Monthly Archives: April 2011

 by Aleister Crowley

Diary

 

Crowley, denounced as “the wickedest man in the world” by some contemporaries, was an early 20th-century occultist, philosopher, and writer who apparently got off on ruffling societal feathers.  Diary, Crowley’s first novel, chronicles a year in the life of young Peter Pendragon, heir to a fortune who discovers two things in life that seem worthy of his love:  heroin and a girl named Lou.  In a wild journey that might make Hunter S. Thompson envious, Peter and Lou cross Europe in a heroin- and cocaine-fueled daze, crash back to earth, and are rescued by the charismatic “King Lamus,” the proponent of a religion called Thelema.

Diary is dated, bogged down by purple prose and – for anyone who’s read Bret Easton Ellis – not particularly shocking.  And yet, despite Crowley’s florid writing and the mothball-like feel of events, the novel does raise provocative questions.  Per this “wicked” author, life is full of paradoxes, happiness is something you must work at, and you should always be true to yourself.  

 

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McLintock

 

“Not recommended for feminists.”  So says critic Leonard Maltin about this John Wayne-Maureen O’Hara comic western, but I can’t imagine why Maltin feels that way.  Could it be the spankings administered to O’Hara and Stefanie Powers by their McLintock! male co-stars?   Watch this 1963 oater – which is loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, of all things – for free by clicking here.

 

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Return1

 

The last time I watched a film co-produced by Spain and Argentina, the result was one of the best pictures of the year – from any country.  That was in 2010, and the movie was the romantic thriller, The Secret in Their Eyes.

So when I walked into a theater a few nights ago to see another Spanish-Argentinean project, my expectations might have been too high.  Director Miguel Cohan’s No Return is intelligent, well-acted, and has an intriguing story … but it feels flat.

No Return depicts the consequences of a tragic car-bicycle accident.  Young Pablo is struck not once but twice – the second time fatally while he is tending to his broken bicycle on a street in Buenos Aires.  Like the spokes of the wheel on Pablo’s battered bike, the repercussions of the accident spread out in multiple directions.

Three families are affected:  Hit-and-run driver Matias (Martin Slipak) and his parents; the father (Federico Luppi) of the accident victim; and entertainer Federico (Leonardo Sbaraglia), who is falsely accused of the crime.  As each group deals with the fallout from the accident, which becomes a media event, No Return is compelling – but not particularly moving.  I think this is the case because Cohan’s script asks the audience to invest emotionally in too many characters over a short period of time.

No Return is one of those films you are happy to have seen, but will probably not revisit.             Grade:  B

 

Return2

 

Director:  Miguel Cohan  Cast:  Leonardo Sbaraglia, Martin Slipak, Barbara Goenaga, Luis Machin, Ana Celentano, Arturo Goetz, Agustin Vazquez, Federico Luppi, Pedro Merlo  Release:  2010

 

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     Watch the Trailer  (click here)

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Bangkok

 

I guess this video of a train running smack-dab through the middle of a crowded market in Bangkok has been around for awhile on YouTube, but I just discovered it.  You should too.  For a sampler (there are numerous videos), click here.

 

*****

 

MelG1       MelG2

 

Mel Gibson’s new Jodie Foster-directed movie The Beaver premieres next week.  I have not, of course, seen the movie, but I did not let that stop me from posting a review on Rotten Tomatoes.  The response from scores of “tomato heads” was lively. Click here to read my “review” and their comments.

 

*****

 

Wedding

 

I complain about American women who gush over anything and everything the Brits call “royal.”  The British monarchy and everything surrounding it belong in a museum.  However … every fall, American women are subjected to a (mostly) male ritual called the National Football League, which, if I’m objective about it, which I have a hard time being, also belongs in some museum.  So this upcoming wedding?  Knock yourself out, ladies.

 

*****

 

Controllers

 

I rarely fly, so I am finding this whole air-traffic-controller flap quite entertaining.  I am also amused by screaming babies, delayed flights, and lost luggage.  LOL!

 

*****

 

Butt2

 

Here is a picture of some chick and her butt.  I don’t know who she is, and I simply don’t care.

 

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Tucker1

 

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil has some of the funniest sight gags I’ve seen in a long, long time.  Rookie director Eli Craig’s horror-comedy takes the redneck-slasher flick, hangs it upside down from a meat-hook, and invites us to laugh at the fallout.

Outside of a Three Stooges short, it’s probably not possible to make a movie with nonstop visual jokes, but that’s a shame because there are some doozies in this farce.  After watching Tucker and Dale do their thing, seeing Leatherface brandish a chainsaw will never again seem so threatening.  Alas, there is also bad news:  Tucker & Dale has a plot. 

Dale (Tyler Labine), one of our two hillbilly heroes, is fat and slow on the uptake, but blessed with a heart of gold.  He and buddy Tucker (Alan Tudyk) want nothing more than some peace and quiet on their vacation at Tucker’s woodland cabin.  When some college kids – airheads who’ve seen way too many movies – invade the boys’ West Virginia mountain retreat, we know nothing good will come of it.  There will be blood – just not in the ways you might think.

One of the college kids is super-sexy-smart Allison (Katrina Bowden), a psychology student, and Dale is instantly smitten.  If you’ve seen any Judd Apatow movie, you know exactly how this will turn out:  In the fantasy world that Hollywood regularly offers to teenage audiences, every slob gets his girl.

Tucker & Dale runs out of steam at about its midpoint, when plot gets in the way and the movie devolves into the same kind of silly slasher flick it has been lampooning so admirably.  My advice to you:  Whenever the story gets talky and the dialogue turns “serious,” saunter out to the lobby and buy some popcorn, or have a smoke in front of the theater.  Just try to be back in time for the sight gags.        Grade:  B-

 

Tucker2

 

Director:  Eli Craig  Cast:  Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss, Philip Granger, Brandon Jay McLaren, Christie Laing, Chelan Simmons, Travis Nelson  Release:  2010

 

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Watch Trailers and Clips  (click here)

 

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Brunette

 

When you think about it, comedian Bob Hope’s movie persona was one odd duck.  I mean, would you trust the guy alone with your kids, much less your girlfriend?  Might not your kids wind up in the microwave, and your girlfriend running for her life?  Try not to think about it.  Instead, watch old ski-nose in his 1947 prime, co-starring with Dorothy Lamour in My Favorite Brunette.  Watch it for free by clicking here.

 

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Blow1

 

Brian De Palma gets no respect.  De Palma directed Carrie, which some people think of as “the Stephen King movie.”  He also helmed Scarface, which fans will tell you is “the Al Pacino movie.”  And when De Palma wrote and directed a string of devilishly amusing, sexy thrillers in the 1980s, critics accused him of ripping off Alfred Hitchcock.

I‘m going to defend De Palma.  I want to do this because I am filled with righteous indignation.  De Palma, you should know, not only gave us stylish suspense:  The man probably did more for the titillating shower scene than any other filmmaker in history.  (Okay, with the possible exception of Bob Clark and Porky’s.)

Blow Out, which puts a movie sound-effects whiz played by John Travolta in the middle of a political assassination and cover-up, is certainly Hitchcockian.  We have the hero (Travolta) whom no one will believe; the attractive, none-too-happy love interest (Nancy Allen, De Palma’s wife) who is tricked into a conspiracy; and a MacGuffin who, exactly, is responsible for the crime?

The plot may be Hitchcock, but the movie’s striking visuals are pure De Palma.  No one utilized slow-motion, tracking shots, split screen, and color quite like he did.  It’s a compliment to the director when a viewer can absorb five minutes of a film and conclude, “This must be a De Palma movie.”  And, oh, the dramatic music in this film.  Composer Pino Donaggio’s soaring strings are ear-popping, yes, but they gel perfectly with the operatic visuals.

Blow Out isn’t De Palma’s best thriller (my vote goes to Body Double).  Allen, as Travolta’s ditzy comrade-in-arms, is no Eva Marie Saint.  The story’s frantic climax is a feast for the eyes but it’s also over-the-top silly.

But when you watch a De Palma production you tend to forgive his indulgences because you feel like you’re watching a Hollywood movie well-crafted and meant to be enjoyed.  And did I mention that no did better shower scenes?         Grade:  B

 

Blow2

 

Director:  Brian De Palma   Cast:  John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz, Peter Boyden, Missy Cleveland, Cindy Manion, Missy O’Shea, Marcy Bigelman, Ann Kelly  Release:  1981

 

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Watch the Trailer  (click here)

 

Blow7

 

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                                           Simpson3

 

Quote of the Week Number 1:  “I’m not sticking with people who are homophobic, anti-women, you know, moral values while you’re diddling your secretary, while you’re giving a speech on moral values.  Come on, get off of it.” — former Sen. Alan Simpson. 

 

Breuning

 

Quote of the Week Number 2:  “That’s all you need.” — Walter Breuning, at age 114 the world’s oldest man until he died Thursday, stating his belief that people should get by on just two meals a day.

 

Seinfeld2

 

Quote of the Week Number 3:  “These aren’t special people.” — comedian Jerry Seinfeld dissing British royals and the circus atmosphere of the upcoming nuptials. 

 

Kirstie2

 

Quote of the Week Number 4:  “Life is just a game.  When we get too serious about it, we fail.” — tweet from Kirstie Alley, who has never been a struggling single mother with two part-time jobs.

 

*****

 

Munsters

 

Gold Diggers of the Week, Part 1:  An appeals court ruled that Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss cannot undo their 2008 settlement with Mark Zuckerberg, which gave the twin brothers a $20 million cash payment and part-ownership of Facebook.

CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin gushed to Brooke Baldwin — twice — that the court ruling was too bad because the Winklevoss boys are so “cute.”  To this humble reporter, the twins look more Herman Munster than cute.

 

JennSterger2

 

Gold Diggers of the Week, Part 2:  Jenn Sterger, who decided her silence about Brett Favre and Penisgate had gone on long enough.  Who will show this former Playboy model the money?

 

*****

 

RBlack       ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

 

Whiner of the Week:  Justin Bieber tweeting about pesky photographers during a layover in Israel:  “You would think paparazzi would have some respect in holy places.  All I wanted was the chance to walk where Jesus did here in Israel.”

Justin might have been distraught after news broke that tween sensation Rebecca Black’s “Friday” reached 100 million views on YouTube.

 

*****

 

Senate-House Conference Cmte Meets On Budget Resolution

 

Asshole of the Week:  Republican Paul Ryan.  Just because.

 

*****

 

Headline of the Week:

 

Penis

 

*****

 

Trailer

 

Poor Housing Choice of the Week:  Trailers.  God must really, really hate trailers.

 

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Arrival1

 

One critic described 1996’s The Arrival as an update of the 1950s science-fiction B-movie, and I think that’s an apt comparison.  What elevates The Arrival above the likes of Killers from Space and Devil Girl from Mars, however, is Charlie Sheen.

Paunchy, bearded, and bespectacled, Sheen in this film is no macho Arnold, Sylvester, or Jean-Claude; he is more like the poor man’s Cary Grant.  Sheen’s “Zane Zaminsky,” a radio astronomer who stumbles upon an intergalactic plot by aliens, is forever befuddled, belittled, and beset by co-workers, authorities and, well, by life in general.  But Zaminsky has charm and – as the real-life Sheen has discovered – a little bit of charisma can take you a long way.

The Arrival is a frenetic action flick with a story that begins promisingly but eventually sinks into plot holes and head-scratching hokum as Zaminsky tries to expose an alien scheme to “terraform” Earth.  The technologically advanced aliens –they can morph into human form and communicate light-years in a matter of seconds – for some odd reason seem to favor 18th-century methods for exterminating their human foes.  Why laser a threat when you can plant scorpions in her bed?  Why vaporize Zaminsky when you can concoct a Rube Goldberg-like assassination using bathtubs and collapsing hotel floors?

All of this is claptrap, but it matters not because it’s so much fun watching Sheen as he bumbles, stumbles and freaks out over the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that are thrown in his direction.  It’s a “winning” formula for Charlie, if not the movie itself.       Grade:  B-

 

Arrival2

 

Director:  David Twohy   Cast:  Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Crouse, Richard Schiff, Ron Silver, Teri Polo, Tony T. Johnson, Phyllis Applegate   Release:  1996


Arrival3      Arrival4

Arrival5      Arrival6

 

   Watch the Trailer  (click here)

Arrival7

 

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Killing

 

I am finally ready to kiss and make up with AMC.  We dissolved our relationship about ten years ago – mostly due to AMC’s unfaithfulness – but the network has done a lot of growing up, and I dislike holding a grudge.  But first, some history:

In the 1980s and 1990s – long before TCM was even a twinkle in Ted Turner’s eye – American Movie Classics was a cinephile’s delight, an oasis of uncut, unedited, commercial-free movies from Hollywood’s “golden age.”  On no other channel could you find 1944’s The Uninvited, blessedly free of interruptions for vitamin sales, or Ilsa’s dramatic parting from Rick, sans “a brief pause for a word from our sponsor.”  I was in love with AMC.

And then in 2002 AMC did the unthinkable, dumping its subscriber-based format and leaping into the ad-fueled TV cesspool.  At first, like a suspicious lipstick stain on its collar, just a few commercials appeared on AMC.  But then there were more, and more, and more ….

AMC began airing what it called “classics” from the 1990s and 2000s.  All of them were hacked to pieces and censored for content.  In other words, AMC was feeding us the same ad-driven drivel that we got on every other channel.  This was a betrayal of film buffs, an unforgivable sin.  I had to leave AMC.

So when the cable channel’s Mad Men began to generate buzz several years ago, I ignored it.  I was pouting, playing hard-to-get.  I did watch the first season of Breaking Bad and, grudgingly, I had to admit it was a pretty good show.  But now, with the recent additions of Rubicon (already cancelled; but hey, relationship recovery always has a few bumps), The Walking Dead, and The Killing … all is, at long last, forgiven.  Give us a kiss, AMC. 

 

Rubicon

 

Rubicon:  This was an intelligent, well-acted puzzler about analysts at a CIA-like think tank.  The short-lived series eschewed car chases, shoot-‘em-ups, and sex.  So need I explain why it tanked in the ratings?  It’s too bad, though, because James Badge Dale was an intriguing leading man, and the supporting cast – especially Michael Cristofer as the sputtering, truculent head of the think tank – was superb.  But there were too many scenes set around a table in a conference room, and not much comic relief.  Who wants to be reminded of work?     Grade:  B+

 

Walking

 

The Walking Dead:  Of AMC’s new series, this one is the least mainstream and the most likely to be sustained by a “cult” following.  I mean, it’s a show about zombies, for crying out loud.  And yet, often it isn’t about the crumbling cadavers.  Blood, gore and ghoulish gallopers are mostly in the background, an ominous ambience to the real drama, which is about a group of bickering, bantering, all-too-human survivors.  Grade:  B

 

Killing2

 

The Killing:  The jury is still out on this most-recent AMC series, but I like what I’ve seen in the first three episodes.  Seattle, of all places, has never seemed so atmospheric, bringing to mind 1940s film noir as cops Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman try to solve the murder of a teenage girl.  As with Rubicon and The Walking Dead, this series draws you in because – imagine it! – someone at AMC must really believe in the network’s slogan: “story matters.”     Grade:  B+

 

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