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The Masked Singer (2019)
Bread & Circuses comes to life. Again :(
The Masked Singer is something that could be compared to the sentiments of those who hated Disco in the 1970s. This is mindless, consumerist, overproduced escapist fare that shows how low society has fallen. Instead of compelling television we see people high on Red Bull screaming like banshees to an audience also high on caffeine. Now add a poor attempt to impersonate The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo ad infinitum to the program and you've got something that looks like a bad mix of Let's Make A Deal (Wayne Brady's version) with The Gong Show and all the tired trappings of musical "reality" television thrown in. The Masked Singer is another example of product from a country that has given up.
Look at the judges. The painfully unfunny Ken Jeong, the brainwashed ditz with the IQ of soap in Jenny McCarthy, the zero talent Nicole Scherzinger and the equally untalented Robin Thicke. You've got plastic lover Nick Cannon as host and a bunch of desperate for attention "singers" appearing every week on some rigged malarkey. Every performance is a cringe-worthy, overproduced spectacle. It's a pure circus weekly. This has no business being on network TV. It's atrocious.
If there's one redeeming factor about The Masked Singer it reveals, as one pundit opined, "a pretty fascinating examination of celebrity culture, mass appeal, performance, image, and fame." Unfortunately, that examination is quite frightening in an America run by somebody detached from reality. People are starving to death, living in abject poverty or struggling with mental health issues but the masses want to see rich people acting the fool daily. The populace needs to wake up and realize our society is eroding to the point of no return. Do the networks care? No way. Money is their "God".
20 years of this mind-numbing trash is enough. For the sake of Kerouac, please stop supporting "reality" television. We deserve better from the networks.
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
Disappointing and often boring film about Freddie Mercury.
Queen is a guilty pleasure of mine. I'm more of a Beatles/Rolling Stones/Doors/Led Zeppelin type but Queen is one of the most entertaining groups to come down the pike. They employed many genres in their music such as glam, disco, opera, gospel, rockabilly and straight-ahead rock and were led by the often imitated, never duplicated Freddie Mercury. I was very interested in seeing Bohemian Rhapsody and, well, it was a disappointment.
I don't know why the producers chose to create a sanitized film about the life of Freddie. Many of us know that Freddie was a very private man who didn't grant many interviews and disliked the press infringing on his matters. Outside of his music and concerts. we know very little about him. So, they chose to use creative license to make up stuff, rearrange history and distort his life. As expected from a PG-13 film we get uninspiring dialogue, Freddie's homosexuality being trivialized (and made to be seen as harmful) and Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon relegated to being meaningless fringe characters.
Much of the movie, when not re-enacting concerts or recordings, is focused on Freddie's personal and emotional battle between his heterosexual love for Mary Austin and his homosexual love for Paul Prenter, who is ridiculously portrayed as a villain. His relationship with his real-life boyfriend Jim Hutton is barely acknowledged. Utter claptrap that wasn't needed and slows down the film to a crawl.
To be fair, the concert footage (especially Live-Aid) is superb and Rami Malek delivers a masterful performance as Mercury. He deserves a Golden Globe or Academy Award nomination as it's nothing short of brilliant. 5 of my stars go to him.
If you're a fan of Queen, yes, you should go to the theater and see this movie just for Malek's unreal performance as Freddie but don't expect much more out of the film. It's a wasted opportunity to learn about one of the greatest showmen in rock music history.
The Proposal (2018)
Bread and Circuses comes to life :(
I know this show is obviously staged. I know this show is obviously scripted. I know that no sane human being would appear on this program to parade himself or herself like a piece of meat with other strangers in front of yet another stranger unless it was an act. I know Bob Iger is a disgrace as a CEO or whatever he is at Disney; using this tacky and tasteless Bachelor series to fill out his Monday schedule on ABC. I know that Jesse Palmer will do anything for a pay check. What I don't know is why this show was even green-lighted in the first place.
It's basically a season of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette condensed into 40 minutes and nothing more. Only now you have a coached audience high on Red Bull cheering the festivities on and a mysterious human asking personal questions to the prospective suitors. Just like the episode of Star Trek in the title, it shows how low network television is willing to go to get attention. This is exactly why I avoid the networks (except for the CBC here in Canada) entirely. The Proposal is a show emblematic of a country that has given up.
I only hope that people actually know this entire trainwreck is staged but I genuinely fear some actually believe that what they're seeing is real.
Rachael Ray (2006)
Typical Oprah Empire claptrap.
I'm sure if you're a stay-at-home mother from the Bible Belt or a homosexual you will love Rachael's show. Everybody else will see it for what it is: another example of crass, overblown, intelligence-insulting American television claptrap. I have no clue why American television needs to be shrill, overblown, hammy and unwatchable. Everybody screams or overacts and Rachael Ray is a prime example.
Sadly, all of these daytime talk shows are one and the same with the same formula regardless if Oprah Winfrey's Empire was responsible for it. However, as long as there's a steady stream of stay-at-home mothers from the Bible Belt and homosexuals out there, these shows will continue to thrive. They enjoy the non-stop motormouth of Rachael and her equally loud guests. At least when Jesse Palmer shows up he doesn't overact; he's Canadian, after all.
Avoid unless you're the typical Oprah fan.
My Breakfast with Blassie (1983)
You have to get kayfabe.
My Breakfast With Blassie is a parody of Louis Malle's My Dinner With Andre and unlike that classic work, this movie is nowhere as memorable. Performance artist Andy Kaufman (still selling the injured neck he suffered at the hands of Jerry "The King" Lawler) has breakfast with legendary pro wrestler and manager Fred Blassie as they discuss life, breakfast, pro wrestling and various ways of insulting people.
As expected, Kaufman delivers a restrained performance for the most part except when he starts arguing with women seated nearby while Blassie remains stoic. Bob Zmuda (Kaufman's manager) plays a man obsessed with his phlegm who harasses the two. The best parts are when they are discussing their careers in the ring or the interruptions from various people but much of the film is slow and talky. Kaufman could be a frustrating talent but that's how the man operated. You had to wait for the payoff with his material. It's only an hour long so it doesn't overstay its welcome but the film could have been so much better. However, if you are a fan of these two its worth viewing once in a while.
It's a shame Kaufman died so young, though. He had a unique way of making people laugh.
The Voice (2011)
Yet another overwrought reality television show.
With the cancellation of American Idol (only briefly, unfortunately), The Voice is now the premier "find a new recording artist to market to the adolescents" show on network T.V. Unfortunately, it is still garbage just like all of reality television.
Other than the ridiculously convoluted way they pick a winner (which seems to take ages to go through) the show relies on the same reality television formula that has been done to death. You have your typical stereotypical wannabes who probably were found butchering songs on YouTube, flashing skin on Facebook or prostituting themselves on Instagram. They have judges and mentors (some of which are terrible singers with personalities as noxious as a sewer or faker than a $3 bill) trying to teach these stiffs how to "sing" better. It's like Chinese Water Torture.
Hosted by Ryan Seacrest wannabe Carson Daly, the current judges include hack country singer Blake Shelton, his boyish, flat-butted girlfriend Gwen Stefani, douchebag of the decade Adam Levine and Casting Couch Connoisseur Alicia Keys. If you wish to see people make an embarrassment of themselves, watch The Gong Show. On the other hand, if you need a cure for insomnia...
Match Game (2016)
Not-so-good reboot of the classic 70's game show.
I am a big fan of Match Game from the 1970's. I watched the show as a kid from 1975-1982, watched reruns on The Game Show Network or whatever it's now called and YT is full of episodes and classic moments. It is tough for a reboot to match (no pun intended) the classic Match Game hosted by Gene Rayburn and this one just doesn't make the grade.
I watched episodes from both the summer of 2016 and the new episodes being aired in 2017.
I actually think Alec Baldwin is a great host for the show. I'm no fan of the guy but he fits in perfectly with his sleazy, douche-y persona and he pays homage to Gene by using a microphone like the one Mr. Rayburn built for the show. I have zero issues with him.
I do have some issues with some of the panelists they bring in. Some of them look like they drank a case of Red Bull before coming in for the taping. Niecy Nash overplays the sassy black woman to the hilt that it becomes annoying. Mario Cantone is your typical unfunny stock flaming queen who is no Charles Nelson Reilly. I'd rather have a guy who only implies he's gay than somebody who is loud and proud such as Cantone. Some panelists even have contempt for the contestants and gave purposely wrong answers.
The contestants can be annoyances as well. They love bringing in brainwashed female religious fanatics from Jesusland or other stereotypical flaming queens with the big flashy smile and the limp- wristed clapping.
The blanks are typically about sex or politics and people in the summer got their panties in a bunch when Donald Trump was the topic and you had Alec Baldwin (who is known for his portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live) and Rosie O'Donnell (who hates Trump) taking shots at him. Are people not aware that Mr. Trump isn't exactly a normal human being?
Way too often in the Head-to-Head Match, the other panelists stick their noses where they don't belong. Could you imagine if the late, great Richard Dawson had every other panelist in his face every time he was picked?
It's an OK show but the more you watch it, the less you like it. Hopefully, Neil DeGrasse Tyson appears again as he was great in his one appearance.
What's Up, Doc? (1972)
Babs throws a screwball.
While I'm not a fan of Pierre Elliot Trudeau's ex-girlfriend, there's no question Barbra Streisand is a superlative talent as an actress, singer and composer. She has more talent in her pinkie finger than Jennifer Lawrence has in her whole body. She owns What's Up Doc? fully and delivers a tour-de-force performance. Streisand sings, acts, showcases her comedic chops and even sizzles with her understated sensuousness throughout the zany proceedings.
Peter Bogdanovich's delicious take-off of the classic screwball comedies of yesteryear is spiced up with references to iconic Bugs Bunny cartoons. Bab's Judy Maxwell is a wisecracking, confident go- getter who is attracted to mousy scientist-musician Howard Bannister (Ryan O'Neal), who has come to San Francisco with his frigid fiancée Eunice (the late great Madeline Kahn in her film debut) to compete for a grant.
You also have a hilarious game of cat-and-mouse involving four exactly alike duffel bags being stolen and re-stolen by various shady characters (one of whom is future Boss Hogg Sorrell Booke) without them looking inside of them. These individuals and Maxwell reek havoc on the posh hotel in uproarious fashion.
Eventually, these two story lines mesh in a crazy chase through the streets of San Francisco where the screwball also meshes with Bugs Bunny.
I really enjoyed WUD. It actually is a funny film and the references to the classic film shorts are spliced in at the right time. Like so many other Warner Brothers films of the last Golden Age of Cinema, you will never see anything like this today. It's family-friendly but adults will find plenty to tickle their funny bone. In a day of fart jokes, blue humor and sexual tastelessness, there is always the classics to turn to and WUD is a fine film.
If only there were more Judy Maxwells in Ottawa...
Saving Christmas (2014)
Razzie Award winning Christmas nonsense.
I don't know what the story is behind Kirk Cameron's over 25 year run as a Fundamentalist Christian. Gay rumours, a concussion, alienating the cast of Growing Pains, who knows? The last two decades as a Hope Dope Dealer have made him a laughingstock to mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics and of course, atheists like myself. However, he is making a decent living preaching to the converted with his twisted ideologies.
Saving Christmas is a truly awful film. It's nothing more than Kirk playing himself as he rattles on about hot chocolate and his ridiculous views about Christmas. He pushes the "reason for the season" to his nutty brother-in-law Christian (played in excruciating manner by Darren Doane, who also directed) in a car. We also see stereotypical black men talking ebonics.
This is the slowest 80 minutes you'll ever encounter. Kirk and his buddies at the ironically named Liberty University padded this film with tons of slow motion and idiotic dancing from brainwashed people who believe in fairy tales. This is pure torture.
The acting is brutal throughout. Kirk is probably the least annoying yet he won two Razzies when Doane should have won one for playing a stammering nincompoop who looks like Al Snow.
I'll be nice and say that they made St. Nicholas look like a total boss and the human beatbox old school rapping during the purposely overlong credits are good (I like old school freestyle rap) but the ridiculous myths about swaddling clothes, Christmas gifts looking like New Jerusalem and seeing a bunch of white people making Emily Ratajkowski look like Mikhail Baryshnikov when it comes to dancing will overwhelm any good bits this bore offers. If you want to laugh at a Fundie film, stick with A Thief In The Night. If you want a cure for insomnia, on the other hand...
Screen Test (1985)
The prototype that The Asylum has made a fortune with.
Screen Test is a film that has become unfairly obscure in a huge sea of horny guy teen flicks. Among the Private Schools, Porky's and Bachelor Parties it is Screen Test's story line that is still used and re-used by studios such as The Asylum.
A bunch of horny men concoct a scheme in order to get some action by pretending that they are porn film directors and then find out that their plan might lead them to an early death when they cross the mob.
The real reason to see this film is for the Goddess that is Monique Gabrielle. She appears three times and shows everybody her goods. There are a few funny scenes in this low budget film such as the two guys pretending to be the Siskel & Ebert of sex toys or seeing the kids watching an accidental broadcast of the porn movie and then the boy telling the two girls that he wants them to join him in bed but it's not really anything special outside of the plot. None of the actors ever did anything of note before or after this. However, if you're a fan of the nudie films of The Asylum you should try to find this film to see where they got all their ideas for a few of their films such as Celebrity Sex Tape.
Naked News (1999)
Pure cringe-worthy cheese.
From some dank basement in downtown Toronto, The Naked News has been delivering pop-culture cheddar to the Internet since 1999. For a monthly or yearly subscription fee, people can see lipstick feminists shaking their moneymakers all in the name of Girl Power.
Imagine Entertainment Tonight or some lurid sex show with nude women...that's The Naked News. 20-25 minutes, 6 times a week of "sexy" women reading off of a telestrator. You should see these women as a lot of them have massive egos and think they are worthy of having shrines built to them. The good and beautiful anchors are the ones who realize the whole racket is just to be tongue-and-cheek and not to be taken seriously (Eila Adams, Madison Banes, Angie Heyward, Carli Bei, Isabella Rossini) but the women who shove their agendas down people's throats are unbearable.
First, we have Katherine Curtis. Ms. Curtis is a self-proclaimed nerd and humorless ultra-leftist bitch who acts like she is above everyone. The entire time she shows up on camera she flaunts her massive ego and spews her ridiculous ultra leftist beliefs to everybody while thinking she still has a killer body. Back in 2007 she was hot stuff, now, not so much with the flabby backside. She is also a co-writer and co-producer (as is Eila) but you can tell what segments she wrote.
Next is Peyton Priestly, Ms. "I only eat organic food and support animal rights". Certainly a great all-natural body but a nasally and annoying voice and sporting a massive ego to boot.
Then we have her identical twin sister Whitney St. John, who is only there when school is out. She has fake bosoms, wears nerd glasses to show how "smart" she is and thinks she's a big deal. She talks like a school professor.
Finally we have Natasha Olenski and Andrea Sully, two women from the Eastern Bloc. Olenski is not beautiful at all unless you like bad breast augmentation and while Sully's work is better, her behind is as flat as a board and both have voices that grate on my ears.
Despite the motto "The Program With Nothing To Hide" the location of their studio is a guarded secret. Of course, they do come out and do topless interviews made possible by my province's Topfree laws. They do lame man-on-the-street interviews about trivial stuff to bemused people embarrassed to be on camera.
The real kicker is the forced repartee between the ladies. It's painful to watch. It sounds like a conversation between women who deep down hate each other's guts but must pretend to be buddies. When you watch the local news, you can tell there's camaraderie between the anchors. Not here. Then again, I wouldn't want to be near Ms. Curtis, Ms. Priestly or Ms. St. John, either. Nothing like being told what to do with you life, eh?
If you want to pay for an overpriced subscription to be bored to death half the time by women spewing leftist policies on their audiences just to see those anchors that don't take themselves seriously then go on ahead.
Wonder Bar (1934)
Maybe Will Hays was right...
Wonder Bar is one of the most notorious films ever released. One of the last Pre-Code films, Wonder Bar is mostly tame by today's standards. The story of a night at Al Wonder's (Al Jolson) Paris nightclub (named after the film) is full of dark humor, crazy cougars, love triangles and crimes of passion. Sadly, it's quite forgettable and these parts of the movie aren't really why anybody would watch Wonder Bar today.
The two reasons to view Wonder Bar is first to see Al Jolson sing and he puts on a terrific show. My favorite part is when he talks to the Russian Count and he goes back to his roots (Jolson was born in present- day Lithuania) and develops a Russian accent. Yes, he's playing himself but that's good enough for everybody.
The second are the two Busby Berkeley numbers. Don't Say Goodnight is an amazing showcase of his choreography skills with tons of blondes and mesmerizing visuals.
Going' To Heaven On A Mule over the years has aged worse and worse. Every time I think of all those kids in blackface I cringe. I find it hard to believe the producers would think Going' To Heaven On A Mule would be listed among the greatest movie musical numbers ever. The idea of hundreds of whites dancing in blackface with Jolson still disturbs me. Maybe Hays was right in this case that having a Code would at least prevent this kind of overt racist humor for a period of time. You would figure back in 1934 Hollywood was liberal enough to discard the watermelon stereotype but apparently not.
Wonder Bar is nothing special outside of Jolson and the two big Berkeley numbers. It's definitely a must-watch for serious cinephiles but that's about it.
Frozen? More like Slush!
Frozen is a mystery to me. How an average run-of-the-mill Disney film has become a sensation for a year and a half has puzzled me. I feel this film pales in comparison to Snow White, Bambi, Fantasia, Beauty & The Beast, Toy Story and other animated/CGI films often lauded as the best from The House Of The Mouse. I sat through the film twice, looked for hidden meanings (and found none) and tried to understand what was going on and just didn't understand the hype or why people are ridiculously obsessed with the film, its songs or its characters. Was it because of the cold winters the last two years, the standout track Let It Go (honestly, a pretty good song) or the done-to-death oppression theme? Why are so many people crazy about this film? It's a mystery to me.
Frozen has top of the line CGI and one good song but nothing more. The script is painfully lame and isn't worthy of a PG rating, the voice acting is hammy, the characters are annoying to anybody who isn't a tween girl (Disney's biggest audience by far) and it's simply not like Disney films of the past that could appeal to all ages. Only tween girls will find Frozen a joy. Everybody else should just see it as another Bob Iger cash grab but strangely, they don't. They are mesmerized by this mediocre film for reasons I'll never know. As Prince once opined, it's The Sign O' The Times...and not one I like.
Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
Nothing but a bad chick flick version of BDSM
I didn't know about 50 Shades Of Grey until February, when it was shoved onto everybody's face. I never heard of the wildly popular book, either. Of course, that's because any book that is wildly popular is usually some scribble geared to teenagers. Not to say that I haven't indulged in schlock as my brothers and I read Sidney Sheldon books in the 1990's. These days, I am a lot more careful about my reading material.
So going into this movie, I knew nothing about the contents of the book or what it was all about. After viewing it, I can't understand why anybody would want to see this crud in a theater. 50 Shades Of Grey represents the nadir of Hollywood. Proof positive that crap can draw money because people will pay to watch mediocrity (which this film isn't even) and praise it because they refuse to bother looking for the much better in years past. Films from 1975 explored BDSM way more explicitly and honestly than this fluff.
All this film offers are Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) doing G-rated versions of BDSM. That's it. Add in horrible acting from the entire cast, a insipid script written by Kelly Marcel in which she channels a 7th grader's mindset and terrible direction from Sam Taylor-Johnson and you have a multi Razzie Award winner come to life. Boring, unerotic and sterile is all I can say. There's much better out there in regards to films exploring BDSM. If they make a sequel, boycott it. Tell Hollywood that you're not going to get your intelligence insulted any longer.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Great for teens but not for adults.
I have seen Fast Times At Ridgemont High plenty of times in the last 30 years. It was very popular on late night T.V. in the 1980's (the edited version) and then the theatrical version years later on when T.V. was allowed to air the R-rated version. I enjoyed this film more as a teen but as a middle-aged man, the movie just isn't as entertaining. I would recommend FTARH to teenagers and young adults but not to those who were kids back in 1982.
Still, to see a cast with 3 future Oscar winners in Sean Penn (I Am Sam, Milk), Forest Whitaker (The Last King Of Scotland) and Nicolas Coppola Cage (Leaving Las Vegas) makes FTARH noteworthy. The battle of wits between Jeff Spicoli and Ray Walston's Mr. Hand are very entertaining. It was clear back in 1982 that Sean Penn was destined for a successful career in Hollywood. The stoned out California surfer dude was perfected by Penn and for years people have made that stock character a part of many films, television shows and cartoons.
Many years later, lad mags would push Phoebe Cates' famous nude scene as the most perfect display of breasts ever. That one point of the film, you truly feel that you're in an alternate universe when she undoes her top and presents her beautiful assets all shiny and wet to the viewer. That scene never gets old and to this day Ms. Cates is a legend to many young men.
The acting is still solid, the music is 1980's and pretty much every character is likable. There's little to fault about it other than the questionable decision to have Amy Heckerling direct this. I just feel the film is better for teenagers. I would recommend finding Cameron Crowe's book and reading that (or seeing Animal House) instead of this film unless you love seeing Spicoli and Barrett over and over again.
Your typical CBS claptrap.
It has been said that Scorpion is the "smartest show on television" but that isn't a boast I'd want to make public. Television is not the place to go for thought-provoking content. T.V. is where you go to watch insipid sitcoms, brain-dead reality shows and dog-and-pony award ceremonies all slathered with a skewed reality from the Bible Belt.
Scorpion is yet the hundredth rehash from CBS of the CSI/NCIS formula. This time, we have stereotypical geniuses trying to save the world from the usual problems that they are hired to fix. Filled with pseudo- intellectual babble and boring characters done to death it isn't anything you haven't seen a hundred times before. Funny thing is, many Americans in the 18-49 range seemingly act like it's fresh and new and the show has a decent fanbase. Perhaps CBS cobbled this show together in order to give people who are afraid of the violent blood and guts featured in a typical CSI/NCIS type show something more talky. Who knows?
I saw a few episodes and was bored to tears. I have no clue why anyone would think this is a must-watch show. 3 seasons and it will be canceled.
Animaniacs: Wakko's Wish (1999)
Take a bow, Animaniacs.
The final Animaniacs project was released on VHS on Y2K Eve but I didn't see it until it aired on Teletoon Retro a few days ago.
All the characters from the show are here but instead of being in their natural habitats they have all been placed in a town called Acme Hills. The Warners and friends are under the oppression of evil King Salazar; who took over their land in a hostile takeover and forces those in Acme Hills to live in abject poverty. As well, Dot needs an operation to help save her life. Wakko goes into the outside world and he returns with a Ha'penny which he intends to use to pay for the operation. However, Baron (Thaddeus) Plotz takes the money away as taxes and leaves Wakko broke again.
Wakko then makes a wish to the stars and Pip (a character similar to the one Ben Stein voiced in an episode) grants Wakko his wish but he must trek to where it fell. He tells everybody about the news and it ends up being a mad dash to reach the star, including Baron Plotz and the Evil King Salazar.
Wakko's Wish, sadly, isn't the ultimate Animaniacs movie I had hoped for. The story is done to death and the Animaniacs come off this time around as dull. Very few moments of zaniness abound and those moments are the only reason to sludge through the badly disjointed and overlong songs and redundant plot devices. The voice acting is good but it seems many characters have been toned down a lot, such as Jess Harnell's Wakko (who sounds more Continental than British) and Pinky (seemingly less nutty) among others. The animation is terrific and the characters have never looked better but everything else screams mediocre.
If you're a huge Animaniacs fan as I am, you should still see the movie and decide for yourself if they finished the series with a bang or a whimper. I feel it was both and that's never a good result.
Moving Violations (1985)
Decent comedy from Israel/Proft.
Many moons ago I reviewed Bachelor Party and said I hated it, calling it a waste of Tom Hanks' talent. After their success with Police Academy, the Israel/Proft team decided to attempt another one-off comedy called Moving Violations. While it has become a forgotten film, it doesn't deserve that fate. It's an above-average film with a likable cast and a fun premise. Its biggest weakness is having its main characters rip off other actors extensively.
John Murray (brother of Bill) plays Dana Cannon, a man who runs a nursery for plants. He and a number of other people have been ticketed for various driving violations from corrupt Birch County Deputy Hank Halik (James Keach) and forced to go to Traffic School. They later find out that Halik and equally corrupt Judge Nedra Henderson (Sally Kellerman) are running an illegal car selling scheme where they sell the cars of the people who have had their cars impounded for traffic violations. Of course, the headstrong Mr. Cannon isn't going to take this lying down.
Moving Violations, like a lot of 1980's comedies, has an intriguing cast of actors. A mix of one-hit wonders, siblings of major movie actors, T.V. stars and the debut of Don Cheadle make up the cast. John Murray portrays a character similar to his brother mixed with Michael J. Fox and does an excellent job, though it probably hurt his career as an actor because he couldn't come up with an original personality. James Keach's performance reminded me of his brother Stacy's performance as Sgt. Stedenko in Up In Smoke...maybe a little too similar. Jennifer Tilly delivers that sultry voice of hers in one of her early appearances. However, the one who steals the movie from everyone else is Nedra Volz. She plays the blind-as-a-bat Mrs. Loretta Houk who confidently goes about in the world as if she's got 20/20 vision with hilarious results. Seeing her and Clara "Where's the beef?" Peller together in the movie made me mark out. Seeing these senior icons of the 1980's in the same scene? Awesome.
It's an 80's film so get ready for all the trappings of the decade but it's not too bad here. Some good sight gags, funny situations, good writing and an inventive place for lovemaking add up to a pretty good film. Certainly worth a look.
My Kitchen Rules (2010)
Rigged, scripted and manipulative Reality television: Australian style.
I've always loathed reality television for many reasons but the one big gripe I have with the genre is that it's all scripted, there is no prize money (it's just a work) and the contests are pre-determined and rigged.
I live in Canada and a new channel added here called Gusto airs all the seasons of My Kitchen Rules. MKR is Australia's most popular television program and I decided to see if Australian reality television might be better than the shoddy American ones. Well, after 40 or so episodes it's a tiny bit better but it's still the same malarkey you will find elsewhere.
The only positives I can give the show are:
1. Australians are a much more laid back and easy going group of people unlike the Americans, British and Canadians. They are more tolerable to put up with on a program like this.
2. At least here in Canada, the swear words are not bleeped and they use R-rated language.
3. There is no audience of screamers until the final episode where the eliminated and the finalist's families are in "Kitchen Headquarters".
4. The people they use are real and not a bunch of actors. Tresne Middleton is actually a real estate agent, for example.
It is clear that every second of the show is scripted. Not one single amount of true emotion is shown. All reality T.V. is scripted but this show is blatant in that regard.
It's also droll how they have to call them Bree & Jessica or Helena & Vikki at all times. No changing of their title whatsoever is allowed. Why not an occasional Kelly and Chloe? Mr. Evans and Mr. Feildel must stand/sit right next to each other 95% of the time. It's clear that every moment is scripted by the producers. They just pull numbers and opinions out of their butt. I love how they constantly need to repeat the names of the dishes they are cooking, the endless talking head segments that who knows when they were filmed (before or after?) and lots of scripted events. It's never a smooth ride for these people.
I also love how the camera always captures those moments, it's always there at the right time. A good one was with the aforementioned Ms. Middleton. She was doing a lunch truck challenge and one of the guest judges (Colin Fassnidge) criticized her cooking technique. She then went over to her partner Carly Saunders to be consoled and the camera "catches" her being hugged and then giving somebody that stare. You know when a kid is upset and runs to her mother and then she looks at the person or animal that hurt her? That stare.
I love the centipede of cars for the "visits" of contestant's homes, the fake emotions of certain contestants, the forced trash talk and the constant editing. BAM BAM BAM with the visuals. I love how this show gets all those plants to show up at the end of the time limit as if they were waiting in buses or something. The school was realistic but I find it hard to believe in reality that they could find enough grown adults to show up at these lunch truck and restaurant challenges.
Of course, after season 5 all the allegations came out. I'm not surprised about the faked home visits. We don't want groupies taking pictures so all of these "homes" were in undisclosed locations and the dinners took place at 6 in the morning. The other facts (some of these contestants were trained prior to taping at a school, they were told what to cook, other chefs created meals, etc.) just takes away from the real reason I watched the show, like how many cases of food poisoning or how many blue band-aids would I see.
Anyway, I'm sure Australia will still watch in droves come Season 6. I won't. Sad thing is, I did have one more reason to watch: they have some beautiful women in that country. Oh well, the sacrifices I make...
A Chef's Life (2013)
Yippee! More mutated reality T.V.
PBS' A Chef's Life is half cooking show, half "real reality T.V." show. Unlike most reality T.V. cooking shows, this isn't some made-up story about a restaurant opening but a legit opening. Problem is see, they clearly have scripted events occur during the program that anybody with a brain can see a mile away.
The focus is on Chef Vivian Howard, who sounds like a female Dr. Phil. She has a North Carolina drawl and many of the people she interacts with have that distinct accent. She and her husband Ben Knight worked in New York (don't know if that's a work or not) and then claims her parents will allow them to open their own restaurant if they open it in Eastern North Carolina (?) which she says she was finished with in the intro. Most of each show is about the travails of getting this restaurant open with a mix of fact and BS. 5-7 minutes are spent showcasing her cooking prowess.
Much of the show consists of the boring and dull comments of Chef Vivian in front of a camera. She certainly knows how to doll herself up but she has the personality of a rock. She also seems to come off as somebody with a superiority complex and her husband is pretty much forced to do her bidding as he clearly doesn't wear the pants in this family.
I would recommend one episode just so you can hear that unique voice of hers but other than that, it's a good cure for insomnia. Anyway, I'm sure she will script a good ending for her little enterprise.
Ein echter Hausfrauenfreund (1975)
The living Ken doll.
For years, me and my brothers called this movie The Happy Gigolo. We saw it back in 1991. I saw this one again a few weeks ago. My version is dubbed in mostly American English.
Peter Hamm plays Albert Hoover, a living Ken doll who works in a hotel in Germany servicing women. Rare for a softie, a male is the main character. Anyway, in order to provide for his family he prostitutes himself for several women, though he seems devoted to Margaret Rose- Keil's Evelyn even though he is very happy with his wife and has a vibrant sex life with her.
For most of the film, he is exploited and treated like the gigolo he is but at the end the film makers cop-out and he is made the conqueror of women although to be fair, the woman he refuses to pleasure is a stuck- up egomaniac who deserved to be mocked for going against her own beliefs.
The women in this movie are all very nice and most of them look pretty good even now. Even the slightly chubby woman who plays his wife makes up for her looks with her sexual exuberance. However, all the focus in this one is on Albert. He looks like a living Ken doll with his mop-top hair and lady-killer smile. Any women who watch this film will certainly be impressed. The dialog probably is much different from the German original with a couple of characters portrayed as Americans. Many of the jokes are explicit in nature in regards to oral sex and orgasms, though done humorously.
This movie is available under a wide variety of titles so just go to the IMDb page to see the many names. However, this film is for those looking for the most obscure of softies.
The Jerk (1979)
Still a very funny film 35 years later.
I remember seeing Steve Martin in his "Wild & Crazy" mode with the arrow through his head as a kid. Over the years, Martin has mellowed quite a bit and has focused more on music (he has been to Ottawa Jazzfest the last two years) than acting, directing or writing movies. The Jerk hearkens back to his days as "Wild & Crazy" Steve and remains laugh-out loud funny.
I sometimes wonder what kind of personality Navin Johnson has. Is he an idiot savant, does he have Asperger Syndrome, is he bored with life and lives recklessly to tolerate it or is he just a parody of Steve Martin himself? He's a difficult character to define and that what makes his character cool. You don't know what you're getting with him. In today's movies with one-dimensional characters, Navin Johnson's personality is rich with development.
The film, about Navin's crazy experiences with independence, finding love and making a fortune is a laugh riot from start to finish. It still remains relevant because it avoided topicality. Bernadette Peters looks as delicious as ever and it's good to see the likes of Bill Macy and the fine Blues duo of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee in the cast. It still has that vibrancy like it did in 1979.
If you long to see the Steve Martin of old, his sparkling debut as a leading man is the film to see. Highly recommended.
Hasn't really dated well but still a fun watch.
Airplane! is still a good comedy film but it is compromised by being a topical film. Back in 1980, this was a very funny movie but in 2014, it doesn't hold up quite as well since disco, jive talking, the glorification of drug use and deadpan comedy aren't exactly in nowadays. A movie like The Jerk still holds up in 2014 because it doesn't rely on the pop culture of its time.
That said, it's still very watchable and its screen time flies rapidly. You wish more movies had the genius idea of casting serious actors and playing off of their stoic style for laughs. Leslie Nielsen's career took off after playing Dr. Rumack and he had a successful back-nine when it came to acting. Julie Hagerty (in her debut) may come off as somewhat mousy and spaced-out as Elaine but she could also be a knockout as seen in the club scene.
The movie is worth seeing for those classic exchanges and some funny spoofs but I just feel it doesn't have that punch that it once had after seeing it again recently.
Ruthless People (1986)
Still a laugh riot nearly 30 years later.
Jerry Zucker, David Zucker and Jim Abrahams are known for their spoof movies such as Airplane!, Hot Shots and The Naked Gun trilogy but they did direct some straight comedies and Ruthless People remains uproariously funny in 2014. In fact, it seems more realistic nowadays.
Sam Stone (Danny DeVito) is a slimy little man who is married to Barbara Stone (Bette Midler), a frumpy and gaudy woman who he detests. He has plans to kill her for her 15 million dollar fortune and run off with his long time mistress Carol (Anita Morris). The day he plans to do the dirty deed he finds out that she's been kidnapped by Ken (Judge Reinhold) and Sandy Kessler (Helen Slater) and they demand a huge ransom or else they will off her. Sam, of course, refuses to pay since now they will do the dirty work for him. Meanwhile, Carol is planning to double- cross Sam by filming the murder and she has her punk boyfriend Earl (Bill Pullman) do it. He ends up filming the guy who played the Principal on Head Of The Class having sex with a hooker instead but Carol never bothers to watch the film because of the screams of joy the hooker makes and just assumes it's Sam murdering Barbara.
It turns out the Kesslers aren't "ruthless people" and seemingly won't carry out the murder despite Sam making a decent fortune himself from stealing Sandy's ideas years ago and leaving the Kesslers living in squalor. Barbara teaches them how...
Ruthless People is a sassy R-rated comedy with attitude and the dialog and situation comedy is zesty, rich and bursting with constant laugh-out loud moments. Everybody in film is appealing despite being evil, weak- minded, dumb or a monster and that's why it has aged extremely well. It feels more like a 2014 film than a 1986 film because our society seemingly is like the one featured in Ruthless Peopl.
DeVito, Slater and Reinhold deliver terrific performances but the film is owned by Midler. The Divine Miss M dominates the film playing a profanity-spewing, gaudy, frumpy and angry shrew who changes into a sassy, beautiful and fit woman in captivity but still hasn't lost her talent for down and dirty ruthlessness.
Still a wonderful film 28 years later. I wish the Zuckers and Abrahams made more R-rated fare; this is one of the best comedies of the MPAA era. See it!
Love, mystery and horror in Sri Lanka.
Samanka (Ceylon My Love) is basically an entry-level version of the more graphic films that Joe D'Amato and Jess Franco would make. This was aired occasionally on late-night Quebecois T.V. here.
Gerard (who looks a lot like a young John Elway) is a fashion photographer. His two models Sybille (who looks like a young Kathleen Turner) and Christa work in Paris with him. He finds out he has won a contract to deliver content for his bosses in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and he and his ladies fly over for their all-inclusive paid vacation.
One day, he spots the beautiful Samanka walking and he is immediately infatuated. He tries to ask her to join his troupe but keeps getting missed connections. Finally, he meets her at the hotel and asks her to join he and his ladies on their escapade in hopes that she will model for him. While she has no issues sleeping with him, she refuses to be photographed because she believes she is a "deity".
Of course, Gerard continues to stalk her and he finds out she lives in a compound with her father, who runs some sort of Oneida Community where he is involved in sinister dealings. It all leads to him fighting for the life of his ladies only to be met with a twist ending.
Like many of these Emmanuelle clones, Samanka is a beautiful travelogue for these foreign countries they are filmed in, such as Sri Lanka. The country looks stunning and exotic. The women, despite being somewhat thin, are all-natural and sexy. Pretty much every stereotype of the Emmanuelle film (both the Kristel and Gemser versions) are fully utilized.
I originally saw the film in its original French. My VHS version is an English dub with Russian subtitles. The dialog in English is quite funny. At one point, Sybille is asking:
Sybille: What's the name of this hole?
Samanka: Kandy, the ancient capital of Ceylon. This hole is every bit as lovely as yours, my dear.
If you are a fan of the Golden Era of softcore (1974-1986), this is one you need to seek out. Yes, it's just another formulaic Emmanuelle clone but it's a good one. I wish Vera Floux made more films. She indeed was a stunner.