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Straight & Butch (2010)
interesting study of human interactions.
Interesting study of human interactions, and the how people react to odd, unusual requests. The story of how people meet, what they tell their spouses, and the outcome of the project. Fun story. A wide spectrum of reactions to Cordora's initial invitation to participate in a nude photo shoot; some are just fine, some accept with trepidation, and some flat out refuse, for a variety of reasons, some of which are shown on screen as part of the documentary. Radio and TV personality Butch Cordora decides to make a calendar where he poses with only straight guys in various poses. Must be a big fan of the Beatles, since two of the pages re-create iconic, historical photos. Pretty intriguing story, especially since one of the models participated but apparently hasn't told his spouse, and didn't want anything to do with the project other than to model for a quick photo shoot. I wondered if any of the sales from this went to charity... if that was stated, I missed it. Currently showing on the FilmRise channel. Not much info out there about Cordora. I see his IS currently participating in a fundraiser for LGBT groups, which is great. I also see that he has made more calendars highlighting LGBT issues. This would have been a great entry for film festivals... was it shown at any?? Doesn't appear that it was.
Shadow Billionaire (2009)
co-founder of DHL dies... much confusion
SPOILERS ! I hadn't realized that Hillblom had any kids...acc to wikipedia, four of the eight kids that sued actually WERE his own children. Co-founded DHL. Some weirdness about his disappearance. Currently showing on Popcorn Channel. Narration by the people involved - friends and lawyers -- Bob O'Connor, Joe Waechter, Bob Lujan, Mike Dotts. Ironic that Hillblom had already had one plane crash. and flew older planes too. mostly well done. Interviews with lots of people involved. Directed by Alexis Spraic, who does mostly documentaries. Produced by Bunim Murray, which has done many reality shows ie. Real World, Kardashian, Lohan, Project Runway. Pretty good entertainment! They all pretty much say "we're not sure what's going on, but everyone is trying to grab a piece of the cash." if it all works out, the UCSF will get some of his estate, but the courts will have to figure out which kids are Larry's first!
tick, tick, tick
Fast paced, straight forward telling of the assassination attempt on Hitler. The narrator introduces the story of Claus von Stauffenberg, but there isn't a narrator listed here, so not sure who it is. Someone with a Brit accent. We DO hear accounts from the actual members of the von Stauffenberg family, so that's pretty cool! Great early black and white footage from WW I and WW II. How unusual to see "Claus" with a C... its usually a K. The usual telling of Krystalnacht and the events leading up to the invasion of Poland, leading into WW II. VERY serious telling of the events leading up to Stauffenberg's plot. Directed by Jean-Pierre Isbouts, who seems to do mostly documentaries. I really dug this one. Doesn't mess around. States the facts, lots of interviews from family members of the players involved in the plot. Well done! Good diagram of who was in the meeting room at the event, and what went right and what went wrong. It's odd that both THIS one and the Hollywood full length film "Valkyrie" were done in 2008.
A Field Full of Secrets (2014)
what if we .....
SPOILERS -- Some beautiful scenes of England at the opening credits... sunrises, countryside, and Stonehenge. Ostensibly the story begins by talking about those durn crop circles, which have dubious origins and explanations, but a title card says "This story is about what happened next." Director Charles Maxwell narrates and talks about researching the early occurrences. They also spend a couple minutes talking about the connection to the circular earth pyramid at Silbury Hill. Apparently, www.English-heritage.org.UK/visit/places/silbury-hill/ was an ancient chalk formation, perhaps a religious symbol or energy source, way back in England's history, similar to Stonehenge. About an hour in, the path switches to building an actual 3D object from the one dimensional lines in the farm field, which looks like a space craft, or UFO, which they call sweet potato. Nikola Romanski used CAD software to draw it out, and then machinery to build parts for the "object". This is where it gets interesting. The film was on a very low simmer until this point. Assembly, curing, and much discussion of deadlines. There is good news, and bad news at the conclusion, sort of a mixed result. Running out of time and money, the last stop is in Hawaii, where another guy has been inspired to try to create objects from the crop circles, if he can raise the funds. I'm guessing that when he does raise the money, Maxwell will be there to film it. The first hour could have been edited to a more interesting 30 minutes, but it kind of gets going for the second hour.
so so typical musical show....
Dennis Morgan stars in this color (Technicolor !) thang with Virginia Mayo. Big Yawn. Lots of musical numbers that don't really have anything to do with the plot, but give the stars a platform. The only good thing about this film is that Sandor Sakall is in here, for comic relief. (he only worked a couple more years after this one... died in 1954.) The paper thin plot here is that the girls need to find money to help Uncle Felix (Sakall) in Vegas, so they bring rich guy "Ted" along (Gene Nelson). Mayo, Lucille Norman, and Virginia Gibson are "The Dillon Sisters". There's an operatic version of "With a Song in My Heart".... too bad they couldn't do a fun, contemporary version. I thought the windows were going to shatter. They really rely on Sakall to carry this thing, but the script, the acting, and the direction are so lame it just kind of bumbles along. Not one of the better projects from Warner Brothers. One entertaining number where the trumpet player doubles as the dance partner. Directed by David Butler.. started in silents. Moved to directing television a couple years after this one. According to IMDb, he had played both a northern soldier AND a southern soldier in Griffith's Birth of a Nation ! This one is okay, but there are so many better films to watch.
Sensations of 1945 (1944)
mix of good (and not so....) entertainment from 1940s
Star of the show dreams up a stunt to gain publicity for herself! Eleanor Powell is "Ginny", who finds a way to get attention, but her press agent (Eugene Palette) doesn't approve. SO many big names in here.. the awesome W.C. Fields, Sophie Tucker, Aubrey Smith, Cab Calloway, Woody Herman. Some silly bits, one after another. Paper-thin plot in a nonsense script. The wacky-ness moves right along, and we see every corny act in vaudeville history, as well as some good song and dance! Also a circus bear act about half way through. and the high-wire walker that walks a tight rope over some canyon. It ends... at some point. for some reason. Not much of a plot, but its fun to see some of these big acts from the 1940s. TERRIFIC piano duets by two players during the Cab Calloway segment, but the pianists are not named. Directed by Andrew Stone, who would win an Oscar for the "Julie" screenplay in the 1950s. We knew it wouldn't be for THIS film...
Sinners in Paradise (1938)
shortie south sea adventure
Right from the start, we can tell that this DVD from TCM.com is a good quality production... it has menu options and appears to have been restored professionally. Madge Evans and John Boles star in this south sea thriller about people being shipwrecked on an island. According to Evans, director James Whale was NOT happy about having to make this film, and it was near the end of his career. Universal packed a lot of story into this 65 minute shortie, so things move right along. Similar plot to Gilligan's Island... bigshots, rich folks, and assorted characters (a tarot card reader! ) crash-land on an inhabited south sea island, and try to make a deal with the resident "Malone" (Bruce Cabot) to get back to civilization. Gene Lockhart is in here as "the Senator"... who huffs and puffs his nasty outbursts every couple minutes. Malone is clearly on the run from "something", but no-one knows what. He always seems to have clean, ironed shirts, in spite of his being on a south sea island for years! Fistfights, gun fights, people are shot, people try to steal a boat...
This one kind of loses steam about halfway through. After they meet Malone, it kinds of falls apart. Will anyone get off the island? A big chunk of the script is just silly and doesn't really progress in the last third of the film. The last few minutes kind of ties up a lot of loose ends, but it could have been so much better. I blame it on a weak script. It's okay. One of those fun, exotic south sea adventures, but it got silly right around the middle. Original story by Harold Buckley, who had several films made from his books in the 1930s. We were right in the heart of the film production code, so much of this story is predictable...
Hawaii Calls (1938)
child singer is star of hawaii adventure
The awesome, curmudgeon-ly, cigar smokin', slow talking' Ned Sparks is "Strings"... a musician on a cruise ship to Hawaii. He comes across two munchkin stowaways, and helps them hide out. Bobby Breen is "Billy", who sings a couple songs in the film... but something doesn't sound quite right... the voice doesn't really match as he's singing, but if it's really him, maybe they are just playing a recording of him singing, as he lip-synchs to himself? anyway... the captain of the ship catches on, and puts him to work singing for his ticket. Billy (and Pua) escape to Hawaii, and meet up with Hina (Mamo Clark), who takes them in. Not much of a plot, really, and the sound and picture quality is terrible, but this is such an obscure film, I guess we're just lucky it's still around in any condition. and available on tcm.com! the editing is choppy and horrible. Interesting note -- on IMDb, the production for this film is listed as ""Bobby Breen Productions" .... which produced films 1936 - 1939. did they film this just for him to showcase his singing? looks that way. Ned Sparks in a sarong... looks like Hilo Hattie. Director Ed Cline had started out acting in the silent films, but quickly moved into directing, and into the talkies. It's a silly little story, but still a fun, south sea adventure, as long as you don't take it too seriously. Hawaii must have been just beautiful before it became tourist central.
Dirty Dingus Magee (1970)
goofy western with sinatra and kennedy
Director Burt Kennedy does not seem to be related to lead George Kennedy. George won an Oscar for Cool Hand Luke, but D.D.M. was three years later, and a whole different film! This one is a corn-ball western. Hoke Birdsill (G. Kennedy) spends the whole movie chasing after Dingus Magee (Sinatra), after somehow letting Sinatra rob him and escape twice. Magee has goofy run-ins with the injuns, and Birdsill is deputized by the mayor (Anne Jackson), who also happens to run the local "cat-house". Some fun dirty jokes in here, but the plot itself is as dry as the sandy desert they are crossing. The usual show-downs and shoot-outs. The grand finale ending is pretty funny. Did you notice Jack Elam playing piano with handcuffs on? and did you notice that we hear the bell ringing the last five minutes of the film, but they keep showing the bell standing still, with no-one anywhere near it? Based on the book by David Markson.
Remote Control (1930)
Wm Haines makes the jump to talkies....
William Haines is "Brennan", flirting with "Marion (Mary Doran). Turns out Brennan went to school with her brother Sam (Charles King). Might be a chance meeting for Brennan and Sam, as they partner up in radio. The playwrights get credit, but thar ain't no credited director. John Miljan is in this one too, as Kruger, a mind-reader and fortune teller. He isn't really what he seems to be. Miljan and Haines had worked together on six films over the years. They start interviewing acts for the radio station, but its just an excuse to show us their vaudeville acts. Haines carries the film, in an awkward kind of way. Guess he wasn't quite used to the talkies yet. He hams it up, and really over-acts. About halfway through, it turns into a crime thriller. it's Polly Moran who steals the show. She had done vaudeville for years (with Marie Dressler, no less !) She plays a dour, goofy girl, and is the gem here. Picture and sound quality are actually pretty good. This DVD is from Warner Archives. The film is missing a chemistry between the actors.. they each seem to be doing their own show. It gets better towards the end, if you hang in there. This is another film that I had been hoping would come on TCM, but found it available on their web site, pretty cheap!