches up to Jerry, and sees Jerry pitifully climbing up the stairs.  But Tom is an old-fashioned Sadist, and likes to have as much fun with Jerry as possible, so Tom tries to literally pull the rug out from under him.  Blue bloods have blue carpet, go figure.  Jerry is resisting as best he can, when fate intervenes... in the form of a piano.  This is a situation Confucius never encountered in his long, wise life: beware the piano at the end of the carpet you're pulling.  Now this is the stuff of highlight reels.  I seem to recall Tom being shown this footage in a later cartoon.  Well, it was some rather ball-busting animation to produce, so why not reuse it at least once?  Or maybe I'm thinking of that Wile E. Coyote cartoon where he does his own play-by-play... damn, can't find it.  YouTube doesn't have everything after all.
...hmm!  Google Chrome isn't refreshing my text as often as it used to!  Interesting.  Anyway, you can tell this is the non-comedy portion of the proceedings.  Normally when a piano falls over, it makes some kind of music, doesn't it?  Maybe not Chopin or Ludwig van, but something!  Not this time.  And this is not one of those flukes where the piano maybe stops in mid-flight, gets turned sideways and just blocks the stairwell.  Oh no, it's headed all the way down.  Jerry the mouse runs out of the way at the last minute.  And Tom, well... he's not so lucky.


Somehow I thought Tom was hardier than that!  Oh well.  It's the plot this time.  And so, having been mashed in between the piano and the wall... another way-too-perfect coincidence... Tom's soul takes that long escalator to heaven.  I don't want to run afoul of Led Zeppelin's copyright lawyers, as I hear they never sleep and are compensated well for policing the internet.
...man, that's a long escalator ride!  And there's no comedy mishaps like in that one Buster Keaton film, oh no.  This is all deadly serious sh... stuff here folks.  Tom gets on that escalator at 1:46 and steps off at about 2:17, but keeps going... what is this?  The airport?  Actually, sort of!  Tom eventually comes to a stop and runs over to the golden gates, looks through and sees a bunch of trains.  "Heavenly Express," it's called.  Well, heaven's constantly getting a makeover to reflect modern technology then, isn't it?  Take Defending Your Life, for example.  And instead of St. Peter letting people in, we've got an old grey-haired cat.  Surely that's the voice of Anthony Hopkins?  Such gravitas!... nah, apparently it's just ol' Huckleberry Hound himself, Daws Butler.  Heartland gravitas, then.  Powerful stuff.
And so, we get to a few test cases ahead of Tom.  You don't want to just go right to Tom cold.  The first cat got in a fight with a bulldog.  He gets a pass.  Aye, tis a fine death.  Makes getting pancaked by a piano look like a pile of puke, as Moe Syzslak would say.  Okay, sure, if it's on a city street and your proverbial animated cartoon piano movers drop a piano on you, that might be okay.  But this is fat cat through the eye of a needle time!  I probably should've hyphenated all of that.  I mean, for God's sake.  Your own piano in your own home?  Merciless.
Now, the second cat has a big red lump on his head.  He gets a pass?  Tom gets, like, ten of those in any given cartoon!  I doth protest.  The third cat is a flat one, of course.  Another questionable death.  You don't want to have cats or people in heaven that aren't paying attention to where they are at any given moment, do you?  I'm just picky that way.  Now, Tom was flattened too, so you're probably asking yourself, but The Movie Hooligan!  Shouldn't Tom's soul be flat as well?  The answer: no, because Tom is the protagonist, our entryway into the world of this cartoon proper.  It's the other cat's job to be flat.
Now, here's a truly morbid, Modernist touch for you.  For the hipsters in the audience, this is for you: a bag of drowned kittens is next!  I'm still having nightmares!  Again, like Defending Your Life, there are age limits on the process.  Gotta give kittens a free pass.  So adorable.
Finally, we get to Tom (Thomas).  Trying to sneak in, of course; that figures.  I guess if Tom could just go right on in, there'd be no cartoon.  The struggle is more interesting.  Probably why in The Polar Express, most of our time was spent outside the train.
So here's the deal: Tom can't get into Cat Heaven because of the shabby way he's treated Jerry over the years... this is Cat Heaven, right?  Maybe it's actually Mouse Heaven in disguise?  Seems to be Mouse Heaven rules!  But, Tom does live in the home of one of the "job creators," so Daws Butler gives Tom one last second chance.  "The Heavenly Express doesn't leave for another hour," he tells Tom, and if Tom can get Jerry to sign a Certificate of Forgiveness (...Form 1040-H?) then he can go into Cat Heaven with a clean slate.  Otherwise... Tom will be sent to Dog Hell, populated by one Billy Bletcher.  Man, that guy can do it all.  But what about Cat Hell?... I know, I take these things too literally.  Reminds me of that episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee I was watching tonight. Seinfeld asked "Why is it called the restroom?  You don't rest in the restroom!"  To which I reply: IT'S JUST A NAME!!!! THAT'S ALL... NOT ALL NAMES DESCRIBE WHAT THEY ARE NAMED FOR ABSOLUTELY PERFECTLY ALL THE TIME.  WE DON'T CALL TOILET PAPER 'ASS PAPER' EITHER, DO WE?  Okay, back to the cartoon.


Irony of ironies!  My cat just stepped on the button that took me back to Yahoo and made me lose all my changes!  Well, she's still a sweetie pie anyway... where was I?  Oh, right.  A dream.  It was all just a terrible, terrible dream... OR WAS IT??? WHOA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Remember how Wayne's World always used to do that?... ah, memories.  And so, Tom similarly breathes a premature sigh of relief, and finds the Certificate of Forgiveness (Form DD-214CF?) in his hand... paw.  The clock looms large overhead.  "Hurry Tom!" booms the authoritative voice of Anthony Hopkins... I mean, Daws Butler... Daws Butler?  Really?  Didn't know he could do grab-it-ass... I mean, gravitas.
And so, Tom goes to the proverbial gilded mouse hole in the wall with a giant apology cake, and not one of those cheap, Crisco numbers from Safeway, either.  No, this is the real deal Holyfield right there.  Wild guess, but I don't think Jerry's going to want to sign that Certificate right away... CALLED IT!  Actually, I saw this already.  Dayamn, but that tiny mouse makes short work of that rather large cake!  Must be like the ant that can lift 100,000 times its own weight.  Well, Jerry can eat about 736 times his own weight in cake right quick.  He should of... have known there'd be a price to pay.  And so, Tom, the cat that spent his whole life persecuting that innocent mouse Jerry, grabs him out of the hole in the wall, puts a pen in his tiny feet, and points rather sternly at the Certificate of Forgiveness.  After seeing that, why even bother with the signature?  That's proof enough for me right there!  Put Tom on the Cadillac Board... I mean, get his ass into Cat Heaven!
Like most average people, Jerry Mouse doesn't read the Certificate of Forgiveness yet.  All he sees is the pen in his hand.  You'll never guess in a million years what he does with it.  Never!  Well, it's one of those old-timey pre-ball point pen pens where you can squirt the ink out of it with a tiny lever.  If that isn't a hint, nothing is.  And so, Tom gets his blue face full of blue ink... seriously?  Blue ink for a signature on a legally binding document?  What next, tie dye and long hair for men?  Slippery slope, people.  Slippery slope.
Tom looks at the clock again.  Just like in Golden Yeggs and Slick Hare, the clock goes fast in these seven minute (one reel) cartoons.  Feeling the pressure, Tom decides to forge Jerry's signature himself or, depending on your point of view, tests the rigorousness of the system by seeing what would happen if he attempted to forge Jerry's signature... Huzzah!  The system is rigorous!  Pity be upon the fool who would actually try to do that!  Pity, I say! ...arguably, he's got a rather mischievous look on his face when the idea strikes him, but never mind.  People are always going to try to cheat the system, no matter how rigorous it is.  Look at Adam and Eve, for God's sake!  I know, I know, it's all Eve's fault.
Second bribe: Tom tries to tempt Jerry with a big hunk of Swiss cheese.  Jerry finally reads the document and sees what's going on.  To make matters worse, the cheese is contingent on Jerry's signature.  Why, the very idea is in my accounting textbook!  I believe they're called 'contingent liabilities.'... something like that.  We haven't gotten to that chapter yet.  But Jerry's old school and, indignant, Jerry rips that document right up into about sixteen or thirty-two little pieces, and snaps his fingers at Tom.  You go, Mouse Man!
Scared in his own right, Tom collects himself and prepares to smite Jerry with one of those fireplace shovels, used in both Miller's Crossing and Corny Casanovas.  And I thought Sam Raimi was the real Three Stooges buff!  Harumph!  But before the beating can occur, the Devil Dog appears and eggs Tom on... can the mouse see the Devil Dog too?  I think Jerry's looking at him.  Anyway, Tom has a quick change of heart, as just about anyone would if they saw something like that.
And so it came to pass that Tom taped the document back together again and came back to Jerry, begging and pleading on his knees.  I think this is how Microsoft cornered the market in... whatever they're famous for now.  Jerry's still a little skeptical, but you can't argue with results!  Jerry reluctantly signs the paper... but the pen's run out of ink!  This is like the ending of Back to the Future 1!  ...okay, maybe not exactly.  Tom gets the pen going again; I mean, Jerry's probably strong enough to do it, but Tom's got the fire of motivation behind him in this situation.  Jerry signs, and Tom grabs the document and takes off.  This is reminiscent of The Mission and how churches used to operate against native peoples in distant lands, despite the occasional extreme rapids rider on a cross.  Alas, the Heavenly Express has already left, and it's down to Hell for Tom.  Tom waves goodbye before dropping... inspiration for Wile E. Coyote, perhaps?  Chuck Jones: BUSTED!!!!


...I forgot Act Three!  Oh well.  Too late to go back now.  And so, Tom makes a mighty splash in Devil Dog's cauldron.  Alas, it all turns out to be a dream.  There's an Aesop fable here someplace: never fall asleep next to the fireplace, especially if you're a cat.  Relieved that it was all just a very vivid and horrible dream, Tom knocks on Jerry's door for real, scoops him up and kisses him like he'll never see him again... something like that.  The cartoon ends with Tom giving Jerry a big hug.  Jerry looks at the camera... or audience, if you will... and shrugs.  There's probably other cartoons that ended like this, and Adam Sandler's Click sort of did, and of course It's a Wonderful Life.  I think I finally figured out why It's a Wonderful Life is given the status it gets in The Hebrew Hammer.  You see, Jewish people apparently complain a lot.  Maybe it's a wonderful life, but there's still so much to complain about.  As for Heavenly Puss, well, this probably deserves four stars.  Maybe I'm just in a good mood, but I just can't get enough of this heaven and hell stuff.  Four stars.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Popeye Joins Navy, All Hell Breaks Loose

...of course, America was late to the war.  I'm no expert, but Poland got the brunt of it around 1938 or so?  And of course, we didn't join in until Pearl Harbor happened, and according to the DVD commentary, The Mighty Navy was released a month before that happened.  After it happened, Mr. Bug Goes to Town got released to little fanfare, and the Fleischers got out of the feature game.  Alas, they weren't beloved by Oscar and the public like Walt Disney was.  Oh well.
Popeye's fallen on hard times as well, if only to me.  He's never joined the Navy proper before... or did he?  Well, he's been out of Active Duty since the first cartoon in 1933.  He came ashore and never looked back.
But now he's back and already there's trouble fitting in.  There's a clash of egos between Popeye and his commanding officer.  The commanding officer picks up Popeye like a gun and looks in the barrel of Popeye's mouth.  Well, part of Popeye must be in order, anyway!  Sure, he doesn't look like the rest of the sailors.  I just hate to refer to them as Nazis since they're on our side, but the sailors' uniforms are supposed to be uniform, not the sailors wearing them!  The Fleischers were also doing Superman shorts at the time, so they must've lifted the design from that... I swear, I thought of that on my own before I heard the DVD commentary!  I swear!
Anyway, after he misunderstands the meaning of a "dive bomber", he's assigned to onion whittling duty.  We'll leave behind the irony of a sailor flying a plane for now... I mean, seriously, dude!  Why would a sailor have to know how to fly a plane?  Oh well.  Shows you what I know about our armed forces.  Oh, incidentally, thank you for your service, people.  The Farrellys thanked them on The Tonight Show and damn it, so do I.
And so, Popeye's assigned to kitchen duty because of his show-off-manship.  And then... FATE INTERVENES!  One of them battles breaks out just in the nick of time for Popeye to redeem himself.  The enemy is unnamed at this point, but if you look at their planes closely enough, you just might spot a three-tined swastika.  Don't worry, folks.  While the enemy is unnamed in this one, I think they eventually settle on the Japanese as the bad guys.  Wild guess.  Well, that's World War II for ya; not all rose petals.
And so, the enemy ships form a proverbial circle around our lone hero ship and... yup, the ships turn into Indians.  The smart guys on the commentary said that the theme from Big Chief Ugh-Amugh-Ugh starts playing... As politically incorrect as this all is, I just had to laugh, because I thought it sounded a bit Ugh-Amugh-Ugh-ish!  God, but I love Gus Wickie's voice.  And, irony of ironies, Popeye sticks his head out of the ship's porth... I mean, one of the ship's windows and starts moving his head around like the black dude at the fair in the very first Popeye cartoon.  Popeye dares the ships to hit his head with a torpedo.  One dares.  Popeye lets the torpedo out the other side of the ship.  Good thing there was a window there!  Popeye clearly has a low tolerance for violence in wartime.  One torpedo is all he can stand!  He can't stands no more, so up to the deck he runs.  Meanwhile, the college boys are too busy trying to aim the damn gun!  Reminds me of the recurring gag in The Eager Beaver...  It's a Warner Brothers cartoon, sickos!
Popeye single-gunnedly takes down all the enemy ships, then plays skeet shoot with their planes.  But there's still a minute left to go in the flim.  Time for the archenemy to appear!  It's a big-ass ship shooting torpedos at a rate of about 4 per second.  Well, that tears it.  It's so spinach time.  Popeye loads himself into a torpedo launcher, puts down its lid, eats the spinach and off he sails, creating one of the biggest, baddest explosions in all of cartoondom.
EPILOGUE: Popeye's redemption.  Apparently in real life, Popeye's picture was used on our bombers in WWII, along with the occasional Betty Grable.  What can I say?  We're the Great Satan, all right, with our engraved images on our unholy flying contraptions.  The DVD commentators say that this is one of the best Popeye cartoons from this period, so it's just kind of meh, basically.  Probably the most politically correct as well.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Tisha Campbell-Martin

...you mean, Gina from that show?  I never got a chance to watch it, but I do seem to recall the end of House Party 1, and I believe she gave the guy with the tall hair a big sloppy kiss in the car.  You know, to make the other guy jealous and what not.  Wonder if she ever gets in a big catfight with Kasi Lemmons.  Or maybe she knows better, as Kasi's got a few more reels under her belt.  Anyway, while my program that's not written in Ruby on Rails grinds away, I'm going to say that her starring in Another 48 Hrs. may be her best shot at Spielberg.  Walter Hill's... kinda close, right?  Is his quintet still together even though Tales from the Crypt has run its course?  Or is there a Sherman Anti-Trust equivalent in Hollywood that keeps people from getting too collaborative?
...again with the "unknown host exceptions."  Nothing works.  Oh why oh why can't I have my own computer nerd or two to push around?  Just do it or I'll snap your glasses in half in a way that no amount of masking tape can put back together again!  Chop chop!

...okay, the software's done.  Tisha was on a show in the late 80s early 90s called Shannon's Deal which also starred...
......DAVID SPIELBERG??????!!!!!!!.... ah, close enough.


...already?  Well, I just bombed a big test today, and I get tomorrow off, sort of, so why not till the fields so to speak.  Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell is apparently going to win another term in the Senate... whatever.  I guess he's got nothing better to do anyway.  I guess he can finally get started on his next-to-top priority, now that Obama's got a second term.  What could it be, you might ask?  Why, his memoir, of course!  Available Fall 2015 from Turtle Paperbacks.
(Sunday) Man, am I out of touch with the mainstream!  Big Hero 6?  What's that?  What about Big Hero 1 thru 5?  Disney and Pixar are apparently investing everything they've got into animé.  Well, after this election, with pot legal in a few states now, who wouldn't want to get high and go to the theater to try and escape for about thirty bucks a ticket?  And where's Dumb and Dumber To all of a sudden?... oh, right, that's next weekend.  Well, I guess that means I'm ready for it!  Well, if I were Chris Nolan, I wouldn't worry.  Time to let word of mouth work its magic.  Is this the 2001 of the Douchebag Era?  Will people put down their SmartPhones while this is playing?  I mean, so much stuff to thumb through...