Monthly Archives: August 2011



I wanted to like Julia’s Eyes, really I did.  It’s been a long time since we’ve had a good blind-damsel-in-distress movie, maybe since Audrey Hepburn turned off the lights in 1967’s Wait Until Dark.  Alas, despite a handsome production, nifty direction, and some good acting, Julia’s Eyes is … dumb.

The thriller begins promisingly with the death of Julia’s twin sister Sara (both played by Belen Rueda), apparently by suicide.  Both women suffer from a degenerative eye disease.  Sara had gone completely blind, and it’s just a matter of time before Julia does, as well.  But was Sara’s death really a suicide?  Julia doesn’t believe so, but can she convince anyone else?  Have we seen this plot before?

Director Guillem Morales’s film goes wrong where nearly all films of this type do:  far-fetched storytelling.  The first half of the movie is basically a whodunit, but Who Did It becomes obvious early on.  Once we have that information, the movie turns into a routine killer-chasing-heroine exercise, with stale elements borrowed from The Silence of the Lambs, Rear Window, and yes, Wait Until Dark.




Unlike its esteemed predecessors, Julia’s Eyes lacks originality.  Instead, it has an abundance of clichés:  When Julia has an opportunity to stab the killer with a knife, she jabs him in the leg — that way, he won’t die and can continue to chase her.  We are asked to believe that the bad guy, played by an actor blessed with movie-star looks, is angry at the world because he feels “invisible” in day-to-day life.  And then there are the scary scenes that turn out to be — you guessed it — nightmares.

Some people will be drawn to this movie because one of its producers is Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth).  But as we’ve learned from Steven Spielberg, attaching a big name to a film project is no guarantee of quality.  Julia’s Eyes is frustratingly stupid.      Grade:  C+


Julia3 Julia4

Julia5 Julia6


Director:  Guillem Morales  Cast:  Belen Rueda, Lluis Homar, Pablo Derqui, Francesc Orella, Joan Dalmau, Boris Ruiz, Daniel Grao, Clara Segura, Catalina Munar  Release:  2010




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Some film scholars think that Notorious is Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest movie.  I don’t agree; I think the “master of suspense” reached his peak about ten years later, beginning with Rear Window and continuing through 1963’s The BirdsBut hey, Notorious is still top-notch filmmaking, and it has Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. What more do you want?  Watch it for free by clicking here.


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by Roald Dahl


Roald Dahl was, at times, too gifted a writer for his own good.  Dahl’s short stories in this collection (by the way, not written for children) are so devilishly entertaining, so artful at building suspense, that some of their endings can’t possibly live up to what precedes them.  But often they do.  Dahl’s tales of murder and the macabre are a showcase for colorful characters, locations and – above all – black humor, and so when some of the twist endings fall a bit flat, all is forgiven.


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I suppose that when it finally airs this show will suck, but damn, the promos for FX’s upcoming American Horror Story are tantalizing.  Just don’t screw it up, FX, by focusing on special effects at the expense of story.


Horror2   Horror3






I was channel surfing and I stumbled on Jerry Springer’s show, which I hadn’t seen in years.  Jerry’s trailer-trash guests catch a lot of flak from moral authorities, but to me the most horrifying aspect of the show has always been the audience — especially the expressions of glee and bloodlust when the crowd anticipates some guest’s upcoming humiliation.

Sure enough, on yesterday’s show some poor schmuck was preparing to tell his pregnant girlfriend that he did not love her and was cheating on her with her best friend … and the audience excitement was palpable.  It was just like the good old days in the Roman Colosseum.




I was reminded of, oh, about 15 years ago, when I noticed constant TV ads for a videotape of Springer highlights.  There was a clip in the commercial of a blond stripper wearing a cowboy hat, and damned if I didn’t recognize her.  It was a girl named Jennifer Ford, whom I knew, sort of, when I lived in Ft. Worth, Texas.

About a week after I saw that commercial, the Springer video somehow — as if by magic — wound up in my possession.  And like more magic, here are some screen caps of Jennifer, taken from that tape:


Ford1     Ford2



Last, but certainly not least, here is the actual clip:


Kind of makes me want to move back to Ft. Worth.




Speaking of Texas …


Dear Grouchy:

Why do you detest the Dallas Cowboys?

J. Jones, Dallas, Texas


Grouch4 - Copy   Dear J. Jones:

This quote from current Dallas Cowpie Bradie James sums up one of my reasons:  “I think the entitlement kills us,” James said.  “Our alumni, our former greats have made us America’s Team and we reap benefits that we haven’t earned.  We just think we deserve it.”  America’s Team, my ass.  Those old players didn’t “deserve it,” either.




I have some sympathy — not much, but some — for East Coasters threatened by Hurricane Irene.  That’s because most victims of natural disasters don’t have days to prepare for calamity, but you people do.

But geez … earthquakes, hurricanes — isn’t the end of the world supposed to happen next year?


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How do you prefer your Gregory Peck – soft-spoken and dignified, the way he played Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, or crazed and peg-legged, the way he played Captain Ahab in Moby Dick?  John Huston directs Peck in this 1956 whale of a tale.  Click here to watch it for free.


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by Eric Hodgins


Mr. and Mrs. Blandings want to build their dream house on Connecticut’s Bald Mountain, but somewhere beneath the grounds of their serene and scenic property lurks a roiling, mischievous stream of water.  I can’t think of a better analogy for Hodgins’s clever prose, which is all propriety and elegance on the surface – and a whirlpool of repressed anger and despair down below.

That’s a blueprint for high comedy as we follow the hapless Blandings, two city slickers who run afoul of country anti-bumpkins in their quest to build the American Dream, circa 1946.  Try as the Blandings might to fit in with their new neighbors, alas, it is not to be as tensions on both sides of the cultural divide threaten to – and periodically do – erupt during construction of the jinxed house.  

This might not say much for human nature, but as an observer it can be wicked fun to sit back and read about someone else’s misery.


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OK, so I suppose I have a sick sense of humor, but when I read that a 66-year-old woman spent 12 days in a Canadian jail for “heroin smuggling,” I thought it was the funniest story of the week.  Click here to read about it.






Baseball’s Jim Thome clubbed the 600th home run of his career — and America yawned.  Methinks there are two explanations for the apathy:  rent-a-players, and steroids.  Steroid abuse has tainted baseball’s once-hallowed records, and rent-a-player jocks (like Thome), who seldom spend an entire career with one team, have made the concept of team “loyalty” into a joke.






Dear Grouchy:

Why are you so homophobic?

J. Cagle, New York


Grouch4 - Copy   Dear J. Cagle:

Two words:  Entertainment Weekly.  I’m a subscriber, and I’ve noticed that there are two opportunities that EW never misses — the chance to pummel raging heterosexuals like Charlie Sheen and Tracy Morgan, and the chance to plug that fading TV phenomenon called Glee.

Surprisingly, EW fessed up to its Glee obsession in its August 12 issue:  “We’ve been huge fans of the show from the very beginning, and we have the angry letters complaining about our constant barrage of Glee covers to prove it.”  Wow.  Can’t wait to see next week’s issue, with its cover from Glee.



Dear Grouchy:

Why are you so grouchy?

The World


Grouch4 - Copy   Dear World:

Can’t help it.  I subscribe to Entertainment Weekly.






HLN’s Joy Behar keeps referring to the Speaker of the House as “John Boner.”  Texas Governor Dick Perry wants to move into the White House.  Now, if Republicans could just get New York’s Peter King to switch houses and run the Senate, we could have a country led by Peter, Dick, and Boner.  Take that, women’s libbers.


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When this biography of World’s Greatest Jerk Jake LaMotta was released in 1980, it went on to gross $23 million in the United States, a modest haul proving that the American public – at least on occasion – has more sense than do critics, because most moviegoers opted to stay home.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Martin Scorsese’s boxing drama is the fifth-greatest film of all time.  Number six all-time, counters a poll in Sight & Sound.  One of the ten greatest movies ever made, says Roger Ebert.

Raging Bull is a “knockout” alright:  It nearly put me to sleep half a dozen times.  What a long, boring slog of a movie.  It is made up entirely of unlikeable characters, a script filled with boxing clichés, and a predictable plot.  You have to be emotionally invested in a character – any character – to follow a film this dispiriting for more than two hours.  There is absolutely no one to root for in Raging Bull, just actors to stare at.

Jake (Robert De Niro) gets married.  Jake gets jealous.  Jake boxes.  Jake gets jealous again.  Jake boxes some more.  Jake retires and feels sorry for himself.  There is lots of swearing and yelling and Brooklyn accents; if that’s your idea of compelling drama, then this is the movie for you. 




The acting is generally good, although a wooden Cathy Moriarty, as Jake’s child-bride Vickie, doesn’t remotely resemble the 14-year-old she’s supposed to be at the beginning of the film, and she exudes all the personality of a petrified turnip.  Joe Pesci, acting in his first big role, plays the kind of character Pesci always plays (“feisty”).

So why is Raging Bull such a critical favorite?  I have three theories:  1) It’s in black and white, which signifies “serious” to some folks.   2) The boxing scenes, full of slow-motion blood, sweat and tears, seemed edgy in 1980.  3) The project reunited critics’ darlings Scorsese, De Niro, and writer Paul Schrader, who gave us the superior Taxi Driver.  I guess some critics were also taken with the film’s profound message, which is apparently “Be nice.”

I’m siding with the American public, because most of them were smart enough to stay away from this tedious, unpleasant movie.       Grade:  C-




Director:  Martin Scorsese  Cast:  Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci, Frank Vincent, Nicholas Colasanto, Theresa Saldana, Mario Gallo, Frank Adonis, Joseph Bono, Frank Topham   Release:  1980


Bull4    Bull5


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Thanks to ongoing revelations about our athletic heroes – none of them good – I wouldn’t be surprised if we eventually learn that baseball’s Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig, was actually a jerk.  Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth … not guys you’d want to meet your mother.  But if you want to escape to an imaginary world where pro jocks are more saint than sinner, you can’t do better than The Pride of the Yankees, a 1942 biopic starring Gary Cooper as Gehrig.  Click here to watch it free.


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Bernie Madoff’s pants are in the news, but I’m thinking of buying an “I Love Bernie!” t-shirt because Madoff seems to be the only person in recent memory who was able to stick it to the rich the way the rich continue to stick it to the rest of us.






Mila Kunis caught hell for stating the obvious:  Fat people just need to try harder if they want to lose weight.  When will celebrities learn that it never pays to speak the truth?






Michele Bachmann defenders are outraged that she was asked about being a “submissive wife” at the Republican debate.  Hey, she started it.  Besides, Bachmann’s reply, in which she equated the word “respect” with “submission,” was classic bullshit.






Liberals beware, because Fox News is tapping into a cultural niche that’s traditionally belonged to you:  televised humor.  I am referring to Red Eye’s Greg Gutfeld, who is suddenly everywhere.

But this guy, who can be quite amusing — for the uninitiated, think of him as a poor man’s Bill Maher —  drops the funny business to spew demented conservative crap in nightly “Greg-alogues.” Oh, and Louis C.K., I love your FX series, but did you really have to provide a platform for Gutfeld on your show?  At least you misspelled his name in the credits.






Good job, Jon Stewart, exposing Megyn Kelly’s hypocrisy.  Kelly, who recently returned to Fox after taking maternity leave, believes that government benefits are out of control — unless they happen to benefit her.






“Endless Pools”?  Oh, please.  There is nothing endless about them; they are glorified bathtubs.




Headline of the Week:




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