Monthly Archives: January 2016

.                      Parks       Rampling

Paramount Taps Charlotte Rampling for Title Role

in ‘Rosa Parks Story’





TV Updates


There are now more than 400 scripted shows on television — and most of them seem to be premiering this month. And so, in a desperate attempt to keep up, here are my brief impressions, good and not-so-good, about a slew of the (mostly) new shows bombarding us:


The Circus (Showtime)    B

What’s Good: Its behind-the-scenes format gives us a view of the presidential candidates that we don’t normally get. We climb in the campaign bus with Ted Cruz, and have dinner with Bernie Sanders.

What’s Not So Good: The Circus strives to be timely, but we live in an age when cable news breaks stories 24 hours a day, so that even a show that airs just days after it’s filmed, like this one, can feel like old news.


Baskets (FX) –   C+

What’s Good: The female supporting cast, especially Louie Anderson and Martha Kelly. Yes, Louie Anderson.

What’s Not So Good: It wants badly to be different from the typical sitcom, which is fine, but there is a reason that most shows have protagonists we like and stories that engage us.




Angie Tribeca (TBS) –   B-

What’s Good: If you liked The Naked Gun, Scary Movie, Airplane! and other spoofs of movie/TV genres, then you will probably like this cop-show satire. Also, star Rashida Jones has great gams (above).

What’s Not So Good: It’s not what you’d call original.


I’m Your Girlfriend (HBO) –   B

What’s Good: Whitney Cummings reminds me of Bill Maher. Both are known as stand-up comics, but neither of them really makes me laugh. They do, however, make me think.

What’s Not So Good: Cummings chastises the male of the species for becoming too crude and vulgar … and then bends over and sticks her ass in the audience’s face.


Saturday Night Live (NBC) –   B

What’s Good: The up-and-down quality of the writing has been, lately, more up than down.

What’s Not So Good: The guest hosts. Usually.




Billions (Showtime) –   B+

What’s Good: Sharp dialogue and great antagonists in Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti (above).

What’s Not So Good: Everyone is rich. There are times when you want all of them to go to jail.


London Spy (BBC America) –   B

What’s Good: There’s just something about British spy dramas. Even when what’s happening on screen is patently absurd, the tone and actors can convince you that what you’re watching is very serious, indeed.

What’s Not So Good: If you can’t handle gay sex scenes, you might want to skip the first episode.


Chelsea Does (Netflix) –   B

What’s Good: Chelsea Handler deserves credit for tackling important issues like race and the institution of marriage.

What’s Not So Good: Handler herself can be grating, and it isn’t all that endearing to watch her and her celebrity friends sip wine and pass judgment on problems that don’t particularly affect them.


American Crime (ABC) –   A-

What’s Good: My initial impression was, “This can’t be any good. It’s a broadcast-network drama that resembles an ABC Afterschool Special.” My initial impression was wrong. This might be the best hour-long drama on television.

What’s Not So Good: Apparently, it’s in ratings purgatory. That’s the real crime.




From Entertainment Weekly’s review of Dirty Grandpa:


“You’ll get to see Efron’s butt a lot, if that’s what you came for; it’s real, and it’s spectacular.”


From an anonymous commenter:


EW Efron2


© 2010-2023 (text only)


How to Build the Perfect Candidate:




Hillary’s brain; Bernie’s heart; Donald’s balls; Marco’s boots — voila!




Why is it that we so often hear Bernie Sanders described as “an old white man,” but we never hear Hillary Clinton described as “an old white woman”? Sanders is, after all, just six years senior to Clinton.






“Frey helped the Eagles soar, one of the world’s best-selling bands, with 150 million albums, before the Eagles broke up in 1980.” – Scott Pelley on Monday’s news.


Pretty impressive. Especially when you consider the Beatles only had 12 studio albums.




From The Huffington Post:




Doesn’t the subject of the second story solve the problem presented in the first story?




So now they are saying that Putin might be a pedophile. I’ve suspected that for years, ever since this bizarre photo surfaced:




I suppose I should stop publishing this picture. Now I’ll have to hire a food taster.




I live in the frozen tundra, so I felt the need to make my own contribution to the “ice pants” craze currently sweeping the Midwest. Just one catch: My pants aren’t frozen; they always look like this.


.                Pants1      Pants2


© 2010-2023 (text only)


Mad Max: Fury Road Fury


Director George Miller returns to post-apocalyptic Australia to deliver a two-hour cartoon that looks really cool, but which has very little to engage the mind. That’s a fine thing if you’re 12 years old, but some of us geezers recall a time when big-budget action flicks at least made a token effort to provide the semblance of a plot, or one or two characters who do more than grunt their lines. But if all you require is a movie with spectacular chase scenes and things that go boom, this ought to more than satisfy you.  Release: 2015  Grade: B-




Black Sheep



Genetic engineering goes wrong, turning thousands of harmless sheep into bloodthirsty beasts as they run amok in the New Zealand countryside. It’s not quite as funny as it sounds – there’s too much emphasis on gore and special effects, not enough on the (sorry) sheer lunacy of actual sheep on a killer rampage. Then again, the image of hundreds of corpulent sheep congregating on a hilltop, preparing to attack like the schoolyard crows in The Birds, still brings a smile to my face. Release: 2006  Grade: B-




The Imitation Game Imitation


After watching this movie and then doing some research on the real-life people and events that inspired it, I felt much the same way that I felt years ago after reading James Frey’s infamous “memoir,” A Million Little Pieces: Yes, it was a bummer to learn that the film (or book) took so many liberties with reality – but I liked it anyway.

Is it fair to criticize the makers of The Imitation Game for altering the story of Alan Turing, the gay, brilliant mathematician who was instrumental in cracking a Nazi code during World War II? I think it is, especially when the movie opens with the standard “based on a true story” tagline, and especially when the names of real people are retained. If you can shrug off that “artistic license,” though, Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as Turing and the inherent suspense of the story make for a touching, powerful drama.  Release: 2014   Grade: B+


© 2010-2023 (text only)

Share Walsh


The Curse of the Kicker’s Toe


“God, I think, sometimes decides, ‘I think this team should win today.’ I don’t know why he’s picking on the Vikings, but he did.” – Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton on Minnesota’s most recent debacle, a 10-9 playoff loss to Seattle

“The good people of Minnesota are in pain this morning. That is nothing compared to the pain of Blair Walsh.”Sports Illustrated writer Peter King on Walsh’s game-losing 27-yard field goal miss


Tarkenton is right and King is wrong. You can talk all day about the Curse of the Bambino or the Curse of the Billy Goat, but no one is more accursed than the Vikings fan, who endures what might be called the Curse of the Kicker’s Toe.

Blair Walsh was born and raised in Florida. Until he was signed by the team, he had no particular interest in the Minnesota Vikings. He was not in Metropolitan Stadium in 1975 (as your humble scribe was) to witness the infamous “Hail Mary” pass that defeated Tarkenton and his Viking teammates. Nor was Walsh in the stadium in January, 1999, when kicker Gary Anderson missed a 39-yard field goal (below) that would have sent Minnesota to the Super Bowl. The list of soul-crushing big-game losses goes on and on.




Blair Walsh can take his lucrative contract money and console himself on some beach in Tahiti. Blair Walsh might be unhappy today, but he has not experienced decades of gridiron failure. The Vikings fan, on the other hand, has the remainder of the frigid Minnesota winter to contemplate what might have happened to so offend the football gods.

In my opinion, the Curse of the Kicker’s Toe began on that cold December day in 1975 in Metropolitan Stadium, when Minnesota battled Dallas. After the contested Hail Mary pass, an enraged Vikings fan tossed a whiskey bottle at referee Armen Terzian, knocking him out cold. After the game, Tarkenton learned that his father had died of a heart attack while watching the game on television. Just before that bit of bad news, and just after the big loss, the famous quarterback shook hands with a drunken teenager he encountered in the stadium parking lot, an ominous event that I believe triggered the Curse of the Kicker’s Toe.

I believe this because I was that drunken teenager, and as I shook Tarkenton’s hand, I could see a haunted look in his eyes: the curse had begun.






“I applaud your intellectual honesty.” – Andrea Tantaros, pictured above and below, to a fellow Mensa member on Outnumbered, the Fox show that I always turn to for intellectual discourse.






I see there are calls for the mayor of Chicago and the governor of Michigan to resign. When most of us get caught misbehaving, we get fired from our jobs or go to jail. But when you attain a certain level of power and influence, you rarely go to jail and you never get fired. You are asked to “resign,” as if you simply got tired of your job and decided to look for something better.


© 2010-2023 (text only)

Share Avery


Final thoughts on Making a Murderer


This docuseries is making all of us look bad: Wisconsin’s legal system looks inept at best, corrupt at worst. Netflix and its lesbian filmmakers look bad for peddling such a one-sided documentary. Steven Avery looks guilty as sin. Millions of viewers look foolish for rushing to judgment. The media looks … well, we all know how the media looks.




And this is why critics have a point when they say celebrities should keep their traps shut when it comes to controversial issues: Gervais





I have yet to see the new Star Wars movie, but I am told that Oprah makes a memorable cameo appearance. Oprah




Our little city in the Midwest plays host tomorrow to what could be the coldest NFL playoff game in history. They say the temperature at game time could be below zero. They say that this deep freeze, which we Minnesotans endure yearly, “builds character.” But what sort of “character” is that – the sort that enjoys being tied to a bed and tortured with whips and chains?


© 2010-2023 (text only)

Share Netflix


A funny thing happened while I was binge-watching Making a Murderer, Netflix’s ballyhooed docuseries about Steven Avery, the Wisconsin man who was convicted of sexual assault, exonerated 18 years later by DNA evidence, only to be convicted a second time, this time for a murder. After being sucked in by eight (of ten) engrossing episodes about Avery and the evidently corrupt Wisconsin legal system, I decided to take a break from my marathon viewing to do a little outside research.

And just like that, I went from disbelief and outright anger over Avery’s raw deal to, if not support of Wisconsin law enforcement, at least some benefit of the doubt.

Yes, the unsophisticated cops and prosecutors in the Badger State still seemed like the “bad guys”: tainting evidence, misleading the public, and twisting facts in their single-minded determination to nail the pugnacious Avery, not once but twice. But I began to feel like the producers of Making a Murderer were also tainting evidence, misleading the public, and twisting facts in their single-minded determination to absolve Avery and his co-defendant, 16-year-old Brendan Dassey.

The biggest problem I had, and still have, is with the murder that occurred in 2005.  If Avery and Dassey didn’t do it, then who did, and why?

Part of what makes this series so fascinating is the long, strange saga of Avery and his legal adversaries (filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos spent ten years making this docuseries). In 1985, Avery was convicted for the sexual assault of a female jogger. In 2003, DNA evidence proved conclusively that he was innocent of that crime. Just two years after his release from an 18-year stay in prison, he was again accused, this time of the murder of a free-lance photographer who was last seen taking pictures on his property.

Avery seemed a likely suspect, but Ricciardi and Demos make it abundantly clear that Manitowoc County officials had strong motivation to see the ex-convict behind bars again, in part because he was suing the county for millions over his wrongful imprisonment. Time and again, Ricciardi and Demos expose cops and prosecutors behaving either unethically, or illegally, in their zeal to nail Avery.

But again, who killed 25-year-old Teresa Halbach, the photographer who disappeared after visiting the Avery family scrapyard? There are no clear answers. Avery’s own lawyers seem unsure of his guilt or innocence. I went from initially feeling pity for Avery to wondering if he was just a wily ex-convict, gaming everyone in his orbit — including the filmmakers.

I did some reading (here and here, for starters), and it appears that Ricciardi and Demos might well be guilty of the same sin they pin so vividly on Wisconsin officials: bending the facts to suit a predetermined result. In Making a Murderer, Wisconsin cops and prosecutors appear crooked or incompetent, but we only hear from them in the courtroom or at press conferences, often looking shifty-eyed and with ominous music playing in the background. Avery family members, on the other hand, are interviewed extensively, appearing teary-eyed and with mournful music on the soundtrack. Avery defense attorneys are presented as crusading heroes; lead prosecutor Ken Kratz is presented as an arrogant pervert. Clearly, Kratz and other Wisconsin officials behaved atrociously – but does that necessarily mean they got the wrong guy?

As a civics lesson – and as a deterrent to ever, ever getting swept into the criminal justice system – Making a Murderer is must-see television. It will fill you with righteous indignation. If you like to find out the truth, it will also frustrate you.



Entertainment Value:  A

Civics Class Value:  A

Journalism Class Value:  C- 




 Steven Avery – railroaded country boy, or Wisconsin’s latest Jeffrey Dahmer?


© 2010-2023 (text only)