Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Yesterday I was lucky enough to catch one of my all-time favorite movies thanks to my Dish Network subscription. KING OF HEARTS (aka LE ROI DE COEUR) is a remarkable anti-war film directed by Philippe De Broca which stars Alan Bates as a WWI Scottish infantryman sent to a French village to disarm a bomb left behind by the retreating German army.

Private Charles Plumpick is an odd selection for the highly important job since he is merely a carrier pigeon specialist with absolutely no training when it comes to defusing explosives. He does speak French, however, so his Commanding Officer "volunteers" him for this dangerous assignment. The brilliance of this insightful, surreal cult allegory rests primarily on the premise that by the time Pvt. Plumpick arrives all of the regular villagers have fled to escape the impending detonation. They not only leave their homes and shops, they also leave the gate to the insane asylum open so the inmates will be able to fend for themselves. Within hours every one of the "lunatics" has assumed a role in the village and the absurdist fun begins.

The screenplay by Daniel Boulanger is based on a short story by Maurice Bessy. It is a light-hearted romp with a surgically penetrating point of view which asks: "Who are the real lunatics?" Is it those who just hours ago were incarcerated in a mental institution or is it the English and German soldiers who slaughter one another simply because they are ordered to do so?

De Broca and company provide a clear-cut answer. One of the many profound lines of dialogue comes from one of the lunatic villagers who, in the aftermath of the horrific battle in the town square which mows down in a hail of gunfire every soldier and officer from both armies, quips: "Don't you think these actors are going a bit too far for a game?"

As we all know, war is not a game; but it can definitely be insane.

Other highlights include the lilting, yet highly evocative musical score by Georges Delerue and the casting of Genevieve Bujold in one of her first major screen appearances. She captures your heart...and I defy anyone to take their eyes off her when she is in a scene. Any scene, anyone -- man or woman.

Tomorrow, Thursday, December 29, Turner Classics will air another absolute must-see motion picture, Stanley Kubrick's PATHS OF GLORY starring Kirk Douglas, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready and Ralph Meeker. This is a another stunning antiwar film which will also remain in your heart and in your mind for a long, long time. Set your clocks to 5:30 p.m. Central time.

Saturday, December 24, 2005


They've done it again.

This week another egregious ruling was made by our favorite governmental agency. For reasons that verge on being unfathomable, those wily wildebeests at the United States Treasury Department have banned Cuba from participating in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

For those of you unfamiliar with the WBC, it is an exciting new event for baseball fans worldwide. Sixteen national teams will compete in this international tournament comprised of many of the biggest marquee names in the game, each playing for their home country. Among the 400 all-stars committed to play are Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Tadahito Iguchi, Omar Vizquel, Vinny Castilla and Alfonso Soriano.

Missing from the fray, however, will be the island nation of Cuba where their "field of dreams" is perhaps only second to our own. This is an outrage and a black mark in the world of sport as well as in the world of international diplomacy.

Many baseball fans have called the New York Yankees "The Evil Empire", especially those residing in Beantown. I say there is a more insidious evil among us -- it is the IRS and their brethren at the Treasury Department who have decided to stick their nose where it doesn't belong. In fact, the legitimacy of this fascist decision is so irrational I must assume Adolf Schickelgruber is spinning in his grave.

Even Yogi Berra is speechless... What must Cookie Rojas think???

(Yes, that's none other than Fidel Castro on the mound in Havana's Field of Dreams)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005



Brad's the pits. Script fails.
More plot holes than bullet holes.
Beware Jolie's lips.

This big screen orgasm should have been titled MR. & MRS. SMITH & WESSON given the the bullet count and the array of rapid-fire weaponry deployed during the interminably long third act. Still, some will find the film worthy of a Blockbuster rental if just to see Angelina Jolie's big, juicy lips. Freak shows like this are mostly a thing of the past, but thanks to wide-screen aspect ratios and letterbox DVDs one cannot help but revel at those rosy reds. Personally, I find them abhorrent -- kinda like one giant crimson-painted caulfilower stacked above another. Yep, they are that large, that lumpy and that creepy. Makes me glad to know that I'm not a trailer hitch...

Wednesday, December 7, 2005


Last night CBS aired my absolute favorite Holiday Season television special -- "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

This truly remarkable program was first broadcast on Thursday, December 9, 1965. Forty years later, this uniquely simple, heartfelt production has become the longest-running animated television special in history.

There are two especially remarkable things about "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

One, of course, is the sprightly and poignant jazz riffs by composer Vince Guaraldi -- a smooth trio composition (piano, bass and drums) which form a perfectly balanced accompaniment for Charley Brown's kid-sized universe. Simply put, the music has become an established musical trademark which continues to provide smiles and smiles of recognition worldwide. Perhaps Jon Hendricks, the poet laureate of jazz, described Vince's music best: "Vince is what you call a piano player. That's different from a pianist. A pianist can play anything you can put in front of him. A piano player can play anything BEFORE you can put it in front of him." Unfortunately, Vince Guaraldi passed away on February 6, 1976, at the age of 47.

The other truly remarkable thing is that actual children were used for the voices of all the favorite Peanuts characters (excluding Snoopy whose voice was that of Director Bill Melendez). In fact, many of these children were so young they delivered their lines phonetically, not even understanding what it was they were saying.

While it may be true the kids delivering the dialogue may not have understood what it was they were saying, rest assured that PEANUTS creator Charles M. Schulz fully grasped exactly what was being said. You see, towards the end Linus reveals to Charlie Brown the true meaning of Christmas by quoting Luke 2:8-14 from the King James translation of the Bible. Mr. Schulz was met with considerable reluctance regarding the insertion of such an overtly religious, Biblical reference. When confronted about this and facing considerable pressure to give in, Schulz reportedly won everyone over by saying, "If we don't do it, who will?" Who will, indeed? And that, friends and neighbors, is another reason why this television special is truly "special."

Thursday, November 17, 2005


"Wandering aound our America has changed me more than I thought. I am not me any more. At least I'm not the same me I was." -- Ernesto Guevara de la Serna


The year is 1952. Two young men embark on a journey of discovery; it is a journey of over 10,000 miles -- from Argentina to Chile to Peru and beyond. Adapted from books written by both participants, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara and Alberto Granado, THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES is a beautifully photographed film with excellent production values throughout. Winner of the Oscar for Best Original Song and nominated for Best Screenplay Based On Material Previously Published or Produced, DIARIES went on to garner 24 other international awards and received an additional 34 major international award nominations. Clearly this is a film worthy of your time and mine.

In the final analysis, however, the film fails to fully explain the future revolutionary success of Che Guevara and for that I feel a bit disappointed. Historically, there is no disputing this man's passion or his brilliance, but the waters of Lake Titicaca are far clearer than the character arc developed by Director Walter Salles. This is a shame -- THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES could have been even better...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Today I pay a backhand tribute to the Nash Rambler, surely one of the least revered cars of the 1950's and 1960's. I do this because this "raconteur rambler" has decided to post a variety of thoughts that are most likely as ill-conceived as anything ever designed by American Motors.

-- What on earth were Wal-Mart, Target and a variety of other major retailers thinking when they decided to avoid the words "Merry Christmas" during this Holiday Season? Are they crazy? This is unbelievable, it is asinine and I predict it will be negatively felt at the cash register this December. What a downright stupid decision -- and this from someone who doesn't believe Jesus Christ is his savior any more than Neville Chamberlain...

-- Every day I tune in for at least a few minutes to both CNN and Fox News. I do so in the pathetic hope that we have finally captured Osama Bin Laden. I should know better; we were never even able to catch Pancho Villa...

-- A question recently asked by a comedian: What does a beaver have between her legs? I don't profess to know the answer, but I bet it is the same thing Hillary and Condoleeza have and I bet it isn't pink on the inside...

-- Another question: What happened to Aaron Brown? He was one of the very few broadcast journalists that I actually liked...

-- As for global warming, I don't profess to know the truth. I do believe that the earth goes through periodic climatic changes and I also believe that our collective emmissions may be having an effect. I'm glad I don't have any children so this issue between Big Bucks and Little Buckaroos is of diminished consequences to me. As a result, I can concentrate on other important mysteries of the universe like the Curse of the Goat at Wrigley...

-- I see where Michael Jackson is now in Bahrain. I must assume that the Boston Arch Diocese didn't have an opening...

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

BOSTON LEGAL -- A Guilty Pleasure...

Last night's episode of BOSTON LEGAL was perhaps the most thought-provoking and the most entertaining in the remarkable two-year history of what I believe is the single best hour on American television.

The primary storyline in "Witches of Mass Destruction" targeted the War in Iraq with a poignant plea for the citizens of this nation to abandon the entrenched polar positions of both political parties and encouraged, instead, a healthy dialogue aimed at both reason and understanding. Of course, leave it to pompous Denny Crane (portrayed by the irrepressible William Shatner) to say it best: "We Republicans never waiver -- no matter how wrong we are!" At the same time, erudite and arrogant Alan Shore (played by the brilliant James Spader) openly admits to being a flip-flopper in the past but whose mindset is now just as entrenched, albeit on the opposite side of this divisive issue.

What's truly amazing is that these two over-the-top, outrageous fictional characters are able to so eloquently express themselves and their points of view with passion, with clarity and within a matter of mere minutes. If only windbags like Rush-a-Dope Limbaugh and I'm-Not-Yet-Dead-Ted Kennedy could do the same.

Credit Creator/Writer David E. Kelly; when he is on his game no one is better. In BOSTON LEGAL Mr. Kelly has consistently delivered a prime time show that puts all others to shame. Clearly no TV drama is better cast, especially now with the addition of Candice Bergen as one of the firm's partners, Shirley Schmidt. The production values are top notch all the way around and the editing is as crisp as the bacon at the Stage Door Deli. Simply put: BOSTON LEGAL is "must-see TV."

Alas, I wish I could say the same for COMMANDER IN CHIEF, the Geena Davis as President program that serves as the lead-in for BOSTON LEGAL. Some have said this show is designed to help pave the way for a woman presidential candidate in 2008. Well, Hillary and Condoleeza and whoever else better hope the writing improves and the show begins to reach its potential, because right now my only sustaining realization, especially since the most recent episode, is that Big Lips Sink Ships...

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

HOUSE OF WAX -- Holy Carnauba!

Ten minutes into HOUSE OF WAX Paris Hilton's character reveals that she is late for her period. By the time we have any action whatsoever she could have easily given birth. Talk about a s-l-o-w start to a movie -- watching the first half of this film is like being subjected to Chinese Water Torture. Drip...drip...drip...

This HOUSE OF WAX is the seventy-eighth remake of 2005. Like 99% of the others, it doesn't hold a candle to any of the earlier versions. In fact, the 1953 edition starring Vincent Price, Frank Lovejoy and Phyllis Kirk was a true classic. Not only was it the very first 3D motion picture produced by a major studio, many believe that it represents Mr. Price's best screen performance.

The best that the Warner Bros. marketing department could come up for this effort was: "On May 6th...See Paris Die!" That's tepid endorsement, indeed. But here's the real killer (and I don't mean the twin waxaholics played by Brian Van Holt) --- there's NO TITTIES! What in hell was First-Time Director Jaume Collet-Serra thinking? Doesn't he know one of the most important must haves within the guts and gore genre is to show a boob or two? For shame...

Elisha Cuthbert's performance as Carly Jones is the best thing in the movie and the ending scenes almost wax poetic. That's too little and too late. Like an alter boy within the Boston diocese, this is one candlelight service you best stay away from.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

SANTA'S SLAY -- Ho, Ho, Hum

Yes boys and girls it is that time of year again -- the first new Christmas movie of 2005 premiered on Spike TV at 8:00 p.m., Tuesday, October 25. I use the word "movie" loosly as this cinematic effort is so pathetically appalling it consists, at best, of a series of filmed images slapped together with about as much inspiration as I get when I see the latest image of Jesus Christ on a tortilla (another seasonal event, especially down here in Tex-Mex Country).

SANTA'S SLAY is insipid. SANTA'S SLAY is inept. SANTA'S SLAY is inbred. You read that correctly -- I said "inbred" since this is the only conceivable explanation why those with the money and the power gave Mr. David Steinman the green light to write and direct. I didn't know Jews were into inbreeding, but this is surely proof positive. To spare further embarrassment this man must be summarily circumscised from the rolls of working writers and directors living in LA-LA Land and/or Lapland.

But not all is a waste. At Christmas time one should always look for a silver lining so let it be said that SANTA'S SLAY has one redeeming scene which takes place right off the bat when Santa, menacingly portrayed by ex-WWE wrestler Bill Goldbeg, comes down a suburban chimney and slays Fran Drescher. I guess I've been a good boy -- one of my Christmas wishes has, indeed, come true.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


I call your attention to just two lines of dialogue in George A. Romero's latest Zombie Zeitgeist -- LAND OF THE DEAD.

Mike: They're pretending to be alive...
Riley: Isn't that what we're doing? Pretending to be alive?

Make no mistake, Romero is a filmmaker who consistently manipulates a message with his mayhem. was perhaps the most succinct of all previous reviewers in revealing this trait. In NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, for example, we were presented a pitiless commentary on the sixties' self-immolation on the fields of Vietnam and the streets of the American South. DAWN OF THE DEAD was a savage attack on America's Me Generation which transformed far too many of us into a nation of mindless consumers. And now, in LAND OF THE DEAD, we are forced to examine ourselsves as an increasingly fractured, paranoid culture that more than ever seeks the erection of barriers (metaphorical, actual and linguistic) to keep under control our perceived enemies -- whether they be terrorists, Mexicans, secularists or simply the poor.

Romero's not too distant future finds the wealthy elite living together in a barricaded country club-like high-rise called "Fiddler's Green" whose logo looks eerily like Enron's. Although the residents no longer have a golf course to go to, this Callaway clad community goes about their daily lives ignoring and isolating themselves from what used to be the middle class and those beneath. Yes, wealth and privilege provide the illusion that the outside problems can never penetrate the expensive and expansive security they have implemented. These Neocons are alive medically; they are not alive spiritually.

As for the masses, we find them clustering at the foot of the Tower seemingly content to scrabble for crumbs and immersed in the mindless activities provided to them as an opiate against enlightenment. If you keep telling ex-soccer moms, NASCAR fans and Wal-Mart shoppers just how good they have it, they will eventually believe the mantra. And so all is "safe" and relatively secure until the zombies arrive.

Political and social commentary notwithstanding, LAND OF THE DEAD remains first and foremost a zombie flick -- a category of cinema that was by no means invented by Mr. Romero, but one that he has excelled at thus developing a well deserved cult following. Budgeted at a mere $15 million, one cannot help but marvel at the production values. This man knows his business as does Michael Doherty whose razor-sharp editing deserves special mention.

If you can stomach the guts and gore, then LAND OF THE DEAD is definitley worth seeing. If, however, you want to experience a truly classic and frightening zombie film, then I strongly suggest I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE. You can read my review at This 1943 black & white classic directed by Jacques Tourneur and produced by Val Lewton remains the benchmark for the genre.

Monday, October 24, 2005



Without the watchful eye of Dr. Ted Baehr and the Christian Film & Television Commission you and I might somehow be unaware of the global, momentous influence seemingly impotent Deuce Bigelow has over the state of our union and that of fellow round eyes worldwide. I guess we can forget Katrina, Kim Il Sung and Karl Rove -- the KKK du jour. Yes sir, it's Deuce Bigelow that will bring us all down thanks to, and I am quoting here, the "very strong pagan worldview which includes forty-six obcentities (including a couple "f" words), a man eating French fries that have fallen into a clean toilet and generally debased behavior with students pulling a crude, mean prank on a fellow student they hate." Yep, that'll do it...

Thank God we have a watchful eye in Teddy Baehr and his minions protecting us and OUR CHILDREN from the satanic evil of the sinful studios. Once again those precious little rug rats serve as the excuse for every effort at increased censorship and legislative morality that bombards us today in greater numbers than Ploesti. It is on their collective behalf, Dr. Baehr, that I salute you and your Christian Schutzstaffel. Put another way -- Heil, mein Movieguide!

Friday, October 14, 2005


Those of you who know me know that there are two things in life that I absolutely cannot stomach --- Born Again Anythings and Pretentious Hollywood Movies. It is the latter of these two that I will direct my attention towards today.

You see, the clowns at Disney are at it again. This time Goofy and the Gang have released THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED -- a historical feature which Mr. Cranky declares is "looser with the facts than former FEMA director Michael Brown under oath." In trying to keep up with what may very well be the single most pretentious movie title in the history of global cinema, screenwriter Mark Frost and director Bill Paxton have elected to bring this mulligan to a climax by having amateur American golfer Francis Ouimet defeat British champion Harry Vardon in the 1913 U.S. Open by one glorious stroke on the 18th hole. In actuality, Ouimet won by five (5) stokes. FIVE STROKES! That's more strokes than Hans Blix would find in a nursing home in a year. Numerous other historical inaccuracies are par for this course, but that's nowhere near what annoys me the most.

Can there be anyone anywhere in the world who actually believes that THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED was on a God-damn golf course? Are you shittin' me? Disney's shittin' me -- that's for sure. The annals of truly GREAT GAMES abound in dozens of sports -- football, baseball, hockey, basketball, soccer... Hell, there's fifty-nine water polo matches in recorded history that are GREATER than a five-stroke win on a golf course, probably more. Gimme a break...

Oh yes, one more thing. In an effort to keep audience fannies in their seats these filmmaking hackers have elected to photograph gobs of golf balls from unique, never-before-seen angles. Golf balls to the left of balls to the right of balls in close-up flying through the balls straying into the balls plopping into the cup. Well excuse me, but if I want to see a small white thing with dimples dancing all over the damn screen I'll go to a Shirely Temple film. I bet Tiger would agree...

Friday, October 7, 2005

Comparisons, Comparisons...

I can remember not too long ago when "The Big Question" making the rounds at the office water cooler was: Xena or Buffy? An interesting dilemma, at least for us males and, perhaps, the lesbians that walk among us. Yes, Lynda, I will fully admit to vacillating (pun intended) on this one almost daily.

Well, the new "Big Question" for us to ponder is: Anna or Danica? I'll be interested to hear what the loyal readers of this blog have to say. As for me, I merely want to point out that while Danica has yet to win a CART race, she has already performed at a higher level than her Russian-born counterpart. Danica's sport consists of high speed danger at some of the most grueling race tracks in North America. She is competing against the big boys. She is more than holding her own -- especially in qualifying trim.

Anna grunts with the best of them, but other than an occasional victory over an unseeded French woman, she is pretty much a "bust". "Point, Game, Match" -- Danica wins.

Monday, October 3, 2005


As some of you know, I was born and raised in New Braunfels, Texas. At the time New Braunfels was a small community which had successfully maintained its very strong German heritage. Over the years my hometown has grown exponentially, as has its signature annual celebration -- WURSTFEST.

The original Wurstfest was held in 1961, and it was dedicated to celebrating the time-honored German tradition of Octoberfest -- cold beer and, of course, wunderbar wurst. (As in knockwurst and bratwurst). What was once a simple two-day event has now exploded to a ten-day gala attracting over 155,000 people each year who consume 42 tons of sausage and who down enough beer to float the Bismark. It's good times for uber alles.

With this background in mind, I am thinking today about forming a new film festival which I would tentatively name WORSTFEST. The idea would be to identify and vilify the absolute worst filmmaking worldwide. Lord knows there are enough projects to choose from each year and 2005 is certainly no exception.

This year's winner would undoubtedly be MAYDAY, the CBS primetime movie that aired last night. In fact, I am afraid my Worstfest idea will never come to fruitition since I absolutely cannot conceive of a worse film than this (feature or movie-of-the-week). I know the year isn't over, but that matters little. MAYDAY is so wretchedly written, so dismally directed, so pathetically photographed, so abysmally acted and so phlegmatically produced it makes AIRPLANE! seem like a hard hitting, in-depth, factual documentary.

For example, do you know the best way to survive a complete decompression within the body of a commercial airliner at 65,000 feet? Yes, that's the altitude specified on several occasions. Well, according to Director/Co-Writer T. J. Scott the answer is to lock yourself in a bathroom unless, of course, you are petting your dogs in the cargo hold of a trans-pacific jetliner before the "weekend pilot" now at the controls engages the afterburners. Yes, the number of implausabilities within the MAYDAY screenplay rival the turnstile count at last year's Wurstfest.

I couldn't help but notice that one of Producer Judy Cairo's previous TV movies was VANISHED WITHOUT A TRACE. At first I thought both she and Mr. Scott should suffer that very same fate. In giving more thought, however, to this "three-bagger" (as in the minimum number of airsick bags one needs to sit through the 88-minute running time), I now would simply like this devoid duo to be perennially stuck in a TSA screening line. It's a totally appropriate punishment and one that would ensure they NEVER, EVER work again.

In closing, allow me to add that I have been told that nothing in this world is without at least one iota of merit (although MAYDAY comes perilously close to being the exception). So, as a public service I have chosen a photo of Kelly Hu to accompany this review. Ms. Hu plays the lovely flight attendant and was the only thing worth looking at during the shaky-cam excess of MAYDAY. And you thought THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was nauseating...

Thursday, September 29, 2005

A DAY WITHOUT A MEXICAN -- Holy Guacamole!

"If you want to make the invisible visible, take it away."

That's pretty much the premise behind the fascinating and illuminating independent feature film -- A DAY WITHOUT A MEXICAN. Writer/Director Sergio Arau gives us a glimpse of just what would happen if somehow every Hispanic in the state of California would suddenly and miraculously disappear. My God -- who would mow the lawns and blow the leaves and pick up the trash and pour the concrete and paint the houses and work the agricultural fields and tend to any number of other low-paying, unglamorous needs on behalf of the remaining gringos? Who, indeed? More importantly, the devestating economic impact on the state's overall economy shows clearly that one should be careful for what one wishes for.

This unique look at the economic and the quality-of-life aspects provided by the huge population from south of the border is a breath of fresh air from the steady stream of pap and crap being released by the major studios in LA-LA Land. And while Mr. Arau misfires frequently in his narrative and he delivers a film that is a full thirty minutes too long, I salute him for his efforts. And so I lift my glass of Tecate high and I dream -- yes, I dream of what life would be like if we could enjoy A DAY WITHOUT A MORMON. (I'll gladly risk any conceivable negative consequences -- as if there could be any whatsoever).

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


I wonder how many of you have received e-mails regarding Hurricane Katrina which declare, in essence, the following sentiment:

"I don't give a shit about those lazy, no good for nothing, worthless damn niggers in New Orleans. If they were too stupid to get out of town, then they got what they deserve. More importantly, the rebuilding and the relief efforts are costing me money! And for what -- so they can all go back on welfare and get more handouts?"

Sad, but true -- I've received a half dozen of these in the past week or so from a number of different folks all known to me personally. Quite frankly, I'm sickened by this deep-rooted rage and so it is with this in mind that I now turn my comments to a truly remarkable film, one that is perhaps THE BEST Hollywood movie ever about race and about life in another contemporary, ethnically diverse city -- in this case Los Angeles. Rather than going into details, I simply and humbly request that if you haven't seen CRASH, please do so. Superbly directed by Paul Haggis (the screenwriter for MILLION DOLLAR BABY) and comprising a stellar cast, this is a must-see movie.

Friday, September 2, 2005


Biological parents battle adopting parents for the custody
of a disturbed young girl. No, its not the Hatfields vs. the
McCoys...but rather the Cliftons vying with the Netherwoods
(one guess as to who's the bad folks) in this bloody mess of
a movie.

Seems that John and Leann Netherwood (played
by Keith Carradine and Daryl Hannah) survive by breaking and
entering wealthy homes, Polaroiding their victims and, more
often than not, killing the victims for a few additional photo
opportunities. During one of these house calls L.A.'s finest
arrive just in time to wing John as he and Leann run to safety.
Their quick action, however, leads to the capture of daughter Janie
(effectively portrayed by newcomer Julia Devin) whose been
innocently chasing fireflies in the backyard.

At the station Janie's rag doll is placed into a baggie
(presumably for evidence), and it is then that we first learn
of Janie's deep-rooted psychological problems. She goes
ballistic rescuing the doll from suffocation and it
takes the Rodney King sextet to subdue her.

Enter the second tag team which will contend for Janie's
affections and afflictions. Vincent Spano plays housing
contractor Russell Clifton whose spec trophy home has the
financing pulled halfway through the building process. His
wife, Dana (Moria Kelly), shares John Netherwood's interest
in photography. She's a professional who specializes in
food shots and is now the only source of income for the Clifton
family. While Russell wrestles with Chapter 11 woes Dana woos
him into an adoption agency so they will have yet another
mouth to feed. Not the best of ideas, but certainly par for the
course given the lame story Mr. Auerbach has concocted.

Understandably nervous at this undertaking, John delivers the
most suitable line in the film when he looks at all the darling
little munchkins seeking rescue and he declares: "We have met
the clowns and they are us!" Clowns, indeed.

Dana falls instantly for little Janie and, despite a hair-do
reminiscent of the third runner-up in a Miss Bulgaria beauty
contest, precious Janie falls for Dana. With cuddly affection
that would embarrass both the Cleavers and the Huxtables, little
Janie seems to tolerate her new parents well enough. Her new
doll, the tattered Mr. Flip Flop is, however, her best friend
and she confides in the bunny that John and Leann are surely
on their way because "they own me."

Sure 'nuff. With more bull-headed determination than even
the Bush Administration exhibits in its policy towards war in
Iraq, John and Leann go through a series of victims
to find their daughter. Among those who temporarily get in
the way are the carrot-topped cop who had the temerity to shoot
John in the opening scene and the noble Hispanic welfare worker
whose demise is blatantly telegraphed the moment she first
appears. The bloody and climactic finale takes place in the partially
completed spec home out in the middle of nowhere. No walls,
virtually no roof, and with no police protection requested,
this makes for one of the stupidest refuges in cinema history.

By now the cliché count has reached staggering proportions (the
car that won't start during an escape attempt, the presumed
dead villain who isn't, etc.) so it is pointless to discuss
the ending -- except for one highly disturbing moment -- when
ten-year-old Janie thrusts a dagger into her biological
father's stomach ("You taught me that, Daddy.") with clinical
ease. Forget any concern you might have for "Natural Born Killers"
or "Pulp Fiction" (both of which I personally liked), it is
this irresponsible scene that makes "The Tie That Binds" the
sickest, sleaziest, most disgusting movie on the shelf of your
local Blockbuster.

Friday, August 26, 2005

TOO WONG FOO...A Romp On The Wild Side

"Ready or comes mama!"

Sure enough, right before our very eyes, two especially
testosterone-laden Hollywood actors transform themselves into
certifiable New York drag queens in Director Beeban Kidron's
flashy "Too Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar".

None other than Wesley Snipes (who achieved well-deserved
international stardom for his dynamic performance in the high
action drama, "Passenger 57") and Patrick Swayze (the "Dirty
Dancing" hunk) play, respectively, Noxeema Jackson and Vida
Boheme in this frolicking road picture replete with delicious
dialogue and a pulsing soundtrack throughout.

Talk about high concept. And the transformation is remarkable,
indeed. Good enough for Noxeema and Vida to tie for top honors
in a highly competitive Drag Queen Pageant ("Nobody here tonight
is winning Miss Congenialty," notes Noxeema). And good enough
for an uncredited Robin Williams to be smitten at the sight
of them. "I feel like a compass pointing due North!" he giggles.

Top prize is a trip to the City of Angels for the national
finals, and Vida decides they should cash in their plane tickets
for a 1967 Cadillac and invite Chi Chi (John Leguizamo in a
remarkable gender-hopping role modeled after Rosie Perez) to
come along. Noxeema is horrified, "She might be a Sandinista
or something", but Vida prevails and the threesome hit the open road.

All goes relatively well until a red-neck Sheriff (played with
comical glee by the appropriately portly Chris Penn) makes a
move on the voluptuous Vida and discovers the hidden truth.
One punch later and Vida is back behind the wheel of the Caddy,
her traveling companions in tow. Unfortunately, the Caddy breaks
down and until a part can be shipped they are marooned in a
broken-down small town that makes Cotopaxi, Colorado look
cosmopolitan. The dreary hotel room and the dreary lives of the local
inhabitants, especially the down-trodden women, just won't do,
and so Vida et al initiate "Operation Decorator Storm", and the
make-over begins.

Engaging moments abound as Snyderville and its populace
rediscover a sense of self-esteem. One-by-one long-repressed dreams
are remembered and pursued and the cumultive effect is a heart
warming scene of the entire town dancing in the streets to the
beat of Johnny Mathis singing "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me."
As Vida notes, "Sometimes all it takes is a fairy!"

Costume designer Marlene Stewart deserves special mention for
concocting an outrageous array of audacious clothes. Supporting
actors Arliss Howard, Blythe Danner and the always-solid
Stockard Channing earn individual kudos as well.

The marquee-unfriendly title comes from an autographed photo
of the statuesque Julie Newmar ("The only catwoman!" declares
Vida -- and I wholeheartedly agree) which hung on the wall of a
Chinese restaurant. Credit Douglas Carter Beane for a sassy,
hip screenplay chock-full of marvelous little details and
rife with references such as Moms Mabley, Sally Struthers, Tex
Avery, Emma Peel and Mary Jo Kopechne. If these names
mean anything to you, then "To Wong Foo, Thanks For
Everything, Julie Newmar" is probably your cup of tea.

It is with some irony that I first saw "To Wong Foo, Thanks
For Everything, Julie Newmar" when it was playing at the
Majestic Theater in Crested Butte, Colorado during the opening
weekend of the Third Combined Colorado Hunting Season. Just
as little Snyderville was being visited by three irrepresible drag
queens on the screen, our small burg was playing host to a different
kind of cross dresser -- the ubiquitous, red-necked, all-American
deer hunter.

Gold lamy vs. green camouflage. Pink feather boas vs. day-glow
orange gimme caps. Bloomingdale's vs. L. L. Bean. And yes,
Hum Jobs vs. Hummers.

Do clothes really make the man?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

SIN CITY: Castrations Never Looked So Dreamy

God damn it to Hell... SIN CITY is a movie that I absolutely love. SIN CITY is a movie I absolutely hate. What's a reviewer to do?

Let's start with the good stuff --

This incredible digital feature is unlike anything you have seen before. I can not emphasize enough the stunning beauty of what is stylistically one of the most incredible black&white features since Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS (1927). Robert Rodriguez captures perfectly the "look" of Frank Miller's graphic novels (think "comic books" on steroids) that this film is based upon and from a visual and technical point of view, SIN CITY may prove to be a landmark production in cinema history. Time will tell...

On the other hand, the underlying story (actually what we have are four different stories ineffectively merged into a fairly non-cohesive whole) is, in a word, a mess. I cannot deny that the titillating depravity, the lurid edginess and the savage sadism which literally explodes off the screen is presented in rapid fire and truly visceral fashion. Clearly SIN CITY is a place to avoid visiting. But with all of the non-stop action and mayhem (the bad guy getting sliced into a "Pez dispenser" notwithstanding), SIN CITY is all style over substance. The narrative peters out quickly, failing to muster even a modicum of continuing suspense or interest. Clocking in at two hours and four minutes, it is the running time that is the biggest "sin" in this city.

Observation Number 1 -- The character "Yelow Bastard", played by Nick Stahl, sure reminds me of the goofy guy doing the Fiesta Texas ads. Makes me think twice about going there...

Observation Number 2 -- Mickey Rourke is truly phenominal as "Marv", the damn-near-impossible-to-kill street fighter with a penchant for band aids. For my money, the entire film could have relegated itself to his "story" and thus come in at a respectable one hour and forty minutes. This is a classic example of what often happens when the same person serves in the capacity of both the Director and the Editor. Scissors, anyone???

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Baseball's All-Time Greatest

Maybe it is just me, but I don't think baseball is near as much fun as it used to be. Far too many players today are totally despicable (Barry Bonds, for example) or they are obvious steroid users (Mark McGwire AND Sammy Sosa -- trust me on this) or they are a little bit of both (Rafael Palmeiro). How I harken for the good old times when guys played the game for the love of it -- and no one in the history of baseball ever did so with more heart and with more willingness to do whatever was needed to help the team than Cookie Rojas. Need a stolen base? Cookie is your guy. Need to advance the runner? Yep, Cookie could do that with the best of them. Need an occasional home run? Cookie came through more than most remember. Need to turn a key double play? Cookie was the pivot player you wanted on your team.

Perhaps the least known "Shrine" in America is the one dedicated to Cookie Rojas. It is located at 6001 Creekwood Pass in Spring Branch, Texas. Admission is free. Donations are accepted.

Tuesday, August 9, 2005


The Bob Award is given to the one entry at the Crested Butte Reel Fest which "pushes the envelope" the farthest. This year the award will be given to Grant Davis, a highly talented high school senior in Philadelphia whose short film is appropriately titled CATTLE MOVIE. It is unique, it is entertaining, it is going to be a huge hit on the film festival circuit and it cost less than one hundred bucks to make.

Of the six previous Bob Award winners, three were student filmmakers and two of these are now completing their first 35mm feature. Todd Rohal is in the final phases of post production on THE GUATEMALAN HANDSHAKE. You can learn more about this extraordinary project at -- it is quintessential Rohal which means "you ain't seen nothin' like this before." Eduardo's film is CURANDERO and it is slated for a September 9th release by Miramax Films. His Bob Award-winning short was DAUGHTER, screened at Crested Butte in 2002; it remains the most disturbing short film I've ever seen, anywhere, anytime.

The 8th Annual Crested Butte Reel Fest runs from August 10-15. It will once again feature some of the best short films from around the world. Why not come and see for yourself?

Sunday, August 7, 2005


THE DUKES OF HAZZARD starts off slower than a Winn-Dixie check-out line in Chattahoochee and proceeds to go nowhere fast. I counted an absolute maximum total of two, yes two, mildly amusing scenes in one hundred and six minutes of screen time -- one is when Luke and Bo are in the holding cell in Atlanta and the second is when Willie Nelson emerges from the "smoke shack". That's mighty slim pickings; a bucket of Church's chicken necks offers more to savor. Throw in one amusing cameo with Rip Taylor during the end credits and you still have less bang for the buck than a non-sale item at Cabela's.

It is way too early to prognosticate the winner of the next Oscar or Emmy, but I can say without hesitation that THE DUKES OF HAZZARD is the forerunner for the first-ever Schaivo -- an award given to the most lifeless, brain dead movie of the year.

Saturday, August 6, 2005


The next time Turner Classic Movies airs THE FIGHTING 69th I urge you to tune in. This excellent film was originally released in 1940, and it tells the tale of the famed New York Irish 69th Regiment and its beloved Chaplain, Father Francis P. Duffy, played perfectly by Pat O'Brien. Other real-life members of this historic Army unit in WWI were "Wild Bill" Donovon (George Brent) who was accorded the Congressional Medal of Honor and Joyce Kilmer (Jeffrey Lynn), the poet whose most well-known poem was THE TREE -- "Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree."

Joining O'Brien, Brent and Lynn is an all-star cast featuring Warner Brothers Stock Veteran Company actors like Frank McHugh, Dennis Morgan and Alan Hale. The star of THE FIGHTING 69th, however, is James Cagney who plays the fictional character Jerry Plunkett, a smartass, street punk from Brooklyn who, surprisingly, becomes a coward when he is finally face-to-face with the horrors of battle. In the end, Plunkett does somewhat redeem himself, but it is a testament to Cagney that we find ourselves drawn to what is undoubtedly one of the all-time great silver screen antiheroes.

Given the nature of this blog I am sure you are wondering why I am writing about this "oldie but goodie." THE FIGHTING 69th, after all, is but one of many patriotic films produced during the Second World War that were designed to glorify the bravery of our troops and to reassure us of the need to stand united, one and all, against what was the most terrifying enemy our nation had ever faced. And that, my friends, is exactly why I am writing about this wonderful film right here, right now -- because it is time for the Hollywood mongoloids (I mean moguls) to take a lesson from the past and to again release positive, uplifting films that depict the bravery of our troops and the historic resolve of our citizenry against any outside threat we face, whether it be from Hitler's Germany, Tojo's Japan, Bin Laden's Afghanistan or wherever...

Instead, these retread retards are giving us a steady diet of ballyhooed baloney that are nothing more than pathetic remakes of films and TV shows from the past -- and none of these have come close to capturing the magic of the originals. BEWITCHED, THE HONEYMOONERS, STARSKY & HUTCH, THE BAD NEWS BEARS, not one, but two CHARLIE'S ANGELS, and the list goes on and on.

I close by making the following statement, in part a tribute to Joyce Kilmer who died on the battlefield in France in 1918. It is intended to be read by each and every current studio exec:

"I think I shall never see
A film worth a shit from thee."

Tuesday, August 2, 2005


THE NOTEBOOK is an exceptional film, clearly one of the better movies produced within the past few years. Among the many things that makes this movie remarkable is that they very rarely make movies like this anymore -- by "they" I mean Hollywood, independents, anyone and everyone now that the sequel/prequel/retread craze is in full swing. Let me also add that when Hollywood (especially) attempts a project that is steeped in personal, heartfelt human emotions they usually screw it up beyond comprehension.

An example of what I mean is WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, the equivalent of a technicolor pap smear that ranks among the worst movies of all time. Another dud was FORREST GUMP -- the big budget Tom Hanks hanky panky that was so annoyingly retarded in its execution I personally feel everyone responsible should be executed. Both of these diabetic duds were pretentious beyond belief, and so it was with considerable reservation that I rented this filmed adaptation of the best selling book by Nicholas Sparks. I expected Hollywood's equivalence of a "Big Chief" Notebook, or worse. I was very pleasantly surprised; not since the days of Douglas Sirk has an unabashed "weepy" been so beautifully crafted.

Under the skillful direction of Nick Cassavetes, John's son, and with a practically perfect cast, THE NOTEBOOK succeeds in every aspect. Rachel McAdams is brilliant beyond belief as the young Allie Hamilton. Her electric performance sizzles thoughout -- this gal is destined for stardom. And if you happen to be a Gena Davis fan, then God help you. Ms. McAdams' energetic performance will leave you secreting from every orifice of your body. Opposite her is Ryan Gosling, an actor I had not seen before but whose steady, winning performance insures a long career ahead as well. Ryan's skillfully nuanced portrayal of the young Noah is a perfect counterpart to the vivacious Allie -- these young actors capture an on-screen chemistry that is something to behold. Of course, Gena Rowlands (Nick's mom in real life) is excellent, as always, as is James Garner, an actor whose entire body of work remains both solid and underappreciated. Throw in Joan Allen and Sam Shepard and you have a film that is as well cast from top to bottom as MATEWAN -- and I don't say that lightly.

Special mention also must be given to Cinematographer Robert Fraisse, whose beautiful camera work provides a striking, saturated "look" that is both rich and appropriate for this idealized story of love, of love lost and of love refound in stunningly scenic South Carolina.

On your list of films to rent in the days ahead I urge you to pencil in THE NOTEBOOK...and be sure to have a full box of Kleenex handy. If you are like me, you'll feel as dehydrated as an Egyptian mummy when the closing credits appear.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


The Western is perhaps the only genre in cinema that is 100% American in its origin. Without going into detail concerning the obvious, i.e. the Western's inherent confinement to a specific time period and regionalized geographic location, it should be noted that most Westerns also possess another distinct characteristic -- the "tripartite division" between the peace loving, civilized 'townspeople', the evil, larger-than-life 'outlaw' and the frequently reluctant 'hero' who ultimately triumphs and restores law and order. What makes NO NAME ON THE BULLET an extremely interesting and entertaining motion picture is that in this case many of the townspeople are unworthy of protection and the hero is by no means a traditional one. Originally released in 1959, this film remains both insightful and relevant -- especially within the context of today's political climate

Audie Murphy plays John Gant, a hired killer who rides into Lordsburg, a tranquil, seemingly prosperous town in the old West. His reputation precedes him. Despite numerous attempts at trying to get Gant to reveal the name of the person he has been contracted to kill, the hired gun remains silent. Everyone knows he will eventually confront his prey, goading him to "draw first" so that he will kill in self defense, but for days on end Gant is content to simply hang around town and let the suspense build.

Tension mounts and one by one some of the more "upstanding" townspeople begin to panic due to previous indescretions. The banker, for example, commits suicide, convinced he's the one Gant was sent to kill. And that's only the beginning as mass guilt and paranoia quickly turn seemingly law-abiding citizens into a mob of vigilantes.

The hero is Dr. Luke Canfield (played by Charles Drake), a medical doctor who meets Gant within minutes of his arrival in town. Canfield tries to understand the mindset of this killer, and he initially serves as the voice of reason. When things apparently turn very personal, he decides to take a stand. Rather than give away the ending, let me simply say that the denouement is both surprising and inspired. As Gant says, "Everything comes to a finish."

Directed by Jack Arnold (who also directed CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON), this CinemaScope production, shot in glorious Technicolor, was released on DVD by Universal in 2004. Blessed with a terrific cast of supporting actors -- R. G. Armstrong, Willis Bouchey, Edgar Stehli to name but a few -- NO NAME ON THE BULLET is a truly fascinating, untraditional Western.

I earlier alluded to the fact that this film remains highly relevant today. Let me explain. In Lordsburg, everything on the surface appears to be benign. The town is growing, people are going about their everyday lives in a relatively carefree maner. Then, quite unexpectedly, danger arrives (in this case it is a "terrorist" in the form of a hired gunman) and the facade of comfort and harmony erodes rapidly. Many of those in power, both in terms of the town's politics and the town's business structure, overreact. They collectively succeed in getting the rank and file townfolk to unite behind their call for action, citing protection and safety for one and all as justification, but doing so primarily for their own hidden agendas and for their own personal, profitable motives. Yes, the good citizens of Lordsburg are duped and they prepare to go to war against what they perceive to be a common enemy. Luckily for them, this ruse lasts less than a day. As for us, in 2005, the clock continues to tick.