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Snow White: A Deadly Summer (2012)
All Hail The Schlockmaster General!
There are bad directors (the kind that squander a Big budget, deliver a smelly turd, and are never heard from again), and then there are Bad Directors!!! (who can deliver a finished product for a couple thousand which, regardless of quality, will turn a profit, and who have more work waiting for them than they can possibly handle). I'm pretty worshipful of the latter. William Beaudine. Roger Corman. Ed Wood. Doris Wishman. And undisputed King of the current crop of Bad Directors!!!, the Schlockmaster General, Mr. David DeCoteau. Remember that name. not because I expect you to worship Bad Cinema as I do - quite the opposite - because so many of you expect some kinda guarantee of being at least a little bit entertained when you invest 90 minutes of your life in a movie. When you see D.D.C.'s name attached to one, that Ain't Gonna Happen (when you're done reading this, zip thru the pages of 1-star-or-less user reviews for this one if you need further evidence). Some Fun Facts about D.D.C: He's Very Gay (me too, so no judgment is intended), and has frequently worked under female pseudonyms; while he's never made an overtly gay film, his specialty area is in the copious display of the H-O-T male form - mostly in tighty whiteys (type '1313' into the search engine for an impressive list of some but not all of his tighty whitey epics) - I once emailed him, offering to pay him $10/hr to work in his casting office - no response; there is always Someone You've Hear Of in his casts, generally wayyy past their marketability (McCormick and Roberts get the honors in this one),and they're always awful (he once actually got Christopher Plummer to sign on - if I ever hear a good story about that one, I'll share it); and what I said earlier about the low-budget hacks having no shortage of work....it's 2013 now - he's made around 30 movies since 2010!! So remember....Corman received an honorary Oscar. Wood is a major cult figure. So there IS some glory to making BAD movies, just as there's Great Fun to be had watching them. Just so long as you know what you're getting into.
The Guilt Trip (2012)
If you love Barbra, you don't need reviews
It's her first starring role since "The Mirror Has Two Faces" in 1996, and for me (a fan for 50 years), that's PLENTY of reason to get in line. If it wasn't enough reason, "The Guilt Trip" might have been tough sledding. It's NOT the Jewish Mother farce you're probably hoping for...the laughs are mild at best, and the chemistry between Barbra and Rogen is a bit forced. There are nice moments throughout (the steakhouse sequence is a hoot), but mostly I'm left wondering (and this goes back to her two Fockers flicks as well)...she's probably turning down 200 scripts for each one she accepts - what did she see in this one?? I've been trying to light fires on the internet to get her to do Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Sunset Boulevard" while she can still play 50 (which, at this moment, SHE CAN...lookin' GOOD, girlfriend!). In the meantime, this'll do.
Alien Encounters (2012)
There are as many opinions about what First Contact will be like as there are people pondering it, so approach this as ONE opinion, but it's a good one. Many of us prefer to imagine Them landing on the White House lawn, without any advance brouhaha, but this one goes the SETI route (SETI could well have produced it - they've accepted a lot of funds for a lot of years and yielded ZILCH, leading many to wonder why they exist, so if you swallow this saga, it means they're needed). They receive The Message: We're On The Way! We fuss, we bother, we freak. They arrive. That's all the detail you'll wrestle out of me. It runs on The Science Channel in two episodes, usually run back-to-back, and since The Science Channel creates all of about twelve new hours of programming a year, chances are excellent that a rerun of this is on now as we speak. It's a good watch. And by the way, when first contact happens, whether it's White House lawn, a 'We're On The Way' message, or something else...DON'T freak. First impressions are EVERYTHING.
Strictly for Laffs (1962)
Borscht Belt Heaven
This one's a quick flicker of TV past - an unsold pilot that's sort of a D-list Algonquin Round Table...a collection of, mostly, past-their-primes Borscht Belt comics gathered 'round to try to crack each other up. I'd have to agree with network execs that long-term weekly appeal might have been limited. BUT: This particular collection gathered for the pilot is surely worth 22min. of your time (check out the cast list on this page...Mel Blanc, Alan 'Fred Flintstone' Reed, Rose Marie and more). For me, a LONGtime Stooge-o-phile, the highlight is Moe Howard. While there's a pretty fair amount of non-Stooge footage of him available (if you look for it), this might be the only time I've seen him being funny (HILARIOUS, in fact), as HIMSELF. He's riffing off funny stories with veteran, expert stand-up timing, and his 3 or 4 minutes are A JOY! It's available on the Pub-D-Hub channel, and maybe elsewhere, and is absolutely worth seeking out.
The Heirs Apparent to Cheech & Chong
As Fan Numero Uno du Cheech et Chong, I feel qualified to make that statement, and I've been waiting a LONG time to make it. Not that C&C are gone, mind you...they toured last year, and have announced new projects, but I think it's 'high' time you vippershneppers had a stoner team to call your own, and dis is dem! John Cho & Kal Penn have made a real go of it as well, but Harold & Kumar are different - they're functional, intelligent dudes who get stupid when buzzed. My kinda guys wake up stupid, go to sleep stupid, and stay stupid for as many hours as pass between those two events. The Three Stooges are the all-time kings (and did it clean'n'sober best I know, to which I light my Bic); C&C most surely qualified; and if Adam, Blake & Ders can keep this hye-larious act going for at least a few more years, they will achieve stoner comedy Legend status, and the stanky crown of Cheech & Chong will have worthy heads to rest upon (though I'm not sure it'll fit over Blake's hair). Think anyone can tell I'm stoned?
Having just experienced the joy of Kuenne's most recent film "Shuffle," I sat down with this one expecting a sad but warm'n'fuzzy (and obviously personal) account of friendship and loss. And that's what he set out to make. But who knew that such Real Evil exists in this world, and that his tale would turn into one of Horror that would leave me intensely depressed, angry and shattered? This a mighty, mighty difficult journey to take, but it's personal, independent filmmaking at its absolute zenith, and was worth the extra dose of Clonazepam I needed to get through it. Kuenne is quite the multiple threat...the brilliant editing that hammers the bigger moments home with unbearable ferocity is his, and the trenchant music score is his. This is an Important Talent, and I'll be in line for whatever he does next. And may I say to Mr. Kuenne that I'm so sorry that life dealt you, as well as Dr. Bagby's wonderful family and circle of friends, such unspeakable horror.
One word - BRILLIANT!
I'm always a bit leery of direct-to-video flicks (something HAS to be wrong with it, right?)...in this case, apparently distributors wouldn't touch it because they perceived (OBVIOUSLY without seeing it) that it was too much like Chris Nolan's "Memento" (it's NOT). I'd compare it more to Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-Five," but only superficially. This is ORIGINAL, and it's A MASTERPIECE. It's a delicate jigsaw puzzle of a film which, once it settles into where it's going, will have you RIVETED. And it's OVERPOWERINGLY romantic. The cast is brilliant (I fell completely in love with Paula Rhodes, despite the fact that I'm gay), and the screenplay is pure art. Writer-director Kuenne also composed the score, which is RAVISHING. See this with someone you love, and afterwards you can both scratch your heads as to how the 'geniuses' that run the studios couldn't see clear to give it a theatrical run.
"Stranger Than Science" Redux
As a kid in the sixties, I was gobbling up scifi novels like potato chips (nobody can eat just one) and getting kinda warped in the process. Then one day my scifi Book Of The Month Club offered up a nonfiction selection by Frank Edwards called "Stranger Than Science," a collection of (allegedly) TRUE tales that mainstream media had ignored, that were weird, DISTURBING, and had this li'l bug-eyed boy TERRIFIED under the sheets with the book & a flashlight. And there were sequels, ALL of which I gobbled up. In the half-century or so since, barely any of the stories have ever been exposed outside of those pages...UNTIL NOW! I'll pretty much swear that this series is inspired by those books (maybe that's even acknowledged in the credits, but the way credits get dashed aside nowadays, who can tell?). But when an episode delved into the (alleged) saga of missing cosmonauts from the early Soviet space program (which I'd NEVER heard anywhere except "Stranger Than Science," and which has haunted my dreams ever since), I knew I'd come home. And if you need more reasons to watch, John Noble (from "Fringe") makes for the CREEPIEST host I've ever seen (one part Rod Serling to one part Hannibal Lecter). I'm hooked!
We Have Arrived.
I've been a fan of The American Experience since PBS introduced it in 1988 and forgive PBS completely for only airing it sporadically (6-8 episodes per season), since SUPERBLY researched and produced documentaries can't be ground out in a week. It's 2011 now, and over the course of 23 years, T.A.E is WELL on its way to creating a completely magnificent mosaic of what America is, where it's been, and where it's going. OK. In addition the being a history buff, I'm also a gay man, one who's been around long enough to have followed news flashes of Stonewall as it was happening, and to watch the SLOOOOOW, painful evolution of the treatment of My Kind by the news media and by Hollywood. And over the 23 years of T.A.E., I'd speculated: Would I live long enough to ever see gay America added to their POWERFUL mosaic...could we EVER progress to where OUR stories could stand astride the civil rights struggle, the various Great Wars, and all the other facets of our great national history? Short answer: YUP!! This doc is as powerful as any that T.A.E has ever done. Gay veterans of The Uprising are interviewed, THE COPS who made that ill-fated venture into Fagville on that violent night are interviewed (and a few are genuinely ashamed of their involvement, which moved me to tears - I FORGIVE YOU), and some painstaking recreations of the scenario (news crews were NOT there) have been SUPERBLY executed. Which simply means that this is a TYPICAL episode of The American Experience, except...THAT'S US UP THERE! WE are now part of The American Experience!! Can you tell that I'm weeping while typing? THANK YOU, PBS! I believe I can say it and FINALLY believe it to be true: WE HAVE ARRIVED.
The Entertainers (1991)
That's no garden variety chimp!
The chimp that shares billing with Newhart in this otherwise unbearable network timeslot filler is none other than BUBBLES. That's right...the late King of Pop's enslaved simian BUBBLES!! This fact was heavily promoted at the time of the movie's airing, but seems to have gotten lost thru the fog of time. POOR Bubbles. I don't think he's known a happy day in his life. Like nearly ALL captive chimps, he lived a life in front of the cameras while young and cute, but as we all know, the day comes when 'young and cute' gives way to 'grown-up and dangerous,' and Bubbles, unfortunately, was no exception. Animal Planet ran a memorable special in 2010 called "Michael Jackson and Bubbles: The Untold Story," in which a weepy Sister LaToya was allowed to visit him in his current digs - a chain-link cage the size of your bathroom. LaToya remembered him SO fondly, and was SURE he remembered her. He didn't. He was just southeast of catatonic, and his face said "KILL ME." NOTHING GOOD EVER COMES OF CHIMPS IN CAPTIVITY...PLEASE don't support it. And should you find the chance to see "The Entertainers," for as many minutes as you've got before you can take no more, send a kind thought to Bubbles.
Softcore Gay Porn! In 3D!! Family Hour Viewing!!!
Of all the labels that the world loves to hang on people, the one I'M fondest of is 'nutcase' (amongst my others: Gay; Jewish; American; Earthling; Brunette; 3D Junkie). I'll leave it to you to determine which of those led me to "Art of Touch II In 3D" (but don't be too hasty). This is NOT the only softcore gay title in 3D - another is "London Knights" - and both are in the MOST annoying home 3D format (the glasses: Clear on left eye/Smoke on right eye) where everything spins dizzyingly (like Carrie & Tommy's dance sequence in "Carrie"), and while it DOES create a decent depth illusion, the puking it invokes just might detract from the overall experience. NOW: As to the overall experience...A hot naked boy massages another hot naked boy for an hour (here in my home of Las Vegas, that'll usually set you back a couple of hundred). No sex, JUST massage...until near the end, when the narrator gently, tastefully suggests that Boy #1 might just like to 'finish it off,' as it were, and then it goes decidedly non-explicit (but that would up the Vegas ante to $250 or so). I, personally, find it difficult to get aroused while A) wearing 3D glasses, and B) puking...therefore, I'm ONLY recommending this for it's nausea-laced 3D experience. But, for some (nutcases, for example), that's MORE THAN ENOUGH!!
It Happened in Hollywood (1937)
We didn't need words...we had FACES!
There haven't been many movies on the subject of THE most fascinating and terrifying era of Hollywood history - the chaotic and brutal transition from Silents to Talkies (that period ended WAY more Hollywood careers than the McCarthy blacklist era). The best known, of course, are "Singin' In The Rain" (the most complete treatment of the subject, and DAZZLINGLY funny), and "Sunset Blvd" (oh-so-dark, and with razor-sharp teeth), and they were both 20+ years after the fact. Here's one that's less than 10 years removed, when the wounds of the victims were still pretty fresh and oozing, and it's flawed but TERRIBLY fascinating in that light. This page categorizes it as COMEDY, but I didn't detect any (intentional) laughs, except perhaps in the bizarre (and tacked-on-feeling) party sequence near the end featuring actual stand-ins for many major stars of the day. One suspects that Dix played a major role in bringing this story to the screen, and that it might have represented his own story (his thinly-fictionalized character fails to make the switch to talkies because of a mild drawl, and because, supposedly, Westerns are finished due to the inability to take the new technology outdoors). As I studied his filmography on this site, I'm seeing that he was never unemployed during that era, but that he DID go from making 5 or 6 films a year in the mid-'20s to 1 or 2 a year in the early thirties, so I guess that might have been a sufficient jolt to his lifestyle to embitter him a bit. REALLY interesting stuff, and Fay Wray is GORGEOUS and memorable (as always). Absolutely recommendable to any Hollywood history buff.
The Master Mystery (1918)
Not much story, but a priceless curio
It's been around a century since Houdini's superstardom, and the fact that EVERYONE still knows his name is nothing short of phenomenal, especially when you consider how much of his legacy is word-of-mouth ONLY. Therefore, Kino Video's restoration of this 15-chapter serial (along with four other features and performance footage on this FABULOUS 3-disc set) is of ENORMOUS importance. Too bad the serial is more than a little bit tedious, and even with a few chapters gone forever due to nitrate rot (Kino's done their level best to compensate with some summarizing title cards), the four remaining hours are a challenge to endure. BUT...nearly EVERY surviving chapter cliffhangs with Harry bound and/or dangled in some heinous manner, and each ensuing chapter opens with a no-camera-tricks escape, and that's why any further complaints about this title become meaningless. And that robot...the 'trivia' on this page states that it may be the first in the annals of cinema, but BOY OH BOY is it goofy! But I do believe that with the re-emergence of this title and its companions, the Houdini legacy is guaranteed PERMANENCE.
The Woman in White (1948)
Juicy Juicy Juicy!
I'll sheepishly admit to having seen NO version of the apparently VERY popular Willkie novel until seeing the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical adaptation on Broadway recently. Came out of the Marquis Theater with a passion to see ALL prior adaptations, and this delectable one is my first. LOVED it! Without doing any "spoilers," let me advise others like me who are seeking this out in the wake of the musical that the musical cut one MAJOR character, that being the Countess Fosco (played here with breathtaking abandon by the fabulous Agnes Moorehead), and despite several story alterations to the musical that I appreciate (it's a bit more emotionally gripping), the Countess might have helped improve the musical. But mostly I'm coming here to make a statement of appreciation for the great Sydney Greenstreet, whose Count Fosco is simply as masterful a portrait of evil as I've ever seen, and a career peak for one of the cinema's greatest character actors. Only problem with the film, whose cast is wonderful in its entirety, is that at its finale, it just sorta trickles away into a forced and artificial-feeling happy ending that I just KNOW couldn't have been in the novel. Otherwise, a swift and engrossing 109 minutes.