I’ve always felt that the most underutilized weapon in the horror-filmmaker’s arsenal is the soundtrack. By that I do not mean the startling din that accompanies “jump scares” in too many fright flicks. In the typical horror movie, ample care is devoted to atmospheric visuals and special effects. But the soundtrack is usually relegated to secondary status.

When filmmakers do give sound its due, the results can be chilling: the ticking clock and howling wind in Black Christmas, the pitter-patter of alien footsteps on a ceiling in Signs.

So kudos to director John Krasinski and company for understanding the value of sound – or in this movie, the lack of it – to building suspense.

Krasinski co-stars with real-life wife Emily Blunt as the parents in a family of five struggling to survive an alien invasion. The aliens are blind, but they have super-sensitive hearing. The scattered humans who still exist do so only because they’ve mastered the art of absolute silence. This is no easy feat when there are young kids in the family, and when every snapped twig can mean instant annihilation.

 

 

Early on we learn that mom is pregnant. This instills a sense of foreboding because at some point there will be a baby. When every stifled sneeze is a potential death sentence, what will happen when the infant begins to cry?

A Quiet Place gets a high grade because it has several prolonged, agonizingly tense scenes, and that’s a special thing. My grade would be higher but the script is marred by inconsistencies. Sometimes the monsters come at the drop of a pin. Other times a loud bang doesn’t seem to interest them.  Also, once a family member discovers an effective alien repellent, why not use it more often?     Grade: B+

 

 

Director:  John Krasinski  Cast:  Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cade Woodward, Leon Russom  Release:  2018

 

 

Watch the Trailer:

 

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by Jefferson Farjeon

 

A gathering of upper-crust Brits and their servants fall under suspicion when foul play interrupts a weekend retreat. This 1936 whodunit is pretty much what you’d expect, if what you expect is an English country-house murder mystery with Agatha Christie DNA in its bones. Farjeon is no Dame Agatha, but a few of his characters – in particular an acerbic journalist named Bultin – are amusing.

 

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Dirty Old Men!

 

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If I was the parent of a six-year-old boy, no way I’d let him anywhere near a Catholic priest.

 

**

 

 

There is one segment of the population that is no doubt relieved at the passing of George Bush: the derrieres of every comely young female in his orbit, which will now go unmolested.

 

**

 

It must be hard on liberal swamp networks like CNN and MSNBC whenever a conservative swamp politician dies and the networks are then forced, for 24 hours or so, to say nice things about the guy.

 

Of course, Fox News will have the same problem when Jimmy Carter finally kicks the bucket.

 

**

 

 

**

 

It would be easier to take Sean Hannity seriously if he would stop, literally, butchering the English language.

 

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Cam

 

I am not particularly tech-savvy (surprise!), and I’ve never been a webcam girl (gasp!), but despite these handicaps, I recognize a good cautionary tale about technology when I see one. Cam, in which a sex worker’s (Madeline Brewer) online identity gets hijacked by a mysterious doppelganger, is like Black Mirror with boobs. Some of the computer-related details might or might not be accurate, but that hardly matters to an ignorant Luddite like me. Release: 2018 Grade: B+

 

 

**

 

Crooked House

 

So you’re adapting an Agatha Christie novel for film, something that’s been done, oh, maybe 500 times. Also problematic: This Christie whodunit, Crooked House, has no Hercule Poirot, no Miss Marple – just a cast of shady suspects. So how do you make your movie stand out?

Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner does it by emphasizing showy visuals and hammy performances from veterans like Glenn Close and Gillian Anderson. The actors do not disappoint, and the movie is certainly watchable. But it’s not all that memorable, either.   Release: 2017  Grade: B-

 

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Perhaps I’ve become infected by corrosive political correctness, or by the perniciousness of “Twitter outrage,” but whenever I see the Sandals Resorts (“where exclusive is always inclusive”) commercial in which a black servant “walks on water” to bring drinks to a privileged congregation of wealthy guests, all of it narrated by a smug-sounding woman — “Have you ever seen … a butler walk on water to please you?”  (we don’t suppose he’s doing it just for the paycheck) — I can’t help but feel the ad is in spectacular, if subtle, bad taste.

 

You be the judge:

 

 

**

 

Love him or loathe him, you’ve got to admit that President Trump does a marvelous job of reminding us that, once upon a time, we were all of us in the sixth grade:

 

 

 

**

 

 

Not sure what it says about me that Twitter’s algorithm seems to feel that I should follow this guy, who has been dead for a year.

 

**

 

Trump’s Wall

 

I’ve suspected for quite awhile that no one in Washington, including Trump, really wants to build The Wall. I think Trump considers it a nuisance, and secretly wishes that his base would just forget about it.

But his base won’t let it drop. If Trump wants to get re-elected, he’s got to build the damn thing, whether he wants to or not.

 

**

 

Anchor of the Week

 

 

 

Segment 1

 

The incident happening … yesterday? Is this Thursday or Friday?”

Fox News’s Rick Leventhal on Saturday’s broadcast

 

Segment 2

 

“This Fox News alert from California, where wildfires continue to rage – uh, and, well, actually now they’re starting to die down because of the rain that has been tamping down fires.”

Leventhal on the same broadcast

 

**

 

 

 

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In which we bring you gorgeous starlets from the past, nude or semi-nude – hey, this new feature was Rip van Dinkle’s idea. He wanted to call this category “Party in Your Pants,” but we held firm for something classier.

 

Valerie Leon

 

 

Once upon a time, long before Harvey Weinstein, the men who made movies could exploit a starlet and not apologize for it. The girl was hired for the audience to ogle, and her character needn’t be written as “a strong woman.” Everyone knew what her strengths were: her T and her A.

Back then, you didn’t need to be a handsome stud to brazenly eyeball – and frequently fondle – a perky piece of ass. In fact, often it was the stereotypical “dirty old man” abusing his patriarchal power at the nubile young gal’s expense.

Case in point: Britain’s buxom Valerie Leon.

 

 

Director:  “Valerie, this is where the dirty old men in the cast, the crew members, and the audience get to eyeball your goods. Show us your goods, dear.”

 

 

Much has been made of statuesque Valerie’s upper half, and justifiably so, but in this scene from The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer, yet another dirty old man is obsessed with her bubbly bottom, so much so that he can’t resist copping a feel up her miniskirt:

 

 

Here’s a video clip from the movie, featuring Valerie’s gorgeous gams and the old fart demonstrating sexual harassment in the workplace:

 

**

 

I suppose that 45 years ago, the scene below, in which Valerie demonstrates how she would swallow your … banana … was considered quite daring:

 

 

 

Random goodness:

 

 

Finally, here are screen captures and a video clip of the closest Valerie ever got (at least, that we know of) to full nudity on screen — just some pasties and a thong in something called Zeta One (aka The Love Factor). Lucky actors who were able to manhandle and paw the nearly nude starlet:

 

 

The Zeta One video clip:

 

 

 

 

 

Rip’s Ranking:

 

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“I’d give her a higher score but, outside of her pasties-and-thong bit in some cheap, early-career movie called Zeta One, it doesn’t appear that she ever went nude. Cute face, though, and one heckuva rack. And now we know where the term ‘upskirt’ came from.”

Click here for Valerie Leon’s IMDB page.

 

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Mark Levin (above left) and Dan Bongino (above right): What do these two blowhards have in common – aside from the fact that they are both on the Fox News payroll? They have, evidently, volcanic tempers. Don’t you believe it.

If you are truly upset about something, you don’t go from red-faced outrage to — in a heartbeat, as these two do — serenity and a cat-that-ate-the-canary smile. It’s fake outrage at its finest.

 

**

 

Just in case anyone still needs convincing that Florida is one creepy place, we give you the Crypt-Keeper vs. Old Scratch:

 

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**

 

The Meaning of “Nationalism”

 

I blame this debate on Bill Clinton, back when he told us “it depends upon what the meaning of the word is, is.”

I mean, since when do we allow politicians to decide the definitions of words? Is Emmanuel Macron, or Donald Trump, suddenly Merriam-Webster? Leave the definitions to the expert – your dictionary.

 

**

 

The Jim Acosta Fix

 

Restore his press pass and let him back in. Then don’t call on the idiot – ever.

 

**

 

Fox Nudes Channel?

 

 

Fox is launching a new streaming service. I don’t understand the appeal.

Unless the network’s stable of hot women plan to host new shows in the nude, isn’t it  going to be just more of the same?

 

**

 

“Don’t shoot the messenger”

 

Maybe we’ve had this backwards all along. Maybe if we did shoot the messenger, all of our problems would be solved.

 

**

 

Bette Midler body-shamed Melania Trump. Which gives us another excuse to leer at our First Lady’s bare ass:

 

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Click for a larger view of our naked First Lady (you pig)

 

**

 

Last week we complained about the lack of good (new) stuff on TV. Not this week.

Here are three shows worth watching:

 

 

Homecoming (Amazon Prime). This Julia Roberts vehicle owes a lot to ‘70s-‘80s suspense kings John Carpenter and Brian De Palma – in particular, their musical scores, which are reused in Homecoming to great effect. Roberts plays a therapist at a clinic allegedly created to help military grunts readjust to society, and Bobby Cannavale plays her overbearing boss. But something fishy is going on at the clinic, euphemistically named “Homecoming.” It’s a great concept, and the interplay between Roberts and Cannavale is both maddening and entertaining.

The only drawback? The 10-episode series should have ended with episode 7, which contains the big reveal. The last three episodes are anticlimactic.  Grade: B+

 

 

The Woman in White (BBC/PBS). I can’t decide who plays the better villain, Bobby Cannavale (see above) or Riccardo Scamarcio in this period piece based on a mystery by Wilkie Collins. I’ve read the Collins book, which served as an all-encompassing “spoiler” for my viewing of this BBC adaptation. But the plot is just one reason we watch these British dramas. We watch for the settings, the atmosphere, and the performances.

The only drawback? Occasionally the writers make heroine Marian a bit too 21st century, a bit too feminist. It’s as if they don’t trust modern audiences to watch anything with 19th-century sensibilities.  Grade: B+

 

 

Trapped (Amazon Prime). I’ve only seen half of this series, but I doubt that the remaining episodes will surprise me. In fact, that’s part of the appeal of this Icelandic thriller; it’s the television equivalent of the “cozy mystery” novel, in which familiarity breeds … happiness. Sometimes, that’s what you want.

Two things make Trapped stand out: burly hero Olafur Darri Olafsson as a small-town cop investigating a grisly murder, and one helluva blizzard in one helluva isolated location — a spectacular fjord.  Grade: B+

 

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“Dietland” (see below)

 

**

 

Well, they are still counting votes in Florida and in Arizona and in Georgia and in God Knows Where Else. These midterms are, apparently, the never-ending-terms.

We’re sick of politics. This is what we think of politics:

 

 

**

 

We now have hundreds and hundreds of TV channels, yet we can’t seem to find anything new that’s worth watching.

We’re sick of that. This is what we think of most television:

 

 

**

 

 

The above is a USA Today recommendation.

I don’t know, maybe Dietland was a great show; I didn’t see it. But from the USA Today synopsis, it seems like the type of recommendation we get from myriad Web sites that hire way too many male-bashing, victimhood-promoting, women’s-studies graduates who were coddled and indulged at ultra-liberal colleges.

Or, to borrow a term from Bill Maher, whiny little bitches.

 

We’re sick of that. This is what we think of that:

 

 

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Midterms!

 

I will see a campaign ad about Candidate A, in which he comes off worse than Hitler, and will later learn that Candidate A is leading his race by 10 points. I will conclude that Candidate A’s opponent must be worse than Hitler.

 

If the “experts” are correct – and they are never, ever wrong – the Democrats will seize control of the House of Representatives. This will result in:

 

  • Democrats stopping some of Trump’s agenda.
  • Democrats accomplishing nothing of their own agenda.

 

In other words, nothing much will happen.

 

I take that back. Trump will still be president, so the chances of nothing much happening are pretty much nil.

 

**

 

Sensitivity Training!

 

 

There is a commercial for a movie called Beautiful Boy in which an effeminate dad played by Steve Carell tries to help his effeminate, drug-addicted son. This commercial plays endlessly on Fox News and during football games.

Seems like if your target demographic is the sensitive crowd, you might want to plug your movie elsewhere. The title alone is enough to make Steelers fans upchuck.

 

**

 

Double Standards!

 

 

I watched Outlander in its first season, and it was a decent show. But then I drifted away. It appears, from the picture above, that the heroine dumped her husband and has taken up with the younger, studlier boy toy she found in the 18th century. This plot is considered dashing and romantic by many female fans.

But how is it different from the older man who dumps his long-time spouse for a younger trophy wife?

 

**

 

Note: Just in case it isn’t obvious, the preceding post was brought to you by an old straight male.

 

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Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story

 

Hedy Lamarr: Was she a typical story from Hollywood’s “golden age,” a self-centered actress who succumbed to drugs, vanity, and other trappings of wealth and celebrity? Hedy Lamarr: Was she the (unacknowledged) inventor of a groundbreaking military technology called “frequency hopping”? Was she the victim of shallow, sexist male contemporaries?

Answer: Probably all of the above. Lamarr was a fascinating woman, but this documentary reminds me why books are usually better suited to subjects like her. Lamarr’s life was simply too complicated, too interesting, to be captured in an 88-minute film.    Release: 2017   Grade: B

 

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