Thursday, September 30, 2010
Tony Curtis starred in my favorite film of all time, The Great Race. It was a fave when I was a kid, and remains to this day. I watch it every time it airs from start to finish, nearly three hours. It's got adventure, romance, music, history, satire and comedy. Throw in the fight between good and evil and race cars, and it just can't be beat. And in the center of it all, as the dashing hero radiating charisma, is Tony Curtis. That's the kind of guy he was, the epitome of the leading man, even when he was playing a parody of one.
Curtis was great in everything he was in. Whether he was in drag as in Some Like It Hot, getting an Oscar nod in The Defiant Ones, or being the best thing in the completely dreadful telemovie Tarzan in Manhattan, he was always marvelous. He was the undisputed star of so many movies, including Houdini, Operation Petticoat, Boeing Boeing and Spartacus.
Born Bernie Schwartz in Hells Kitchen, he came to Hollywood in the late 1940s and became an almost instant star. He was married to Janet Leigh and romantically linked to Marilyn Monroe. He also played regular roles on television on shows like "The Persuaders" and "Vega$," and on this the fiftieth anniversary of "The Flintstones," he might be remembered for his guest appearance as Stony Curtis. The last time I saw him on television was on "The Graham Norton Show" a year or so ago. He didn't look well, but he still rocked the house with his stories of old Hollywood.
This is indeed a sad day. We have lost one of the legends of Hollywood.
His vision and talent changed the film industry in the late 1960s and changed the way we watch movies in both expectation and complexity. Among his films are the groundbreaking Bonnie and Clyde, The Miracle Worker, Little Big Man, Alice's Restaurant and The Missouri Breaks. These are all films I will watch all the way through every time I see them on. They were not many, one every few years, but what he lacked in quantity he made up for in quality.
Penn began in television, but he also worked on the Broadway stage winning both the Tony and the Pulitzer. This great man will be missed. We have truly lost one of the legends of the field.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The insult comic, writer, and television and radio celebrity was originally a lawyer before becoming a comedian. Giraldo frequently did his stand-up on most of the talk shows of the last couple decades. Most recently he was a judge on NBC's "Last Comic Standing."
He hosted and appeared on numerous shows and specials on Comedy Central, most notably their revival of the celebrity roasts, and was considered a mainstay of the network.
He'll be missed.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Fisher was a singer and actor on radio and television, but he was probably better known for what he did in his personal life. Fisher married five times. Among his wives were Elizabeth Taylor, Connie Stevens and Debbie Reynolds. Actress Carrie Fisher is his daughter from that last marriage.
His recording career was huge and he ruled the charts until some guy named Elvis Presley came along. He will be missed.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell ~ I'm seeing this telemovie for the first time since 1978, but I have vivid memories of the first time this movie of the week was on television.
I remember not the night it first aired so much as the next day at school. In English we were doing a creative writing exercise, and had been doing it for a few weeks, and it was finally due that morning. One kid, who shall remain nameless, but he knows who he is, and anyone reading this who was in the class remembers who he is, handed in his story and its name was "Evil Dog: Hound from Hades." I wonder what he had been doing the last few weeks, but I sure do know what he had been doing the night before! Man, would I love to read his 'story' now!
The original movie, plagiarism lawsuits aside, starred such television luminaries as Richard Crenna, Yvette Mimieux, Ken Kercheval, Lou Frizzell, and those two Witch Mountain kids Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann. The flick was written by mediocre television writers Elinor and Steven Karpf and directed by Curtis Harrington, who actually used to be an interesting director. But it doesn't show here, the writing obviously overshadows the directing, and the performances, which are worse than the usual movie of the week.
The story is a fairly simple one. The devil mates with a dog (don't laugh, yet) and a Satanic cult sends the litter of subsequent puppies out into the suburbs to raise havoc. Our feature family receives a German shepherd named Lucky who likes to play mind games with the family, killing a maid and basically effs with everybody.
There's so much telekinetic stuff going on here I would have thought the Witch Mountain kids would have caught on right away, but no go, they quickly becomes Lucky's slaves, and total brats. Father Richard Crenna seems to be the only one hip to the dog's evil and faces off with the devil dog that has taken over his family. Great z-movie fun, this would have been prime real estate for "Mystery Science Theater 3000."
Friday, September 17, 2010
Finally, the long awaited season finale of "True Blood." It's gone by far too quick, and now the waiting begins for next summer. Next summer? Maaan...
So the faerie, the fae, Sookie's people, might also be aliens, eh? It's a curious thought. I have compared "True Blood" to "Dark Shadows" frequently this season. The gothic soap opera had a habit of doing everything within its genre and then throwing in the kitchen sink as well. We saw vampires, werewolves, ghosts, Frankenstein-ish monsters, time travel and even Lovecraftian horrors - but aliens, alien abductions and the like are more of a seventies phenomenon. Had "Dark Shadows" stayed on the air I guess they would've gotten o that sooner or later. Therefore, it's probably fair game for "True Blood" as well. Can't wait to see how it plays out.
We were left with one of the more thrilling cliffhangers so far last time, Eric and Russell both burning up in the sunshine. Such a good cliffhanger, I almost wish it had been a season ending cliffhanger, but such is this season of "True Blood" - it's never what you expect.
Sookie insists on bringing Eric back inside to save him. The whole time Sookie and company were trying to save Eric inside Fangtasia I couldn't help wondering one thing - is anyone watching Russell? Couldn't he have just have crawled away to safety? Personally I was shocked when they saved Russell too. Eric's not a good listener by the way. Godric said 'forgive,' not 'save.'
The new subplots again supercede the main plot as Sam outs himself to Tara as a shapeshifter, and frankly (pun unintended) I find it hard to believe she took it as well as she did. I would have thought she would just run as far as she possibly could from this crazy town of Bon Temps. And it's possible she did. I will miss her, but damn smart girl, if it's true.
Now I'm not fond of Sookie to begin with, but I found it really distasteful the way she was taunting Russell like a trapped animal. No matter how evil the bad guy is - I'm pretty sure the rule for the good guy is to show mercy, or at least not be a sore winner. In fact, rule number one for heroes should be, don't be a dick. Like Sookie.
The Hotshot subplot came to a head of sorts, but mostly it's just set-up from the books and for next season. Jason is now apparently the new caretaker of the Jackson Whites, I mean the Pineys, ahem, I mean the shifters who sell V, meth and need dental badly. There's more to come, according to the books, and I would have rather seen it happen all within one season.
Lafayette's V aftershocks have taken on an interesting aspect as he has become slightly prescient. This will obviously be shorthand for the writers to tease the viewers with what's to come. As we find out that Jesus is a witch, we are assured that witches and Wiccans and voodoo will abound in the next season. But again, I am bothered. Why introduce new storylines in the last twenty minutes or so of the season finale, especially when the main story has not come to a close?
We get to see a very dark side to Bill as well as a very dirty secret reaching back to the start of the show. This is a good thing as it adds a twist to this story's ending. There is also an interesting parallel with Sam. We are told that both of their recent dark turns are actually how they have always been, we just didn't know it. I don't know however if Alan Ball and company have succeeded in making me believe this.
We leave as we began. Sookie rejoins the faerie folk. Next season should be interesting if nothing else. Did I like this one? You guess. I can't wait until next summer.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Meet Dave ~ The key to enjoying Eddie Murphy movies is knowing what to expect. Here in the 21st century, Murphy makes fun family fantasy comedies. If you want Delirious or Beverly Hills Cop, you need to get in a time machine and visit a video rental shop in the 1980s. That's just not who Eddie is anymore. While that could be argued to be a bad thing, or even a good thing, it is a good reference point to review his films.
Here in Meet Dave, the premise is simple, as is the movie. A human-sized and shaped spaceship, manned by tiny aliens comes to Earth to retrieve a valuable weapon designed to save their world. A young boy finds it and Dave Ming Cheng, the ship played by Eddie Murphy, who also plays its captain, must befriend the boy and his mom, Elizabeth Banks. Heartwarming hijinks ensue.
Eddie is fun here, as he is in all of his family flicks. Adding to the fun, but not overshadowing Eddie at all, sadly, is Gabrielle Union. She's better than this, and I wish she had a bigger role. The only problem with this flick, and other recent Murphy flicks is that no one upstages him, or even gets close to it. She's a good actress and she should have had the space to show it. Fun family flick, recommended.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Terminator Salvation ~ Despite frequent and extreme action sequences I really found myself quite bored by this sequel/prequel/reimagining of the Terminator films. I like McG a lot but he's no James Cameron and the flick suffers much by its father's absence. I also much disliked the use of the Technicolor OZ process which creates that gray/silver drab world on film. I get it, things are depressing in the future, but show me in other ways than adjusting the camera lenses.
It's hard to watch this film without remembering the incidents which marred its making, most notably Christian Bale losing his mind and verbally abusing a cinematographer. I personally was bothered by Bale in that he has a perfectly good, grim, and humorless voice here, which he could have used for Batman instead of that unintelligible growl in The Dark Knight. I wish we could have had more of Common, and lots more of Moon Bloodgood - she is always excellent in everything she does.
There are a few bits that are bonuses for fans of the previous films and even the TV series, but that's about all those familiar with the mythos get. This is a new vision, only set barely in the trappings of what went before. There are no real surprises. If this was the first Terminator film, it would have no sequels. Worth viewing only as a curiosity.
Friday, September 10, 2010
This episode's title is "Fresh Blood," and it really does feel like such, more like a 'new start,' actually. It feels like we are playing catch up with all the new subplots, and some are completely new as of this episode. It's almost like a new season. The highlight of the episode is Eric's confrontations with Russell, and to me, much of the rest of it pales in comparison. A vampire who declares war on both the vampire and human worlds should be an unignorable main plot, don't you think? And shouldn't you tie up old loose ends before you unravel new knots?
Some random thoughts about what else happened this time around: the 'In Memoriam' mini-feature that opened this episode was interesting. Arlene consults the 'Wiccan' waitress as to how to get rid of her baby to mixed results. Bill and Sookie play let's-pretend-we're-normal. Andy confesses to Tara what really happened to Eggs in a less than satisfying sequence. Lafayette has some V aftershocks after refusing to do more with Jesus. Sam throws a drunken tantrum, then has a moment or two with Tara. Jason picks a fight instead of dealing with his shifter girlfriend or looking for Sookie.
None of the above have anything to do with Russell or Eric, and it's sad. When they do get to it, it rocks. The climax, and Eric's plan, and the cliffhanger. Oh. My. God. Imagine if the whole episode had been like this. That would have really rocked. Please, next time, more main story, and less subplots, and set-up for subplots. Thanks!