Friday, November 27, 2009


Yesterday's 83rd Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was longer and more boring than a Southern Baptist Convention. Listed below are a half-dozen observations the Staff at Needtovent felt compelled to pass along...

1. Milton DeLugg was credited as the Musical Director for this event. Born in 1918, Mr. DeLugg is still going strong at the age of 91. We remember him best for his work on both Johnny Carson's TONIGHT SHOW and, later, Chuck Barris' THE GONG SHOW. Needtovent hereby salutes Mr. DeLugg whose musical interludes between singers and marching bands was a highlight of this year's parade.

2. The most insipid, pathetic and annoying singing performance out of literally dozens must go to Mitch Musso, the Hanna Montana co-star, whose rendition of "Shout It Out" was literally projectile-vomit inducing. We can only hope that his fate mirrors another Musso of sorts, that being Benito Mussolini, shown above with his mistress, Clara Petacci. We've already bought the rope...

3. Macy's distinctive Red Star logo was displayed on more banners and vehicles than you'll see at any May Day Parade at the Kremlin.

4. We did find one commercial to be especially enlightening. Without doubt, Needtovent is firmly convinced that any toy manufactured by Fisher-Price is beyond banal. If you want to provide your child with even a modicum of intellectual stimulation, we strongly suggest that you do not purchase anything from this company -- their entire toy line is hebetudiness-inducing for even prenatal children.

5. Among all of the big, inflatable balloons, only one got us thinking: If you choke a Smurf, what color does it turn? So much for intellectual stimulation...

6. And, finally, thank God for the Rockettes. Their gams were a Hell of a lot more fun to watch than any of the NFL's Thanksgiving Day games.

Until next year...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

THE IRONDALE CAFE -- The Worst Meal Ever???

Over the past sixty-plus years I have visited every state in the union and thirty-seven foreign countries. As a result, I have eaten at literally thousands of eateries -- ranging from among the fanciest and most expensive to some of the smallest dives well off the beaten track. Most of the time the food is pretty good, but there have been a number of regrettable meals which remain seared in my memory.

For example, there's the Peking Duck I was served at a restaurant in Beijing that was so fatty I named the poor bird "Arbuckle." If nothing else, this culinary experience made me realize that if reincarnation is true, I absolutely, positively do not want to come back as a liposuction machine.

I also remember a pu pu platter served in Austin that was so shockingly awful, it almost killed a Needtovent staffer. It was worse than poo-poo, that's for sure.

The same holds true for any number of "mixed grill" offerings served while attending the Varna International Film Festival in Bulgaria. Even Alfred Packer wouldn't have been able to digest the various meats which comprised this ubiquitous entree during Todor Zhivkov's reign as President of that impoverished country.

And, of course, there is the Olive Garden -- but I'll discuss that topic at another time.

Which brings me to the Irondale Cafe located just outside the city limits of Birmingham, Alabama. Originally a hot dog stand, which later added hamburgers, barbecue and a variety of sandwiches to the menu, the business was purchased by Miss Bess Fotenberry in 1932, and shortly thereafter the Irondale Cafe (aka the original Whistle Stop) became well-known for its signature dish -- fried green tomatoes.

As it turns out, Bess Fotenberry's niece is Fannie Flagg and her book featuring the restaurant became a best seller. And in January, 1992, the movie version of FRIED GREEN TOMATOES premiered at the Cobb Galleria Theatre in Birmingham. The place became an over-night sensation and tourists from around the world flocked to this small eatery, with most ordering fried green tomatoes. After all, why not? Even the local newspaper ran an article with the headline: "Seen the movie? Now taste the title."

So far, so good.

Which brings me to the evening of November 7, 2010, when yours truly, accompanied by the same Needtovent staffer who barely survived the dreaded pu pu platter, decided to eat at what some consider to be an American icon. Icon my ass, what "icon" tell you is that this was among the worst meals either of us have ever experienced.

I'll be brief -- the breading on my catfish was muculent -- there's simply no other way to describe what was on the plate. As for the celebrated fried green tomatoes -- they were soggy and the only taste associated with them came from the oil used. Even the dinner rolls were terrible -- being greasier than a Puerto Rican's pillow.

To be totally fair, the service, such as it existed, was adequate.

Maybe this wasn't the single worst meal I have ever experienced. Then again, maybe it was. But what I can say for certain is that you must not be mislead by the dozens of testimonials appearing on the Irondale Cafe's website -- they constitute the largest collection of fiction this side of Oxford University.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


And Jesus says: "I cannot heal you my have a pre-existing condition."

That's just one of many hilarious scenes in Michael Moore's latest offering -- CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY. Although most reviewers refer to Moore's films as documentaries, they are clearly more one man's one-sided point of view regarding serious issues in contemporary America. If you have ever spent a couple of hours (or more) listening to folks like Limbaugh, Hannity or Beck, Needtovent strongly recommends you give Michael Moore 120 minutes of your time as well. We are confident that you will walk away from the theater entertained, enlightened and, most likely, infuriated as Hell.

CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY is probably Moore's best film to date -- it is certainly his most personal since ROGER & ME. And although he continues to use a scattershot approach, the enormous size and complexity of the subject matter this time around actually lends itself to his style of filmmaking. Among the multitude of issues explored are:

"Dead Peasant Insurance" -- life insurance policies taken out by Fortune 500 companies on executives, and, in the case of Wal-Mart, lowly "associates" as well. Should the insured die, the beneficiary is the company, not the deceased's family. In these cases, the company actually profits when their employees die, the sooner the better, thus collecting up to $5 million in hard, cold cash as one of the cases explored up-close and personal revealed. While the origin of the name "Dead Peasant Insurance" remains unknown, it certainly serves as a metaphor for the prevailing attitude of callous corporate America.

Another topic explored is the risky, reckless, rapacious Wall Street gamble known as "derivatives." These "spin-off" investment instruments are so complex not one of the three financial experts, including the Department Chairman of Harvard's Finance School, can explain them. In fact, some are apparently so complicated that they are created by computers and not even the software authors fully understand them. The bottom line: if there is a default on a mortgage, the investor wins -- big. And if there isn't a default, the investor can still hedge his bet by also betting the derivative will fail. (How convenient.) It's a win-win for the investment firm -- and a toxic, egregious lose-lose for the average American family.

Other segments explore:

The horribly low pay for airline pilots -- we are shown a "Give a penny to a pilot" jar at the boarding gate of an airliner to underscore the severity of the problem (first-year pilots often earn less than the assistant manager at Burger King).

The widening gap between the richest and the rest of America -- the richest 1% of the population has as much accumulated wealth as 95% of the poorest. Citibank has even declared in private memos that America is now a plutonomy. It sure seems like we need more Howard Beales and fewer Walter Mittys among 95-99% of our population.

The foreclosure epidemic -- one family in particular is profiled as they are unceremoniously kicked off their farm that has been in the family for over four generations.

But perhaps the most revealing sequence is the fascinating, dynamic archival footage of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appearing on camera advocating a Second Bill of Rights. According to our sources, this Movietone News footage, shot at the explicit invitation of an ailing FDR at the end of his last State of the Union address, has never been seen previously -- for some reason it wasn't included in the newsreels of the day. Of course, with Roosevelt's death this Second Bill of Rights was never enacted here, in the United States, although many of its provisions are now in the constitutions of Germany, Italy and Japan -- which were all authored with considerable American input and involvement after WWII ended.

Love him. Hate him. But don't ignore him. CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY is definitely worth seeing. Roger Ebert said it best, at the very least you'll come away realizing that with corporate greed and Wall Street shenanigans the order of the day, capitalism means never having to say you're sorry.

Please go see CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY. We predict you'll leave mad as Hell...and that's a good thing.

Friday, October 2, 2009


One of Needtovent's favorite movies is BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA. Directed by the incomparable Sam Peckinpah in 1974, the film was recently selected by none other than Stephen King as one of his favorites also. Needless to say, during the course of this often-overlooked gem poor Alfredo's noggin receives more abuse than the average Comal County taxpayer.

(Warren Oates -- with Alfredo's head in a paper bag. No seat belt?)

But when it comes to depraved head games, Peckinpah is more than trumped according to a recent article by Nathaniel Vinto, a New York Daily News Staff Writer. Since we at Needtovent can not possibly embellish the shocking revelations presented by Mr. Vinto we have elected to simply re-print just some of what Vinto has written.

("Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer." -- Ted Williams)

From the New York Daily News, Friday, October 2 -----

Workers at an Arizona cryonics facility mutilated the frozen head of baseball legend Ted Williams - even using it for a bizarre batting practice, a new tell-all book claims.

In "Frozen," Larry Johnson, a former exec at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz., graphically describes how "The Splendid Splinter" was beheaded, his head frozen and repeatedly abused.

The book, out Tuesday from Vanguard Press, tells how Williams' corpse became "Alcorian A-1949" at the facility, where bodies are kept suspended in liquid nitrogen in case future generations learn how to revive them.

Johnson writes that in July 2002, shortly after the Red Sox slugger died at age 83, technicians with no medical certification gleefully photographed and used crude equipment to decapitate the majors' last .400 hitter.

Williams' severed head was then frozen and even used for batting practice by a technician trying to dislodge it from a tuna fish can.

The chief operating officer of Alcor for eight months before becoming a whistle blower in 2003, Johnson wrote his book while in hiding, fearful for his life.

He told the Daily News then he had received death threats and was moving from safehouse to safehouse. Johnson plans to come out of the shadows Tuesday, with his book and an appearance on ABC's "Nightline."

The book describes other atrocities at Alcor's facility in Arizona, including the dismembering of live dogs that were injected with chemicals in experiments, and a situation in which human blood and toxic chemicals were dumped into a parking lot sewer drain.

Nothing in the book is as gruesome as Johnson's descriptions of what happened to Williams' body after it was sent to Alcor at the direction of Williams' son, John Henry Williams, who died of leukemia in 2004.

Johnson writes that holes were drilled in Williams' severed head for the insertion of microphones, then frozen in liquid nitrogen while Alcor employees recorded the sounds of Williams' brain cracking 16 times as temperatures dropped to -321 degrees Fahrenheit.

Johnson writes that the head was balanced on an empty can of Bumble Bee tuna to keep it from sticking to the bottom of its case.

Johnson describes watching as another Alcor employee removed Williams' head from the freezer with a stick, and tried to dislodge the tuna can by swinging at it with a monkey wrench.

The technician, no .406 hitter like the baseball legend, missed the can with several swings of the wrench and smacked Williams' head directly, spraying "tiny pieces of frozen head" around the room.

Johnson accuses the company of joking morbidly about mailing Williams' thawing remains back to his family if his son didn't pay his outstanding debt to the company.

Reprints of invoices show that Alcor president John Lemler charged $120,000 for the honor of "suspending" Teddy Ballgame's body.

("Ted Williams studied hitting the way a broker studies the stock market." -- Carl Yastrzemski)

Johnson said he hopes his book will help fulfill the wishes Williams expressed in his will - that his body be cremated and the ashes "sprinkled at sea off the coast of Florida, where the water is very deep."


Thursday, October 1, 2009


Step aside Nostradamus. The same for Terry Morris, my personal gridiron guru. Yes, a new clairvoyant has recently surfaced and we at Needtovent believe he is the greatest of them all -- at least based on his uncanny prediction over this past weekend during an otherwise meaningless Seattle Mariners game in Toronto.

(Mike Blowers)

Meet Mike Blowers, a one-time player for the Seattle Mariners who now does the color commentary for the American League team. Blowers was participating in a pregame segment called “Picks to Click” when he was asked which Mariners player would end up having a big day. He went with M's infielder Matt Tuiasosopo, a player who had just been recalled from the minors and whose brief major league career had been fairly rocky at best. But there's more, oh-so-much more ----

Blowers then went so far as to predict Tui’s first big league home run...

That it would be hit on a 3-1 count...

That the pitcher that the home run would be hit off of would be Blue Jays starter Brian Tallet...

That the at-bat that the home run would be hit in would be his second of the game...

That the pitch that the home run would come off of would be a fastball...

And, finally, that the location of the home run would be left-center field.

Everything came true, exactly as projected by Blowers.

I’m just going to go out on a limb here and say that nobody, and we mean nobody, has ever correctly made a baseball prediction as insane, as detailed, and as accurate as this -- never, ever...

(Matt Tuiasosopo)

Truly unbelievable -- but don't take our word for it. Here's a link for Mike's pre-game prediction and for the actual play-by-play call from Tuiasosopo's 5th-inning tater in Toronto.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Recently "The King of Horror" -- Stephen King -- wrote an article stating, "Most summer movies are hell on earth. Fortunately, heaven is only a rental away." We at Needtovent couldn't agree more.

Here's Mr. King's list of entertaining films to rent during the summer:

14. Stephen Spielberg's 1941
13. CUJO
11. THE THING (He prefers John Carpenter's 1982 remake)
1. SORCERER (William Friedkin's remake of WAGES OF FEAR)

Other than a few exceptions, we think this is a marvelous selection of divergent and wonderful films, especially his inclusion in first and second place two often-overlooked classics -- SORCERER and WAGES OF FEAR. Kudos to King for recognizing their ability to generate incredible suspense -- if you have never experienced a Sphincter Pucker Factor of 9.9, then you definitely must see one or, preferably, both.

Personally, we would not have included 1941, CUJO or DIE HARD, although they are admittedly fine films which do entertain. (We defer on MR. PEABODY AND THE MERMAID since we haven't seen this one.) And, of course, we would not have chosen THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT -- a remarkable cultural phenomena, but as a motion picture we find it terribly lacking.

Replacing the aforementioned four titles we suggest -- THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, BUBBA HO-TEP, DETOUR (1945) and ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST. Then again, yesterday we might very well have listed I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT, THE WORLD'S FASTEST INDIAN and KING OF HEARTS.

That's the fun thing about Top 20 Lists (or any ranking of favorite movies -- there are so many great ones we find it impossible to be absolute).

Send us your list -- Needtovent would love to see what you think.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


"Has Tarantino ever made a singularly authentic, sincere, innovative frame of film in his life?"
(Brandon Fibbs)


DEATH PROOF is Quentin Tarantino's feature-length contribution to GRINDHOUSE, the twin-bill gore-fest which was intended to be a homage to the classic, albeit classless, drive-in B-movies of the 1950s and 1960s. Combined with several fake movie trailers and Robert Rodriguez's full-length PLANET TERROR, the total running time for this patronizing pastiche was a whopping 191 minutes. Overly long and ultimately disappointing, GRINDHOUSE was a box office failure.

What to do?

Well Tarantino and Rodriguez and the Weinstein's, Executive Producers Bozo Bob and Hapless Harvey, re-released both films as single offerings and the staff at Needtovent recently screened DEATH PROOF thanks to the fine folks at AMC which, in this case, could very well stand for Agonizingly Mindless Cinema.

DEATH PROOF stars Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike, a psychopath who uses his heavily reinforced muscle car as a killing machine to annihilate unsuspecting, beautiful young women who have a propensity to bare their belly button. The navels are nicely shaped, lint-free "innies" -- just what any red-blooded hormone-driven fella would find arousing, for lack of a better word. But Stuntmn Mike has a hard-on of a different nature for these nubiles; what/why is never divulged. And what Stuntman Mike forgets is that Hell hath no fury like a woman being creamed by a big bore Chevy. Sounds promising enough, but the biggest bore of all is the incessant bantering among the various broads which bogs down any momentum until the very end. By then, one hardly cares.

On the bright side, Russell's hypnotic/psychotic Stuntman Mike is a fun character to watch. And the legion of libertine, libidinous lounge lizards provide appealing eye candy at first, at least until their incessant droning makes you want Stuntman Mike, or anyone for that matter, to reach for some duct tape or, perhaps, a Louisville Slugger.

We have not screened the other full-length component of GRINDHOUSE, but it appears that Rodriguez also missed the mark. Quite frankly, we doubt we will even bother trying. Instead, we plan to grab a six-pack or two of Lone Star longnecks and pop into the old VHS machine a copy of FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!

Old Coot: "Women! They let 'em vote, smoke and drive -- even put 'em in pants! And what happens? A Democrat for president!"

Sorry Quentin, when it comes to the grindhouse genre, no one does it better than Russ Meyer.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


"Most Hollywood films are just a tapeworm, a 2,500 meters long tapeworm that sucks the life and the spirit out of me." (Ingmar Bergman)

More often than not, the staff at agrees with Mr. Bergman. Accordingly, we actively seek out the best in low budget, independent cinema and these efforts have rewarded us with a number of truly excellent, highly entertaining films which we have had the pleasure of reviewing over the past few years. Our latest discovery is BITTER/SWEET, screened at the recent Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival where it won The Grand Jury Award for "Best Picture" and the Golden Remi Award for "Best Director." These awards are well deserved.

The music under the lush opening credits -- "That Funny Feeling" -- was the first hint that yes, indeed, there's a funny feeling that this film might be special. It is. BITTER/SWEET is an ambitious undertaking by recently-formed Angel & Bear Productions, a Bangkok-based Thai-Swiss production company headed by Urs Brunner in cooperation with two American firms, Capitol Motion Pictures and Eighth Wonder Entertainment. Prior to entering the film industry Mr. Brunner had already found success in Thailand by forming the Boncafe coffee company. In fact, it was his experience in the coffee business that prompted him to conceive the underlying story for BITTER/SWEET. The resulting screenplay by the extremely talented Jeff Hare (who also directed) takes the viewer to the picturesque coffee plantations of Southern Krabi where there's more in the air than just the aroma of first-rate robusta beans.

"Is there life before coffee?"

Let's be honest -- not every independently-produced film is good, but BITTER/SWEET is a truly Thaitanic effort with a generous production budget that provides the necessary resources to take full advantage of the exotic tropical locations. Of particular interest is the use of the RED ONE in one of the earliest feature film applications for this cutting edge, some say revolutionary, digital camera. And the superb, highly energetic music selections, under the supervision of Chris Moellere and Cindi Avnet, keep things moving at a steady pace. In fact, all of the production values are first-rate, significantly superior to the majority of independent offerings, and they collectively enhance what is an engaging love story brought to the screen by a cadre of wonderful actors which include Kip Pardue, Mamee Nakprasit, Kalorin Nemayothin, Tata Young, Spencer Garrett, Laura Sorenson and James Brolin.

Pardue (REMEMBER THE TITANS, BOBBY) plays Brian Chandler, an American-based coffee expert who is sent to Thailand by his boss Calvert Jenkins (Brolin -- THE WEST WING, LAST CHANCE HARVEY) to check out a reportedly superior grade of coffee which his company may want to acquire if these rumors are true. This assignment takes him away from Amanda (Sorenson), his attractive fiancee, and from the rigorous preparations of their impending wedding. (This second consequence may not be all that unfortunate as any groom can readily attest.) Upon his arrival in Bangkok he meets the gorgeous Ticha (Nakprasit), a stunningly beautiful, dedicated career woman who has given up on finding love. It is at the urging of her coffee farming parents that Ticha is pressed into taking Brian to her old village which is now suffering economically in the hopes that Brian will recommend purchasing the coffee grown there -- thus saving the day. Assisting in this task is Ticha's sassy sidekick Mook (Nemayothin) and Mook's "boyfriend," Werner (Garrett), an Austrian prankster/huckster who has a lust for life, libation and libido. Garrett's performance is especially engaging as he literally steals just about every scene he is in.

Initially, Brian and Ticha do not get along -- in political terms think Franken and Palin and you wouldn't be too far off. But their journey through the fabulous Thai countryside is also a journey of self-discovery as each come to realize that the pursuit of "perfection" isn't as clear cut as previously thought . Their journey is one that we thoroughly enjoyed -- and one we hope a smart, savvy distributor will make available to large audiences both domestically and worldwide. Surely Brolin's appearance will help market the film; his steady, stately performance as the coffee mogul with a hidden agenda is just the latest character he has nailed in a long, distinguished career. We cannot think of anyone better in this supporting, yet pivotal role. Pardue's sweet, subtle performance is a winning one also, but it is Mamee Nakprasit, clearly one of Thailand's most attractive, talented and award-winning actresses, who will likely gain the most attention. We have a funny feeling you will agree.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Is Bruno numero uno?

Yes and no.

Accoring to preliminary reports, Sacha Baron Cohen's BRUNO is Number 1 at the box office this opening weekend much to the consternation of the Christian Film & Television Commission. Yes, good old Ted Baehr and his fellow inquisitors have anointed BRUNO the most "abhorrent" film of the year, calling it "mindlessly pornographic, politically correct paganism" and "worse than any decent human being can imagine." Hey, that sounds like my kind of film!

But, while BRUNO pushes more envelopes than the U. S. Post Office, most end up in the dead letter file thanks to a screenplay that is so shoddily constructed you would think Kaufman & Broad had written it. After a surprisingly slow start in Austria, the various contrived scenes go downhill faster than Franz Klammer on the Hahenkamm at Kitzbuehl. Things pick up, slightly, when the title character reaches Los Angeles, but even at a relatively short 82 minutes, Sacha's sashaying grew tiresome and I found myself longing for The Village People or Bruce Vilanch or Paul Lynde, even Topo Gigio.

There are a few bright moments, such as the segment at an Arkansas wrestling arena where the local red-necks, looking like Beluga whales in cheesy t-shirts, become mortified at the homo heat taking place in the rink between Bruno and his sycophant assistant, Lutz (played by Gustaf Hammarsten). And the clips from his appearance on The Richard Bey Show in Dallas, where he introduces his adopted black baby as "O.J." (claiming it is a traditional African name), is priceless. How Cohen manages to escape both the Pig Sooie state and Big D alive is beyond me. How he managed to escape the dreaded NC-17 rating is also perplexing. BRUNO may be rated R -- but it is a hard R, a virtual diamond-cutter of an R to be precise.

Yet, for every little comedic gem, there are several sequences that misfire as often as a Vanguard rocket. For someone who is Cambridge educated, how in the world did Sacha Baron Cohen think his Ron Paul interview was going to be funny? Wouldn't Senator Larry Craig have been a better choice? Even the much ballyhooed closing song featuring Baron singing his own unique version of "We Are The World" with such luminaries as Bono, Slash, Snoop Dog, Chris Martin, Sting and Elton John disappoints.

Unfortunately, BRUNO isn't anywhere near as entertaining or as funny as BORAT, and while BRUNO rules the box office this weekend, we predict ticket sales will nosedive like a Stuka once the word gets out. Wanna bet?

Friday, July 10, 2009

ALAN EMBREE -- Baseball Trivia

The staff at Needtovent has a long-standing appreciation for the little oddities that continue to comprise a unique, interesting portion of baseball history. For example, we previously reported on the plight of Joe Pignatano who will forever be remembered most for his being the only major league player to ever hit into a triple play in his last at-bat. That's a pretty unfortunate way to end an otherwise respectable major league career.

On a more positive note, Colorado Rockies pitcher Alan Embree accomplished something that is about as rare as anything found in America's Pastime: He threw zero pitches against zero batters but was still credited as the winning pitcher in a recent game against the lowly Washington Nationals. This has to be hands down the easiest win in major league history.

It was the top of the eighth inning and the game was tied 4-4. Austin Kearns was on first and there were two outs. That's when Embree came in to relieve Joel Peralta, but luckily for him the Nats poor play extends beyond hitting, pitching and fielding to include baserunning as well. Before even getting the opportunity to throw a pitch, Embree tossed the ball over to first and caught a sleeping Kearns between first and second base. Kearns was tagged out. Embree exited the game for a pinch-hitter hitter in the bottom half of the inning and the Rockies scored to take the lead. Reliever Huston Street then took the mound and closed out the ninth to seal the victory for Embree.

Yep, zero pitches thrown, but a big "W" nonetheless. Go figure...

Friday, June 26, 2009


Yesterday was a terrible day. Micheal Jackson's death was a shock, but for me, the passing of Farrah Fawcett was more personal and tragic.

I remember the first time I met Farrah -- it was at a Delta Sig keg party in 1967, and she was dating a very lucky fraternity brother. She was tremendously beautiful, very bright and she told me that she was committed to becoming the best actress she could be. Farrah left the University of Texas shortly thereafter, and the rest is history.

Speaking of history, I was on a blind date that evening and this particular coed wasn't too bad either. In fact, some 40 years later I am still married to her.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


A well-made, entertaining, low-budget, independently produced comedy is about as rare as a Republican politician being faithful to his wife. Yet, Needtovent has discovered several over the past few years -- the Rohalian world of folksy fun and fastidious fantasy comprising THE GUATEMALAN HANDSHAKE, the gangly Gerber goober mockumentary THE BABY FOOD DUDE, and 3 DAYS BLIND, the rollicking, frolicking ribald romp from Those Keith Brothers. Joining this tantalizing trifecta is the mojo mjolnir madness brought to the screen by another pair of brothers, Jerry and Mike Thompson, whose THOR AT THE BUSTOP features more eccentric, eclectic, endearing characters than an entire season of "The Gong Show."

THOR AT THE BUS STOP is an impressive, idiosyncratic feature film which follows Thor on the day he will save the world. Unfortunately, this act of heroics will inevitably cost him his life. What makes matters worse, no one seems to care. Such is the maddening milieu found on "the far side" of the tracks separating Las Vegas' fabulous strip from the white-trash environs located on the edge of town. Come to think of it, THOR AT THE BUS STOP could become both Chuck Barris' and Gary Larson's favorite movie.

Utilizing an unconventional approach to traditional narrative similar to that found in Richard Linklater's SLACKER (1991), THOR consists of a chain of linked, disparate characters who are all in search of something. Another example of this unique sub-genre would be THE PHANTOM OF THE LIBERTY (1974), directed by the master of surrealism, Luis Buneul. Clearly this scatterbrained structure, although quite rare, is not without precedent. Just goes to show that's there's really very little that's new under the sun -- but in this case the scorching Sin City sun shines brightly on a wonderful ensemble of unknown local talent who grace the screen with winning performances throughout.

Among the seedy and needy are White Trash Chuck, a role that is perfect for Vegas native Kyle Bush. Alas, 'lil Kyle is too busy winning and whining on the NASCAR circuit, so Mike Thompson wisely cast himself in this stunning portrayal of someone desperately in search of his "inner cool." Brother Jerry's low-key portrayal of the title role of Thor hits just the right balance of pathos and platonic patriarchy. Another stand-out performance is given by Carlos Emjay as One Way Walter, the super-cool carjacker who befriends his victim even though he intends to kill him. Actually, the list of superb actors can go on and on -- there were a total of 42 speaking parts and virtually everyone delivered the goods, whether it be pizza, a bus, a yellow flower or a little bit of wisdom.

"I'm gonna tell you the secret of life. You ready? There are only two ways you can act. Just two. You can be cool or not. That's it. Those are your only choices."

(May Luong, David Schmoeller, Mike Thompson, Jerry Thompson)

While a ton of credit must be given to Jerry and Mike Thompson (who not only directed and appear in key roles, they also wrote the original screenplay and edited the film as well), there's no denying that the skilled producing team of David Schmoeller and May Luong surely helped guide the way. Schmoeller's name should be familiar -- he's the incredibly talented director of such classic, cult films as PUPPETMASTER (the original), TOURIST TRAP, CRAWLSPACE and the unforgettable short, PLEASE KILL MR. KINSKI. He is now an Associate Professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; the Thompsons and Ms. Luong are previous students of his. I recall the old Chinese proverb, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." Looks like Schmoeller is among that rare breed who can do both -- and do them exceedingly well.

While all of the technical aspects of THOR AT THE BUS STOP are solid given the incredibly low budget, one must single out the Original Score by Jackson Wilcox, the Original Music Produced by Ronald Corso and the featured songs by Hungry Cloud and A Crowd of Small Adventures. A fantastic job by all -- and considerably above that found in many films costing literally a hundred times more. Oh yes, there's even an uncredited appearance by Raymond Joseph Teller, of Penn & Teller fame, just to top things off.

THOR AT THE BUS STOP has recently had successful screenings at CineVegas, the Singapore International Film Festival and the 2009 World Comedy Festival in Bangkok. There will surely be more festival awards and screenings to come. In the meantime, negotiations are on-going with both domestic and foreign film distributors. It is often said that "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." In the case of THOR AT THE BUS STOP we hope that's not the case -- this highly entertaining and enjoyable feature film deserves a wide-spread release.

More information, photos and a trailer can be found at:

Monday, June 15, 2009


Originally written for Bryce Zabel's Movie Smackdown! Website --

The Smackdown. What's more dicey than a Hollywood remake? Especially for a director who takes on the task of reshooting a film considered to be the precursor for many big budget Hollywood suspense thrillers that followed, films like Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" or Jan de Bont's "Speed." Might as well go to the craps table at Monte Carlo. But auteurs (and those who think they are auteurs) often go where angels fear to tread. This time it is none other than that other Scott, Tony, who tackles Joseph Sargent's successful blend of suspense, drama, action, thrills (with even a bit of comedy thrown in for good measure) -- "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three." Both films share the same basic underlying premise from the novel by John Godey. And Godey's premise is a goody -- four gunmen hijack a New York City subway train and demand a huge ransom be paid within the hour. The money must not be late in arriving because for every minute thereafter, one of the hostages will be shot. No exceptions. What ensues is a deadly cat and mouse game of verbal sparring between the leader of the highly armored gang and the unlucky transit official who must do everything possible to delay the inevitable. It's said that Benito Mussolini kept the trains running on time. Does Tony Scott do the same for the New York Transit Authority? Or is the original the better ride? It's time to get out the subway tokens -- all aboard!

The Challenger. As Chester A. Riley might say, "What a Travoltin' development this is!" Blessed with mega-star power, Tony Scott's version features John Travolta as Ryder, an ex-commodities trader turned ex-con who masterminds a plot to steal even more money than that Bernie guy made-off with. Talk about a low life. On the other side of the tracks, the good side, is Denzel Washington, a Walter Mitty sort of fella who is a disgraced MTA official recently demoted to the position of a train dispatcher in the NASA-like central control room for the Big Apple's subway system. Just his luck that he's the guy who fields Ryder's call for the ransom money. The razor-sharp dialogue from screenwriter Brian Helgeland allow these two heavyweight actors to engage in a wickedly escalating two-person verbal dance as the clock enevitably ticks down. Travolta's language is more foul than the waters of Lake Titicaca, but it is believable, edgy, realistic, and quirky -- his randy remarks about taking a Lithuanian ass model to Iceland is classic.

Adding to the tense proceedings are John Turturro as the head hostage negotiator and John Gandolfini as the mayor. Unfortunately, neither are given all that much to do and the same definitely holds true for all others appearing on screen. Clearly this is a "star vehicle" and the entire focus of the film rests on the excellent performances of the two leads. Editor Chris Lebenzon keeps things moving at a vibrant, sometimes frenetic pace, and Tony Scott's ADD directing style includes more stunts than a Kappa Alpha keg party. Yes, there's action all right, plenty of it, as the streets of the Big Apple resemble "the big one" at Talladega during the cops' desperate race-against-the-clock attempt to deliver the dough to the hijackers. And they better not be late -- Travolta sports a spiffy Breitling chronograph that insures he knows the exact time down in the bowels of the MTA. Fast paced, with a dynamic performance by Travolta and a winning one by Washington, Scott's version delivers a captivating summertime diversion in air conditioned comfort.

The Defending Champion. The original version of THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE (yes, the numbers were spelled out back in 1974) had Walter Matthau as Lt. Garber, the somewhat disheveled protagonist who correleates to Denzel's character in the remake. Robert Shaw plays Mr. Blue, the leader of the rainbow warriors who hijack a subway car containing 17 innocent riders and one very unlucky motorman. He is assisted by Martin Balsam (Mr. Green), Hector Elizondo (Mr. Gray) and Earl Hindman (Mr.Brown). These names prove yet again that almost nothing is ever new in cinema. Right Quentin? Other notables are Lee Wallace as the mayor, Jerry Stiller as Lt. Rico Patrone and, appropriately enough, a guy with the honest-to-God name of Jim Pelham who plays one of the Subway Guards.

The terrific screenplay by Peter Stone is rife with current references to a variety of issues facing New Yorkers in the 1970s -- both social and economic. "We don't want another Attica do we?" "There's another strike taking place?" "The city is broke." Unlike Scott's version, virtually all of the supporting cast members have something to say -- whether it be pithy, perceptive, philosophical, poignant or simply polite -- "Gesundheit!" (Believe it or not, this expression holds a significant clue to the identity of one of the hijackers. It is just another example of the countless small details found in Stone's script.) Joseph Sargent's directing style is relaxed, uncluttered, evenly paced. Shot during flu season, NYC has never looked grittier thanks to the muted colors and grainy images lensed by cinematographer Owen Roizman. In fact, there's almost a documentary feel to the film which heightens the tension once the hostage demands are announced. And no review would be complete without mentioning the excellent music score by David Shire. If I had not read the credits, I might have easily assumed that Elmer Bernstein had taken the subway from the West Side.

The Scorecard. June is what I like to call "Alice Cooper time." Yes, school's out for the summer and Hollywood never fails to bring big budget, boffo bonbons to your local Bijou in June. "The Taking of Pelham 123" is among the first of these to hit the screens, and based on a proven pedigree, this suspense thriller is a worthy accompaniment to a tub of buttered popcorn and a Dr Pepper. Comparisons between the two films are inevitable. The Tony Scott edition is definitely "bigger" -- while the exact figures are unknown, there is little doubt that the buget for his film was considerably larger than that of the original, inflation notwithstanding. The ransom amount demanded is higher, too, from $1 million to $10 million. The number of hostages rose from seventeen to nineteen. And the "star power" of John Travolta and Denzel Washington is definitely much bigger -- in fact Travolta's over-the-top portrayal of the gang leader is so bright it is like looking through the lens of the Hubble telescope.

But the original is considered a classic by many, and with good reason. A fabulous script, rock-steady direction, solid performances by everyone on the screen and superb technical aspects, including cinematography, editing, music and production design, all combine to produce a film that is long remembered after the closing credits. Add in a superior screenplay that references civil rights, the Vietnam War, gender issues, fiscal reponsibility, political corruption and a host of other topics on the minds of New Yorkers (and Americans in general) in the 1970s, and the Joseph Sargent version deserves its lofty reputation -- especially since it holds up so well thirty-five years after it was originally released.

The Decision. Both films are blessed with cracker-jack scripts containing enough surprises to keep one thoroughly entertained. And both screenwriters deliver razor-sharp dialogue, although Brian Helgeland's is more of a Bic disposable than the finely honed, serrated blade of Peter Stone's. Not only is Stone's script more nuanced and developed in its portrayal of the supporting characters, it possesses a broader range of emotions and a delightfully cynical sense of humor. "Why the Hell don't you hijack an aeroplane like everyone else?"

But it is in the area of "writer's convenience" where the two scripts differ the most. Albert Einstein once said that "Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous." If true, then I have to believe that Helgeland might have been sitting on the right-hand side of the Creator when he penned the scene with Denzel Washington emerging from the subway tunnel grate just as Travolta is walking by. And while neither film excels in their portrayal of the poor innocent folks being held for ransom, the 2009 version is so deficient in this area I would label these bland, vanilla-esque characters "Hostage Twinkies." Even though the story takes place in an underground subway tunnel, I'm sure that Tony Scott, Brian Helgeland and associates wanted to take the crime caper genre to new heights of daring doo. D. B. Cooper they are not. On the other hand, Joseph Sargent's film is a classic, possessing superior suspense, a shocking suicide that is unforgettable, and there's a whole lot more taking place on the screen than two mega-stars and some hard-hitting car crashes. And so the winner is the 1974 edition of "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three." But don't just take my word for it -- Subway's own Jared S. Fogle agrees.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


With all due apologies to Joyce Kilmer:

I think I shall never see
A more beautiful Ferrari...

This 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa once again blew away the competition, setting a world record for cars sold at auction when it fetched an eye-popping $12.1 million on Sunday, May 17, at the Leggenda e Passione, an event held on the sacred grounds of the Ferrari factory in Maranello, Italy. The Testa Rossa, chassis No. 0714TR, was the first of only 22 that were built. In its debut in competition it finished fourth at the Buenos Aires 1,000-kilometer race in 1958. More success followed as the Scaglietti designed speedsters went on to win 10 of the 19 international races they entered from 1959 to 1961.

The Testa Rossa, which translates to "red head" in Italian, beat the price set by another Ferrari, the 1961 250 GT SWB California Spider. That car was formerly owned by actor James Coburn and fetched $10.9 million last year.

They sure don't make 'em like they used to...

And don't just take my word for it. P. J. O'Rourke recently wrote in the weekend edition of "The Wall Street Journal" that the automobile has "ceased to be an object of desire and equipment for adventure and has turned into office, rec room, communications hub, breakfast nook and recycling bin -- a motorized cup holder. Americans, the richest people on earth, are currently stuck in the confines of their crossover SUVs, squeezed into less space than tech-support call-center employees in a Mumbai cubicle farm. I don't believe the pointy-head bureaucrats give a damn about climate change or gas mileage, much less about whether I survive a head-on with one of their tax-sucking mass-transit projects. All they want is to make me hate my car. How proud and handsome would Bucephalas look, or Traveler or Rachel Alexandra, with seat and shoulder belts, air bags, 5-mph bumpers and a maze of pollution control equipment under the tail?"

Well stated, Mr. O'Roarke. Virtually every automobile manufactured today is nothing more than tifosi tofu. Long live the Ferrari Testa Rosa, the Pontiac GTO, the Bugatti Veyron, the Shelby Mustang GT500, the Jaguar XK55 and all others who have the temerity to defy cup holders and idiot lights.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Needtovent recently discovered a fabulous website dedicated to Norbert Weisser -- an extremely talented actor whose impressive list of credits can be accessed at Having worked with Norbert while producing THE RADICALS we were especially pleased to learn that the page devoted to our film continues to be by far the single most popular posting on this website...

Reprinted with permission from --

Two very powerful stories are woven together in the 1990 feature film THE RADICALS. It is the biographical account of Michael Sattler who founded the Anabaptist movement around 1525. The other story, one that is just as apparent, is the story of the absolute love and devotion that Michael and Margaretha Sattler had for each other.

The movie begins by reminding viewers that by 1525 the Roman Catholic Church had united Europe for over 1000 years and their authority was under attack. Reformation had split Europe into two worlds -- Catholic and Protestant. Peasants were rebelling against heavy taxes, and Turkish invaders threatened to overrun Europe.

This film covers a very brief period in the lives of spiritual martyrs Michael Sattler, portrayed by Norbert Weisser, and Margaretha, the beautiful Leigh Lombardi. They broke away from their religious order, were married and then began a quest to return the church to the morality of its early years. Michael and Margaretha's love and the deep, heartfelt connection they share is readily apparent throughout this entire film. Margaretha ended up losing her life because she believed in Michael's message and stood strongly beside him. Because she loved Michael as deeply as any woman could ever love a man, she could not renounce her beliefs or her love for him even though doing so would spare her life. Their efforts resulted in a movement the medieval world wasn't prepared to accept and stood ready to terminate -- by any means necessary.

(Producer Robert A. Nowotny portrays a Torture Victim in a scene in THE RADICALS)

Executive Producer Michael Hostetler and Producer Robert A. Nowotny won the CINE Golden Eagle Award in the History category for this movie. Other film festival honors include the Chris Award from the Columbus International Film & Video Festival (1990), the Silver Award presented by Worldfest-Houston (1989), and the Wilbur Award given to "the best faith-based film of the year" by the Religious Public Relations Council of America (1990). Liza Vann served as the Associate Producer and Director of Photography Michael K. Bucher was responsible for the terrific cinematography.

The movie is distributed by Gateway Films/Vision Video and is available from Amazon and other retailers. Included with the DVD is a copy of The Schleitheim Articles as authored on February 24, 1527. (Just as a trivia note, they also have a biographical DVD on Gladys Aylward, the English missionary woman who traveled to China in the 1930's, as played by Ingrid Bergman in the wonderful 1958 movie THE INN OF THE SIXTH HAPPINESS.)

Brief Biography of Michael Sattler

Michael Sattler was a monk who left the Roman Catholic Church during the Protestant Reformation to become one of the early leaders of the Anabaptist movement.

Born in approximately 1490 in Staufen, Germany, Sattler became a Benedictine monk in the cloister of St. Peter and most likely became prior by the time he left in 1525. That year he traveled to Zurich, which was then embroiled in controversy over infant baptism. He became associated with the Anabaptists and was probably rebaptised in the summer of 1526. He was involved in missionary activity around Horb and Rottenburg, and eventually traveled to Strasbourg. In February of 1527, he chaired a meeting of the Swiss Brethren at Schleitheim, and was particularly influential in developing the Schleitheim Confession, a declaration of Anabaptist belief.

(THE RADICALS is also available on VHS)

All of the costumes for the battle scene and the entire movie, over 700 people in all, were all sewn by volunteers -- primarily by women in Switzerland, for no pay. They wanted to be a part of the film because it had substance. Additionally, over twenty horses were provided for the movie for free by volunteers.

Filming was done in 15th century towns and villages in Switzerland, Germany, and in France, especially in and around Strasbourg.

Michael Hostettler grew up in a missionary family setting in Brazil and was quite interested in bringing forth this important story based on the book "Pilgrim Aflame," by Myron Augsberger. Screenwriters Joel Kauffmann and Darryl Wimberley ensured that the human story was featured just as prominently as the Anabaptist story, and paid particular attention to the love and devotion Michael and Margaretha Sattler had for each other, as well as telling the story of how they lived and ultimately died for their beliefs.

In the special featurette on the DVD, Robert Nowotny has a great story about their many attempts to get the weapons used in the battle scene, swords, lances and the like, from France into Switzerland because they didn't have the proper weapons permits in place. They finally managed to get them across a remote border crossing, and were able to proceed with the filming of the battle sequence.


(Needtovent would like to thank the super-talented graphic designer Jane Bohon for her continued support of both Norbert Weisser and THE RADICALS at Not bad for a low budget, independent feature film that is now over 19 years old. How time flies...)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

How About S&M Green Stamps?

Needtovent recently ran across a very intriguing newspaper article from our fine friends at Reuters. I don't know about you, but I'm calling Lufthansa right away. After all, not since the fall of the Berlin Wall has something more exciting or enticing happened in what was known as "the Fatherland" prior to the advent of condoms and birth control pills.

The article is reprinted below with occasional commentary by Needtovent's staff. (We couldn't resist.)


It did not take long for the world financial crisis to affect the world's oldest profession in Germany.

In one of the few countries where prostitution is legal, and unusually transparent, the industry has responded with an economic stimulus package of its own: modern marketing tools, rebates and gimmicks to boost falling demand.

Some brothels have cut prices or added free promotions while others have introduced all-inclusive flat-rate fees. Free shuttle buses, discounts for seniors and taxi drivers, as well as "day passes" are among marketing strategies designed to keep business going.

Discounts for seniors! That's a hell of a lot better than the Early Bird Special at Luby's Cafeteria...

"Times are tough for us too," said Karin Ahrens, who manages the "Yes, Sir" brothel in Hanover. She told Reuters revenue had dropped by 30 percent at her establishment while turnover had fallen by as much as 50 percent at other clubs.

"We're definitely feeling the crisis. Clients are being tight with their money. They're afraid. You can't charge for the extras any more and there is pressure to cut prices. Everyone wants a deal. Special promotions are essential these days."

Germany has about 400,000 professional prostitutes. In 2002, new legislation allowed prostitutes to advertise and to enter into formal labor contracts. It opened the way for them to obtain health insurance, previously refused if they listed their true profession.

They have health insurance! All I can say is that I hope it is better than my Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage...

Annual revenues are about 14 billion euros ($18 billion), according to an estimate by the Verdi services union. Taxes on prostitution are an important source of income for some cities.

Now that's a tax I can live with...

Prostitution is also legal and regulated in the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Greece, Turkey and in some parts of Australia, and the U.S. state of Nevada.

Texas once had a brothel or two as well. I hate Marvin Zindler...

In other countries, such as Luxembourg, Latvia, Denmark, Belgium and Finland, prostitution is legal but brothels and pimping are not.

Berlin's "Pussy Club" has attracted media attention with its headline-grabbing "flat rate" -- a 70-euro admission charge for unlimited food, drink and sex between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

That's quite possibly the best deal since Roosevelt...

"Our offer might sound like it's too good to be true, but it's real. You can eat as much as you want, drink as much as you want and have as much sex as you want."

Other novel ideas used by brothels and prostitutes include loyalty cards, group sex parties and rebates for golf players.

Golf players! I wonder if you get a mulligan if you come too quickly...

Ecki Krumeich, manager of upmarket Artemis Club in Berlin, said he resisted pressure to cut prices, although senior citizens and taxi drivers get a 50-percent discount on the 80-euro admission fee on Sundays and Mondays.

"Naturally, we're keeping an eye on the overall economic situation and making contingency plans," said Krumeich, who said his "wellness club" is one of the largest in Europe with about 70 prostitutes. Our philosophy is: we provide an important service and even in a recession there are some things people won't do without. Just about everyone's turning to advertising in one form or another. If the consumer electronics shop and the optician come out with rebates and special promotions, why shouldn't we try the same thing?"

Well that settles it. I've finally found something I can afford to do with my buddy Max Mosley after Formula 1 races.