Monthly Archives: December 2013

by Henry Bushkin

Carson2

 

By now I should have learned this lesson:  Whenever I pick up a book about a celebrity I’ve admired, I am likely to wind up disillusioned with said celebrity.  Exhibit A:  I read a biography of Bob Hope a couple of years ago.  Since then, I have a hard time watching Hopes movies without wondering which of his comely co-stars the sexually predacious comedian was bedding – or at least trying to bed while upholding his image as a wholesome family man.  Johnny Carson, penned by longtime Carson lawyer/playmate Henry Bushkin, is another depressing read – although it’s undeniably juicy.

Pros:  1)  Bushkin’s split with Carson 25 years ago was not amicable, but his account of their 18 years together seems fair and balanced.  2)  If you are seeking dirt, Bushkin doesn’t hold back on stories about Carson’s peevish moods, drunken brawls, and countless extramarital flings.  3)  The author’s theory about what motivated (and tormented) Carson – an emotionally cold mother – appears plausible.

Cons:  1)  When you buy a book about the undisputed king of late-night TV, I don’t think it’s asking too much to expect a few anecdotes about The Tonight Show itself.  But Bushkin is far more interested in high-stakes contract negotiations with NBC than with Hollywood gossip.  2)  Seriously, no more than a few brief mentions of Ed McMahon?  That’s like writing a book about Abbott and Costello and omitting Costello.

 

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BlackEye

 

 

                                        Holiday Cheer


In case you’re sick of the bland, sweet crap that dominates TV this month, here is an entertaining antidote from director Bob Clark, the same man who gave the world A Christmas StoryBlack Christmas will make you feel all warm and fuzzy – if by “warm and fuzzy” you mean pissing your pants and raising goose bumps.

 

Black4          Black5

 

This 1974 horror classic is the anti-Christmas Story.  But don’t mistakenly rent the insipid, 2006 remake.  And don’t watch it if you live in a house with an attic.

 

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Sprouse

 

What the hell is a “Dylan Sprouse”?  Apparently, now even Opie from Mayberry has leaked nude photos.

 

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Memory1

 

Terrific.  Now I’ll be able to make the same dumb mistakes, over and over and over again.

 

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Duck2

 

I’ve never seen an entire episode of Duck Dynasty, so I did some research when all hell broke loose over star Phil Robertson’s controversial interview.  Here is what Rachel Maddow had to say last month after airing a Duck clip on her show:

“That is from the reality TV show Duck Dynasty.  I saw that one.  It’s really good.

“If you haven’t watched it, you owe it to yourself to watch it just so you understand your country, in the sense that you need to understand what everybody else is watching.  Duck Dynasty is a phenomenon like no other on the TV machine in America.

Duck Dynasty is bigger than The Beatles right now.  It is bigger against anything on TV.  Some nights it’s up against American Idol which is on network TV, and everybody gets that for free. Duck Dynasty is on cable, but Duck Dynasty beats American Idol.”

From that, I take it that Rachel is a fan of Duck Dynasty.  I would imagine that she admires the Robertson family’s stand on gay rights.

 

Duck1

 

*****

 

Bolton

 

Asshole of the Week:

 

Fox News commentator John Bolton wants to see Edward Snowden hanging from a tree.  Some of us would like to see John Bolton hanging from a tree — preferably by his stupid mustache.

 

*****

 

Tomato Tomato Terror Alert  Tomato

 

In my ongoing quest to ensure that folks enjoy the holiday season, I hereby issue an alert to avoid the following movies, both of which can be found on Netflix.

Berberian Sound Studio (2012)   If you visit the Rotten Tomatoes Web site, you will learn that 83 percent of professional critics give this pretentious piece of junk a thumbs’ up.  Some quotes:  “A work of art.”  “Utterly entrancing.”  “Altogether transfixing.”

If you make the mistake of believing these idiots and watch the movie, what you’ll get is a lot of close-ups of actor Toby Jones (below), who is described in his Tomatoes bio as “a man with a peculiar face and small stature.”  There are also many close-ups of vegetables being squashed.

One critic got it right when he said, “[It’s] a movie that may whisper dark secrets into your ears at night, when you’re trying to forget it.”  I’m still trying to forget it.

 

Jones4

 

Zombie3

 

Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead (2011)   This is a good example of why some people watch only American movies.  There is no polite way to say this:  The Japanese are bat-shit crazy.

Like Berberian Sound Studio, Zombie Ass (above and below) features lots of close-ups.  Close-ups of female rear ends.  Close-ups of female rear ends farting.  And doing worse.  Much worse.  Merry Christmas.

 

Zombie4

 

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by Janet Evanovich

Notorious2


I’ve been critical of Evanovich’s golden-goose series about bounty hunter Stephanie Plum because each new installment contains the same-old, same-old:  Cars blow up, relationships stall, and Stephanie remains the immature ditz.  And yet I keep on reading the books.

Maybe it’s because Notorious feels a bit fresher than recent entries – more introspection; fewer unrealistic situations – but I’m beginning to rethink my complaints.  I’ve been expecting the Plum characters to evolve, but really, should the goofballs on I Love Lucy have “evolved”?  Should Lucy have matured, Ricky calmed down, and Fred run off with a mistress?  Perhaps it’s better if some things never change.

 

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Year in Review

Interpreter                      

Liaise

 

Hoping to improve his relations with Congress, President Barack Obama last week named South African interpreter Thamsanqa Jantjie, above left, as “Special Liaison to John Boehner.”  Boehner, on vacation in Tahiti, could not be reached for comment.

*****

 

Rangle

Ease

 

In October, political observers were surprised when Congress voted to reduce its yearly workload.  Beginning in 2014, Senate and House members will be in session just eight days per year.  Congressmen, including New York’s Charles Rangel, above, were on holiday break and could not be reached for comment.

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Plane

               FAA

 

In a bid to accommodate passengers who do not wish to be annoyed, the FAA announced that it will ban passengers from all flights, effective next year.  “Much as cell phones and second-hand smoke annoy others, so do people annoy other people,” FAA spokesman Larry Peecee said.   Members of Congress, most of whom own private planes that would be exempt from the new rules, could not be reached for comment.

*****

 

Bash

CNN

 

Veteran CNN reporter Dana Bash, following her hard-hitting report on the “alpha house” shared by Congressmen Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin and George Miller, announced that she will be moving into the house.  “Some people have accused me of ‘getting into bed’ with Democrats,” Bash said.  “Well, now I really will.” 

 

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                    Disease

 

Under pressure from the nation’s wealthy citizens, the American Psychiatric Association in December added “affluenza” to its list of recognized diseases.  People who suffer from affluenza, defined by psychologist G. Dick Miller as a condition in which “wealth [buys] privilege and there is no rational link between behavior and consequences,” will be able to avoid prison sentences and will no longer pay taxes.  Affluenzers will also be allowed to smoke and use cell phones on airplanes, although they will not be allowed to board airplanes.

 

*****

 

Ajami

 

Quote of the Week:

“This is the outcome that the Obama administration in the end, in the end ended up with.” — Fouad Ajami, speaking words of wisdom to Wolf Blitzer on Thursday.

 

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Mandel

 

Mandel, R.I.P.

 

We here at Grouchyeditor join the rest of the media in expressing heartfelt sadness at the passing of Howie Mandel.  Although we never actually watched Deal or No Deal, and we have yet to see an episode of  America’s Got Talent, because it sounds awful, we do understand that Howie was on those shows.

Media reports inform us that Mandel, who suffered from mysophobia, was 95.  We assume that his remains will be hermetically sealed.

 

*****

 

Women’s Health magazine has declared that actress Evangeline Lilly is the proud owner of the “Best.  Butt.  Ever.”  Because we are always intrigued by butt journalism, we went looking for corroboration.  We found this:

 

eyeprime.blogspot.com            Lilly1

 

*****

 

Lots of media hype over the upcoming movie, Anchorman 2.  News anchors already love this movie, and they all seem to believe that they are in on the movie’s joke.  Hate to break it to you, anchors, but you are the joke.

 

*****

 

Quote of the Week:

“I gotta put it right in my crotch, where nobody will suspect a bulge.” —  Survivor contestant Tyson, who either has a very high opinion of himself or a very low one, on hiding an “immunity idol” in his shorts.

 

*****

 

Snidely2 Whiplash

 

You simply cannot convince me that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, pictured here breaking ground for his new playpen in Minneapolis, is not, in reality, Snidely Whiplash.

 

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by Leo Tolstoy

Karenina

 

Let me nitpick at Leo Tolstoy.  His two great novels, this one and War and Peace, are simply too damn long.  This is partly because Tolstoy could not resist lengthy, off-plot digressions about the issues of his day (military strategy in Peace; agriculture in Karenina).  Also, in comparing great novelists of the 19th century, I prefer Charles Dickens, whose books feature something thats rare in Tolstoy:  humor.

I’m done nitpicking.  There is a reason that Anna Karenina is considered one of the best novels of all time.  Tolstoy immerses readers in his characters’ minds and keeps us there.  Don’t think you can relate to a member of 1870s Russian aristocracy?  You will in this book.  Tolstoy’s description of Anna’s descent into madness, culminating at a train station, is one of the most devastating passages I’ve ever read.

 

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Robot & Frank 

.      Frank1  Frank2

 

Sometimes silly but always engaging, Robot & Frank is a showcase for 74-year-old Frank Langella.  Langella plays a grumpy, unreformed burglar whose adult son comes up with an antidote for dad’s failing memory:  a caregiver robot.  The movie is ostensibly science fiction, but its theme is human memory — and the loss of it.  What makes Robot stumble is its desire to add thrills to the mix, including a lame heist sequence.  Release:  2012  Grade:  B

 

*****

 

The Conjuring

.      Conjure1  Conjure2

 

One day, someone will give director James Wan a quality script and he might produce a horror classic.  Wan, who gave us Insidious and now this film, is a master at staging and framing shots for maximum shock value — the first half of Conjuring boasts some of the scariest scenes I’ve watched in ages.  Unfortunately, once a pair of demonologists (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) show up to clear a family’s house of evil spirits, the screenplay devolves into clumsy dialogue and rip-offs of better films like The Exorcist and Poltergeist.  Still … those first 45 minutes are chilling.  Release:  2013  Grade:  B+

 

*****

 

Oldboy

.      Oldboy1  Oldboy2

 

A man wakes up in a hotel room with no clue how he got there and no idea that he will be imprisoned there for the next 15 years — and that’s just the beginning of his ordeal.  Korean director Park Chan-wook’s trippy revenge-mystery doesn’t always make sense, and it’s a tad too long, but it’s hard to take your eyes off the screen.  And a twist near the end is a real whopper.  Release:  2003  Grade:  B+

 

*****

 

Absentia

.      Absentia1  Absentia2

 

Straight-to-video horror movies often share similar traits:  a few scary scenes; a good performance or two; and last but not least, a goofy script that sabotages much of what is positive about the film.  So it is with Absentia, in which residents of a Los Angeles neighborhood keep vanishing into a … oh, never mind.  But there are some chills here, and lead actress Katie Parker is appealing.  Release:  2011  Grade:  B-

 

*****

 

Everything or Nothing

.      Bond2  Bond3

 

I suppose I expected something different from a documentary about the making of the James Bond movies, like more girls, gadgets, and guns.  Instead, Everything focuses on behind-the-scenes drama, in particular the clashing egos of producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli and Bond creator Ian Fleming.  It’s an interesting tale, just not as entertaining as the films themselves.  One noticeable absentee from the roster of interviewees:  Sean Connery.  Release:  2012  Grade:  B

 

*****

 

The Silence

.      Silence1  Silence2

 

A young girl is raped and murdered in a field, the killer is not found, and 23 years later — to the day — another girl goes missing at the same spot.  The Silence is unusual in that it concentrates as much on the victims’ families as on the crime.  The result is a compelling drama from Germany, but also a thriller that’s a bit short on thrills.  Release:  2010  Grade:  B

 

*****

 

Grabbers

.      Grabber1  Grabber2

 

In Bride of the Monster, there is an infamous scene in which poor, aging Bela Lugosi tussles with a rubber octopus.  There’s a similar scene in Grabbers, but with a difference:  This time, we are supposed to laugh.  This Irish horror-comedy about an island village besieged by monsters is an affectionate nod to silly B-movies past, but aside from a hilarious turn by Ruth Bradley as a drunken cop, the laughs are sporadic.  The real grabber here is the breathtaking Irish scenery.  Release:  2012  Grade:  B

 

*****

 

Talhotblond

.      Tal1Tal2  Tal3

 

You’ve probably heard of “catfishing,” the pernicious practice of conning people by using fake Internet profiles.  Filmmaker Nev Schulman has made a career chronicling the phenomenon, beginning with his 2010 movie Catfish and continuing with an MTV series.  But this movie, similar in theme to Catfish, predates Schulman’s documentary and, for my money, is the better film because the stakes, murder, are much higher.  The final twist is a stunner.  Release:  2009  Grade:  B+

 

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