Monthly Archives: December 2014

 

There was no news in America this week.  There was also no news in the outside world.  I know this to be true because Bill, Rachel, and all of the cable news networks – MSNBC, CNN, Fox – took the week off.

In that same spirit, we have decided to take the week off.  So please enjoy this picture of a goat:

 

Goat

 

 

*****

 

Before we sign off we’d like to thank Facebook, which poked its nose into our affairs and created a delightful “year in review” graphic for loyal users.  Per Facebook, here is what the Grouch’s 2014 looked like:

 

 

FB

 

Here’s hoping that 2015 does not, once again, resemble a pile of fake vomit.

 

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by Laurie R. King

Bee2

 

I guess that if Arthur Conan Doyle’s 60 Sherlock Holmes stories just aren’t enough for you, there’s always this, but King’s reimagining of the Holmes saga, in which the legendary detective teams with a teenage girl to solve crimes, is a bit too Nancy Drew Meets Her Teen Idol for my taste.  King ostensibly keeps the relationship paternal between 50-something, semi-retired Holmes and the novel’s heroine, young Mary Russell, but the sexual undertones – Mary giving Holmes backrubs, sleeping in the same compartment with him, etcetera – are prevalent and creepy.  There is also a bizarre, lengthy plot digression in which our two detectives take a break from solving crimes to visit … Palestine.  Huh?

 

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Kim

 

Hate to say “I told you so,” but I told you so.  From December 2012 (click here)

 

 

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Bullshit:

 

“The New York Times calls it the most extraordinary film since …”

“A riveting piece of art — The Washington Post”

“Rolling Stone says this is the best …”

 

Truth:

 

One nerdy guy with glasses at The New York Times, one constipated woman at The Washington Post, and one hack having a bad day at Rolling Stone wrote the reviews.  One opinion, but it sounds a lot more impressive when you say an entire publication likes your movie/book/music.

 

*****

 

Nyhus1         Collins1

 

I suppose this is just another case of Grouch’s dirty-old-manliness, but a piece this week on the local news about sexy reporter Natalie Nyhus’s lap-sit with Santa Claus caused Grouch’s egg to nog, his toe to mistle, and his candy to cane. 

Excerpts:

 

a

 

Natalie:  “It’s not often you get a one on one with Santa, and I had some burning questions.”

Natalie:  “Santa has a way of knowing whether you’ve been naughty or nice – at least, most of the time.”

Santa:  “You have to be a little naughty.”

Natalie:  “Yeah.”

 

b

 

Santa:  “OK, well you know that.”

Natalie:  “I do!”

Santa:  “Just a little bit.”

Natalie:  “Just a little bit.”

 

c d

 

After the report, anchor Liz Collin, no lump of coal herself, seemed as intrigued as the Grouch was about Natalie’s cuddle with Claus:

 

e

 

Liz:  “Was that a little pillow talk you were having with Santa there?”

Natalie:  “I was sitting on his lap.”

Liz:  “You touched his key!”

Natalie:  “What?”

 

The girls seemed a bit churlish with each other.  If only some other bearded dude could mediate for them … wait … what’s this?

 

Natalie2     Blondes

 

Reached for comment, the Grouch wouldn’t say whether or not the girls touched his key, but he did say that they jingled his bells.

 

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Mirror1

 

I love me some Facebook.  And some Twitter, and some YouTube, and the comments sections of any number of Web sites.  I like the exercise of free speech, and I also like the anonymity.  If I want to, I can try to make Ryan Seacrest’s life a living hell … just kidding.  (But somebody really ought to.)

But all of that free speech and anonymous trolling comes with a price, and Charlie Brooker’s brilliant anthology, Black Mirror, demonstrates the downside of modern technology with six short stories that resemble tweets from George Orwell.

Black Mirror has been compared to The Twilight Zone, and it’s true that both series are morality tales, but twist endings aren’t the draw in Mirror; the entire premise is a twist.  The stories take place in the near future, but some of those futures are disturbingly familiar.

 

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Fifteen Million Merits

 

The first episode (and I think the best), “The National Anthem,” could take place today.  When a British princess is abducted, a ransom demand is issued and the unfortunate prime minister comes under intense public pressure to … well, I can’t say without giving away too much.  Brooker presents this audacious situation in such a realistic manner that you won’t question its inherent preposterousness until long after it ends.

This episode and the others don’t indict technology per se, but rather its frightening ability to alter human behavior, in particular the mob mentality.  You might not think of “likes” and “followers” in quite the same way after witnessing flash mobs from hell in Black Mirror.

 

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The National Anthem

 

The other episodes aren’t quite as good as “Anthem” (they lack its crushing suspense), but they are all well done and thought-provoking.  Rod Serling, were he still with us, would no doubt fire up a cigarette and smile – until an Internet-fueled mob of anti-smokers tracked him down.

 

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White Bear

 

The National Anthem:  A

Fifteen Million Merits:  A-

The Entire History of You:  B+

 

Mirror5  Mirror6

                         White Bear                                                       The Entire History of You

 

Be Right Back:  B

White Bear:  B+

The Waldo Moment:  B

 

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Fifteen Million Merits

 

Creator:  Charlie Brooker   Cast:  Rory Kinnear, Lindsay Duncan, Daniel Kaluuya, Jessica Brown-Findlay, Toby Kebbell, Jodie Whittaker, Hayley Atwell, Domhnall Gleeson, Lenora Crichlow, Daniel Rigby  Airing:  2011-present (first two seasons are available on Netflix)

 

 

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Fifteen Million Merits

 

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White Bear

 

Official Site (click here)

 

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Be Right Back

 

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The National Anthem

 

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Snake

 

 

Things That Did Not Happen on TV But Really Should Have:

 

The anaconda did not eat the man on Discovery Channel.

Erin Burnett, discussing rectal feeding on CNN, did not demonstrate rectal feeding for her audience.

 

 

Erin

 

 

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Hannity

 

What is it with Sean Hannity and this constant football tossing?  Is he a jock wannabe, a failed athlete who doesn’t realize he looks like a pathetic old guy experiencing a midlife crisis?

 

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From the Department of “Did I Miss Something?”

 

Wagner

 

“I definitely enjoyed the clip of you saying, talking about him being hung.” – The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, teasing MSNBC’s Alex Wagner about something she apparently said about Darrell Issa.

OK ….

 

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Lessons of the Past Year for Today’s Young People: 

 

If you go into law, study hard and get good grades.  Some day you can use your knowledge of the law to … find ways to avoid or ignore it:

 

President Obama Makes A Statement

 

**

 

If you go into public service, work hard and please your superiors.  Some day you can use your bureaucratic skills to … lie to Congress and the public:

 

Hayden

 

**

 

If you go into journalism, always be aware of which way the political winds are blowing.  Some day you can use your writing talents to … invent stories to gain fame and fortune:

 

Erdely

 

**

 

Finally, if you want to run the country but don’t like politics, go work for Wall Street and buy yourself a politician – or hundreds of them:

 

dimon

 

 

*****

 

This is our last week of Craig Ferguson on CBS, damn it.

 

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Top

 

Another Gratuitous Bare Butt Edition

 

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The week began with lots of positive news:  a vaccine for Ebola that has no side effects, the potential end of chemotherapy as a cancer treatment, falling gas prices, etcetera.  Pinch me.

But then … the New York grand-jury decision.  My first colonoscopy on Wednesday.  Alas, things are as unpleasant as ever.

Politics do indeed make strange bedfellows.  Incredibly, I found myself cheering Fox’s Greg Gutfeld and Ron Paul’s little boy Rand when they linked anti-smoker madness to the death of Eric Garner.  Problem is, their rants against exorbitant cigarette taxes, though valid, were secondary to the main issues, which are police brutality and a flawed grand-jury system.

“You had five cops around there for a guy with a single cigarette!” – Bob Beckel

 

*****

 

Earlier this year, Entertainment Weekly celebrated “The Summer of Butts.”  MTV, below, tends to agree:

 

MTV

 

 

Ariana Grande Butt

 

Grande2

 

Grande was in the news for a mishap at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show (above).  That gives us an excuse to run this picture of Ariana’s ass, purloined during this summer’s infamous celebrity photo hack.

 

Grande1

 

 

Allison Williams Butt

 

Peter Pan Live! - Season 2014

 

Sometimes I miss the old days, when the line was more clear between naughty and nice.  For instance, I enjoyed watching NBC’s airing of Peter Pan, and I think it’s a capital idea to revive live TV; however … I had a hard time watching Allison Williams as Peter without recalling the actress taking it up the butt in an episode of Girls (below).

 

Williams

 

By the way, I’m not ashamed to admit that I watched Peter Pan.  It was … so-so.  Much like last year’s Sound of Music, it was a fun production with a lead actress who could sing but who also, in terms of acting ability, won’t make any of us forget Meryl Streep.  But let’s continue this live-TV thing, because it’s a great idea.

 

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Middle

 

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I was watching something called the Bayou Classic on NBC, and the announcer kept calling Grambling’s Jonathan Williams a “diminutive quarterback.”  Williams, they say, is five-foot-eleven.

 

1

 

So all of you people out there who are shorter than five-foot-eleven, consider yourselves diminutive.

 

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Bare-Bottom Bonanza!

 

 

2ass    3ass

 

Ass4

 

Misty5

 

Maggie6

 

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Click either picture for a more, uh, intimate look at Amy

 

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 The Babadook

Babadook

 

This low-budget chiller from Australia is more effective as a study of the trials and tribulations of single motherhood than as an exercise in horror, mostly because the “babadook” itself – when we finally see it — isn’t especially scary.  Writer-director Jennifer Kent does stage some suspenseful scenes, and star Essie Davis is quite good, but there are too many familiar elements, and that damned babadook, an evil entity haunting Davis and her son, simply isn’t up to snuff.    Release:  2014     Grade:  B

 

 *****

 

The Lego Movie

Lego

 

Lego certainly got its money’s worth out of this inane commercial for building blocks aimed at children (and childish adults).  What I got was 100 minutes of flashing colors and nonstop noise, punctuated with bad puns and mildly amusing pop-culture jokes.  I also nearly got nausea as the filmmakers compensated for their clichéd, simplistic story — a toy construction worker mans up to defeat the bad guy and win the girl — by bombarding the viewer with frenzied activity.  (I stopped this movie twice, just to take a break from it.)  Sure, the computer animation looks cool.  I imagine it looks cool inside a tornado, as well, but I wouldn’t care to be there.  Release:  2014   Grade:  C-

 

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A Penny for Your Thoughts

 

I had misgivings about Showtime’s Penny Dreadful when it premiered earlier this year.  The eight-part miniseries was promoted as a horror mash-up of Frankenstein, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Dracula, and that kind of thing reeks of gimmick.

The first episode did little to allay my doubts.  Although the setting, the fog-shrouded streets of 1891 London, was suitably atmospheric, and the actors, especially Timothy Dalton and Eva Green, were suitably grave, the whole episode played out like one tedious set-up for one clichéd vampire attack.

But then I watched the rest of the series.   And now I think that Penny Dreadful is one of the best shows of the year.

 

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The plot:   Mysterious explorer Sir Malcolm Murray (Dalton) enlists the aid of the even more mysterious Vanessa Ives (Green), American sharpshooter Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett), and Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) to rescue his daughter from the clutches of … well, something evil.

 

More thoughts:

  • Creator John Logan has love and respect for Victorian horror literature – and it shows.  He doesn’t so much exploit the sagas of Frankenstein, Dracula, and Dorian Gray as he reinvigorates them, skillfully weaving the tales together.  Logan knows that the old stories were about more than monsters; they were about human frailty and, perhaps above all, sadness.
  • The acting is uniformly good, but whoa … Eva Green is a sensation.  As the lone female in the quartet of vampire hunters, Green absolutely commands attention, whether she’s quietly appraising another character or in the throes of demonic possession.  I am still recovering from her performance in episode two.
  • The show’s strength is atmosphere, but the tone is so relentlessly grim that at times the series is a bit of an endurance test.  Best not to binge-watch Penny Dreadful; I’d recommend watching just one or two episodes per week.  You know, kind of like we used to do.
  • If I was asked to summarize season one in just two words, those words would be “loving care.”  The attention paid to detail – 19th-century settings and costumes, the musical score, poetic dialogue – is impressive.

 

The more sensational, violent scenes, such as the aforementioned vampire attack, are actually a bit of a letdown.  Logan and company are more interested in exploring the deeper themes introduced by Stoker, Shelley and Wilde, and rightfully so.  That said, there is no shortage of straight-up horror for straight-up horror lovers.    Grade:  A-

 

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Creator:  John Logan   Cast:  Timothy Dalton, Eva Green, Josh Hartnett, Reeve Carney, Rory Kinnear, Billie Piper, Danny Sapani, Simon Russell Beale, Helen McCrory  Premiere:  2014 

 

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Watch Trailers and Clips (click here)

 

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