Monthly Archives: March 2012



At one point in The Ghost Breakers, a 1940 Bob Hope vehicle that features zombies in the Caribbean, a man explains to Hope the perils of voodoo:

Man:  “It’s worse than horrible, because a zombie has no will of his own.  You see them sometimes, walking around blindly with dead eyes, following orders, not knowing what they do, not caring.”

Hope:  “You mean like Democrats?”

In hindsight, and with an awareness of Hope’s ultra-conservative, hawkish politics, that line might raise a few hackles with certain members of the audience.  Ditto for the womanizing comedian’s frequent quips about redheads and brunettes, and his mental undressing of co-star Paulette Goddard (who, incidentally, does pop up frequently in various stages of undress).

But that line about the Democrats, no matter what your political leanings, is still funny and is delivered with impeccable timing — a big reason why Hope’s early films for Paramount are so entertaining.




Hope plays Larry Lawrence, a radio personality who winds up stuffed in a trunk aboard a ship bound for Cuba.  The trunk belongs to Goddard, and together the pair investigates her inheritance:  a haunted mansion on “Black Island.”

By today’s standards, much of the movie is politically incorrect.  People smoke cigarettes (gasp!).  Hope makes sexist comments.  Willie Best, mumbling and shuffling as Alex, Hope’s black valet, is unquestionably a stereotype.  But his performance is still hilarious.

The Ghost Breakers is a modest production with big bonuses.  There are wonderfully atmospheric sets.  Hope’s false bravado was never more amusing than it is in this film, and he and Best make delightful comic foils.  The movie succeeds at something oft tried, but rarely accomplished:  It’s the perfect blend of creepy chills and genuine laughs.       Grade:  B+




Director:  George Marshall   Cast:  Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, Richard Carlson, Paul Lukas, Willie Best, Pedro de Cordoba, Virginia Brissac,  Noble Johnson, Anthony Quinn, Tom Dugan   Release:  1940




Watch the Trailer  (click here)






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It’s a bit jarring to watch William Powell play a suave detective – but without Myrna Loy, and cheating on Asta with some cute little Scottish terrier.  Actually, Powell had made four “Philo Vance” mysteries before he joined Loy and Asta in The Thin Man.  Check out one of the better Vance installments by clicking here.


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Jennifer Lawrence made the talk-show rounds this week, promoting The Hunger Games.  She was on Letterman and Fallon and … I like this chick.  She isn’t “starlet charming” or “sexpot charming,” just salt-of-the-earth, self-deprecating charming.  We’ll see if it lasts.






Best Hollywood News This Week:


No, it’s not the premiere of The Hunger Games.  It’s the announcement by Disney that it expects to lose $200 million on the epic bomb, John Carter.  Could this mean that Hollywood will finally stop churning out special-effects-laden, comic-book/superhero crap aimed at teenagers?  I’m not going to hold my breath.






Ten Free TV Shows I Go Out of My Way to Watch:


  1. Pawn Stars (above) — addictive and as American as apple pie
  2. Downton Abbey — soap opera, sure, but very sumptuous soap opera
  3. The Rachel Maddow Show — for one side of the story
  4. The O’Reilly Factor — for the other side of the story
  5. Survivor — still the best reality TV
  6. Mystery on PBS — nobody does this kind of thing better than the British
  7. Louie — original, real, and frequently funny
  8. The Killing (below) — news reports indicate that the producers intend to make fans wait yet another season to resolve the show’s mystery.  I might not wait that long.
  9. TCM — OK, so this isn’t technically a “show,” but sometimes you just can’t beat an old movie.
  10. Apparently there are only nine shows that I go out of my way to watch.









Quote of the Week:  “I didn’t know what she was going to do, and then the bear bit me in my butt.” — Florida resident Terri Gurley, who encountered a 300-pound black bear at her apartment complex.




President Obama is a fan of the Showtime series Homeland.  It is a good show.  However …



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by Ross Macdonald



As I was reading this mystery, I was reminded of a Hollywood legend about the movie script for another classic detective story, Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep.  Supposedly, the novel’s plot was so convoluted that at one point the screenwriters contacted Chandler to ask him who was responsible for the death of one character.  “They sent me a wire,” Chandler later said, “asking me, and dammit I didn’t know either.”  The Chill, in which Southern California detective Lew Archer attempts to solve several murders, is all plot, plot, plot – but Macdonald’s dialogue is snappy, his action is fast-paced, and his characters are colorful.  Best of all, the denouement features a wonderful twist –  and it doesn’t cheat.


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“Oki … you okay?”

So asks a young student of his classmate, Oki, who is staggering and stumbling down a woodlands footpath.  No, Oki is most likely not okay, because we can see that Oki is bleeding profusely from a hatchet that’s embedded in the top of his skull.  This encounter between two friends in the Japanese cult film Battle Royale sums up my feelings about the entire movie.  Watchable but brain-dead.

Battle Royale, beloved by many young people and a precursor to this week’s much-hyped The Hunger Games, exhibits the same traits as do a lot of teenagers:  It’s full of nonsense and energy, but man, does it take itself seriously.

If you are at all familiar with Lord of the Flies, The Most Dangerous Game, or any of several Stephen King books, then you already know the plot.  In the near future, a small group of people (in this case, ninth-grade students) are stranded on an island and pitted against each other in a deadly game of survival.  But unlike, say, Lord of the Flies, there is no gradual descent into barbarity; these kids are instantly good or instantly bad.  The movie doesn’t want to waste time on character development, not when there are so many heads to cut off.

This is the type of film in which people, most of them gangly teens, are shot multiple times but keep getting up to fight again.  And again.  I suppose that if you can just turn your brain off, it’s also the type of film you might enjoy.

The movie is a good fit for teens because it feeds fantasies in which 1)  adults are evil and out to get youngsters; 2) there is a girl/guy of their dreams out there, somewhere, if only he/she can find her/him; and 3) it’s packed with gory, frenetic, nonsensical action.  For what it is, Battle Royale is well done.  But let’s hope that The Hunger Games appeals to more than teen fantasies.        Grade:  C+




Director:  Kinji Fukasaku   Cast:  Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Taro Yamamoto, Kou Shibasaki, Masanobu Ando, Chiaki Kuriyama, Takeshi Kitano   Release:  2000





                                                    Watch Trailers and Clips  (click here)




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The Outlaw is one of those Hollywood curiosities with a background more intriguing than the movie itself.  Oddball billionaire Howard Hughes produced and directed it.  The film drew controversy because of the camera’s – or rather, Hughes’s – obsession with star Jane Russell’s cleavage.  And yet the movie gets a high rating at Rotten Tomatoes and, according to Leonard Maltin, this “notorious ‘sex western’ is actually compelling.”  Watch it for free by clicking here.


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My thoughts about the above picture — when I’m in a good mood:

If ever a guy was entitled to a little fun, it’s the hardworking president of the United States, who took British Prime Minister David Cameron aboard Air Force One and flew to Ohio for a college basketball game.  How cool was that?


My thoughts about the above picture — when I’m in a bad mood:

What an incredible display of bad taste.  In the midst of high unemployment and rising gas prices, Obama makes a conspicuous show of energy consumption so that he and Cameron can enjoy a “boys’ night out,” a “one-percenter” luxury courtesy of beleaguered taxpayers.






I took a cab the other day and the cabbie and I admired his GPS device.  I don’t have a GPS device, and that’s fine by me.  Some of my best stories come from times I got hopelessly lost.  I’d hate to see that come to an end.  Then again, I don’t drive a taxi.






You know that your days are numbered in the school cafeteria when you are commonly referred to as “pink slime.”






Terry Bradshaw tells us that before he and Nutrisystem found each other, “I was tired of looking old, fat and ugly.”  Dude, you might not look fat anymore, but ….




I can’t recall a time when the top ten movies at the box office were all deemed “rotten” at Rotten Tomatoes.






I keep hearing about “gaffes” made by Republican candidates.  But are they really gaffes?  Here are examples of gaffes, according to my dictionary:




A gaffe is unintentional, not a deliberate statement that backfires on you.


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by Mel Ayton     



True-crime books can be literary gems, like In Cold Blood and The Executioner’s Song.  Or they can be luridly entertaining, like The Stranger Beside Me and Deadly Innocence.  Unfortunately, true-crime books can also be plodding and dull, which brings me to Dark Soul of the South, historian Mel Ayton’s bland chronicle of Joseph Paul Franklin, the racist sniper who shot Larry Flynt and Vernon Jordan.  Serial-killer biographies like this one are inherently unpleasant; they require a gifted writer to keep the reader absorbed, but Ayton’s workmanlike approach is only mildly engaging.

As a side note, do book publishers no longer hire editors and proofreaders?  The level of sloppiness in this book is embarrassing.


© 2010-2024 (text only)


Rick Santorum, Elizabeth Santorum


I am of two minds whenever Rick Santorum’s daughter, Elizabeth, stands beside the candidate on a stage.  Part of me thinks, “Awww — how sweet.  She looks like a nice girl, and she’s supporting her father.”  The other part of me thinks, “My eyes! My eyes! God, someone hand me the remote before I go blind!”




Dennis1          Dennis2


Now that Dennis Kucinich’s congressional career is over, the 65-year-old Democrat will have more time to spend with his granddaughter, 34-year-old Elizabeth.  They’ll be able to share olive sandwiches while grandpa helps Elizabeth with her homework.






Entertainment Weekly dedicates this week’s cover to design director Amid Capeci, who recently died after a battle with cancer.  The cover depicts Mad Men’s Don Draper — smoking a cigarette. 

No comment.






There are three good reasons to watch Saturday Night Live:  Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader (above), and the “Weekend Update.”  Everything else suffers from lousy writing and a subpar cast.






Remember the ad that Hillary Clinton used during her presidential campaign — “It’s 3 a.m. … who do you want answering the phone?”  This is Newt Gingrich dozing off last week during a speech by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.  Evidently, it might be a bad idea to call Newt at 3 a.m., or 3 p.m., or 10 a.m., or 10 p.m., or ….




This is why the cameramen for CBS’ Survivor love their jobs:





I was watching Wheel of Fortune and I decided that we’ll be lucky if aliens from another world never see this show.  If I was Mork from Ork and sat down to watch this crap, I would conclude that Earthlings are certifiably insane.

Wheel has a host who makes idiotic chit-chat with strangers and repeats things like “R, S, T, L, N, E” and “Would you like to buy a vowel?”  Then there is his co-host, who smiles vapidly and turns letters on a board.  Both of them, compared to their fellow Earthlings, are fabulously wealthy.  Meanwhile, ordinary Earthlings who are lucky enough to be on the show fawn over their hosts and jump up and down, squealing like castrated hogs whenever their names are called.

If you were Mork from Ork, would you want to make contact with these Earthlings?  I don’t believe so.  I believe you’d consider blowing up the planet.


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