Monthly Archives: May 2013



Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh has been making noise about retiring.  He’s said he wants to devote more time to his painting.  I’m not at all sure that this should be cause for alarm in Hollywood.  I haven’t seen every film in Soderbergh’s oeuvre but, of those I have seen, I haven’t been impressed since 2000’s Erin Brockovich.

Side Effects, Soderbergh’s alleged theatrical-film swan song, is the kind of psychological thriller that was catnip for directors like Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma.  It has a fast-moving, twist-filled plot and pretty actors playing pretty characters.  With Hitchcock or De Palma at the helm, Side Effects would be embellished with flashy camerawork and a dramatic musical score.  With Soderbergh behind the camera, the movie resembles a paint-by-the-numbers docudrama.  The story cries out for razzle-dazzle:  What we want is a movie movie; what we get is an interesting but pedestrian mystery.




Rooney Mara of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo plays Emily, whose husband (Channing Tatum) has been imprisoned for insider trading.  When he is released from jail, Emily goes to psychiatrist Dr. Banks (Jude Law) for help with depression.  Banks prescribes medication that is still in a testing stage, and tragedy ensues.  But like a drug-fueled hallucination, nothing is quite what it seems in this story.

In today’s Hollywood, if a movie succeeds, it’s often in spite of a weak script.  Talented directors and actors have rescued many a third-rate screenplay.  When a good script does come along, it’s a crime to waste it on someone like the coasting Soderbergh, with his sterile, workmanlike approach.  Let’s buy the man a paintbrush and get on with things.       Grade:  B


Side3     Side4


Director: Steven Soderbergh   Cast:  Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Channing Tatum, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Ann Dowd, Vinessa Shaw, Polly Draper  Release:  2013




Watch Trailers and Clips  (click here)




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“Hello, friends.  I realize that many of you are disappointed with our system of justice today, and you might have lost some faith in the way things ought to work.  But let’s look on the bright side, shall we?  The jury’s non-decision decision today means that this young woman, Jodi Arias, still has a small chance to make a decent life for herself.  And I, for one, wish her all the best.” — Nancy Grace


Just kidding.





It’s a “New Day”


CNN is struggling in the ratings, and I think I know why:  CNN has been paying attention to what viewers say they want.  Big mistake.

When the public is polled about news media, it gets all high-minded and carps about “too many negative stories.”  CNN responds by airing a procession of “hero” specials … and the public yawns and flips to E! to see what the Kardashians are up to.

The public says it wants less political partisanship in the media.  CNN responds by showcasing nice-but-bland Anderson Cooper and grandfatherly Wolf Blitzer … and the public flips to Fox News to watch Bill O’Reilly burst an artery over those damned liberals.

I have more bad news for CNN.  I’m no advertising expert, but aren’t viewers supposed to associate products with, oh, I don’t know, something pleasant?  CNN is running an ad for its upcoming New Day that opens with the most grating sound imaginable — a metallic, buzz saw-like alarm clock that shrieks at us and reminds us of a thousand miserable mornings.






Dr. Drew Pinsky, above, got all excited about the Jodi Arias non-verdict verdict and began to struggle with the English language.


Dr. Drew:  “So, during the break, you can knock some sex into me.”

And later …

Dr. Drew:  “He was friends with both Travis and Jodi.  Aaron Doody — Dewey — joins us with his thoughts on today’s verdict.”




They are still looking for a few good proofreaders at The Huffington Post.








Scandal Update:

Eric Holder needs to go, and he needs to go yesterday.

But before they get too excited at Fox News, bubble-headed bimbo Andrea Tantaros (above) of The Five, who said this — “A lot of people voted for [Obama].  And if you see any of those people today, do me a favor and punch them in the face.” — also needs to go, and she needs to go the day before yesterday.  (She can, however, leave her legs behind.)






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Pardon my French, but what the fuck?

Sorry about that, but that’s the best way to describe The Imposter, an acclaimed documentary from British filmmaker Bart Layton that tells the story of … well, let me try to explain:

In 1994, 13-year-old Nicholas Barclay vanished from his neighborhood in San Antonio, Texas.  A little over three years later, “Nicholas,” who would then have been 16, resurfaced — in Spain.  But the typical American teen now had a French accent, darker hair, and eyes that were no longer blue, but brown.

Nicholas’s family, apparently overjoyed at the reappearance of the boy, flew him home to Texas and welcomed him back into their lives.  This, despite the fact that “Nicholas” was in reality a 23-year-old Frenchman named Frederic Bourdin, a con artist extraordinaire.  This is the point where you, dear reader, will be forgiven for also thinking, “What the fuck?”


The Imposter


Layton’s movie, utilizing dramatizations and interviews with actual participants in the bizarre saga, makes it clear that a hoax is afoot.  But aside from the charismatic Bourdin, was anyone else in on the con?  Something’s not right about the San Antonio family.  And whatever became of the real Nicholas?

The Imposter chronicles two incredible stories — one about Bourdin and the other about the enigmatic Texans — that, through sheer coincidence, merged in Texas.  If you think you know human nature, this movie will make you think again.           Grade:  A-




Director:  Bart Layton   Featuring:  Frederic Bourdin, Carey Gibson, Bryan Gibson, Beverly Dollarhide, Nancy Fisher, Phillip French, Codey Gibson, Charlie Parker, Adam O’Brian   Release:  2012




                                                           Watch Trailers  (click here)





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Time will tell which of the issues assailing President Obama are genuine “scandals,” and which are much ado about nothing, but for my money the story that seems to be generating the least public outrage — Justice Department spying on AP journalists — is the most serious.  Obama is saying, in essence, that because he can’t control leaks in his own administration, it’s OK to pretty much destroy an entire news organization.  So much for that media “love affair” with the president.




Mayors Just Wanna Have Fun!




Hi!  I’m Rob and I’m the mayor of Toronto.  Some people say there is a video that shows me smoking crack with drug dealers.  Do I look like I’d do something like that?




Hi, I’m Jerry, and I was the mayor of Jersey City.  Some time ago, some pesky Hispanic girls yanked off my towel at three o’clock in the morning, and then some jerk took this picture of me.  Do you, too, have problems with pesky Hispanic girls?




Hi, I’m Anthony, and I’d love to be the next mayor of New York City.  If you’d like to be on my mailing list, just send me your e-mail address, and I’ll see what I can do!






Competing media jumped all over the New York Post when it published a front-page picture of two “bag men” who turned out to have nothing to do with the Boston bombings.  Last week, that same media — all of them — splashed front-page mug shots of Ariel Castro’s brothers, who police say had nothing to do with the Cleveland kidnappings.





Meet Sean, 37, a handsome former lieutenant in the U.S. Navy who could be the man of your dreams!  Sean is looking for a few good women … and the police are looking for Sean!









Hi, I’m Fred and I work for BP.  Sure, we might have fouled the Gulf of Mexico, but we’re spending millions to make sure our commercials look really pretty for you!






Hi, I’m Bob.  One of my satisfied customers is named O.J.  I helped him make a killing, now let me help you!






Hi, I’m Natalie.  As a parent, I’m concerned about what my children see on TV. As a viewer, you should be concerned about what my nasal, annoying voice is doing to you!






Who needs those damn vampire movies when we have CBS’ Survivor?




Wig   Wig2


And you thought the wigs worn by spies on The Americans were ridiculous?






This ad popped up on my home page.  Please, folks, do not assume that this man represents a typical Minnesotan.  I beg it of you.


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Video of the Week:


Charles Ramsey showing his dishwashing paycheck to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who was born with a very clean silver spoon in his mouth.





Quote of the Week:


“I’ve been on a remarkable personal journey.” — South Carolina’s Mark Sanford.

That’s funny, because we thought you just got horny and cheated on your wife.




“Why are we so obsessed with this case?” — Piers Morgan on Wednesday, voicing the same dumb question that journalists ask every time there’s a sensational trial.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Jodi Arias trial had sex, religion, and violence.  But I think another reason we tune in is because it’s a great opportunity to watch people lie under oath.  That means we get to exercise our bullshit detectors.

Arias, for example, whom everyone describes as a great liar, seems to have been anything but, because she kept getting busted.  A better liar was “good boy” Travis Alexander, the Mormon motivational speaker who had lots of people fooled about his kinky sex life.  And then there was the procession of expert witnesses, some of whom were either very stupid or expert liars.




My favorite liar is HLN’s Nancy Grace (above), who is always out for blood and yet ready at a moment’s notice to shed crocodile tears for victims’ families.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Arias chose a Fox News affiliate for her post-conviction interview as one final “fuck you” to HLN and Grace.






Pretty amusing to watch Bill O’Reilly and his pals continue to fume over the public’s lack of interest in the Benghazi incident.  Bill can’t seem to grasp that many of us are still waiting to see someone punished for the lies and cover-ups that led us into Iraq.  Thousands died in Iraq; four died in Benghazi.  Understand, Bill?






We saw live footage of astronauts doing a spacewalk at the International Space Station.  The video was grainy and choppy, like what you see on local news when robbers invade your neighborhood convenience store.

I will never understand how we can land robots on Mars and propel capsules beyond the solar system, yet these spacewalk videos still look like something your Uncle Stan shot at Sally June’s birthday party.


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Sun Don’t Shine

Sun1 Sun2


On-the-lam movies can be fun — but only if you care about the people on the lam.  In Sun Don’t Shine, Kate Lyn Sheil and Kentucker Audley play young lovers sweating it out in Florida because there’s something in the trunk of their car, but a decomposing body isn’t what made me nauseous.  That would be Sheil, who, as the clingy, whiny, emotionally stunted female half of this not-so-dynamic duo, gives one of the most annoying performances of the year.  Release:  2012  Grade:  D




Swimming Pool

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Until it goes off the deep end, Swimming Pool is a sleek erotic thriller about the murderous results when an uptight British novelist finds herself sharing a summer house with her boss’s promiscuous young daughter.  Charlotte Rampling, as the repressed writer, and Ludivine Sagnier, as her wild-and-crazy opposite, regard each other like the proverbial cat and canary — but which is which?  It’s smooth and sexy, but the final scenes are either deliciously ambiguous or a groan-inducing cheat.  You decide.  Release:  2003  Grade:  B





Sight2 Sight1


A nerdy British couple (as part of their holiday, they schedule a stop at a pencil museum) decides to enliven their road trip with road kill — literally.  If the concept of dull tourists as serial killers is clever enough to sustain you for 90 minutes, then knock yourself out, mate, but for me the plot and characters failed to live up to that amusing premise.  Release:  2013  Grade:  C




Wasted on the Young

Wasted1 Wasted2


A familiar tale — high school bullies, the rich and popular kids, make life hellish for other students — is told with originality and flair by Australian filmmaker Ben C. Lucas.  It’s not an uplifting story, but Lucas’s decision to leave adults out of the film works well, immersing the viewer in a nightmarish, but riveting, teenage society.  Release:  2010  Grade:  B


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Mommie Dearest


Mother’s Day is just around the corner!  It seems to us that society does a poor job of celebrating these national treasures.  In case any of you have forgotten just how special motherhood is, here’s a gallery of some memorable moms:


Hitler              Yates

                  Klara Hitler                                                      Andrea Yates


Dahmer               Anthony

               Joyce Dahmer                                                  Casey Anthony


Crawford                Smith

              Joan Crawford                                                      Susan Smith


So just remember:  If you, too, are lucky enough to have sex with a man and, nine months later, you squirt out a Homo sapien, then you, too, are well on your way to becoming a special someone!






TV Update


Speaking of madcap mothers … Orphan Black (BBC America) is confusing but kind of fun.  Tatiana Maslany plays five clones — or possibly six, or maybe more than that —  who are on the run from someone out to get her — or them.  It takes place in Canada, or someplace like that.  But it’s a trip.

Bates Motel (A&E) is much better than I expected.  Freddie Highmore makes a fine, teenage Norman Bates, but Vera Farmiga, as mom Norma, is out of this world.

Both Black and Bates are about as realistic as a Martian invasion, but if you’re willing to buy into their bizarre worlds, they are wicked good.

More New Shows:  Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central) — possibly funny if you are a young, single woman; vulgar and lame if you are not.  Maron (IFC) — possibly amusing if you are a middle-aged, single man; a poor man’s Louie if you are not.




I finally saw Tarantino’s Django Unchained.  My verdict:  way too long, painfully dull, self-indulgent and juvenile.  But Samuel L. Jackson kicks ass.






The Jodi Arias trial is wrapping up, and Arias sure does seem guilty — especially to the carnival barkers on HLN.  HLN long ago dumped any pretense of objectivity when its clutch of show anchors chose to follow the lead of frothing-at-the-mouth Nancy Grace.  If avenging nutcase Grace walked past Jesus on the cross, she would demand that he be charged with loitering.




Recently, I praised TLC’s Welcome to Myrtle Manor, pointing out the inherent sweetness of its trailer-park cast.  As you can see below, the Myrtle folks now have a lot in common with that other America’s Sweetheart, Reese Witherspoon.




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                                                     by Chrystia Freeland                                                              



Plutocrats is the type of book you suspect will make you angry before you turn a single page.  The subtitle alone is hackle-raising:  The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.  The fall of “everyone else”?  This book probably will piss you off – but don’t blame the messenger.

Freeland, a financial journalist, makes the case that there is alarming income inequality in most countries – but you probably already knew that.  She interviews a laundry list of the ultra-rich, determines how these men (almost always men) rose to the top, and speculates on what it all means for “everyone else,” i.e., the 99 percent.  Is vast income disparity the inevitable result of capitalism?  Is it possible that the wealth chasm is actually a good thing?

Plutocrats documents how the actions of Big Business are benefiting, if not the American middle class, then certainly new middle classes in emerging world markets such as China and India.  It’s hard to argue that that’s a bad thing.

But our billionaires and millionaires are not exactly selfless.  Many of them, particularly in the United States, feel victimized by government regulation and taxes, and they don’t understand why they are increasingly demonized by the 99 percent.  They do contribute to charity, but those contributions treat the symptoms of inequality, not the problem itself.

Freeland doesn’t come right out and say it, but she implies that only government can place checks on Wall Street and corporate America.  That might be anathema to conservatives and libertarians, but after events of the past five years, isn’t it common sense to everyone else?  Apparently not, for as Freeland writes:

“That’s the irony of superstar economics in a democratic age.  We all think we can be superstars, but in a winner-take-all economy, there isn’t room for most of us at the top.”


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