Monthly Archives: April 2015

by Jon Ronson



Ronson’s book is certainly a timely arrival. I imagine that Brian Williams, Ben Affleck, and Britt McHenry placed early orders on Amazon. Shamed examines the repercussions of public humiliation, primarily via social media like Twitter, on several of its unfortunate targets.

Ronson’s conclusion is mostly anti-shaming, anti-mob mentality, but he doesn’t draw much of a distinction between a public dressing-down of the rich and powerful, and the same treatment aimed at the little guy. What can “destroy” — a word Ronson returns to repeatedly — a private citizen like Justine Sacco is probably no more than a nuisance to, for example, a Ben Affleck.  

Also, I think most of us would agree that Sacco’s life was negatively impacted when tweeters hammered her for an ill-advised AIDS joke. Among other things, she was fired from her public-relations job.  But was her life truly “destroyed”? I’m guessing that Hester Prynne would beg to differ.


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Please don’t burden me with facts.  I prefer to pillory people on the basis of first impressions and preconceived notions.  Because, you know, sometimes first impressions and preconceived notions are spot-on.  Therefore …


Dr. Oz – GUILTY!




Nobody’s stifling your “free speech,” you charlatan. They’re simply calling you out as a quack. Plus, you remind me of another egotistical loudmouth, Quentin Tarantino.



Ben Affleck – GUILTY!




You could have simply apologized for using your “star power” to intimidate PBS into censoring its show, but instead you took to Facebook to lecture the rest of us about race relations in America. So clueless. So arrogant.







If you hope to preserve a shred of credibility … heads must roll.



Cops – GUILTY!




Too many thugs, too many Barney Fifes.



Oprah – GUILTY!




Stop foisting clowns like Mehmet Oz and Phil McGraw on the public.



Britt McHenryGUILTY!




Used to be a pretty face and a college degree were all a girl needed to succeed.  Wait … they do still work at Fox News.



Liberals’ Mansions – GUILTY!




I can’t take Earth Day seriously until Al Gore and Michael Moore move out of their energy-gobbling mansions.



Double Standards – GUILTY!




Hope you don’t plan on getting a sex change, ’cause they might change their minds and throw you into the clinker.




The most shocking revelation from ABC’s Bruce Jenner interview? It wasn’t Jenner’s transgender announcement, nor was it his confession that he’s a Republican. No, the real mind-blower was that, after living for years with those awful Kardashian women, Jenner still wants to be female.


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by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard



Political firebrand Bill O’Reilly took a break from his TV show and returned to his roots – teaching American history – to co-author this lively account of Abraham Lincoln’s final days.  O’Reilly and Martin Dugard fashion their nonfiction books in the manner of fictional thrillers, and Killing Lincoln is certainly a page-turner. But as I turned those pages I had the same nagging question that afflicts me when I read most history books: How much “artistic license” did the authors take?  

Do O’Reilly and Dugard really know what ran through Lincoln’s mind as he stood on the deck of a steamboat and observed the bombing of Petersburg, Virginia? Were the authors privy to John Wilkes Booth’s inner turmoil as he lay injured in a Maryland swamp, just days after assassinating the president? And yet, no historian can expect to achieve total accuracy. Killing Lincoln at the very least does a fine job capturing the tumult and horror of April, 1865.


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The heavily inked Aaron Hernandez


I’m not sure that life in prison will be an effective punishment for convicted killer Aaron Hernandez. After all, he’s a jock who’s spent much of his adult life showering with other men. Won’t prison just be more of the same?






Quote of the Week:


“The captain said that we’re turning around. And then he re-announced, ‘Don’t panic,’ which made everyone panic.”

— Alaska Airlines passenger Lexi Graf, above, describing the mood in the cabin after a baggage handler who fell asleep in the plane’s cargo hold woke up and began calling for help.




From Monday’s Huffington Post:




Also from Monday’s Huffington Post:




Perhaps it should be open season on lazy headline writers.


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Life Itself



I liked Roger Ebert. He was that rare celebrity who would reply to reader comments on his Web site, or respond to e-mails, as he did once or twice to mine. I think Ebert was America’s most popular film critic because he merged an “everyday Joe” persona with keen intelligence to produce thoughtful, accessible reviews. And it didn’t hurt that his TV pairing with Gene Siskel was a movie-buff’s delight.

But Ebert could also be, as we learn in the documentary Life Itself, something of a jerk. And so when Steve James’s camera records Ebert’s lengthy battle with cancer, the movie is honest, but perhaps not as moving as it might have been with a more sympathetic subject.  Ebert was a superb writer with unpredictable taste in movies, so it’s hard to know what he might have thought of Life Itself, but my guess would be “thumbs up.”  Release:  2014   Grade:  B+







Here’s a big, dumb, special-effects-heavy disaster pic from Korea, inspired by big, dumb, special-effects-heavy disaster pics from Hollywood, but featuring that peculiar Korean mash-up of 1950s wholesomeness and modern sensibilities (the heroine is a single-mother virologist).

The action scenes are well done and exciting, but what ruined the movie for me was snippy Dr. Kim who, for unfathomable reasons, puts our hero, a virtuous emergency-services worker who is smitten with her, through hoop after romantic hoop.  I mean, seriously, how many lives does the guy have to save – including those of Dr. Kim and her daughter before she’ll give him the time of day? The plot involves an infectious disease spreading through the Korean peninsula, but I found myself hoping the flu would infect Dr. Kim.  Release: 2013  Grade: B-




A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night



Critics adore this movie, presumably because 1) it’s an Iranian story (shot in California); 2) it has a female Iranian-American director; and 3) it is a mash-up of — according to some reviewers — the vampire/western/romance/graphic-novel genres.  (I might debate the inclusion of “western.”)  What most critics don’t mention are Girl’s artsy, pretentious asides and the interminable pauses during which the plot grinds to a halt and the audience falls asleep.  Nice cinematography, though.  If you want to see a better movie about a lonely, female vampire who finds love with a cute Muggle, I recommend Let the Right One In. Release: 2014  Grade: C


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TV Update:


I’m only halfway through its 12-episode first season, but I am digging Fortitude on Pivot.

I said, “Fortitude on Pivot.” Fortitude:  the name of the series.  Pivot: the name of the channel it’s on. You’re welcome.

It’s television of the weird, what we might have gotten if David Lynch had directed The Thing. It’s odd, but it’s also atmospheric as hell, set at an isolated island-community in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, situated at the foot of an ominous glacier that never stops moaning and groaning.




Don’t know how much longer I can keep watching Outlander, which is morphing into Fifty Shades of Grey (Kilts):






Question on Red Eye“Joanne, how do you like your weenies?”

Joanne’s answer:  “Small.”






Pop Quiz:


In the pictures below, which is the character “Romero” from Escape from New York, and which is legendary actress Lucille Ball?


Lucy          Romero


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How to Move to America and Win Over Americans:


Wander through an L.A. neighborhood with a CBS camera crew in tow, knock on doors until you find a willing participant, and then film your entire show from … Tommy’s house.  Jeff Goldblum and Beck show up, and then you all play hide-and-seek in the messy house.  Oh, and also bring along a big snake.






How to Move to America and Immediately Piss Off Two-Thirds of Your Audience:






Like most people, I hadn’t heard of Trevor Noah (below) when Comedy Central tagged him to host The Daily Show.  So I watched his stand-up routine on Netflix.  The guy is whip-smart and provocative.  That’s a good thing.  He’s also a professional comic who doesn’t know how to use Twitter. That’s a bad thing.

As for Noah’s fellow comics who leaped to his defense when all hell broke loose over his tweets (above), including Patton Oswalt and Jim Norton … they can dish it, but apparently they can’t take it.  Aren’t stand-up comedians supposed to have thick skin?








From The Huffington Post:




Oh yeah, if that doesn’t get her to change her mind, nothing will.







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There are two bars for horror movies:  an overall bar, which is pretty damn high thanks to a string of classics that began in 1968 with Rosemary’s Baby and Night of the Living Dead and continued throughout the 1970s, and a more recent bar, which is pretty damn low.  It Follows doesn’t come close to the horror heights of those ’70s classics, but because of its ominous tone and a few memorable scenes, it’s a notch above most contemporary fright flicks.

Another reason It Follows is better than 99 percent of recent horror is that it actually shows respect – for the audience and for the genre itself. Writer-director David Robert Mitchell cares about what he puts on screen, and his attention to detail is rewarding.  Mitchell’s story is just as silly as what we usually get in horror, but he presents it with skill and panache.




We are introduced to Jay (Maika Monroe), a morose young woman with morose young friends. (The default emotional state for all of the young people in this movie is morose. Do young people really sit around in dark living rooms, rarely speaking to each other and instead glued to crappy 1950s science-fiction flicks on TV? I have no idea, but these kids do.)  Jay goes out on a date with a handsome young man, and then we discover the threat in It Follows – a mysterious malady in which people have sex and  then get stalked by “it.” This unsettling state of affairs continues until the victim has sex with someone else, at which point … oh, never mind.  Suffice to say that director Mitchell outshines screenwriter Mitchell.

When the … uh, let’s call it an evil “presence” … gets to be too much for Jay, she finds refuge on a swing-set in the middle of a deserted, spooky playground, or by sleeping on the hood of her car. In sympathy for Jay, her morose friends become even more morose.  Eventually, our gang of heroes comes up with a foolproof way to battle the stalking menace, a solution that involves a swimming pool, irons, TVs, and other electrical appliances. But of course.  It’s a climax that’s certainly “different.” It’s a climax that’s also certifiably dumb.




There are a few scary scenes and several disturbing images in It Follows. Who’d have thought that a lone figure simply shuffling toward the camera out of a crowd of extras could be so unnerving? The eerie musical score has garnered comparisons to John Carpenter’s famous keyboards in Halloween, but it reminded me more of the bizarro score created by Goblin for Suspiria.

So what, exactly, is the “it” that follows? I have no clue, but it does involve the scariest thing on Earth:  naked old people. In this movie, young people have sex with most of their clothes on, while old people go full monty. So on second thought, maybe it really is a horror classic.    Grade:  B




Director:  David Robert Mitchell   Cast:  Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Bailey Spry, Debbie Williams, Ruby Harris, Leisa Pulido  Release:  2015




Watch Trailers (click here)






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