Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Revenge Job

For me, personally, when it comes to the cat-and-mouse genre, I'm a snob, and nothing less than The Day of the Jackal will do, and maybe Munich in a pinch.  Michael Lonsdale's the connecting link between the two, incidentally... okay, Freejack as well.  Gattaca has some of that as well, but... damn.  I'm trying to think of another one.  It's certainly not an uncommon construct; if I were better at my craft, I'd say To Catch a Thief is probably the best.
Anyway, Jason Statham, when he's not appearing on "The Tonight Show" talking about "The Situation" or appearing in either a Luc Besson or Guy Ritchie picture, makes the occasional reach for greatness beyond mere ass-kickery.  Don't get me wrong, of course; I'd lose instantly in a fight with either Statham or Fedor Emilianenko.  But his (The) Killer Elite starts out promisingly enough, then dies the death of a couple dozen plot holes.  For the greater good, of course, but I'm still picky about that kind of thing.
Now, Statham may seem like his usual Transporter self here, but in fact, like Wesley Snipes in Passenger 57, he's the best of the best... even though he botches the opening scene a bit.  He and De Niro are an unstoppable hit man duo, although I've been questioning the whole genre lately.  I guess if you're a hit man in a third world country, it's easier to get away.  The Beltway Sniper of about a decade ago is as close we'll come in real life to a gentleman hit man of the cine.
And so, after the opening introductory episode, we get the Mission Impossible: Statham has to take out members of an elite British unit called SAS who were responsible for the deaths of an Oman shiek's sons.  That's right... it's time for Saving Private Riyadh... sorry, that was either awfully corny or terribly racist; I swear I was going for the former... oh, right, almost forgot.  It's the old saw about a guy coming out of retirement to do one last job, but this movie's got a nice twist to it: Statham has to come out of his clearly premature retirement to save De Niro, because De Niro backed out of the job, so they're holding him prisoner in an ad hoc Oman prison.  Apparently all these shieks have prisons built right in to their oil-funded palaces.  Contractual thing.
And so, Statham gathers up his old crew to do the job: nerdy guy, and guy more extrovertly manly than even Statham... hmmm.  Could he be hiding something?  Got closet?  Anyway, now for the impossible part: Statham and company are supposed to get confessions out of the SAS members before killing them.  We're told that this is impossible, because these guys are trained to lie.  Lie under pressure.  Spoiler alert: it doesn't take much to get them to go "Okay, I did it, but so what.  Stuff happens."  I mean, Clooney lost a fingernail in Syriana over much, much less... spoiler alert.  Movies move too fast these days, but for some reason, that special hammer covered in tiles is still stuck in the craw of my mind.
Enter the detective, Clive Owen.  Much like the detective Lebel in The Day of the Jackal, Clive Owen has to go to this group of guys to report that someone is going after our SAS boys.  In this case, the group he meets with is some kind of secret cabal of ex-SAS guys, as opposed to a group of politicians, official law enforcement, and DeGaulle's private army.  Now, Statham quickly gets a chance to kill the Clive Owen character, and gouge out his good eye... but, spoiler alert, no killing takes place because 1) it's still too early in the pic, and 2) Clive Owen's a big star, too, and he's contractually obligated to survive to at least the end of said pic.  So begin our plot holes through which logic, then credibility, is allowed to escape.
This whole story is based on a book by a character named Ralph Fiennes... I'm sorry, that's Ranulph Fiennes.  It's a legitimate typo, however, because they're not-too-distant relatives of each other.  The IMDb will tell you all about it.  After all, The Day of the Jackal is based on a book by a guy named Frederick Forsyth.  The only other movie of his that I can actually vouch for is called The Dogs of War.  I hate to outright call it a stinker... let's say it's stinker-ish.  And, of course, because Christopher Walken's in it, it could've used a little more cowbell.  Ranulph himself figures into the plot of Killer Elite, and he ends up having the worst book signing of his life.  I think the screenwriter(s) punched up this scene a little bit, as they did with some of Statham's stunts (particularly the part where he's tied to a chair)  There is a lot of excitement in Ranulph's IMDb bio, but I just hate to think that this noble, upper-crust-type Brit had to suffer such an undignified incident of bad excitement as does his surrogate in this movie.  I mean, an unattended book signing in the third floor of some nondescript building in the middle of Bum-Rogering Nowhere?  Cheese and crackers!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Duck Cassidy and the Trichinosis Kid

Of course, for a maniac like me, I'm used to cartoon Westerns such as the Tex Avery stuff for MGM, and that one Bob Clampett one where Bugs doubles as the Masked Marauder and as the guide who helps the hero try to catch said Masked Marauder.  Then there's all those Western skirmishes between Bugs and Yosemite Sam, silly me.  And what do all of these have in common?  Fast-paced, ultra-violent, and completely insane.  About 180 degrees opposite of our next Looney Tunes called Drip-Along Daffy.  Some might call it another Chuck Jones masterpiece, and they'd of course be right.
And being the hipster that I am, I can't help but notice the poking fun of genre conventions, the usage of archetypes (and the poking of fun at it, thereof)... very rare for one of these cartoons to point out the usage of "comedy relief"!  It's almost like the Zucker team made this one, but surely they learned from it.  As in Bugs Bunny Rides Again, there's a gag involving stop signs; personally, I prefer that one.  But the gags with bad horses kick ass!
And even though the cartoon pokes fun at the Western genre conventions, it still can't help but rely on them as well.  Daffy and Porky arrive in town, and Daffy takes it upon himself to be the new sheriff.  Reminds me of the recent stand-up of Jerry Seinfeld on Colbert's "Late Show" about the insanity of wanting to be President of the United States in the first place.  For one thing, Donald Trump would take a big cut in salary, and even though he tells me he's really, really rich, he's still going to rely on funding for catering at town hall events.  I mean, he's not literally made of gold!  And if he were, he's not going to hock a golden arm and a golden leg just to feed a bunch of losers for one meal!
And so, Daffy tries to introduce himself to an indifferent saloon public.  The public is disinterested.  And so, Daffy gets some refreshments from the bartender.  Daffy's drink gets shot by the bad guy.  Again, some genre conventions can't be made fun of.  Also, this is another opportunity to appreciate the genius of Carl Stalling.  Listen to the band when the bad guy, "Nasty" Canasta gets visually introduced.  It's not all Spike Jones-esque fun and games, folks.
...oh, I'm so behind.  I gotta wrap this up.  I guess the backgrounds are the secret star of this one, especially during the last big sequence.  The background artist put in some serious overtime on this one.  Again, sticking to genre conventions, poking fun at others.  I guess the setup ones are up for grabs to be poked fun at.  We were recently watching an old ... what's it called, with Steve McQueen?  "Wanted: Dead or Alive"!  That's it!  One of my viewing companions pointed out that, on these old TV Westerns, they would distinguish themselves from one another by the type of weapon that the hero would use.  For McQueen, it was a sawed-off shotgun.  For "Have Gun Will Travel," I guess it was a regular six-shooter, but with an ivory knight (chess) on it... something like that.  The episode they were watching was "Montana Kid."  I know this because I recognized Jean Willes, who appeared in a couple Stooge shorts.  Well, some of the Stooge actors actually had big careers!  Go figure.  Anyway, the bad guy gets his, but in a slightly surprising way.  I won't spoil that for you... is he really dead, though?  I thought these cartoon things were light, comical affairs!  Dayamn... cold-blooded.  Another Jones classic, and yet I can't seem to bring myself to giving it four stars... okay.  Four stars it is.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Ivan Dixon

Sadly, Mr. Dixon has passed on to that great Director's Guild in the sky, where D. W. Griffith and Ed Wood are still playing that epic game of ping pong.  "Best 38,275,431 out of 76,550,861?" asks Ed, even though it'll take him a half an eon to even begin to catch up.  But the game goes on anyway, because hell, there ain't anything else better to do, man!  They've seen all the old movies, all the new movies... and a director knows better than to come back from the dead, apparently.  Too many enemies, willing to give up the afterlife's big secret.  But... there was a black dude on "Hogan's Heroes"?  That's a new one!  Reminds me of that story about how Nichelle Nichols... it's right there in her IMDb bio!  She was going to quit "Star Trek"... the very first one, that is.  But none other than Dr. Martin Luther King talked her out of resigning from the show.  I doubt if Ivan's got a story like that.  Of course, "Hogan's Heroes" doesn't quite rise to the same level, but whatever.
It probably does him a disservice that his IMDb Top 4 is all stuff from the '60s.  He worked in other decades, you know!  And he, along with only the coolest, epic cast in the history of '70s movies, appeared in a little something called Car Wash.  Hel-LOOOOOOO???!!!!!!  And he was in 1998's Clay Pigeons with Vince Vaughn... I'm sorry, that's 1971's Clay Pigeon.  Totally different movie.  Vinny would've been too young for that one.  And yes, he played the blaxploitation game a little, if only as a director, of such hits that Quentin Tarantino has memorized like Trouble Man and The Spook Who Sat by the Door... wow!  I memorized that correctly!  I usually get one or two words wrong in these longer titles.  I'm turning into my dad, what can I say?
Yes, a toast to Ivan Dixon.  Born and raised in NYC, died in North Carolina.  He didn't move to Beverly Hills and stay there like some celebrities... oh, right.  Actually, they're getting quite liberal these days in Beverly Hills!  Why there's two, three African American residents already!  I'm kinda proud of myself; I didn't even mention Ivan's work with Bill Cosby... damn it.  Okay, to be fair, Cosby probably wasn't going to stop just because one director told him to.

S. W.

Now available in hardback! ...oh, right.  Normally, this is where I talk about the box office.  Almost forgot to do that.  Well, I was only half right.  The latest installment of Star Wars is the fastest film to a hundred million, probably... but the one they're more interested in is being first to a billion.  Take that, Peter Jackson and your Lord of the Rings!  And yet, we've got FIVE debuts this week.  We're in uncharted waters, people.  We've got one film clobbering all the others, AND we've got a bunch of new debuts getting in. That's Christmas for ya!
So, among the proverbial acts also appearing with The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show include Will Ferrell's latest called Daddy's Home.  Kinda looks like he's trying to siphon off a little of that Seth Rogen-Zac Efron Neighbors magic.  Well, if Seth doesn't mind, then I don't mind.
Meanwhile, in Jennifer Lawrence's universe, it's time for another one of those David O. Russell projects with De Niro and James Lipton's best pupil ever, Bradley Cooper.  It's a film called Joy and, well... you know how it is.  J. Law doesn't get paid enough for American Hustle, and she probably got overpaid for Joy
Strikes and gutters, ups and downs.  But how to segué to the Point Break remake?  Well, Patrick Swayze was indeed in a film called City of Joy.  Hope that helps!  He stars as either the city or the joy, I just don't know which.  But I think it's safe to say that, much like the remake of 1990's sci-fi classic Total Recall, this remake will probably fall by the wayside, quickly forgotten.  Why, they didn't even let Gary Busey reprise his role as Pappas, the wise detective who gives Johnny Utah the tip that helps them catch the surfing bank robbers in the first place.  Director and cinematographer Ericson Core doubles here as his own cinematographer... who does he think he is?  Peter Hyams?  Mary Ann Bernard?  Time to hit the bars with Eric Brevig and commiserate, dude.
What else?  Well, there's Will Smith's latest small film between big projects, and it's called Concussion.  Here he tries out Trevor Noah's accent.  Best Actor Oscar, people?  Is that asking so much?  Just give it to him and maybe he'll go away, kinda like Renee Zellweger and Kim Basinger.  There's also SNL alum Adam McKay's film called The Big Short.  He took the idea from the end credits of his The Other Guys and spawned a new film.  Welp, if the Oscar community snubbed Stew Beef and his Rosewater, what chance does McKay have?  Apparently, very, very good!  After all, the guy's got a track record now, even if it is with Will Ferrell, so the Oscar community knows he's not afraid to make money.  Personally, I kinda don't care about the Oscars anymore.  I don't know what it will take to draw me back in, but I think I'm out.  Permanently.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Porky in Remakeland

See now, for someone like me, it's Porky in Wackyland or nothing.  Maybe if I saw Dough for the Do-Do first, of course, I'd think that it was the better of the two.  And maybe if I saw Laurel and Hardy's Perfect Day without the extra music first, I'd think it was the better of the two.  I can't think of an example off hand where I changed my mind and thought the second one I saw was the better... see?  First impressions really are that important!  Remember all those documentaries you saw about birds and their elaborate mating displays?  Well, the same thing applies to people and movies.  Now eat your bacon!
Anyway, you're probably going to kill me for this, but I think I'll save a more in-depth analysis for Porky in Wackyland, the film upon which Dough for the Do-Do is almost completely based.   But I would like to point out that, much like the Stooge shorts, there seems to be some slightly new sequences here.  First of all, the close-up of the "Wackyland" sign seems to have different audio.  In fact, the audio of Dough for the Do-Do seems, in general, to be a lot less wacky.  The big musical number doesn't quite sync as well to the animation this go-round.  Also, they cut out all the times that the dodo bird screams in panic when trying to escape Porky... damn.  Now I gotta calculate the percentage of new footage.  Nice going, The Movie Hooligan.
Anyway, so I think the Wackyland sign's different, and I know for sure that the part where Porky falls before getting introduced to the dodo is different here.  In Porky in Wackyland he slides down a long chute.  Here, he gets the Screwy Squirrel treatment.  Porky's fall is faked with a phony backdrop, and yet, his pain and suffering is real.  I'm thinking of Screwball Squirrel where the dog rolls down the big hill in a barrel, and Screwy Squirrel's at the bottom of the hill providing the musical accompaniment to the dog's epic roll.
As for the third difference, well... SPOILER ALERT.  In Porky in Wackyland, if memory serves, Porky tricks the dodo with a fake newspaper... see, newspapers used to be how people got their news, and yes, to the detriment of our nation's forests.  Now forests are in peril because of architects and their lust for locally sourced materials.  Some things never change.  Here in the instant case, arguably Porky's ruse is much sneakier.  Hint: it's like Wimpy in Hello, How Am IAnd of course, the joke's ultimately on Porky and the last dodo, because a slightly smaller gang of dodo birds comes out of the woodwork and says "Hey!  He got the last dodo!  Dough-de-dough...."  Again, I'm slightly preferential to the finale of Porky in Wackyland... or am I?  I just don't know anymore.  But I will ask, because everyone's on the lookout for stuff that's creepy these days... there's that part where the dodo dances all over Porky and kicks him in the stomach repeatedly, and it's all Porky can do to clutch his stomach in pain and keep his eyes closed.  So, for the sake of all the pork pie hat hipsters out there, I ask... man!  WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THAT?!!!!!  And now that I think about it, I can see the dodo's point.  I mean, say you're the last of something.  Wouldn't you get tired of the umpteenth person coming up to you and asking, "Are you REALLY the last of... fill-in-the-blank?"  It's like that time Homer and Apu went to the Kwik-E-Mart headquarters and the guy said "You may ask three questions..."  For some reason, I didn't get the joke about Apu's angry reaction after that one at the time.  Maybe I should drag it out of storage again.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Vin Diesel

...oh, please.  Well, as that old saying goes, everyone wants to direct.  And just as Spielberg calls himself a "TV director" with tongue firmly in cheek, so too can Vinny claim to be a director first and foremost, with a short film called Multi-Facial and a feature called Strays to his credit.  But then... fate came along and, as you can tell currently from his IMDb Top 4, 1998's Saving Private Ryan is one of the four things he's known for... the other three being the latest installments of the The Fast and the Furious film series.  In a way, it's like how Malcolm McDowell is known for A Clockwork Orange and three other things within the past decade!  Of course, Ryan was probably a cakewalk for Diesel compared to the stuntwork Malcolm had to endure over the course of that year it took to shoot A Clockwork Orange, but never mind.
So Diesel seems to have put his directorial dreams on hold while the Fast and Furious series continues to wind down... or does it?  Eight installments?  Before you know it, the rest of the cast of The Expendables is going to follow Statham into this thing!  Now that would be something.  Of course, it'll involve a lot more action near handicapped ramps... sorry, but yes, I'm just trying to get headlines, I guess.  Why, I couldn't get one if I paid for it!  How about changing it to 'getting in and out of courtesy shuttles' instead?  After all, being an expendable is hard!  It's hard work!  I feel their pain, though.  I need a little Gold Bond medicated powder myself!
Anyway, Vin's a star, no question... but an auteur?  Arguably, yes, in the '90s, but what I'm waiting for... as are a few other Hollywood insiders... is his purported Hannibal project.  And I'm not talking about Anthony Hopkins' most famous role, or Hannibal Brooks.  No, I'm talking about the elephant one, Hannibal Barca, I believe he was named.  And why that role?  Well, I suppose it's like playing Cleopatra, but for guys.  Diesel proudly mentioned that he was hard at work working on his Hannibal project the last time he was on Stew-Beef's "The Daily Show."  I swear it happened, and maybe the IMDb will bear me out... I think it was the 2006 one.  Apparently, all the clips are online someplace, but maybe someone else can do all the hard work and due diligence of looking it up and what not.  I think he failed to mention that he got the idea for the screenplay when he was in 3rd grade and heard the story... LIKE THE REST OF US.  See?  Sometimes procrastination's a good thing!

Star Wars - The Box Office Awakens

I'm assuming that all of Hollywood is waiting with baited breath.  Accountants are busy working overtime, crunching the numbers, and J. J. Abrams and company will be positively damned if the headline's not something like "Fastest $100 million of all time!"  Of course, $100 million doesn't go as far in Hollywood these days.  Probably the unions' fault; they'll get blamed for it, anyhow.  And hey!  What about Mother Nature?  Surely, she cares about rich people and hopes that their profits increase exponentially forever and ever until the end of time too?  No?  Wotta bitch!
(Sunday proper).... yeah, it must be nice being J. J. Abrams.  Notice how, in his latest appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," he made a reference to his early '90s work, having written the script for 1991's Regarding Henry.  Well, his days of reality-based stuff are far behind him, as his transition from so-so writer to the new Spielberg-Lucas hybrid is finally complete.  And yet, directing the next one isn't his top priority.  Figures.  Meanwhile, Llewyn Davis continues his stay at the top of the A-List... how did he get in Star Wars?  How do the Coens' casting choices get so influential anyway?  And will February's Hail, Caesar! suffer a similar fate as The Big Lebowski going up against Titanic at the box office?
Anyway, despite the fact that the latest installment of Star Wars made probably about as much money as a movie can these days over one weekend, we've got, what?... FOUR other debuts this week?  I'm just sayin'.  Last week, Ron Howard's little Moby D... Richard movie managed to be the only debut, and two weeks ago Krampus was the only new debut.  Okay, so the distinction doesn't guarantee good performance at the box office.  Still, I can't help but wonder if the people behind these big blockbusters get a little jealous when a couple new debuts get a little bit of the thunder for themselves.  Take the latest installment of the Chipmunks saga, for example.  One of Ebert and Roeper's replacements wondered if Walt Becker's next pic was going to be called Bumps on Logs, seeing as how he directed Old Hogs and Wild Dogs all previous-like... I'm sorry, I'm being told that it's Wild Hogs and Old Dogs, actually... damn.  Even I have to admit the cleverness of that poster: "Sit.  Stay.  Play Dad."  It's exactly this kind of gumption and gung-ho attitude that got him the latest Chipmunks movie.  Oh my God... apparently Jason Lee has reprised his role as Dave in all four Chipmunks movies.  Now I'm starting to check if the same three guys have done the same voices for the movies!  Justin Long apparently has... I thought the whole point of the Chipmunks voices is that they're relatively interchangeable.  You could have Mariah Carey and Barry White doing the voices and no one will be able to tell the difference because they're sped up at twice the speed.  Next thing you know, you'll be able to buy all eight seasons of the '80s animated "Alvin & The Chipmunks" show at the theater.  They could probably jam all of it onto one or two Blu-Rays, right?  Damn, I'm good.  No, the sanctity of the multiplex would never stoop to selling DVDs of anything.  Concession stand, video game section for the kids and juvenile delinquents, that's how it will always be, forevermore., I hate that.  I keep forgetting I have to wait to click on something now, because the page hasn't finished loading and it has to make that jump where everything gets pushed down a few pixels.  All the buttons I want to click have ads for adult diapers above them that I end up clicking.  Anyway, believe it or not, going up against the latest issue of Star Wars magazine at the box office is a coveted spot for films to get.  That way, they can always say, "Well, of course it didn't make any money!  It was going up against Star Wars!  Duh!!"  One of the finalists is the latest from Tina Fey.  But bear in mind, this is no Admission, mind you.  It's more in the vein of Baby Mama territory, so it's not for smart people only.  And, why look!  It's Amy Poehler!  People like her, right?  She's Marisa Miller, but with comedic chops to boot.  As for Tina, well, she seems to have all but ditched her trademark glasses from the 2000s, and is going for kind of an Annabella Sciorra vibe... or Sarah Silverman, either one.  I always get them mixed up.  As for me, I can't get out of my head the time I started to watch Brian De Palma's 1973 effort called Sisters.  It starts with this horrible medical footage of conjoined twins, and I had to bail on it.  May this new one not suffer the same fate.
What else?  Well, there's two other debuts called Dilwale and Bajirao Mastani, which I better make links for, because I won't be able to find them later on.  These results will probably get changed at some point this week, and Prem Ratan Dhan Payo will make a brief reappearance.  Gotta run!!!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

What Makes Daffy Duck

I'm telling you, you young'uns out there!  You're living in a golden age of video, especially and particularly if you purchase the Looney Tunes Golden Collection... all of 'em, that is.  I have yet to get Volume 6 myself, full disclosure.  Maybe Santa will smile down upon me and... ah, who'm I kidding.
Anyways, it's time for Duck Amuck, the veritable great-grandfather of Fight Club, one of the greatest late '90 mindf... -messing-with movies made in 1999.  Yes, the turning of the years seemed to be a big deal, leading up to it and what not.  Personally, I think when it turned into 2000, and Jesus didn't show up, well... I hate to say an Atheist triumph, but it seemed to be a bit of a setback for the Christians.  I personally felt like Danny DeVito in Ruthless People when he admonished the kidnappers, saying "No... you told me that if I didn't pay, my wife would be in the morgue.  Well, today, I went down to the morgue, and she wasn't there!"
As for the whole 2012 Mayan stuff, well... I think Bill Maher probably said it best.  The Mayans didn't see their own demise coming, so why take their prediction seriously?  Personally, I hope I don't live to see the year 2048.  Oh, that's going to be fun, because I'll be about 76 years old, wearing a grey hoodie, and screaming about Y-ACTUAL-2K with the rest of the computer geeks... see, 2K is short for 2048 in some circles, and I'm sure some institutions probably thought it was a good idea to skimp on the computer hardware, and only code years in 11 bits.  "Oh, 2048 will never get here," they said.  "Oh, surely we won't still be using the same old freakin' stop lights in 2048!" they said.
Now, sure, you might be thinking to yourself right about now, "Geez Louise, The Movie Hooligan!  You're rambling like an incoherent old man!  What's with all the straying from the topic of Duck Amuck?  Geez Louise!"  And you'd be right... and, of course, if you're at all familiar with Duck Amuck, you know that it's a film devoted to the very act of straying from the topic.  Take the beginning, for example.  Seems like a Musketeers-type deal, judging from the title card font and the music, right?  Right.  And Daffy seems to think so at first as well.  And now that I think about it, going right into a fight scene right out of the gate is rather silly at that.  A Ph.D dissertation could be successfully made about the psychology of this cartoon.  Personally, I think its genesis comes from, for example, the endings of two other Chuck Jones semi-classics, Rabbit Punch and My Favorite Duck.  I also thought of the story of how Ray Charles happened to compose his classic song "What'd I Say"... something about how he'd finished playing a long, long concert... and just ran out of songs.  "What'd I Say" was born.  So, too, was Duck Amuck... way ahead of Woodstock, as was Jones' 1962 effort, Now Hear This.
So what's my favourite aspect of this cartoon?  Well, if I had to pick just one, gun to my head... I'd have to say it's the part where Daffy's angrily jumping around.  Of course, he does that a lot in this one, but when he says "NOT ME, YOU SLOP ARTIST!" and "A CLOSE-UP, YOU JERK!  A CLOSE-UP!!!!!"  They're spoiling us by putting all the classic ones on the first volume.  As for the ending, well, I suppose anyone who's endured any amount of rejection in their lives might find some perverse pleasure in the simplicity of a closed door, spoiler alert.  Just as the waterworks were flowing for me and some of those old Popeye cartoons, I got a wee bit weepy with the finale of Duck Amuck.  Mostly because of the music, I think.
Apparently this cartoon was bourne from Chuck Jones thinking about backgrounds.  "What if we ran out of backgrounds?" he thought.  I think I prefer his way of thinking, as compared to, say, Hanna and Barbera when they jumped into the deep end of the television pool with both feet and said, "Screw the backgrounds.  Quick and dirty's the way to go for this little box.  Repeat the same crappy background forever!  Who cares?  Who'll notice?"  It took Warner Bros. a while to catch up, but sometime in the mid 60s, their backgrounds were gone too.

Good double bill with: Kick Me..... oh, right, and of course, Rabbit Rampage.  Sheesh.

An obstruction-free path to Michael Barrier's website

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Damon Diddit

With the help of a co-director, that is.

Hijacking Hollywood

The final installment of The Hunger Games closes at #1, but it limped over the finish line, frankly.  Still, better than the last Harry Potter did, right?  Okay, so The Hunger Games might not go five weeks at #1.  Few films do.  This year, for example, The Martian spent the first 2 weeks at #1, then dropped to #2, then stayed at #1 for two more weeks.  Jurassic World spent 4 weeks at #1.  Furious 7 also did 4 weeks consecutively.  I'm reminded of last year's Guardians of the Galaxy, but it was #1 the first week, then 2 weeks at #2, then 3 weeks at #1.  Of course, it raked in money like nobody's business.
Anyway, the only debut this week is Ron Howard's latest.  He's found his latest leading man in Chris Hemsworth.  That used to be the job of Russell Crowe and Michael Keaton.  But unlike Rush (2013), which sank like a stone, In the Land of the Blind stays afloat at #2... I mean, In the Name of the King... sorry, it's called In the Heart of the SeaAnyway, the point being is that I also saw, scattered higgledy-piggledy all over the web, a thing that said "Ron Howard's 23 films, ranked in order."  Now, when you're ranking 23 of anything, it can be a formidable task, let alone the psychological implications of it.  But I think when it comes to the films of Ron Howard, it's best to have three categories: the good ones like A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man and Apollo 13; the bad ones like Gung Ho, Grand Theft Auto, Far and Away, EdTV, The Dilemma, Angels & Demons, How the Grinch Stole Christmas... and then the vast, obscure middle, where films like Kingpin, A Bug's Life and David Fincher's 1997 film The Game go... holy Carp!  They're all a few years apart!  Anyway, I'll be very surprised if In the Heart of the Sea sweeps the Techie Awards like the 2nd or 3rd installment of Pirates of the Caribbean did.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

What's Opera, Doc?

Rabbit of Seville is a fun one.  Think of it, of course, as a warm-up to the much celebrated What's Opera, Doc?  I once saw the Seattle Gay Men's Chorus sing the verses to What's Opera, Doc? while it was projected on a giant screen.  Alas, there's not as much for a chorus to work with here with this one.  Also, it kinda doesn't work if you've got a couple dozen guys trying to do an Elmer Fudd impersonation, but whatever.  It's the thought that counts, right?
And so, we start with the wide expanse of the outdoors, with the worlds of Mother Nature and the recreational exploits / artistic ambitions of the Dominion of Man at odds.  Faceless crowds flock into the arena to see some damn opera.  Meanwhile, far off in the adjacent mountains, shotgun shots ring out, accompanied by their companion flashes of light.  For some reason, I think of that one oft-copied scene from Schindler's List where various windows are lit up by gunshots.  Shame on me.  But Bugs is in peril, no question, and, without a Daffy to take the bullets for him, Bugs needs a ruse to trick the easily tricked Elmer the Fudd.  Can dressing up in drag be far behind?
The ultimate irony, of course, is that Bugs' actual natural habitat is the stage.  We sort of get that from Stage Door Cartoon and probably others.  And when Bugs is on stage, well... Elmer just doesn't stand a chance.  But that's adaptation for you.  After all, spiders would rather be indoors with us, apparently!  Imagine My Dinner With Andre with spiders.  You know, the Andre spider going "Comfort can lull you into a dangerous tranquility" and the Wally spider saying "I'm looking for more comfort because the world is very abrasive!"  And then, of course, one of them telling the other, "Oh you, you always know how to get a reservation..."
Chuck Jones has a thing about extreme expressions with eyes.  Why, someone ought to do an internet meme about that... Yahoo Image Searches are a little risky.  It takes a while, but Elmer eventually gets over his stage fright, and gets back to his original goal of killing Bugs Bunny.  Meanwhile, Bugs takes to his stage profession of barber with a vengeance.  He massages Elmer's bald head, gives him a shave, Bugs even gives Elmer the full Carmen Miranda treatment (an arrangement of fruit upon his head)... but is Elmer grateful?  Of course not!  Then again... Bugs was a little rough with that first shave, even incorporating it into the lyrics: "There!  You're nice and clean, although your face looks like it might have gone through a machine."
Here's a sequence worth noting... probably because I'm a guy.  So, as often happens, Bugs and Elmer race each other in the barber's chair to the ceiling of the place.  Cartoon barber chairs are infinitely tall, you know.  Elmer's just about to catch up to Bugs, when Bugs lets loose one of those sandbags common to the stage that act as counterweights for the curtain.  And where does the bag land?  Right on Elmer's junk!  Oh, dude... pretty tawdry gag for Chuck Jones, I must say.  For those of you who are fans of Chris Farley's Tommy Boy, you'll remember what happened to Rob Lowe's character at the end.  Similar type deal.
Which brings me to the excellent sound in this cartoon.  Elmer drops his shotgun after getting hit in the schnutz, and it makes a great clang when it hits the ground.  On the other hand... when Elmer's clopping around the stage looking for Bugs, sure, it sounds echo-y and all, but it's totally unsynced.  Totally.  Sloppy work, guys.  But allow me to congratulate the animation, especially at this one part.  Elmer spins through one of those rotating doors real fast and gets dizzy.  Then he and Bugs do a little dance back to the barber's chair... now, that sequence is the kind of thing that gets taught in animation schools.  Rotoscoped, but neat.  A lot of the early rotoscoped stuff, the borders of the people involved move around too much.  Not here.
As for the ending, well... we start to get a Pink Panzer-style finale.  Elmer and Bugs get axes, guns, and cannons.  When Bugs can't out-cannon Elmer, he goes for love.  Flowers, candy, wedding ring... that type of thing.  Here's the twist: Elmer goes for it!  Elmer returns in a wedding dress!  Good Lourdes.  This changes everything.  Alas, we don't get a finale like Johnny Smith and Poker-Huntas, where we see Bugs and Elmer sitting round a hearth, with little baby Elmer-Bugs hybrids crawling all over the place.  Bugs gets in one last prank on Elmer and says "Next!"  Well, they can't all be serious, can they?

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Ernest Dickerson

For some reason, I'm put in mind of the latest attack on the dreamers.  I hate to quarrel with Stephen Colbert... but I guess he'll never know about it.  I forget who the guest was, but he mentioned a quote by artist Chuck Close... something like, screw the dreamers, I came here to work.  Well, his pieces are rather labor-intensive.  And I couldn't help but think of former Spike Lee cinematographer turned director Ernest Dickerson.  I don't know if Spike's that much of a dreamer anymore, but Dickerson is a guy what goes to work!  Fifty-nine directing credits?  Dayamnnnn... and two of 'em are in the works right now!
Hard to say what Ernest's favourite decade is.  Was it the go-go 80s when he was just happy to be getting work?  Or the go-go '90s when he finally realized, hey.  I don't need Spike anymore!  I'll be my own damn director?  And then he actually did it?  He led the way for John Singleton, in a sense; no shame in doing a brainless actioner, brother!  Bulletproof, for instance.  Silly me, I thought Surviving the Game was the one that was going to last.  Well, maybe on Spike TV.

Krampy Holidays

The Hunger Games saga is still tops this weekend, bug sirprise... big surprise.  The Cineplex is crowded this weekend!  The only fresh sapling that got any light was Krampus, debuting strong at #2.  Now, I know what you're thinking... Champ Kind?  It's him, right?  Damn straight it is!  Wow, my memory's not completely internet-based yet.  Comforting in a way.  Welp, the Oscars typically frown down upon horror pics, but they do occasionally give Oscar gold to those rare comedians who successfully make a transition from the yuk-yuks to the serious stuff.  Robin Williams, for example.  Then again, they tend to string guys along like Edward Murphy, Bill Murray and fellow Anchorman co-star Steve Carell.  Still, the future's at the door and it's knocking away.  Who will be the first of the Anchorman guys to win Oscar gold?  I'm thinking Paul Rudd for Lifetime Achievement.  Apparently Spike Lee's going to get one!  Although he's apparently going to get it next year, so if he keeps appearing on talk shows this year, and having the hosts refer to him as "the Oscar-winning filmmaker" they might have to disqualify him.  Kinda like how they disqualify a film that appears on TV in the same year or something.  Sorry, just the sour grapes talking, I guess.  But I'm old enough to remember how Chris Rock... I mean Nat X gave Spike Lee a Buster on "The Dark Side."  Sorry, Nat, but when it comes to Oscar gold, he's gotta have it... see how I did that?  Had to work up to it, of course, like the hack that I am.
Well, that's it for the debuts this week.  Still, I can't help but see the James Bond film in the top 10 and recall how Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace couldn't quite get to #1 when they were first released.  I forget what they were going up against, but apparently people just weren't ready to accept a new, different in any way James Bond.  But at least Daniel Craig doesn't have to be one of these guys who, when they're talked about on the news, they say "The man who was once slated to play James Bond..."  I think Ralph Fiennes used to get that.  Hugh Grant, too.  Yeah, Hugh Grant would've been good.  "Oh!  Terribly sorry, terribly sorry."  Which reminds me!  I've officially become a Hollywood phony in my dreams, because I was dreaming about doing an interview with a girl who appeared in a Terry Gilliam film, and I asked her if she's competing with Saoirse Ronan for the same roles.  What can I say?  That's the type of softie I am.  I take a lot of crap from my dreams.  Look, kids!  There's three moons in the sky, and they're moving around like an amoeba under the microscope.  That's not unusual, right?  So what else is new?

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Short Reviews - December 2015

The Bachelor - Well, I hate to say it, but... Chris O'Donnell's clearly no Buster Keaton.

Hellhole - Girl, get me out of this...

Jaws - I the only one who finds similarities between films like Jaws and The Silence of the Lambs?  In this case, the similarity is ... SPOILER ALERT... at some point, the hero finds a severed head in both movies.

Joy - According to the IMDb, Joy is the story of four generations of one family, and the woman who rises to become founder and matriarch of a powerful business dynasty.  In that case, I'm officially calling for someone to use the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to keep David O. Russell from making any more films with Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro.

The Leisure Class - Haven't seen it yet, but it better be on celluloid film stock, that's all I know...

Lucy - As with Feckless or whatever the hell it's called... Revolver!  That's it.  Anyway, Luc Besson once again tries for greatness disguised as a bad movie.  Yes, it's Animal Kingdom rules among men, we get it.  Lucy's being hunted by cheetahs in her cheetah-print dress.  So ironic.... holy Crap!  He directed it?  Tell me more!

The Revenant - Similar to The Hateful Eight, but slightly different time period.

The Revenant (2009) - Very different from this year's Revenant.

A Royal Night Out - Rupert Everett returns from relative obscurity!

"The Shannara Chronicles" - This time, MTV's finally gone too far.  Too far from their original programming mission.

This Never Happened - ...hmm.  Is this Effie Brown's way of exorcising the demons from her "Project Greenlight" experience?

Two Weeks in Another Town - Sequel to The Bad and the Beautiful?  Kinda!!!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Team of Enemies

I don't get it!  How come I'm not profiling Tom Turk and Daffy?  Well, for one thing, it's not on the first five DVDs in my collection... kinduva shame.  I like that one.  But the upcoming election that's still A YEAR AWAY seems to be a hot topic for some reason, so Ballot Box Bunny will just have to do.
For some reason, I'm really forcing myself to review this one.  Of course, I suppose just about any Looney Tunes cartoon would seem like a letdown after Wabbit Twouble, and an improvement after Big House Bunny.  But it's typical Freleng for you.  Somehow the plots of his cartoons are more cartoon-y than the actual animation.  And, in terms of recycling familiar plot elements, he's a very conscientious storyteller indeed.  Unfortunately for the viewer, not always a good thing.  Also, it took me forever to come up with a decent banner headline... and it still sucks!  Sorry 'bout that.
As often happens when Bugs and Yosemite Sam go head to head, it's a battle of turf.  In Buccaneer Bunny, Sea-Goin' Sam tries burying a chest of treasure, but a few seconds after Sam dumps it into the hole in the ground, Bugs emerges from the hole, covered in bejeweled swag.  And yes, I use the word "bejeweled" in order to confuse Yahoo's internet spiders, and send people here thinking they're getting information on their favourite item-swapping video game.  It's the opposite of Candy Crush, as "Bejeweled" kicks you out right away if you're not a fast jewel swapper!
But I digress yet again.  This time, Sam's making a stump speech from a podium over Bugs' rabbit hole.  Bugs is actually going along with it... until we get to one particular campaign promise that Bugs simply cannot abide.  That's the part where Sam promises the people to get rid of every last rabbit.  Bugs spits out the carrot juice that he's drinking... more or less.  Sloppy lack of animation, guys, sloppy lack of animation.  But Freleng apparently took pity upon poor ol' Mel Blanc; they say that Mel was actually allergic to carrots, so whenever he would chew on one during recording sessions, he'd of course have to spit it out immediately.
And so, as with A Gruesome Twosome, it's time for "stragedy."  Fade to black, then fade back in on Sam's stump speech... kinda weird!  Bugs' offensive begins in earnest, starting with a one-rabbit marching band.  He does that a lot, doesn't he?  Same thing happened... okay, a similar thing happened in What's Cookin' Doc?, the Clampett classic where Bugs lobbies hard for an Oscar.... incidentally, it uses a huge chunk of Freleng's Hiawatha's Rabbit Hunt to make the case.  Freleng eventually won for Knighty Knight Bugs.  Love that one.  Bugs got a carrot, of course...
And so, with Bugs' instruments deflated by Sam's bullets, it's time to fight podium with podium.
...I'm out of time.  So, to just focus on the highlights, one of my favourite moments is where Sam copies Bugs' impression of Theodore Roosevelt, screaming "I speak LOUUUDDD!!! And I carry a BIGGER stick!"  That may be the highest note I've ever heard Mel B... I mean, Yosemite Sam, hit.  And once again, as with the last outing with Bugs and Sam, Bugs gets injured, so when Bugs pulls the baby prank on Sam, we're pulling for the angry housewives.  Ah, reminds me of that time those ladies were beating the crap out of a mugger with a Bible, and that one dude was laughing about it...
What else?  Sam uses some ants to sabotage a picnic that Bugs is trying to set up.  The ants are less orderly than the ones in Tom and Jerry, but they get the job done.  They make off with not just one, but TWO jars of mustard!  Bugs puts a stick of dynamite into a watermelon.  We see Sam gathering up all the food into a bag, and then he goes around the corner and... you know, I think I just don't like to admit that I like this one!  I'll give it three and a half stars, I guess.  Well, it's no Buccaneer Bunny, that's my only point.
Speaking of explosions, seems like all these gags end in an explosion!  The only time that Sam isn't blown up is with the cigar gag.  The guy that Sam gives a cigar to gets blowed up real good, comes to and says "Oh!  A wiseguy, eh?"  I thought I was watching a Stooge film there for a second.  Also, there's the old piano gag involving the song "Those Endearing Young Charms."  Boy, I tell you, there's nothing in this world more irritating than a guy you want to blow up with a piano who plays the song wrong.
Now, I hate to spoil the surprise ending... and it is a surprise, isn't it?  Of course, with the two main candidates constantly attacking each other, causing explosion after explosion, scaring the town half to death... a third party's bound to emerge as the winner.  One for Martin, two for Martin!... something like that.  Of course, politics being the blood sport that it is, Bugs decides to shoot himself in the head.  Yes, that's right, the loss of the election was just that devastating.  All those campaign donors disappointed, nowhere to turn... of course, Bugs misses and hits Sam instead.  God bless cartoon violence.

Good double bill with: ...what else?  Buccaneer Bunny... or maybe Bob Roberts for the feature.

-so sayeth The Movie Jerk Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Manthia Diawara

Well, shame on me for being so flip, so facetious.  But I just absolutely hate these Ivory Tower eggheads, up in their ivory towers.  Ooh!  Except for that one in the first Never-Ending Story.  That's the only one that's okay.  Also, he's good friends with Danny Glover... okay, maybe not help-your-career good, but still good.  Why, they did a documentary together!  Called Conakry Express.  Available at Mubi, I guess.... apparently, Harry Belafonte is chopped liver.  Oh well. 
Well, I tell you what.  There's at least two things the IMDb doesn't have... 1) I don't believe they have Blood & Bullets, and 2) they don't have Maison Tropicale, which is French for topical anesthetic.  Still, I can't help but ask myself: if a documentary falls in the forest, does it make a sound?

Manthia Diawara's profile at Mubi

Happy Thanksgiving from The Hunger Games

In movie-type news, Jesse Eisenberg is lighting a small fire in the world of fiction.  He apparently wrote a piece for The New Yorker.  It's a fake movie review by a fake critic and, of course, all the critics and HATERS out there are jumping all over it, just nitpicking away.  Okay, okay, so he's not Steve Martin.  But that's the deal these days: if you're a celebrity, your stuff is totally allowed to be lame.  Take that band Train, for instance.  Now, if you're like me, you probably think that their songs "San Francisco" and "Hey Soul Sister" that you used to hear at the gym all the time are some of the worst pieces of slick crap that you've ever heard, but lemme tell you something... it took them at least ten years to get to that level.  Think Phil Collins post-Peter Gabriel Genesis.  He had to ease his way towards "No Jacket Required."  That took about ten years!  But he tried, Lord how he tried to keep the torch lit, long rambling songs that take one whole side of an album.  Also, I'm like Ice T that way... I needs me my Phil Collins.  But like Paul Simon sez, every generation throws a hero up the pop charts.  Unfortunately, it's a young man's game... used to be, anyway.
It's all for laying the groundwork for that Batman v. Superman movie.  Finally my dream's coming true of a comic book villain acting like "The Weekly Standard"'s Bill Kristol.  But that's a ways off, and we've got Hunger Games to feast on... incidentally, how can Ben Affleck be both Daredevil AND Batman?  Doing both DC and Marvel characters?  Isn't that a conflict of interest?
Anyways, as expected, the last installment of The Hunger Games is #1 at the box office once again... although, much like the final installment of the Matrix trilogy, returns are a bit down.  Nothing to be worried about, of course, and J. Law will still get $20 million for whatever she does next but... man, that's a disappointment.  But that's the American moviegoing public for you: fickle, fickle, fickle.  I mean, you go to all that trouble to give them a CGI rainbow at the end of the movie, you kill off Trinity and everything... and where's the frickin' gratitude?  In damn short supply, my friends...  in damn short supply.  But I look forward to Suzanne Collins' next series of books, where she makes another successful trilogy about the struggles of a young heroine to get royalty payments out of those greedy, greedy book publishers and movie executives.
In other jaded sophisticate news, Pixar's latest only made it to #2.  Well, that's what they get for going up against The Hunger Games, frankly.  I guess people could tell that it's not an alpha effort from the jaded people over at Pixar University.  For 2015, that was clearly Inside Out.
At #3, Stallone has clearly accepted his fate in life, and he's graduated to the role Burgess Meredith once played in the first Rocky movies.  He's now the Mickey, if you will.  The character's named Mickey, of course, out of respect to Mickey Rooney, who wanted to get that part pretty badly... but clearly he didn't do enough episodes of the original "Twilight Zone" show.  And what on Earth is wrong with Carl Weathers?  Was he just that busy, that he couldn't be bothered with appearing in this movie?  Did Adam Sandler jinx it somehow?
And finally, the Oscar buzz starts up with Brooklyn, one of them fancy period piece romances.  Now, I hate to be so shallow and superficial, but when I think of Brooklyn, I think... I forgot already!  Brain... not... working.  Anyway, I think grit and gangsters and fuhgeddaboutit.  This movie looks a little too slick and clean, and the title's too simple.  Also, there's something about Saoirse Ronan.  She's too other-worldly for my taste, but that's just me.  I completely understand if she doesn't want to become a permanent fixture in Wes Anderson's Rolling Stock Company, but she wasn't meant to play normal roles.  Now, Hanna, sure.  Or The Host about aliens... well, nah, forget that one.  Apparently it's not going to spawn another successful franchise.  But maybe I'm wrong, and hopefully we won't get a repeat of ... what's her name.  Miranda Frost... Rosamund Pike!  That's the one.  Why, she's one of the few Bond girls who could've used her real name in the movie.  Anyway, let's hope that Ronan and Brooklyn have more luck with the Oscar statuettes than Gone Girl and Pike did.  It's a period piece, so it won't be as hipster-centric, which the Oscar voting block likes.  Reminds me of a dream I had about a movie that was supposed to be a period piece.  The scene was in a restaurant.  Someone started talking on a cell phone, and everyone in the restaurant verbally scolded the guy.  Wherever I was, I smiled.  Now, normally, it's the kind of thing you'd cut out of a movie entirely, but all these damn SmartPhones just aren't normal.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Dept. of Wacky Wildlife

Wabbit Twouble is, of course, one of the unquestioned Bugs classics.  In the old VCR days, I spent what seemed like a great many hours rewinding the tape and listening to Elmer's conga car, just soaking in the Looney Tunes' Orchestra's rendition of a cartoon car's engine.  It's much too easy now!  Just point and click on a DVD track.  Where's all the time spent on the picture stopping, then going backwards and what not?  With all the needless vertical lines and otherwise crumpled picture?
In any event, I should probably recuse myself from this one entirely for these reasons... but I'll let an arbitrator worry about that should an impasse arise.  Meantime, this is actually a rather calm outing by Bob Clampett standards, if you consider such disasterpieces as A Gruesome Twosome or even The Old Grey Hare, where the animation is about as elastic as animation can get... all due respect to John Kricfalusi, of course.  He's our modern-day Bob Clampett equivalent, if only in his own mind.
But we start out innocently enough, after the "Crazy Credits" give way to the majestic landscape of the American Southwest, spoiled only by a makeshift bit of road.  Why, even the music calms down!  At least until... SPOILER ALERT... enter the noisy car of one Elmer J. Fudd, puncturing the stillness.  Note that the animators decided on painting the car exhaust dissipating "practically," rather than having the editors do a complicated cross-fade.  In order to do each puff of smoke dissipating, that would mean a cross-fade every six frames or so... Disney probably would've insisted on it, but not the rebels at Warner Bros.  Nowadays, it's all adjusting alpha levels in Adobe Flash, of course, but back then time and money was of the essence.  Quick and dirty is still the prevailing business model.  The car's right rear wheel stretches to the pervasive Conga beat that was taking American cinemas by storm during the '40s... if I recall correctly, even Popeye picked up on it at one point.  But, see, even Elmer's car seems restrained in comparison to Clampett's later work as the go-go 1940s rolled on.  Were he making this cartoon a couple years after 1941, it would've been all over the place.
Now, if you listen to the music of the car engine really carefully, you'll notice that the audio gets repeated a couple times.  When it first starts, if you listen to the 2nd beat of the 2nd group of four (9th group as well...), there's the sound of either a triangle or... yes, a cowbell.  Some kind of note piercing through the din in the key of F or so.  It gets repeated just before Elmer comes across the sign for Jellostone National Park... oh, I guess he's in Montana then, as opposed to the Southwest.  The mountainous terrain on the way there seemed a little Southwest-y to me, but I'm no expert.  I spend most of my time on the coasts, as it were.
...yeah, probably should've recused myself from this one.  And so, the ancient battle in animated cartoons begins anew, when Man ventures forth in Thoreau's footsteps to be at one with Nature... but Nature's not having any of that.  Not again.  Puts me in mind of that one Betty Boop cartoon where the noises of nature become more annoying than the din of the big city.  Bugs sees Elmer coming and lays a trap for him... well, not so much a trap, but Bugs seems to want Elmer close so he doesn't have to get too far out of bed to mess with him?  It's unusual.  In the Chuck Jones trilogy, Elmer's a blatant trespasser.
I just watched the special documentary on the DVD, and Leonard Maltin points out that Wabbit Twouble is actually his favourite Bugs and Elmer short because it's got everything: visual humor, funny sounds and music... and other stuff, I'm sure.  Anyway, Bugs ruins Elmer's tent, then Bugs ties Elmer's fingers together in some kind of an unholy knot.  That's the kind of gag you find funny when you first see it, but as the years roll on you turn into Tin Foil Hat Man over it, and if it ever does come up in conversation, but only because you bring it up, you launch right into "It's physically impossible.  I worked as a medic in the Gulf, and Lord knows I've seen fingers tied up in knots, but not like that.  It's impossible.  Physically impossible."  To which everyone else responds with " what ELSE is going on in the news?"  And so, Elmer puts a board over Bugs' rabbit hole and hammers it down to the tune of "Shave and a Haircut."  "That oughta hold him all right, heh heh heh..." says Elmer triumphantly, taking his short victory lap.  Bugs almost immediately undoes Elmer's handiwork, then imitates Elmer's line, growing fat in the process.  And yet, De Niro gets the Oscar.  Where's Bugs' statuette?  Where's his parade?  Well, there is that time Bob Dole talked about Bugs Bunny, shortly after he did that Pepsi commercial where he was watching Britney Spears on the TV and said "Easy..."  Alas, not everything's on the YouTubes.
But these animated cartoons can't be all action all the time.  You gotta have a slow part so people can catch their collective breaths.  And besides, as imparter of life lessons Bugs Bunny teaches us, just because we're stuck in a bubble doesn't mean we can't get into lots of trouble... no, wait, that was from the commercial for Bio-Dome.  No, Bugs teaches us that you can mess with a guy when he's sleeping, too!  Bugs does the old paint on glasses trick, combined with changing the time on Elmer's clock, to trick Elmer into thinking he slept for eight hours when in fact he slept for about fifteen seconds.  All the while mumbling something about "peace and re-waxation" in his sleep.  LOL.  For those who care about such details, one of the old Cartoon Network channels way back... maybe TNT... used the part where Elmer says "Mowning alweady!  How time fwies!" in commercials for Looney Tunes.
Next scene: Elmer has his sink at the ready, and he washes his face... you know, roughing it.  Real Paul Bunyan-type sh... stuff.  Elmer's got his face completely lathered, and he reaches for the towel.  Next next scene: the towel is hanging off of a branch, and Bugs is now holding the branch.  Elmer tries to follow the towel, and Bugs leads him off of a cliff.  Cue the Cartoon Physics.  Bugs throws the branch off the cliff, if only to demonstrate that gravity for everything else is still strongly in effect.  But unlike Wile E. Coyote, Elmer was not meant to plummet to his death, only to be reincarnated instantly in the next scene.  Elmer instead just gets a good scare, leaps, and ends up in Bugs' semi-loving arms, quivering from the fear.  "Somebody must've twicked me!" notes Elmer.  Bugs launches right into "You know, Doc, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it was me that tricked ya."  Stinker, indeed!  I've always found that exchange puzzling, but that's just how naïve Elmer is, you see.  Usually he's able to figure that out on his own... anyway, it's shotgun time.
Now, screenwriters take note, because Bugs must be in real trouble this time.  Elmer packed in a lot of stuff on his little camping trip... including an already-lit fire, lol.  But we didn't see the shotgun at first, but now Elmer's got it, and a reason for using it as well.  WHEN SUDDENLY.... enter the bear.  Elmer quickly takes out a book and reads the section on grizzly bears.  Again, very restrained for Clampett.  The book advises on playing dead and, even though Elmer is still trembling quite a bit, the ploy works.  The bear takes one sniff of Elmer, says "P.U.!" and slowly retreats.  Enter Bugs growling like the bear, so Elmer goes back to playing dead.  "Funny situation, ain't it?" says Bugs as he f... messes with Elmer some more.  I'll spare you the play-by-play, but here's the genius moment: Elmer EVENTUALLY realizes that it's just tiny Bugs pretending to be a bear.  Bugs has his back turned to Elmer, who's reaching for the shotgun.  Elmer's only planning on clubbing Bugs with the gun this time.  Re-enter the bear.  Bugs gets scared and leaps out of the bear's way.  Elmer lets fly with the gun and... yup, hits the bear instead.  Genius.  (Jack Brown g... yeah, yeah.  What's so great about that anyway.)  And so, with no outdoors manual to guide him, Elmer politely puts down the bent shotgun, puts on his hat, and takes off running.  The bear gives chase, and nearly eats Elmer's head off... not once, not twice, but three times!  Ah, cartoon violence.
And then, a classic visual gag, to the tune of Rossini's "William Tell," no less.  A cartoon staple.  Elmer and the bear hide behind trees in the forest... but what happens when there's a gap in the forest?  Well, you pose anyway, of course!  I'm telling you, if this cartoon isn't in Heaven, I just don't wanna go.  That's all there is to it.  Heaven should at least be for cinephiles.  We're a visual species!  We can't help that.
And then, just as Nelson Muntz eventually became less of a bully as the The Simpsons seasons wore on, the bear ends up like a monkey on Elmer's back.  Elmer takes off running with the bear, and the bear's just enjoying the ride at that point.  At least, until a tree limb knocks him down.  That'd be a good YouTube compilation.  Someone should work on that!  Call it "The Most Awesome Montage of Guys in Films getting Knocked Down by a Tree Limb."  I think there was one in The Bank D... Richard.  That'll get you started.


And so, almost as quickly as his camp site was set up, Elmer the Fudd quickly breaks down his camp site, gets in his car and takes off.  But, much like Robert DeNiro's character in Heat, Elmer's not quite ready to leave... actually, there's no similarity there at all!  DeNiro's character went after Waingro after the phone call from Voight's character, whereas Elmer passed by the sign on his way out of the campgrounds... maybe that's open to interpretation or debate.  Would DeNiro have gone after Waingro anyway, even if he didn't know where he was?  The world just might never know... but we do know that even wussy old Elmer demands truth in advertising, and seeing that sign a second time, well... that broke the camel's back, that did.  Not as bad as he lost it in Elmer's Candid Camera or even The Wild Hare... but clearly Elmer's Candid Camera is where he lost it the worst.  But Wabbit Twouble's pretty good too!
Of course, Bugs is once again one step ahead of Elmer, even in this situation, for there's an angry Park Ranger standing by as Elmer defaces Jellostone's welcoming sign.  Immediate next scene: Elmer in jail.  "Well, anyway..." he starts.  Sorry, but I couldn't bring myself to spell 'well' as 'weww.'  Clearly I'm just one big letdown.  And so, Elmer informs the audience that, now that he's in his new prison garb, he's finally found peace and relaxation.  Of course, Bugs is once again one step ahead of Elmer, and... well, I guess I'll let you see that one for yourself.  I may have mentioned it already, but Wabbit Twouble just might be the Bugs Bunny short I take with me to that proverbial desert island made famous in funny papers, where extreme choices have to be made.  Seriously, though, if Wabbit Twouble isn't in Heaven, then clearly it's actually Hell in disguise, just like that one episode of the original "Twilight Zone" where a gambler kept winning all the games he played.  Boy!  Talk about Hell!

Good double bill with: ...what else?  Bugs and Fat Elmer in The Wacky Wabbit!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Bob Delegall

Kewl!  Just like Monty DeGraff, Bob Delegall has a French name, meaning "of the Gall."... something like that.  Sadly, he shook off this mortal coil some ten years ago, but his body of work shines on!  Just look at that IMDb Top 4 of his.  Pizza ManThe Presidio.  ......Secret Games 3?  Hmmm.... Well, one out of three ain't bad (Pizza Man).  Of course, regular readers of this web log will know that I have a certain fascination with Secret Games 3.  I'll take the IMDb's word that it's some of Delegall's best work, and probably some of the best work of Oscar-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister.  Well, on a film like that, they take, like, way more time to make sure the lighting's right.  Now it's all autofocus and what not; just let the camera do the heavy lifting, who cares.

Secret in their (Box Office) Receipts

Damn.  Just saw that Jennifer Lawrence's latest film is at #1, but I think my point here's still valid.  For one thing, they were showing Never Say Never Again this weekend.  I had to find out from the Maltin guide that it's basically a remake of Thunderball ... LIKE A DOG!!!!  LIKE A DIRTY ALLEY DOG!  But you see, with a film like Never Say Never Again, the making of the film and the people involved is a more interesting story than in the film itself.  For one thing, it's the only time that two sitting James Bonds went head to head... okay, since 1967, or whenever that On Her Majesty's Secret Service was.  As for 1983, we had Octopussy and NSNA in the same year!  Why do I get the feeling that Roger Moore wasn't too happy about that?
As for the screen capture I have here, well... another slight against Roger Moore.  Um... Live and Let Die was NOT SEAN CONNERY!!  But as of this moment, the typo still stands.  I guess the email guy over at Pretty Famous dot com's got the weekend off.  But some inaccuracies just must not stand, and I'm sure they'll hear from SOMEONE about this slight.
In other box office debut news, Seth Rogen's star has fallen a bit, at least compared to 2007.  I don't know what week Knocked Up came out, but Rogen picked probably the toughest weekend to open his latest on.
At #5, it's The Fault in Their Stars 2... I mean, Secret in Their Eyes.  Oh, it's an all-star Hollywood cast going for Oscar gold, don't kid yourselves, and it's another notch in writer/director/caterer Billy Ray's belt.  Don't worry, all is forgiven... and by all I mean Color of Night. (spoiler alert: black!)  Jane March still doesn't, of course, but screw her.  Anyway, not bad for a serious drama going against The Hunger Games, but I guess people wanted to see two Hollywood starlets like Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman pitted against each other.  For me, however, it's no contest... Kidman's probably aging better.  And finally!  At #8 it's yet another serious drama that the Catholic Church probably won't like, but screw them.  They want to make Redd Foxx sit at the back of Heaven!  Sorry, watching too much YouTube again.  I think Martin Scorsese should try rereleasing The Last Temptation of Christ, but I guess it would've made more sense two years ago for its 25th anniversary.  Also, he's a good Catholic, so he wouldn't want to do that.  And so, it's time to turn on your heart light and go see Spotlight, a movie about how a ragtag team of intrepid reporters broke the story about the Catholic Church's child molestation scandal.
But to play Devil's Advocate here a little, I think I understand where these priests are coming from.  After all, you hear sometimes about inmates in federal prisons and what not getting a little rape crazy.  And besides!  There's nothing else to do in there!  And the Catholic priests are trapped in a prison of their own, sort of, but instead of metal bars, they're trapped by the word of God, so you try and test to see if the guards are watching.  You know, what you can get away with.  Test the rigidity and integrity of the system.  They'd try taking a pass at one of the nuns, but they're all old and they blab too much, and they get a little crazy sometimes with their rulers and various other instruments of torture.  And so, one of the priests looked at the choirboys and thought to himself, well, the Bible doesn't say anything about lying down with choriboys per se, right?  And besides, what are they doing here anyway?  They're just tourists.  I have to live here.  You're on my turf now, bitch!  And so, that which should not be named takes place, and God doesn't strike the offending priest dead right there on the spot, so the priest can't help but think to himself, "Well, God didn't do anything to me, so it can't be all bad!" ...I better stop right there.  Anyway, fast forward, and we've got about half the priesthood engaging in this unholy pastime.  It's the kind of thing that might make you want to become an Atheist... almost.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Groundskeeper Willie's Grandfather

Chuck Jones is one of the most celebrated of all the Looney Tunes directors, creator of Wile E. Coyote and what not.  He wasn't as out there as Bob Clampett, but Jones tried to get to Calmpett's style of lunacy every once in a while.  The example I always think of is in To Duck... or Not to Duck when that dog goes to catch Daffy before he hits the ground, and the dog's movements are very, very streaky... but in a neat way.  If Clampett did that scene, well... it'd be way more insane.
But one thing you can usually rely on in a Chuck Jones cartoon is a certain consistency in the story line.  My Bunny Lies Over the Sea strays from this consistency, which always used to nag at me, and now that I am sitting down to review this proper, I have to put this one in his short "Miss" column.
We start off, innocently enough, with Bugs once again as the travelling mole, not taking that left turn at Albuquerque.  It takes him to the damnedest of places.  In this outing, as you might be able to guess from the title, he ends up in Scotland.  Needles to say, there's an opening bout of culture shock, thereby informing the thinking of stand-up comedians for generations.  There's perhaps no better expression of this culture shock than by SNL alum Norm MacDonald, himself a Scotsman, calling his native culture "retarded" in the following YouTube video.
Bugs himself confuses a bagpiper with a "woman being attacked by a monster."  Bugs takes the bagpipe and destroys it, thereby saving the "lady."  The Scotsman protests.  Bugs gets confused and gets the Scotsman a barrel, because, well... a dude can't go around wearing a dress!  Soon after the Scotsman's Rage Volcano comes to an eruption point, the shotgun comes out.  The Scotsman fires a bullet at Bugs, then runs to retrieve it.  "It's been in the family for years," he tells the audience.  See, Scotsmen are... ah, skip it. 
Panic-stricken, Bugs dives back into his rabbit hole.  Now, I understand it's wrong to look for irony in cartoons, but the Scotsman stands over Bugs' rabbit hole and fires shot after shot after shot.  Didn't we just go through a whole belabored racist gag about how he... ah, skip it.  And so, it's disguise time, as is often the case when Bugs does battle with Elmer.  In this case, Bugs has disguised himself as an elder Scot, and admonishes the ACUTAL Scotsman for "firin' at me rabbits."  We now have a quasi-legal dispute on our hands.  The ACTUAL Scotsman decides that it can only be resolved via "games."  The game in question?  Golf.  Well, that ought to last for a whole eight minute cartoon!
Now, at some point, around when Bugs starts golfing, he no longer needs his outfit.  Soooo... did the Scotsman ever buy the disguise at all?  I guess I just need to re-watch this one over... please don't make me.
And so, we're treated to five minutes of various golf-related gags.  Personally, I think Bugs cheated a little, but whatever.  Now, future screenwriters might take a slight interest in how eighteen holes of golf are covered in a seven minute cartoon for the kiddy winkies... or not.  I'll spare you having to watch it yourself and tell you that four of the eighteen holes are covered, including first and last, of course.  The most time seems to be spent on the first hole, at one minute fourteen seconds, with the 16th hole coming in a close second at one minute one second. 
Well, I'll give screenwriter Mike Maltese a little credit: he sure knows his golf.  On the eighth hole, the Scotsman's ball is blocking the hole, so Bugs has to resort to shooting pool to get around it... spoiler alert.  As for Bugs having trouble with the ball, post-sand trap, well... I think Tiger Woods had a day like that once.  Enter the Auctioneer gag to get that score down.  Terrific.  I think there's a similar scene in Ron Shelton's Tin Cup!
And finally, the eighteenth hole.  The Scotsman gets a hole in one, and so does Bugs... but Bugs has to dig a little bit of a trench for his ball to get to it.  The Scotsman protests, and rightfully so, but Bugs convinces the Scotsman that his win was legitimate, which the Scotsman ultimately accepts.  "The weight of the evidence is against me," he sadly says, adding "BUT ya still can't beat me at me pipes!"  The Scotsman plays his pipes some more... then Bugs cheats at bagpipe playing just to rub it in.  What a sore winner.

Good double bill with: ...damn.  There was this other Looney Tunes where a bagpipe was beaten to submission... can't think of it! Can't think of it!!!

(...a few days later) Ducking the Devil!  Found it!  Personally, I prefer the bagpipe's death in that one, but that's just me.  If a cartoon bagpipe has to die... and it does... do it with a little style, for Gawd'z zake!  Jeez Louise.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Monty DeGraff

Our next Auteur is Monty DeGraff, which is actually French for "Monty.... of the Graff."  Seriously, though, I don't speak for many Americans personally, but our hearts and my heart goes out to the whole of France right now.  I mean, any terror group that's going to hit in a country at eight different places simultaneously, well... they deserve a fate worse than Death.  But I think George W. Bush already did that to Iraq, so let me say instead that this whole ISIS gang needs to be taken down quite a few pegs.  There's no score to settle in Paris, guys.  I'm sorry.
And I think Monty DeGraff agrees with me on this one.  I mean, he's probably a law and order kind of guy.... oh, he actually worked on the "Law & Order" show!  Well, there you go!  His day job is as a TV show editor in the supreme.  Well, he couldn't have picked a better time to start than at the beginning of TV's new Golden Age in 1989.  Yes, TV was no longer a dumping ground for the latest cheesy $#!t-com... I mean, sit-com.  Boy, what is wrong with me.  Well, I had my fragile personality stepped on a little too often in middle school, and all the kids who did it used the latest and greatest snappy comeback they heard on TV the other night to do it with.  So, that's a lesson for all you middle schoolers out there: watch more TV... or whatever's hot on the internet right now.  All my older friends would, and probably STILL, say, "Boy, I'd hate to be a kid in today's world, going to today's schools."  And not just for big stuff like mass shootings.  It's the little things, too!  Like this one kid who got to see Full Metal Jacket in the theaters.  He used that one line on me about stacking... um, excrement so high.  But he was smart enough to leave off that little extra bit about "You trying to squeeze in an inch on me somewhere, huh?"  Then I would've known he was just parroting a movie.
But that's not the point... I think I had one.  The point is, Monty and Stuart Baird go out drinking now.  A lot.  You may have heard of Baird.  He was an editor too... still is, in fact!  But at some point, he longed for more.  He thought to himself, hell, I can direct some of these turkeys too!  Tried it a couple times... went promptly back to the day job.  And so it was with DeGraff.  He's directed some of the finest, high-profile TV shows... directs ONE LITTLE EPISODE of something called "Soul Food"... and decides, back to the editing deck with me.  That's right... because, sure, now it seems like an obscure cable series, but at the time?  In the director's chair?  Totally serious.  Serious as a New York heart attack.  And he was one of the PRODUCERS of the show!  How tragic is that when even the producer half of your personality vetoes your director half?  Back to the day job.  Be thankful you have one!

Love the Holidays

Welp, my ten followers, that horrible, horrible time has come once again where I must downgrade this blog from my first love in life, to my second or third, as staying financially afloat has now become my first love.  As you can probably guess, I'm not being hired professionally in the field of movie reviewing, but it's a rather blue-collar career I used to dabble in, and I'm not as young as I once pretended to be, so I'm really going to be tired at the end of the day of metaphorically slinging hash.  Alas, that world that Kurt Vonnegut envisioned in his classic novel, "Player Piano" has come to pass and, rather than meeting in the middle of the bridge, the top one percent said to themselves, "Hey!  How do we get more robots?"  Also, how do we get bigger tax breaks.  Here's something depressing I saw: there's a series of ads on Yahoo! Mail featuring Jeff Goldblum shilling for apartments.  That's not so depressing,... but kinda.  No, the really depressing part is this one ad that said "Don't live at your job... live near your job.  Apartments dot com!"  Maybe China's not so crazy to have those dormitories with the suicide nets all around it.  Oh, they're coming to America soon enough.  Anyway, the point being is I probably won't put as much thought into my reviews as I once did... I've said that before, didn't I?  But I tell you darlings, when you get to that keyboard and start blogging away... what a rush, am I right?  No wonder I can't get to sleep at night anymore!
Anyways, on to this week's debuts.  Spectre and that Peanuts movie retain their positions from last week, but the forest wasn't so thick that a few new saplings couldn't get a little light.  From director Jessie Nelson comes this season's latest ode to Christmas; dysfunctional on the surface, but don't worry, there's the light of a happy ending at the end of the tunnel.  It's called Love the Coopers.  Now, Starbucks produced Jessie's last feature, I Am Sam, but I don't know about this current one.  All I know is that being in the Diane Keaton business has its perks.  Just ask Nancy Meyers!
At #5 is that movie about the Chilean mining disaster from a couple years ago.  It's called The 33 and... I dunno.  Somehow the poster for this movie doesn't seem to match the subject matter.  It looks more like the poster for Chicago, know what I mean?  Or maybe "Smash."  I mean, compare that to the poster for Matewan.  And there isn't even a cave-in in that one!  And finally, our last debut this week is a by-product of the Indian market opening up, if I may phrase it that way.  Probably shouldn't of... have.  Which reminds me.  I have to write up my review of Disney's Million Dollar Arm.  Gotta run!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Freddy & Marie

In recognition of the recent passing of Senator Fred Thompson, Turner Classic Movies aired Roger Donaldson's 1985 feature, Marie.  Now, Fred Thompson usually played the same gruff, no-nonsense character in each movie he appeared in, but Marie is the only time where he actually played himself, as attorney for embattled public servant Marie Ragghianti.  A personally and professionally satisfying role for him, as he got to take down the corrupt Democratic governor of Tennessee Ray Blanton.
For me, Donaldson's body of work is a bit uneven.  On the one hand, you've got rather solid dramas like Marie and Thirteen Days about the 1962 Cuban missile crisis (without the X-Men).  Then you've got Dante's Peak, which is nothing if not a camp classic, and you've got 1994's The Getaway, or Hollywood's quick response to Pulp Fiction... and then you've got Species 1.  I guess he was trying to outdo Paul Verhoeven on that one or something: how to combine Basic Instinct and Showgirls... but with a sci-fi twist?  Hmmm...
So clearly the '90s were a more expressive period for Donaldson, and during the '80s he was more inclined to just let the cameras roll and stay out of the actors' way, as with Marie.  Of course, I have a hard time accepting Jeff Daniels as a bad guy, and not just because of the Dumb and Dumber saga.  Then again, I didn't see all of Blood Work.  But arguably, here in Marie, his character's a more casual villain, at least at first.
But we do get a few of the more average days in Marie's life, and a glimpse back at the dark days when trachiotomy had a more, um... hands-on approach to it, as in, get your hands off this tube sticking out of my neck!  Good Lord.  There's a lot less tubing involved now.
As with all these older movies, my viewing companions had a slight case of Who's-That-Guy-itis.  In this case, it was a tall, blond actor fella who played a rape-crazy prisoner that got out early for cash... I forget who put up the money for that bad investment, but never mind.  Now, they never did figure out who the guy was, but I remembered him for his one crucial scene with Sigourney Weaver in Ghost Busters 1, and of course as the semi-villainous campaign manager in the Chris Farley 1996 comedy Black Sheep.  His name was Robert Paulson... I mean, his name is Timothy Carhart, and I think my viewing companions might have remembered him from an episode of Mad Men, but they binge-watched the entire series, and one episode doesn't stick out so good when you do that.  As for me, I couldn't help but watch the scene where Carhart's spying on that one game of tennis and... ah yes, a brief flash of Donaldson's '90s work yet to come.  It also informed his thinking when he directed the  music video for "Calabria."  If there's a skankier music video than that, I just don't want to know about it... WITHOUT RON JEREMY.  (Incidentally, text ENUR1 to 71777 for the ringtone!)

Good double bill with: ..well, for a Morgan Freeman '80s night, watch this and Brubaker.  Morgan's actor friends still give him sh... a tough time over that one!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan