Saturday, October 31, 2015

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Forfeiture

I hate to say it... nah, I guess that's not entirely true.  Anyway, I don't know what the worst Bugs Bunny cartoon is, but I think Big House Bunny is probably it.  But why?  And how could this have happened?  These are the sorts of issues I've brought upon myself for contemplation as a part-time movie critic, but part of the answer is that it has to do with your heroes and their body of work.  As I've mentioned before, I fondly recall the time when one of my school chums complained about how lame Leonard Part Six was... see, this was way way before Cosby's sex scandals were even made public, you see.  And yet, signs were there in his various TV shows, apparently; his roofie-based barbecue sauce, apparently.  Go figure.  The example from my own experience is when, as the leader of a wandering group in the big city, I chose Lethal Weapon 3 over Alien 3.  I think it was about the time when they made a cheap "Uranus" joke that I couldn't help but think to myself, "You know... if this were any other movie, I wouldn't let them get away with it..."  I think time has certainly vindicated Alien 3, of those two... The point being, a cinematic failure is amplified when it's someone you expect good things from.
Anyways, on to the plot.  As with The Wabbit who Came to Supper, we start with Bugs being hunted in the forest.  I wanted to prefer this as Bugs' natural state, but really... were rabbits ever treated like foxes or wild turkeys by professional hunters?  I hope not.  Bugs informs the audience that, damn!  He's in a tight spot, and he has to get away.  Fortunately, like Raymond Reddington of "The Blacklist" fame, Bugs has made the proper investments in getaway infrastructure... or has he?  Bugs dives into a hole, but ends up tunneling out in quite the wrong place.
Enter the Prison Picture.  Bugs digs his way into the middle of a prison's "yard" area, where it's not break time yet.  Bugs gets his bearings, then is immediately leaped upon by prison guard "Yosemite" Sam Schultz.  "Oh, I didn't know that was his last name," said my viewing companion at the time.  Well, maybe just for this one picture.  It seems to be an homage to the bad guy in Freleng's previous picture, Daffy - The Commando, which is on YouTube currently, but will probably be taken down soon after this posting.  Sorry about that :/ .
Anyways, Bugs gets beaten up by Yosemite Sam on the prison yard.  A bit too realistic, even though I don't know from personal experience.  Of course, Bugs recovers quick, as with all cartoon characters, and even though he tricks Sam with numbers, Bugs is soon on the rockpile in his new number, "Three and a Half," of course.  It's kind of a Looney Tunes tradition.  My favourite use of this of course would have to be the baby hippo in Baby Bottleneck that's three and a half seconds old.  WAAH!!!! WAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!
Bugs' next feat of Trickery to the Extreme is to get Sam "Schultz" to fire this cannon located in the prison yard.  Bugs loads the cannon with the ball of his ball and chain.  Sam fires, sending Bugs flying far, far away.  I seem to recall Baron Munchausen doing a simiar feat in Terry Gilliam's 1988 film, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.  The young girl saw the whole thing, but couldn't get anyone to believe her.  Now, Bugs may seem to be home free at this point, but it's still early in the picture, and we're spending the whole thing in this prison, spoiler alert.  Sam gets a car, drives out to where Bugs landed, and brings him right back.  But the only part of it we see is the gate guard fiddling with the giant door... nice sequence and all, but what else is it reminding me of?  The only thing that comes vaguely to mind is the egotesticle... I mean, egotistical studio guard in Hollywood Daffy.  Incidentally, that's another Warner Bros. cartoon I'd rather be watching.  Alas, I have to wait til Volume 5 to review that one.  Woe is me, woe is me.
And so, having re-subdued Bugs, it's lock-up time proper.  "Now, git in tharrr!" exclaims Sam Schultz, pointing to the inside of the cell.  Bugs goes in and Sam shuts the door.  "Hey, Doc!  Why'd you lock yourself inside the cell?" asks Bugs... something like that.  You get the idea.  I know, I know, this is some of the finest satire Bugs has ever done, but it still bothers me for some reason.  Guess I'm just too pro-prison or something.  I'm just extra picky that way.  Of course, I had a similar problem with the first Clerks, because there never seemed to be any normal transactions.  The only customer that seemed to buy anything was the young kid who bought the cigarettes, and you probably remember how that turned out.  Anyway, long story short, Yosemite Sam gets his first brief taste of prison life.  There's the nightmare incarnate.  Bugs is walking away, twirling the keys, being a smart-ass and all, and there's Sam, the one who's supposed to be on the outside of the cell... and now he's inside of it.
Next scene: Bugs is out on the yard again, and Sam runs up with a shotgun pointed at Bugs' belly.  Psychological nightmare over, all too quickly.  Now, it's time for a similar ruse that Malcolm X once used on a drunk white guy that wanted to fight him.  For a Warner Bros. cartoon example, we can look to the conceit of To Duck... or Not to Duck... that is the question... I mean, wherein Daffy the Duck challenges Elmer the Fudd to a boxing match.  As for Big House Bunny, Bugs at this point says to Yosemite Sam, "Ah, you wouldn't be so tough without that uniform."  Ooh!  There's also a similar scene in A Fish Called Wanda done to similar effect... actually, better.  And so, Bugs is now in Sam's prison guard uniform.  Bugs takes out the whistle, blows on it, and now it's Sam being beset upon by armed prison guards with William Clubs and what not.  Revenge achieved, right?  Wrong!  It's still too early in the picture, and we have yet to run the gamut of Hollywood's prison lingo.  Up next: an homage to the Jail Break.  Alas, I'm not a good historian... wait!  Where are you going?  Damn.  There goes half my audience.  But I do know this: they say that Warner Bros. is the studio that did the edgiest material back in the '30s and '40s.  Anyway, someone other than me can speak to when the first jail break scene was done in a movie, but it's lampooned here.
And so, we see Sam in a jail cell, pleading his case to deaf ears.  His nightmare continues.  Bugs offers temporary relief for Sam.  Bugs, dressed in Sam's prison uniform, whispers some stuff about how he's going to help Sam escape.  My favourite part, and yours, fellow Hipster-to-Be, is of course Bugs' line about never forgetting what Sam did for "Mary and the kids."  Oh, that was borrowed from an article or another film.  And so, Bugs slips Sam a bread-shaped bag full of tools, and the tools are much larger than the bag.  Even Michael Carbonaro would have trouble with that one... actually, maybe not.  He's pretty good.  Under different circumstances, I'd find the whole scenario much funnier, but somehow it just doesn't work for me, and I know I'm supposed to be rooting for Bugs in all of this.
And so, Sam begins his journey of a thousand shovel-fuls of prison dirt.  He ends up poking his head up from the ground, much like Bugs did earlier when he first happened upon the prison yard.  From there, Sam finds himself in downright tropical surroundings.  Now, I swear that there was a similar situation in another Warner Bros. cartoon, and the character in question was hacking their way through similarly thick thickets, only to find themselves standing over a cliff.  We may never know which cartoon that was, even in this Internet Age, where secrets are gone and all trivia is known, but a slightly different fate befalls our Yosemite Sam Schultz.  As it happens, he's tunneled into the Warden's Office... trust me, it's funny.  Well, it sets up the conflicts to come, anyhow.  Anywho... that's what I thought; the auto-spell check doesn't like "anywho."  The point being, it's probably unfair to compare this to the far-superior Cellbound.  It's a Tex Avery cartoon that centers on a convict who spends 20 years digging a tunnel out of his prison, and when he makes his jailbreak, he ends up inside of the warden's TV set.  I think Cellbound succeeds with its plotting, but arguably Cellbound was less ambitious in scope.  Big House Bunny has more ambition, but for me, personally, it feels a bit wasted.
And so, Sam survives his reprimand from the Warden, and he gets his uniform back!  And yet, Sam feels disgruntled, poor guy.  Prison life's hard... and he just works there!  Go figure.  But he's soon back to his old self, because Bugs is back on the prison yard, strutting around and eating a carrot, all Big As Ya Please.  The chase begins anew, but this time, Bugs leads Sam up to the gallows.  Bugs pushes a button and he rides an elevator down to ground level.  Now, this elevator is in the place where the trap door is located on said gallows.  It's the part that falls out from under the feet of the condemned when the actual hanging takes place.  I mention it because Sam pushes the same button and..., it could be argued that this is also a rich, deep Warner Bros. cartoon tradition, arguably a cartoon tradition in general, about a gag involving something working one way for the good guy, and not working for the bad guy.  The exception is, of course, here in Big House Bunny, because it's usually NOT A NOOSE.  And there's a lot of bad things that happen to Wile E. Coyote; they're usually not so realistic.  Am I driving this into the ground too much yet?
Next scene: Sam's dangling there by his rope and starts cursing himself in a sped-up chipmunk voice, until we hear the voice of the Warden.  "SCHULTZ! OFFICE!" he screams.  This isn't the first time; were I a better film reviewer, I would have pointed that out... oh, I think it was when the Warden discovered Sam in his office, emerging from the endless potted plants, dressed in a convict's clothes.  Anyway, next scene: the Warden's office.  Note that there are now NO PLANTS IN IT.  You will also notice that Bugs is dressed as the Warden, and talking like the Warden.  And so, we have finally reached the summit of Mt. Satire.  Bugs keeps it simple: he gives Sam a cigar and asks him to pull up a chair.  In grand Three Stooges tradition, Sam does this while not looking.  You'll notice that the chair he does pull up seems to be more electric than your usual piece of furniture for sitting in.  Now, Bugs does something downright mean, and he says "Have a light!" and he pulls the switch for the chair.  "Hot enough for you, Schultz?" says Bugs, as his moustache slips from place.  Whether Bugs intended this or not, Sam realizes that it's all been one big trick by that screwy rabbit, and it's back to Attack Mode.
Next scene: the door to the Warden's office.  Bugs opens the door, goes through it, closes the door, and takes off.  Sam opens the door, goes through it, closes the door and takes off after Bugs.  I only mention it this way because this seems to be a rather common construct in Friz Freleng's Warner Bros. cartoons.  The Wabbit who Came to Supper and Little Red Riding Rabbit come to mind.  There's also a sequence in Little Red Riding Rabbit and Buccaneer Bunny involving four different doors on two floors, but we'll save that for later... okay, I think the end of The Hare-Brained Hypnotist is what I'm thinking of, except that there were no doors in that one; the characters just used Stage Left and Stage Right as the makeshift doors; this was the part where Elmer gets hypnotized into acting like Bugs.
Anyway, after Sam takes off after Bugs, Bugs returns and goes back into the Warden's Office.  Sam follows soon after.  Now, if you're jaded and cynical like me, you can probably guess what's going to happen... but I'll spoil it for you anyway.  The Warden has returned, unaware of what just happened in his office, and asks Sam simply, "Yes?"  It's much the same tone that Bugs used with Daffy after Daffy got shot that second time in Rabbit Seasoning.  Daffy didn't know what to do after that, but Sam knows, by Gum!  Why, he bashes that Warden on the head and... when he realizes that it's not Bugs posing as the Warden, but the actual Warden, well, what else can a guy do who wants to apologize?  Sam politely taps the Warden's head lump back down, and he takes another verbal beating from the Warden.  Sam emerges from the Warden's office as though he's been in a boxing match.  His eyes have a dazed look, but Chuck Jones would have gotten the eyes right.  I'm thinking of that one Three Bears cartoon when Papa Bear sees the pantry full of honey and one bottle of ketchup... I mean, WOW.  I believe it was The Bee-Deviled Bruin.


Sam once again finds Bugs wandering around the otherwise empty prison.  They're near the prison gates, which is quite convenient from a plotting standpoint.  Sam rushes up with his trusty shotgun, and says to Bugs, "Stay where you're at!"  Sam opens the gate and tells Bugs to get out.  I'll leave the irony of that aside for fans of this cartoon.  But, if I were a bigger fan of this cartoon, I would definitely call this next moment a bit of quiet genius... or some kind of genius.  Sam tells Bugs several times "OUT!   OUT!!!!!"  Bugs mimes his response, by pointing to himself and saying "What?  Me?  Out?"  Jerry Seinfeld couldn't have done it better.  "You want me to get out?" Bugs seems to mouth at Sam.  Bugs eventually shrugs and walks out the gate.  Sam locks the gate with a giant cartoon padlock, ironically enough, then begins to laugh, kinda like how the psychiatrists in What About Bob? laughed when they got rid of Bob, or at least thought they got rid of Bob.
And so, Sam enjoys his new-found freedom with Bugs out of his life... that is, until he hears the voice of that much hated Warden again.  "SCHULTZ!!! OFFICE!!!!" the Warden says.
And so, Bugs' revenge really is complete at this point, as it's now Sam tapping away at the rockpile that Bugs was at earlier in this picture.  No one seems to be supervising Sam, however.  Sam wonders aloud to himself... something about wanting to know which stool pigeon it was that squealed on him.  Now, I don't know much about prison life, arguably, except that it's very structured, more than most people care for.  Also, I've noticed that all the jobs with my local Department of Corrections have this warning about how catching tuberculosis seems to be one of the perks of the job... or maybe it's a hazard.  Depends on how you feel about vaccines, I suppose.  Freakin' Obamacare, right?  Anyway, we see Bugs, taking his well-deserved victory lap on the prison wall.  He's sitting on a stool, right?  And then he... ah, skip it.  If I had to suffer through it, now you have to.
Of course, maybe I'm the wrong person to review this cartoon.  Maybe Joyce Mitchell loves it, right?

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Zeinabu irene Davis

Alas, she seems to be stuck in some sort of limbo where only short films on college campuses exist.  But she got to have some fun during those go-go '90s.  She and her partner in cinematic crime, so to speak, her husband Marc Arthur Chéry, oh they got 'er done.  He did the writing, she the directing, and they made a total of three films together during that decade of record... alas, the nostalgia's already happening.  Someone's got a song called "1991" I believe?  I heard about it in the gym locker not too long ago... oh, apparently there's two: one by Azealia Banks, one by Kat Graham.  That's about as far as I go, research-wise.  The one that got the most critical traction... by which, I mean any critical traction, was 1999's Compensation.  The collaboration between director Zeinabu and star John Jelks, well, I haven't seen anything quite like it since Lina Wertmüller and Giancarlo Giannini... which probably speaks more to by lack of depth of knowledge about the great film collaborations than anything.
The plot of 1999's Compensation involves a modern-day couple (1990s-era) and a similar, parallel story involving a couple from the turn of the century.  Now, sure, I could be cynical and say that 1991's Dead Again had a similar conceit.  As did How to Make an American Quilt and Fried Green Tomatoes to an extent.  And what about Cloud Atlas and Being Human and The Hours and Alex & Emma?  Well, some of those came after...  Anyway, sure, I could sit here and rattle off those titles, but the review I read of it kinda piqued my interest, what can I say?  Alas, it doesn't seem to be at my local big-city video store, and they have everything.  Doesn't seem to be on YouTube either.  Will no one put up the money to get this to DVD?  Not Blu-Ray, that's way too expensive.  Unfortunately for us, John Jelks never answers his phone... Mr. Big Shot.

'Burnt' Gets Singed, 'Our Brand is Crisis' in Crisis at the Box Office

I don't know why, but lately I've been getting all misty-eyed and sentimental for the days when Dr. Ben Carson was just this guy who was on the fringes, who only appeared occasionally as a footnote on The Daily Show, and who was just barely known as that crazy-ass smart doctor who would say outrageous stuff.  Now he's a celebrated, successful neurosurgeon, and he's running for President.  But enemies are hounding him at his door, trying to slander his work on the board of Costco and Kellogg, just because he wasn't anti-gay marriage enough... wait a minute, did I hear that right?  He was on the boards of Costco and Kellogg?  How many brains does a neurosurgeon have to neuro-surge on anyway?  But for some reason, and I know I shouldn't be thinking about this, his comment about how the Holocaust could have been prevented if, Gosh darn it, the Jews only had more guns.  I guess he's working his way over towards how Obama's the Gun Hitler of America.  You know, "First they came for our B.B. guns, and I said nothing..."  That kind of thing.
Now, I'm no expert, and I'm no historian... but I did glance over the following page on Wikipedia.  It's called "Racial policy of Nazi Germany."  And apparently, Kristallnacht was inspired by the shooting of a German diplomat by a Jew.  I don't know about you, but Dr. Carson's suggestion kinda fails the smell test for me at this point.  Now I'm just waiting for him to try saying that, well, Prohibition didn't work against alcohol, so why does anyone think that background checks for gun buyers are going to change anything?  I know, I know, trying to find logic in Republican conversations.  A fool's errand indeed.
Anyways, what's the big movie this weekend?  Probably The Martian again.  The only thing I'm really waiting for is Hail, Caesar!  I'm kinda pleased that some have already called it "the best movie of 2016."  Sure, that may be a bit hyperbolic to some, but it's the only new movie I give half a damn about... okay, here's some non-political movie talk.  On Facebook, they say that Heidi Klum transformed herself into Jessica Rabbit for her 16th annual Halloween party in New York City... oh, I feel so old.  But that's an entrepreneur for you.  I don't know why anyone in their right mind would feel the need to have an annual Halloween party in New York City, but God bless her.  Now, brighter minds than mine saw a photo of her all dressed up as a human version of Jessica Rabbit and referred to her as "sexy."  Call me old fashioned, but I'm still partial to the animated version.  Besides, with all the people going under the knife these days, there's actually a few women who already looked like that.  So, perhaps there's a lesson here, Heidi.  Whatever you do, don't go under the knife!!  Take up swimming to keep the skin tight or something.  Swimming and sauna on a regular basis.

(Sunday proper) ...oh, right!  Burnt!  Well, Chef turned out to be a sleeper hit.  I don't know how much they advertised for it, though.  But that's the fickle fans of Fate for ya.  After all that cross-promotion on that new "Limitless" show, after all the ad campaigns and everything... STILL no one wanted to see Bradley Cooper on a motorcycle with sunglasses and a leather jacket.  Not even Sienna Miller on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" could propel this turkey past The Martian.  Not even Bradley Cooper's character wanting to make food on a par with orgasms got people excited.  Now I'm as much an orgasm fiend as all the other Onans on my block, but ... oh, I don't know.  I've seen that "Seinfeld" episode.  Food and sex don't mix.  Well, they do, but you should try to keep them separate.  Also, it didn't seem like a message with a Populist slant to it.  It didn't seem like "an orgasm-worthy chicken in every pot"... anyway, let's move on.  The peace treaty between Sandra Bullock and George Clooney over George throwing Sandra into a swimming pool seems to be holding with the Smokehouse production called Our Brand is Crisis.  Then again... it debuted even under Burnt, so... urge to kill rising.  I gotta go; this is all getting very unseemly.

...oh wait!  I've got a good one now.  And this can really be applied to much of what Dr. Carson says... Dr. Ben Carson, Republican hopeful for President, thinks that the Holocaust could have been prevented if only all the German Jews had guns.  Well, I'd like a second opinion on that.........

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Travolti da un insolito destino sul Fiume di Espediente

Oh drat.  I thought this was Hair-Raising Hare, so for those of you keeping score, I'm still stuck on Disc One of Volume One of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection.  I gotta wait til Disc Three to get to that.  Meantime, the instant case, Water, Water Every Hare will just have to do.
It seems to be Bugs Bunny trapped in a bit of a shaggy dog story.  I almost wish there were a special commentary about this one, but there's not.  Apparently it's not all that special, but I do recall seeing the three-part gag somewhere, some Looney Tunes documentary or something.  You'll probably know it too when you see it.
Now, gravity is man's oldest, most silent nemesis, as you all know.  Thank God for these animated cartoons to give us a chance to fight back... but water?  Well, water gets toyed with almost as much as gravity does in these here cartoons, and arguably more so.  It seems to be a recurring theme with former farmboy and Looney Tunes animator/director extraordinare Charles M. Jones, and Jones puts water to the ultimate test in his 1943 offering Fin 'n Catty, where ... SPOILER ALERT... an obsessive-compulsive cat overcomes his fear of water, so much so that he ends up living in the goldfish bowl of the goldfish he spends the whole cartoon trying to catch.  Must be a Stockholm Syndrome variant or something.
...okay, that's the only example I can think of.  Ooh!  Just thought of another one, but it's a Friz Freleng cartoon.  In Duck Soup to Nuts, Daffy informs Porky Pig... and frankly, all the rest of us... that he can stay underwater "practically indefinitely."  Unusual for an actual duck, but understandable.  Some go to great, great lengths to get away from Porky.  I mean, the Highlander can do it too, but he tries not to make a habit of it, know whut I mean Vern?  Porky dons a primitive (cutting-edge for the era) diving suit to go after Daffy and fails.  Plan B?  Drain the lake, one bucketful of water at a time.  Could be why Daffy didn't want Porky painting his lake in Boobs in the Woods... the 1950's WARNER BROTHERS cartoon of that name, that is ...  Kinduva sore spot with Daffy.
But I digress again.  We start with a heavy rainfall that seems to be covering all of heaven and earth.  I just don't get it.  I mean, Jones was born in Spokane, Washington, and he moved to sunny California, so what does he care about rain?  Oh well.  A good plot's a good plot.  The wandering eye of the camera,... or the animator's bench... wanders all over the land, and eventually follows a river.  The river flows right to Bugs' door, AKA a hole in the ground.  Bugs is desperately tired from a long night of partying after the Oscars, and doesn't notice that his entire underground rabbit cave is, like, totes full of water.  The water makes Bugs float, making him just a little too free, and the rain river seems to have stopped on Bugs forevermore... okay, here's the lyrical reference.  Good thing I just heard that song again this week!  (Note: The Movie Hooligan is not responsible for the third party ads that exist on EVERY SINGLE SONG LYRIC WEB PAGE.)  Incidentally, there's a nice water cooler gag that you'll probably not want to use at the water cooler, at least not without explaining where the hell it's from and what not.
And so, the water eventually overwhelms even Bugs' mattress, and Bugs and his mattress get washed away... hmm!  Where did that exit in Bugs' underground house come from?  Major Plot Device!  Oh well.  Like that Adam Sandler movie's titled, just go with it.  But it can be argued that Hair-Raising Hare made a little more sense, at least in terms of getting Bugs to the lair of the evil scientist... that's right.  It's Bugs v. Evil Scientist time again, and this ain't your father's cushy Hare Remover, either.  The scientist here is a small guy with a big green head, and a voice like Vincent Price.  Wonder if he's a fugitive from Area 51 or something?  Hmm.
SECOND ACT: Anyway, as luck would have it, the evil scientist needs a brain for his Frankenstein / robot slave... in this case, the latter.  Robot slave.  The evil scientist happens to catch a glimpse of Bugs floating by in the river, and the evil scientist gets out the old rod and reel and catches Bugs just before Bugs can plummet to his death over the falls.  Bugs might have been better off that way, but oh well.  Boy!  This scientist really is evil.  Building a robot that needs a human brain, giant castle at Niagara Falls... check and check.  To be fair, hydroelectric power has a low carbon footprint.  Yes, it's your garden variety Evil Scientist in need of a brain.  That he settles for Bugs' brain instead of a human one sets him apart from the pack.
As usual, Bugs demurs and selfishly chooses self-preservation over a noble contribution to society at large in the name of science.  The evil scientist has no choice but to release the Kraken... but this is on land, so he goes for the giant orange monster with tennis shoes.  Now, finer minds than mine will know all the screen appearances of this particular beast.  (Wikipedia)  Why, I think he was in Hair-Raising Hare, for one!  There was another one where Bugs went after him with an electric razor.  Anyway, as with Hair-Raising Hare, Bugs runs from the monster, but stops just short of falling into a deep pit.  A pebble falls in in lieu of Bugs; you know, to demonstrate its depth as a pit.  In both Hair-Raising Hare and Water, Water Every Hare, Bugs carefully tiptoes backwards with hands in prayer position.  However, in Hair-Raising Hare, he says a quiet prayer and a slightly louder "Amen!"  Love that part.
Anyway, the similarities continue as Bugs turns to the monster and does his gay hairdresser voice, and... GAY HAIRDRESSER???!!!!!!  Shame on you, Warner Brothers.  Shame on you.  Needles to say, Bugs gets the better of the monster in this occasion, and on several others afterwards... oh, right.  Note to self: get a screen captcha... capture of the various oils in one of the lab rooms.  I believe one of them was "Uglifying Acid."  LOL.  Bugs doesn't use that one, unfortunately, but he does use one to make himself invisible, and another one to shrink the orange monster to the size of a mouse.  When this happens, the monster moves into the nearest mouse hole he can find, kicks the current rodently occupant out, and puts a big sign on the door saying "I Quit."
With the monster out of the picture, the evil scientist has to take over.  He makes Bugs reappear by pouring "Hare Restorer" on him... something like that.  Now, I hate to call this cartoon a bit half-assed in the plot department, but a jar of ether does break, and Bugs and the mad scientist start chasing each other, ballet-style.  You know, because they're all strung out on ether.  The evil scientist takes a nap on the floor of his palatial estate, and Bugs ends up in the river that we first saw at the start of this thing.  You'll never guess where the water takes him; you'll just never guess in a million, billion years.

Good double bill with: oh, I should really stop doing this feature, especially for these Warner Bros. cartoons.  One begets the other, really.  Oh, they're the cinematic equivalent of Lay's Potato Chips, I tells ya.  For example, for similar endings, go with Chuck Jones' The Aristo-Cat.  These two have virtually the same ending, except that Bugs wasn't actually having a dream, whereas the cat in The Aristo-Cat was.  Stan Freberg would have been pretty young to do The Aristo-Cat but I swear he did most of the voice of the cat.  When the cat was really screaming, Mel Blanc stepped in to do those.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Samad Davis

Durdy game, indeed!!  I DID work on this already!  Anyways, this guy's deserving of some treatment.  Sure, he's on the fringes, but on which side of them?  I think he's on the right side of the fringes... or maybe not, as his directing name is "Mody Mod."  Sorry, but all I can think of is that one speech in Ghost Dog.  I'm just racist that way.
To make things worse, Samad can't decide if he prefers comedy or drama.  Sometimes you have to pick just one, especially if you're on the fringes.  Why is that, incidentally?  Fight the future!  Fight something, anyway.  Everything when you're just starting out.  The very elements of nature seem to be against you.  The first directorial effort on the ol' IMDb C.V. is something called Comedy Only in da Hood..sorry, I guess I mean "Comedy Only in da Hood."  It's a video, and there's no external reviews to it on the IMDb.  And only one member of the cast has an attached picture.  Somehow these are not good signs.  In times like these, we have to turn to good old YouTube for results... not bad!  One way into my heart is a good impression; I don't know why that is.  It just is.  And yes, if Eddie Murphy was just a regular guy in the hood, he probably wouldn't last.  Sure, if you were cynical, you could say that Hollywood Shuffle already explored that territory, but I say keep at it, future comedians.  Damn the critics, full steam ahead.
After that came Durdy Game... sorry, another video. "Durdy Game."  Variety calls it "the ultimate example of reaping what you sow."  Well, they would know.  I'm more of a snob, and I kinda thought Fargo was that.  And of course, The Man Who Wasn't There, well... somehow the balance of what Ed Crane reaped as opposed to sowing seemed kinda way, way off against him, but maybe that's just me.  Maybe he was a bastard who had it coming to him.  In any event, the picture probably deserved a slightly better distributor than Xenon, I'm just saying.  I mean, with titles like "Stripper's Ball (Jenna Jameson)"... maybe they just saw the title and said "Okay, we'll do that one too."
But Mody Mod wasn't finished with the theme of games... few Hollywood directors are.  Michael Bay comes to mind for some reason.  In any event, he... I'm assuming it's a he... if it's a she, she's clearly not an inflexible feminist... Samad / Mody Mod traded way up and went for about as much gusto as they could muster with Three Can Play That Game... and YES, I actually knew that it's a sequel to Two Can Play That Game with Vivica A. Fox.  And she actually returned to do the sequel!  How cool is that?  For a Hollywood director struggling to make house payments, you better think that's cool.  I'll tell you what; even if this was just a video-only release, I won't change the italics.  And in terms of IMDb reviews, one out of three ain't bad, especially if the one is the latest and the greatest.
Sadly, Samad decided to stick to his second love: producing.  But who knows, maybe it's a first love now.  Producing has become a lot more glamorous, mostly because of that "PGA" credit after a producer's name.  See?  The money men can be a union too!  How do you like that?  Personally, I still kinda don't.  What next?  A "DGA" after every director's name?  After some 100 years of there NOT being?  Distasteful.

bo 10-25-15

Oh, man!  Did I totally forget this?  Phooey.  See, this is why I don't work for The Onion.  They now have box office reports like this, and they're, like, way way funnier.  Oh well.  I still say diversity's a good thing, as even I'd rather be reading other online stuff at times.  Anyway, we got three debuts this week.  The Martian is still at #1.  What's their secret?  Is Ridley Scott personally letting people in through the back at the theater?  No, that doesn't make sense.  I guess there's just something about Matt Damon and space, as with Elysium a few years ago.  That was a bit more dystopian in outlook, however... if I remember correctly.  And a bit of an opposite role for Sharlto Copley, at least compared to District 9, to put it mildly.
Anyway, Danny Boyle's Steve Jobs debuts at #7 in the Top 10 after its third week of being out in public.  Alas, a movie will just never be as beloved as some of Apple's products.  Why, I remember that one story like it was yesterday: the thieves in New York City were stealing iPods not to resell them, but just to have them!!!  That's love.  That's love of a product.  And yet, what happens every time a few dozen people get trampled to death at a Walmart scrambling to get the latest iPhone?  Everyone talks about the downfall of our society.  Um... hel-LOOO?  Steve Jobs?  You're WELCOME??!!!
Our second debut is the latest installment of the Paranormal Activity franchise.  I wonder if the original makers of The Blair Witch Project are just sitting there, kicking themselves half to death.  Lemme check and see what IMDb has to say... welp, after a 7-year hiatus, co-director Daniel Myrick's still going strong, and he's about to release a movie with Beverly D'Angelo.  You're just a hop, skip and a jump away from Pacino, my lucky friend!  Anyway, I guess this is the fifth installment of the P.A. franchise.  Seems to depend on how you choose to count that Tokyo Nights one.  Hmmmm....
And last but not least, Michael Caine gets to play the British Best Friend to Vin Diesel in... whatever.  Let's call it Babylon A.D. 2 or something.  The director's named Eisner, but the studio's not Disney, so I guess it's a case of youth rebellion.  All I know is, as Dave Letterman might have said on his old show, you got your ghosts (ding), you got your witches (ding), you got your... Hotel Transylvanias (ding)... have fun this Halloween weekend at the multiplex, kids!  Ah hee hee hee hee hee hee.... squirrels and nuts!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Gone to Get a Rabbit's Kin but Now the Rabbit's Gone Again...

Rabbit's Kin represents a one and only for me, as it seems to be the only time I can recall when someone geeked out even more than I usually do about a Warner Brothers cartoon.  And it's not a hard one to pinpoint, as it's the one and only screen appearance of a character by the named of Peter J. Puma, aka "Pete," also known as "Sneakin' Pete," voiced by the great Stan Freberg.  But due to some strange union clauses, only Mel Blanc gets voice credit on any of these things.  Freberg is of course the only guy with the right vocal chords to properly do a beloved character like Marvin the Martian... of course, Mel Blanc voiced Marvin one time in Haredevil Hare but it was just more of a generic nasal nerd character.  It also may have been Marvin's first appearance...
And as a special bonus on the DVD, Freberg shows up to do the Rabbit's Kin commentary!  As near as I can tell, he's the only celebrity to stop by to do the commentary.  But it is a special cartoon, and the DVD makers went to great pains to provide a special commentary.
Even Freberg himself doesn't understand the appeal of Pete Puma, but he did fail to mention its source of inspiration: a character from one of Jackie Gleason's sketch comedy TV shows... okay, apparently it started on The Jack Benny Show, kind of like how Ed Grimley started on SCTV, then ended up on Saturday Night Live and then on his own animated TV show.  In animation form, however, Pete seems to be the animated Felidae equivalent of Bob Denver's character on "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis"... I know, I know, if anything, it's the other way around.  Well, time passes, and all this stuff gets mashed all together into one whole decade somehow.  And now that the cartoon is well past its 60th anniversary, there seems to be a bit of a Hippie burnout vibe to Pete.  If I were a better crafter of headlines, I'd call this one "The Lion That Toked."
Now, I don't know who Bugs has less respect for in terms of his enemies.  Bugs seems to fear the Tasmanian Devil the most, followed by Yosemite Sam and his French and Scottish cousins.  At the bottom of the list is Elmer Fudd and Pete, with Pete somewhere under Fudd.  Bugs uses both Elmer and Pete to rest on when asking "What's up, Doc?"  And yet, with Pete's very first line... it was your proverbial love at first sight.  Pete may be a bad guy in the context of Rabbit's Kin, ... but he's just so damn goofy!  If I may use that word in a non-Disney context.
Bugs asks Pete, "...a LITTLE rabbit?  Wouldn't you rather have a BIG rabbit?"  If you listen to the DVD commentary while watching the cartoon, you'll notice that both Freberg AND Pete Puma say "Yep!" at the same time.  Dayamn... talk about synchronicity.  I know, I know, everyone else in the entire world will call it "creepy."  Correction: it's Hollywood creepy.
...damn, just thought of another example.  At the VERY BOTTOM of Bugs' enemies list has to be the dog from Hare Ribbin'.  The things he does to that beast... I think it's like how the kids treat a substitute teacher that sits in for a couple days.  But it's interesting to see each approach that Bugs takes to each enemy.  Take, for example, how Bugs reacts to Pete Puma's gift of an exploding cigar.  Bugs tucks the cigar away in his... vest pocket... whatever... and tries to ignore Pete's lit match.  "Well, I think I'll have to be going now!" exclaims Pete.  Enter the tea tray.  My friend and I love Carl Stalling's score for this cartoon.  Sure, it's no Bob Clampett cartoon, but hey.  The Carl Stalling Orchestra can't have maximum fun all the time.  I stand by my hypothesis even though I have yet to devise a suitable means of measurement.  Rife with Type I and Type II errors, a low 'n', what have you.
In between long silent gaps where Freberg's just soaking in the old cartoon, he pontificates on the place of cartoon violence in society.  The older I get, the more I tend to agree, and the less spontaneity I seem to have in my thinking.  Also, the older I get, the worse my breath gets, and the more likely I am to break off a conversation by saying "Okay, thank you!" over and over again, but those are probably perks.  On the other hand, Freberg found Rabbit's Kin rather violent... and the older I get, the more violent I find it.  Now, if Rabbit's Kin were made today, Bugs would save the "El Explodo" cigar for the Third Act of the picture, but Robert McKimson's a weak director... just kidding.  Hey, they all can't be The Sixth Sense, right?  Gotta do the occasional pass fake to keep people on their toes.  And so, to close the First Act, Bugs uses the cigar right back on ol' Sneaky Pete Puma right away, as Pete sits there, four lumps off the main lump on his head, eyes turning all colors of the rainbow.  As far as cartoon violence goes, I agree with Freberg.  When the cigar goes off, Pete's in a sorry state, the rainbow gone from his eyes and replaced with tiny, glowing red embers, fur burnt off most of his face.  Thankfully, this image is quickly faded out, and it's on to the Second Act.

SECOND ACT: As in most of the Tom and Jerry cartoons I saw... seems like only yesterday, and seems like they got quickly forgotten.  Almost a shame.  Anyway, the point is, usually when the bulldog lays down the law, Tom resorts to strategy for his second attack.  In Pete's case, he's got the right idea, but the execution fools nobody.  But Shorty's a defenseless little twerp, and he has to hide behind Bugs.  Pete pretends to be Shorty's mother, and Freberg's performance is even goofier than the First Act, that it's hard not to laugh.  Pete almost makes his getaway with the small rabbit, but Bugs quickly shuts him down, grabbing hold of the lion's tail... I mean, the puma's tail, with poor Pete hitting his ass against the ground at exactly three beats per second.
Now, I hate to spoil every last detail of these things as is my usual habit, but Pete Puma is nothing if not a conundrum.  In a way, he's like how Saul Berenson feels about Carrie Mathison: smart and dumb at the same time... something like that.  Pete seems to learn new tricks quite quickly, but his strict adherence to Bugs' mind games balances all that new stuff out.  I mean, Pete gets the strategically sound idea to dress up as Shorty's mother, but completely screws up the costume... for one.  And the accent, and hiding his tail, etc.  Pete also gets the idea to prepare for another head-bashing, but the preventative measure he takes could have been better.  It's perhaps the best visual-only example of Bugs' triumph via logic, as Bugs produces an Acme Stove Lid Lifter to counter Pete's Acme Stove Lid acting as a makeshift helmet.  Now, maybe I'm overthinking this slightly, but it seems to me that a helmet isn't good if all it does is prevent a head lump from swelling to its proper size.  But that's just me; maybe this is one of the rules of Cartoon Physics.  Typically, in the world of cartoon head lumps, the lumps are narrow, cylindrical, and typically colored red, glowing or otherwise.  There's not usually tiny lumps off the main lump.  But keeping with the honorable medical tradition of dealing with these cartoon lumps, in Act One, Bugs taps the extra lump back into Pete's head with a tiny mallet.  Much more civilized than, say, the way Tom Cat deals with the bulldog's lump in Putting On the Dog.

THIRD ACT: Shorty comes dangerously close to being a villain now.  With Pete Puma vanquished anew a second time, it's time to take a stroll out in the world, free of its old dangers.  Time to stop and smell the roses, and reflect on the meaning of it all.  Alas, things quickly shift back to Pete, because a cartoon vanquishing of a bad guy never seems to last.  But the Warner Bros. screenwriters like to keep things fresh and moving ever forward, even the cartoon screenwriters.  Bugs' mentoring of his one-time co-star, the small brown bunny called Shorty, is now ready to move up to the highest levels of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: self-actualization.  Alas, it seems that self-transcendence is going to have to wait, as it's time to actualize some more mischief against that sneakin' old Pete Puma.  And in keeping with the ancient screen traditions, we in the audience only hear some of Bugs' dialogue, as he lays out the plan to Shorty.
Next scene: we see Shorty ambling along a road lined with thick green bushes.  When suddenly... the arm of Pete Puma reaches out and grabs poor ol' Shorty by his long brown ears.  Shorty disappears into the bushes, leaving a poof of cartoon smoke in his wake.  But Pete's not a complete savage, and he decides to run home to have Shorty for dinner in a familiar environment.  We see the outside of Pete's abode, and it kind of looks like one of those "hole in the wall" places that Wile E. Coyote would sometimes have in the side of a desert mountain!  Odd.
So, as much as I hate to agree with Bugs, he was definitely right in referring to Pete Puma as "sneaking."  Pete's normally a formidable opponent in battle, with his long, wiry arms and sharp claws, but he's no match for Bugs in the social butterfly department.  And even Bugs would have to admit that Pete had some good ideas, perhaps too good, for Bugs disguises himself as one of Pete's cousin... I just can't remember the name.  Fred, maybe?
Anyway, Bugs' puma costume is several orders of magnitude better than Pete's mother rabbit costume.  I'm thinking Rick Baker's involved somehow.  For the audience's benefit, Bugs lets the head of the puma costume hang off his head, lest we get too confused.  Pete himself falls for the ruse, hook, line and sinker.
But even Bugs isn't confident enough to try the tea routine again.  There must be some other way to bring lumps into the conversation... I guess I'll leave that part for you to see for yourself.  There's probably a lesson in Contract Law here someplace, but I'm just not perceptive enough to see it.  Always check the fine print; let's leave it at that.  As for unintended consequences, well... hey, how about climate change?  That's the ultimate one!  The best you can do is try to make the damage less severe.  Pete, on the other hand, goes the other way.  He grabs the mallet from Bugs and says "Oh no you don't.  I'll help myself!"  And help himself he does.  My good lifelong friend and I like the musical flourish that arises when Pete starts bopping himself on the head with the mallet.  I guess it's like that joke that Joe Biden told about the guy who hits himself in the head with the hammer.  His reasoning?  It feels so good when he stops, the guy says.  That's about at Pete Puma's level of logic.  If Pete's got to get hit on the head, well, Pete might as well do the hitting this time to save a little face.

EPILOGUE - And so, Rabbit's Kin ends as it should: happily.  Bugs and Shorty walk out of the proverbial lion's den, but with the lion hitting himself in the head with the mallet.  Must be a '50s thing or something.  But even though Bugs has vanquished his foe, part of Pete Puma lives on in all of us, and Bugs goes so far as to imitate Pete's trademark wheeze as the cartoon closes, much like Bugs imitates Beaky at the end of Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid.  I wonder if it was Mel Blanc doing the wheeze, or if Freberg did the extra one.  I think it was Blanc, because somehow the last one didn't seem to have that extra Freberg flair to it.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Monday, October 19, 2015

Auteur Watch - Lee Davis

Boy, I tell ya... mo protegé, mo problems.  But this is kind of interesting, because Spike Lee protegé Lee Davis' IMDb page has a Top 4 with none of Spike's stuff in it!  How did he or they do that?  I mean,... wait, gotta look it up in my own blog; something sad about that... I mean, check out the IMDb page of Aleta Chappelle.  I'm rich, b'atch!  No, wait, different one.  Now, first of all, maybe I don't know my IMDb at all, or something's different here.  Usually there's a photo of the person that's profiled in the page, right up top next to their name.  I've never seen a person that looks like a movie poster before!  So, that's one.  Number two, Aleta's got about as many directorial credits to her name as does Lee Davis, but she's only known for other stuff that she worked on in a non-directorial capacity.  I just think it's wrong!  Wrong, wrong and terribly wrong!  W.N.G. Wrong!
But it is definitely one of those "Dream Come True" type deals, the story I read.  Apparently, Davis was working at a video store or something.  It's a little bit like what happened to Quentin Tarantino.  So Spike walks in to this store, and says to Lee Davis, "Hi.  I'm filmmaker Spike Lee."  And Lee Davis says "Hi, Spike Lee!  I'm Lee Davis!"  Then Spike said "But your first name is my last name!  Let's work together!"  Something like that, but I'm no screenwriter.  I couldn't turn that into, say, a 10-episode miniseries for FX or anything.  But long story short, apparently the partnership wasn't meant to last.  I mean, three films together, and Davis wasn't feeling the love, exactly.  They eventually parted company, and rather completely at that.  But I still say he turned out better than, say, Spike Lee protegé David C. Johnson!  Or is Drop Squad more beloved than I think?

62 Skidoo

There is relief in Jack Black's household this weekend.  Those personal appearances he put in on The Daily Show and at Colbert's new place paid off big time, as that Goosebumps movie comes in #1, just two million dollars ahead of Ridley Scott's The Martian, out for its third week.  Slightly more disappointingly, it's the latest from Guillermo del Toro at #4, called Crimson Peak.  That title seems familiar for some reason... oh well.  Maybe I'm thinking of 1997's Dante's Peak.  What a year for big disaster movies.  Anyway, Crimson Peak marks a reunion of sorts between del Toro and jaded Hollywood insider Matthew Robbins.  Robbins is, of course, best known for making that hasty follow-up movie with Star Wars star Mark Hamill called Corvette Summer.  You know, kinda like how Keanu Reeves made all those small pictures in between Matrix 1 and the other two four years later.  It's a Hollywood tradition at this point.  Meanwhile, Sizzle Beach U.S.A. is all, "So what am I?  Chopped liver?"
Of course, in the biz proper, Matthew Robbins is also known for briefly being in Spielberg's orbit, mostly with UFO stuff, like *batteries not included and being one of the six screenwriters to work on CE3K.  And how's Spielberg's own directorial baby doing this weekend?  Not bad, considering!  I guess people would rather drop their kids off at exciting-ish Halloween-esque fare as opposed to a dry, boring old history lesson like Bridge of Spies.  The reviewer over at The Onion referred to Spielberg as the most "confident" director of all time.  I don't know if that's the word I'd use, personally, considering how much Spielberg obsesses over getting things right and awesome.  I mean, sure, when it crosses the $300 million mark, then yeah, it's time to celebrate.  But confident?  No.  No, you know who's confident?  Michael Bay is confident.  Uwe Boll is confident.  Chris Columbus was confident when he boldly stepped into the breach and said "A big special effects extravaganza with Adam Sandler?  Adam Sandler in Ghostbusters, but with a video-game theme instead of ghosts?  I'm on board!"  It took supreme confidence to take that deal, and a bunch of whiskey to make it through principal photography.
And then, of course, there's the Coens.  They've got the second season of Fargo on the TV right now, and of course, a couple ads for Bridge of Spies during airtime.  They've got Hail, Caesar! in February.  Oh, it's all crappening.  I guess True Grit did better than I thought.  But Spielberg's been riding the Coens' coattails for years now, so to speak.  I mean,... and I've probably pontificated on this before... you've got most of the cast of Raising Arizona in Spielberg's 1989 bomb... I mean, sleeper hit Always... that's the only example I can think of... ooh!  I know.  Peter Stormare.  I think it's safe to say that 1996's Fargo really caused things to heat up for him.  He's in the second-to-last episode of Seinfeld, and in 1997's Jurassic Park and 2002's Minority Report.  I guess Spielberg had enough of him after that.  And yet, the Coens never did a picture for DreamWorks.  But that's how Hollywood works sometimes: the Coens don't work for DreamWorks, but Adam Rifkin does.  Interesting choice, Hollywood... interesting choice.  Oh, and costume designer supreme Mary Zophres is known to work for Spielberg now; not so much for the Farrellys.  Well, their films aren't drawing people in because of the costume design, arguably.  I gotta go for now, but I'll be talking about these things for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Star Is Bugs

Alas, Looney Tunes director Bob McKimson may never get his day in the sun alongside the likes of Friz and Chuck Jones and the always insane Robert Clampett, but What's Up Doc?... the 1950s Bugs Bunny cartoon, not the 1972 Barbra Streisand classic What's Up, Doc?, just might be his best satirical stab at Hollywood.  I forget at what point this one started to grow on me, but it probably started with the big musical number featuring Bugs and an increasingly disheveled Elmer.
...nah, that can't be it.  Now that I'm watching it again, it must've been the Vaudeville routine with Elmer going "Yuk Yuk Yuk Yuk!"  And arguably, that's pretty much what the earliest Looney Tunes cartoons were like.  But let's start at the beginning in Beverly Hills, and Bugs' home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  The rooves back then were solar panels, but just absorbing the Los Angeles heat without turning it into electricity.  Now, I hate to be critical, but Disney probably would have handled the perspective shift on that umbrella better.  On the other hand, that's Disney for ya: geometrically correct animation with no soul.  I still remember this one Disney short where Goofy's body is mostly in a tiny box, forcing him to walk around slowly with only his hands.  I couldn't help but think to myself, oh!  An Iraq War veteran!  Not whimsical enough, Disney... not whimsical enough.
And so, like most of these things, it starts with a phone call, or a random TV show on The Simpsons.  Bugs gets a call from the "Disassociated Press."  Oh, s'z'nap!  Bugs helpfully fills in for the person on the other end of the call by saying "The public has been demanding my life story?"  We're far from the modest Bugs of "This Is a Life?"  But Bugs is indeed a star in his own right, and he knows how to play the game.  Plus, this was the old days when stars would answer their own phones.  And Bugs is always ready to talk about himself... and doesn't get tired of it, Mr. Clooney!  HAH!  See, Warner Bros. owns both of their souls... Anyway, Bugs says "Well, I can tell it to you right over the phone!"  And even though it's been only ten years since Bugs became a star, it's still a tumultuous decades' worth.  Most people don't live in a lifetime what Bugs went through in those ten years.  And I have it on the highest authority.... a Looney Tunes t-shirt... that Bugs' birthday was some time in 1939.  A pretty big year for movies in general!  ...okay, so it's eleven years.  See, What's Up Doc? came out in 1950.  I think Bugs' more dramatic brother stood in for him on Elmer's Pet Rabbit.  Just not the same voice that we know and love today.  I don't know who that was in Elmer's Pet Rabbit, but he wasn't even good enough to play Bugs on the radio!
And so, Bugs tells his life's journey to a reporter over the phone... something sad about that.  Now, if you're like me... scary thought, I know... you like to find connections between things.  And sure, the Looney Tunes probably explore a finite number of themes.  But since my Cray Heuristics department has been disbanded, I can't give you a complete list of cartoons similar to the instant case.  The one that springs to mind that is the most similar, in terms of basic plot structure, is the 1947 classic, A Hare Grows in Manhattan.  Of course, that one focused mainly on slapstick and the usual anti-bully hijinks.  So Hare Grows is more like a part of a mini-series, whereas What's Up Doc is the whole VH1 special... something like that.  But they both feature a young Bugs reveling in childhood.  On the other hand, the Bugs in Hare Grows... I mean, who'd think that that would amount to anything?  Also, did they switch the audio track when the cross-fade to the hospital starts?  Why?  The other take must've sucked or something.  Ah, directing.
And so, the years roll on, and Bugs proves himself to be not just another flash in the pan at Moray's Dance Academy.  Bugs is running the Star Marathon, not like the internet sensations of today.  Boy, those were the days, when movie stars had to be able to do everything: sing, dance, tapdance... the occasional dramatic acting.  Somehow Will Ferrell, for example, feels a little light; he didn't tapdance his way to the top, methinks.
And so, Bugs goes from dancing school, to being swamped with fan mail?  But how... where... when... ah, skip it.  Oh, this thing's full of lessons for wannabe stars, I tells ya.  Note my disagreement with Network from earlier.  But Bugs doesn't have a sense of his self-worth yet.  I mean, the first three roles he gets on Broadway, well... hmm!  They seem to be preparing us for a callback!  Anyway, fate intervenes, and Bugs gets his big chance to move up through the veritable blackberry vines of Broadway stars.  He gets the starring role in one of those plays he was doing.  I hate to do the play-by-play on it, but I guess it's a good teachable moment... I mean, learning experience for him.  But his first takeaway... I mean, his first reaction is to quit the biz forever.  Needles to say, Bugs bombs worse than Daffy tapdancing to "Jeepers Creepers"!  As a lifelong watcher of Bugs, I kinda hate to see him falter like that.  But this isn't Yosemite Sam he's taking on, in this case.  It's New York, and they're kinda tough to please.  Which is why Bugs' next starring role is on a Central Park bench.  Boy, I hope things turn around, and soon!
Enter Elmer Fudd, "that big Vaudeville star."  And here's lesson #2 for wannabe stars.  Although it does put me in mind of the story I saw about how David Steinberg became a star.  He was performing in a theater off Off-Broadway, and there were only six in the crowd... one of which was a theatre critic for The New York Times.  After that, well... now you know why he's a Hollywood gatekeeper, asking Bob Zemeckis how it felt to win the Oscar.  Of course, Forrest Gump and Going Berserk aren't quite in the same league, but I think Steinberg kinda knows that.  And so, Elmer showers Bugs with praise, Bugs eats it up, and off they go on the road.
But much like the Ford brothers at the end of... what's it called?  Benjamin Button?  Nah, that can't be right.  Oh, right... The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford... Bugs being the Charley Ford in this Movie SAT example, Bugs gets tired of the monotony of the road, and the monotony of the act.  Personally, I don't see what the problem is.  Elmer tells a joke, says "Yuk" seven times, and Bugs dances!  What's not to like?  But no, Bugs has to have it all.  Bugs has to be The Man, because his ego can't leave well enough alone.  Bugs, amongst other indignities, hits Elmer on the head with a giant novely mallet, and Elmer is reduced to basics... even less than basics!  He's just a hat and two shoes!  But I admire his professionalism, because Elmer's hat and shoes does Bugs' dance anyway, and completely in the dark, on top of it.  Bugs gets his moment in the spotlight, and out of his clown outfit, parading his nakedness as though he's in a production of Hair or something.  But then... Elmer's got a shotgun on Bugs.  Ah hah!  Finally, a little truth!
And then, the ode to Tex Avery's A/The Wild Hare, which is the first time that Bugs uses the phrase "What's up, Doc?"  The assembled audience reacts.  Oh, how complicated these things get in such short order... contrary-wise.  Sorry, my mom's been saying that a lot lately.  Damn you, Dodgson!  And so, like everything else in showbiz, Bugs and Elmer take what seems to work, and beat it to death for the rest of their lives.  This persistence takes them all the way past the studio guards at Warner Brothers and into the studio, where Bugs and Elmer film "What's Up Doc?" in the Third Act OF What's Up Doc?  Confused yet?  Anyway, now that the bright lights are on, and Elmer's in that damn hunter costume, you might notice the disappointed look on his face.  This is not the life for a former Vaudeville star.  I mean, ten seasons of "Fibber McGee and Molly," for God's sake!  Does that count for NOTHING?!
Yes, it does not, because life's just unfair that way.  And showbiz is positively littered with such examples.  For example, did you know that Jennifer Lawrence once played a recurring character on "The Bill Engvall Show"?  Of course not!  Because she's Jennifer freakin' Lawrence, for f... God's sake!  I could give other examples... but why?  JENNIFER LAWRENCE!  Anyway, back to Bugs, who finished his phone interview, telling the other party on the line that he's late for the studio, as he starts filming his life story TODAY!  I couldn't help but wonder what would happen to Private Snafu in a similar situation.
And so, we get another WB clapboard, but an extremely lavish, monogrammed set and then... well, you can probably guess what it is.  But note the expression on Bugs' face.  Alas, being a movie star is at times much like any other job: full of drudgery that has to be done, but with slightly higher stakes.  Plus, celluloid lasts forever, so be sure to get it right the first time, or you'll end up like Wheeler and Woolsey: digitally remastered, and deservedly obscure.

Good double bill with: the aforementioned A Hare Grows in Manhattan... and possibly The Old Grey Hare, which features the joint childhoods of BOTH Bugs and Elmer!!!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Auteur Watch - Jerry Allen Davis

Oh good!  Another short one.  But I will say that this guy... Jerry's probably a guy, right?  I will say that they put everything on red, so to speak, and Shanghai Hotel hit some kind of jackpot.  So far, it's stuck somewhere in the middle of the "Shanghai" franchise, probably languishing between Shanghai Knights and Shanghai Surprise
But the casting here is not to be ignored.  I mean, if you've seen any episodes of that hot new show, "Limitless," then you'll rather instantly recognize Hill Harper!  Ooh... good name.  He's on that show!  Why, there's lots of actors in the cast of Shanghai Hotel with pictures next to their names.  There's also the cop from Pulp Fiction from that 2nd part... sheesh.  There's Yaya DaCosta, all kinds of people.  And yet... none of them are returning Jerry Davis' phone calls.  That's gratitude for ya.  Kinda makes you want to give up the biz entirely, like Tom Dey, apparently.  Dey's like Michael Bay, minus the sense of entitlement... the enormous, Bruckheimer- and Spielberg-fueled sense of entitlement.

Pan's Labyrinth

Well, the big news is of course that The Martian was at #1 for the 2nd week in a row, mostly because of Chris Matthews' publicity campaign on MSNBC... I'm sorry, I mean 'msnbc.'  They don't capitalize it anymore.  But for me, the big news comes from Facebook, and the upper right-hand corner with all the games.  And I'm lookin' at it, and what do I see?  Is that Canal+?  The European movie studio?  Are they getting into the Facebook Game bizness?  I think so!  Well, predicting the outcome of the French Football League's not my cup of tea, or rather... my 10-course lunch, followed by cream-laden pastries and wine for dessert, but whatever.  They'll probably make a billion off of it.  And they should.
Well, there's two debuts this week.  The latest incarnation of Peter Pan comes in at #3.  Same thing happened with Spielberg in 1991, but I think it probably debuted at #1, then slowly slipped away... or rather, quickly slipped away.  He should do that more often, because the rebound leads to great things.  Few of us have a 1993 like he had, my friends.  Anyway, the CGI of Hook must seem positively pedestrian compared to the smooth, glossy 3D CGI of this latest one, it says here.  So why do I keep focusing on Spielberg?  Well, for one, Bridge of Spies is coming out soon.  I keep forgetting that a movie's ad campaign can start more than one week away.  For some reason, anytime a movie ad on TV counts down the number of days until the movie opens, well... did the latest Avengers movie do that?  The only example that comes to mind is 1999's Wing Commander.  It came out a few weeks before the first installment of the Matrix trilogy, and it featured the same Matrix effect, whatever you call it.  I call it the Jim Blashfield Effect because he was a music video director from the '80s, and his music videos featured cutouts of objects that would slowly spin... I mentioned that already, didn't I?  Well, even I run out of material, what can me say?  I may have mentioned it, but apparently I never used his name before.  Love that "Search" feature.
...oh, look at that.  Our snarky ol' gossipy little friend Yahoo News has spun a headline that says "'Pan' Bombs at the Box Office."  What are they trying to do, upset the studio heads?  I prefer to think of it this way.  When you see it in the video store, say "Meh" and move on... THEN you can call it a bomb.  Oh, right... or, wherever you browse through lists of movies these days.  RedFlix, NetBox, what have you... Then again, maybe it's just too soon.  I mean, we had Finding Neverland and the Peter Pan from 2003.  Clearly, the market's saturated.
Speaking of slick CGI effects, our other debut this week is Robert Zemeckis' The Walk, debuting at #7.  Okay, so we're probably not going to be talking about how he wanted to put a Delorean in this one in 2045.  Boy, CGI effects are taking a back seat in the movies these days! ...they actually flew Matt Damon to Mars, right?  But Pan and The Walk are indeed opposites in terms of CGI, The Walk leaning towards the realistic, recreating the Trade Towers with Photoshop and a couple of laptops, and Pan leaning towards the fantastical.  Or does Pan try to be hipster-fantastical like Stardust?

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Before the Coachella Valley Music (and Arts) Festival was The Thing to Do.......

Yup, it works out that way sometimes.  I still say Daffy came up with Lollapalooza, and with Bully for Bugs, Bugs Bunny put the idea into the national subconscious.  Almost like an Inception-type deal, just a little less high-tech.
Now, I know some people just absolutely hate the commentary feature of DVDs... but mostly because they paid so much for laserdiscs with that feature back in the day.  Thirty minutes to a side, my ass!  Was the picture quality really just that good?  But these are only seven minute films, and they've got some bonafides here.  Chuck Jones, for example, talks about the goofball head of the studio who had many rules, one of which was "No bullfight pictures!"  We may never know the reason for this guy's hatred of bullfighting; PETA didn't even exist back then, so it probably wasn't because of his love for animals, and hatred of any cruelty against them.  Flying in the face of his advice, Chuck and someone else went down to Mexico to see a bullfight to get a better sense of what they're all about.  Just for this picture, apparently!  In the case of a picture like Bully for Bugs, the commentary can be a good addition.  I don't think this is the best Bugs cartoon of all time, but it's a solid entry in Bugs' repertoire, of course, and I found the commentary interesting.  Maybe I'm just partial to the bullfighting antics of Popeye in all the cartoons I saw previous-like... oh, right.  The IMDb Trivia page.  For those of you who don't have the DVD.
The plot is pared down considerably from a Popeye bullfighting outing.  There's only one bull here, and the human matador is ill prepared to take it on.  The bull smiles at the matador, much like the Grinch that Chuck Jones would animate later on, and slowly prepares to charge at the matador at full speed.  And then, the bull takes off, leaving a "cloud" of detached hooves in his wake, much like the cloud of hairpins left behind in all those Chuck Jones cartoons where Bugs Bunny does battle with an old witch voiced by June Foray.
I remember this one, of course, as most of you might, from all them Saturday mornings, when they would show the lopped-off versions without the usual WB intro.  Seems like they just cut right to Bugs tunneling into the ring and popping out.  I was watching this with a close relative of mine last week, and as Bugs was digging his way into the bullfighting arena, they said "RABBITS DON'T DO THAT!!!!!!"  Boy.  And I thought I was a critic!  There's probably an interesting story behind how Bugs came to start doing that in his pictures.  Was it just in the Chuck Jones ones?  Or did Friz and those pesky McKimson boys use it as well?  Reminds me of that story Gilbert Gottfried told somewhere about the comedian who did impressions, and he would introduce his impressions using the ruse of a car broken down on the side of the road.  "Here comes John Wayne!  Maybe he'll help!" the comedian would say.  Ultimately, it's just one of those things.  Sure, Bugs could take a plane to go places, but digging his way through the ground's just more populist.  Plus, there's the added bonus of incompetence.  Bugs pops up out of the ground thinking he's in one place, when in fact he's someplace else.  How else is he supposed to say he should've taken that left turn at Albuquerque?  On a 747?  I don't think so!
And so, Bugs runs afoul of the bull, Bugs says "This means war," and Bugs gets his revenge.  One of the gags is taken rather directly from Rabbit Punch, where Bugs hooks a giant slingshot to the bull's horns, and sends a large boulder flying right at the bull's face.  But Jones and screenwriter Michael Maltese were just ripping themselves off, so it's okay.
No, the older I get, the more I side with Bugs' foes in these things... well, not the opera singer.  That guy was a tool.  But a bull?  He's just doing his thing in his little arena there.  I think the final score is something like Bull: 3, Bugs: 23.  It's an unfair fight, and even physics conspires to help out Bugs and his hastily assembled Rube Goldberg-esque final torture device.  Of course, to call it Rube Goldberg-esque may be a little unfair, as there's only about four or five parts to it.

Good double bill with: Long-Haired Hare, the similarities of which are probably too numerous to mention

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Harry A. Davis

Oh good!  Another simple one.
Harry A. Davis.  World-class athlete........ so-so filmmaker.  Okay, so he doesn't have a lot to prove.  So what.  So let's go through the résumé.  But first, before we dive into that, I want to try diving into the seamy underworld of sports statistics... holy Crap!  Is that him on page 184?  Might could!  But it would force me to look up a second data source to confirm, and who has time?  Not me, that's for damn sure!  Probably not the Huffington Post either.
So let's jump right to the good stuff, because sure, he produced commercials 'n stuff.  Big deal.  Ridley Scott apparently directed 2,000 commercials.  2,000!!!!  Too bad he didn't spend more time on his, s'z'nap!  The point being, how am I supposed to go to my local video store (now a non-profit) and ask to see the commercials of Harry A. Davis with a straight face?  I went there for years and they had no such section for directors' commercials.  And that'll be the day when the IMDb starts having data for commercials.  What a depraved idea.... but I tell ya.  It sure would pad out this guy's résumé, for one.  And I think her too.
So let's go right to 2004's Joy Road... oh, I LOVE that movie!  Paul Walker, Leelee Soo... something.  And of course, a script by Mr. Star Wars-Star Trek J. J. Abrams... oh, wait.  That's actually 2001's Joy RIDE.  Oldest trick in the book.  For lack of a better, or Latin, term, this is what's known in the biz as Title Mimicry.  Same thing happened with 1988's Platoon Leader, as Jay Leno rightly glommed on to.  Quit Bogart-ing my title, Dudikoff!
Anyway, so I'm reading a review of Joy Road, and it says "Lawyer Tony Smalls grew up in the impoverished streets of Detroit..."  Now, why does that sound familiar?  Oh, right.  Harry himself's a Detroit native.  Well, sometimes you gotta direct what you know.  Sam Raimi was born in Michigan, which might explain why Spider-Man 3 sucked so bad.  Takes place in New York!  I'm kidding, of course.  Sam Raimi's not totally to blame.  No, I think the blame goes squarely on the shoulders of Theresa Russell.  I don't know what it is, but there's some kind of Voodoo curse on her.  It's like a witch doctor said to her "You will be the next Kathleen Turner... in reverse!"  But let's get back to Joy Road... nah, let's not and say we did... hey!  Do the Right Thing's Smiley plays the lead?  Niiiiiice.  Well, at least Davis has an ear oar an eye for casting, more or less.
Which, of course, he throws completely away by doing a documentary next.  Currently set for a 2016 release, Fast Dreams is about... wait for it... you guessed it, a bunch of runners.  Okay, so he's not big on intellectual curiosity.  I mean, it's hard enough getting your own sh... I mean, your own house in order, know what I'm sayin'?  Who's got time for something else that could be going on in the so-called "world"?
Now, everyone and their mother's got a production company these days.  Harry's is called 99 Ways Entertainment.  Because as there is fifty ways to leave your lover... at least, there was in the pre-Internet age... so too are there 99 ways to get your film made.  And so far, Harry's mastered two of them.  Let's all hope things pick up for Harry, but not way too much.  Stress kills.

Jimmy Kimmel Disagrees About Bringing Matt Damon Home

See, this is exactly why my blog's not getting hella traffic anymore.  I need some kind of stupid feature, like... what is the deal with these movie posters?  I'm just noticing.  You got a guy's face, and you got words over said face.  Also, Damon's kinda striking a Dieter-esque pose again, much like on one of those Bourne movies he did there.  For some reason, they play differently in England... wonder why.
But that seems to be the only fresh debut this week.  I don't have my usual file in front of me that I fill out every week, so I can't say for certain...oh, right!  I can just check the "Weeks" column on the IMDb there... yup, only one debut.  But I will say that Sicario seems to be rising, much like Josh Brolin's slightly similar 2007 indie-type film, No Country for Old Men, also photographed by Roger Deakins.  And, once again, sorry, Jolly Roger, but the ASC will see to it that you never win an Oscar, nor your children, nor your children's children.  You know what you did.  I suggest looking to the BSC for guidance and gilded statues... hmm!  That's really really bizarre.  He's got several awards from the ASC proper.  No Oscar!  Well, that's good research on my part, innit?  But I'm pretty sure he's the only guy to be nominated for two films during one year... which happened twice.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Short Reviews - October 2015

Addicted to Fresno - I'm gonna have to face it...

American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt - I'm sorry, but I gotta put my foot down on this abomination.  I mean, how can you have a movie in the beloved American Ninja series without Michael Dudikoff as Joe Armstrong?  I mean..... HOW?!!!!!!!!!!  It better be a damn good excuse.  Nothing short of him becoming a four-star general, making his return to American Ninja 4 all the more triumphant.  I could see a guy taking off for one whole film to accomplish that.  I could totally get that.  Otherwise... no.  Unacceptable.  Totally, totally, One Hundred Percent-ly unacceptable.

American Ninja 5 - WUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUT????!!!!!!  Et tu, American Ninja 5?  Et tu?

Austin Powers 4 - I'll confess... this is a sequel I didn't expect.  I just hope it's not a complete trashing of the Roger Moore years of James Bond.  But Mike's a little older now, a little wiser... and Roger Moore finally hung it up when he was 60, so...

Back to the Future, Part II - STILL?!!!  Well, let me just say this about Back to the Future Part II... they were right about one thing: Biff Tannen becoming a ruthless billionaire in 1985A.  In our world, he's better known as... DONALD TRUMP!!!!! EXTREME CLOSEUP..... WHAAAAAAAAAAAAA...... damn.  The John Daily Show beat me to it.

Between the Shades - Remember, folks!  It's not too late to pitch in and help fund this picture.  You'll get to be an Associate Producer!  How cool is that?

Coming to America - Authorities are apparently attempting to verify Dr. Ben Carson's anecdote about his chance to prove himself a hero in the face of a firearm at a Popeye's "organization."  Personally, I think he was just deeply moved by the similar scene in 1988's smash hit Coming to America and, as time marched on, indeed it do, Carson just assumed that it actually happened to him.  Wouldn't be the last time.

A Couch in New York - Facebook informs Unsympathetic Nation of premature death of director Chantal Akerman... Facebook also fails to mention that it was suicide.

"Dream On," Season 4, Episode 1 - I'm being told by Facebook that James Woods criticized President Obama's talking about the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon... you know, as Defense Attorney Dennis Youngblood might note on cross-examination, James, you are a 66-year old bat$#!+ crazy has-been who's dating a 20 year old GIRL.... no further questions.

Fresh Horses - I believe that Andrew McCarthy will make a fine Speaker of the House.  He is always very contingent in every roll he choices to plow, and plus he is very politically statue on the some important issues, and other topics as well.

Get Well Soon - ...with proviso that you never direct again...

GoodFellas - Okay, okay, here's a parallel to the 2016 presidential campaign I haven't heard yet.  See, Donald Trump keeps calling Jeb Bush a "low-energy person," even though Jeb's going to get his party's nomination.  Because to me, Jeb Bush is like when we first meet Pauly Cicero, and Henry Hill says "Pauly might move slow... but that was because Pauly didn't have to move for anybody."  Same thing with Jeb Bush, but with the CIA as backup.

Grad Night - Well, supermodels aren't known for their good taste in movie roles, so I guess that fits.

Hail, Caesar! - Just saw the trailer.  Sure, even I, a lifelong Coen-head, think it's slightly derivative... but still!  The triumphant return of Capitol Pictures!  Of course, it's not the same without Colonel Lipnick at the helm, but whaddayagonnado

The Hateful Eight - I never thought I'd say this, but... it's Quentin Tarantino versus the New York and Los Angeles policemen's unions.  And I think I side with Quentin on this one, because the police union's spokesman referred to my man's films as "depraved big screen fantasies" and to Q.T. himself as a "purveyor of degeneracy."  And they're right, of course.  But I also think I see where Tarantino's coming from.  I mean, with all the high-profile police incidents over the past couple years, and the latest and greatest one happening IN A HIGH SCHOOL CLASSROOM of all places, many of us non-policemen can't help but look and think to our collective selves, who's the real purveyor of degeneracy here?  Some Hollywood filmmaker, or all these insane, trigger-happy policemen?  What's the real depravity?  A popular film?  Or the way black people are getting treated by some of these cops?

Junun - Oh yeah!  With Ellen Page as the title character.  LOVE that movie.  It's the cheese to my macaroni.

The Letter - With a character named Charlie Meadows... just not in the cast.

The Man in 3B - ...I'm sorry, I thought they were re-releasing The Man in 3D.  My mistake!

Mr. Wonderful - Remade in 1996 as A Couch in New York, apparently...

"No Direction Home: Bob Dylan" - Maybe it's just me, but I've noticed lately that Dylan quite often refers to women as "babe" and what not.  Terribly sexist!  I don't care for that.  I don't care for that atoll... at all!

"The O'Reilly Factor" - I think I finally understand that TV show's unusual name!  I was reading... okay, listening to an audio tape in my car... my accounting textbook, and there was a part talking about uncollectible receivables and accounts.  There was a part talking about how big companies like Macy's and J.C. Penney... well, Macy's, anywho... big companies shift the risk of uncollectible receivables to smaller companies called "factors."  So, the name "The O'Reilly Factor" is kind of like that, because when the Koch brothers unload a fresh excretion of right-wing talking point bullsh... I mean, excrement, it trickles down to "factors" like Fox News, who further smear it around, attempting to stain the culture as a whole.  But at least O'Reilly's sort of honest about the agreement; Sean Hannity doesn't seem to get it.  And Hannity still doesn't understand why he was paired with Colmes for all those years.  Thank God that's over!

Return to Nim's Island - I dunno... without Jodie Foster or even Abigail Breslin on board, is it really a return?  Can you really call it that?

Tiny Furniture - Yeah, yelling's fun.

The Wolf of Wall Street - The unrated version's now available on Blu-Ray and DVD?  I think I'll pass........