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Darling Lili (1970)
An elegant showcase for Andrews but that's it
17 November 2016
While enduring an awful night of shivers then insomnia, I found a movie channel and let it run. In the middle of the night I ended up watching film DARLING LILI for the first time. It is set in the final year of an incredibly sanitized version of The Great War. Andrews plays a famous singer who is actually a patrician version of Mata Hari. She does not seem to do much in the way of actual espionage. Mostly she just passes along to her uncle (Jeremy Crabbe) stray bits of gossip from officers she entertains in her sumptuous mansion. One of them is Rock Hudson. They have zero charisma together and he looks like he just walked thru the part. Heck, he does not even appear into the film for quite a while. The film must have cost a fortune, even for big budget musicals of the time. Several times we see Lili performing to a packed opera house. That's a helluva lot of extras in period costumes. Throw in a Hallmark Channel version of THE BLUE MAX. Gotta give Hudson something to do. Julie Andrews' voice was at the top of her game. Honestly she and Blake would have been better served just doing a concert film. One thing to note is that Andrews and her husband/director Blake Edwards were chaffing at Andrew's usual screen persona, a mix of Mary Poppins, Maria von Trapp, and Emily. In all but one of her performances Lili wears incredible gowns. But when she learns her lover (Hudson) has been seeing a stripper, Lili decides to do a striptease number. Oh, and the film earned some salacious publicity at the time because Andrews did a topless scene. Nothing was visible on US screens of course. But there was always "the European version." Did I mention she and Hudson had zero charisma together? The film was Ms Andrew's first bomb, although not as bad as her next project STAR.
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Jonah Hex (2010)
A digest version of a feature film
2 November 2010
When the film ended and the credits began, I looked in disbelief at the timer. 72 minutes ???? Who makes a live action big budget film that is only 72 minutes long? I haven't seen such a short flick since 1963's DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS.

Admittedly the film is not padded. While the filmmakers could have come up with something, anything to give the film some bulk, the scenes that are there all briskly move the action along. The deleted scenes on the DVD would have added nothing to the film aside from a few extra minutes.

The film seems a "Western Noir" version of 1999's WILD WILD WEST. The plots are similar-- a special government agent with ties to the Civil War is sent by President Grant to seek out a renegade ex-Confederate officer who now possesses a super-weapon that he'll use to kill Grant and conquer the US. And the hero is aided by a heroine who appears to be a "soiled dove" but whom can handle herself in a fight. At least JONAH HEX does a better job at explaining the title character's background.

The main difference the tone of this film. Where WILD WILD WEST was an action comedy, this is a very dark film. Jonah Hex is not a jokester and the few light comments he makes are in character and still very dark.

The acting is negligible. Megan Fox continues to show she looks great but can't act her way out of a paper bag. Malkovich is pretty much phoning in his performance as a generic terrorist leader. Fassbinder chews the scenery as his psychopathic Irish assassin. Lance Reddick (from FRINGE) plays a Noble Black Man. But Josh Brolin does a very good job with his title role. He plays Jonah Hex with a weariness and dedication that befits this character. He may seem to be underplaying here but in fact he's struck just the right tone.

The geographical sense of the film is pretty bizarre. Folks seem able to ride their horses fairly swiftly between points like the West, New Orleans, and Washington DC. Somewhow the villains are able to transport swiftly and unseen a multi-barreled cannon the size of an M1 Abrams tank. And Washington DC is now apparently on the southern shore of a bay.
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Beyond Sherwood Forest (2009 TV Movie)
A couple gems in an otherwise misfire of a film.
20 October 2010
There are four reasons to watching this film-- the CGI were-dragon, Katherine Isabelle as Alina the were-dragon, the CGI wolf-lions, and Erica Durance as Marian. The were-dragon sequences are incredibly well done and very realistic. The creature's design is distinctive, with a body like a winged puma. The transformations are very well done, limited only by Katherine Isabelle's refusal to do more than bare her shoulders or back for scenes where she should be nude. The animators get around this fairly well although it is obviously the nude Alina at the beginning of the transformation is a Poserette. Katherine Isabelle, who played the title character from the GINGER SNAPS series, is great at playing troubled, distressed, terminally sad characters. She's right up her alley here. She really does steal the film with her portrayal of the tragic Alina. Okay, her refusal to do nude scenes did limit the filmmakers somewhat. In scenes where she is ostensibly nude and vulnerable, Miss Isabelle is only shown from the shoulders up. The filmmakers couldn't afford to pay for her usual body double? The lion-like wolves in "Beyond" section of Sherwood Forest are quite believable as well. They are a nicely executed hybrid of natural wolf and magical hell-beast. Their interaction with their would-be human victims is spot-on. Erica Durance..... anything from her post-Smallville debut is worth watching just for a chance to watch her. She gets a few action scenes in, either practicing on a helpless dummy or fighting the were-dragon Alina. And she looks great in a medieval pantsuit.

Bad points? Robin Dunne, Robin Dunne, and Robin Dunne. He was at best phoning in his performance. Apparently no one taught him how to believably fire an arrow. The few times you see him fire an arrow, it is obvious the arrow only flew a dozen feet before dropping to the floor.

All in all, there was no reason to call this "Robin Hood" aside from the chance to skip over explaining who these various characters were. Friar Tuck for example shows up, talks to Robin and Marian a little, then gets killed. By calling him "Friar Tuck" the filmmakers spared themselves the five minutes or so of screen time they'd've needed to set him up as an original character.
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Exo-Man (1977 TV Movie)
Another example of low budget 70s TV superhero SF
29 August 2009
It's hard to remember now what an impoverished time the 1970s were for science fiction and superhero television shows. While the SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, BIONIC WOMAN, INCREDIBLE HULK, and WONDER WOMAN seem to have done well in our memories, their budgets were limited and the creativity was hampered by the SFX technology of the time.

But that did not stop studios from trying. And occasionally a network would begrudgingly cough up the money for a pilot in the form of a made-for-TV flick.

In this case, the guys behind the two bionic shows on ABC got NBC interested in their pitch for another Martin Caidin concept. Caidin was the leading "tech thriller" writer of the 60s and 70s. His NASA novel MAROONED (actually three novels) was a famous film. His gritty novel CYBORG was softened into the popular SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN. NBC probably asked for "something like the $6M Man but different." They got it.

Caidin again looked to cutting edge technology for his gimmick. NASA and the Pentagon had been working on "man-amplifiers", powered frameworks a user could wear and use to possess forklift-like strength. The chemical industry had developed "memory plastic", materials that could be deformed then spring back into shape when an electric current was supplied. So there was the concept-- a man-amplifier suit that used memory plastic joints to make it work.

Of course this is television so they needed a crisis to compel the hero to build the thing in the first place. In this case, the hero was a college professor who witnessed a crime. The local mobsters tried shutting him up by nearly killing him. Now paraplegic, the hero decided to combine his work with memory plastic with research by his colleagues to produce an armored plastic suit that can walk on its own. And of course, this being TV, he used the suit to get revenge on the mobsters. He even picked up the obligatory street-smart young assistant along the way. The idea looked good on paper. The only problem was, the best mid-70s SFX tech could come up with was plastic plate mail the wearer could barely move in.

NBC took a look at the pilot, let it air once, and quietly forgot about it. As did most of the viewers.

Martin Caidin just cashed his check and went on with his life. After all, he still had the royalties from the bionic shows coming in. A few years later, Caidin decided to recycle the basic ideas behind EXOMAN in his early-80s tech thriller MANFAC. Like CYBORG, this is a very serious, very adult novel that still holds up well. MANFAC also enabled Caidin to have his final say on some of the exaggerated powers of THE $6M MAN, especially that "running at 60 mph" trick (the suit's legs literally run out from under the wearer).
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A period propaganda film
9 June 2009
It's interesting and difficult to assess films with extremist viewpoints that were made at times when their viewpoints were considered perfectly acceptable. BIRTH OF A NATION is one such flick, with its heroic Ku Klux Klansmen saving the day.

BIG JIM MCCLAIN is another film of this ilk. It was made in a time when a small but unfortunately powerful political and media cabal successfully convinced the public that Commie Spies were infiltrating everywhere. To stop them, all we needed to do was rip up the Constitution and set up a secret police to arrest these evil foreigners and their native-born Fellow Travellers. That we had just spent five years stopping a similar system in Germany never entered into most folks' minds.

But I digress....

Wayne and Arness star as agents of the secret police.... err, investigators for the House Un-American Activities Commission ferreting out a group of obviously intellectual and well-traveled Commies and Commie Dupes who use the Constitution to prevent their prosecution. That's pretty much sums up the film. The film is a sad recitation of various bugaboos held by the conservatives. The Commies are highly intelligent, well-educated, and philosophical, and possess a wide view of the relationship between nations and an even better understanding of the rights inherent in the Constitution. The Good Guys are common folk without any intellectual pretense, possess a strong nationalistic bias, and dislike the Constitution because it prevents their actions.

Hmm, sounds like the Bush Adminstration....

The film is ripe for revival. The same script performed now could be a riotous dark comedy. Maybe throw in a few catchy song and dance numbers.
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Now Get Out of That (1981–1984)
The Genesis of the Modern Survival and Stunt Reality Shows
14 January 2009
NOW GET OUT OF THAT can be seen as the forebear of two types of TV shows-- the "Survivor" types and the "Junkyard Wars" types. And given the number of creative offspring this show has, it is criminal it appears to be pretty much forgotten. (Am I really the first person to express any thoughts on this long-lost gem?) The format was fairly simple. A team of four contestants was dropped at one end of a picturesque British countryside and given a map and compass. The idea was they were on a mission and had to find their way to their goal somewhere out there in the aforementioned picturesque British countryside. They were dropped off one morning and were expected to complete the mission by the following afternoon. Thus some outdoor roughing it was involved.

The contestants were subjected to a variety of puzzles and challenges as they made their trek. For example, the team's directions might lead them to the center of a very tall, very picturesque stone viaduct. There they found four sets of repelling gear. They needed the gear to get to the bottom of the viaduct where four ATVs waited. But on the way down they had to find the ATVs' keys, which were hung halfway down the viaduct. As none of the keys were hung together, each contestant was forced to make the perilous-looking descent.

After a long day, the contestants would find a stash of supplies they could use to make dinner and shelter. What the contestants made of the supplies could vary widely. For example, when British and American teams were faced with dinner in the form of a joint of meat, the announcer described their actions thusly, "In proper British fashion, the British team decided to boil the meat to death. In typical American fashion, the y decided to have a barbecue." (The BBQ worked, the boiled meat was barely edible, by the way.) The narrator was a hoot to listen to as he alternated described and mocked the contestants' efforts. The narration for JUNKYARD WARS definitely copied this.

On the second day, the tasks increased in complexity until the contestants finally reached their goal. For example, in one episode the team had to use available parts to devise a "time bomb." One solution I recall was a leaking sandbag attached to a lever that somehow triggered the "bomb." The filming format was straight forward. One team of contestants participated at a time, accompanied by the film crew. That would occupy two days. Then the area would be reset for the second team's mission on the third and fourth days. Afterwards, the two team's footage was edited to give the illusion of a head-to-head competition. (The occasionally wildly different weather conditions were the giveaway.) Each half hour episode dealt with one day of the mission. The show aired in the US as a one-hour package, combining the two episodes that formed a competition. In the original run, the teams were strictly British. Later seasons added teams of expatriate Americans in order to give the series a wider appeal for the newly emerging American Cable market. (I watched this on the early ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT Channel.) Looking at the show now, one can see numerous shows that owe a creative debt to the NOW GET OUT OF THAT. JUNKYARD WARS owes its tinkering and puzzle solving aspects. CASTAWAY and SURVIVOR owes its outdoor roughing it aspects. FEAR FACTOR owes its outdoor stunts aspect. And of course ALL Reality Shows owe it the development of a omnipresent but invisibly off-camera production crew dutifully recording everything.

While it has been a quarter-century since the series aired, it has a timeless quality that makes me hope some dish programmer, desperate for series to fill their schedules, will revive it. Or at least air the original episodes.
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A return to pre-Dark Age comics
6 December 2008
I'm still ambivalent about this series. Frankly, I do not see why anyone except Bruce Timm is allowed to be anywhere near a DC superhero, especially Batman. I found "THE Batman" an abominable waste of time and money, at least until they producers got smart and hired Timm's staff to rescue their show.

Okay, that said, I'm willing to give this a shot. For starters, it's a pleasant evocation of the late-Silver Age, early-Bronze Age comics series THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD.


Although the series had started off as a generic adventure anthology, by the mid-60s the comic had settled on a format of Batman paired with a different guest each issue. (WORLDS FINEST was the monthly Batman-Superman team-up.) The stories were a good way to give a spotlight to lesser characters and to give Batman a different style of story. Robin almost never appeared in this series. Ironically this series was responsible for the revamping of Batman into the character we now know, when artist Neal Adams was able to make aesthetic changes through this series that he could not make in the main books DETECTIVE COMICS and BATMAN. When fan reaction preferred Adams' B&B look to that of the the other books, the other books finally gave in and we finally had the rise of "The Dark Knight."

The art style of the animated B&B is a pleasant surprise. It evokes the distinctive style of the great but under-appreciated RAMONA FRADON, the woman Darwyn Cooke copies, and the great but quirky DICK SPRANG, with aspects of Paul Dini's inimitable designs.

The storytelling is aimed at a younger and definitely non-cynical audience. I have no problem with that. This is a Batman who is well-established in his world, who is comfortable with his role, and is looking to expand his legacy by interacting with others. Depending on the status of the guest, the interaction can be that of mentor-student or that of equals.

In brief, this is a really good 1960s-era TV series crafted with modern budgets, skills, and sensibilities.
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Jean-Francois Millet, not Gustave Courbet
31 December 2007
Theowinthrop: "There is also a short story by Mark Twain entitled "IS HE DEAD?" about a plot to make a reputation for a prominent 19th Century artist, Gustave Courbet, by him pretending to be dead, and his paintings being sold for larger and larger amounts of cash so that the still living Courbet and his friends make a huge profit." It was Millet, the artist responsible for THE GLEANERS and other works, who faked his death in order to raise the value of his art. Twain later turned the scam into a play, IS HE DEAD?, which finally got discovered in 2002 and produced on stage in 2007.

That said, THE ART OF LOVE has long been one of my "Favorite Films I Haven't Seen in a Long Long Time." The lack of video release is depressing. Hopefully Universal will start a cable movie channel dedicated to its own films, much like Fox Movie Channel (a great place to see long-forgotten flicks like PRUDENCE AND THE PILL).
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E/R (1984–1985)
Adaptation of a Chicago play
19 July 2007
The long-lost, long-forgotten E/R was based on a well known Chicago play produced by the Organic Theater Company. It was a delightfully cynical comedy as a play. As a TV series, it was probably a bit out of place. But at least it got a chance to air. And it gave a lot of people their first major TV screen time, such as the winsome Corinee Bohrer. The show came along at a time when TV execs were having a rare resurgence of creativity and okay'ing unusual shows like this one, Hot L Baltimore, and United States. Too bad such times (and such shows) don't last.

George Clooney in E/R and ER? What a hoot!
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Heroes (II) (2006–2010)
Heroes, the Lost Smallville Surfaces
26 September 2006
It's an interesting premise that was well executed. The broadcast drew in three of my house-mates, including one who got really made at anyone who dared call the house while it was running.

Structurally it reminds me a lot of last year's SURFACE, the serial about scientific conspiracies and sea monsters. Both shows start with characters being introduced scattered across the globe. It also resembles LOST in the way characters are subtly interconnected. I won't list any right now for those who haven't seen it yet.

Okay, one exception-- there is a comic book, 9th WONDER, that might be important to the series. An image from it shows up in at least two of the characters' lives and next week see see another issue.

This is probably the best treatment since UNBREAKABLE of the idea of how superpowers might appear in a real world setting. The invulnerable cheerleader sees it as an annoyance to be suffered through. The precognitive painter and the woman with the independent reflection thinks they've gone insane. The one guy with a real understanding of his powers is such a passionate SciFi buff that everyone just thinks he's just having fannish fantasies.

Like SURFACE, the show is a rich production with location shooting in Japan, California, and NYC. This means it's expensive and is going to have to pull in some decent ratings to survive to a second season. But even if, like SURFACE, it only lives a single season, it looks to be a helluva ride.

Remember, SMALLVILLE as initially dismissed as a DAWSONS CREEK clone too and that one turned out pretty damn good.

In terms of comic book antecedents, Michael J. (BABYLON 5) Strazsinski's RISING STARS comes closest.
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Komodo vs. Cobra (2005 TV Movie)
A by-the-numbers effort
23 May 2006
Komodo vs. Cobra is not going to set the world on fire. It's not a hallmark of cinema history. What it is is a group of underfunded filmmakers trying to make another movie, make another paycheck, and continue to support themselves and their families. As such I give these efforts a lot of slack. I mean, come on, it has to be hard to be a Russian special effects technician. Not a lot of big budget films getting made there. BUT-- they are a dedicated bunch and more than willing to throw their all into whatever lame American monster flick needs affordable SFX. And I get a kick out of looking for the same locations appear time and again in these flicks. If for some reason you find yourself watching this again, look at the sequence where Pare and company are walking through a "jungle." Look at their feet and you'll see paved walkways. And if you happen to still have a copy of "AI Assault" (shown a week or two earlier also on SciFi), you'll see the folks in there tramping through the same ersatz jungle. Come to think of it, I think the helicopters land in the same clearing in both flicks. I can admire the thriftiness of these films. Every dollar really does show up on the screen! Too bad there just aren't enough dollars......
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Unfocused? This film is positively schizo!
16 March 2006
Out of mild curiosity and boredom, I just watched OPERATION BIKINI. I'm still trying to get my brain back to semi-rational thought after seeing this train wreck. All I can think is-- the producers had a bunch of stock WW2 footage and a few rooms of a borrowed submarine set. Then they threw in a bunch of folks they had under contract. What the heck is Jim Backus doing in this thing????? The man was already a well-known character actor, from tragic roles like the father in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE to the voice of MISTER MAGOO. For no apparent reason he's a member of the UDT team that also has Tab Hunter and Franky Avalon; I'm guessing he's the naval equivalent of a sergeant, as Hunter's character is in charge but Backus seems to be the one who runs the squad. That is, when he actually has any lines. Mostly he just stands there. In fact, much of the cast just stands there. It's like the producers only had a budget for a very limited amount of dialogue and figured that if the actors simply stood there and filled the frame, that would count as acting. Scott Brady had never been a major player but, like Backus, he seems to have come in for a few days work and a paycheck. Gary Crosby was trying to make a go of it, playing off his derelict father's name and the family resemblance. Like Backus, he also mostly stands there.

Oh, man.... this film is just so very wrong in so many ways..... It's like a bunch of students trying to perform a high school production of UP PERISCOPE and then they decide to rewrite the second act!

And worst of all, the producers destroyed what little merit the film might have had. As it looked on paper, the film would have been a modest sub adventure, suitable for a double bill. But then they added Frankie Avalon and decided to give him musical numbers! AND THEY WERE IN COLOR!!!!!! The rest of the movie is in black and white and all of a sudden along comes this bizarre COLOR musical interlude?!?!?!?!?!? And 20 minutes later, HERE IT COMES AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Frankie Avalon also had a gratuitous musical number in his other 1963 sub adventure, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, but at least there it made sense!

Oh, and for a final totally unrelated finale, the film ends with COLOR footage of two 1963 starlets in bikinis playing on a beach while the credits roll. Looking at that made me realize how little the producers thought of the film. OPERATION BIKINI is not a good film-- hell, it's barely adequate!-- but the color sequences show a mindset of cynical desperation or Ed-Wood-level incompetence.
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Discovery (1962– )
A childhood of DISCOVERY
17 January 2006
There series was born of ABC's reaction to FCC chairman Newton B Minnow's charge that television was a vast wasteland. In those days of JFK, government officials were honest and networks actually did care about what people thought. So ABC promoted reporter Jules Bergman to "Chief Science Correspondent" and green-lit a project of his, a kid's science and culture show called DISCOVERY '62. And 7-year-old Davy Martin discovered a new favorite TV program. Each episode was like a gift box full of unexpected treats in the form of new knowledge or explanations of things I vaguely knew about. The episodes were simple enough for a child to understand and yet they were well-developed enough that 40+ years later, I still recall some of them. For example, in a show explaining dangerous weather systems, Frank and Virginia stood by a tabletop model of a town. Virgina demonstrated a tornado by running a vacuum cleaner in a line across the model, sucking up a line of toy houses. Frank then demonstrated a hurricane by placing a 2' wide disk on the tabletop and shoving it through the model town.

Or in an episode explaining special effects, they stood on either side of a VERY thin pillar. Then they walked behind this skinny thing and disappeared! Then parts of one appeared from the left side side while parts of the other appeared on the right side. Then they both walked out. And the screen switched to show a long shot of the studio, with TWO identical skinny pillars set a few feet apart. Then Frank explained about how two shots of the pillars could be merged into a single paradox-creating shot. Neat. It sure started me on the path to understanding SFX, starting with THE PATTY DUKE SHOW.
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Using FLASH as a means to sell a pilot
17 June 2005
I recently discovered Ridley's depressingly racist novel THOSE WHO WALK IN DARKNESS and a few minutes ago discovered that it was being made into a pilot for a TV series. When a search of IMDb brought up this net-flick, I got to wondering if Ridly is using the Internet as a means to spread a script around and generate some interest. Certainly it worked for the SOUTH PARK guys.

I just wish that this project were better. The anti-heroine Soledad is an unremitting racist who has no problem shooting superhumans in the back, head, or anywhere else. And she spends her free time inventing ever more lethal ammo. Yet when her actions are compared to white racists (she's black), she is incapable of seeing the analogy. Further, she is incapable of seeing that her own actions actually force her victims to defend themselves, thus in her eyes justifying her legally-sanctioned murder spree.

In fact, the first book, THOSE WHO WALK IN DARKNESS, ends with her cheerfully planning a way to kill an ex-boyfriend because he turned out to have phasing powers; other than that he was a completely law-abiding citizen!
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Good Morning, World (1967–1968)
'60s Occupational/Domestic Sitcom patterned after "Dick Van Dyke Show"
31 May 2005
GOOD MORNING WORLD is a mid-60s hybrid of the Occupational Sitcom and the Domestic Sitcom. They took as their format the classic "Dick Van Dyke Show" mix of 50% Rob Petrie's home life and 50% Rob Petrie's work as a TV gag writer.

In this case, the single protagonist becomes two men and the workplace shifts from TV to radio, but otherwise things are fairly familiar. Richard Deacon's fussy producer was replaced by Billy DeWolfe's fussy station manager.

The main change was that by going with two men, the show was able to do both happily married plots and bachelor dating plots. In the latter case, dating involved newcomer Goldie Hawn, doing an early version of the ditsy character she later developed for LAUGH-IN.

Like most sitcoms, individual episodes' plots are long-forgotten aside from an occasional story that stuck in the memory for some reason. In the case of GOOD MORNING WORLD, it was the "Nude Ranch" episode. The guys had been sent to do an overnight remote broadcast from a "dude ranch." But when they got there, they discovered to their horror they were at a NUDE ranch. This being the still-uptight age of sitcoms, the humor was limited to the guys' nervousness at being around nude people (who were of course mostly off-camera aside from some above-the-waist shots on a couple men). The guys do their first show and retreat to their room, dreading the fact they are to be guests of honor at dinner that night. They decide they have to appear.... The next scene shows them bare-chested as they sit in the still-empty dining room. They hear the sounds of the ranch guests approaching.... And see that everyone is fully dressed. The nudists explain "We always dress for dinner!" but thank the guys for their thoughtfulness in appearing nude. The guys admit they chickened out and stand up, revealing large towels firmly in place.
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Be Cool (2005)
A script sprinkled with self references
8 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I'm looking forward to seeing this again on DVD just so I can confirm how often the script and characters refer to the greater reality of the film they are making or film making in general. Such as Chili is discussing a limit on obscenity that film makers must observe-- "In order to keep an PG13 rating, the F-word cannot be used more than once. Well, you know what I say to that? F*** them." And sure enough, the F-word does not appear anywhere in the rest of the flick!

In the first scene, Chili is disgusted with the idea of movie sequels and wishes he hadn't made his. In the film he's referring to "GET LOST", the sequel to "GET LEO" (neing filmed at the end of GET SHORTY), but could he also be referring to STAYING ALIVE, the abysmal sequel to Saturday NIGHT FEVER? Speaking of which, when Chili is later asked if he can dance, he reminds his questioner he's from Brooklyn (the home of his character in Saturday NIGHT FEVER).

Tommy Athens is trying to pitch a bio-pic based on his own progression from East Coast thug to Hollywood bigwig. Chile says no one would want to see a flick like that. Well, that's basically what GET LEO was in the previous flick. And when Tommy is killed, the others muse that a bio-pic with the main character killed in the first act could still work, and name three flicks where that happened (such as American BEAUTY).

"The Rock" plays a fun exaggeration of himself as Eliot Wilhelm. Chile suggests he needs a more dynamic name, maybe something with one syllable. Well, "The Rock" is actually the blandly named Dwayne Johnson. And Eliot's big shtick is raising an eyebrow. Basically The Rock is mocking his own patented eyebrow raise and blowing up to monumental silliness.

Steven Tyler protests he does not want to be one of those musicians who just appears as himself in some movie...... Um, Steve?

Anyway, the film is full of stuff like this but, unlike flicks like OCEAN'S TWELVE, the filmmakers and cast have the sense to just let these in-jokes pass by. They're a secret reward to those in the audience paying close attention.
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Point Pleasant (2005– )
American Gothic as performed by THE O.C.
20 January 2005
Remember an intriguing Southern Noire series a few years back called American Gothic? It dealt with a young boy, Lucas, who was somehow important to the town's diabolically-connected Sheriff Buck. Lots of low-key supernatural stuff and extremely unfortunate accidents conveniently happening to Buck;s opponents. And young Lucas was discovering he was not completely helpless....

Anyway, POINT PLEASANT strikes me as American Gothic redone by the cast of THE O.C. Take a sleepy inland Southern town and transfer it to a coastal resort community. Take the cast of young kids and parents and replace them with a bunch of 20-ish models and 30-ish former models turned actors.
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The temperature at which Conservatives' brains melt
22 October 2004
I am growing more and more disgusted by Conservatives by the day. It is becoming beyond ridiculous. First the Conservatives band together and trash one of the best political documentaries ever made, "Fahrenheit 9/11" as "treasonous, pro-terrorist, anti-American"; then when the real counterattack rears its head, with Conservatives attacking Moore personally and even trying to have him thrown in jail for telling the truth.... I don't know what planet Conservatives are living in, but I know I am living on planet Earth here, in America. I saw the writeup on "Celsius 41.11" (the temperature at which the brain starts to decay), and let me tell you, it affected me more than any other in film history. This was the most moronic, pigheaded, and libelous look at the conscience and effects of liberalism I have ever witnessed, and I must say, it touched me deep within and frightened me as to the dangers America is in if left in control of the Conservatives. Interesting how hypocritical Conservatives are("Say no for war... Unless a Republican is in power"; "If a dictator is anti-Communist, then I like that dictator" etc.); this is the sheer lunacy of Conservativism, the mindset of delusion, misguidedness, and insanity. We are living in one of the most important periods of survival and danger the world has ever witnessed, and it really helps to know that many of us (I suspect and hope, most of America) are still awake to the truths and realities of the world we live in, and how our spirit and determination can ultimately prevail over the gravest of odds. It's good to know there's a "Fahrenheit 9/11" for every "Celsius 41.11", and in my speculation, I would say the Conservatives tried to tarnish such an effort as this are delusional, running scared, and opponents and hypocrites to even their greatest defense, freedom of speech. I for one cannot wait until this highly biased film is relegated to the trashheap of ultra-rightwing media, another sad atrocity Conservatives, in their desperate and pathetic plight, have tried to tarnish "Fahrenheit 9/11" with.
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Definitely the blueprint for VOYAGE's The Seaview
3 October 2004
What a difference the three years separating ATOMIC SUBMARINE and VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA made! Of course, Allen's much larger budget sure helped too. Still, one can see The Tigershark as being the direct parent of The Seaview.

We have an advanced nuclear sub capable of firing missiles or torpedoes and equipped with a secondary submarine. The Seaview originally carried a small fleet of 2-man submersibles but they got eclipsed by the flashier Flying Sub. And of course you have the senior officer, the younger guy who actually handles the action scenes, and a couple onboard scientists just for the heck of it.

The plot itself is pretty much the model for many of the Voyages to the Bottom of the Sea. The hidden mystery at the heart of an otherwise normal mission, the unexpected monster.... Yeah, this could have been a VOYAGE episode. And in fact, eventually IT WAS! VOYAGE did an episode that adapted ATOMIC SUBMARINE pretty much straight, just changing the sub, the crew names, and a few details (and ditching Joi Lansing's character, alas!).

While ATOMIC SUBMARINE does look frightfully low budget compared to VOYAGE, let alone today's super-bloated budget busters, it works pretty well for a product of its time. And the minimalist, barely illuminated alien saucer interior is surprising effect. I know it creeped me out when I first saw this late one night in '66!
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Exit to Eden (1994)
Anne and Dana
23 September 2004
I went to see the film for one reason-- Dana Delany. She's a helluva an actress and omigod, what a beautiful body! Damn Hollywood for not having more opportunities for beautiful talented actresses to be nude on camera for extended times!

Given the pre-release bashing Anne Rice gave INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, one would think she would have been positively berserk at this film. But apparently she enjoyed the film! She admitted that her original text would probably have been difficult to film.

Definitely should have had more nudity in it, though. This film strikes me as Garry Marshall's counterpart to Don Knott's THE LOVE GOD. He wants to be adult, he wants to be naughty, but in the end he retreats to the safety of burlesques and pratfalls.
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Shadow on the Land (1968 TV Movie)
Definitely a scary prediction of the Bush Regime's goals
14 September 2004
I saw the movie the two times it ran way back when. At the time, I thought it was a neat parallel world tale and an interesting alternate take on espionage flicks. The notion of a conservative, openly fascistic takeover of the US, shredding the Constitution, and preserving its rule by an internal security force capable of creating hoaxes to turn the public against outsiders.... well, at the time, it sure looked like scifi!

Sadly, we now know better. The film is a chilling, Nostradamus-like tale about Bush/Cheney, Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, and all the rest of the evil that has been foisted upon America these past three years. The climax of the film, in which Internal Security agents plan to commit an atrocity and blame it on the underground, is disturbingly close to something Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Ridge might plan. After all, an "al Quaeda" terrorist attack, "successfully foiled" by Homeland Security forces, would be a powerful propaganda stunt to ensure Bush's election.
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5 September 2004
The film has its flaws but dang if Saxon didn't come up with an intriguing scenario. Watching it just now, I can see the thing as a big budget, ultimate AVENGERS episode. You can even see where the commercial breaks would go.

The screenwriter did well to ditch one of Saxon's bits. In his novel, THE DISORIENTED MAN, the composites are actually host bodies for alien invaders. I prefer the strictly Terrestrial conspiracy of the film. One can imagine if Victor Frankenstein had been more successful AND MORE DISCREET, he and his creations/allies would have been well on their way to literally construct a master race. Another poster wished for another 15 minutes of the film. Hell, I want this thing expanded to a mini-series! There is definitely enough material for 4-6 hours of film.
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A well-crafted, well-deserved tribute to a true giant
29 August 2004
Frank Frazetta is probably the greatest artist to grace the related fields of comic book and paperback illustration. Starting as a comic book artist for EC back in the early 1950s, then moving on to draw the incredibly sexy women of the L'IL ABNER comic strip, then reaching his pinnacle as the greatest fantasy paperback cover artist of the 1960s and 1970s. He expanded into other fields, such as cinema and sculpture. PAINTING WITH FIRE is documentary and tribute to the great artist. Frazetta's own commentary is interspersed with tributes from others, like comic book artists Bernie Wrightson, Mike Kaluta, and Neal Adams.

Every fan of comic books, book cover art, and fantasy art needs to see this film.
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Coven (2000)
I almost ended up working on this!
5 August 2004
When I moved to Milwaukee's East Side (where UWM is located) in '91, I saw fliers all over the place advertising a feature film to be shot in Milwaukee and asked for people to fill openings for cast and crew.

I'd already lost a chance to be a script messenger on what turned out to be FIELD OF DREAMS (my car was too undependable for me to take the job) so this looks intriguing. Unfortunately I was tied up with a helljob at Kelly Temp that prevented me from making the initial meeting. Sigh..... Oh well.....

In the years that followed, I wondered what happned to that flick. Then I saw AMERICAN MOVIE and knew.

Well, Mark, if you need me for some future flick, e-mail me!
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The Baileys of Balboa (1964–1965)
A dim childhood memory
12 July 2004
Dang, someone beat me to this! Here I have been trying to think of obscure TV shows or films to be the first person to comment upon! Oh well.

I'm a big Paul Ford fan but I don't think I ever really watched this during its brief life.

It probably ran against something my 9-yr-old self found more compelling. Or worse, ran against something the rest of my family wanted to watch.

I wish re-run channels like TVLAND would run obscure, never syndicated shows like this more often. Heck, imagine a day devoted to following Judy Carne thru her many shows. Or her ex-husband, Burt Reynolds, thru HIS many shows!
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