Monthly Archives: January 2011

New Year = New Poops




The Arizona Shooter:   For once, the guy in the mug shot really does look crazy.  Generally, these guys look like, and are described as, “the guy next door.”  The media needs to do its part in creating this legend by continuing to mention Jared Loughner’s middle name, Lee, so that he might join the likes of Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wayne Gacy, and Billy Ray Cyrus on our list of notorious Americans.




Media types describe the Arizona tragedy as “unimaginable.” Oh, really?  We must be lacking in imagination, because this kind of thing happens every few years.  Wolf Blitzer just told me that the whole “nation is in mourning” over the Arizona events — more bullcrap, more journalistic hyperbole. Most people are more interested in the fact that their daily horoscopes have changed.






Previews for Piers Morgan’s new show on CNN do not look promising.  Oprah Winfrey telling Morgan, “You are good!” is not the sign of a hard-hitting interview program.




Pope1      Pope2


One pope is claiming that his predecessor pope deserves to be a saint because the old pope brought about a “miracle.”  The real miracle will come when any of these popes stops covering up for pedophiles.





Kelsey Grammer’s ex implies that the Frasier star likes to dress in women’s clothing.  Judging from Camille Grammer’s days as a soft-core movie star, I guess she doesn’t need her clothing, so why not lend some panties to Kelsey?


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The best movies don’t end well.  By that, I mean that their fadeouts are bittersweet, ambiguous, or flat-out depressing.  Citizen Kane dies, alone and friendless.  Rick and Ilsa are separated, apparently for good.  Old Yeller gets shot.

Blue Valentine is that kind of movie, and that’s a good thing.  Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play (superbly) a married couple that would seem to have it all.  Young, bright, and white in America – if these two can’t attain the American Dream, what hope is there for anyone?

Director Derek Cianfrance films his romantic tragedy in a documentary style, which is both a strength and a weakness.  The sense of eavesdropping on private moments lends credibility and depth to the proceedings, and yet ….

Movies similar to Blue Valentine in the past – I am thinking specifically of Days of Wine and Roses and Two for the Road – relied heavily on melodrama.  Alcohol was a major culprit in Roses; infidelity reared its ugly head in Road.  There are no such obvious trappings in Cianfrance’s movie.  Two nice people run up against something much more mundane:  dashed expectations about married life.

I’m sure that mirrors reality for many people, and it suits the realistic tone of the film.  But I wanted something more.  I was watching, after all, a product of the Hollywood Dream Factory.  Where was the stirring soundtrack, emphasizing dramatic highs and lows?  Why were there no villains – human or otherwise – for me to hiss?  Instead of emotional catharsis, I left the cinema with this feeling:  shit happens.     Grade:  B+




Director:  Derek Cianfrance  Cast:  Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Faith Wladyka, John Doman, Mike Vogel, Marshall Johnson, Jen Jones, Maryann Plunkett, James Benatti  Release:  2010


Valentine3            Valentine4


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There is a disturbing trend developing over at The Internet Movie Database.  More and more, surfers and tightwads like me are presented with a choice:  Watch a classic movie free of charge, or watch the same movie – with enhanced picture quality – for a fee.  This is the result, apparently, of some kind of partnership with  You can still see Life With Father, the 1947 classic about 19th-century family life in New York City, without reaching for your wallet, but I’m guessing the better version will cost you.  Click here  for both options.


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No good roles for women of a “certain age” in Hollywood?  Balderdash.  You just have to avoid the local Cineplex, which has become the domain of the teenage boy, stay at home and turn on your television.  One of the best shows in any medium is playing on Showtime:  The Big C, a comic drama created, written, and informed by women.

Laura Linney stars as Cathy Jamison, a Mary Tyler Moore for the 21st century.  Like Mary Richards, Cathy lives in Minneapolis, has a career, and is the neighborhood “good girl.”  But unlike Mary, Cathy has cancer – and some unorthodox ways of dealing with her crisis that would likely horrify Mr. Grant.

This is a smart, smart show.  Cancer is always lurking in the background, of course, but what makes the series sparkle are its wit and unpredictable characters.  Cathy at first glance is what you might call a spunky “soccer mom,” but she is surrounded by friends and family straight out of the booby hatch.  In other words, her support network consists of realistic human beings.  And, as someone famous once opined, we all know what bastards they can be.

One of the joys of the first season (the show returns with season two later this year) is the introduction of these goofballs, each of them a comic delight:  Sean (John Benjamin Hickey), Cathy’s dumpster-diving, politically savvy brother; Paul (Oliver Platt), her emotionally stunted husband; Marlene (Phyllis Somerville), a modern-day Ma Kettle who lives across the street; Rebecca (Cynthia Nixon), her promiscuous ex-college roommate … and on and on.  All of these characters are obnoxious on the surface; all of them are addictively watchable.

I’ve said before that the test of a great show is if it can transcend its target audience. I’m pretty sure I’m not in The Big C’s primary demographic, which would probably be those women of a “certain age,” but I recognize great writing when I see it.  Unlike Mary Richards, Cathy makes a lot of really bad decisions – but we always understand why, and we’re always on her side.




Creator:  Darlene Hunt  Cast:  Laura Linney, Oliver Platt, Gabriel Basso, John Benjamin Hickey, Phyllis Somerville, Reid Scott, Gabourey Sidibe, Cynthia Nixon, Idris Elba  Premiere:  2010




BigC4   BigC5


Watch Clips (click here)


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.                      Birds


Thousands of birds falling dead from the sky … millions of fish washing up dead on the beach ….  you can’t tell me that this isn’t the work of aliens from outer space.






NewSouth Books wants to delete offensive words from Huckleberry Finn?  Hell no.  Shit no.  Those fucking pricks should be banished from publishing.






Not since Steven Slater thrust his goofy mug into the national spotlight have I grown so tired, so quickly, of someone’s 15 minutes of fame.  Ted Williams, homeless-dude-turned-celebrity, Godspeed and enjoy your newfound riches,  but please take your ugly face away from cameras and go spend some of that money on your nine — nine! — children.




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I was washing up in the men’s room at the movie theater when I noticed another man, roughly my age, doing the same at another sink.  “Which movie did you like better,” I asked him, “this one or the old one?”

He hesitated a moment, looked up and said, “I think this one.”

“I think I prefer The Duke,” I said.

We had both just watched the Coen brothers’ remake of True Grit, the classic John Wayne western.  I understood why the man in the restroom had hesitated.  It’s hard to distinguish between the two films, one produced in 1969 and the other just released.  Hard to distinguish because if ever the word “remake” applied to a motion picture – aside from Gus Van Sant’s ill-conceived carbon-copy of Psycho – this is the time.

To say that Joel and Ethan Coen pay respect to the 1969 film is an understatement.  The dialogue in the two films is frequently twin-like, the story, except for its ending, is the same, and some of the settings (I am thinking of the dugout scene) appear identical.  But the Coens enjoyed an advantage with their version of Charles Portis’s novel:  a bigger budget and superior production values.

In that respect, the Coens’ True Grit is the better movie.  But watching it is an eerie, déjà vu-like experience.  Ethan Coen has said that his and Joel’s film is more faithful to the spirit of Portis’s book than it is to the Wayne movie.  I don’t buy that for a second.  The new film is the old film but with different actors and better art design.

It all comes down to this:  Whom do you prefer as Rooster Cogburn, Jeff Bridges or John Wayne?  The man in the restroom preferred Bridges; I believe I prefer The Duke – but only by a whisker.         Grade:  B-




Directors:  Joel Coen, Ethan Coen  Cast:  Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, Dakin Matthews, Jarlath Conroy, Paul Rae, Domhnall Gleeson  Release:  2010



Grit5           Grit4


TRUE GRIT     Watch Trailers & Clips (click here)


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Years ago, I read James Frey’s controversial book A Million Little Pieces.  By the time I picked it up, Frey’s “nonfiction” memoir had been exposed as a partial hoax, so I knew what to expect.  But you know what?  Had the publishers simply marketed Frey’s book as fiction, I think it still stood a good chance of becoming a bestseller.  It was that good.

Similarly, Catfish is documentary that has fallen under intense media scrutiny.  Is the film real, or an elaborate prank?  Either way, it’s a gripping detective story and an insightful examination of the new social media.

Catfish depicts the strange odyssey of young New Yorker Nev Schulman and his Internet relationship with a mystery woman living in rural Michigan.  As the movie progresses, it becomes apparent that a gigantic con game is afoot.  But who, exactly, is being conned — cocksure Nev and his two pals, who just happen to be making a movie?   The audience?  There is something disingenuous about the New York boys, who were the beneficiaries of some amazingly good luck and coincidences in the course of making a seemingly mundane film.

The Social Network is the buzzed-about film of the year, and it’s often referred to as the “Facebook movie.”  It is not.  It is a film about business, friendship, and betrayal; the Internet is merely the background to the story.  The real “Facebook movie” is Catfish.  Every facet of new technology comes into play:  GPS, text messaging, Facebook, and cell phones.  But so does the dark side of our brave new world:  identity theft, digital alteration, and the loss of face-to-face communication.

The irony is that while the audience watches someone getting his chain yanked in Catfish, it has to wonder if it’s being played itself.   Or, as Ariel Schulman says to his brother Nev,  “We don’t know how much of it’s bullshit.  And they don’t know how much of it you know is bullshit.”                Grade:  B+




Directors:  Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost  Featuring:  Yaniv Schulman, Angela Wesselman-Pierce, Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost  Release:  2010


Catfish3  Catfish4


Catfish5    Watch Trailers & Clips  (click here)


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Important Note:  They say that a film review is often more about the reviewer than the movie itself, so I want it “on the record” that I had nothing to do with the following review.  I didn’t write it; somebody else is responsible for the words and opinions that follow.  I didn’t write this introduction, either.  In fact, I strongly disapprove of this review, just as I disapprove of this introduction.


Anonymous Review of Love Scenes

There was a time when my pecker was perpetually primed, presumptuous, and problematic (I won’t say pretty), and it was all I could do to placate said pecker by preemptively programming the TV.  In other words, we (my penile pal and I) watched “Cinemax After Dark.”

On one such occasion, my persistent protuberance demanded that we view the 1984 movie Love Scenes.

Love Scenes is the story of film director Peter and his lovely wife, movie star Val.  Peter and Val have a boring sex life, so Peter decides to spice things up by casting Val in his latest project, a steamy potboiler co-starring the odious Rick, a preening prick who is, unaccountably, irresistible to women.

During one particularly steamy scene in Peter’s production, Val’s character is seduced by Rick’s character in the back room of an art museum.  (This scene occurs in an art museum because Love Scenes is a classy movie.)  Things get out of hand for the two actors, and they wind up having actual sex.

“I screwed Rick with everybody watching — the whole damned crew!” says Val, just in case we missed it.

Rather than get jealous, Peter gets turned on, and so did my phallic friend.  Peter pens more sex scenes into the plot for his wife.  He decides to insert a scene in which Val has sex with an old fart, a famous art collector named Count Orlando, while she lies rope-bound to a bed.

In other words, in choosing his next kinky fantasy for Val, Peter picks a pickled pecker.

Count Orlando makes his brief, wrinkled, full-frontally nude appearance, enjoys his time with Val, and exits the scene.




All of this sex and nudity is puckishly perverse, and my pesky pulchritude was plenty pleased with all of these perversions.  But at times the film’s brilliant dialogue — sparkling with wit and sophistication — intrudes upon the more important elements:  sex and nudity.

Val:  “Peter, you’re my man.  Don’t forget it.”

Peter:  “Sounds like a line from a movie.”

Peter and Val:  (smiles and giggles)

When all was said and done, my penile projection was placated, although an Internet interview with star Tiffany Bolling cast a pall on my perceptions.

“The nudity bugged me, like in Love Scenes, and I would never do a film like that again,” Bolling pouted.  “The bottom line to it was that there was a lot of nudity in it, and a lot of simulated sex scenes … I don’t want people coming in and getting a joyride off of me trying to get my work done.”

To that, my pulsing pal and I say, “poppycock!”                Grade:  A


Scenes3    Scenes4 


Director:  Bud Townsend  Cast:  Tiffany Bolling, Franc Luz, Julie Newmar, Jack Carter, Daniel Pilon, Britt Ekland, Susan Benn, Carol Ann Susi, Laura Sorrenson, Monique Gabrielle  Release:  1984



Scenes6       Sorry, No Clips Available


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Directors are forever ripping off Alfred Hitchcock, but no one borrowed style and technique from the “master of suspense” better than Hitchcock himself.  Hitch would like something about one of his early films, and then perfect it in whatever project he was currently involved with.  In 1956, he decided to remake an entire film when he shot Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day in The Man Who Knew Too Much.  Some film fans think the original, filmed in 1934, is superior.  Decide for yourself by clicking here.


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I’m sorry, but I don’t care if The Fighter is “based on a true story” – it’s a tired, tired tale.  If your idea of a good time is Turner Classic Movies at 2 a.m., watching Pat O’Brien as the good cop and James Cagney as the bad guy, two childhood friends who took separate paths in life, then by all means knock yourself out and buy a ticket to The Fighter.

Every boxing-movie cliché is here:  the colorful neighborhood residents, the training montages (jump rope, anyone?), the sparring montages, the overkill of period music.  Delete an F-bomb here and there, and we are right back at The Roxy watching Pat and Jimmy flicker on the silver screen.  But I suppose I shouldn’t blame director David O. Russell and his team of screenwriters for digging this plot out of mothballs.  If this formula has worked in so many movies past, why not dress it up and try to shovel in some fresh cash?

There’s been a lot of talk about the acting in this film.  Christian Bale, as bad brother Dicky, is fine.  Melissa Leo, as tough-as-nails Mom (she smokes – always the sign of a villain these days), is fine, although she was better in 2008’s Frozen River.  And Amy Adams shows off a fine Boston accent and looks great in her see-thru black bra and panties.

But all of this fine acting is brought down by that tired, tired story, and by an unconvincingly happy ending – even if it is based on a true story.      Grade:  C+




Director:  David O. Russell  Cast:  Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Mickey O’Keefe, Jack McGee, Chanty Sok  Release:  2010


Fighter3         Fighter4

Fighter5      Watch Trailers & Clips  (click here)  


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