Monthly Archives: June 2011



Once upon a time, Tim Burton made original, interesting movies.  Once upon a time, Johnny Depp starred in films that appealed to audiences beyond 14-year-old boys. In 1994, Burton and Depp teamed up for this little gem, the story of Hollywood’s most ignominious director, Edward D. Wood, Jr.  Wood was responsible for atrocities such as Plan 9 from Outer Space and Glen or Glenda.  Watch Depp, Martin Landau, and Sarah Jessica Parker in Ed Wood by clicking here.


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Weinergate Throws Beltway for a Loop

Lots of people are having fun watching Anthony Weiner squirm.  I enjoy watching other politicians and media types squirm as they are forced to comment on the scandal.




Fox’s Bill O’Reilly has been visibly uncomfortable talking about Weinergate.  People might recall that, in 2004, Bill was on the no-fun end of a $60 million sexual harassment lawsuit.  His former producer, Andrea Mackris, claimed that Fox’s arbiter of good taste engaged in explicit phone fantasies with her.  According to published reports, O’Reilly wound up paying millions to Mackris.  And this guy sits in judgment of Weiner?




Women on cable talk shows are discussing “emotional abuse” as a legal issue. Be careful what you wish for, ladies, because once emotional abuse becomes as prevalent in the courtrooms as physical abuse, I’m guessing that there could be just as many women in our penitentiaries as men.  Possibly more.




Media talking heads keep using that tired phrase, “What was he (Weiner, above with wife Huma Abedin) thinking?”  We all know what he was thinking.  The real question should go to the talking heads:  Are you really that stupid, or do you just believe that your audience is that stupid?




MSNBC’s Chris Matthews was as uncomfortable as O’Reilly in discussing Weinergate.  Flustered and stammering as he read excerpts from Weiner’s sexting, Matthews was unintentionally hilarious.  “I guess it’s sex talk,” he surmised, looking around for corroboration.






New Michele Bachmann aide Ed Rollins created quite a stir when he accused Sarah Palin of being “not serious” politically, but I prefer this quote from Minnesota GOP strategist Sarah Janacek:  “Maybe there is only room for one articulate, good-looking conservative broad in the race.”  Good looking?  OK.  Articulate?  Well ….



The Wimp Factor:  When politicians are advised to toughen up their images, it usually backfires.  They just come off as fake (more so than usual, that is).  Al Gore suffered from the “wimp” problem, even after he famously kissed Tipper.  John Kerry had the problem, even though he is a war vet.  And Tim Pawlenty has it now.  O’Reilly and Donald Trump have been advising Tiny Tim to get more aggressive, but if he takes their advice, he’ll just come off as a phony.




Reese Witherspoon, speaking at the MTV Movie Awards, was correct when she told American lasses, “It’s totally possible to be a good girl.”  But then she added, “And if you took naked pictures of yourself on your cell phone, you hide your face, people!  Hide your face!”  Gosh, Reese, most women don’t have access to Hollywood makeup artists to gussy up their nude shots, like you did in this scene from 1998’s Twilight.




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Some movies are like discovering, in the attic, a box with brittle, eight-millimeter film footage shot by a long-dead relative.  The movie is grainy, the camerawork is amateurish, and the color is faded – but the content is fascinating.  Hey, who knew that your Uncle Zack was such a wild guy?

Melvin Van Peebles’ Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Asssss Song is like that.  Everything corny and dated about 1970s cinema is on display:   self-conscious, artsy camera angles; reverse negatives; split screens; cheesy music; clunky fashion and some god-awful acting.  But the movie is never dull.  In fact, were it made today, some of it might be downright illegal.

Sweetback was embraced in 1971 by the Black Panther Party and other militants because of its ostensible message of “sticking it to The Man.”   Van Peebles, who wrote, produced, and directed, also stars as Sweetback, a black street hustler who rebels against the oppressive white establishment in Los Angeles.  He assaults some cops and spends the rest of the movie on the run – that’s the plot.  But it’s Sweetback’s outrageous sex scenes, not so much its politics, which resonate 40 years later.




The film opens in a whorehouse.  Young Sweetback (played by Van Peebles’s real son, Mario, then 14 and decidedly underage) loses his virginity to one of the working girls in a bizarre scene in which the woman simulates passionate sex while young Mario seems to be thinking, “What the hell?”  In a jump-cut, Mario is replaced from his position between the woman’s legs by father Melvin.

In an interview about his X-rated movie, the elder Van Peebles is refreshingly honest about “my most infamous scene”:  “The critics are giving me credit for this scene as ‘a well-thought-out metaphor, a tableau of the rites of passage.’  That wasn’t what happened.  The truth of the matter is … I was just being my horny self,” he says.  “What the hell, I’m only human.”

That’s evident in several later scenes, especially in what is likely Sweetback’s second-most infamous sequence, when Van Peebles does some unsimulated pumping of a white biker chick in front of an appreciative crowd of Hells Angels.  Uncle Zack was never that outrageous.       Grade:  C+




Director:   Melvin Van Peebles   Cast:  Melvin Van Peebles, Simon Chuckster, Hubert Scales, John Dullaghan, Rhetta Hughes, John Amos, Niva Rochelle, Lavelle Roby, Mario Van Peebles, Sonja Dunson, Marria Evonee, Joni Watkins, Maggie Bembry   Release:   1971


Sweet4     Sweet5

Sweet7     Sweet6

Sweet8     Sweet9

Sweet10     Sweet11


           Watch the Trailer  (click here)




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I’m a sucker for the “old dark house” murder mystery that Hollywood cranked out in the 1930s.  Sometimes you crave your clichés and stereotypes, and The Thirteenth Guest delivers.  This 1932 lark features a cobweb-strewn mansion with hidden passageways; squabbling family members, each of them with a motive for murder; a hooded villain with a cackle from hell.  There are two things that lift Guest a notch above most movies of its kind:  lots of humor – intentional and otherwise – and a charming leading lady named Ginger Rogers.  Watch it free by clicking here.


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Life’s Little Irritants

We all hate commercials, but there is one species of advertising that is especially insidious:  the jingle commercial.

I can easily tune out most TV ads.  Some familiar pitch will show up on the screen, and I’ll go back to reading my newspaper.  But ignoring the jingle commercial is next to impossible.  You can be out in the garage, or enjoying a constitutional in the john, and suddenly the hair-raising strains of Neil Patrick Harris crooning “like an angel” for Xfinity will set your ears on fire.  You might be outside mowing the lawn when the gag-inducing “Nationwide is on your side” will drift out the window and infuse you with a desire to disassemble the blades from your mower and use them to slit your own throat.






Showtime had a free preview, so I tuned in.  With a few exceptions, including The Big C, Showtime has the same problem today that it had 20 years ago, back when I was a subscriber:  Crappy programs.  There are simply way, way too many straight-to-video-caliber movies.






I’m sorry, but American audiences are like trained seals.  Why on earth do we feel compelled to applaud:  1) the chorus-line kick; 2) people who reach old age; and 3) couples who have been married a long time?

The Rockettes’ high kick doesn’t look particularly challenging.  For all you know, that old geezer you’re applauding could be a lifelong child molester.  The married couple might have endured 50 miserable years together.  But like those trained seals, give us our cue and we’ll applaud.




Zach2      Allen

Sandler      Ferrell


Funny guys who strike me as funny only when I channel my inner 12-year-old — and sometimes not even then:  Zach Galifianakis, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Tim Allen, and most of the cast of Saturday Night Live.




Sklar      Voorhees


Life’s Little Joys

If you blog long enough, eventually some sort-of-celebrity will leave you a visitor comment.  I have had two such comments at the “Weekly Review,” one of them complimentary, and the other … not so much.  But thank you, Liz Sklar (above left) and Debi Sue Voorhees (above right).






I don’t know.  I think police might have screwed up when they arrested this guy.  Seriously, does he look like the type who would shoot at an airplane?


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