Monthly Archives: March 2011

                                              THE KISS



Most people don’t realize that Thomas Edison was the 19th century’s version of Hugh Hefner.  Yes indeed, the famous inventor was the man behind The Kiss, an 1896 short featuring the first kiss in cinematic history.  Buxom May Irwin and frisky John C. Rice – the Brad and Angelina of their day – share a brazen smooch in this 30-second film.  Predictably, this outrageous public display of sex prompted another cinematic first – angry calls for censorship.  Watch it for free by clicking here … and then be prepared to take a cold shower.


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by Benjamin Hale



The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore is narrated by a talking chimpanzee.  “Bruno” is not a very pleasant ape.  He has learned a lot of big words, and he loves to parade them.  Although he’s a regular-sized chimp and he’s plagued by insecurities, his ego is the size of King Kong and he feels superior to most primates – including humans.  Especially humans.  Does that sound like the kind of “hero” with whom you want to spend 576 pages?  At first, I didn’t think I wanted to, but I’m glad I hung in there with Bruno, because this book is an absolute knockout.  Hale, who is all of 27 years old (the bastard!), has written a debut novel that practically screams out, “Literature is not dead!”

Bruno is not without flaws.  There are times when the reader’s suspension of disbelief is sorely tested; this is, after all, a talking chimpanzee we’re asked to accept.  But the book works on so many levels:  unforgettable characters, penetrating insights about human nature; comedy and tragedy.   Mostly, it’s the irascible, disturbing Bruno himself that will stay with you – whether you want him to or not.


© 2010-2024 (text only)




“Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night.” – Woody Allen

Someone must have mentioned Allen’s quote to “Smith,” the sexually confused hero of the science-fiction/sex romp Kaboom, a movie as screwed up as its young protagonist.

Kaboom is what I’m calling a mumbo-jumbo movie, with equal parts claptrap and hogwash.  It chronicles the sexual misadventures of Smith as all manner of inexplicable, spooky things keep happening to him.  A mumbo-jumbo movie deserves a mumbo-jumbo review, so here you go:

Mumbo:  Watching this film is a bit like watching soft-core pornography:  The filmmakers realized that some sort of story was needed to fill in the gaps between sex scenes, so they tossed in every element from old episodes of The X-Files – murderous cults, voodoo, the paranormal, and … oh yes, the end of the world.

Jumbo:  Lots of skin on display here.  If you are a “boob man,” you will be happy.  If you are a “butt man,” you will be disappointed (see my low grade).  If you are gay or female, you might be pleased.  But everyone will, or should, barf at what passes for a plot.

Mumbo:  The direction is very ambitious, what with having to put on film things like hallucinations, dreams, and the Earth blowing up.  Too bad the special effects budget was nowhere near as ambitious.

Jumbo:  The young women in this movie are all condescending, world-weary, and sarcastic.  The young men are all childlike, stupid, or childlike and stupid.  Sound familiar?  Yes, indeed:  It’s yet another Judd Apatow movie.

Mumbo Jumbo:  There were two quotes in the film that I liked:  Stella – “It’s a well-known fact that dreams are just your brains taking a dump at the end of the day.  They don’t mean anything.”

And:  Smith – “You had something better to do?” Stella – “Uh, sucking a fart out of a dead seagull’s ass?”

There is also a scene in which a dumb, blond surfer dude attempts to fellate himself.  I guess he discovered a way to top Woody Allen, tripling his chances for a Saturday-night date.              Grade:  D+




Director:  Gregg Araki  Cast:  Thomas Dekker, Haley Bennett, Juno Temple, James Duval, Andy Fischer-Price, Nicole LaLiberte, Kelly Lynch,  Roxane Mesquida, Christine Nguyen, Chris Zylka  Release:  2011



Kaboom4            Kaboom5

Kaboom6            Kaboom7


                                                Watch Trailers  (click here)




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.                             Liz   


Yes I know, it’s not polite to speak ill of the dead, especially so soon after the dearly departed drops.  But this glorification of Elizabeth Taylor has gotten out of hand.  On Joy Behar’s show, the consensus was that Dame Liz will be remembered as “The Last Great Movie Star,” and as one of the world’s foremost humanitarians.

Problem is, Taylor could also be recalled as a notorious drunk and home wrecker.

“She was a good egg.  She was a real person, very down to earth,” said Angela Lansbury of the jet-setting, jewelry-loving, husband-collecting Liz.  Well, she did marry Larry Fortensky — that was certainly down to earth.







I don’t know which is worse, watching the news on TV and being filled with impotent rage at all the bullshit, or just tuning everything out in favor of American Idol.

The self-help gurus all tell us the same thing:  Get involved in your community!  Easier said than done.  But isn’t this news about GE all too typical?




George      Kirstie


Kirstie Alley vs. George Lopez:  At last, the celebrity feud we’ve all been waiting for.

After Lopez apologized for making fat jokes about Alley’s appearance on Dancing with the Stars, the corpulent chorine replied with this tweet: 




Let me get this straight.  Alley signs up to be on a show in which appearances are everything, and then gets huffy when a comedian points out (truthfully) that she looks fat?


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Weird can be good.  As in some David Lynch movies.  Or when Lars von Trier goes on an angry rampage.  Or when David Cronenberg films … whatever the hell it is that David Cronenberg films.

But weird can also be frustrating.  As in, “I don’t understand this story, and it doesn’t seem as though the director does, either.”  Greek filmmaker Giorgos Lanthimos might grasp the meaning of his quirky drama Dogtooth quite well, but its lack of plot and back story make it the kind of film you might enjoy once, but probably not twice.

Here’s what we do learn in Lanthimos’ story:  An unorthodox (to put it mildly) family of five lives in an isolated yet comfortable home.  Father rules with an iron fist, mother enables father, and the three kids – two teenage girls and their brother – are not allowed contact with the outside world – ever.  Mom and dad “home-school” the kids, keeping them in line by feeding them an endless supply of elaborate fantasies, buttressed by the harsh reality that father does not spare the rod.




I suppose this dysfunctional clan is meant as an allegory of the modern family, or as a commentary on some warped aspect of Greek society, but it doesn’t really matter because all we really care about is this:  What manner of weirdness will we witness next from these odd, odd people?

There is a certain perverse enjoyment in watching them.  How will they celebrate the parents’ anniversary?  When the sisters begin sexual relations with each other, how long before their brother joins in?  Who is easier to train, the family dog or the kids?  Dogtooth is never dull.

Lanthimos has said he didn’t want to overly explain things to the audience with this movie.  That’s fine, but was there anything to explain?       Grade:  B-




Director:  Giorgos Lanthimos  Cast:  Christos Stergioglou, Michele Valley, Aggeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni, Hristos Passalis, Anna Kalaitzidou, Alexander Voulgaris  Release:  2009


Dog4         Dog5



      Watch Trailers  (click here)

Dog7         Dog8



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Hollywood scuttlebutt (I love that word, let me say it again … scuttlebutt) has it that the Coen brothers have written the screenplay for a remake of the 1966 comic caper, Gambit.  I am ashamed to admit that I have not seen the original, which starred Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine.  But Leonard Maltin calls it “great fun,” and he’s never wrong, is he?  If the new version gets made, it won’t open until next year, so in the meantime, watch the original for free by clicking here.


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The Resident calls itself a thriller, but you have to wonder just whom it intends to thrill.  Certainly not fans of whodunits, since the screenplay reveals who done it early on.  And it assuredly will not give kicks to gore hounds; aside from some hospital operating-room shots, there’s very little in the way of blood and guts.

I suppose “Young Women Living Alone” could be the target audience, although there’s nothing in The Resident that any girl who’s watched more than 15 minutes of the Lifetime channel hasn’t already seen.

No, my guess is that The Resident was green-lit in order to thrill the film’s producers, who might have been on set to witness two-time Oscar-winner Hilary Swank’s nude bathroom scene – not to mention her frequent scampers clad only in undies.  I say this because The Resident is so similar to the 1982 Morgan Fairchild potboiler, The Seduction.

According to a “reputable source” (Celebrity Sleuth; hey, I’m just reporting here), Fairchild was not happy with The Seduction’s money men.  After filming, Fairchild sued the film’s producer for $12.5 million for “insisting he be permitted to be present during the filming of all [her] nude scenes.”




In that film, sexy Morgan is spied on, peeped at, and creeped out by a seemingly nice young man, who turns out to be not so nice.  In The Resident, there is a really nice guy (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who turns out to be the anti-Prince Charming and who, like his predecessor in The Seduction, peeps a lot, sweats a lot, and creeps us out.

The Resident is not a terrible movie, just one that you’ve seen countless times before.  Watching it is a bit like taking a beat-up Ford to the carwash:  It gets the job done and you get what you pay for, but you are 10 bucks poorer and still stuck with the same old car.       Grade:  C




Director:  Antti Jokinen  Cast:  Hilary Swank, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lee Pace, Christopher Lee, Aunjanue Ellis, Sean Rosales, Deborah Martinez  Release:  2011


Residentd      Residente

Residentf      ?????????????


Residenth     Watch Trailers & Clips  (click here)


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Entertainment Weekly’s story about German auteur Uwe Boll’s latest straight-to-video monstrosity, Blubberella, is the funniest thing I’ve read in months.  No, I am not referring to fat jokes.  I am referring to the hilarious anecdotes and quotes concerning the oddball Boll.  Boll, director of such garbage as BloodRayne and House of the Dead, is evidently battling The Room’s Tommy Wiseau for the title, “Ed Wood of the 21st Century.”





Boll, as Hitler, appears in Blubberella




San Diego Chargers v Minnesota Vikings


Moron of the Week Adrian Peterson, above, griped about the players’ relationship with NFL owners:  “It’s modern-day slavery, you know?  People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way, too.”




I’ve been watching a lot of television.  I have noticed that two kinds of commercials tend to dominate on cable-news channels:  erectile dysfunction remedies for men, and weight-loss pitches for women.  You don’t suppose the two issues are related?




Thanks to these candid shots of bride-to-be Kate Middleton that are flying around the Internet, I am beginning to understand what His Toothiness, Prince William, sees in her.


Kate2        Kate1




I, for one, am ecstatic that Aflac canned comedian Gilbert Gottfried.  No more annoying, unfunny duck quacks.




When a tsunami hit Japan the other night, Fox News went to its ace reporter on the scene, Courtney Friel, who just happened to be staying with family in Waikiki.  In a stunning display of courageous journalism, Friel, pictured below in happier times, informed viewers that she and her relatives would be moving to higher ground, lest the tsunami get them.






The difference between the far left and the far right?






Quote of the Week:  “The little grouchy man that you see on-camera is not what you see off-camera.” — Randy Moss, apparently alluding to Yours Truly.


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Cash-strapped college student Samantha has been hired to “babysit” an elderly woman at an Addams Family-like house in the country.  When the creepy married couple that hired her goes out for the evening, having agreed to pay $400 for her service – and having scrutinized her like a bug in a jar – Samantha and “mother” are left alone in the house.

When Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) sits down to listen to her Walkman (this is the 1980s), we know there is someone else in the house, someone neither Samantha nor the audience have yet seen.  When a curtain in the living-room corner seems to billow just a bit, was it caused by Samantha’s elderly charge … or by the wind?  Is that Samantha’s moving shadow on the wall in an upstairs hallway, or someone else’s?  And why is it taking so long for the pizza guy to deliver her medium-sized pepperoni?

Writer-director Ti West says he is a fan of Kubrick and early Polanski films, and it shows in this movie.  West’s filmmaking harkens back to the basics:  gradual buildup of tension, extended periods when the only things that “happen” are floorboards that creak, faucets that leak, clocks that tick, and shadows that move.  It’s amazing how effective these techniques still are; they are as chilling in Devil as they were in Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby or in Kubrick’s The Shining.

The House of the Devil stumbles a bit at its climax, when West abandons atmospheric chills in favor of more conventional horror-movie histrionics.  But in an age when most horror fans think that they’ve seen it all, this movie proves that what used to scare us can still do the job.         Grade:  B+




Director:  Ti West  Cast:  Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, Greta Gerwig, AJ Bowen, Dee Wallace, Heather Robb, Brenda Cooney, Danielle Noe  Release:  2009




Devil7               Devil8


           Watch Trailers and Clips  (click here)


Devil9           Devil10




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I don’t know who “they” are, but when they say Hollywood doesn’t make ’em like it used to, they are usually referring to movies like Bringing Up Baby, a classic screwball comedy starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn.  Evidently, “they” don’t make YouTube videos like they used to, either, because this version seems to be missing the opening credits.  Watch it (most of it, anyway) free by clicking here.


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