Monthly Archives: October 2012



Its plot doesn’t make a lick of sense, but Topper Returns has something better:  delicious slapstick and a cast of comic actors who do 1941 proud.  This was the third and final entry in the Topper series, in which our timorous hero (Roland Young) helps a ghost (Joan Blondell) find out who murdered her in an old, dark house.  Click here to watch it for free.


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Talk-Show Heaven


It’s hard to resist the incisive interviews on Dr. Drew’s show.  Here is an excerpt from Dr. Drew’s illuminating chat this week with Honey Boo Boo (above):


          Honey Boo Boo:  I don’t burp.

          Dr. Drew:  You don’t burp?

          Honey Boo Boo:  I don’t.

          Dr. Drew:  You’re trying to burp, but you can’t?


Talk-Show Hell


It’s painful listening to starlets on late-night talk shows.  The host has to do all of the work while some Callie Cutethighs giggles and adjusts her short skirt.  I experienced a preview of death the other night, watching a bubble-head named Hana Mae Lee (below) on Craig Ferguson’s show.






Who says there’s no news worth celebrating?

“Rare, good news for you is I showered this morning, after two days on the plane.” — Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki, to an MSNBC anchor.




“He’s [Obama] doubling down on that storyline.” —  CNN’s Jessica Yellin. The media gets hold of a phrase it just loves and the damn thing spreads like a virus in kindergarten.  Enough!






“I worked in network news, and I know that promotions were given to people based upon their political leanings and based upon how they conducted themselves in the politically correct atmosphere in which they work.”  — Bill O’Reilly, decrying network personnel decisions.

Good thing Bill’s employer, Fox News, is beyond reproach in its hiring practices, as we can see from these out-takes from the resumes of typical Fox employees.








Penny Marshall is promoting her new book.  I don’t understand why she’s not still directing big-screen movies.  Did any filmmaker have a more impressive string of hits in the late ’80s and early ’90s than Marshall did with Big, Awakenings, and A League of Their Own?




Meanwhile, on Survivor ….




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by Hanna Rosin



Barring some sort of nuclear catastrophe, in which case all of those post-apocalyptic movies will come true and Denzel Washington will rule the Earth, it looks as though Rosin is correct:  The end of male dominance as an economic and social force is nearly here.  Rosin makes a convincing argument that the future belongs to the gender more able to adapt to a health and service-oriented economy – and that ain’t Denzel.  But if she thinks men will cede all that power with a whimper and not a bang, I think she’s mistaken.  Here are a few of this lowly dinosaur’s gripes about her (well-written) book:

1)  While cheering the advances women have made over the past 40 years, Rosin tells us, numerous times, that she is “mystified” by men’s reluctance or resistance to conform to the new, estrogen-fueled world order.  But I’m mystified why she is mystified.  Is it really so hard to grasp that any human being, regardless of sex, will be unhappy to relinquish money and power in exchange for … well, not much?  If a man is passed over for promotion, subject to stagnant wages, and required to attend touchy-feely seminars in the workplace, should he really consider it an upside that he is also expected to go home and do more housework and change more diapers?  That might sound like feminist nirvana, but it’s not exactly a brave new world for most men.

2)  The title of the book is misleading.  Rosin does address the “demise” of men, but she seems more interested in adding to the canon of literature about our new “you go girl” society and the hurdles that remain – for women.  One chapter is devoted to women’s struggle to crash through the glass ceiling, a topic we’ve all heard about once or twice:  “I’m sick of hearing how far we’ve come.  I’m sick of hearing how much better situated we are now than before …. The fact is that so far as leadership is concerned, women in nearly every realm are nearly nowhere.”  This is the lament of a female Harvard professor.  I, for one, am “sick of hearing” people who are quite privileged whine about their world not being perfect.

3)  Rosin is generally fair but doesn’t always contain her female bias.  A passage about highly paid professional women dropping out of the workforce is described as a “tragedy,” and the blame for this tragedy is laid squarely on evil, equally high-paid husbands.  Apparently, even at the top of the economic ladder, women reserve the right to play the victim card.

4)  Rosin’s prescription for men is depressing.  She is not pleased with the current state of gender relations, in which many couples have a sort of Ma and Pa Kettle arrangement, with Ma running everything and Pa playing video games.  Can’t blame a girl for resenting that.  But, dear lord, I can’t help but feel for boys in the future, because Rosin, a mother of two boys herself, draws inspiration from this Korean woman’s child-rearing example:  “Stephanie Lee is doing her part to make sure the next generation of men will make a clean break.  She has taught her son to speak softly, and she buys him pink stuffed animals and enrolls him in cooking and ballet instead of tae kwan do, even if he’s the only boy in the class, even if the teachers object.”  Says Lee, “He needs a more feminine side.”  And I need a drink.


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         Watson:  “That’s a fine way to treat me, I must say!”

         Holmes:  “Sit down, Watson, do sit down.  Perhaps a little supper will help you

                            to get over your huff.”

         Watson (roaring):  “Huff?  I’m in no huff!”


— Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in The Hound of the Baskervilles, their first pairing as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson


Sherlock Holmes is everywhere in 2012:  a BBC series, a CBS series and, with Robert Downey, Jr. as the celebrated sleuth, once again on the silver screen.  And wherever Holmes goes, so goes Watson (although in the CBS version, Watson goes there in high heels).

Arthur Conan Doyle purists tend to get huffy about Nigel Bruce’s rendition of Watson, which is often as a blithering, dithering oaf, but after re-watching 1939’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, I have to disagree with them.  True, Bruce’s interpretation of the good doctor is not faithful to Doyle’s creation, but there’s good reason that his teaming with Rathbone was movie magic.  Holmes, brilliant and intense though he is, is also a pompous know-it-all; with comic foil Watson at his side, Holmes’s genius is a lot easier to take.  And in Hollywood, no one did genial companions better than Bruce.




This Hound also strays from Doyle in some of its plot elements, and there’s no escaping the fact that it’s a stretch to describe it (or any 73-year-old thriller) as “scary,” but the 20th Century Fox production is still a treat.  The sets, constructed in a gigantic Fox sound studio, are beyond cool.  Surreal, murky, rocky and in black-and-white, the outdoor scenes do look artificial — but in a gothic fantasyland manner, teeming with ominous shadows and phantom-like mists.

The story, for any eight-year-olds reading this, finds Holmes and Watson investigating the curse of Baskerville Hall, in which Baskerville descendants are said to fall prey to a devilish hound roaming the moors of Devon.  The Hound of the Baskervilles is atypical Doyle because Holmes himself is absent for nearly a third of the story, leaving Watson to document and puzzle over spooky goings-on at the hall.  But I love to watch Bruce’s Watson, so I have no problem with that.      Grade:  B+



Director:  Sidney Lanfield  Cast:  Richard Greene, Basil Rathbone, Wendy Barrie, Nigel Bruce, Lionel Atwill, John Carradine, Barlowe Borland, Beryl Mercer, Morton Lowry  Release:  1939




                                             Watch the Full Movie  (click here)





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Don Rickles was on Jimmy Kimmel’s show the other night.  Don Rickles, at 86, is still one of the funniest guys on the planet.  Below, Rickles in 1976 with Frank Sinatra and Johnny Carson.








Early-season TV report card


Elementary     Not bad, although Jonny Lee Miller (above) as Sherlock Holmes isn’t all that captivating.  Holmes should always, always seem bigger than life, and Miller simply doesn’t.

666 Park Avenue and Last Resort     Mediocre stuff, the kind of shows you might watch while clipping your toenails, or gaining insight and wisdom at The Grouchy Editor.

American Horror Story: Asylum     So far, so good.  The season premiere was better than anything from last year’s series.  And how about Jessica Lange (below) — ain’t she something?






The Week in Headlines


The Feds are lucky that so many of these would-be bombers resemble The Three Stooges.

There’s a lot of squawking on Fox News about “who knew what” in regard to the attack on our diplomatic mission in Libya.  I’d be more inclined to pay attention if Fox had been equally concerned about “who knew what” leading up to the war in Iraq.

Guess I won’t need to vote next month.  From what I’m hearing, soccer moms and the good people of Ohio and Florida will decide this year’s election.




Whoever coined the phrase, “There is no such thing as a stupid question,” was an idiot.  I know, because I have lots of stupid questions.   For example:

In movies about space travel, NASA capsules are often in danger of burning up in Earth’s atmosphere upon re-entry.  So why wasn’t the dude who just made that record space jump in danger of burning up?






Meanwhile, on Survivor ….




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I give up trying to gauge the impact of these presidential debates.  Back in the 2000s, I thought I watched as tongue-tied George Bush got his lunch handed to him in debates, but look how that turned out.




Mockingbird Lane - Season Pilot


This is a publicity shot from NBC’s upcoming reboot of The Munsters, something they are calling Mockingbird Lane.  That’s “Herman” on the left.  What is wrong with this picture?  If you’re going to redo The Munsters, Herman must, must look like Frankenstein’s monster.  Herman Munster without makeup is like Lily without sex appeal — sacrilege.




I’m bored.  The presidential election is just weeks away, the baseball playoffs are in full swing, Argo is opening in cinemas, and my reaction to our national frenzy is … I want to take a nap.

I need more excitement in my personal life.  I need to discover that my upstairs neighbor is preparing stew — with human body parts.   I need to look out my front window and behold two twisters lowering themselves to the ground, their sights set on my apartment complex.  I need Kristen Stewart to stop playing games with me and declare her undying love.

I need a cold shower.






Apparently, this man has no balls.




Meanwhile, on Survivor ….




 Later, more cheeky fun on Survivor ….




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by Dorothy Cannell



What a bloody mess.  Cannell adopts a 1930s, Agatha Christie-like style for her debut novel, which is a pleasant enough mystery for about two-thirds of its length.  But then the author loses all sense of reality.

The heroine-narrator, an interior decorator obsessed with food, utters howler after howler (“I desired a roast beef sandwich with horse-radish and pickled onions with a wanton savagery that I had never felt for any man”), and her romance with an oddball male escort almost – but not quite – plunges the book into “so bad it’s good” territory:

Ben:  “This is how it could have been if only I had confessed my love before you went and got so skinny.”

Ellie:  “Part of me will always hunger for the wrong foods but I have to tell you that I am not prepared to eat myself back to my old proportions so you can prove the integrity of your love.”

The biggest head-scratcher of all is that, somehow, this amateurish junk food was included by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association as one of its “100 Favorite Mysteries of the 20th Century.”


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Hitchcock is back in vogue (is he ever “out”?), and I could say a few words about this thriller from his early output, but why bother when I can lift a quote from the Feb. 27, 1937 edition of the New York Times?  “Alfred Hitchcock … has whittled a pitilessly melodramatic segment from Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent and, calling it [Sabotage], has placed it on exhibition at the Roxy as a masterly exercise in suspense.”  So there.  Watch it for free by clicking here.


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