Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Curious Case of Koko the Clown

Welp, this is it, folks.  The last short on the last DVD of Popeye Volume 1 is just something called Let's Sing With Popeye, and you can guess what that is: clips from the very first Popeye cartoon with Betty Boop, accompanied later by the lyrics and the bouncing ball.  But apparently the Fleischers did invent the bouncing ball, which pops up from time to time, if only ironically, when there are lyrics to be followed.  There is, of course, the trend of YouTube videos of popular songs that just have the song's lyrics, and even though there's no bouncing ball, the proper words will light up at the right time, kind of like on a Karaoke display.
But let's get to the last Koko short called Koko Back Tracks, and again, the original title cards are missing, and again, Koko looks angrier this time.  Well, that's what happens when you change lead animators.  And once again, Max pins Koko down with his fingers, rolls him up, and stuffs him back into the inkwell.  And this time, Max's hands are actually in front of the camera and the bright lights, not just cutouts of his hands.
Now, I often will tell present and future screenwriters to take note of certain things, and this Koko short is rife with them.  Needles to say, it demands a second viewing, what with all the thought put into the plot.  Like The Sixth Sense, but shorter and less downbeat.  But I think this is the first time, at least in terms of DVD order, where Koko is able to cause damage after he's been put back into the inkwell.  I'll try to ruin as few surprises as possible, but needles to say, the ink bottle finds its way onto the floor... last, I might add... and a veritable Koko puddle crawls around on the floor.  Now, maybe this is hyperbole, but this is probably where James Cameron got the inspiration from for the water snake in The Abyss and, of course, for its liquid metal counterpart in Terminator 2.  Max soaks up the Koko ink with a rag... or does the Koko ink choose to seep into the rag?  This may be open to interpretation after all.  But the outcome ultimately is that Max wrings out the rag, and Koko ends up on the canvas once again... sans outfit.  Boy, the Hays Code will have a fit when they see this!
After a scene that would make Gypsy Rose blush, Koko ends up with his clown outfit on... but it's on backwards.  All he needs now is a little lipstick on the collar, and he'd get that divorce for sure!  Koko complains to Max once again, and points at Max rather sternly.  In fact, Koko seems to point at all of us at the same time.  I know some critics hate the recent developments in 3D technology, but filmmakers seem to have been reaching for them since the dawn of cinema... including that creepy chewing guy.  Wonder if I can find that on the YouTubes?... Whoomp!  (There it is).  Yup, no doubt about it, Eric Blair predicted YouTube, because YouTube is nothing if not the Memory Hole.  Oh sure, the copyright lawyers will fight and fight, but they have yet to send the Gestapo after YouTube's servers, like they did with Kazaa or... one of those things from ten years ago.  The party rages on behind the scenes.
And as per usual, Max and Koko seem to be speaking very different languages.  Koko very specifically states, "Hey, my suit's on backwards!  And you didn't draw my hat!"  ...oh, I tell you darling, I just don't care for how angry Koko looks.  True, I won't cry over it... probably won't find that on YouTube.  A long time ago I saw a documentary featuring a grown woman crying because of a clown.  No time to sift through all the video game-related crying-because-of-clown links.  Anyway, Max starts to draw, but it doesn't look like Koko's hat.  In fact, Max seems to be drawing a lion's head!  Well, there's a certain wisdom to ... I mean, a method to Max's madness, as this does end up taking care of Grievance 1.  As for Grievance 2, well, Max draws a kangaroo, much like the one that Sylvester ended up tango-ing with on several occasions.  Poor Sylvester, caught between a grey bulldog and a baby kangaroo that he mistakes for a giant mouse.  Wotta dummy.  Anyway, I hate to spoil this one, too, but Koko triumphs over his fear and his enemies, perceived or otherwise, and he does get his hat back.  As for his groove, well...
ACT TWO - Might as well break it up like this.  And so, the notion behind the slightly vague film title starts to get laid out more plainly, starting with a chicken.  Then, a larger notion is drawn by Max.  Max draws a camel with a basket on it for riding.  A cartoon dog emerges from the basket and waves at Koko as if they're old friends.  Well, Bimbo was Koko's sidekick for a while; I have no idea who this upstart is.  Anyway, Koko climbs up to the basket and off they go... except the camel's going backwards!  What the deuce?  This continues for a while until Koko and the dog get separated.
Okay, now for the part for screenwriters to pay attention to.  A cartoon bear appears and... well, I really do hate to keep spoiling the plot's surprises, so let's just say that it's similar to the ending of... I believe it's called What Makes Daffy Duck.  I believe that's the one.  Now, normally I hate to reference an Arthur Davis Warner Bros. cartoon, but his Daffy Duck ones aren't as lame, mostly because of Daffy Duck's mere presence.  At least the plot is a little more interesting than, say, Bone Sweet Bone.  That's probably the worst, but arguably there must be something to it, as it's virtually the plot of every Adam Sandler movie ever made.
Anyway, this whole bear episode eats up a good chunk of time, if nothing else.  Koko and the dog then find themselves in one of those creepy office complexes, where a bunch of people have to share one sink.  Most awkward small talk ever!  Fortunately, all of the Forestry Council and the aerospace contractors are out to lunch, so Koko's got the sink to himself.  However, once again, the film's slightly vague title comes into play again, for not only does the water run backwards, but it seems to gravitate back up the faucet from whence it normally flows outward!  Which begs the question: is time just flowing backwards, or is there a black hole stuck in the faucet?  Evidence slowly points to the second theory.  Koko seems to blame the dog for all the weird sh... stuff that's happening, and off they go.  They have only one recourse left; they've put it off for long enough.  Time to take that door marked "Etavirp"... oh, wait, it's "Private" spelled backwards.  They open it and... hmm!  Looks like Max's studio!  Normally Koko doesn't have to go through a door to get there.
ACT THREE - And so, Koko and his new dog friend decide to ... actually, that's still a little fuzzy to me.  They see the giant clock in the town square, and they decide to make it run backwards.  Is it to get revenge on Max?  Usually Koko will at least say "I'll fix you!" to Max, but that doesn't happen this time.  They just get right to work running the clock backwards.  As we all should know by now, the way to make time run backwards is to take the largest clock in town and run it backwards.
And by Jove, it does indeed work.  A guy runs up to the camera, checks his pocket watch, and sees it start to go backwards, thereby causing him to run backwards past the same guy who steps out of the way a second time.  If nothing else, it must've been cold when they shot all the live-action stuff, as the horses' breath can be seen.  There's also a skier; maybe they went to the Catskills for that one, who knows.  Also, a guy un-eats a banana, thereby influencing the Martin Amis novel, "Time's Arrow"... oh, right, that was Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five" that did that.  Seriously, the whole novel goes backwards.  You'll read it and ask yourself, "Really?  Seriously?"  Well, his dad was a famous novelist, anyway.
The affect of this altering of the flow of time has a slightly more damaging effect on Max, as his body ends up slowly spinning around.  Koko goes back into the inkwell, still on the floor where it was left.  And then... everything goes back to normal, and Max corks up the inkwell again.  See?  He was okay after all.  As for me, it's almost 3 in the morning, and I should be off to bed.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Damon Dash

Oh, I love that game!  I go on Facebook and... oh, wait.  Isn't there a game called "Demon Dash"?  Sorry, wrong blog.  No, it's time to focus on our next auteur, the one the Mortals call Damon Dash, and he's one of the first I've seen to actually refer to "street cred" in their IMDb Bio page.  Well, when you're a cousin of Stacey Dash, then sure, "street cred" could be a big problem.  Also, if you were dating Aaliyah at the time of her death, that could also be a problem... I mean, you probably won't want to use that as a pickup line, at the very least.
But you'd think that directing would be the last thing this guy would want to do.  He was apparently part of a big sale to a record company, along with Jay-Z.  Not exactly David Geffen-type numbers, but still pretty big!  I guess the Dash family comes from money, but you know... even old rich Monty Burns would "trade it all for a little more."  And Damon's no dummy.  He knows that film directors are held in high regard in today's global society and economy, so let's take his director filmography one by one.  There's 2002's Paper Soldiers, starring, among others, Shawn Corey Carter, Stacey Dash and Kevin Hart!  Something tells me that, when this is available in the discount DVD bin at WinCo, it's Kevin Hart's picture that will be the one thing on the front cover.  That's right... he's just that big.  Maybe Jay-Z, but probably not Stacey Dash, unless they market it specifically for the Fox News market.  As for what the critics thought, well... apparently, no one saw it, so let's move on.
Damon's next movie is 2003's Death of a Dynasty.  I'll admit it: I don't know anything at all about the hip-hop world, if I may use that term in mixed company... is David Katz supposed to be Rick Rubin?  Anyway, to be fair, this features a cast with names I've heard of: Chloe Sevigny, Kari Wuhrer and... LORRAINE BRACCO?!!!!  How the hell... anyway, that's a big deal, right?  She took time off from The Sopranos to do this, so it must be a big deal.  So, Damon used whatever "box office cred" he got from Paper Soldiers to get a more prestigious cast for Dynasty.  And the critics said... oh, The Village Voice lost the page.  And this one, well... the joke may be on Damon, but I'm assuming he's laughing all the way to the bank.  Why, he's exploiting black culture almost as profitably as Tyler Perry!  Clearly, he took a big risk by letting someone else portray him in the film.
Well, after conquering the comedy genre, it was time to conquer the prison genre with State Property 2, the much awaited sequel to the Jay-Z-involved property State Property 1.  See, usually filmmakers like to do a prison movie because, well... you spend all your time at the prison, shooting stuff.  The Coens, of course, have to make it a small part of the whole, as with Crimewave and Raising Arizona, but normally, when you've got something like Shawshank or The Green Mile, it feels like you're in that prison for the full sentence, no chance of parole... wow!  The Green Mile is #42?  I didn't think it'd be that high.  I know Shawshank is staying at either #1 or #2... God knows why.  That I will never understand.  But let's get back to the instant case.  Let's see what the critics thought of State Property 2... ah, yes!  The coveted "Commentary Tracks of the Damned" section.  I do like that section.  When I was listening to part of the commentary track of 1984's Dreamscape, I couldn't help but think that whoever was talking sounded like they were a bit damned.  They were everything I've been taught about Hollywood phonies: everything's wonderful, except the stuff that isn't, like Dreamscape getting slapped with the dreaded PG-13 for a heart removal, when Temple of Doom only gets a PG for the same sequence?  How can the universe be so cruel?
Anyway, having conquered every genre he's attempted, like every great director before him, it was time for Dash to try a new genre.  How about the documentary?  Well, how about something called This is Jim Jones?  Now, I know what you might be thinking, and no, it's not that Jim Jones.  Get real.  But... you know, that's not a bad idea, actually.  And Dash does know a guy with that same name... boy.  What it must do to a man with such a bland name that has such a long, storied history of infamy.  Hence, we get This is Jim Jones.  And the best part, of course, is that it gives Damon a chance to be an interview subject in his own right, telling a story that he knows and that he's an integral part of.  And what do the critics have to say?... well, apparently no one's seen it yet, so let's move on.  But the message is clear: suck on that, Ken Burns!
And so, having conquered all the fiction genres and the documentary genre in one fell swoop, it's time to conquer the Last Frontier, so to speak: the TV miniseries for the Spanish/Mexican market.  Hence the upcoming "Loisaidas."  I'm assuming Damon's going to cast himself at some point in a major role.  Well, clearly Damon can do it all, and, even though he's not as beloved as Tyler Perry is, at least relatively, it's just because everyone's jealous.  As for me, I can't help but reflect on why this planet will soon be uninhabitable to all except the extremophiles we've only recently learned about, because putting solar panels on every rooftop is far, far too expensive, and it doesn't help anybody's "street cred."

Get your Filth Outta Here

Yeah, yeah, no one gives a f... antabulous flying machine about movie fonts.  Every movie's got one, no one cares.  Take your observations and go back to the Minors.  Oh well.
And, as if that weren't enough, the IMDb is cutting back!  Now, I don't know about you, but I used to always get my box office information from a website with the address  All of a sudden, I get an Error 500, as opposed to the old Error 404.  I guess 500 means it really really doesn't exist anymore, and it's not just a matter of refreshing the page.  So I tried  Same problem.
Now, I've actually taken some courses that the mortals in charge of them called database management courses.  Of course, if you actually want to work in the field of database management, you need ten plus years experience, and they probably start you out on a legacy database they maintain on an old Altair 8800... you'd be surprised!  After all, pretty hard to hack into one of those, right?  Anyway, I spent a bunch of time considering the art of database creation.  According to my teachers, you're supposed to actually put some thought into the data you'll be saving, how it's named, formatted, what have you.  Well, when you actually get out into the world proper, be sure to not think about any of that, because apparently in the real world, it's nothing but ad hoc ad hoc ad hoc all the way, all the time.  Take, for example.  Now, the IMDb probably has lots of charts.  They sure have a lot of lists, anyway!  Now, if I were naming the database, I'd definitely get marked down for naming a web page dedicated to the Top 10 films at the Box Office this weekend something too simplistic like "chart."  "Now, c'mon, The Movie Hooligan.  You should know better than that," they'd say.  So, surely there's some replacement page in lieu of the offensive name?  Nope!  Nothing.  Nada.  So now what am I supposed to do?   I feel like the carpet's been yanked out from under me.  I don't know which end is up.  I'm not even sure how to react; I'm too confused.
But I did manage to find... boxofficemojo dot com.  Yecch.  What is this?  I don't want this much data, formatted like this!... or do I?  Hmmm!  Apparently, variety dot com's no good either.  Maybe this is it!  Maybe this is a vast improvement!  Maybe this is just the Game-Changer I need to stay competitive in the cutthroat world of movie reviewing!  After all, they do go beyond the day's headline, and well past the Top 10 of the weekend, much like Variety used to post for free.  This could help me with my Short Reviews segment, as I usually have no idea what films I should be Short Reviewing; I say, let the Invisible Hand of the Market decide for me.  Okay, Box Office Mojo, in conjunction with the IMDb... lead me on into the future!  And what web page should I visit for such enlightenment?  Why, it's, of course... Again with the charts.  Apparently, that's the only thing a "chart" can be when it comes to the art of film analysis.
Well, once again, Straight Outta Compton is #1 with a bullet... I swear, that's the expression you would use.  As Joe Biden might say, it's a big ... deal!  To someone, anyhow.  Well, for Legendary Pictures, it's just another day at the office, what with megahits to their credit like The Dark Knight and Observe and Report.  For F. Gary Gray, well, even he's scratching his head over that one.  Well, he's been in this biz long enough to not let it go to his head, but I dare say he's in the position that Joel Zwick was when My Big, Fat Greek Wedding started to become what the Mortal Hollywood Accountants called the most profitable film of all time... see, because it cost so little to make, but it ended up earning about 200 million at the box office.  Well, we may never know how much SOC cost to make... oh, right.  Well, we may never know when in the future that the web address with that information is going to change, but we do know this.  Three weeks at #1?  Pretty big deal.  Take the new Jurassic World, for example.  Four weeks at #1.  Most recently, however, it spent 3 weeks off of the IMDb Top 10... only to return this very weekend at #8!  Must be a holiday or something.  Or maybe fans of Bryce Dallas Howard want to re-appreciate the subtleties in her performance.  Either way, the proud look on director Colin Trevorrow's face probably won't go away any time soon.  And rightfully so.  They don't just let any dummy come in and redo a Spielberg hit!
Okay, on to the stupid debuts of the week.  There's one called War Room... holy crap.  Literally!  Well, I guess some people thought it was the new Tyler Perry movie or something.  Don't let me down, The Onion A.V. Club!  Oh, they'll probably say it's actually quite heartfelt, despite the usual Christian preaching and bad production values and cliché plot points.  From the title, I had a Dubya flashback to War, Inc. for a second there.  No, Hollywood has calmed down considerably since those turbulent days.  No Iraq exposés, no calls for impeachment and violent overthrow by a computer run amok.  I know, I know, it's an A.I.
...thank you, Onion A.V. Club.  Alas, this War Room is apparently being released by TriStar, so the recent scourge of Christian filmmakers may already be too entrenched to stop completely, but I'll give the Kendricks their due.  They seem to be the most progressive of the Christian filmmakers with backing by big megachurches and movie studios that used to exist in the 1980s.  I'll be very surprised if one of the others works with a predominantly black cast, despite War Room's success in a weakened box office economy.
The other debut this week belongs squarely in the "Locked Up Abroad" genre, with such films as Midnight Express, Beyond Rangoon, Brokedown Palace, and... what's that other one?  Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche... ah yes!  The ironically titled Return to Paradise.  Why is it that Americans always turn to drug trafficking when they run out of money in a foreign country?  Almost every episode of the new skanky National Geographic Channel's "Locked Up Abroad" went like that: "Well, the money ran out, and a guy came up to me and said, would I like to make some money?  So this went on for a while (drug running) until................"  But unlike Vince Vaughn, I can't accept Owen Wilson in a completely serious role.  Is this a stand against his entire body of work on a par with Robin Williams in One Hour Photo?  We want the Dupree Owen Wilson!  The Bottle Rocket Owen Wilson!  The Armageddon Owen Wilson!... there's probably others as well.  Anyway, since I visited the Variety web site, I also saw a thing about a movie called We Are Your Friends.  Alas, Zac Efron continues to struggle as a leading man, but surely the party that this movie is based on was fun, right?  But never forget the apocryphal lyrics of that one Fleetwood Mac song, Zac: "Players only love you when they're playing."  Also, it's all over the first time a young person refers to you as "Old Man."  Time to move into the director's chair and give that a try.  Same thing happened to Marilyn Monroe when she heard that first whisper: "I dunno... she's looking kinda old.  Now that Jayne Mansfield... hubba hubba!"
(later that day) ... well well WELL!!!  The IMDb "Charts" page is BACK!  So much for that dreaded Error 500.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Koko the Dog Whipperer

Hoh boy... only three Fleischer shorts left.  I gotta pick a new series soon!  Any requests?.... none?  I know, I know... if I were on MASHABLE I'd get about five-hundred requests!  Of course, people would probably want me to do animé or some weird sh... oe leather like that.  Nooooo thank you.
Anyway, or next Koko short is called Koko Trains 'Em, and it's a first, because apparently, footage of the original title cards was lost, or filmed on flammable stock and lost in a warehouse fire, because they've been replaced by modern title cards, lovingly reconstructed.  Semi-lovingly... I'm just so sick of that ubiquitous Times New Roman font.  Freagin' Windows!  Why, I'm even sick of it in the original Predator now.  It's also a first because, as you can see from the attached photo that's not part of an evil email attachment scam, this seems to be the first time, in the chronological order of the DVDs, that Max has worked with a live dog.  Kittens, plenty!  But never dogs.  I guess he was a cat person or something.  And so, accompanied by one of his relatives, Max finds inspiration anew in drawing a dog for a change.  Awwww, the cute little devil.  He's gonna grow up and work with The Little Rascals someday.
Alas, the canvas has a mind and an agenda all its own, and soon, Max's unfinished doodle morphs into a quasi-fractal shape, and then into the shape of Koko.  "What is that?", Max's lady companion seems to ask, thereby quelling the gripes of all the lip readers in the audience.  And so, the Gilliam-esque hand of Max Fleischer sets about erasing this god-awful visage from his canvas right away.  The very idea!  A dog turning into a clown.  What would the Bridge Club say?  And so, Max tries a second time, and ... yup, once again, the canvas is not having it.  Not only does this second dog eventually morph into Koko, but this time, Koko's got his full black outfit, and not just a rough outline.  Max tries a different tactic, and sets this drawing of Koko aside, and starts over with a fresh canvas.  "WHAT ABOUT ME?" the now animated Koko seems to ask from his lonely perch, the proverbial Ozymandias / Damon Dash that he is.  We jump ahead to a finished drawing of the dog that's holding fast and not morphing into anything else, and Max gets up to mess with Koko a little bit... I failed to appreciate the technical achievement here at first.  Or maybe it's nothing new.  Max wags his finger, or rather, his fist with the ink pen in it, at Koko, admonishing him for being such a pain in the a... for being such a nuisance, and Koko gets miffed and turns away.  Note how the movements of Max Fleischer are seamless; they must've done a split-screen type of deal or something, as opposed to complete stop-motion, which probably wouldn't have worked out, considering the scene.  There seems to be a new animator working on Koko here, as I don't remember Koko's angry face looking quite like that before.  As a consolation prize, Max draws a whip in Koko's hand, and the film starts to live up to its title.  Time for Max to draw a circus background... but Koko's an apprentice at the animal training game, so he's going to start by whipping a dog, much like the cartoon dog that Max was trying to draw earlier.
Next scene: this Koko short also seems to be the first time that we focus directly on a words-only comedy setup.  We see a price sheet for the circus, and only a little bit at a time; you know, time enough to absorb one punchline at a time.  After all, there's only so many laughs one can cram into a comedy!  Even Dave Barry knows that, and he can't write a sentence that's not funny.  Not one.  Every single sentence has a punchline to it.  And to a lesser extent, P.J. O'Rourke probably writes that way; of course, when he appears on Bill Maher's show, he doesn't seem to let anyone else talk, but that's another story.  The storytelling in the Koko Inkwell shorts just got a little more mature.
And so, we iris back to the circus, where Koko's got the whip, and he's getting a little boastful.  "He'll do anything I say!" says Koko, pointing to the rather dour-looking dog before him.  Koko cracks the whip, and the dog begins to wiggle its ears... eventually.  Another command and the dog does a flip... in a way.  The dog splits its own body in half along its stomach... how to properly explain this.  Not down the middle, so we can see its brain, mind you, but a top half/bottom half type of deal, legs and torso... gosh, I'm a great writer, aren't I?  The filmmakers involved must've figured that this was a big deal, because soon it's on a loop, and the dog is doing this dismemberment-rememberment trick over and over again.  It's a little sick and twisted, but arguably tastefully done in comparison to what it could have been.  The audience pours into the tent... the surprisingly homogenous audience, as if they're on some sort of a loop as well!  No ticket takers?  No peacock makeshift fence?  Oh well.  Also, note the shading on the houses and buildings in the background; we don't usually see the hand drawing all that stuff!
Koko's holding the whip so that it looks like a giant finger.  I seem to recall seeing that image somewhere before... anyway, for his next trick, Koko will make the dog beg for food.  The dog does so, and the audience erupts in thunderous applause... now, maybe it's just me, but... I know, I know, it was a different era.  And even though this short is from the 20s, the dog does an impression of Theodore Roosevelt.  Well, the shelf lives of presidents was a lot longer back in those days.  Also, people back then probably thought that we'd be talking about McKinley or Calvin Coolidge or Millard Filmore forever and ever.  Roosevelt?  Puh-leeze.  What a flash in the pan.
And so, the tricks come hard and fast from there.  One after the other.  Which is why "playing dead" seems to be the last straw for the dog.  Clutching its chest, and wandering about in a dithyrambic, Dionysian-inspired daze for a bit, the dog eventually falls to the ground, and stays fallen.  The Pavlovian audience erupts in the same loop of applause, of course.  But then... to Koko's horror, the dog's not getting up to take a bow!  Either Koko has no patience, or the dog actually did die.  Try as he might, Koko just can't get that darned dog to wake up and continue the act.  Completely out of options, Koko tries to tempt the dog with some food... no, wait.  What is that?  Oh, it's a flea!  Well, that's just mean.  Koko's plan is to wake the dog up with a flea.  Boy, he ain't kidding.  Fleas will keep you awake at night.  I know because they're all over my bed with a vengeance.  And so, Koko takes a tiny house out of his jacket pocket, and out comes the goofiest looking animated flea I've ever seen.  It looks like a black crescent moon; talk about unflattering!  If I were doing an animated flea, I'd try to make it look like a tiny alien from the Alien movies, with the copyright lawyers' approval, of course.  And so, the flea gets to work seeing if the dog's actually dead.  I guess if the dog is dead, then it's on to Phase Two with the vultures.  Anyway, the flea lands on the dog, and gets out a tiny pair of pliers.  Oh, it's food around the corner for it, Hallelujah brother.
Well, as devious as the plan may be, it works, because the dog leaps up and starts scratching, and dancing much like what happens in those The Three Stooges shorts when someone gets a bee or an ice cube under their clothes.  I dare say that Koko is about to feel Max's managerial pain once this dog vows to get revenge.  Will the dog make copies of itself and become an angry dog army and go after Koko in vengeance?  Well, Koko's having far greater concerns, as his whip is developing a mind of its own.
To cut to the chase, the dog's still scratching, but Koko eventually gets the whip back into its holster.  Meanwhile, as it turns out, there were other residents in that tiny flea house and, like the proverbial clown car that it now is, a loop of fleas starts to jump out of the house and into the world proper.  Soon, the audience that rushed into the circus tent earlier is now leaving said tent at about the same speed to escape this plague of fleas.  There's a letterboxed shot of the fleas leapfrogging their way into the countryside.  Apparently, these fleas are an invasive species, and because they're very small, they should colonize all of America in about two weeks.  Starlings will take a couple decades.
While all this is going on, we see Koko still happily whipping away, while the new Dominion of the Fleas is all but complete.  Even inanimate objects aren't safe from the fleas' incessant biting and gnawing.  Wood products aren't safe.  Statues aren't safe.  Soon, the live-action world from earlier isn't even safe!  The only one who doesn't seem to be scratching is Koko, and he returns to the live-action puppy from earlier, and messes about with it for a while.  Koko scratches the puppy on the nose a couple times, and rides the puppy around a little bit like a tiny pony, and is generally oblivious to the chaos around him.  The fleas keep jumping from their house, and the fleeing audience eventually find their way to the real world and end up plummeting like lemmings into Max's waste paper basket.  However, Koko eventually does realize that something's not right in the world, as Max's pens and paint tubes and all the other inanimate objects on Max's desk are moving around... alas, they don't seem to be scratching themselves from flea bites, unfortunately, as time and the budget wouldn't allow it, but Koko sees the writing on the wall and jumps into the inkwell, which Max promptly closes.  And so, the cycle of these Inkwell shorts is once again complete.
Now as some of you may have discovered, you can find anything on the web.  Well, except for the code of a decent video game, you can find anything.  Well, a good programming tip will cost you a membership in Experts Exchange.  Also, searching for a very, very specific picture is still pretty tough.  And if you want to find a throwaway gag in a film, well... good luck with that.  But I seem to recall that there was a Stooge short where characters in an old-timey portrait were scratching themselves because of flea bites... damn, I'm good!  The sequence is from Self-Made Maids and... well, it's not all the same, as the "girls" are being bitten by ants instead of fleas.... think I'll submit it to the IMDb anyway, to which I'll get an email saying "Um... you need to back off a little bit, Bro.  Drink a little less coffee or something."

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Mark Daniels... Cathy Danneberg

I can't seem to find Mark Daniels, so let's move on to the next: Cathy Danneberg.  Now I can't vouch for her work, but I will provide some critiques of her IMDb Bio page.  First of all, in an ideal world, you want someone else to write your IMDb Bio page.  Otherwise, the whole enterprise smacks of that nasty thing called "inherent bias."  And second, take a look at some of the greats, and their IMDb Bio pages.  None of them probably mention anything about "strengthening of skills."  Well, except maybe William Friedkin.  He strengthened his directing skills by using a starter pistol to keep the cast and crew lively.  Friggn' lazy unions!  But maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe Cathy Danneberg is the greatest living autodidactic the world has ever seen.  And you have to give her credit, because she's got YouTube savvy.  Take the film she worked on called The Greatest Joke Ever... of course, every joke on YouTube is billed as the greatest joke ever, or the greatest groin injury ever.  Greatest, funniest ever, you've seen the titles.  But even though Cathy exists in her own exceptional universe, there's still the plague of Plagiarism.  I mean, the film 28 Days Later... came out in 2002.  Her film, 28 Days Later: Infection Days... well, it must still be tied up in court, as it seems to have been stricken from her IMDb résumé proper.  Oh well.  Keep your eye on the big war, girlfriend, even if you lose a couple small battles here and there.
...okay, I'll give some credit where credit's due.  The FX in Scout's Dawn are pretty good... well, the nuclear explosion, anywho.  The post-apocalyptic damage looks a little... um... poorly integrated with the rest of the scene, let's say.  You can find it on the YouTubes.

The March of the Debuts

...oh, wait.  There's only three debuts.  Sinister 2, Hitman: Agent 47 and the non-number related American Ultra, but I suppose it could be argued that the "ultra" implies a #1.  And yet, with all this fresh meat laying about, it's the old hands at this game that come in at #1 with a bullet and a wife-beating.  Straight Outta Compton is at #1 AGAIN!  Sure, the take's about half it was last week, and those numbers are a concern, but you can't argue with #1.  David Fincher and Gore Verbinski know this, because a lot of their movies were #1 for two weeks as well.  Great bargaining chip for greenlighting your next project.  Anyway, the point being, and I'm probably not the first one to suggest this... Oscar for Best Picture?  Look, Hollywood.  You know that you're going to give Legendary Pictures an Oscar someday.  And this is the perfect, non-comic book related... okay, semi-comic-book-related small indie arthouse-type picture to bestow the golden crown to.  It's all relative, of course; if the budget's under $50 million, that counts as "small indie arthouse" today.  Just the film's production budget; advertising is probably about $100 million.  Maybe it'll turn out like Schindler's List: Straight Outta Compton will sweep the technical awards, get all the writing, producing, and directing awards, and get snubbed by the various actors guilds.  That's the price you will typically pay come Oscar time.
Anyway, on to the rest... and this cinephile confesses.  I'm not up on my horror franchises these days.  All these low-budge dealies that scare the green audiences that go to see them.  You may have seen them in the commercials.  Your Insidiouses, your Paranormal Activity-ies, what have you... I don't get it, I'm not into it, and... I still don't get it!  But the Box Office does, and I am a reporter-type person; sure, I'm no Jeff Gannon, but I can dream, can't I?  And so we get something called Sinister 2: Fear Boogaloo.  It's this kind of thing that makes me want to go to a film's IMDb "Connections" page.  Apparently, the first Sinister was three years ago.  So if you were a high school freshman, and you were excited by the first Sinister movie, you are now a jaded senior, probably trying to fend off all comers prodding you about how you used to like that movie, and now the sequel's out, so you must be excited about it, right?  RIIIIIGHT?  That is, if you don't want to hang with the cool kids.  As for me, I'm just trying to figure out who among the original cast has returned for the sequel.  Anyone besides Mr. Boogie?  Anyone at all?  Not even Isaac Mizrahi's kid?
Okay, that's boring now.  On to the next, and even though marijuana is now legal in two states, the establishment strikes back with Hitman: Agent 47... oh, wait.  Wrong number.  But the establishment is striking back, because I applied for a job with my local city bus agency, and they said that the Federalis over at the Department of Transportation are still clamping down.  Random drug testing; weed may be legal, but bus drivers may not partake; serious stuff, what have you.  And then we took a two hour video test, and what was in that test?  Angry customers.  Lazy customers.  Cheapskate customers, fifty-year-old obnoxious alpha-male wannabes eating fast food on the bus and wearing backwards baseball caps.  You know, the kind of daily stress you NEED TO SMOKE WEED FOR!!!!!  Catch-22 all over again.  And of course, the cops are getting in on the fun; now in addition to "Don't Drink and Drive" it's "Don't Weed and Drive"... something like that.  "Don't Drive While High."  Apparently, it's a thing now.  It was a thing then and it's a thing now, and always will be.
And finally, the third debut this week is called American Ultra.  The "ultra" in that title obviously not referring to the fact that it came in sixth place at the cinematic horse race this week.  Well, that's the fans of the bloody Twilight saga for ya.  Fickle, fickle, and fickle.  It's like the Twilight movies were in some kind of a special area... a zone, if you will.  And once you step outside the narrow confines of that zone... BOOM!  Nothing happens!  No big box office, no fanzines, no crazed teenagers reading your book, nothing.  Probably for the best, as there are some who say that the Twilight series is part of the new "rape culture" making inroads into the national dialogue.  A big part of it.  Sometimes you just gotta go with more violent fare like American Ultra as relief, even if Twilight fans don't.
Well, that covers the debuts, but I'm thinking back to July 12th for some reason, probably because I've got my Excel(TM) spreadsheet here.  Back then, we had Minions, something called The Gallows (that lasted two weeks), and the Ben Kingsley / Ryan Reynolds vehicle called Self/Less (that lasted one week.)  Minions is still hanging in there at #9, so one out of three ain't bad!  Must be fans of Mad Men trying desperately to get their next fix, because Fear the Walking Dead just isn't cutting it.  Poor bastards.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Koko in Moderately Silly-Land

But... I haven't even finished the other one yet!  And... oh, crap.  The DVD's in the other room.  You know this means I have to get up, right?
...okay, I finally got up.
Time for another whimsical adventure with two of Animated Cartoondom's finest characters: Koko, and Max Fleischer.  This one is called (A) Trip to Mars.  Sure, it follows most of the story arc of Jumping Beans, and sure, the print's more jumpy than most, but rather than climbing the infinitely tall beanstalk, Koko climbs into the emaculate 1920's era rocket ship... okay, so he gets stuffed into it by Max.  Tomato, toe-mah-toh.  But before all that goes down, we get the usual intro with the busy hands of Max, busy at the blank slate of old.  Of course, it appears that Max is getting tired of exposing his limbs to the harsh elements and the bright lights of the animation camera, so he went all Terry Gilliam on it with his arm and decided to just use a 2D cutout to draw Koko's latest backdrops.
Now, I hate to use the word 'enigmatic,' but as you may know, I grow a bit weary of the word ICON and its most oft-flogged variant, ICONIC.  The word's getting watered down, people.  Not everything's iconic, okay?  Pauly Shore's Bio-Dome is not an icon, all right?  Unless you have it in MP4 form on your desktop, it's not.  It's just not.  Of course, 'enigmatic' will be the next word to fall.  It's been overused before, but I think it'll come back around, especially if there's an Emo Phillips resurgence in our culture.  He's overdue for a Second Act, right?  Anyway, for all you fans of Native American ... ICONOGRAPHY out there, you might get a knowing chuckle out of the intro.  See, normally, Max will draw some kind of landscape, or just start off with an image of Koko, but here he starts out with a mask!  Did he inadvertently invent the Warner Brothers shield?  I think so.  What can me say?  Me like to misattribute stuff like that.
So Max, tired of the same ol' same old, starts off the day's proceedings with a couple masks.  They seem to be like totem pole art.  Maybe he spent the day at a museum or something.  And then... is Max implying that Koko is a part of this ancient tradition?  Is he seriously doing that?  Is that's what's happening?  Tell me that's not what's happening.  Well, Koko was big once, but I guess he never did make it on to totem poles.  Can't win 'em all.  Of course, when your head is that big, and your body's about as tall as one of your giant ears... there's a problem.  What is it about cartoons and selective reality like that?  Now, if this were a Disney cartoon, there wouldn't be a problem!  A guy with a large head like that could walk around with a teeny weeny body!  Or at least, with a super-inflated ego, such as that of ol' Walt's.  Of course, Koko's body was doubling as the tongue of this giant head... that's troubling in both a Freudian and Jungian way... I know, I know, it's all just supposed to be funny.  I'm probably reading too much into all of this.  It's just supposed to be weird, silly fun, as with most of the Fleischer canon... hmm!  That's another word thrown around all too often these days.  'Canon.'  Pauly Shore's five films do not a 'canon' make.  I'm sorry.  Okay, enough picking on Pauly for one day... but really, it's the only kind of attention he deserves.  I am the Mad Nug Percent.
Max draws a gas mask.  Koko gets an eyeful of it and freaks out.  "What is THAT for?" asks Koko.  (my emphasis on 'that')  And as with the masks earlier, the gas mask develops just enough anthromorphic qualities in that Fleischer-specific way to freak Koko out.  And after the mask, the conceit of Koko's latest outing is laid bare: Max is planning a trip to the moon for Koko, as Max is a self-proclaimed "astronomy nut."  And to think, he probably could've been the next Hubble if he hadn't wasted his life dinking around, trying to be Walt Disney's competition!  The struggles with the gas mask exacerbate Koko to the point that he is compelled to escape the confines of the two-dimensional canvas.  Oh, but Koko doesn't completely waste this golden opportunity; no, he uses it to plan some long-term mischief against Max that will pay off later.  As with the Stooges, Max has some explosives laying about... apparently, in service of Koko's rocket ship.  At least, that's the answer to give when the Federalis come to the door and start poking their big snouts around.  Koko gets a big thing of... well, big compared to Koko... gets a container of trinitro... TNT.  Better not spell it out, lest it arouse the attention of the NSA.  Just reporting what I see, fellas!  Not planning anything nefarious here.
Now, while all that's going on, Max looks around for Koko.  Dude, that dude's serious!  Koko heads for the corner, but it's too late.  Max scoops up poor ol' Koko and stuffs him into the ZR2 right away!  Well, it's a short film with a tight timeline.  You know how it is.  Max seals up the ZR2 and lights the fuse.  And soon enough... yup.  An animated version of the ZR2 is heading for the stars.... sorry.  Guess my sense of wonderment is on hold today.  Max whips out an old timey sailors' telescope that can be stretched out, in order to view his handiwork.  Lol.  Well, this was the pre-NASA days.  Now... while all this is transpiring, the fuse on Koko's stash of TNT is still burning.  I guess in all the excitement and running around, Max completely missed it, and clearly didn't bump it with his chair.  Don't sweat the small stuff... but in this case, it's small stuff with a potentially big impact.  Well, these sayings don't work in all situations.  People on the Bomb Squad have different sayings than you and I.
Meanwhile, we're able to see what Koko's up to.  Koko climbs out of the rocketship and stands on top of it, as though he's riding some sort of interstellar boogie board.  I don't ever remember Bugs trying that!  Bugs just doesn't have as much fun as other, far wachier cartoon characters.  And as we can see, Koko shoots past the moon... through the damn thing, actually... and that Saturn-like ringed planet between the moon and Mars, lol... before finally landing on Mars.  Again, NASA they aren't.  And so, we see Koko on the surface of Mars, and he's got a galaxy's worth of stars circling round his damn fool head, broken pieces of the ZR2 strewn about at his feet.  Alas, there's barely time for Koko to regain full consciousness when... HERE COME THE FREAKS!  Is Koko actually dead, and this is all just one last fevered, rarebit-induced dream before dying?
Meanwhile, Max's TNT finally explodes, sending Max flying into space, perchance to land on Mars alongside Koko... you know, I hate to pontificate randomly, but I'm once again suddenly reminded of the beginning of the Third Act of that classic Popeye short, Axe Me Another.  I've blogged on it before, but I'll explain again, thereby boring Google's web-crawling spiders half to death.  So, Popeye has beaten Pierre Bluteau at every conceivable lumber-related feat of strength, so Bluteau decides to kick Popeye, thereby sending him down the hillside on the lumber chute.  Furious, Olive quickly picks up a giant log and hits Bluteau right in the middle of his empty head with it.  Ah, the things a little bit of adrenaline can make you do.  And so, Bluteau goes down the hillside on the lumber chute again.  So, to put it in S.A.T. terms, the TNT is to Max Fleischer what Olive and the log was to Bluteau's head... sumpthing like that.
Meanwhile, Koko's in a worse spot than Popeye at the end of Shiver Me Timbers!  Surrounded on all sides by freaks that come and go almost completely at will.  Even the Martian ground under Koko's feet f... messes with him!  Koko tries to wipe some sweat from his beleaguered brow, but the sweat morphs into Tweedledum and Tweedle-Devil.  Give the Devil Twins their due, people.  The Devil Twins pick Koko up by his ass, and Koko squirms around worse than a termite that you grab by its wings and... well, it's something I can't seem to forget anyhow.  And they say bugs don't feel pain.  Anyway, those pesky Fleischer brothers are now making the audience work double hard, switching in between flying Max and fleeing Koko.  We get a shot of Koko trying to walk away from a horde of following freaks.  "We want to make you our KING, strange(ly dressed) Earthling!" they cry as they follow.  But all Koko wants to do is head for the subway.  Of course, the subways on Mars are a little more stringent: if you don't have a token, somehow they know, and you really can't get in, let alone jump the turnstile.  Koko tries everything: punching the invisible barrier, pushing it, feeling its edges.  Nothing!  Nothing works.  We don't even see the freaks following him, but when they apparently get close enough, Koko finally makes it through the invisible barrier and into the Martian subway proper.  Boy, do they do things differently on Mars.  The Martian subway platform is actually more like an Earth diving board for a swimming pool!  Koko drops down about twenty feet into the subway trench, and we see that a Martian subway is really just a system of hooks that the average Martian can easily hang onto with their hooked tails.  The subway starts up and we're treated to about twenty Martians riding the subway.  Clearly they're less impressed than the other Martians who were chasing Koko.  Koko eventually reaches up and grabs on to one of the subway hooks.  Koko gets off the subway when a giant pair of hands grabs him and starts having a little fun with Koko, poking him in the head with its giant fingers, clenching Koko in its giant fist, what have you.  Boy!  The price of not having a Martian subway token.  But rather than sending him to the Martian police, the subway authority merely ejects Koko from the subway, and Koko is once again at the mouth of the Martian subway.  But apparently it's a different one, as Koko doesn't run afoul of the curious Martian mob that was following him earlier.
Next scene: Koko then makes his way to a "Taxi Crab."  Alas, we see the feet of the taxi crab, and they look more mechanical than crustacean-like.  I feel a bit disappointed by that... why are about sixteen lines of this post underlined by those red squiggly lines?  ALL of that is misspelled?  I don't think so.  Anyway, to cut to the chase... okay, not quite yet.  Koko's taxi crab behaves a bit like a bucking bronco for a while, but Koko eventually learns to ride it.  Cut to Max still flying through the air, but Max's trajectory starts to curve; he must be close to the Martian surface by now.  Eventually, Koko's taxi "crab" takes wings, and at just the right time to catch Max.  Plot threads officially tied together.  It looks like Max and Koko are going to have a safe ride home... or to somewhere new, perhaps...
...or maybe not.  The taxi crab dumps them both out, and down they tumble to something with a strong gravitational pull.  Perhaps back to Earth!  No... another Saturn clone; perhaps the one from earlier.  However, the proverbial inkwell is on the rings.  Max and Koko do a couple laps on this Saturn's ring before diving into said inkwell.  Then, the inkwell drops off and starts falling through space!!!  I hate to ruin the surprise of what happens next... nah, not really.  A hand crumples up the starry background and stuffs it into the inkwell.  It feels a little anti-climactic to me, but what can... whaddayagonna do, except take a deep breath and try to relax... is this the first time that MAX HIMSELF has jumped into the inkwell?  I dare say it is!  Too bad there's not some sort of internet record of that, some sort of log on the web who...

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Lee Daniels

...oh, THERE he is!  Never mind.  Now, I could say something snarky about Mr. Daniels, but he's my new hero now.  Why?  Oh, the usual reason: because he proves that, even for your big-time big-shot film directors, fifty is nifty!  He of course hit it big with 2009's Precious.  And of course, once you get a film on your C.V. like Precious, there's no turning back.  You get to write your own ticket, which he did in 2013 with Lee Daniels' The Butler, AKA Forrest Gump in the White House permanently.  Or maybe it's his friend, Bubba Blue.  But the main detail is this: did you catch the title of that film by any chance?  It's not The Butler.  No, that was made in 1916 starring Davy Don, but of course, you knew that.  Duh!  I mean, we're cinephiles, after all! 
Then of course there's 2005's Bob the Butler starring Tom Green... and if you ever mention that in a second context anywhere, you will be immediately stripped of whatever Cinephile status you may hold, either officially or unofficially.  So, clearly, the butler genre has been overworked to death... at least, until 2013.  Now, sure, it didn't all the Oscars that Oprah would have hoped for, but whatever.  Lee Daniels is here to stay, and with his hit new show Empire on Fox, he's showing Hollywood that he's not afraid to make a little money either.  Take that, Terrence Malick!
Speaking of 2005, it was a busy year for Hollywood.  And Lee Daniels is no slouch nor an exception.  He was busy in the Hollywood directing chair trenches, and his output was something called Shadowboxer.  Sure, it stars post-Jerry Maguire, post Snow Dogs Cuba Gooding Jr., and sure, it doesn't much stand out in its genre, the Retired Assassin genre.  HOWEVER, and this is a big however, check out the cast list... why, isn't that Mo'Nique?  And what's her character name?   That's right..... PRECIOUS!!!!  He's... oh my God.  Lee Daniels is Babe Ruth!  He called his shot!  Give the Daniels his due!

Straight Into the History Books

Boy, sometimes you just gotta be thankful for the little things in life.  You realize that every moment is precious, that everyone you went to school with, whether they were your toughest bully or your best friend, they're all equally precious.  Hang on to the things you love, and hold 'em just a little tighter for me today... ah, just messing with you.  Don't you hate it when celebrities say that?  That's when you know they're just about to have a nervous breakdown and or try to rob a convenience store, or run through the streets naked and or screaming...
...which brings me to our #1 movie this week.  I swear, these two things aren't related.  On the other hand, I'm not a rap aficionado, so maybe it's just a racist thing.  But there's no doubt that the carpet bombing ad campaign worked, and Straight Outta Compton made its smashing debut at #1.  56 million, no less!  But personally it was no surprise to me, because I saw the "Legendary Pictures" logo in the commercial.  They're probably best known for the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, and however many new Superman movies they're planning on making with that British expatriate.  They want everyone to try and forget the joyless 2006 reboot.  If it's #1 next week, I'll try and go with a headline for director F. Gary Gray.  I think he's had #1 hits before... I just can't recall which one was.  Probably his 2003 Italian Job.
There was one other debut this week... oh, right.  Director Guy Ritchie gives another ancient Hollywood franchise the Hipster/Douchebag makeover.  His last one was Sherlock Holmes.  This time it's The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  Boy!  All these 60s TV shows in the top 10!  UNCLE, Mission: Impossible... wonder if any burnt out Hippies are getting confused right now.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

The Feast of the Spiders

Our next Fleischer short, Trapped, varies slightly from the usual story formula.  Sure, it seems to start and end in a similar fashion to the others, but Koko's journey in this one takes him far, and into deep trouble, and Max, supposedly right there at his artist's desk, never felt farther away.
But it all starts out innocently enough with a live-action mouse.  As with the Mexican jumping beans, Koko is once again freaked out, so Max tries to play the calm, assertive father figure, assuring Koko that he will attend to the mouse, while at the same time shoving Koko back into place as Koko tries to run away... either away from danger, or towards a supervisory position.
Max apparently grows weary of pushing Koko out of the way, so Max draws a playmate for Koko: a creepy spider with a Mutt and Jeff face.  The whole nine yards: moustache, hat, shoes.  The spider makes some untoward advances at Koko, and Koko jumps out of the way.  Koko tries to make sense of the motivations of this human-animal hybrid...  I mean, what does it want?  Does it want Koko to sign up for a magazine subscription?  Or does it just want to eat Koko?  The answer may surprise you.
Meanwhile, Max gets an old-fashioned rat trap for the mouse, replete with a bit of cheese and everything.  I dunno; call me cynical, but something tells me that the mouse isn't going to fall for it.  Well, for one thing, it wouldn't be funny.  Concurrently, the spider is busy trying to build a web around Koko... I had some friends in middle school exactly like that.  Of course, Koko's older and wiser than middle school age... maybe... and he isn't interested in playing anyone else's game, so Koko jumps his ass right out of that web, and takes off, Stage Right, Snagglepuss style.  The creepy Mutt and Jeff spider gives chase.
I don't know why, but I find myself rooting for the spider to catch up to Koko!  Something different to root for.  And so, the spider does, and the spider hooks his line onto Koko's outfit, then tries to reel him in like a fish, quite literally.  The spider's proverbial web slinger has a reel on it like on a fisherman's rod and reel.  Koko sees from afar what the spider's doing, but all he can do is keep running to the right.  The spider clearly outwits Koko, as the spider uses a second line for vertical advantage against Koko.  The spider climbs up, secures Koko's line, then uses his weight against Koko to send Koko up into the air.  Koko tries to grab onto a plant in vain, but fails.  Koko ends up flailing around, with the spider holding on to Koko's ankles.  Pathetic.  The phrase "epic fail" will probably come to your mind.  Meanwhile, Max is watching for the mouse.  The mouse emerges from the box with a mouse-sized hole in it.  Incidentally, kudos to the set designer on this picture!  Earlier, we see the mouse make for the hole as it climbs around the box.  But now the trap's in place... will the mouse go for it?  I hope not... but the film does look like it's been edited; at about exactly 5:33 on the DVD, to be more precise.  Kinda the way Disney used to do with his "nature documentaries" from long ago.  They just had one on TCM, and I remember the flatulent mud that sounded like The Love Bug at one point... and I mean, the original movie with Dean Jones and Buddy Hackett.  I can't vouch for the sound effects in the Lindsay Lohan monstrosity.
And then, the spider and Koko make like a trapeze act for a while.  Koko's buttons swing around in the breeze; Lol.  Eventually, however, after a botched ingestion attempt by the spider, Koko gains the upper hand.  Koko's now above the spider on its string, and Koko whips out his old friend, The Knife.  Yada yada yada... and DOWN GOES SPIDER!  Alas, the spider grabs onto a branch, and it's back to work trying to get Koko.  Meanwhile, the live-action mouse avoids the trap a second time.  The ratio of mouse to Koko is small; that is to say, the ratio of Koko to mouse must be high, therefore.  About 5 to 1 by now, maybe more.  And so, the spider finds himself at Koko's level.  Koko's unable to climb up the spider thread.  The spider angrily reaches out for Koko, and unfortunately for Koko, he can't stay out of the spider's grasp forever.  And then... a Fist Tornado breaks out!  What is this?  A Popeye cartoon?  Koko loses his hat, but is able to reach out of said Fist Tornado to grab it.  The Fist Tornado subsides, and the two parties start swinging towards each other.  Koko keeps kicking the Mutt and Jeff spider in the face, but it's to no avail.  Why, Koko's as weak as Jean Claude Van Damme apparently is in all of his fight sequences!  With all due respect to Lance Henriksen, why is he an equal opponent of Van Damme at the end of ... whatever?  Hard Target, I think it's called?
But eventually, the spider's out cold!  Koko cuts himself down, but only to land in another web below.  Wotta doof.  Another spider emerges from a secret door in the adjacent tree... or maybe it's the same spider from before, all revived and ready for more revenge.  Or maybe it's a twin brother.  Love that plot device: Bad Company (2002), Homegrown, Screwball Squirrel, can't get enough of it.  And so, to cut to the chase, Koko's tied up tighter than Frodo in The Return of the King, and being put on a platter for the big spider's feast.  The only thing is, Frodo was unconscious and Sam had to come and save him.  In the instant case, Koko's all too conscious, and no Bimbo to save him!  But Koko eventually, and at the last possible second, of course, gains enough mastery to avoid the spider's carving knife... at least, at first.  Then, Koko squirms around like a cartoon worm on the spider's dining room table.  Clearly, he's not enough to feed ten hungry spiders.
Eventually, Koko makes his escape, and he decides not to fool around with the web anymore that caught him earlier.  Now he uses it to safely and quickly plummet to the Earth's surface... but this tree is so damn tall!  What's going to happen?  Will Koko simply snap back up into the eight arms of danger?  Or will he make it to the ground?  The answer may surprise you... okay, it's the latter, but not quite, as Koko's a few inches from the ground.  Ain't that always the way?  Koko risks the fall to terra firma, and makes it, and once again he seems to stare angrily at Max and vow revenge.  Which is why it's time to go back to the mouse!  Wotta gyp.
Rather than vow revenge on Max, which would be more than deserved in this case, and I dare say slightly more deserved than in the Jumping Beans one, Koko decides to go after the mouse, and make it real his summer dream that he saw in his mind earlier about having the mouse by the tail.  Welp, you gotta hand it to the filmmakers, because they must've put some sweat and tears into this one; getting the right footage of the mouse to use, especially.  I guess it's no great shake, but audiences at the time must've been a little wowed.  Koko does indeed grab the mouse by the tail, and ride on its back like a bull rider, if only briefly.  I think they reused some of that footage a li'l bit.  Alas, as I predicted, it's Koko who ends up getting caught in the mouse trap, but in a comedic way.  Koko sits on it just so that he gets his ass caught in the trap.  Good comedy injury. 
Max picks up the trap and dumps Koko back into the inkwell.  Kind of an anticlimactic ending.  And on top of that, they left some unfinished business on Max's desk.  What's with the rope on Max's desk?  I remember from the documentary on the Popeye DVDs where they showed a clip of Max in his office stuck in a giant spider web.  What happened to that footage?  Where is it?  What film is it in?  I guess when it comes to spiders, one Koko short just won't do.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Lee Daniels

...I don't get it!  Where's Precious?  Where's The Butler?  There's just three short films here!

There is Moderate Joy in Marvel-Ville

Well, the giant hauls at the box office of summer are clearly winding down.  Mission: Impossible 5 is still at #1, if only barely.  This is starting to turn into the Final Fantasy series... except that that's video games.  Apparently we can look forward to "Final Fantasy 15" in 2016.  It's one of the mysteries of naming things that a never-ending series is called "Final" Fantasy, as opposed to say... Daikatana!! Oh, s'z'nap.  Seriously, though, I do love the people behind the original Id Software, and the Doom series that I still have on my computer to this day.  A toast to the old games that take less than a gigabyte of space on your computers.
Anyway, on to the debuts.  We have yet another reboot of a Marvel movie; this time, it's the Fantastic Four series reimagined... just to take advantage of 3D?  I mean, you can redo the old movies so they're in 3D.  Did you know that, Marvel Studios?  They did it with Titanic and Jurassic Park, you know!  Oh, I get it... see, neither of the two Fantastic Four movies from the Dubya years made enough money to justify such lavish treatment.  Slightly cheaper to redo it with all the new effects and a new bunch of current hot young thespians.  And of course, Marvel's shooting themselves in the foot by pitting Ant-Man against Fantastic Four.  I guess three weeks of space between releases is enough for them.
Unfortunately, this epidemic of Remake Fever has led to this whole impending Batman v. Superman disaster.  But apparently there's no time to think or wait.  Ben Affleck's playing Batman in four new movies!  So much for directing a new movie every two years.  He's no Soderbergh, alas.
Meanwhile at #3, it's The Gift... I mean, The Gift (2015), and while it's not triple-threat Joel Edgerton's first rodeo as director, it is his first national rodeo in Dallas, so to speak... well, for me, anyhow.  Smarter heads than mine, and in the biz, have decreed that this guy's the new... Kevin Smith?  Russell Crowe?  Clearly he's got something special going on if he gets to work with Jason Bateman.  The Bateman family should be pleased that The Gift looks like a project that will challenge Jason's acting range, if only slightly.  He can probably play this role in his sleep; alas, they can't all be like Foy in State of Play!  You have to be Mickey Rourke to do that!
The last debut this week is Ricki and the Flash, otherwise known as Diablo Cody's foray into mid-life crisis territory.  Well, let me be the first to just, you know, kinda throw this out there... second Oscar for Diablo?  Give the Diablo its due, people!  I mean, 20th or so nomination for Streep, that's a given.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Short Reviews - August 2015

An American Affair - LEAVE MARILYN ALONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Animal Crackers (2016) - Well, FIRST of all... there's ONLY ONE Animal Crackers... THAT one.  And second... SEE POINT ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Armed and Dangerous - Speaking of films that push their ratings... man!  This really pushes the PG-13 to the wall!  Particularly the adult bookstore sequence.

"Blunt Talk" - Part Daily Show, part thinly-veiled life story of Piers Morgan... or maybe Richard Quest.  Or a combo of both!

Body Chemistry II: Voice of a Stranger - I just saw on CNN that they're going to show a movie / documentary about Morton Downey Jr.  Well, that's how the chips fall sometimes... what, no movie about Rush Limbaugh?  But that's the Far Right for you: they fell in love with Morton, but ended up marrying Limbaugh.  I believe the movie / documentary on CNN is called Evocateur... sorry, got that wrong.  It's spelled Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie... boy!  What's the deal with that capital 'E'?  What is that, French?  Well, gotta give 'em a little credit: they gave us our bad American diet with them Freedom Fries!  Anyway, for those of you who can't wait to see Evocateur on CNN, there's always Morton Downey Jr. in Body Chemistry 2: The Smell of a Stranger.  I believe this is the one where he tells a flustered young woman, "I don't give a flying f_____ up a running squirrel's ass about..." ...well, I can't remember what it was that he didn't give a flying ---- about.  The line's just that good.  You know, like "What did he know and when did he know it?" ...of course, there's no beating Morton's character name in Palmer's Pick Up.

Born to Dance - With Eleanor Powell as Kristen Wiig

Bravetown - With Lucas Till as Josh Hartnett... I mean, Harvest.  Josh Harvest.

Day for Night - Apparently, this is one of Jacqueline Bisset's favourite roles.  And I think I know the exact scene, too: when she realizes that the script now contains something she said in real life, and she goes "Son of a...."

For Those Who Think Young - ...Pepsi?

Hitman: Agent 47 - Heh heh heh... oh wait. "420" is the fun number.  Phooey.

Little Murders - I'm hooked on the Alan Arkin scene anew... dayamn!  Gordon Willis?  This must be one of the first things he did!  Good training for the Godfather movies in a way; I'll bet the filming of Little Murders felt much, much longer.

Love the Coopers - Ed Helms is now officially over-exposed.

The Maze Runner: The Death Cure - This will be the third installment of this The Maze Runner film series.  For me, it begs the question: how badly does the yet-to-be-released second installment have to do in order for them to shut down production on this third one?

No Escape (2015) - First of all, there's only ONE No Escape ... the 1994 one with Ray Liotta.  And second... Owen Wilson in a dramatic role?  No.  Can't accept it.  Okay, sure, he's done serious drama before... Marley and Me, for example.  Also, that thing from the director of Grosse Pointe Blank, where said director decided then and there to leave the biz completely... The Big Bounce!  That's it.  Wait a minute... Owen's character in that is named... Jack Ryan?

The Razor's Edge (1946) - Just watched some of it.  How many of Tyrone Power's lines had to be redubbed?  Good Lourdes!  Are all his films like that?  Don't get me wrong, it's a fine voice and all... oops, I mean Herbert Marshall.  He plays the author, W. Somerset Maugham.  So I guess this would be a good triple bill with Crash (1996) and Antwone Fisher in that regard.

"The Richard Pryor Show" - With Allegra Allison, who now sits on the West Hollywood Historic Preservation Commission.  Well, after working with Richard Pryor and living to tell the tale, I guess preservation is a concept that one would think about quite often!

Somebody Up There Likes Me - Well, that somebody sure doesn't seem to be programming the Turner Classic Movies channel!  Oh, s'z'nap!

The Split (1968) - With Jack Klugman as Franz Kafka... I mean, Harry Kifka.  Must be Finnish.

That's My Boy - Oh, Yahoo! Movies so went there.  Well, personally, I don't think that having your kids in your movie with you is a good thing.  Besides!  That's My Boy probably shouldn't count, since mother and daughter are simply playing younger and older versions of the same character!  Also, was Demi Moore so busy that she couldn't help out young Rumer Willis, and appear in The House Bunny?

The Visit - M. Night Shyamalan's Latest Crap-a-Thon

A Walk in the Woods - Well, I hate to say it... but this probably won't be a walk to remember.  I'm sorry, but the trailers make it look like Robert Redford in ... The Great Outdoors?

We Are Your Friends - This film is about a D.J.  Now, I don't know much about D.J.s these days, except that they don't seem to be cooped up in radio stations anymore.  The connotation is that they're in clubs and spinning records, and that if you're an attractive female, you can be a successful D.J.  But if I remember correctly, John Cusack was a D.J. in High Fidelity, but somehow the story came with a little more heft, and some rather keen observations about the human condition.  In the case of We Are Your Friends, well... if Josh Duhamel can still make a movie like ... oh, wait.  Maybe he can't.  But Zac's still got at least ten years, if not more.... Safe Haven!  That's it!  I mean, look at that poster.  Lucky bastid.

Words and Pictures - Get a load of this plot synopsis.  It's The Competition all over again.  Two teachers start a competition at their school in which students decide whether words or pictures are more important.  As a semi-professional blogger, I'm here to tell you that wodrs are way, way more importent!

King Koko

Well, Bedtime represents a first, because we see Max doing a drawing not in his studio, but in his bedroom!  Well, that's the artist's life for you.  Same thing happened on House of Cards when Robin Wright had her affair with that photographer... something like that.
Of course, what was Max thinking?  He draws himself a Koko in his bedroom... and now Max can't fall asleep!  Why not just have a kitten in your room as well?  Arguably, at least Koko might be housebroken.  I know, I know, not all kittens aren't potty trained.  But ever the sadist, Max draws a tall, narrow mountain and puts Koko on the top of it, thereby creating the pivotal scene in Gerry.
From there, things get even stranger than they are already.  Koko ends up at the mouth of the Cave of the Winds, which... must be from folklore or something.  Why, is that two politicians flying past it?  Wind, indeed!  And then, try as he might to resist, Koko gets sucked inside of the cave... nearly ripping his clown suit completely off.  Hmm!  Kinda wish I could un-see that part.  Oh well.  Koko uses a gun to shoot at the three big buttons on his outfit.  You know, to get them back!  The really weird part about that is... it works!!!  Oh, this must be a dream sequence.  Anyway, it paved the way for the St. James Infirmary sequence the Fleischers would do later on in... you know, the one about Betty Boop as... Snow White?
But we can't spend this whole cartoon inside of a cave, for God's sake!  Koko eventually comes out the other side... caves have two sides?  Doesn't that make it a... TUNNEL?  What-evs.  And so it's on to Koko's next surreal encounter with a Bluto-esque wrestler who, God bless him, can't seem to brush Koko off of his body.  Happens every time in these iterations of Jack and the Beanstalk.  I'm thinking of that one with Bugs and Daffy, and Elmer as the Giant.  And anytime Bugs and Daffy are running around on the Giant's body, the Giant just can't reach them at the last minute.  Too slow.  Kinda like how sometimes when I try to catch the cat, the cat always seems to outrun me.  Same goes with the fleas that land on my leg, but every once in a while I do catch those little pests.  They're like tiny versions of the alien from Alien.  I know we're supposed to value God's creation and all, but I draw the line at bloodsuckers.  The wrestler sequence seems to get repeated once, BTW.  Maybe a third time.  And then there's that part where Koko crawls under the guy's wrestler tights!  EWWWWWW!!!!!!!!  For that, and other crimes, a mighty chase ensues across the endless Fleischer countryside.  Koko tries to hide in the Hudson River... it was a lot less developed back then... but the wrestler drinks all the water, much like Gertie in Winsor McCay's Gertie the Dinosaur.
I've never seen a wrestler so persistent!  The wrestler eventually catches up to the fleeing Koko, and eventually catches Koko in his hands.  It's all Koko can do to avoid getting crushed in the wrestler's fists.  And then... SPOILER ALERT: Koko wakes up, back atop that very narrow mountain. 
It's right then and there that he vows revenge against a sleeping Max.  Koko climbs up on to the foot of Max's bed and starts stealing the bedsheets.  Max wakes up to find Koko starting to grow... much like the pet in Winsor McCay's The Pet... I'm sorry, I mean Winsor McCay's Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend: The Pet (1921), drawn by hand by Winsor McCay, the Inventor of Animated Drawing.  Apparently, McCay's friends finally stopped wagering that McCay couldn't create an animated film, as they grew tired of losing their money all the time.  But the main thing is that there's an animal in The Pet, half cow, half cat (it Meows!), that keeps growing and growing and growing.  Of course, it may be because the pet has a ravenous appetite, much like Homer in that one Simpsons episode ("Married to the Blob") where he eats that "space marshmallow."  "If I can hold down Arby's, I can hold down you!", said Homer.  And yet, Jon Stewart gets all the glory of bashing Arby's.  How does that work?  Did you see that ad that Arby's ran?  It said "Not sure why, but we'll miss you."  I think it's because it's a little easier to take criticism from one guy on television than from millions of disgruntled customers.  But, give the Devil his due!  They seem to be the only franchise that still has Curley Fries.  Love those extremely unhealthy things.  The only catch is: I gotta go to Arby's to get 'em.  Too steep a price for me, apparently.
...where was I?  Oh, right.  So, Koko starts to grow, but not from excess calories.  No, Koko's growth seems to be fueled by his boundless, somewhat justified rage.  Well, some people are just ducky and lucky that way.  All some people have to do is cross their arms, slap their own shoulders, and BOOM!  Grow they go... go they grow?  Anyway, Max flees in terror, and we see him briefly hurrying around in the snow, thereby creating the Coen brothers' Fargo... too much of a stretch?  And then, just like in The Pet, we see Koko growing amid real-life buildings.  In one excellent sequence, there's an aerial view of a big city street, and the animators clearly went to great pains to make sure that Koko fit between and behind the right ones.  Koko pulls off the roof of one building, reaches inside, and his fingers come out of some windows in the middle of the building.  LOL! 
But enough fun and games; it's time to end this puppy.  And with Koko's face morphing into the Devil's face, Max's dream ends like Koko's dream (SPOILER ALERT) with clutching hands of a giant reaching for him.  But Max actually gets grabbed by Koko, and he tries in vain to wriggle free... thereby influencing Roger Rabbit, if only a little.  Max wakes up, sees the still image of Koko, then dumps him into the inkwell, thereby ensuring the serial consistency of the Out of the Inkwell series.

Good double bill with: Winsor McCay's The Pet (1921)... did I mention that one already?

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan 

Auteur Watch - Jonas D'Adesky

Oh, good!  An easy one.  Welp, this guy seems to have been born in Haiti, and influenced by his country of birth in terms of storytelling.  His only film so far, Twa Timoun, is about three young friends living in Haiti just before the big earthquake hits.  Good dramatic convention (normal life before impending disaster), but so far the only review it's gotten is from a smart alecky French website with the banner headline "A Grand Moment in Cinema... or not!"  As near as I can tell, they side more on the "Grand Moment" half for this film.  Ah, the power of kids that can act well.  Nothing like it.  As for me, I was too much of a ham in my youth, especially that one time I was eating a peach.  Jesus!  Just eat it normal, Movie Hooligan!  Don't act like some kind of rat on crack or something.  What the douche!

Still Got It!

As expected, the fifth installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise is #1.  Maybe it's the incessant tie-ins... or is it?  Who's got the extra income to buy a new car?  Maybe it was the carpet-bombing ad campaign... but I TeeVough'd past most of 'em.  Tee hee!  Of course, stopping by the Stew Beef show couldn't hurt!  Can't pooh-pooh that one... but I get the feeling that the off-air banter was much like Larry Sanders and Jim Carrey.  I'll let you all look that one up... hmm!  Stewart's dad was a physics professor?  He was A Serious Man!
Anyway, Cruise's new movie isn't the only revamped nostalgia piece to do well at the box office.  John Hughes' pre-Simpsons vision of the nuclear family, the Vacation series, gets an overhaul, the first installment of which is called Vacation...  simply Vacation.  Now, as you can see from my crudely assembled visual montage, a lot of different actors have played the character of record the Mortals and Immortals call Rusty Griswold, the long-embattled son of Clark.  In fact, one new actor
for each incarnation.  I dunno; there's either something that playing that role does to the psyche of the actor that makes them want to get back into Shakespeare more, or perhaps it does something to the movie studio making these damn Griswold movies that makes them want to find actors who want less money.  Of course, it's probably both forces at work, but judging from the track record I think the movie studio ultimately won out.  Arguably, there's more cast consistency than in the three latest installments of the Atlas Shrugged trilogy.  Who is John Galt?  Well, it's Paul Johansson in Part One, D. B. Sweeney in part Two, and Kristoffer Polaha in Part 3.  And the weird thing is that they did like the Lord of the Rings trilogy and made all three at the same time!
Anyway, that's it for the debuts.  I hate to badmouth the latest Jurassic movie, but it's slipped to #10 awful quick.  Are people losing interest?  Or are they just pulling it from theaters because they figure it's not going to make more than 600 million at the box office?  1.5 billion worldwide?  Dayamn.  Meanwhile, Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow is busy preparing his next blockbuster.  What will it be?  Well, judging from his résumé, I'm assumpting it's going to be an overhaul of something he's already made.  Maybe a remake of "Gary: Under Crisis," but with a $200 million budget, that type of thing... or not!  Or he could play it safe and just work on the sequel.  Probably a smart move.  A couple more of those and Hollywood will be your oyster!  You could even make that movie that John Malkovich talked about one time on Conan about a lazy serial killer who spends 90 minutes just sitting in a chair and plotting several things, while watching TV and threatening to kill whoever shows up on said TV next.  Still more watchable than Greenaway!