Monthly Archives: December 2015



Bah Humbugs


I’m tired of television news’s obsession with everything that goes “viral” on the Internet. Just because the Web is an unfiltered cesspool of bullshit and bad taste, must TV follow suit?

Steve Harvey’s screw-up at the Miss Universe pageant was mildly amusing, but it “went viral,” and so was broadcast endlessly on every television newscast from coast to coast. News directors, please get a grip.






Aside from airing great movies, the best thing about TCM is that it’s a refuge from the onslaught of commercials we get on every other basic-cable channel. TCM’s new “wine club” spots look an awful lot like commercials to me. Go ahead, TCM, ruin a good thing.






“I think a lot of people are feeling that, right now, like this is the conversation that we’re having in America, about who wants to lead the free world?” — reporter Christina Bellantoni lamenting the level to which the Trump-driven political debate has sunk.

Bellantoni was referencing Hillary Clinton’s now-famous bathroom break and Donald Trump’s subsequent rude comments, but it could be worse. We could be discussing our prime minister having sex with a pig’s head.




Jennifer Lawrence is opening a new movie about the inventor of the Miracle Mop. I understand that sex sells, but I still don’t feel that this poster is appropriate:




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“I am telling you, this movie is stupid.” – Neil Cavuto, decrying the ridiculous hype over Star Wars.


It’s not often that I agree with the pig man, but Cavuto’s right. It would be nice if the media would stop indulging the millions of arrested-development fans of this silly series.




. Moranis Marquez

.                          Rick Moranis                                                          Enrique Marquez


I can’t be the only one who saw pictures of alleged terrorism conspirator Enrique Marquez, above right, and thought that the feds had arrested Rick Moranis, above left.






Why is it that our biggest warmongers are so often spineless little twerps like Greg Gutfeld? Gutfeld, one of the shrillest of Fox voices, is forever demanding troops on the ground, or more bombing, or whatever. Meanwhile, the diminutive dimwit looks as if he’d have trouble defending himself against a puff of wind.




Here’s a picture and headline leading in to a Huffington Post story about that harmless little activity, the consumption of alcohol. Smiling, attractive young people relaxing on a picture-perfect day …




Can you imagine the same lead-in to a story about smokers and smoking?


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by Ted Koppel



As if this country doesn’t have enough to worry about, what with strained race relations, domestic terrorism, war in the Middle East, and income disparity, along comes doom-and-gloom Ted Koppel to issue a warning about what might be our biggest existential threat: a cyberattack on the nation’s power grids. In Lights Out, Koppel interviews security experts both in and out of government and makes a convincing case that should some rogue nation – or even a small band of hackers – choose to shut down our computer-reliant electrical system, the ensuing crisis could resemble … well, have you seen Mad Max?

A large chunk of America without power for weeks or even months is a frightening scenario, and probably another case of “when it happens,” not “if it happens.” And when it does, the United States is woefully unprepared. Much of our unpreparedness boils down to that old bugaboo, privacy vs. security. How much of the former are we willing to sacrifice in order to achieve the latter? The conundrum reminds me of the death penalty, another issue over which I’m an admitted hypocrite. I am against the death penalty – until someone I care about gets butchered by some remorseless jerk. I am also against government intrusion into my Internet life – until hackers black out the entire Midwest.

Koppel’s advice isn’t particularly helpful or practical: Government and individuals must be better prepared. Feel better now? Should the worst happen, I’m thinking your best course of action is to befriend a Mormon family, move in with them in Utah – and bring a gun.


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Bad Mouthing, Bad Manners, and Bad Hair


Pictured above is former FBI profiler James R. Fitzgerald, whose hair fascinates me.

Fitzgerald was Erin Burnett’s guest on Tuesday, discussing the San Bernardino killer couple, but I didn’t register anything he said. I was much too distracted by that hair.




All branches of the military open to women? Sounds good. Now let’s make sure that all women also register for the draft.






“Listening is always your best friend.” – Chris Cuomo, above, crowing about his interview skills with Donald Trump.

I listened to that interview, and I stopped counting after Cuomo had interrupted Trump 10 times in the first 8 minutes.






“I mean, this guy is such a total pussy, it’s stunning.” – Retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, above, voicing his displeasure with Obama on Fox News.

Coming from a guy who speaks with a castrato voice, I’d say that Peters probably knows whereof he speaks.






Good call on The Martian, Golden Globes, because as I watched the movie I was constantly either chuckling at the jokes or humming along to the catchy tunes.




And finally, I visited James R. Fitzgerald’s Web site because I wanted to see more pictures of his hair:





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Ex Machina Machina


Take “Hal” from 2001: A Space Odyssey — or any of the replicants from Blade Runner — toss him (or her) into the plot of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and you’ll get something akin to this cautionary tale about a reclusive genius and his latest project: a doe-eyed android named Ava. The question is: Just how “human” is Ava?

Writer-director Alex Garland (Sunshine, Never Let Me Go) delivers a visually striking, dreamlike motion picture — although the characters are a miserable lot, the tone is oppressive, and at times the story drags. Still, this is thought-provoking science fiction, mostly because it’s such a plausible glimpse at our future.  Release: 2015  Grade: B+ Machina




Phoenix Phoenix


A presumed-dead Holocaust survivor (Nina Hoss), shot in the head, has facial reconstruction surgery and returns home to her husband – but he fails to recognize her. Oh, and he might have betrayed her to the Nazis. Absorbing and suspenseful, Phoenix raises memories of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, with its haunted tone and themes of fantasy and identity.  

I do have two minor complaints.  The plot suffers from what I call Agatha Christie Syndrome:  People who really ought to recognize someone, do not (or vice versa). And I don’t understand why romantic mood-pieces like this one, which cry out for a musical score, eschew them. Release: 2014  Grade: B




Welcome to New York Welcome


Abel Ferrara’s thinly veiled account of the alleged sexual assault of an immigrant chambermaid by French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn is an intriguing, if not particularly powerful, docudrama. It’s not easy to be repulsed by a hedonistic, unrepentant rich man when he’s portrayed by an actor as charming as Gerard Depardieu. But it’s always fascinating to see how the world’s elite behave and misbehave – whether or not that behavior is real or the product of a screenwriter’s imagination. Release: 2014 Grade: B




American Sniper Sniper


I lost all faith in the veracity of war movies “based on a true story” back in 2003 when the military and NBC (Saving Jessica Lynch) sold us a bill of goods about the saga of Jessica Lynch, so I have no clue how faithful Sniper is to the life of Navy sharpshooter Chris Kyle. I doubt that the real Kyle was as charismatic as Bradley Cooper is in this controversial take on U.S. involvement in the Middle East. But old pro Clint Eastwood knows how to stage a tense, suspenseful battle sequence, and his movie is certainly thought-provoking. Release: 2014 Grade: B




The Girl Hedren


Toby Jones is superb as Alfred Hitchcock and, surprisingly (to me, at least), Sienna Miller is more than his match as Tippi Hedren, the Minnesota model whom Hitchcock turned into a movie star, in the process becoming dangerously obsessed with her. I have no idea how closely The Girl adheres to reality, but as a beauty and the beast docudrama, it’s much better than I expected.  How does it compare to Hitchcock, the Anthony Hopkins vehicle that also came out in 2012? This is better because, like so many of Hitchcock’s movies, it’s absorbing and deliciously twisted. Release: 2012  Grade: A-


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Share Cinderella


And now for something completely different … Cinderella


Once upon a time, Your Humble Reviewer lived in a strange kingdom called Texas. One lonely night he imbibed too much mead and found himself staring at a late-night movie on Cinemax. The movie had lots of nudity and sex, and the story was very silly. Alas, the nasty mead eventually caused Your Humble Reviewer to drift off into dreamland, until …


… the following morning, when bits and pieces of the Cinemax movie began to crop up in his foggy memory bank. The film had been called Cinderella, and indeed it featured wicked stepsisters and a fairy godmother and a carriage ride to the big ball. But it also had sex scenes. And music and dancing. Disco-flavored music. Most perplexing of all, it seemed to Your Humble Reviewer that the movie … had not sucked. Cinderella Cinderella


Many moons later, in the year 2015 and while he dwelled in a new kingdom called Minnesota, Your Humble Reviewer once again watched Cinderella, which had recently been issued on DVD. And lo and behold, it still didn’t suck. Quite the contrary; parts of this soft-core-porn-musical-comedy were actually a hoot, and the songs and choreography were, well, quite good.


The plot:  What, you don’t know the story of Cinderella? The plot in this version is the same, albeit with adults-only alterations. The fairy godmother, for example, is played by black actor Sy Richardson who, as a fun-loving thief, steals every household good in sight and every scene he appears in. The handsome prince, in his quest to find the enchanting Cinderella, slips more than a shoe onto comely maidens. Oh, and then there is the “snapping pussy” …. Cinderella Cinderella

In an inexplicable, bizarre dream sequence, this creepy geezer squeezes poor Cinderella’s breasts until they squirt milk.


Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith plays the beloved lead, which in this telling of the fairy tale requires her to be gullible (check), cute as a button (check), personable (check), and often naked (check and check again). Sadly, Smith’s real life was apparently no fairy tale. According to her Wikipedia biography, a few years after Cinderella, Smith became addicted to heroin, which eventually led to a pair of prison stints and her death from liver disease and hepatitis at age 47.

It’s not likely that NBC will be inspired to produce this version of Cinderella as one of its live musical holiday specials. Along with the voluminous sex and skin, this is a low-budget affair, with bad dubbing, cheesy sets, and dime-store special effects. On the other hand, this 1977 oddity boasts music and songs by Andrew Belling with witty lyrics, an energetic cast, amusing 1970s pop-culture references, and some numbers that are better than what you’ll find in many “legitimate” musicals. It’s all very good-natured and fun.

In the end, of course, they all fuck happily ever after. Merry Christmas.   Grade: B Cinderella

Elizabeth Halsey rides the prince while Linda Gildersleeve, also in her birthday suit, looks on.


Director: Michael Pataki   Cast: Cheryl Smith, Yana Nirvana, Marilyn Corwin, Jennifer Doyle, Sy Richardson, Brett Smiley, Kirk Scott, Brenda Fogarty, Elizabeth Halsey, Linda Gildersleeve, Mariwin Roberts, Roberta Tapley  Release: 1977 Cinderella


Watch the Trailer (click here) Cinderella Cinderella

This female extra was either the victim of budget cuts (no money for knickers!), or she was married to a producer and had an exhibitionist fetish. Cinderella

Cinderella (right) and the girls check out the prince’s family jewels. Cinderella Cinderella


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I’m only 15 years late to the party, but I finally watched the first season of Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, and the show is an absolute delight.

It’s a sitcom that your grumpy, Fox-watching, conservative uncle might enjoy. It’s about rich people problems – in other words, not really problems at all – but cantankerous, foot-in-mouth Larry sells every episode. It made me laugh out loud, and sitcoms do not make me laugh out loud.




More TV tidbits:

The Netflix import River is a pretty good cop drama. Stellan Skarsgard plays a detective in London who sees dead people, but don’t let that scare you off. Skarsgard is one talented actor who seems to get better with age.


.                       Master      Schumer


Aziz Ansari’s Master of None on Netflix reminds me of Inside Amy Schumer. Both shows are clever and topical, but they tend to wallow in political correctness and can be preachy. And yes, I realize that summation makes me sound like your grumpy, Fox-watching, conservative uncle.


Don’t know about you, but I’ve had it with vampires and zombies. On the other hand, I have not yet OD’d on demons. If you haven’t seen Ash vs. Evil Dead on Starz, you’re missing a terrifically entertaining trio of demon hunters in Dana DeLorenzo, Bruce Campbell, and Ray Santiago (left to right below).






The copycat media falls in love with certain words and just won’t let go. For example, news events are no longer ongoing or developing, they are “fluid.” This week we got a new term of media endearment: “hybrid.”




Philanthropist John Studzinski gave a speech about Talitha Kum, a network of nuns who dress like prostitutes and infiltrate brothels to rescue victims of sex trafficking: Talitha


But can we trust a story about sex with a dude named Studzinski and nuns called Talitha Kum? And should the sisters, who trust no one, trust the Trust Women Conference?




The Huffington Post is still looking for a few good proofreaders:




Incidentally, the Netflix-distributed Beasts of No Nation is generating Oscar buzz, but I’m not a big fan of the movie. The problem is that the protagonist is played by a very young actor who, I’m afraid, wasn’t up to the task of carrying an entire film.






“We have to go out with the mind-set that it’s a dogfight.” – Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, above, explaining how to win games.


Bet he wouldn’t say that if Michael Vick was his quarterback.


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by Paula Hawkins books


There’s a literary technique called “the unreliable narrator,” in which – surprise, surprise – you can’t trust the narrator. In Girl, there are three unreliable narrators, each of whom describes, diary-style, the events leading up to a murder. Mostly, we hear from Rachel, an unemployed and divorced alcoholic who suffers from drunken blackouts. She also rides a train to and from London, hoping to fool her flatmate into believing she’s still gainfully employed. One day, Rachel gets off the train and, in an advanced state of inebriation, witnesses … something bad. But what was it? She doesn’t remember.

I really like the author’s use of poor, pathetic Rachel as the protagonist. If you’ve ever suffered an alcoholic blackout, you know that it isn’t what you recall from the night before that’s a problem; it’s what you don’t recall.  That’s a perfect set-up for a heroine who might or might not have witnessed something horrendous.

What I didn’t care for: the story’s ending, which is a bit predictable and melodramatic to the point of silliness. Must the villain, finally unmasked, fall into that tired cliché of confessing all to everyone within earshot, practically cackling and hissing while doing so? Still, until that disappointing ending, this is a plausible, suspenseful thriller.


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