Monthly Archives: July 2011

Piers

 

While Web sites like The Huffington Post trumpet stories about celebrity brown-noser Piers Morgan’s possible involvement in Britain’s phone-hacking scandal, CNN seems to be hoping the issue will simply fade away.  Morgan himself pretends the scandal is beneath him, blithely booking Hollywood has-beens on his interview show, ignoring the gathering storm.

 

*****

 

Leno

 

Comedian George Lopez told Morgan that all of television’s late-night hosts dislike Jay Leno.  I suppose ratings-king Leno would chalk that up to professional envy, but I don’t like him, either.  My distaste for Leno stems from the book The Late Shift, in which he is depicted as so insecure that he hid in a closet to eavesdrop on NBC executives discussing his future at the network.

Leno is a rich, smirking phony who seems most interested in expensive cars, stealing jokes, and belittling the average Joe (and Mary).  Of course, I could be wrong.

 

*****

 

EZ

 

I understand that entrepreneurs are what make America tick, but geez, I am unhappy with companies like EZ Moves.  By creating gizmos that help women move furniture (above), open pickle jars, etc., these companies are making the male of the species irrelevant.  So stop it!

 

*****

 

BB1 BB2

 

People who aren’t hooked on reality shows like CBS’s Big Brother (above) don’t realize how obsessed — or crazed — some of the fans are.  Every tinkle and tooth-brushing is documented on the Internet.

Yesterday, I read this analysis of Big Brother houseguests (also known as “hamsters”), some of whom were forced to eat slop for a week:  “Tonight a lot of talk about farts.  Seems the slop causes major gas issues in the hamsters’ bellies, so the house really stinks.” 

Did someone say that reality shows aren’t real?

 

*****

 

Dog videos on YouTube can get old, but not this one, which might be the King of All Dog Videos.

 

*****

 

Tea-Baggers?  Yeah, like I’m going to place my trust in a group of people foolish enough to name themselves after men swallowing balls.


                                             

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by Urban Waite 

Waite               

Dear Stephen King: 

You suck.  And I hate myself, too, because twice this summer I’ve suckered in to your brain-dead book recommendations.  This is what you wrote about The Terror of Living:  “This is one of those books you start at one in the afternoon and put down, winded, after midnight.”  Uhh … no.  This was one of those books I put down after 124 pages, exasperated, wondering if perhaps there might not be some merit in book burnings, after all.  “A hell of a good novel, relentlessly paced and beautifully narrated,” you gushed.  Were you referring to the gripping scene in which first-time novelist Waite describes a bad guy as “the man with the funny smile” – eight times in two pages?  Were you referring to the so-bad-it’s-funny dialogue, which reminded me of the so-bad-it’s-good movie, The Room?  Or perhaps you enjoyed Waite’s labored, pretentious attempts to establish a macho “style,” in which no sentence fragment goes unloved.

This is a dreadful book, amateurish and dull beyond belief.  The title alone should have scared me away.  And Mr. King, do they pay you to write these glowing blurbs for young authors?  If so, maybe next time you could actually read the damn book.

 

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Extreme1

 

“This movie is like a roller-coaster!”  That’s the tired phrase that critics sometimes use to describe American horror films.  A scary movie might dip into dark territory, but the audience knows that it will eventually be lifted back to daylight, either through comic relief or with a happy ending.  But some Asian horror, like this film, is more like a mine-shaft cart:  You descend into the depths … and never come back up.

Three … Extremes is an anthology of eerie short films from three of Asia’s top directors:  Hong Kong’s Fruit Chan, Korea’s Park Chan-wook, and Japan’s Takashi Miike.  All three stories are gloomy and filled with a sense of foreboding.  They are not particularly “scary,” but they do suck you in.

“Dumplings,” the first story, features what can only be described as a repugnant plot.  But director Chan’s use of glossy photography and soothing piano music lulls you away from the horror of what you’re actually seeing — temporarily. 

“Cut,” from director Park, is probably the least effective entry of the anthology.  Its revenge theme is nothing new,  but the film-studio setting is striking, and Park’s bungee-cord camera shots are flashy.

The last episode, “Box,” is a bit too artsy for my taste, but there are two images that could well give you nightmares.  And the twist ending is unsettling, to say the least.

 

Extreme2

 

The shorts in Three … Extremes all have social themes —  abortion, class warfare, “daddy issues” — but that isn’t what will keep you intrigued.  You watch because you need to know what the hell is in those dumplings.  And what will happen to the imprisoned director and his wife?  And what is up with that mysterious sister?

In most American horror movies, bad things happen to good people.  In Asian horror like Three … Extremes, bad things are the people.   Grade:  B+

 

Extreme3

 

Directors:  Fruit Chan, Park Chan-wook, Takashi Miike  Cast:  Bai Ling, Lim Won-hee, Kyoko Hasegawa, Miriam Yeung, Lee Byung-hun, Atsuro Watabe  Release:  2004

 

Extreme4 Extreme5

 

Extreme6 Extreme7

 

Watch the Trailer (click here)

 

Extreme8

                                                  

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Godfrey

 

William Powell stars in My Man Godfrey as a Depression-era derelict who is hired to butler (“buttle”?) for a rich family.  Screwball comedy ensues.  Carole Lombard, Powell’s real-life ex-wife at the time, co-stars in this delightful 1936 film.  I’m inserting links to both Google and YouTube because the picture quality seems to vary.  Click here for Google’s version, or click here for YouTube.

 

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by Jason Zinoman

Value

 

If you are a horror-movie fan, and I am certainly one of them, Zinoman’s biography of the men behind Hollywood’s second “golden age” of horror, the 1970s, is an essential read.  Shock Value is a nice blend of explaining what makes guys like Wes Craven and George Romero tick – and how those ticks show up in their movies.  But I’m sure every fright-flick aficionado will have nitpicks with Zinoman’s critique, and so here are two of mine:  Zinoman points out that most of these directors flamed out after initial success, but he doesn’t offer much of an explanation for why that happened.  William Friedkin (The Exorcist), Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre), Romero (Night of the Living Dead) … what the hell happened to these guys?

My other complaint is more subjective.  I happen to believe that Bob Clark’s Black Christmas was the most terrifying movie of the decade, and that John Carpenter (who, incidentally, comes off as a Grade-A jerk in this book) shamelessly stole concepts and techniques from that movie to use in his blockbuster Halloween.  Zinoman touches on this directorial “borrowing,” but inexcusably devotes little text to Clark’s woefully underappreciated, eerie masterpiece.

 

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Ugly Politicians Edition

 

But first …

Idiot of the Week:  Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Gupta

 

This clown masquerading as a journalist doesn’t know whereof he speaks when it comes to headaches.  Reporting on Michele Bachmann’s migraines, Gupta told the world that migraine headaches can be “easily treated,” and then doled out bogus information about the duration and causes of these killer headaches.

Speaking as someone who suffered from migraines for ten years, let me assure Gupta that they are definitely not “easily treated.”  Nothing works — at least not for cluster migraines, the variety I was lucky enough to have.

Idiot of the Week Runner-Up:  Some clueless joker named Dr. Marc Siegel, who echoed Gupta’s bullshit:  “Migraines are very easily treatable,” Siegel said, causing me to almost suffer a relapse.

 

*****

 

Caroline2

 

Politicians are movie-star wannabes who are just too damn ugly for Hollywood.  They have movie-star egos but are not photogenic.  So these cosmetically challenged egotists go into politics, where the rest of us have no choice but to keep an eye on them, lest they destroy the nation. 

Only in the political world could pasty-faced, chubby Bill Clinton be described as sexy.  Only in politics could scrawny, hook-nosed Caroline Kennedy (and her mother, Jacqueline) be hailed as “glamorous.”  Michelle Obama is anointed “the new Jackie Kennedy,” but our First Lady is horse-faced and has hips as wide as Kenya.  Our charismatic current president has ears like Alfred E. Neuman’s.

As for Republicans, just two words:  Newt Gingrich.  The GOP beauty bar is so low that geeky-looking Paul Ryan is considered a “stud.”  Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are “babes.”  Yeah, move over Angelina and Megan, these middle-aged mothers want to use your mirror.

Herewith, a gallery of hideous politicians:

 

Franken

 

Al Franken:  The picture speaks for itself.

 

Jackie1 Caroline

 

The glamorous Kennedys:  Hard to say which picture is sexier, Caroline bathing in blue (see above), or mom Jackie in the buff (below).

 

Jackie2

 

Palin1              Palin3

 

MILF Sarah Palin.

 

CChristie

 

Chris Christie will beat you up … if only he could run fast enough to catch you.

 

Newt

 

Expensive gifts from Tiffany’s?  Nah, Newt’s wife was obviously attracted to his rugged good looks.

 

McConnell

 

Mitch McConnell, making John Boehner’s eyes water.

 

Clintons

 

Above, Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in an outtake from The Tourist?  Perhaps not.

 

Michelle

 

Carla Bruni needn’t feel threatened.

 

Trump2

 

Donald Trump:  No comment.

 

Waxman

 

Henry Waxman, above, wants to ban my cigarettes.  I want to ban Henry Waxman.

 

Bachmann2

 

Well … maybe someone Photoshopped this one.  Or maybe she is having a migraine.

 

*****

 

Murdochs3

 

Now we know of (another) reason why rich old farts get trophy wives.  Geezers like Rupert Murdoch are too feeble to defend themselves, but their much-younger wives can sometimes throw a nasty hook.  Or was this incident staged to throw sympathy at scandal-ridden Murdoch?

 

Murdochs1 Murdochs2

 

*****

 

Anders

 

Norwegians — even their terrorists are good-looking.

 

*****

 

This column by the New York Times’s Frank Bruni is a great piece of social observation.

 

*****

 

Winehouse

                                               

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Hallows1


Seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 isn’t like watching a movie; it’s like watching eight of them.  The Potter franchise carries so much baggage – good and bad, but mostly good – that when you finally get to the end, it’s impossible to see the denouement as simply a two-hour entertainment.

So how does the grand finale stack up?  It was better than I suspected it might be.  Director David Yates, who somehow managed to remove much of the fun and magic of J.K. Rowling’s saga from the preceding three Potter films, partly redeems himself in this last chapter.  The whimsy of Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets is still missing, but Yates sets a brisk pace, avoids sentimentality, and stages one hell of an assault on Hogwarts.

What tripped up last year’s Part 1 is the same kind of thing that occasionally bogs down Rowling’s novels:  tedious exposition.  If the books have a flaw, it’s Rowling’s obsession with silly plot points.  Who really cares about the history of the Horcrux?  In this last movie, Yates and longtime scenarist Steve Kloves largely dispense with Rowling’s back story, instead concentrating on the final battle between Harry and Lord Voldemort.

 

Hallows2

 

Normally, I rail against the over-reliance on special effects in action movies; computer graphics all too often are the movie.  But in Part 2, the lengthy, elaborate confrontation between the forces of evil and our Hogwartian heroes is visually stunning.

Longtime friends are killed, long-anticipated kisses are played out in the blink of an eye, and a movie I feared might be one drawn-out yawn is instead a satisfying wrap-up to an uneven but often enchanting film series. To paraphrase someone famous, “All ends well.”         Grade:  B+

 

Hallows3

 

Director:  David Yates   Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Evanna Lynch, Helena Bonham Carter, Clemence Poesy, John Hurt   Release:  2011

 

Hallows4  Hallows5

Hallows6  ???????????????????????????????????????

 

 

Watch Trailers and Clips (click here)

 

 

Hallows8

 

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Cinema

 

Here’s another classic movie that I haven’t seen – but you should watch it.  You should also brush your teeth three times a day, donate to charity, and be nice to your dog.  But seriously … Cinema Paradiso, winner of the 1989 Oscar for best foreign film, sounds like a real charmer.  I plan to watch it soon.  You can watch it now by clicking here.

 

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  by Janet Evanovich

Sizzling                                                                 

 

More of the same from the Evanovich moneymaking machine that is the Stephanie Plum series.  There are some very funny bits involving the goofball “Mooner,” but otherwise this entry is interchangeable with the 15th book, or the 14th, or the 13th ….

 

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Granny2      Granny1

 

Say it ain’t so!  Bad news for fans of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books:  Debbie Reynolds has been cast to play Grandma Mazur in the film version of One for the Money, the first novel in the series.

Nothing against Reynolds, but I’ve always pictured Grandma Mazur as a spindly, geriatric dynamo, much like “Granny” in the old Playboy cartoons (above).  Reynolds (below) looks like a well-fed, glamorous movie star — because that’s what she is.

Also, the former Mrs. Eddie Fisher annoys me.  She spends too much time on talk shows either upstaging daughter Carrie Fisher or denigrating her deceased ex, Eddie.  Not classy.

 

Reynolds

 

*****

 

I love Netflix.  It was great to get unlimited DVDs and streaming video for ten bucks a month.  But man … a sixty percent price increase?  That reeks of a company thinking, “We dominate the market, so we can squeeze the hell out of our customers.”

 

*****

 

Five

 

Fox News carries on its tradition of “fair and balanced” programming by pitting one lonely liberal (Bob Beckel) against four conservatives on the new talk show, The Five.

Fox used to do this on Hannity & Colmes, booking conservative guests so that they and Hannity could gang up on Colmes.  Apparently even one liberal was one too many for that show, which eventually dumped Colmes.

I hate to admit it, but The Five’s hook-nosed Andrea Tantaros is sexy, in a bitchy, chubby-thighed sort of way.  Tantaros instills an urge in me to buy duct tape, handcuffs, and a paddle — just for play, mind you.  Co-host Greg Gutfeld is funnier on his other Fox show, Red Eye, than he is on The Five, where he comes off as a narcissistic little turd.  Bush press secretary Dana Perino does her best heartless mannequin/Stepford wife impersonation, and the fifth guy on the panel … who is he?

If The Five catches on, it will be thanks to the opposites-detract interplay of Beckel and Gutfeld.  That and the gams of whichever female is seated in the “legs chair.”

 

Tantaros

 

*****

 

Speaking of “fair and balanced,” Fox News has been all over the Rupert Murdoch scandal, hasn’t it?  (You too, Piers Morgan.)

 

*****

 

Just when you thought the news was all bad, something comes along to make Butt Men rejoice:

 

Bum2

 

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