Saturday, August 20, 2011

Clyde’s Movie Palace: Knocked Up (2007)

Knocked Up Movie Marquee
Starring:
Seth Rogan
Katherine Heigl
Paul Rudd
Leslie Mann

Directed by
Judd Apatow
(Clyde note:  I originally wrote this review at the time of Knocked Up’s release.  It has been slightly updated to exclude those references)
 
“You know how when you haven’t had sex in a while and you forget how good it is…..It’s like a beast, a beast that was asleep. Now the beast is wide awake and it wants to be fed and the food that Alex gave it was good food, George.”
 
Although Katherine Heigl spoke those words as Izzy Stevens on her Grey’s Anatomy gig, they could just as easily have been written for Alison Scott, the character Heigl plays in Knocked up. Allison is a career woman who works behind the camera for cable network E Entertainment. She has just been told that she is going to get a promotion, and will now work in front of the camera instead of behind it, although they do ask Alison to go home, weigh herself on a scale, write that down, subtract 20 from that number, and then weigh that because they aren’t really aloud to tell her to lose weight. But instead of planning her new diet regimen, Allison decides to go out with her sister to celebrate her promotion  at a nightclub by downing a few beers.


Ben Stone and his roommates just happen to be occupying space in that very same nightclub on that very same night.  And I do mean occupying space because to know Ben and his buddies is to know that their goal in life is just to occupy space.   Ben and his friends are the kind of guys who have made slacking an  art form. 


They have only one goal in life that they aspire to acheive. They are planning an on line web site where anybody will be able to search any film to see if it has a nude scene and then find out exactly where in that film the nude scene is. In other words, they have to spend a lot of time watching movies with naked women in them.  Nice work if you can get it, just don’t expect to get paid anytime soon for your efforts.
 


On the night in question, Ben wanders over to the bar to order a couple of beers, at the exact same moment as Alison, whom is attempting without much success  to get the bartenders attention so that he’ll provide her with a couple of beers for herself and her sister Debbie (Leslie Mann. Ben reaches over the counter for his beers, and being the swell guy that he is ends up giving them to Allison.  Later, Sister Debbie soon heads home to take care of her kiddies, leaving Ben and Debbie to get better acquainted.  They also end up getting very intoxicated.

Now I don’t know if you have ever been out to a bar, had a few drinks, and then ended up with somebody you wouldn’t even give a passing glance too if you were cold stone sober, but I have, years ago.  Make that many many years ago.  You have a tendency to look at your companion  through rose-colored glasses which is obviously how Allison sees Ben after she passes tipsy and heads into totally wasted territory. But when that beast Izzy Stephens was talking about needs to be fed, you really don’t  nitpick a great deal, especially when you’ve eschewed the trappings of a decent personal life so that you can climb the career ladder.  There just isn't time to get to know your partner in depth, up close and personal,  or to find out if he watches the Cartoon Network or the Sundance Channel especially when you’re passing judgment through the haze of an alcoholic stupor.


In the process of feeding the beast, things can get a little hectic and while partner Ben is trying desperately to get the old condom to fit so his manhood will be snug as a bug in a rug, he misinterprets Allison’s pleas to hurry up and get on with it  as a request to just forget about the protection and get down to the business at hand. Ben is more than  happy to oblige of course, even though we know it all spells trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for Pregnant.

 
The next morning, sobriety and the glare of reality can be a rude awakening for anybody.  Allison sees Ben the way he really is, and it is a one night stand she’d just as soon forget about, especially since her inner beast has been calmed, at least for the time being. But eight weeks later, Allison begins to think she might be just a little bit knocked up, especially when she goes on a hilarious vomiting rampage while interviewing James Franco. And just to be sure she stops and buys every home pregnancy test on the market on her way home. Afterwards, it is time to  find Ben, and bless him with the good news as well.
 
So can two people who have a one night stand and have absolutely nothing in common find a way to come together for the sake of their unborn child? And could they just happen to fall in love in the process? As it is, there is one thing both Allison and Ben have in common. They are good people who want to do what’s best.  There have been relationships based on less than that. And despite the fact that they may be opposites, they find out that they really do like each other in spite of their differences. I mean, he does make her laugh and isn't that important?  Hell, I wish a few of my exes had made me laugh.  It would have been a lot more fun.  They would still be exes but at least I could look back with a certain amount of hilairty.

One of the things I liked most about Knocked Up, is not only that the film is incredibly funny, but that writer/director Judd Apatow never sacrifices themes or characters for the sake of gross out comedy. We root for Allison and Ben because we like them so damn much. And just to be sure, Apatow makes the relationship between Allison’s sister Debbie and her husband Pete (Paul Rudd), an integral part of the film instead of just having them become comedic advice giving window dressing.   So we root for them as well, but mostly we root for Pete who really puts up with a lot of shit. Debbie doesn’t understand why Pete doesn’t seem to want to be around her, and Pete doesn’t understand why Debbie even loves him so much. In essence, they give both Ben and Allison something to compare their own relationship to, although it might not be in their best interests to do so.





There are some really classic moments in this film ranging from a lesson in how to get pink eye, how to chew out a doorman, the aforementioned scene with James Franco, another one with Steve Carrell, an earthquake moment where you learn what to save and what not to save, and an absolutely fall down, roll in the aisle, hilarious trip to Las Vegas with Pete and Ben. And just to keep things going, the dialogue is sharp and witty throughout. 
 
I really liked Knocked up.  I loved the odd mix of crazy goofy humor mixed with  touching tender moments.   I liked the fact that the comedy is  done in a way that it doesn’t detract from the film’s sincerity, and still manages to poke a little fun at everything from one night stands to an unexpected, unplanned, and probably unwanted first pregnancy. 
 
It is unique in it’s own way because  both Ben and Allison don’t just stop at trying to make the best of a bad situation, they join together and go above and beyond everybody’s expectations for them and  to try making their relationship work, not for  themselves but for the unborn child whose life will forever be their responsibility. 
 
So while Superhero Movies may come and go, and although special effect extravaganzas may fill the local Cineplex, it’s nice when a film like Knocked Up can come along and be a success, because it has it’s heart in the right place.  And when a film does that I have no choice but to give it my gread, which for Knocked Up is a very pregnant A.
 
The above video on the left is a mash up of scenes from the film I edited together.  I originally did this instead of loading up the review with stills.  Nobody is more surprised than me that it is still around, but you do have to watch a commercial now from which I make this much: $0.  I also did it because I love the songs by Loudon Wainright that ran over the closing credits, one of which is this one, Grey in L.A. and is probably available from iTunes or other download services.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Road Trip-Final Destination 5 in 3D

IMG_1099I had told Honorable Son No. 3, that if I felt fairly decent when I got off work on Tuesday, we would go into Bakersfield to catch a movie since he seldom has the opportunity to go.  Working for McDonald’s, you don’t get many weekends off, although one would think they would be naturally rotated.  Fat chance of that.  And although it wouldn’t have been my choice (I can name several others I would rather have seen), he wanted to see this latest incarnation of the Final Destination Series, although it apparently will  never be really the final anything as they just keep on coming at you.
 
I decided that  we would go to the Bakersfield Maya cinema this time around.  We hadn’t been to the Maya since I started my own personal  urban renewal project on this blog so it had  not yet a part of my road trip series.  And you know what that means boys and girls, moms and dads, ladies and gentlemen.  Yes, we do have the dreaded theater travelogue.
 
The Maya Cinema is a relative newcomer to the Bakersfield area.  It opened in July 2009.  In fact, I didn’t even know they were building the damn thing and only heard of it about a week or two before they sold their first ticket.  That might have something to do with it’s  odd  location. 
 
Unlike the Regal Edwards and the Reading Valley Plaza, the Maya is not located near a major shopping center or as in the case of the Reading, near a mall.  It is built in the Bakersfield downtown area, just across the tracks from the Rabobank arena and was located there  as part of an urban renewal plan with assistance from the city of Bakersfield.  (So that’s where my taxes went!)
 
Just the fact that it the Maya is  new and fresh gives it a huge advantage over the other local movie theaters.  They’ve all been around quite a while, and having cornered the local market, they’ve not felt the need to do much in the way of upgrades.  I have no idea for sure what effect the Maya has had on their business, but it was after the Maya opened that the Valley Plaza lowered their ticket prices, so that was probably not a coincidence.
 
IMG_1109 
But being in a downtown area also has it’s disadvantages.  Getting to the theater itself can be a royal pain in the ass.  Depending on what direction you’re coming from, you want to be sure to take a route that will be either around or under the railroad tracks which run right down the heart of Downtown Bakersfield.  On one of our trips to the Maya, Honorable Son No. 3 and I made the mistake of taking N Street which is adjacent to Rabobank arena, and ended up waiting on a train that had been parked on the crossing by an engineer who decided to leave it there while he went to lunch.  Or so it seemed.  But eventually we made it across and into the far back end of the  rear parking lot.  Which brings us to another major  problem with  the Maya.
 
Outside Maya parkingOn weekends, especially when there are a couple of big movie premieres, the parking situation is absolutely abysmal,  due to the fact that there seem to be as many people at the Bakersfield Ice Center parked there as there are people inside the theater.  On the weekend that Transformers III premiered we ventured to the Maya on a Sunday afternoon.  Every parking place was  taken.  Your only choice seemed to be to drive around in circles with dozens of other vehicles and hope somebody would hate one of the movies enough to leave, so that you would win the lottery and grab their space before someone else did.  Due to my health problems, I have a handicapped placard but that was useless, just  as it is at many places these days,  which is why I don’t venture out any more than I have to.  There were only a handful of spaces marked for handicapped and they were all occupied of course. 
 
When we  first pulled up, the line at the box office that day was as bad as the parking lot itself.  So I let Honorable Son No. 3 out to get the tickets, while I practiced my driving habits.  Twenty minutes later as I made a pass in front of the theater for the thirtieth time  while continuing my great parking space crusade,  he rejoined me with the  tickets in hand.  Finally, behind the theater we saw a small half empty lot across the street. 
 
The problem was we didn’t know who the lot belonged to, and if it were privately owned  some fat hairy nasty bastard with smelly armpits would come in his greasy smelly oily tow truck and hitch his star to my Chrysler while wiping his snotty nose on the sleeve of his flannel shirt.  But some very nice man was walking from the lot and he motioned for us to park there, and by that point I was willing to take anybody’s word for it.  So we went in the lot and parked.  And there, right above the space where we parked, invisible from anywhere unless you actually went into the lot was a sign stating “Parking for Maya Cinemas.” 
 
Maya Lines
“A lot of damn good that does,” I told Honorable Son No, 3.
 
“True,” he responded.  “But look at it this way.  If they had put the sign where everybody could see it, then this lot would be full as well and we wouldn’t be able to park here either.”  I could not fault his logic.
 
The point is, I learn from my mistakes.  From now on, I would steer clear of the Maya on weekends.  And since this was an early evening Tuesday  matinee showing, I didn’t anticipate any problems.  And in that regards there weren’t any.  Elvis had left the building, along with everybody else.
 
We arrived about twenty minutes before start time, and walked up to the window to  get the tickets because unlike our previous visits, there was no line. 
 
All day long on Tuesdays at the Maya, all tickets are $5.50, but $8.50 for a 3D movie.   I didn’t know this  beforehand but was grateful to save the extra money.  Their regular Matinee Prices, for films before 5:00 PM  is $6.00, and a whopping $9.00 for 3D.  After five, the tickets are $9 for general admission, $12 for 3D.  Compare this to the Reading Valley Plaza where Matinees end at  6:00 PM and tickets are $5.50 everyday until that time.  However, my admission at the Valley Plaza is always $5.50 as their Senior Discount starts at age 55.  At the Maya, the Senior price is $6.00, but doesn’t start until age 60, which doesn’t benefit me at all.  As for the Edwards, I’ll leave that for another day but I believe they are about the same as the Maya.   
 
The lobby inside the Maya is cavernous.  But the place seems compact and well laid out.  The  design makes the concession stand look as long as a football field.  Behind the concession stand, there is a large projections screen on each side.  They are supposed to play movie previews I guess, but on this day they were blank which means they wasted a shit  pot full of money putting them up there for no reason.  Now if I had my way, I would put clips from Jennicam on those two screens for all the world to enjoy.  Why? 
 
Because currently, 98 percent of my hits are people looking for Jennifer Ringley, or nude pictures of Jennifer, or pictures of Jennifer and Dex having sex, all because of this little article I wrote some time ago, took down for a while, and recently republished.  So just finding a way to put those two sentences in this article will probably get me a few hundred hits from all the porn seekers and never say die Jennicam fans.  Maybe I should just label all my pictures Jennifer Ringley having sex. (Note:  I did have one legitimate email request in regards to Ms. Ringley having to do with a David Letterman clip that used to be on here.  Still searching for that one.  No luck.  If anybody finds it, let me know.  And how are you doing Ms. Ringley?)
 
IMG_1100
The other thing about the Maya is that it is the only theatrical concession stand in our town  where the patrons pour their own drinks and frankly, I don’t really care for it.  It may make the pay line shorter, but you go from one line at the counter, to another lineIMG_1102 waiting to fill your soft drink cup.  247839_118183558268049_100002292150558_166112_5314024_nAnd the soft drink cups at the Maya seem terribly  flimsy, especially the extra large, and it’s relatively easy to spill your drink while filling it up and putting on a lid.  (A helpful hint: Anytime you get a refillable drink at one of these places, get a new lid.  Once you take the lid off, it never reseals correctly)
 
Just as problematic is the lid dispenser.  It dispenses one lid at a time, but it’s like pulling open the jaws of a shark to get the damn thing out.  Give the public access to filling up their own drinks, and they will make a mess.  Although not particularly trashed on this day, due to the vary sparse crowd, on previous visits the soft drink area has been a total wreck and not very appetizing.  It wouldn’t be so bad if they would keep it cleaned up but they generally don’t. 
 
On the weekends, it makes a pig sty look like a scene from House Beautiful.  But forget about John Q. Public being more tidy. They are a hopeless lot, and kids running amok make the situation even worse. And in this town, practically ever kid has been raised to think that ever building of any kind from Wal-Mart to Sears to the Maya is their own personal playground to destroy forever.  At least the popcorn is in a bucket and not the crappy kind of bag they give you at the Valley Plaza Reading to cut cost.
 
I imagine there are other theaters that have this policy and the Maya is probably not unique, but  you have to turn your glasses in every time you leave the screening room and it doesn’t matter if it’s only  to refill your drink or popcorn, or to go to the restroom to take a leak.  The first time I encountered this policy  I was a bit put out by it since none of the other theaters seemed to really care.  But I guess the Dolby digital 3D glasses are more expensive than the Real 3D ones to replace, even though they charge you an extra 3 dollars (by doing a little googling, I found out that the Real3D glasses are much cheaper by a mile).  
 
From the 3D movies I have seen, the Real 3D has a better, sharper, and brighter image than the digital 3D films I’ve seen at the Maya. They always  seem a lot darker, which is problematic enough with any 3D films, although some films I’ve seen in the  3D format like Avatar, A Christmas Carol, Piranha, and Shrek 4 didn’t suffer much at all  in the process.  The worse 3D film I’ve seen was Clash of the Titans, as anybody who saw it in that format could tell you.  The best I’ve seen are in order:  Avatar, A Christmas Carol, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, and Piranha.
 
IMG_1108The girl who was handing out the 3D glasses from the tray seemed to be taking a nap at first.  I wasn’t sure until I saw her lips move and a sound actually came out warning us if we left for any reason we had to drop off the glasses at the door until our return when we would be given another pair.  I thought that I should ask the young lady if it was okay to wake her up when departing but thought better of it.   I guess sitting on her ass handing people weird looking glasses wasn’t the  highlight of her day.   Maybe the owners of the Maya  should go kidnap some of those cheerful senior citizen Wal-mart greeters to come in to do the job, thus enabling young teenage  girls like this one to go out and do something more more productive such as cleaning up the soda fountain area.
 
The number one auditorium at the Maya is huge compared to any of the screening rooms at the other cinemas.  Or maybe it just seems that way.  I was unable to get a decent picture of the seating area, but as you can tell from the Iphone picture I’ve enclosed of the screen during the warm up commercials, it makes the screen at the Valley Plaza that The Girlfriend and I had viewed Crazy Stupid Love on seem like a 12 inch portable.
IMG_1103
 
Which brings me to the absolutely best part of the Maya that wins hands down over any of the other movie cinieplexes in the Bakersfield  area.  The seats are to die for.  They are without a doubt the most comfortable movie seats I’ve ever sat in.  They are all high backed, and well cushioned recliner like (to a point). If you could exclude all the other annoyances of this theater, I would go here each and every time.  And although those annoyances may seem small by themselves, when you  add them all up and they cancel out the good will achieved by their state of the art seating comfort and movie presentation.   All of that being said, if my back and leg problems continue, it may be the Maya or nothing at all.  At the other venues, if the movie runs more than an hour and a half, I generally leave the theater in pain by the end of the film.
 
Upon entering the auditorium, there were already about six people seated inside.  I was going to take a picture, but again it was dark enough that with the Iphone 3GS camera, you wouldn’t have been able to make out any detail.  Honorable Son No. 3 picked us out what appeared to be some good seats about half way up, right in the middle, but as it turned out, they were also directly in front of the movie patrons from hell, Mr. and Mrs. Porky and Petunia Pig.
Final Destination 5Seriously, folks.  As if the little brat a few weeks back during Cowboys and Aliens wasn’t bad enough, at least she had the excuse of  being a kid. These two trailer park trash  butt wipes had no such excuse.  And I hope someday they come across this message, even if the odds are overwhelming against that happening.  They’ll know who they are, just look at the tickets for time and date.  I didn’t mind their blabbering during the commercials and during the previews so much, but they kept right on going through the film.  Then, after umpteen messages about making sure you turn off your cell phone plastered onto the screen, ten minutes into the movie Mr. Pig answers his own and begins chatting away in a very loud deep voice that could be heard all over the auditorium.  I guess he was so stupid that he figured when they ask you to silence your phone, they didn’t mean you couldn’t answer it.  And honestly, I’ve never heard anybody eat as much candy and popcorn and do it  as loudly as Mrs. Pig. Honestly, I bet there are billy goats that chew with more dignity than this woman did.
 
Yeah, there would be a few moments of silence from them occasionally, but  then they would begin chatting away again oblivious to everybody around them.  It was worse during the death scenes.  Petunia would carry on like she was on an episode of Hee Haw and had never seen anyone butchered before, while  Porky would analyze the film as if he were everybody’s own personal Roger Ebert.   Finally Honorable Son No. 3 and I moved to the other side of the auditorium and it helped, although we then had to watch the movie from an angle.  And I think when we moved Mr. and Mrs. Pig knew why we moved.  I doubt if they were embarrassed though.  You have to have some idea what the word courteous means to experience any level of embarrassment over idiotic behavior not to mention you should have a modicum of brain function as well.  So, Mr. and Mrs. Pig, if you ever come across this review, do the movie going public a favor and keep your fat asses at home in the trailer.  And whatever you do, don’t spawn any kids.
 
Crap, over 2500 words and I haven’t talked about the movie.  
 
If you’ve ever seen one of these Final Destination films, then you pretty much know what you’re going to get.  It’s like going to McDonald’s and ordering a Big Mac.  The amount of secret  sauce you get may vary each time you visit depending on who slaps it together.   You know, a little more, a little less, but it’s all the same shit in the end.  And that’s about sums up most of my feelings in regards to Final Destination 5 and it’s predecessors.
 
I had seen numbers one thru three, but not number four even though I have FD4 lying around the house here somewhere on DVD  and may put it in eventually. But. by FD3, it was apparent that the makers of these films were never going to explore any new territory, or even offer any of the cast a real chance escaping their fate at the end. Sure, they have Coroner Bludworth come on and do his thing, offering the remaining cast members a slender threaded hope of escaping their fate, but as it turns out, Bludworth is really just out drumming up business for himself, and simply wants to make the same old  game a bit more interesting. I guess it helps having him around though because audiences can always hope Bludworth will eventually give someone an honest out clause. Fat chance of that.

There are two reasons why you watch a Final Destination film.  One is to watch the bloody carnage that takes place at the beginning of the film during some over the top disaster.  So far we’ve had an airplane crash, a fifty million car pile up on the highway, a roller coaster fun ride, the thrill of stock car racing, and now  we have a bridge collapse that will certainly remind you of the one that took place in The Mothman Prophecies.  The difference of course being that in Mothman, most of the victims simply drowned, a scenario that just wouldn’t cut it for the Final Destination films.  So we get the usual spearing, scalding, gutting and decapitations that are the trademark of these films.  I have to admit that in 3D, the bridge disaster was impressive. 
 
Not that it matters much, but this time around the man of the hour with the premonition of the ensuing mayhem is Sam Lawton (Nicholas D’Agosto).  He, his girlfriend Molly (Emma Bell),  his best friend Peter (Miles Fisher), Miles girlfriend Candace (Ellen Wroe), and various other co-workers and buddies,  are preparing to depart on a chartered bus to a business seminar of some sort.  Or so I gather.  But before they can leave, disaster strikes:  Molly breaks up with Sam. 
 
Why?  I’m not sure except that I guess the writers felt it would make the characters a bit more interesting and that somehow trying to escape The Grim Reaper brings them  closer together for  the big kiss, and then the big kiss off.
 
Anyway, just as we know the sun rises and sets, we also know that the bus,  full of unknown actors and actresses,  will never make it to wherever the hell it was going in the first place.  Instead, as the bus starts across a bridge where construction workers are busy preparing it to be another perfect  Final Destination death trap, the shit hits the fan.  The bridge begins to literally crack up and everybody tries to escape.  This is all  to no avail of course, except for Molly, who is saved at the last minute by Sam, just before he gets taken out, at which point he comes out of his hypnotic state to find out he’s still on the bus and it is just now beginning to head across the bridge. 
 
And just like clockwork, he begins yelling that they have to get off the bus, which he and some of the others do and manage to save themselves this time around, thus saving us from once again experiencing their demise and ending the movie after about ten mintues.  But as usual, they survive, only temporarily so that we can spend the rest of the ninety minutes of running time watching them try to escape their inevitable fate.   What I can never figure out about these films though is that if they weren’t meant to survive, why does someone, in this instance Sam,  have these premonitions of impending doom in the first place?  Simply because Mr. Reaper likes playing games of death the way some people love to play slots? 
 
This time around Bludworth’s escape clause, not to be confused with The Santa Clause,  is that if the survivors can kill someone, that person’s death will take the place of their own.  My suggestion?  If Coroner Bludworth comes up to you and conjures up  a hair brained suggestion like that, punch him in the mouth.  You still probably won’t survive, but you’ll feel better.  And so will I if I ever have to watch another of these films.
It goes without saying that at least one or two of the cast members will take Bludworth for his word.  In this case one does it sort of accidentally on purpose which then encourages one of the other survivors to seek his own ticket to eternal happiness.  I won’t say who it is, although watching the film it’ll take you all of five seconds to figure it out. 
 
I do have to single out Miles Fisher who plays Peter.  I don’t know if it was his idea, or the director’s, but this guy has been watching too many Tom Cruise movies.  Not only is he almost a dead ringer for the Tom Cruise of  about thirty years ago, he even seems to be mimicking him and his mannerisms.  My advice would be to put away the Risky Business and Top Gun DVD’s for a while and conjure up your own acting style.
 
The one thing about Final Destination that remains constant, is the elaborate instruments of death used on most of the victims.  Each one is like one of those elaborate traps  where the ball drops, rolls down a slide, activates a lever, which turns the wheel, that pulls the rope, which releases the trap, which then  snares it’s victim.  And it’s the one thing that makes these a bit more fun than the usual slasher films.  But by FD5, it would seem that the writers are running out of ideas, and one of the initial deaths that takes place in a gymnasium is so over the top ridiculous, you can’t help but laugh out loud. 
 
The best scene in the film  though is one where no kill takes place.  Sam walks through the large kitchen where he works, and he and us see every single ordinary device as an instrument of death.  It’s really rather effective.  Rachael Ray had better be careful.
 
FD5 also  had a final twist at the end that sets it apart from numbers I thru IV.  It’s actually quite smart and imaginative, and for me at least, totally unexpected.  So I’ll give them credit for that.  But let’s be honest.  When you pay to go see one of these films, you know what you’re going to get and you know why you’re going.  You’re going to get the Big Mac and McDonald’s isn’t about to surprise you by serving a BK Whopper instead.  So I suppose given that, you’ll get your money’s worth, and although the 3D kill effects are interesting, I  don’t think they were nearly as much fun as those in Piranha, a film that was much more entertaining.  So on that basis I have no choice but to give Final Destination my grade of C-, raised from a D+  but  only because of the clever twist at the end  of the film.
 
One last word about the Maya.  Out in the lobby up on the wall is an Avatar poster that has been hanging there since before the movie was released.  After almost two years, don’t you think it’s about time someone got a ladder and took the damn thing down?  I would suggest waking up the girl handing out the 3D glasses and letting her do it.  It might bring some excitement into her life.
 
IMG_1106

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Clyde’s Movie Palace: Where the Boys Are (1960)

 

Starring

Dolores Hart
George Hamilton

Yvette Mimeaux

Paula Prentiss

Connie Francis

Frank Gorshin

Jim Hutton

Chill Wills

Barbara Nichols


In 2003 Turner Classic Films had a poll where fans could vote for films they would like to see on DVD. The top five vote getters would be the films to get  a DVD release. Surprisingly, Where the Boys Are is one of the five films that voters preferred along with Days of Wine and Roses, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Postman Always Rings Twice, and The Wind and the Lion. It's a testament to how well this film has held up for the past forty-three years.

The basic premise is this: Four college girls escape the freezing north during spring break and head to Ft. Lauderdale because as the title says, that's where the boys are. Not much to base a film on  I suppose, but stories have hit the big screen with a lot less plot than that.  What Where The Boys Are does have is a witty ahead of its time script by screenwriter George Wells (based on a novel by Glendon Swarthout available on Kindle download), a cast of attractive relatively new stars assembled by producer Joe Pasternak, some nice Florida Scenery and Connie Francis singing the heck out of the title song, which went on to become one of her biggest hits.  I used to have a video mash-up of the song embedded in this review.  But the internet being what it is, and all that tommy rot, that’s no longer possible.   But if you look, I’m sure it will be on Youtube on occasion until it gets taken down for the next person to upload it. 

Me?  Forget it.  Seldom do I find Youtube and all the idiotic copyright b.s. worth the time and effort.  I mean, you post a short clip or trailer from a fifty year old movie, or in my case one that was better than the trailer, and the studios can’t stand it that you might be publicizing their fifty year old product to buy.  Nope, they’d rather you bit torrent it so that they can bitch and moan and groan about pirating being the downfall of mankind and to justify their own lunacy for spending 100’s of millions of dollars for lawyers to fight it.   But I’m getting off track.



The cast is headed by Dolores Hart as Merritt Andrews. Despite having a high I.Q., Merritt is not exactly excelling in college.  She has a tendency to say what's on her mind, and  what's on her mind must have sent a shiver down the spine of many parents way back in 1960 because what Merritt has on her mind is S-E-X. 

Meredith dares to suggest to a stodgy old professor that premarital sex (playing house, or better yet back seat bingo  is how she describes  it in 60’s lingo) might not only be OK,  but should almost be a  prerequisite for marriage. An opinion like that was pretty daring and racy  stuff in the ancient times of the early sixties.  Her stance in the class room lets us know right away that Merritt is not only a bit more complex than we would  expect, but that she may actually have some rather revealing thought processes going on which automatically puts this film a hundred miles ahead of any others in this genre during this time period .

Dolores Hart is exceptional as Merritt. She is the center of our attention from the beginning of the film to the end. Ms. Hart shines in this film and its kind of a shame that we never got a chance to see her full potential as an actress. Why did she drop out of Hollywood?  Wikipedia explains it all
:
Using the stage name of 'Dolores Hart', in 1956 she was signed to play a supporting role as the love interest to Elvis Presley in the 1957 release Loving You. After this appearance, Hart was in frequent demand, and she made two more films before playing with Presley again in 1958's King Creole. She has denied ever having had an 'intimate' relationship with Presley off-screen. Hart then debuted on Broadway, winning a 1959 Theatre World Award as well as a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress for her role in The Pleasure of His Company.


In 1960, Hart starred in Where the Boys Are, a teenage comedy about college students on spring break which developed a near cult-like following. In the film, Hart plays a co-ed who struggles to define herself when confronted with her newly-discovered sexuality and popularity with the opposite sex. She went on to star in four more films, her last opposite Hugh O'Brian in 1963's Come Fly with Me. At this point she had made up her mind to leave the film industry, and after breaking off her engagement to Los Angeles businessman Don Robinson, the twenty-five-year old actress became a Roman Catholic nun at the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut, ultimately becoming the Prioress of the Convent. She chants in Latin eight times a day.
Pay close attention to her performance as Merritt as I did and you'll understand what we may have missed. She is the glue that holds this film together, and keeps it from slipping into the usual formulaic beach frivolity.

Paula Prentiss makes her big screen debut as Tuggle and shows quite a flair for comedy. She's the one who has vowed to be a "good girl". In other words, without a wedding ring on her hand there will be no hanky panky. The parents of the sixties probably loved her for it.  Sort of the ying to Merritt’s yang.

Yvette Mimeaux plays naive freshman Melanie. She ends up taking Merritt's ideas in class about sex and putting them into action. In 1960's morals, we know she's headed for trouble and was probably the poster girl for parents to point out the evils that would befall you for indulging in a little bit of bedroom parlor games. It used to be that I didn’t really care for the character of Melanie or Mimeaux’s over wrought performance in the role.  But looking at the film now, it’s a bit better than I gave it credit for and perhaps I was judging it more by today’s standards instead of 60’s standards. I still think that Melanie’s side plot does slow the film down somewhat  and kind of saps the energy out of the film at times. 

Connie Francis is a revelation as girl hockey player, Angie. We are never given her exact views on sex so you can paint her in a
neutral corner.  For some reason (I guess because she's a hockey player) she has trouble getting a guy. I seriously doubt someone who looks like her would have that kind of a problem, but Francis plays the role in a ditsy kind of way. She's adorable, and we love her. Add to this the fact that the girl can sing up a storm and you'll replay the opening titles several times just to hear that heart throbbing voice. Angie is one gal just about anybody would like to have hanging around just for laughs. Her most memorable scene here takes place in a diner as she and Merritt try to eat on the cheap.

Jim Hutton plays TV Thompson, a hitchhiker that the girls pick up on their way to Fort Lauderdale. He has this rather odd thing going with hats. He hooks up with Tuggle, and their on screen chemistry blends together like peaches and cream or as Gump might say “peas and carrots”. Hutton and Prentiss went on to make several more films together, due a lot to the fact that she was tall and he was taller, but. their moments  on screen together are a hoot.

George Hamilton plays Merritt's love interest Ryder. Ryder is a millionaire who goes to Brown University, rides around in his grandfather's yacht and has eyes for Merritt. Hamilton is playing the usual George Hamilton type of role, but for this film it's perfect as Ryder Smith would probably be just like George or vice versa. His scenes with Merritt are very cleverly written. He attempts to find a way to seduce her, but knows she is way too intelligent to fall for the standard pick-up lines. And just like Tuggle and TV,  Ryder and Merritt  have good chemistry.

Frank Gorshin plays a nearly blind dialectic  jazz musician named Basil, whom Angie seems to end up with by default. Good Comedy provided  by Basil and Angie, Dialectic Jazz provided by Pete Rugolo.

Unfortunately, all poor Melanie can end up with is a couple of wicked evil guys who want her as their own private sex kitten. John Brennan as Dill and Rory Harrity as Franklin manage to be sleazy enough to do what they have to do, than you can forget them both which apparently most people did as evidenced by their lack of screen credits.  A delightful Barbra Nichols shows up  as the sea nymph.  And as TV puts it, “She has great lungs.” Chill Wills plays a police captain who only has a few brief scenes, but they’re all hilarious.

Where this film excels is in the performances and chemistry of its young cast and whether it was by design or accident there is no mistaking the camaraderie as they all appear tuned in to the same wave length. Where it sometimes falters  is in some of it's very out dated premises about relationships between men and women. Despite the fact that they are all college women, Where the Boys Are would still have us believe that the only thing these women are interested in is finding the right guy who will wrap an 18 kt. slab of gold around their finger. Even Merritt, who is outspoken early in the film, ends up seeming to want nothing more than to get Ryder and his millions down the aisle. Then again, in 1960 there may have been millions of women who would have loved to hitched their caboose to Ryder’s wagon.

Where The Boys Are falls back on the old  premise that if you hop into the sack with a guy before marriage, you'll suffer severe penalties for it and is hammered home by the consequences that befall poor Melanie. Because she makes the "mistake" of doing what nice girls shouldn't, she is punished for it. One would have thought that as forward thinking as the screenplay writer seemed to have been in the early part of the film, he would have taken a chance on going in a different direction. But again, that was then and this is now and it’s easy to criticize something that took place 47 years ago.

My advice is to try to overlook the parts of the film that may now seem dated. Instead, enjoy the witty dialog, the on screen chemistry of the stars, the Florida scenery, and listen to Connie Francis belt out Where The Boys Are a few times. Heck, that alone is enough for me to have no choice but to  give this film a B.  In the video below, Connie Francis and Paula Prentiss take a look back at Where the Boys Are.


Where The Boys Are–A Video Retrospective


Monday, August 15, 2011

Clyde’s Movie Palace: The Poseidon Adventure (1972)


Directed by Ronald Neames

Starring

Gene Hackman
Ernest Borgnine
Red Buttons
Roddy McDowell
Shelley Winters
Jack Albertson
Pamela Sue Martin
Christopher Shea
Carol Lynley
Stella Stevens
AND
Leslie Nielsen as the Captain

(Clyde note:  This is the first review in which I took some screen shots and captioned them.  Eventually, it would become my trademark, along with going more in depth into a film then what you would usually get.  It would also lead me to having to abandon the project because of the time and effort it would take to write one single review.  Something work and health weren’t very understanding about.  Not sure why I captioned the screen shots because I love this movie.  Still it certain things always kind of tickled me which in turn, probably inspired me. And on another note, this is in fact an adaptation of a review I posted on IMDB.  It had a 26 out of 36 approval rating.  As I post those adaptations here, I am in the process of removing them from the IMDB.)

 

Many people credit The Poseidon Adventure with having started the disaster movie genre of the 70’s. It actually was the release of the film Airport two years earlier that gave life to the idea of throwing an all star cast together then cooking up some disastrous event for the lives of their characters to become intertwined as they do their best to stay alive before the end credits roll across the screen. 
At any rate, the disaster in Airport didn’t actually take place until the latter part of the film. Deciding that was too little too late, Producer and Director Irwin Allen decided to move the disaster more towards the beginning of the film and have his all star cast work from there. It certainly would seem to have got the job done because on a budget of just $5,000,000 in 1972 dollars, Poseidon would go on to take in the princely sum of $93 millions. That was quite a haul in those days, and although I’m not sure what that would be equal to in today’s dollars, it would probably be a few truckloads of moolah that even Donal d Trump wouldn't sneeze at.



But Allen didn’t hedge his bets either. He lined up several Academy Award winners because it doesn’t hurt to be able to put “starring Academy award winner” next to a good deal of your cast on the theater marquee or in the newspaper ads. For Poseidon, he lined up Academy Award Winner Gene Hackman as Reverend Frank Scott (The French Connection), Academy Award Winner Shelley Winters as Belle Rosen (The Diary of Anne Frank, A Patch of Blue), Academy Award Winner Jack Albertson as Manny Rosen (The Subject was Roses), Academy Award Winner Red Buttons as James Martin (Sayonara), and Academy Award Winner Ernest Borgnine as Det. Lt. Mike Rogo (Marty.) But the fact that you’ve won one of those gold statuette dust collectors has absolutely no bearing on whether you get to live or die. In disaster films, all bets are off.

Along with all the award winners you have to fill up the passenger list with other actors and actresses who may be hanging around the studio in need of a job or perhaps to polish all those gold plated statues the other cast members keep on the mantle. Along for the ride are Carol Lynley as Nonny, Stella Stevens as Linda Rogo, Roddy McDowell as Acres, Pamela Sue Martin as Susan Shelby and Eric Shea as her over bearing, obnoxious, pain in the ass little brother Robin. Most disaster films always have the obnoxious kid lurking about somewhere. I think the writers feel it’s necessary to punish the audience since the cast has to go through such hell to entertain us.

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Then there’s the special case of Leslie Nielsen. In the credits and on the posters he was listed as Leslie Nielsen as the Captain behind everybody else. If you have a good magnifying glass you can find it but you don’t have to be Sylvia Browne on the Montel Williams show to know that your character won’t be hanging around long.

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A good deal of the first half hour of Poseidon Adventure is spent letting us get familiar with the characters and how they ended up on this ship of fools so that when they become nothing more than shark fodder, you’ll be able to shed a tear or two and wallow  in their misery.

Reverend Scott is being booted overseas for having some strange ideas about God and preaching. He goes around shouting pithy phrases such as “It's to let God know that you have the guts and the will to do it alone. Resolve to fight for yourselves, and for others, for those you love. And that part of God within you will be fighting with you all the way.”

 

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In other words, if you can’t help yourself you’re out of luck babe!  Hackman’s Scott reminds me of an earlier day Tom Cruise before most of us even knew there was such an animal. He's the kind of guy who could talk you into becoming a Scientologist or a Jehovah's Witness all in the same day. He’s so good playing the part that if they ever make a biographical film of Cruise’s life; I’d consider Hackman immediately for the role. Don't worry though, he doesn't jump any couches on Oprah, but he does have a swinging finale.

As for the Rogos, they are here on their honeymoon or possibly just  a vacation, I’m not sure which. They act like a married couple who has been married forever. Mike Rogo bellyaches, yells, screams, and complains incessantly. Linda screams back at him letting him know he’s being a big jerk about 125 per cent of the time.

As it turns out, Linda was a former prostitute that Mike had to arrest over and over again to get her to marry him. It’s as good an explanation as there could possibly be because there is nothing else on earth that would have brought together this match made in hell.

The Rosen’s are headed over to Israel to see their daughter and their grandson whom they’ve never met. They like to hand out dating advice to the lovelorn with the lovelorn in this case being lonely the single and lonely  Martin, who has spent just about every day of his life as a haberdasher. Frankly, I think the Rogo’s needed their advice more than Martin.

Susan and annoying kid brother Robin are headed overseas to be with their parents. Once you meet Robin, you’ll understand why the parents went over alone and you’ll have the utmost sympathy for poor Susan.

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I thought Nonny would be going overseas to see if she could get her named change. I mean, how would you like to go through life having everyone call you Nonn? But that wasn’t the case. She is traveling with her brother as part of his band and just happens to betheir lead singer. And, she also has the privilege to lip synch the academy award winning song The Morning After. No the film credits have never said nor have they been rewritten to say starring the academy award winning song The Morning After but who knows. They could, and start a new trend. 

(Note: I had done my own edit of the song along  with some nifty  clips.  But stupid crap being what it is on youtube, some dumbass from the studio decided that the fact that I was promoting his idiotic song and his movie, was just the wrong way to go.  Only dumbass overpaid executives are allowed to decide whether to promote their product or not.  So like most youttube clips worth their salt it was removed.  But, where one clip comes down, someone else runs one right back up.  So here it is again by another user, until that overpaid executive from the studio happens by.  In that case the only thing it will say is that “Due to copyright infringement, this video has been removed.”  No shit, Sherlock.  I may check in on it later.  Then again, probably not.  But mine was better Sad smile)



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And then there's Nonny's brother. There's something really weird about her attachment to him. Yeah, yeah, I know, brotherly love and all that kind of crap. In the original music video, there was a clip of that bit of business.  Now you’ll have to put your own DVD and see all that blissful weirdness for yourself.

Akers is just part of the crew. However, the fact that we never get to know him on a first name basis, added to the fact that Akers has a bum leg tells you he’s only a hair of a notch better off than poor Leslie Nielsen.

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The upside down sets of the ship are well done for the most part, although at some stages it does appear as if they could be in an upside down warehouse just as easily as in an upside down ship. When the ship capsizes, we mainly see what happens in the ball room as bodies roll around, fall around and end up mostly dead but it’s well done for a film over thirty years old. It was a lot more impressive in 1972 then it will be for today’s CGI jaded film goers, but it still won’t detract from the overall experience.

There’s also some fun stuff that goes on in Poseidon. You just know that any film that has Shelley Winters being shoved up a Christmas Tree while wearing a formal, then later has her diving like Greg Louganis and swimming like Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan is worth viewing. Then there’s Susan, who has the foresight to wear a hot pants outfit under her outfit, you know just in case she happens to be in a capsized ship. And I can’t think of any other film where you keep praying for Stella Stevens to climb another ladder since she is only dressed in a pair of panties and her husband’s shirt. That’s what I call redeeming social value.

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As they make their way to the top of the bottom of the Poseidon, there are the usual tragic deaths. But here is what I learned, with the warning that if by some odd chance you’ve never viewed the film, there are definite spoilers in this educational experience.  And now with that silly disclaimer done, you can read on just like you were going to do anyway.    (but the disclaimer  keeps the internet spoiler patrol off my case):

You can always just about bet that the most annoying characters (Ernest Borgnine, Eric Shea) will make it, I think because in some perverse way the screen writer wants to punish the audience. If you're married, one of the partners has to go (Stella Stevens, Shelley Winters), as it just wouldn't be fair for both of you to make it! We also learn that if you have a bad injury to your leg (Roddy McDowell) you can kiss your ass goodbye so that you won't slow down the rest of the cast as they journey on their way to freedom. And of course, a lifetime bachelor who just met up with his possible future wife (Red Buttons & Carol Lynley) has to make it also, just so the audience knows somebody gets out and has a happy ending. And whatever happens, don't let a teenage girl (Pamela Sue Martin) get a crush on you, even if you are a lead character (Gene Hackman) because we know that relationship ain't goin' nowhere!

The thing about Poseidon Adventure is that you’ll have fun watching it in spite of yourself and in spite of some of the silly stuff going on. Everybody on board plays their roles to the hilt, as if they take everything that’s happening around them too seriously. As long as you know it’s all just for fun, you should get a big kick out of it if you’ve never seen it. Even after all of these years, I still do and if I can do that I have no choice but to give The Poseidon Adventure my grade of B. Heck, if the obnoxious kid hadn’t been on board, I might even have seen my way through to giving it a B+. Maybe next time.  For now, man overboard!