Monthly Archives: July 2011


I smiled a lot during Annie Hall, but I never really laughed.  I liked the main characters, New York comedian Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) and Midwestern transplant Annie Hall (Diane Keaton), and they kept me amused, but when the two lovers eventually broke up, I can’t say that I was particularly sad (or surprised).

I suspect that the more you personally relate to Allen’s autobiographical Alvy – i.e., you are a) a New Yorker; b) Jewish; c) nerdish; d) intellectual; or e) a neurotic artist-type – the more you’ll enjoy his signature film.

Alvy is the kind of guy who is entertaining in small doses, but a complete headache for any prolonged period of time.  This is what Annie eventually comes to realize, but not until after she endures a rocky relationship that comes under the psychoanalytic microscope of professional shrinks and – incessantly – Alvy himself.

Keaton is adorably quirky in the title role, but the movie should really have been called Alvy Singer.  Annie is on hand to serve as a sounding board for Alvy’s constant ruminations.  He has choice barbs for Los Angeles, the Midwest, pseudo-intellectuals, love, sex, and fame.  His best pokes come when he’s deflating pompous, left-wing intelligentsia.

But I didn’t blame Annie for wanting to escape.  There’s not a whole lot of emotional sustenance to be gotten from a neurotic know-it-all, and this odd couple was mismatched from the start.  Alvy/Woody amused me for the film’s 94-minute duration but, like Annie, eventually I felt that enough was enough.          Grade:  B




Director:  Woody Allen   Cast:  Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane, Paul Simon, Shelley Duvall, Janet Margolin, Colleen Dewhurst, Christopher Walken  Release:  1977


Annie3      Annie4

Annie5      Annie6


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No, this story has nothing to do with Quentin Tarantino’s alleged foot fetish.  And no, I have not seen it, myself.  But you should watch it because it has a perfect, 100-percent “fresh” rating from critics at  It’s the true story of a man afflicted with cerebral palsy, and it snagged a Best Actor Oscar for Daniel Day-Lewis.  If you like it let me know, and maybe I’ll watch it, too.   Click here to watch it for free.


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I didn’t pay much attention to the Casey Anthony trial until this past week, but holy hot-tubs, this courtroom drama is making the O.J. Simpson trial look like a routine episode of Judge Judy.  It’s going to make one helluva book and movie.

Winners and Losers:

No winners.  Not even Casey.  O.J. managed to avoid the wrath of an angry public after his acquittal, so Anthony should, too.  But what kind of life will she lead?  I predict one of two futures for her:  a one-way ticket to a foreign country, or more infamy in the world of porn.




Losers:  Cable’s HLN.  What an embarrassment of unprofessional, whining babies.  When the Not Guilty verdict was announced, HLN’s assortment of anchors, lawyers, and other fools reacted as if they’d been kneed in the collective crotch.  These TV “experts” did not sit on the jury, yet five minutes before the verdict they felt qualified to assure the nation that Anthony would be found guilty.  Five minutes after the verdict they assured the nation that they could explain exactly what had gone wrong.


Galanos   Velez


Worst Offenders:  HLN’s Mike Galanos, Jane Velez-Mitchell, and Nancy (dis)Grace.  Honorable Mention goes to Fox resident egomaniac Bill O’Reilly who, after admitting to paying scant attention to the trial, stated unequivocally that he knew what really went down, and that the jury was composed of fools.




This is what I learned from the trial:

  • Lee Anthony is the only normal member of the Anthony family; Lee Anthony sexually assaulted his sister
  • Cindy Anthony committed perjury to save her daughter; Cindy Anthony was an emotionally abusive shrew to Casey
  • George Anthony is a lying adulterer; George Anthony is a man of principle who was falsely accused
  • Jose Baez was a grandstanding buffoon; Jose Baez pulled off a brilliant defense
  • Caylee Anthony was murdered by her mother; Caylee Anthony was the victim of a tragic accident
  • Judge Perry was blatantly pro-prosecution; Judge Perry ran an efficient trial under difficult circumstances

And finally, no one knows who fathered Caylee Anthony.  Is it any wonder that the jury found reasonable doubt?




Casey3             Casey4




Kristen1          Kristen2


Thank goodness we have another kind of “reality TV,” the kind that actually makes sense.  I am referring, of course, to the new season of CBS’s Big Brother.  There is much suspense to be found in the fake backyard of the BB set:  What will happen if the houseguests run out of cigarettes?  Who will be the next houseguest “accidentally” caught undressing by the CBS cameras?




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Yeah, I know.  Shia LaBeouf is no James Stewart, Sarah Roemer is no Grace Kelly, and director D.J. Caruso will never be mistaken for Alfred Hitchcock.  But I like their movie Disturbia, anyway.

In this 2007 reboot of Hitchcock’s Rear Window, LaBeouf stars as Kale, a high school senior who, following the tragic death of his father, acts out in such an aggressive manner that he is sentenced to house arrest, confined to his messy bedroom, his electronic toys – and the dubious pleasure of spying on his suburban neighbors.  One of those neighbors turns out to be a serial killer, but will anyone believe bad boy Kale’s story?

Yes, this tale was told much better in Rear Window, but if you don’t go into Disturbia expecting “instant classic,” you will have a voyeuristic good time.  That’s because Caruso does a fine job blending John Hughes-inspired teen comedy with Hitchcock-style suspense.




The movie also works because LaBeouf – think what you will of his off-camera exploits – has charisma out the caboose.  Caruso said that in casting his young star, he was seeking an actor “who guys would really like and respond to, because he wasn’t going to be such a pretty boy.”  Mission accomplished.  I can’t imagine Robert Pattinson carrying this film.

LaBeouf has some solid support.  David Morse, as menacing neighbor Mr. Turner, is good enough to make you forget Window’s murderous Raymond Burr.  Roemer, although no model of sophistication, a la Kelly, would make any teen boy hyperventilate (not to mention, ahem, some older males).

But Disturbia is LaBeouf’s movie.  His Kale is troubled, intense, insecure, and sometimes annoying.  He is also compulsively watchable.  Hell, I even liked his messy bedroom.         Grade:  B




Director:  D.J. Caruso   Cast:  Shia LaBeouf, Sarah Roemer, Carrie-Anne Moss, David Morse, Aaron Yoo, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Matt Craven, Viola Davis   Release:  2007


Disturbia4          Disturbia5


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by Spencer Quinn



Some people never seem to learn – especially me.  I’ve been burned before by Stephen King book recommendations, but I didn’t let that stop me from suckering in after reading this King description of Dog on It:  “Yeah, it’s cute, but not too.  There’s a real mystery here, and great suspense as well.” 

This detective story narrated by a dog is cute alright – way cute, and I say that even though I like dogs.  As for the alleged “mystery” and “great suspense,” well, I suppose so, if you are still into the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew.  Dog on It is the first book in a series about the crime-fighting duo of Chet (the dog) and Bernie (the human), and it’s fitfully amusing, but that’s all.


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Tom Petty asked Michele Bachmann to stop using his song, “American Girl,” on the campaign trail.  Petty also requested that George Bush stop using Petty music during a Bush campaign.  Must be a tough job for whoever selects Republican campaign music, because unless you are into country, most popular music is created by liberals.






A hidden camera caught Chris Hansen cheating on his wife.  Good.  I’m all for busting child molesters, but to me Hansen’s To Catch a Predator reeks of illegal entrapment.






I’m tired of Kim Kardashian and her worthless family.  I mention Her Assness because as I write this, she and her dumb-jock boyfriend are just a few miles from me, attending a baseball game at Target Field, and I think I just heard thunder.  If I am wrong about that and the sound is instead Kim experiencing flatulence, then these could be the last words I ever type.


KardAss3    KardAss4


KardAss2      KardAss5





Dickipedia — an amusing site.  It seems to be an equal-opportunity abuser.



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The critics seem to love this road comedy – so why didn’t I?  There was only one thing I could do:  I had to make The Trip twice.

On my first viewing, I thought the film’s British humor might have whizzed past me because comedy does not always travel well.  Or maybe I simply had trouble deciphering the actors’ heavy accents.  For whatever reason, I was not particularly taken with this two-hour expansion of a popular English television series.

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play fictionalized versions of themselves, two moderately successful actors.  Coogan is the insecure playboy, and Brydon is the contented family man.   After his latest girlfriend splits, Coogan invites sort-of pal Brydon to join him on an excursion to the north of England, expenses paid by a magazine for which Coogan, hopefully, will write an article about the culinary delights found at country inns.

The two aging performers do much of their communicating – too much of it – through celebrity impersonations.  Amusing at first, this kind of repartee can grow tiresome.  Somewhere after the fifth or sixth such scene, I vowed never again to watch a Michael Caine movie.

But the critics loved this film.  So I watched it a second time and — surprise! —  it seemed much better.  The constant barrage of movie-star mimicry became less irksome.  I began to soak in the beautiful northern England landscapes, and to salivate at the sight of golden scallops soaked in butter.

The Trip grew on me mostly because Coogan and Brydon grew on me.  Much of the screenplay’s wit stems from the way these two decidedly heterosexual males interact.  They can discuss “soft” topics like Coleridge’s poetry and gourmet dining only if they also come with a side of competition, a dash of homophobia, and a bit more competition.

But there was still too much yakking, even on my second viewing.  The Trip is at its best when it stops long enough for some introspection – primarily by Coogan, who is confronted with his past (a woman with whom he once had a one-night stand – or so he thinks), his present (is Brydon’s dull-yet-happy home life a better way to live?) and his future (an old bore who ensnares him on a rock-climbing expedition; is it Coogan’s destiny to wind up like this old coot?).

In the end, I enjoyed The Trip and I recommend it.  I just hope you don’t have to watch it twice.      Grade:  B




Director:  Michael Winterbottom  Cast:  Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Claire Keelan, Margo Stilley, Rebecca Johnson, Dolya Gavanski, Kerry Shale  Release:  2011


Trip3        Trip4


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