15 items from 2014
Review Billy Grifter 3 Mar 2014 - 07:03
In a base with many floors, we venture down to Level X in this week’s Helix...
This week I’m not going to spend much of my allotted review hacking away at the bad acting, poor dialogue and silly plot points. That’s not only because I’m getting sorely bored with that, but in general this story was mostly devoid of Helix’s worst excesses.
With the removal of Constance Sutton, the plot essentially returned to the point it was at the end of episode six, though with a few more facts being revealed about the origin of the virus. The idea that they could use the cold to stop the vectors was also credible, and as with the monkeys beforehand, this didn’t actually kill them. So far, so good.
However, why would anyone in their right mind involve Sarah in »
Welcome to our second annual event in which we look to our pets for the last word on Oscar predictions. As you may recall from last year, these aren’t just any pets, these are pets coincidentally named Oscar. Unfortunately, Kate’s cat named Oscar couldn’t be here this time. I think he’s boycotting on account of the cat from Inside Llewyn Davis being snubbed. But my dog Oscar (full name: Oscar the Groucho Marx Campbell) got into his tuxedo collar and made another go at it in spite of being only 2 for 10 last time. As it turns out, I’m pretty sure he’s going to be even worse this year. Let’s just say he went with a lot of underdogs, like June Squibb and Judi Dench plus Nebraska for Best Picture. It might actually be better to avoid his picks at all cost — though he did go with Jared Leto for Best »
- Christopher Campbell
Lange hosted The Dating Game for 20 years, from the show’s inception in 1965 to 1985. After his successful run on The Dating Game, Lange moved on to host Hollywood Connection and The Newlywed Game, among other television contests. During his years at The Dating Game, Lange crossed paths with many celebrity contestants, including Michael Jackson and Arnold Schwarzenegger, something he said was one of the highlights of his television career.
“The best memories [from The Dating Game] are working with the wonderful people who were on the show. Over the years we had, I guess, almost every celebrity who was single, from Michael Jackson to Burt Reynolds to Tom Selleck. They all came through the show, even Groucho Marx. So »
• Hadley Freeman: Harold Ramis was the GrandDude of comedy
• Harold Ramis: a career in clips
• 20 years of Groundhog Day
Harold Ramis, who helped catch phantoms in Ghostbusters and directed Bill Murray to glory in Groundhog Day, has died at the age of 69. A leading light of 80s American comedy, Ramis had been suffering from autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis for several years.
Born in Chicago, Ramis worked as a teacher and journalist before teaming up with comedians John Belushi and Bill Murray for the wildly successful National Lampoon Radio Hour in 1973. The crew later branched out into film with National Lampoon's Animal House in 1978. Following Belushi's death from a drug overdose, Ramis and Murray went onto star alongside Dan Ackroyd in the 1984 hit Ghostbusters.
- Xan Brooks
Filmmaker Harold Ramis, who exerted a strong creative hand in such popular comedies as National Lampoon's Animal House, the Ghostbusters series and Groundhog Day, has died in Chicago of a rare autoimmune disease, People has confirmed. His wife, Erica Mann Ramis, told the Chicago Tribune he was surrounded by family when he died at 12:53 a.m. Monday. An actor, writer, director, producer and a gentleman - whose dry wit, long face and eyeglasses often had him compared to the legendary 1930s playwright George S. Kaufman, a compliment Ramis enjoyed - Ramis was born in Chicago and grew up idolizing the Marx Brothers, »
- Stephen M. Silverman
Review by Sam Moffitt
I never was a fan of Shirley Temple, far from it. I do recall seeing most of her movies years ago. Back in the Sixties Channel 11, in St. Louis, used to have a Shirley Temple Theater on weekend afternoons. My sister Judy, for some reason, had to watch those Shirley Temple films. So I can recall seeing Bright Eyes, the Little Colonel, Heidi, Little Miss Marker and what have you.
To say I was not impressed would be a major understatement. Even as a young kid I realized there was a strict formula to Shirley’s movies, namely her sunny disposition and optimistic outlook would win over cranky old adults and straighten out bratty little kids, who were usually the villains, in her films, and that was about all.
I do recognize and respect Shirley Temple’s place in film history. She was the biggest star »
- Movie Geeks
By Lee Pfeiffer
Vinegar Syndrome has released another "Peekarama" double feature of hardcore retro porn from the 1970s. In the amusingly garish packaging, it promises both features are "Full Color, Widescreen" as though the productions were directed by John Ford. First up is Deep Roots, which has to be the only attempt to mingle Alex Haley's landmark bestseller and TV mini-series with the peculiar oral talents of Linda Lovelace. Such creative marketing has long been a mainstay of the porn business which always incorporated the latest social phenomenons into grind house productions. Remember On Golden Blonde and Romancing the Bone? Deep Roots presents top-liner Jesse Chacan as Billy, a beefy, good-looking Native American guy who is bored with life on the reservation. He inherits a house in L.A. and decides to move there. The opening sequences actually boast some real production values and some relatively impressive camerawork as »
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Cinema Retro)
If you’ve paid attention to my urgent, poetic recaps of American Idol, you know we’ve arrived at my favorite time of year: the live(-ish) semifinal where a couple dozen singers with edgy haircuts and/or edgy midriff-baring tops (or both, if you’re edgy-edgy Marrialle Sellars) beg you to dial things on their behalf. It’s the esteemed Top 30 round — or as I’ve long called it, The “How Can This Be The Best Of The Best When Everybody Was Forgettable, Nervous, and Named Something Stupid?” Round. My favorite.
But I didn’t count such a stupid gimmick creeping its way into the festivities. Though 15 women qualified to perform on Tuesday’s show, only 10 would be allowed on air thanks to a mysterious prescreening round where Harry Connick Jr, Jennifer Lopez, and Paul McCartney Disguised As Sheryl Crow In The “Soak Up the Sun” Video (a.k. »
- Louis Virtel
The Emperor’s New Groove
Directed by Mark Dindal
With Disney leading its 1990s renaissance with self-serious tales accounting Greek (Hercules), Native American (Pocahontas), and Chinese (Mulan) empires, it may seem like a slight against the Disney-fication of the South American pre-Inca empire to present a through-and-through comedy. Indeed, The Emperor’s New Groove was fully prepared to be another historical drama firmly planted in the Disney canon under the title of Kingdom of the Sun, but thanks to economic troubles (Read as: really weird circumstances best covered in the documentary The Sweatbox. Look to Josh’s piece and the Mousterpiece Cinema podcast for further reading and listening.) its fate was left to the comedic stylings of Mark Dindal. It’s the sort of destiny that may have lead New Groove to the realm of films like its predecessor in Disney-proper, »
- Zach Lewis
In spanning eight decades, Marcel Ophuls’ filmed autobiography “Ain’t Misbehavin’” incorporates a wide array of approaches: nostalgia-filled interviews with celebrated contemporaries, whimsical excerpts from Hollywood films, samplings from his own and his father’s oeuvres, and jaunts to the sites of past traumas and triumphs. Ophuls obviously greatly relishes his role as cosmopolitan raconteur, but his spontaneous delivery can feel over-rehearsed, his focus erratic. Film buffs will doubtless appreciate his imaginative use of free-associative film clips and anecdotes about Preston Sturges, Marlene Dietrich and Francois Truffaut, but “Misbehavin’” ultimately seems too patchy to resonate with wider audiences.
Ophuls’ remembrance of his early life offers a nearly miraculous confluence of personal, cinematic and world history. As the son of famed German-Jewish director Max Ophuls, who left Germany for France and from there escaped to Hollywood, young Marcel found himself at the center of international film production as well as the Holocaust, »
- Ronnie Scheib
The films of director John Landis are particularly suited to repetition—in both rewatchability for comedies like “Trading Places” or “The Blues Brothers” or horror like “An American Werewolf in London," but also in double-dip DVDs and Blu-rays from Universal every few years as well. Luckily, Landis is one of those filmmakers who reveals a new, fascinating behind-the-scenes tale with each new release, and that is certainly the case surrounding the Blu-ray of “Animal House” a few years back. In that spirit, here's a wide-ranging, three hour discussion with Landis on the Kevin Pollak Talk Show on YouTube. Granted, it's from 2011, but hat tip to Larry Wright to putting in on our radar, because it's great stuff. It’s the type of conversation that includes the director’s memory of lunching with Alfred Hitchcock and hearing his reaction to Brian De Palma’s “Dressed To Kill”, and ends with another »
- Charlie Schmidlin
David Steinberg comes across as such a genial, emotionally healthy fellow one can appreciate why he’s survived so long in the comedy game when some of his contemporaries didn’t. So it’s easy to forget what a fascinating career he’s enjoyed until treated to something like “Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story,” a breezy trip through the comic’s career, from his early Second City days to standup material that landed him on Richard Nixon’s enemies list to his third act as a successful director. The title might come from an admiring observation by Jerry Seinfeld, but this is completely Steinberg’s show.
Those only marginally familiar with Steinberg will likely marvel at the names he can casually drop (Johnny Carson, Groucho Marx), and might wonder why his biblical sermons — which he began by ad-libbing, remarkably, a byproduct of his time studying theology at yeshiva before »
- Brian Lowry
“Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” – Gene Fowler
“It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader. If you do not believe in the characters or the story you are doing at that moment with all your mind, strength, and will, if you don’t feel joy and excitement while writing it, then you’re wasting good white paper, even if it sells, because there are other ways in which a writer can bring in the rent money besides writing bad or phony stories.” – Paul Gallico
“Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.” – “Red” Smith
“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.” – Philip Roth
“The road to hell is paved with adverbs” – Stephen King
- Mindy Newell
The Oscar nominations are in, and if you haven’t glanced at the Best Actress category, you’re in for a star-studded explosion. Collectively, the five chosen actresses have been nominated 38 times for Academy Awards, so any member of this esteemed quintet could run off with the gold.
But every great actor is an entitled to a mediocre performance or two. Here are my least favorite performances by the five nominated actresses of 2014.
Amy Adams: Julie and Julia
I actually appreciate that Julia and Julia was half-about the tribulations of a blogger trying to establish herself. Scaring up pageviews in order to sustain a living is an unusual situation, and I haven’t seen that explored in many movies. But Amy Adams is a pile of quirks and unfunny dialogue in this movie, and I’ve never seen her so flatly perky. You miss Meryl when she’s not »
- Louis Virtel
“I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.”
I didn’t know about organized comics fandom until 1964 when I interviewed Roy Thomas for a Missouri newspaper, and that was only a month or two before, under Roy’s aegis, I became a comics professional. And I wonder: if fandom had existed in, say, the 1950s in the roughly the same way it does now and if I’d had access to it, would I have joined?
I don’t know. I’ve liked comics and science fiction and related stuff since I was a kid, but I’m a margin guy, not a joiner. If you discount a rather dismal stint in the Boy Scouts, a year in Junior Achievement, and several years as a member of my high school speech club, my organizations have either been therapeutic or professional. »
- Dennis O'Neil
15 items from 2014
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