Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Day in the Life: Crazy weather for September in the desert.

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I took this picture after The Girlfriend and I had left Marie Callendars.  I had hoped to do more mobile blogging when I started rejuvenating my blog.  Unfortunately, Google/Blogger does not make that easy.  You can upload a picture, or text,  but apparently getting them both on the same page (other than the title) is a bit of a problem.  Either that or I’m not doing it write.  So because of it’s limitations, I haven’t been able to.

I had given thoughts of switching my blog to WordPress, because apparently they do have a mobile application that as far as I know works.  But since I already purchased the domain name through Google, that became a bit more problematic.  Anyway, the gist of that picture is of course, that it was raining, and there was lightening as well.  You just don’t see much of that this time of year in this area.  It was just a little dab of moisture, but any type  of precipitation in these parts is treated as if it were a Tsunami.  Here’s another picture I took outside of the theater.  And you can already tell I forgot to take the good camera with me.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Clyde’s Movie Palace: Home Alone (1990), Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (1992)

 
Christmas Marquee
 
 
Home Alone
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
starring
Macauley Culkin
Joe Pesci
Daniel Stern
John Heard
Roberts Blossom
Catherine O’Hara
Devin Ratray


 

I was thumbing through some old video reviews of a famous critic who shall remain nameless (Roger Ebert), and his former partner, now deceased, who will also remain nameless (Gene Siskel) when I decided to get their take on the original Home Alone. I tried to guess whether either one of them or both of them would give it the old thumbs-up-a-roonie. It’s just a little thing I happen to do on that web site to see how well I know my critics and their tastes. It’s not a very easy task because as you know, the only thing consistent about some movie critics (like me) is their inconsistency in their criteria that they use to judge films. I finally predicted that one of the nameless critics (Ebert) would give it a mild thumbs up, and the other critic (Siskel) whom I always considered a bit more staid and proper when dishing out his weekly reviews would not like it at all. I was wrong in my prediction of course. They both hated it. Oh well, you win some you lose a few.

Their main complaint with Home Alone was that it was totally unrealistic. That’s understandable criticism and certainly worthwhile………..wait a minute…are you freakin kidding me?  Unrealistic?  A movie about an eight year old kid being left at home to fend for himself for three days while warding off the most bumbling burglars ever to hit the big screen with traps even the most creative adult couldn’t imagine is not supposed to be realistic!  Shhheeesh.  It’s just supposed to be entertaining!  Talk about your two Christmas Critic Scrooges!


 


Let’s face it, most Christmas movies are not going to have a whole lot of realism involved in the plot. Generally speaking there is always going to be a certain amount of fantasy, and if not that then the film will be full of the most manipulative plot contrivances imaginable to try and tug at your Christmas heart strings. It’s a time honored tradition that has continued year after year, although quality wise that tradition has taken quite a beating with some of the latest entries like Christmas with the Kranks and Jingle All the Way.

McCauley Culkin

 

In case somehow you missed it, the original Home Alone centered around young Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin), whom through a series of plot contrivances is left alone in the family’s two story upscale home in an equally upscale neighborhood while his parents, brothers, sisters and cousins one and all go flying off to Paris. And having been left alone, Kevin wastes no time celebrating the event by invading his brother Buzz’s room, jumping on the beds, watching movies he was banned from and as Kevin describes it, watching trash and eating rubbish.

It is not long however before Kevin realizes that there are a couple of inept burglars, Marv (Daniel Stern) and Harry (Joe Pesci), breaking into all the homes in the neighborhood and that the McAllister resident is tops on Harry’s list.  It is up to Kevin not only to grow up in a hurry, but to find a way to protect the family homestead from invasion.

Joe Pesci

 

Daniel Stern

Meanwhile, his parents Peter (John Heard) and Kate (Catherine O’Hara) realize that Kevin is missing.  So in Kate’s desperate attempt to return home any way she can, she ends up hitching a ride in a U-Haul with a Polka band led by the late John Candy. Since he is home alone with no brothers and sisters in sight,  Kevin is forced to face his fears.   In this case his fear comes not only from the furnace in the basement, but also in the form of his next door neighbor Marley (Roberts Blossom) who is rumored to be a deranged maniacal mass murderer.

Roberts Blossom

I have to admit that the first time I saw Home Alone, I was taken aback by the way McCulkin’s Kevin had been written in the opening scenes. He seemed to be quite the obnoxious little brat, or to put it another way:  Everything I hate about kids in movie all rolled into one.  But once we see the treatment he receives not only at the hands of his assholish brother Buzz (Devin Ratray), his cheapskate Uncle Frank ( Garry Bamman), and the rest of the McAllister clan, it doesn’t take us long to begin to sympathize with the little tyke.  It also helps when your kid actor turns out to be able to act up a storm and be both funny and sympathetic at the same time.

At some point when you were a kid didn’t you just wish that for one day, maybe two, you could run amuck and do whatever you wanted to with no parents scolding you or sending you to the attic as Kevin’s parents do?  Of course, such a reality in real life would be a lot different. The Kid would be scared to death, the parents would probably be brought up on child endangerment charges, and the police would have found the kid right off the bat and hauled him down to children services to be stashed away in a foster home.  But would anyone besides Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel want to have that realistic lump of coal in their Christmas stocking?

Nothing in this film is suppose to be believable. It was never meant to be anything more than a Holiday Feel Good fun fest with what I think are some of the funniest sight gags since Moe was last seen beating the crap out of Curly and Larry.  Hell, we know Kevin is in no real danger, just as we knew the stooges were going to be around for the next film short.  So why be hell bent on expecting realism in a fairy tale such as this?

When Kevin is keeping his precocious self busy hammering Marv and Harry with icy walk ways torches, heated doorknobs, tacks, , broken tree ornaments and, swinging paint cans, it’s a page straight out of the Three Stooges playbook. It would not surprise me one bit if writer John Hughes and director Chris Columbus weren’t fans. And just like the stooges, Harry and Marv always seem none the worse for wear and manage to magically pop back up to harass poor Kevin once again.

Buzz


And no matter what later opinion you may have had of him, it is Macaulay Culkin that made these films what they are. He was simply the right child actor in the right role in the right place at the right time. Most kids would have made the mistake of being either too precocious or would have have gone in another direction playing Kevin as annoying and obnoxious brat (Problem Child anyone?). But whether attribute it to director Columbus or Culkin’s acting ability, there is no mistaking that he found the right balance. Sadly, if it hadn’t been for his overbearing and overly greedy show business stage door father who eventually soured Culkin on Hollywood and soured the studios on him, there's no telling what Culkin could have done as witnessed by the fine turn he did in his supporting role in Saved as the wheel chair bound Roland.

Bigger Playground


As for the sequel, it was practically a scene for scene rehash of the first movie, with New York City providing the stage for Kevin’s antics instead of his Chicago Homestead. Of course the wet bandits are back once again, the traps are much more elaborate, Brenda Fricker is the bird women substituting for Roberts Blossom as the person Kevin is first afraid of then befriends. Tim Curry is on hand as the Hotel Manager who quickly become suspicious of the little kid whose parents are never around, Rob Schneider is an obnoxious bell hop which is a fitting role for him, and Eddie Bracken hangs around as owner of a toy store. But you don’t mess around with success do you when your original raked in the cash to the tune of almost $600 million world wide.

Brenda Fricker


The bottom line is this: Younger kids will always love these films, most adults will be mildly amused at them, and failing that they will at least find them tolerable while the kiddies watch. And they may just put you in the Holiday Spirit. As for Home Alone 3, it too had basically the same premise as Number One and Number Two. However, minus Culkin and the Wet Bandits, it was nothing more than a lump of coal in your Christmas Stocking. Then again, Ebert, who gave Number one two and a half stars, and number two a weak two stars, somehow decided Home Alone Number 3 was a masterpiece at 3 stars. Now what was I saying about consistently inconsistent critics?

But unlike Mr. Ebert, yours truly is a model of inconsistent consistency which leads me no choice but to give Home Alone a B+ and Home Alone II a C+.  Both movies are now out on Blu-ray and the original film has Culkin and Director Christopher Columbus doing a commentary.  I certainly will have to be seeing about an upgrade for that one.  And here is a special video I made for a Sims story I wrote quite a few years ago.  It’s Bette Midler singing Somewhere in my Memory which you will readily recognize as the theme Home Alone. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Road Trip: Fright Night (2011)

CIMG0042It was about a week and a half ago that I had to go into Bakersfield for the usual Doctor nonsense.  This meant having to waste another one of my sick days which have steadily dissipated until I’m now  down to an empty war chest.  In other words, my demand has savaged the limited supply. 

My reasons for going were threefold.  Reason one for the trip was to make another stop at  Truckstop Radiation, but this time for an ultra sound on the old Kidneys.   Reason two was back to the neurosurgeon for some tests.  Reason three was to head over to the bank and straighten out a little matter of an overdraft that shouldn’t have been.  However since this is post is not about all that nonsense, we’ll dispense with the subject matter until a later date.

It was Honorable Son Number 3’s day off, so he had gone along with me for the ride.  It wasn’t too  late by the time we had finished with business, so not wanting to waste the 30+ mile trip into Bakersfield we decided to see a late afternoon movie.  

We settled on Fright Night, and would have preferred to see it in 3D.  Time and money were not on our side.  There wasn’t a 3D showing at any of the theaters until the early evening.   I didn’t particularly care to hang around in Bakersfield that long.  It was way too hot to drive around in my air conditioner-less car, and besides, my legs and back weren’t in any shape for cruising the malls for two or three hours.    I don’t mind paying the extra three bucks on top of a matinee ticket, but didn’t particularly care for adding it to the top of two full price tickets. 

Since the Edwards Regal was the closest theater to our location and had a showing within the hour we headed there.  Being a weekday afternoon with school back in session, the place was rather sparsely populated as usual, so even after getting our tickets, we had some time to kill.

Having for once remembered to take the better camera with me, I decided to fill up some blog space.  Yea, you’ve seen this shit before, but those pictures were taken with my i-phone which only has a toy camera in it.  I mean can’t you tell the difference in the quality of the photograph?  Doesn’t it just fill you with awe?  And aren’t these next photographs marvelously awesome?  And don’t you just want to skip all this silliness and get to the review?

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So after farting around outside for a few moments we went in, got our drinks, and were the first to enter the screening room.  I don’t know how many times I’ve been to the Edwards, but I don’t really remember any of the rooms being the size of some of the cigar boxes at the Valley Plaza.  Maybe I’ve just been lucky or maybe I haven’t gone when the movie is old enough.   But we were in screening room 13 and because of the better camera, you can actually see the inside of the thing.  Appropriate though that this film was in auditorium 13, don’t you think?  And although it wasn’t the biggest show room, it was way more than adequate.  And I didn’t have to Photoshop the sign because of the glare this time.

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Bakersfield Regal Edwards Screening Room 132

Honorable Son No. 3 took a shot of the screen as well, but he did it with the flash so that picture is no better than the ones I took with the I-phone.  Maybe next time.  Come to think of it though, this is the first time that I’ve actually seen the inside of one of these things thanks to the power of flash.  Usually it’s pitch black.  But all kidding aside, I hope to broaden my horizons a bit when it comes to theaters and head out of town once in a while.

So why did we decide to see Fright Night instead of exposing ourselves to the wonders of Glee 3D?   It was a tough decision, comparable to  choosing between eating a banana split and having a tooth pulled. 

When I first heard about this remake of the original film, I wasn’t exactly keen to see it.  I barely remember the old Roddy McDowell film, having seen it only once or twice when it first came out on video tape.  You do remmeber video tape don’t you?  The fact that it did not implant itself in my memory cells is never a good sign though.

Then there was the fact that the teaser/trailer didn’t really impress me much.  I didn’t feel this overwhelming need to count down the days until the release.  In fact, up until the week that Fright Night made it’s debut, I hadn’t thought about it at all.  But during that week a couple of things changed my mind.

First was the fact that it was R rated.  It’s not too often that you get an R-rated horror movie these days that’s worth watching unless it’s a brutal sadistic rape, sex, and sadism film like the endless supplies of Saw movies or Hostel.  Most producers and Movie Studios want the writers and directors to water things down to at least a PG-13 rating.  My problem with diluted horror movies  is that  it’s tantamount to taking a gelding to a stud farm.  That crap just isn't happening.  There’s not much horror in a gore fest with no gore, no violence, and no F word. 

Another reason why I decided that I wanted to see Fright Night was the fact that it managed a 75 per cent approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes.  Unlike some people, I don’t live and die by the RT Critics tote board.  But for a horror film rehash to achieve that lofty score, there had to be something on the screen worth watching.  And the third reason?  Well, it isn't Twilight so any vampire movie that doesn’t have that word in the title is already ahead of the game.

Fright Night 4Fright Night 1Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin), is a former high school dweeb who lives in Vegas with his divorced mother Jane (Toni Collette).  They live next door to Jerry (Colin Farrell) who lives in a house with darkened windows and a dumpster in front of his house full of dry wall and other construction waste, although there appears to be no remodeling of Jerry’s home exterior.  Odd, but nothing to be particularly alarmed about. 

The reason Charlie is a former misfit is because he now dates Amy (Imogen Poots) one of the more popular, pretty, and very hot girls from his school.   If Fright Night wanted to go the way  of the usual movie clichés, the girl would always have an ulterior selfish and unknown motive for dating someone like Charley but we later find out that she actually likes Charley just because he is Charley, X-nerd.   How very odd.  I’m just not used to seeing that plot development. 

Fright Night 5I say ex-nerd though because Charlie used to be a High School outcast, but now he’s “almost” acceptable.  There are still a couple of assholes who aren’t too enamored with Charley, but they are even less enamored of Charley’s friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who is still a certified citizen of Nowheresville that needs to be pounded in the face on a daily basis.

But having graduated from Nerd City to regular teenager guy, Charley has little use for his old buddies.   So when Ed tries to convince Charley that his neighbor Jerry is a vampire who is responsible for the disappearance of their friend Adam, as well as the disappearance of several other students and citizens of the suburbs of Las Vegas, Charley gives him the brush off believing that Ed is still playing silly imaginary doofus type games with imaginary fictional movie characters.  It is only when Ed himself comes up missing that Charley begins to have second thoughts.  After a careful examination of Ed’s bedroom,  it doesn’t take long before Charley is convinced that Jerry is exactly what Ed said he was.

Fright Night 3In most films of this nature (think Disturbia), it’s at this point that Charley would begin doing weird goofy things and trying to convince everybody in the world there really are vampires, and then he would be ignored and ridiculed until the end of the movie when mom, girlfriend, and vampire are taken away for a bloodfeast at which time they are rescued by our hero who has proven he’s not crazy after all.  But thanks to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (WGTVSE) alumni and writer, Marti Noxon, the film takes an entirely different course.  Charley doesn’t spend an hour and a half of our time attempting to convince his mom and his girlfriend of anything.  In order to keep Amy out of danger, he gives her the brush off, and then only goes so far as to convince her mother not to have anything to do with their weird neighbor, but most of all not to invite him into the house.  Anybody who ever watched Buffy (WGTVSE) knows a vampire can’t come in unless you invite him.  But thanks to Jerry’s own missteps, we don’t have to wait until the end of the movie for Jane and Amy to believe that they and everybody else in Vegas are vampire fodder.

Fright Night 2Later, Jerry attempts to convince magician and self-proclaimed  vampire fighter extraordinaire Peter Vincent (David Tennant) to help him out.  But Vincent, having faced this nonsense before, wants no part of a vampire fight.  He’s happy enough just to do his special effects laden Vegas show, have sex with his bitchy mistress, and drink booze in between, all to his hearts content.  Of course you know from experience that eventually Vincent will be dragged into the fight one way or another.  How and why that happens is for you to discover on your own.

I can’t compare this film to the original.  It’s been too many years since I’ve seen that one, but I do plan on catching up with it again soon.  But even if that film had never been made, this version stands on it’s own.  It easily could have veered off track, but Director Gillespie doesn’t let that happen.  In comparable films (again think Disturbia), the story often is derailed by lingering on an uninteresting predictable romance making the vampire plot almost secondary.  I say, if you want to see that crap, watch Twilight. 

But in Fright Night, the relationship between Amy and Charley never overshadows the fact that this is first and foremost a vampire movie.  I liked Anton Yelchin’s performance as well.  He finds just the right balance between the old nerdy Charley, and the new improved Charley.  In another film, Toni Collette’s mom would have been nothing more than a disbelieving nag, but instead she’s witty, clever, and very aware of what’s going on in Charly’s life without interfering. 

Make no mistake though that it is Colin Farrell who makes Jerry such an entertaining adversary.  He doesn’t view Charlie as a very serious threat. After all how can a teenager dispense with someone who’s been around for hundreds of years and plans to be around for hundreds of more years.  Farrell’s Jerry seems more amused by Charlie than threatened by him.  He is the Cat to Charlie’s mouse.  Play with it for a while before you finish it off just in time for lunch. 

I had a very good time watching Fright Night.  A lot better than I thought I would and it was much more than I had bargained for.  So much so that I have no choice but to give it a grade of B+.  However, I do find it frustrating that this film has pretty much been buried at the box office.  By the time you read this, it may even be gone.   But there’s no explaining the choices of American theater patrons.  Maybe it’ll find an audience overseas or on home video.  I’m not sure if it will be available for home viewing by Halloween, but if it is, this would be the perfect film to headline your own Fright Night.

When we left the theater though, we noticed that the fountain was turned off.  The one I showed you in previous road trips. Instead, on the opposite side of it they were getting ready to have a concert of some sort.  I thought we would hang around a while and take some video but unfortunately all this band did was a warm up that went on endlessly, so we didn’t stay very long.  But here is what we saw anyway along with the trailer for Fright Night.  What other movie reviewer gives you a half-assed concert video along with everything else?  Name one. 

 

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Clyde’s Movie Palace: 27 Dresses (2008)

 27 Dresses Marquee
27 Dresses
starring
Katherine Heigl
James Marsden
Judy Greer
Malin Akerman
Edward Burns
 
(Clyde note:  This review was originally written back in January of 2008, so you’ll have to forgive the out of date references.  It has been updated somwhat, and contary to my previous posts, I somehow managed to come up with screen shots of Heigl wearing all 27 dresses)

Since Valentine’s day is just a scant 25 days away and because Clyde is a genuine All-American romantic kind of guy, I thought now would be as good of a time as any to take someone near and dear to my heart to a romantic movie or two, then come back here to the old blogoroonie and give everyone a full report. That someone whom I escorted of course would be The Girlfriend, who was overjoyed that I cared and loved her so deeply that I would give up a full day out of my three day weekend to escort her to 27 Dresses instead of wandering off alone to see Cloverfield. Okay, so maybe it didn’t exactly happen that way and maybe it was she who had to drag me off to see it, but there are worst ways to spend a Saturday.



For some guys,  admitting they  might really enjoy a chick flick is tantamount to being a traitor to your brethren, especially when there’s a giant monster of some sort eating the head off of the Statue of Liberty in the movie auditorium right across the hall. So I won’t admit to that. Instead I’ll just say that as romantic films that get the female juices flowing, 27 Dresses wasn’t half bad.  Actually, it was pretty damn good but just pretend you didn’t read that here.

It certainly wasn’t what I expected. When I first saw the preview a couple of weeks ago, I thought it might be a rollicking romantic screwball comedy. It turned out to be only about 10 per cent screwballish and 90 percent sweet, sad, and touching. In other words, it’s a combination that is guaranteed to make any woman’s heart go all aflutter.

Like  so many other of the several thousand romantic comedies that have come before it, 27 Dresses has the usual plot gimmick to help get us from Point A to Point B. And if all goes well, our hero and heroine will somehow overcome all obstacles to find true love by the time the credits roll or hopefully before I have to make a quick dash to the nearest restroom after downing a $150 dollar supersized large diet Coke.



27 Dresses 007Katharine Heigl plays Jane, a woman who just loves going to weddings, being a bridesmaid for her friends and in most cases being the go to person when it comes to making wedding arrangements.  Jane’s fascination and knack for helping with weddings came about soon after her mother died, when as a very young child she helped her sister find a bathroom, fix her hair, and used a bow to repair the bride’s wedding dress.
 
When we catch up with Jane as an adult, she is busy doing double duty as bridesmaids at two different weddings on the same night, requiring her to hire a taxi for the evening, and to shuttle back and forth between the two receptions changing in and out of the different bridesmaid dresses while riding in the back seat. It’s a hilarious sequence that sets the tone for the rest of the film even if it’s not particularly believable.
 
Enter Kevin (James Marsden). Kevin is a newspaper reporter whose present job consists of going to weddings and then writing about them. It’s a job he loathes, but we all have to make a living somehow don’t we? Frankly though, if my job consisted of being required to attend upscale weddings during the day and writing about it at night, then I wouldn’t be bitching, moaning, and groaning about it. I’d figure that life is damn good.
 
Later, we find out  that Kevin got dumped at the altar once when his bride-to-be ran away with his best friend so I suppose one could understand why it might make him more than a little grumpy.  Such an event wouldn’t discourage me one bit though, so maybe it’s a line of work I’ll be  looking into.   Unlike Kevin, I like weddings, just so long as they aren’t my own.   Anyway, I digress. Where was I?  Oh yeah, Kevin and Jane.
 
27 Dresses 0006

Before the night is over Jane is forced to share her Taxi with Kevin and it’s hate at first sight. However, after Jane departs for the evening Kevin discovers her daily planner and finds out that Jane has pretty much made a lifetime career out of being a bridesmaid. Twenty-seven times to be exact.  Kevin convinces his editor to let him write a story about Jane which if successful, will get him a promotion and one way ticket out of the Wedding of the Week Club.
 
27 Dresses Collage

One
reason Jane herself has never made it to the altar as the star of her own wedding is because she is carrying the torch for her boss George (Edward Burns). And no, it’s not a case of George not knowing that Jane exists. As far as George is concerned, Jane is indispensable. It’s just that he doesn’t see her as a love interest but does acknowledge that she can tie a neck tie like nobody’s business.  Jane hopes all of that will change someday, despite the fact that her co-worker and friend Casey (Judy Greer) is constantly nagging her to move on with her life.
 
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27 Dresses 00010
And as if all of that weren’t complicated enough, Jane’s beautiful younger sister Tess (Malin Akerman) promptly flies into town, meets Boss George, and quicker than you can say Dress Number 28, they begin dating and falling in love much to the chagrin of Jane. This of course leaves Jane and Kevin to begin dating even though she despises his cynical attitude towards marriage.
 
27 Dresses 000

So will George and Tess get married? Or will George realize that Jane is the girl for him? Will Kevin be the one to actually fall for Tess? Or does he only have eyes for Jane? Will Kevin write the story about Jane’s 27 appearances as a bridesmaid? And will it be published about the time his cynicism might be turning to love? Will George discover that Tess isn’t all she is cracked up to be and turn to Jane for comfort? Will Jane finally tire of being a bridesmaid and wedding planner all rolled into one? And will Izzy Stevens and George O’Malley  get back together again and have wild drunken sex once more? Oh sorry, but I am missing Grey’s Anatomy.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that you’ll be able to answer all of those above questions by the time 27 Dresses has completed about a fourth of it’s 107 minutes of running time. But chances are it won’t matter to you as most of the films in the romantic comedy genre usually are predictable by their very nature.
 
You’ll still find plenty to enjoy thanks to another strong performance by Katharine Heigl. It’s one thing to star in a film of this sort and to get a few laughs with some well written snappy dialogue, but Heigl manages to go beyond that. She has this wonderful ability to draw the audience into her character. You can readily identify with her, laugh with her, cry for her, be embarrassed for her, and to feel as sad and lonely as she seems to be in the early part of this movie.
 
We cheer her when she finally does take a stance, but we feel her remorse for having done so when it backfires to some extent. There are only a handful of actresses who can manage all of that, and do it all in one film. Sadly, at the rate her film career is taking off, I may eventually have to deal with the fact that Grey’s will be losing another one of its original and best cast members sometime soon. (Note:  this in fact did happen)
The supporting cast in this film aren’t exactly slouches either. Malin Akerman does a great job of making Tess the evil obnoxious sister that you’ll love to hate. James Marsden manages to somehow make his character believable as someone who is suppose to be a jerk on the outside, but yet gives indications that there is more to him than meets the eye. But best of the supporting players is Judy Greer as Jane’s best friend Casey. She has at least three of the films funniest moments including doing her best to literally knock some sense into Jane at one point.

The bottom line is that most romantic comedies are predictable. They are only successful when they have a good gimmick to make things interesting and when the script has enough witty moments to make you laugh occasionally.
 
But most importantly,  the actors have to make you care about them and their romantic dilemma, and to feel the same ranges of emotions that they are feeling on the screen. And thanks in large part to another fine effort by Katharine Heigl, 27 dresses certainly manages to do just that.  I really loved everything about this film, from beginning to end.   And when a film can achieve such lofty and worthy goals I have no choice but to give it my grade, which for 27 Dresses would be an A-.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Day in the Life: No More Mr. Nice Guy–I’ve loaned out my last DVD.

16921_27dressesI don’t think that I’m the hard ass that I sometimes make myself out to be on my blogs.  In real life, I’m a pretty generous guy.  But far too often that generosity is either taken for granted or is taken advantage of.  But despite that, most of the time I just let it go.  Not anymore.  At least not when it comes to my DVD’s and most certainly not my newer Blu-rays.

Over the past ten years I have built up quite and extensive library of DVD titles, and over the past year, I’ve been acquiring blu-rays which are  even more expensive.  Previously when friends and neighbors have asked to borrow them, I willingly obliged.  Over the past three years or so I’ve become quite a bit more hesitant to do so until finally I’ve now been pushed to just quit allowing it under any circumstances.

So today I decide to update one of my old reviews from Clyde’s Movie Palace and move it over here to Clyde’s Stuff.  The next one on the list was 27 Dresses, a movie I reviewed back in 2008 after having seen it in the theater.  So screen captures and pictures of what I could use were limited to me at that time.  So in order  to do my update, I dug out the DVD. 

The last time I had viewed the film was at the theater.  I had not viewed it since, and certainly  not on the DVD.  Part of that can be attributed to the fact that for the better part of the time since I obtained  the  DVD, the film was out as a loaner, first to one person and then the other.  So today when I got ready to update my review, I put the movie into my laptop to begin work.

I managed to watch the special features and  then proceeded to the main feature film.  Except when the DVD  gets to the Fox Logo, it no longer wanted to play.  Not in my laptop, and not in my blu-ray player although even if it had played in that device, it wouldn’t have done me much  good.  So I take it out to look at it and as sure as there is sunshine, it’s scratched all to hell and back, and scratched very badly.  And since the DVD had never been viewed in this house, that only leaves one other possibility.  I do my best to polish it up with the methods available to me, but to no avail.  I'll probably be able to get the DVD to play enough scenes for my update, but my main purpose was finding single screenshots of each of the bridesmaid dresses in the film.  Now, that may not be possible.

So I’m now fed up, although I was fed up even before today.  The last person to come over and borrow DVD’s swore up and down she would take care of them, and then swore she would have them back the very next day.  She did this because I flat out told her I didn’t want to lend anymore out because the last time I did it was to her mother, who kept the damn things for almost a year.  But she swore to me that wasn’t going to happen.  But I should have known better.

It was this girl’s mother that my girlfriend had once loaned a refrigerator to.  So when the one here at the house began breaking down, The girlfriend asked her if we could get it back.  She no longer had it.  I think her ex-husband absconded with it.  That’s all well and good.  Shit happens, even when there is no excuse for it.  But at the very least she could have offered to pay something for it or find a replacement.  Of course she didn’t.

It has been three weeks, and since this person who most recently visited my home like I’m the local library  is living on the coast, I have no clue when I’ll get the films  back or, if I  ever will for that matter.  Several of the discs were brand new and still had the original wrapping on them.  And of course this person never bothered to call to ask if she could keep them longer, or even offered up an explanation.  Here are the movies:  Hulk, Pirates of the Caribbean, Hellboy II, Scooby Doo, Spy Kids, Stand By Me, Hostel II, and Crank 2: High Voltage.  The Scooby Doo movies were a set that I had bought solely because of Sara Michelle Gellar who stars in both  of them.  Pirates of the Caribbean was an original two disc special edition.  Spy Kids, is in a sense, part of collection as well since I have the other two films.  Same way with Hellboy II, Hostel II.  And of course, Stand By Me is a revered classic.  Adios to them I guess.

But she’s not the only one.  A few months ago a friend of The Girlfriend’s who lives right across the street wanted to borrow the DVD’s of Avatar and Burlesque.  Technically, Burlesque belongs to The Girlfriend.  I bought it for her as a present since she liked the movie so well.  But there’s a caveat here.  The DVD’s were actually included with the Bu-ray’s that I had bought, so they had no case of their own.  So in order for this “friend” of my girlfriend’s to borrow them, I had to take the blu-ray discs out and put them in temporary cases.  This was probably at least two but more likely three months ago.  After the first month or so I sent The Girlfriend across the street to see what was up.  The explanation:  They had watched one and not the other.   That was over a month ago.  How long does it take to watch one damn movie?

One of the first DVD’s The Girlfriend and I ever bought was Hollow Man with Kevin Bacon.  She lent it to a friend of hers.  That was about 9 1/2 years ago.  I finally gave up and replaced it with a blu-ray copy about a year ago when I caught it on sale.  Now she can see Kevin Bacon’s penis in high definition.

Only two people that I can remember have ever returned the DVD’s when they said they would.  One was The Girlfriend’s sister, who used to take them to watch with her boyfriend.  She always brought them back within a day or two.  But then again, she lives here. 

The other one was a friend of The Girlfriend that borrowed the final season of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer (WGTVSE).  Before lending it out I made sure the Girlfriend knew that if it was not returned in mint condition  and on time, she would be springing for a new  final season and that it wouldn’t be cheap.  Movies are one thing, but a whole TV season is another.  Some of my TV series and movies cannot be replaces as they are out of print.

There have been numerous other problems as well.   A co-worker of the Girlfriend borrowed several seasons of The Shield.  It began to look like we would never get those back until the co-worker finally came across them in her garage.  She didn’t say what the fuck they were doing out in the garage.  But at that time seasons of The Shield were going for about $49 bucks a pop and it took over a year to get them back.   But the worst part of that was that I had edited a bunch of home movies, then put music and titles to them in them to make them really something special.  It was about six months worth of work.  This co-worker of the Girlfriend borrowed my only remaining copies (I had given the rest to family members) because she wanted to check out my work.  I put the films on two discs, Parts I & II, and she only returned one of them.  So now I no longer have a copy of that.

But I’m  done.  I have made that perfectly clear to my girlfriend.  I’ve bent over backwards to be agreeable for almost ten years.  And I’m doubtful that I’ll ever see the DVD’s that are now probably resting out at Pismo Beach somewhere.  The ones across the street?  Well, quite possibly I’ll get those back but that’s neither here nor there.  They shouldn’t have been there that long.

I also know that eventually I’m going to come across more scratched discs, and I’ll get pissed off about it again, just as I am now.  I am not Blockbuster, I am not Netflix, and I am not Amazon.  I can’t afford to keep an endless supply on hand, and replacing them is damn expensive.

I know there are others out there like myself though who have a large library of films.  What do you do when friends want to borrow your DVD’s?  Do you relent and let them, because you don’t want to piss them off and are afraid they’ll hold a grudge?  In my case, all these people were either old friends or relatives  of The Girlfriend and her deceased husband, so I really felt like I had to go the extra mile to win them over.  so maybe that’s why I went along with it for such a long time.  Or are your friends different and  they all return them in a decent interval and in the same condition they left your household.  Lucky you.  But I guess since we live in a disposable society, some people think everything is disposable.  Even if it doesn’t belong to them. 

May I Have The Envelope Please: With Six You Get Eggroll, Do Not Disturb, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

Two more Doris Day movies, including one that was her last feature film, and a film that should have been much better than it was round out this week’s Netflix selections.  Let’s get busy.

Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

The best thing about The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is Dolly Parton.  The worst thing is….well take your pick.  This could have been a memorable big screen musical, but instead it’s just a a goofy reminder of a good idea gone sour. 

Everybody  on the planet, unless they just dropped in from Mars,  knows that  Dolly Parton has big boobs.  In Whorehouse, Dolly as Madame Mona is photographed and costumed with tight corsets in such a way that her assets are overemphasized to the umpteenth degree that it looks more  grotesque  than sexy.  I guess it was an artistic decision by someone who had an overwhelming preoccupation with Parton’s mammaries, but it’s hard to say who.  Could have been the director, may have been the cinematographer, possibly the costume designer or perhaps they were all in this conspiracy together.    Director Colin Higgins had also worked with Parton in 9 to 5, where it was her comedic skills that shined instead of the Mountain Twins, so he should have known better.

And Parton sparkles  at times in this film as well, mostly in her musical numbers, including a cute little duet she wrote herself called, “Sneakin’ Around” that she does with Reynolds.  Unfortunately, when the music stops, the film dies a slow painful death, and were the ones that suffer.  Humor is practically non existent, and with a less than believable romance between Mona and Ed Earl, there’s not much else to recommend this concoction.

Reynolds plays sheriff Ed Earl as if he just walked off the set of Cannonball Run or Smokey and the Bandit, a shtick that may have worked in those films but does nothing at all to further his acting credentials here.  To say his his chemistry with Parton is lacking, would mean that there was at least some small indicator that there was something there in the first place, when in fact there is none.

Along for the ride are Burt’s old buddies, Jim Nabors and Dom DeLuise.  Nabor’s role as Deputy Fred, who is also the film’s narrator, could have been left on the cutting room floor and nobody would have noticed.  He adds nothing to the film and will leave you puzzled as to what purpose there was to put him in the movie in the first place.   Nabors, whose biggest asset is his singing voice, does not sing at all.  So go figure.  But maybe you’re a big Gomer Pyle fan and it’ll work for you.  I’m a Pyle fan, and I still think his character stunk.

DeLuise, plays self-righteous moral crusader Melvin P. Thorpe  in the same over the top comedic vein that he plays practically every thing else he was ever  in, and simply imported that character from one film to the next.  It’s just so ridiculously unbelievably weird, idiotic and gratingly obnoxious, that you don’t know whether to blame him, director Higgins, or the trio of writers of which Higgins was one of as well.  What ever satirical inference the character may have had, it’s totally lost in a big side of DeLuise Canned Ham.  A shame that such an opportunity was lost especially when you consider that the title of this film was censored in some states and towns.  It would have been almost poetic if the film had growled back at the real moral idiots out there trying to tell us what we can or cannot watch.

The film’s biggest shining moment is Charles Durning in a small part as the governor.  He does a terrific singing and dancing number called “The Sidestep” that is a send up  of every politician ever to run for office. It gives you some indication of what this film should have been:  A biting humorous satire on political moralizing.   Instead  there is not enough Durning  and way too much of Reynolds, Boobs, Gomer, and DeLuise.  So why rent the film?   For Durning of course, and the other musical numbers that are at least fun if way over produced.  That’s the great thing about DVD’s.  You can skip to the good parts.  On the other hand if you have to do that I have no choice to render my grade of a C-.

Do Not Disturb

I really have to cut Doris Day some slack in regards to some of these films she was in during the latter stages of her career.  If you know the history of Doris Day, then you know that her husband/business manager/embezzler/Svengali Marty Melcher, would stick her in just about anything to make a buck.  But no matter how flimsy the script was, she always seemed to manage to rise above the material.  And that’s pretty much the case with Do Not Disturb, a film I had never seen until renting it from Netflix.  Frankly, the synopsis on the envelope makes the movie sound much better than it is, so kudos to whoever wrote it or to whatever web site they copied it from.  They should win a Pulitzer.

With a few tweaks in the script here and there, this film could almost be the sequel to the last Doris Day film we received from Netflix, The Glass Bottom Boat, except for the  fact that this film was  released the previous year.   At least if this were the aftermath of Glass Bottom Boat, we would have some reason and at least a modicum of understanding as to  why Janet (Doris Day) and Mike (Rod Taylor) actually walked down the aisle together.   A drunken honeymoon in Vegas perhaps?  At least in Paris, Janet shows us  how that might have been a possibility.

When they are together, they do nothing but argue.  Mike shows little or no patience with Janet, even when she’s trying to do her best to make him a nice home.  They don’t trust each other. He’s never at home except to sleep, or get him some.   Everything they do is misinterpreted, misunderstood, or taken completely out of context by one another.  I almost suspected the movie would end in divorce court, and in fact that subject matter does come up a couple of times but is quickly resolved when some little something, such as a late arriving telegram, clears the air even if only temporarily until the next scene.

There is a big long scene in Paris that would be great if Janet and her “fantasy man,”  Paul (Sergio Fantoni) could stop to  admire the scenery, but most of their time is spent in a café and in an antiques shop finding new ways for Paul to get her drunk so he might seduce her.  Or at least I think that’s what is on his mind.  The movie isn’t exactly clear.  Call it totally unnecessary ambivalence.  

I can’t say that Taylor and Day have chemistry in this film, because despite their billing, they spend very little time on screen together except to argue and bicker.  And of the Rod Taylor films I’ve seen, this is perhaps his worst performance in any of them.  The whole shebang is a total bore, not funny at all,  and unfortunately not really worth your time unless you are a big Doris Day fan. 

That being said, I will mention that the colorful outfits designed for Day by Ray Afghayan are superb.  I mention that because it’s the one thing in this film that stands out.  A lot of times these costume designers from the fifties and sixties  will put the leading lady in straight jackets so to speak.  I know it’s not much to recommend a movie on, but at least that’s something.  And it does help save it from being a total fail which means I have no choice but to give Do Not Disturb a grade of D.

With Six You Get Eggroll

With Six You Get Eggroll is the last film Doris Day ever starred in before she went on to do series television.  I would like to say that she went out on a high note, but I can’t.  If you’ve seen the movie, Yours, Mine, and Ours, with Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda, then you already know the plot except for the fact that there's a much smaller number of obnoxious brats littering the screen.  Instead of 18 little Hellions running amok, we only get four, so that in itself is a big plus.

The movie actually starts out rather well with the slowly developing romance between Abby (Doris Day) and Jake (Brian Keith).  In fact, if they had just made the entire movie about that, it probably would have been a  pretty good experience for all concerned including yours truly.  I don’t know why Brian Keith wasn’t cast more often as a leading romantic type, but he was certainly up to the task. 

Unfortunately for our two lovebirds and us, the kids aren’t exactly jumping with joy  about the whole romance thing going on with their parents.  Having one kid around can reduce the ardor level of a couple of passionate adults by about ten percent, so if you multiply that times 6, well…. you get my point.

So instead of just sitting the kids down and reading the little tykes and the big teenage tykes  the riot act, the parents sneak around as much as they can so as not to hurt the little offspring’s sensitive sensibilities.  Most of the time when  they sneak, it’s to  a drive-in diner for coffee where the only person that works seems to be Herbie Fleck (George Carlin).  And although Abby and Jake get annoyed with his presence, I didn’t because I thought he was the funniest thing going in this film.

Eventually one night when the kids are away camping or something, Abby invites Jake into the house out of the rain, and we are supposed to take it for granted that they do the nasty.  But it’s alright because by now it’s 1968, Day’s Abby is a widow with kids so it’s not exactly like this would be unexplored territory for her character, even if we are unnerved a bit by the thought of our favorite movie virgin having a late night liaison out of wedlock.  I guess we all have to grow up sometime.

Fortunately, whatever they did in that rainstorm behind those closed doors, it was something they liked doing because they want to do it again…and again…..and again.  But it’s harder and harder to sneak around without the little wee folk  catching on and being under foot.  So Abby and Jake decide to do the only thing they can do which is to elope.  Unfortunately this act also drives the movie into a ditch bigger than the one Obama claims the Repugnicans drove the economy into and this movie never recovers either.  Most of the rest of the film is about Abby and Jake being  in a quandary over which house they are  to reside in, and then trying to get all the kids to just get along with each other and to love and cherish their new parentage.  Fat chance of that.

The first half of the film that concentrates on the romance is done very well for the most part.  But,  Barbra Hershey, who stars as Jake’s spoiled daughter Stacey, give absolutely  no indication of where her acting career might go after this film.  Most of her screen time is taken up by pouting, acting like a spoiled brat, or being cold and distance.  But to me, her emotional range seemed stuck in  the cold and distant gear.

John Findlater as Abby’s oldest son Flip, fares pretty well in the opening five minutes when we see him working at his mother’s lumber yard.  Then it’s all down hill from there as he become just another pain-in-the-ass kid out to keep his mother from getting any exercise between the sheets.

This film is also a who’s who of future TV series inhabitants and character actors.  Pat Carroll, who was absolutely memorable as the Sea Witch in The Little Mermaid, shows up and is her usual funny self.  And keep your eye out for:  Jamie Farr (MASH), William Christopher (MASH), Alice Ghostly (Bewitched), and Allen Melvin (The Brady Bunch). 

And one last thing.  I don’t know whose decision it was to use different colored swipes for some scene transitions, but they are awful.  This is hard to explain unless you’ve seen the film, but there are times when the scene switches where some idiot, probably the film editor, decided to have the scene slide to a color screen (red, blue, yellow, or green, take your pick) then cutting directly into the next scene from there.  It’s awful and distracting, and makes you wish someone would go in and re-edit the film putting in normal fades and wipes.  Hell, I’d do it for free.

So two actors who do very well together in the first half, some good character actors, a believable romance, and George Carlin fall into the plus side of the ledger.  The predictable second half, obnoxious kids, terrible editing, cold, distant Hershey, and an atrocious ridiculous  chase scene that leads to the final fade out fall into the minus side of the ledger.  So adding up the pluses and subtracting the minuses, I have no choice but to give this film a C-.

And in case you were wondering, the title simply refers that when six people dine together at a Chinese Restaurant, you get free eggrolls.  Now you can sleep in peace with that mystery solved.  Let this video take you off to bed and cheer you up.