Monday, March 31, 2008
(There was quite a bit of laughter from the smallish and youngish audience at the Bloor Cinema last night. They seemed to be hip as to what a bad movie sounds like.)
A few minutes after the end credits went up -- and with a rock song playing along, no surprise -- I suddenly remembered Canadian filmmaker Maurice Devereaux's standout 2006 horror film, End of the Line. It is far superior. (As far as I know, End is still unsold. This makes no effing sense, if you know what I mean.)
George A. Romero now lives in Toronto -- smart man.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
However, I am a glutton. Put any food in front of me, even the infamous orange morsels of nutritional goodness, and I will consume until they are no more. Names like Hostess, Lays, or Family Best are always welcome to attend one of my movie nights. And they are even better than human movie-going mates as they do not make any noise... as I scoop them up by the handful.
We have a cleaning lady come to the house every two weeks just to keep things up to spec. She made the mistake, during casual conversation a few weeks ago, of mentioning that a friend of hers gets samples from various chocolate brands. Of course, I made a joke that if she could spare any, I would do the good thing and consume the good things. (I am not known to buy chocolates of any kind, and cannot even remember the last time I bought a chocolate bar.)
Well, two weeks later, the wonderful cleaning lady came to the house to do her fine work, and she admitted to me right off the top, "I'm so sorry, I forgot the chocolates I promised you... I even left them by the door so I would not forget". I mentioned to her very nicely, "If you forget them next time, then don't even bother showing up to work".
Two boxes of mints and various chocolate shapes made their way to me two weeks later. Our cleaning lady is a woman of honour.
I ate, ate, ate those sugary treats until they were gone, gone, gone. The 'After Eight' mints were good for "ten to seven"; "a half past eleven"; "twenty times after dinner hour"; and "30 seconds to six a.m."
And then they're were none...
... for a couple of weeks.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Sol-3 must survive!
I would not ever want to hear this: "Captain's log, supplemental. We have assumed orbit around planet Sol-3. Our mission, a scientific investigation into the causes of a total environmental collapse to a former Class M planet. Due to the toxic nature of the atmosphere and extreme surface temperatures, we must don environmental suits before beaming down. "
Friday, March 28, 2008
In a nutshell, this slippery little flick chronicles the adventures of high school senior Charles Martin Smith as a clumsy or unlucky dude who just wants to show he is good at something -- so he starts a band.
My good friend, Greg Woods, is my official supplier for such elusive but highly desirable fare. I asked for a screening copy and he complied with his usual enthusiasm.
Tonight I watched Cotton Candy. It is as sugary as the title suggests but in a good way. Clearly skewed for a young viewer it has it's appeal to the more cynical, older one... like me! There are some awkward structural flaws in the script but there are enough jokes and true to life morsels which more than compensate for such un-Fieldian (as in 'Syd') sloppiness. Ron Howard and his younger brother Clint -- who co-stars -- wrote the screenplay. They were young and still learning.
Charles Martin Smith is very appealing in the main role as dreamer/musician/failed football player George Smalley. And whoever cast Alvy Moore as his dad is a frickin' genius. They actually look like son and father. Beautiful.
I should note that the DVD-R that Greg gave me is an 'off-air' recording of Cotton Candy from June of 1981. The commercials were included in addition to NBC news updates and network series promos. It was great seeing this stuff from another time. This Youtube clip is from the same source...
Thursday, March 27, 2008
The fools have left the stadium, and the "incompetent from top-to-bottom" organization has been taught a lesson.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are continuing losers...
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Like many VHS copies of movies that I have, Phibes sat in the archives waiting to be screened. After clearing up some matters which had to be taken care of first, I fired up the big TV and relaxed. Actually, I popped in the DVD-R that I made from the VHS.
Vincent Price sparkles as Dr. Phibes, projecting the right amount of torment (due to his injury from an accident) and passion for his long lost wife. We don't see Price's lips move -- he speaks through a device -- but it is his unmistakable voice; a voice modulated and gargled to a degree, making his plans for compensation even more pronounced.
The Abominable Dr. Phibes could have easily fallen on the side of pure camp -- even at the time it was released never mind due to the passage of time -- but it confidently plays it straight while balancing some genuine need to be laughed with. It all runs to a satisfying denouement.
Rent this one.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
As a final statement, hopefully, I would like to point out the appeal of those shows to a 'little one' back in the day. Readers who were born years after Allen's series were made -- and even after the years of syndication -- might wonder what the big deal was.
The hooks in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel, and Land of the Giants, really, were the respective show's toy factor. With the exception of The Time Tunnel, which did have the neato titular tunnel, they all had a cool vehicle. And ones with large sized perspex windows... windows to see what horrible creature (literally and figuratively) or 'phenomena' was lurking outside.
Keep in mind that television series in the 1960s were well marketed -- way ahead of their big-screen brethren -- so many had plastic model kits, toys, and board games tied in for we little people to enjoy. (The AMT plastic model kit of The Munsters car was a huge seller; as was, no surprise, AMT's kit of Star Trek's U.S.S. Enterprise.)
Irwin Allen influenced many a little boy and, I'm sure, little girls. And some of them went on to work in the motion picture and television business -- to work on films shot in coffee shops.
Monday, March 24, 2008
The premise of Giants is as follows: The suborbital spaceship Spindrift is en route to London from New York city when it passes through a cloud and lands on a planet of giant people.
I was living in Europe the time that Land of the Giants played on ABC in first run. As there were only two years worth of episodes, 'stripping' this series (that is Monday to Friday at 5 p.m., sort of thing) was problematic. Giants would end its run in just over two months. This is the reason why I did not see it until 1983 when CKVR ran the show late at night that summer.
After taping and watching a couple of episodes, I could readily figure out why Giants was all but forgotten. It was deadly dull! The characters were empty souls -- and essentially duplicates of the Lost in Space characters -- amongst some impressive scaled-up props and outstanding optical mattes. These qualities do not make a show, however.
Land of the Giants did have an above average Johnny Williams (by now, "John") theme tune. I remember seeing the beginning of an episode on BBC-2 in England a few years ago where I was not only reminded of the clarity inherent in the PAL television system but was also treated to a different -- and excellent -- opening title sequence and musical theme. I did not realize this series had a different opening treatment in its second year, and a super-charged one at that. You learn something every day.
I guess the producers were trying to spice up and hyper-energize the second year, figuring the audience was cold to the lack of character development and scripting in the first.
Check out the first season opening title sequence from Land of the Giants... (I love that tremolo tuba!)
Sunday, March 23, 2008
I remember the CB radio craze in the mid-seventies, and I too was caught up in it. Hollywood decided to do something about it: One result of this was Jonathan Demme's 1977 feature film, Citizens Band -- also known as Handle With Care. ("CB" is short for Citizen's Band.) This entertaining film stars Paul Le Mat -- who was hot back then due to the great success of American Graffiti -- who plays CB enthusiast Spider Thermodyne. He is serious about his hobby, to the point that he chastises people who misuse the airwaves (which is quite a few). There are some funny moments as Spider takes matters into his own hands after deciding enough is enough.
Along for the ride are Candy Clark, who also appeared in Graffiti and was nominated for an Oscar because of it, and always memorable character actor Charles Napier. Roberts Blossom plays Le Mat's drunkard father by looking the part. He is very good.
Citizens Band follows several different characters as they are connected in some way to the hobbyist's radio. Some folk we get to know more than others but enough is presented as to give us an idea as to who is up to what. This movie is a fairly short one at 98 minutes.
TVO played this one two weeks ago on their "Saturday Night at the Movies" weekly series. Scheduling Citizens Band makes a good counterpoint to many of the classics that network screens on the program. While it might not be considered high end fare, and what you would typically expect to see on SNATM, the film is a lot of fun... and reminds older folk like me of that time.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
The Puffy Chair is about a few things, really, but to me it is about obsession sewn by spiritual emptiness. On its oil-slick surface it is about non-commitment in personal relationships.
By the way, the chair itself was full of character.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
The Time Tunnel ran just one season (on ABC) back in 1966 to 1967. Because of this, unless one caught it on first air-dates then you were to hear of it only described to you; in my case, by a friend. In 1974 or abouts, he told me of The Time Tunnel and proceeded to describe an episode where "these guys", Tony and Doug, the two handsome leads of this series, end up on the Titanic just as it was about to sink. I had more than heard of the ocean liner Titanic, I was a fanatic at an early age, but I could not pull any memories from the memory bank to reward my friend's noble feat to jog my memory. I just did not remember any television based time machine other than Doctor Who's Tardis. (What my pal was describing was the pilot episode, "Rendezvous with Yesterday", starring some dude by the name of Michael Rennie.)
Eventually, I did see a couple of episodes in the mid 1980s courtesy of CKVR's summer classic television programming. I found The Time Tunnel to be boring and without much merit. Why, I asked, do Tony and Doug always end up at a time and place where some major event is happening, such as Krakatoa during the volcano incident, or the War of 1812? Why did they not end up in Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada, during tobacco harvest season?
I should mention that a television budget could only realize such ambitious scenarios through the use of 20th Century Fox's stock library. By duping sections from films such as The Buccaneer (1958), or The 300 Spartans (1962) the tv epic could realize its lofty goals.
Irwin Allen admitted that The Time Tunnel was his favourite of his own series'.
Check out this original promo...
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
The good news is, some deliciously entertaining movies are going to be made in the next few years on what a cockup this whole charade is.
I often prefer reading to watching a movie or video. Some deliciously entertaining and informative books are coming soon... and have been coming.
As a little one, however, Lost in Space had its allure. The earliest episodes had palpable 'atmosphere'. The black and white cinematography by Gene Polito (son of old time cameraman, Sol) lends a credible amount of this quality. Johnny Williams's theme tune is classic and his scoring of the first handful of installments forged an identity for the show -- again, I use the word "atmosphere". (This background music, which was re-tracked throughout the program's run is easily identifiable to those of us who grew up with this aural asset.)
That was the good stuff. The bad stuff is just about everything over, under, and in between. The cast, however iconic to a degree, has nothing to do and no room to grow or develop their characters. A guy like Mark Goddard gave it his all but could only hit a wall within the 2-D framework of "Major Don West". Of course, as any Lost in Space fan will tell you, the memorable personality hooks were Doctor Zachary Smith, young Will Robinson (played by Bill Mumy), and the Robot. The banter between Dr. Smith and his "tin-plated" companion is not without charm; something you understand more as an adult viewer. (Trivia note: The Robot with No Name was designed by Robert Kinoshita of "Robby the Robot" fame.) But overall, Lost in Space is tough going.
It's a darn shame, really. The cast as 'actors' is not without appeal. They just don't get anything to show their wares.
My brother had me on the floor with his summation of Lost in Space: "That show is ridiculous. A typical episode would have someone like Will or Dr. Smith walk off camera right (from the encampment). The next shot would be them entering from behind a rock on screen-left; they then notice some alien thing that they never happened to notice before."
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Just read the sad news that science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke has died in his adopted home of Sri Lanka at the age of 90. Like many young boys of the space race, my real introduction to Clarke was through his novel 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Which was based of sorts, inspired by an early short story of the writer's called "The Sentinel".) He co-wrote the book with filmmaker Stanley Kubrick in order to lay a foundation from which they could extract a script for the eventual 1968 motion picture. Clarke also functioned as a science consultant on the film. Kubrick declared the screenplay to be the most awkward and cumbersome form of writing developed by mankind. (The screenplay is just a blueprint to shoot film. It is nothing more. Contrary to what some think, it is not a creative form of writing.)
Clarke was frustrated by Kubrick's method of working; or at least a schedule of working. The famous director liked to work from 3 p.m. or so to late at night, whereas Clarke much prefered to hit the keys starting in the earlly morning. Part of his frustration stemmed from the fact that Kubrick spent more time working on the film and less on the novel. Compounding this, Kubrick delayed approving the novel -- this cut into any chance of the writer from garnering income from sales of the book until much later.
Clarke was a good sport about the whole affair. He seemed to be the perfect English gentleman. The result was they together made perhaps the greatest motion picture of all time.
I have a radio interview with him on cassette tape. Maybe it is time to give it another listen.
The bad news about Arthur C. Clarke...
Top photo: Clarke with director Stanley Kubrick on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1966.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
The phone rang... it was a friend of mine. We talked for about 10 minutes. I went back to the telly and saw the score now at 5 - 2 for Buffalo. "What happened" I thought. "Well Sherlock, it seems that Buffalo scored two quick goals while you were blathering on the telephone", interjected a voice. It continued, "and no doubt you are happy."
"Yes I am."
It looks as though those perpetual losers are going to miss the playoffs for the third consecutive year. (Sports pundits say that the Leafs would have to win all nine of their remaining games. As Roger Lodge might say, "good luck, guys".)
I do not like the Toronto Maple Leafs as much as I like the city of Toronto. Some day soon I will relate a funny story regarding my "hate on" for the Leafs.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
The first season was photographed in black & white and was essentially a mix of foreign/enemy agent and espionage stories. These ingredients make for a show which is far more watchable than the later (ridiculous) episodes involving werewolves, terrible toys, and general, stock ridiculousness. Voyage was shot in "color" from the second season on which seemed to point the way to more, shall we say, colourfulness.
The ironic thing is the later episodes made for more enticing viewing to the average tiny tot. (I remember being a little bored by a story that took place in Venice. My mother said, "there's not much of the submarine in this one, is there?")
Watching Voyage now makes me appreciate the fact -- again, the earlier seasons -- that it is unfairly batched with the three other Allen telefantasy series (Lost in Space, Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants). A couple I have seen lately are superior, by any measure. The crew acted like a real sub crew would, in the first season especially. In the third and four years the crew became a bunch of buffoons... in some cases not recognizing some fiendish plotting alien who copied what an earlier alien tried to do but failed. (I have never figured out how some evil force never managed to take over the vessel, lickity split.) The scripts became so consistently bad that they were often embarrassing.
In re-sampling this series, one quality I was pleasantly reminded of was the slight romantic feeling which reared its head from time to time throughout the series. This was helped by Paul Sawtell's superb theme tune -- one of the best tv-tunes of all time, as far as I'm concerned. You really do not get a signature theme of this quality in series television anymore. Times have changed.
If there is one Irwin Allen series that you might spend an hour of your life to satisfy any curiosity, this would be the one.
* Interestingly enough, someone posted this on Youtube the day I posted the above...
Friday, March 14, 2008
His shows in the 1960s always seemed to be on the tube. Hardly a year went by where Allen did not have a program in the network schedule; and in syndication in later years. (In 1966, there were three of them.) They are, in order of original airdates...
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (ABC, 1964 - 1968)
Lost in Space (CBS, 1965 - 1968)
Time Tunnel (ABC, 1966 - 1967)
Land of the Giants (ABC, 1968- 1970)
Over the next few days I will recount my memories of these fine, fine programs (as SCTV's Guy Caballero would probably say).
First off, from today's adult perspective -- or as much as I have managed to mature in life -- all these series are pretty bad.
... With the exception of....
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Upon the release of Octopussy, Lorne went to see her without me. (Maybe I was not interested in going, or something or other.) "See it... Bond is back on track", is exactly what he said to me the next day.
Yes, I agreed with Lorne on that one. Very entertaining and "that's more like it".
A few years ago I rented The Spy Who Loved Me. I did not see it in the summer of 1977. The titular theme song was played to within an inch of its life on the radio back then; but it was not enough, I guess, to get me into the cinema. Very good movie and exceptional Bond.
More recently, I rented a whack of Bond movies after I went to see Goldfinger at the Bloor Cinema (http://www.bloorcinema.com/). Goldfinger deserves the accolades it gets -- even if it is terribly sexist at times.
I like watching James Bond movies, but for some reason... non of the more recent releases.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Why am I not surprised?
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
I say "good!"
A co-worker of mine is a big Maple Leafs fan and he told me today that that team has to be leveled and rebuilt: Fire everyone on the team. In his opinion there is no fire on the team.
As Archie Bunker would say, "Maple Leafs... good ribbons!"
Relevant article in today's Toronto Star newspaper...
Monday, March 10, 2008
As I wrote in past blog postings, I was there for the first few episodes for Douglas Coupland's series, jPod. Just when I was ready to toss the show aside, it found its legs... in the last episode I watched. Then I methodically tossed it aside.
According the the Corp, jPod won the important 'young people' demographic but not enough of them to warrant continuation of the series.
Don't think for an instant that this is a Canadian thing: The "big three" in the States -- ABC, CBS, and NBC -- were notorious once-upon-a-time for canning shows before they even had a chance. Then came Brandon Tartikoff to NBC and he gave shows a chance to find their audiences. A noted example of this is Family Ties. It was a truly horrible show, but it did eventually bounce around at the very top of the ratings with The Cosby Show in the mid to late 1980s.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
A few nights ago, I sat down to watch Stanley Kubrick's 1956 feature The Killing. It has been a while since I last saw this early film of the director's, and I needed a fix. It is as good as always. Kubrick was still finding his way. Just think, he could have made more films like this before he really found his voice; the one that immortalized him. The Killing shows him to be a more than competent filmmaker early in his career. A launch pad for a future of artistic success.
While I do agree with those who feel the voice over is unnecessary, and personally find that the overlap scenes during the racetrack robbery sequence are experimental more than necessary, The Killing is a superior film. Sterling Hayden is good, as always in this sort of role, Tim Carey is perfect, Marie Windsor fits the bill, and Elisha Cook, Jr. shows he was always unbeatable as a spineless or snivelling "little man".
Gerald Fried's score is brassy, rhythmic, and driving... he has always been good at this sort of thing. These were the days before Kubrick jettisoned composers as such, although he would work with Leonard Rosenman on Barry Lyndon, and Wendy Carlos on The Shining (after he had gone the classical music route with 2001: A Space Odyssey).
What has not changed, too, is the ending's punch. To me, it is one of the finest and funniest climaxes in cinema history. I laughed again.
Text book stuff.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Need some proof? Check out these three clips...
Friday, March 7, 2008
The Psycho opening is a classic, of course: Great Bernard Herrmann piece (just how did he come up with that?!), and classic visuals.
John Frankenheimer's 1966 thriller, Seconds, has some of the most disturbing or "fucked up" title imagery ever, with an awesome, and exquisitely matched, Jerry Goldsmith theme.
Su-perb! Bang on! And "fun".
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Rosenman could write very melodic music. An example of this, and to use a 'geek' one at that, is his music for Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home (1986). It is was one of the standout scores written for that generally sorry film franchise. At times, Rosenman's approach is quite beautiful. And his own Star Trek theme was a refreshing change from James Horner's truly awful one from the previous two Trekkie movies. (Horner's scores overall were good but the signature theme was abysmal.) Rosenman's score fit The Yoyage Home like a glove, going for a glorious upbeat tempo -- in respect to the story's subject matter. I remember reading an interview with the composer at the time he was working on this score; he said trying to come up with a new Trek fanfare is akin to shovelling sand against the waves. Alexander Courage's original is so perfect and iconic.
Here is a good article on Leonard Rosenman, written four years ago by film/tv music historian Jon Burlingame...
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
I admit I watched that one way back then... one of the worst movies I have ever seen: A product of Hollywood; a designed film in the purest sense. One made to appeal to a specific market. I still cannot get over my reaction at the time. However, my own was not as pronounced as my brother's. He told me that as the screen lit up he knew it was going to be offensive in some way. My brother clarified, "at the beginning of the film when Swayze started singing to the car radio, then took his shirt off, I said, 'that's it, I'm outta here!' "
I hope Swayze succeeds in his battle against cancer.
Jeff Healey was a talented guy. A day or two after he died, The CBC replayed a (jazz) music special they had done with him back in a few years ago.
It was kind of sad.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
I thought about this one well after I finished watching it the other night. It is not a 'parking lot film'. While I was not exactly an outcast in high school, I did relate to Dawn (played with authenticity by Heather Mattarazzo). While I was not exactly hard to look at in high school I did relate to the fact she was teased about not being the prom queen. (I never got kidded about my looks, unless "hey, pretty boy" counts as a barb delivered from punks in the hallway. Besides, if I had, I'm sure I would have smarked, "hey, ugly!")
What really felt right was the fact that Dawn did not cower up and hide when she was verbally abused at school but still did her thing... this included meting it out herself.
Her parents were pretty effed. The funniest and most twisted scene for me was when her mother pulled away from Dawn the nice piece of chocolate cake that was brought out for dessert time. Dawn did not get a piece. She sat and watched it sitting idle waiting to be claimed by her little sister.
Just horrible stuff to have to witness.
Monday, March 3, 2008
Hollywood is of special interest to anyone who loves movies. Brownlow and Gill made this one at the right time; that is the late 'seventies, as a lot of their interview subjects -- actors, producers, writers, and techs -- died within a few years of Hollywood's production.
Time to see Hollywood again.
Oh, I should mention that I agree with the title Father of Film. While Griffith clearly did not invent a lot of techniques, he used them so effectively and in analogy with the subject matter of his various films, that his crowning was guaranteed.
The approximate three hour running time (three parts) of D.W. Griffith: Father of Film never makes for dull viewing -- it is always interesting and completely absorbing.
By the way, hasn't anybody noticed that producer/director Ivan Reitman bears a faint resemblance to Griffith?
(I'm not suggesting... )
Sunday, March 2, 2008
The mockumentary was rather boring in its execution. What should have been a revealing treatment on the very real issue of 'cute young things' accompanying the good Doctor on his voyages through time and space, ended up being an excuse to have a goofy framework structure.
The prosecution in an extraterrestrial space station decide that a courtroom inquiry is needed to establish whether the Earth-based television program Doctor Who was exploitative of women. I guess these aliens are not too familiar with our culture. Seems odd to me they are worrying about a series which was made for "the Box".
Within this setup are good interviews -- via telescreen -- with various people who worked behind-the-scenes on Who in addition to several of the actresses who played the Doctor's companions. This was the strongest element of the doc; you almost wish the producers had realized, after editing, that the show would be best served by jettisoning the lame framework story. Two actresses, Sophie Aldred (Ace), and Katy Manning (Jo Grant), are beamed into the station to interact with the space court, but this comes across as an excuse to connect the two incohesive story lines.
There are a few good jokes made during Lust in Space's 55 minutes, but they hardly make the goings on any less tough for the viewer.
I am not suggesting for a moment that the doc should have had Alistair Cooke as host, but a more dry approach would have been nice.
This screening last night reminded me of the 1973 Disney flick, Robin Hood. This animated delight has animals playing human characters. Now, I love animals, but I don't like them playing people in the movies for some odd reason. It's silly.
Animals should play animals.
Besides... everyone knows no cat can talk dat good.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
Boeing Boeing is a 1965 feature starring Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis. It is a film waiting to be remade as Airbus Airbus.