Monthly Archives: November 2011

Royal

Back in 1951, announcing the “gayest” musical of the year (see above) didn’t have quite the same meaning as it does today.  Come to think of it, I haven’t seen anyone dance on a ceiling recently, either.   See Fred Astaire’s famous rotating-wall routine, free of charge by clicking here.

 

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Double1

 

The Devil’s Double has been called the “Scarface of Arabia,” comparing it to the ultra-violent Brian De Palma film, but that’s giving the Devil too much due.

Scarface worked largely because Tony Montana was a fascinating character; Al Pacino’s Cuban gangster had goals, and he would do anything to attain them.  Montana was an immigrant pursuing his warped twist on the American Dream.  The bad guy in Devil’s Double, a spoiled psychopath based on Saddam Hussein’s eldest son Uday, also has goals, but they are base, childish, and ultimately uninteresting. Uday wanted instant gratification, and if that meant rape, torture, or murder, then so be it.

Uday rants, giggles, and satisfies his wicked desires, including the assault of schoolgirls and killing of his enemies.  But unlike Tony Montana, Uday had no real power — that remained with father Saddam.  Uday was Caligula without an empire.

This film is based on an autobiography by Latif Yahia, an Iraqi who was (allegedly) forced to act as Uday’s body double in the late 1980s.  Dominic Cooper plays both Uday and Latif and, although Cooper does a credible job differentiating between the two men, the script doesn’t offer a whole lot of depth to either character.

Cooper’s Uday has a high-pitched voice and manic mannerisms which at times border on the comical.  Not a good thing in a movie of this nature.  He plays Yahia, by contrast, with a laid-back demeanor and a permanently pained expression.

There is much violence in The Devil’s Double, if that’s your cup of tea.  I found it difficult to care about all of the mayhem on screen because I cared so little about the characters.         Grade:  C

 

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Director:  Lee Tamahori  Cast:  Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier, Raad Rawi, Philip Quast, Mimoun Oaissa, Khalid Laith, Dar Salim, Nasser Memarzia, Amrita Acharia, Amber Rose Revah  Release:  2011

 

Double3    Double4
Double5    Double6

 

                                 Watch Trailers and Clips  (click here)

 

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Beard1

 

News outlets have been reporting on a string of Amish “beard cuttings” in Ohio.  Somehow, reporters covered this story with a straight face (and, in general, a clean-shaven face).

In related news, who says you have to be Amish in order to grow a virile-looking, distinguished and sexy beard?  See below.

 

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*****

 

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The Five celebrated Thanksgiving and its 100th episode.  The Fox News gang, except for token liberal Bob Beckel, took the opportunity to inform viewers that they “should be thankful for the one percent.”  I agree.  The one percent is taxed much too much.  I believe we should absolve the one percent from paying any taxes, and let everyone else pay for things.  It follows, logically, that we will then have more jobs.  Besides, the one percent got rich without any help from the rest of us — correct?

 

*****

 

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Newt Gingrich thinks it’s a swell idea to turn our nation’s schoolchildren into janitors.  This is what Newt and other rich conservatives mean when they describe themselves as “job creators.”

Not sure how long it’s been since Newt lifted a finger to do any sort of manual labor.  Hold on … Newt is doing some heavy lifting in the picture below.

 

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*****

 

The California woman who pepper-sprayed fellow shoppers on “Black Friday” chose the wrong target.  She should have zapped the store’s owners. 

I learned that lesson last year when I stood in line in sub-zero temperatures, expecting to score a big-screen TV at Target, but then discovered that the store was pulling a bait-and-switch:  Less than five minutes after opening its doors, Target “sold out” of the TV I was looking for.

 

*****

 

I surfed over to The Huffington Post and was startled by this headline:

 

Gomez

 

Goodness, that Justin Bieber kid had a busy year, didn’t he?

 

*****

 

Cage

 

Actor Nicolas Cage must have the most remarkable and clever publicity team in Hollywood.  In September, we learned that the colorful movie star is in reality some sort of vampire, having posed for a Civil War-era tintype in 1870 (below).  Yesterday, we discovered that Cage is featured on the cover of a Serbian biology textbook (above).

 


Head

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Super81

 

It’s obvious what director J.J. Abrams hopes to achieve with Super 8:  He wants his movie to be Spielbergian, the kind of fantasy that appeals equally to children and adults.  Nice try, J.J., but I can’t imagine anyone over the age of 15 really enjoying this film.

For younger kids, this is the type of movie they will see, love, and recall fondly for years to come.  And then one day, 10 or 20 years from now, they will rewatch Super 8 on TV (or whatever device we’re using) and wonder what they ever saw in it.

The story begins well.  A group of middle-school kids in Lillian, Ohio, circa 1979, are making a zombie movie using the Super 8 film format.  A train approaches an old depot where the kids are filming, it crashes, and … something escapes from one of the train cars.  Shortly after this incident, animals and objects begin to vanish from Lillian.

Up to this point, Abrams’ script is warm and fuzzy, a nostalgic throwback to movies like Stand by Me or Steven Spielberg’s E.T.  But then the plot gets convoluted.  And special effects begin to dominate the story.  And Super 8 proves, once again, that no one can make a Spielberg fantasy anymore — not even Spielberg, who is one of the film’s producers.

It’s apparent that money was poured into the film, and yet a motion-capture monster is neither convincing nor frightening.  At some points, this beast resembles nothing so much as a jerky Ray Harryhausen creation from the early ’60s.  Meanwhile, Abrams’s movie goes from sweet and intriguing to frantic and clichéd.

The zombie movie that the kids had been making is more entertaining than the misfire that is Super 8.  Unlike the silly alien in this film, Abrams and Spielberg discover that, despite their best efforts, they can’t go home again.       Grade:  C

 

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Director:  J.J. Abrams   Cast:  Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, Elle Fanning, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, Zach Mills, Kyle Chandler, Jessica Tuck, Amanda Michalka, Ron Eldard, Katie Lowes   Release:  2011

 

Super83   Super84

 

Super85

 

Watch Trailers and Clips  (click here)

 

SUPER 8

 

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Lonely1

 

I blame it on Ripley, believe it or not.  Sigourney Weaver’s gun-totin’, ball-bustin’, space-travelin’ Ellen Ripley from the Alien franchise introduced a new type of hero to the action movie:  the kick-ass female.  Weaver’s ballsy character led to Catwoman and Lara Croft and, inevitably, some far-fetched heroines like the one we meet in A Lonely Place to Die.

And so in this British attempt to cash in on the lucrative action-movie market we get Alison (Melissa George), a supermodel-type who, improbably:  1)  dodges bullets;  2) plunges from mountainous crags down to lethal river rapids;  and 3) out-muscles professional killers in hand-to-hand combat.

Alison is the alpha female in a quintet of mountaineers who, during an outing in the Scottish Highlands, discover a Serbian girl who’s been kidnapped and then buried in a box.  The climbers rescue the girl and are then stalked by the kidnappers, two nasty mercenaries who manage to bump off everyone in the cast except for, naturally, Newt and Rip– … er, Alison and the little girl.

A Lonely Place to Die boasts some spectacular views of the Scottish hills, and director Julian Gilbey handles the physical scenes capably.  Movies like this can be fun, provided the more-ridiculous aspects are coupled with a wink at the audience. But Gilbey and the actors treat the material with dead seriousness, so that by the time Alison outduels a killer who is wearing a pig mask, I wasn’t buying a bit of it.   Grade:  C

 

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Director:  Julian Gilbey  Cast:  Melissa George, Ed Speleers, Eamonn Walker, Sean Harris, Alec Newman, Karel Roden, Kate Magowan, Garry Sweeney, Stephen McCole, Holly Boyd  Release:  2011

 

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                                                         Watch Trailers  (click here)

 

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Above, Melissa George as a mountain climber in A Lonely Place to Die.  Below, Melissa George as mountains in Dark City.

 

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Hoop

1994 was a pretty good year at the movies.  Audiences could enjoy Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, and Forrest Gump.  Or they could see what was, in my humble opinion, the best film of the year:  Hoop Dreams, a sometimes joyous, sometimes sad documentary about two Chicago high school boys who share a dream of basketball fame and fortune.  Watch it for free by clicking here.

 

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Fat

 

“If you love someone, you forget what they look like.”  — Joy Behar reacting to the ad pictured above, which plugs a Web site for married cheaters.

I don’t know, Joy.  I appreciate the sentiment, but I think I’d have a hard time forgetting the appearance of this little honey.

 

*****

 

Maher2

 

I don’t understand how Elisabeth Hasselbeck became a celebrity.  I remember her, vaguely, from her tenure on Survivor, but only because she pranced around in a bikini.  I guess that she had balls for confronting arch-enemy Bill Maher this week on The View, but she didn’t exactly advance her cause — assuming she has one.

 

Hasselbeck

 

*****

 

Galanos

 

I’m just as pissed as anyone else about the mess at Penn State, but it does make me wonder — whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?  Has there ever been such a collective rush to judgment?

Possibly worst of all is HLN resident hothead Mike Galanos.  After playing the now-infamous interview in which Bob Costas asked Jerry Sandusky if he, Sandusky, is a pedophile, Galanos barked to viewers, “That was not a yes or no answer!” Granted, Sandusky hemmed and hawed in his reply, but he clearly said “no.”

God help any criminal defendant if Galanos ever lands on the jury.

 

*****

 

Haldeman    Williams3

                      Haldeman                                                            Williams

 

A theory:  The “masters of the universe” on Wall Street and in the business world — like Freddie Mac’s Charles Haldeman and Fannie Mae’s Mike Williams, above — get away with screwing taxpayers and stockholders in large part because they look so … ordinary.

These guys invariably have bland public personalities and John Doe faces.  Hell, even their names are dull.  They remind everyone of the kindly ushers at a Lutheran church.  No one really notices them, which is precisely how they like it as they pick our pockets.

 

*****

 

Brad1 Brad2

 

Does anyone else recall Bradley Cooper, People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive,” from his man-on-man sex scene in Wet Hot American Summer?   Cooper (I know you want the details) assumes the “female position” in his auspicious motion picture debut.

Mel Gibson, some of us miss you.

 

*****

 

Speaking of men kissing men … the Vatican used its clout to get clothing retailer Benetton to stop using a doctored picture of Pope Benedict XVI kissing al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb.  OK, Vatican, you can stop Benetton but you can’t stop all of us.  I will gladly post anything that belittles this Pope, because this Pope shields child molesters.

 

Pope

 

*****

 

Hard to say who had a tougher week:  Joe Paterno, who got fired and learned that he has cancer on the same day, or Robert Wagner, whom the police say is not a suspect in the re-opened Natalie Wood case, but whom everyone thinks is a suspect in the re-opened Natalie Wood case.

 

*****

 

And finally, as a long-suffering Minnesota Vikings fan, I think I might have found a soul-mate:

 

Crying 

Click Here

 

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by Bob McCabe

Screen

 

A real treat for fans, Harry Potter: Page to Screen boasts hundreds of full-color, glossy photos from the creative minds responsible for the eight Potter film adaptations.  That’s the good news.  The not-so-good news:  The accompanying text, although detail-heavy, is a bit bland and what you might expect from the Warner Bros. publicity department – every actor is “wonderful to work with” and “an amazing talent.”  Every director is “brilliant” and “understanding.”  What – in ten years of moviemaking there was no friction on the set?  But this is primarily a picture-book and, although print photography can’t match the clarity of high-definition TVs and computers, there’s still something magical about holding a book like this in your hands.

 

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Harry Potter and his wizard pals had lots of cool gadgets, including flying broomsticks and an invisibility cloak.  One thing they didn’t have was x-ray vision.

Thank goodness we have Hollywood to give us a peek beneath all those witches’ robes:


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Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter)

 

From Fight Club (below) and The Wings of the Dove (bottom):

 

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*****

 

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Madame Rosmerta (Julie Christie)

 

According to author Peter Bart’s book, Infamous Players:  A Tale of Movies, the Mob (and Sex), Christie and co-star Donald Sutherland took method acting to an extreme in this scene from Don’t Look Now.  Bart, invited onto the set by director Nicolas Roeg, witnessed the filming of the scene and later wrote about it: “It was clear to me they were no longer simply acting:  they were fucking on camera.”

 

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Christie3

 

*****

 

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Fleur Delacour (Clemence Poesy)

 

From Welcome to the Roses:

 

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*****

 

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Rita Skeeter (Miranda Richardson)

 

From Dance with a Stranger:

 

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*****

 

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Aunt Petunia Dursley (Fiona Shaw)

 

From Mountains of the Moon, it’s Aunt Petunia’s bush!

 

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*****

 

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Nymphadora Tonks (Natalia Tena)

 

From Mrs. Henderson Presents, and from Afterlife:

 

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*****

 

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Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith)

 

From California Suite:

 

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*****

 

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Sybil Trelawney (Emma Thompson)

 

From The Tall Guy and, in the beach shots, courtesy of local paparazzi:

 

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.                                          Thompson5     Thompson6

 

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*****

 

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Molly Weasley (Julie Walters)

 

From She’ll Be Wearing Pink Pyjamas.  Not in this picture, she won’t:

 

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*****

 

Rowling

J. K. Rowling

 

Someone lends a hand to the popular author at a party.

 

*****

 

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Hermione Granger (Emma Watson)

 

Emma has thus far managed to keep her on-screen robes buttoned.  However, much to the paparazzi’s delight, she seems to favor unbuttoned tops and see-thru knickers at movie premieres.

 

Watson2

 

Watson3

 

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Hill

When I was a kid, it seemed as though the same two actors starred in all the scary movies:  Boris Karloff and Vincent Price.  But there was a small problem with that. Neither one of them was particularly frightening.  Karloff looked too old and feeble to do much harm, and Price was too soft and effeminate to stoke fear.  Of course, now I’m older and know better – the old, feeble, soft, and effeminate are the scariest people on Earth.  Watch Price in 1958’s House on Haunted Hill by clicking here.

 

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