Beginning with an Ending

 

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

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We begin with a timely end.

The End of Time by Canadian filmmaker Peter Mettler is one of those documentary movies that we prefer not to talk about. We want to keep this extradordinary cult film to ourselves. We don’t want others criticizing it, misunderstanding it, or worse fawning over it with false praise.

The film meanders around the time/space continuum. Whether we are at a funeral pyre in India, or watching the slow progress of lava in Hawaii marking both a beginning and end, we are acutely aware that time is a thief, a crook, a misbegotten monster, and our captor.

Mettler throws together everything from time lapse surprises to an ice cream truck ringing its chimes through the empty streets of decaying Detroit. We try to put our mind around the concept that time is the same word as weather in other languages and cultures.

Spectacular images from the film’s start include footage of a free fall off a balloon by a man in 1957 from 20 miles above Earth.

We can find ourselves spinning with the Cern collider or watching the stars from a planetarium’s mountaintop.

The narration is minimal by director Mettler, almost matter of fact. After all, what can you say about something evasive and cruel?

Does time exist at all? Is it merely the vanity of the semi-intelligent creatures who populate this corner of the universe?

No, we want to keep this film our personal secret. To watch it now and then a hundred times will not waste time.

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Mr. Brady Doesn’t Go to Washington

 DATELINE: DEFLATED WHITE HOUSE

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Stephen A. Smith is upset. He is paid to find a reason to show indignation. This weekend Tom Brady gave him a reason.

Smith suggests that Brady is a Republican racist who hates President Obama. Yes, he has gleaned this morsel out of the star QB’s reluctance to enjoin with another NFL mandated tradition, the photo op.

In a year that the NFL has had more black eyes than the singing Peas, Tom Brady refused to make nice and show up at his fourth presidential jokefest. Yeah, where Mr. Obama made an egregiously unfunny comment about Deflategate.

We see why Stephen A. Smith is defensive. Tom is supposed to be a bigger man, a legend, a potential statesman, and he must overlook all slights.

The White House made earlier disparaging comments about Brady and the Patriots—and now, obsequious politicians are now turning worms. Tom has refused to turn the screw.

He was out looking at Apple watches after taking his dog to be bathed at the local dog hair stylist.

Who said family values are always high toned?

The younger Kraft had scheduled elective surgery for that day—and Obama wasn’t the President he wanted elected. So he was not there too, Mr. Smith.

Mr. Smith has not gone to Washington to meet Mr. Obama, but he would in a flash if security would let him in. Alas, the semi-Secret Service has some standards.

Those who never won a Super Bowl and never expect to again were there. Thank heavens these events are not self-serving.

Name Game for Bruce Jenner

DATELINE: Portrait of Jennie

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The betting odds on what Bruce Jenner’s new name will be are now reaching the hottie stage.
Brunhilda and/or Precious seem to lead the chorus of baptizers. A few simply want to immerse him nameless in the River Jordan.

Handles are important when you are a celebrity. We think he needs to go with a one-name fashion, like Liberace, or Gronk.

Like most transgender names, it suggests something utterly unlike the previous identity. We think that lets out Wheatie.

Since Chaz Bono has given up his old name, we think a celebrity switcheroo is in order. Bruce should become Chastity, as we suspect there will be few takers in his new role.
Heavens, how many women pushing 70 are in the game nowadays? More than we care to imagine, probably.

Any of the 1980s TV miniseries stars may be good role models for Bruce. When he was appearing with the Village People in movies, Crystal and Sue-ellen were the hot gals of celebrity fiction.

As a child of the 60s, we think he should go with one of the names that suggests flowers in his hair, like Daffodil—or Daisy.

With his change of sex, he has lost the rights to the name Minnie.

We do hope he will donate his organ to a good cause. There must be people who have suffered severe loss in industrial accidents who’d be overjoyed to have a new appendage that has been where celebrities like to hang out. We don’t want to find his lost member up on e-Bay for sale in a pickle jar.

In any respect, after this baptism, we shall always call him her.

Iranian Vampires

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

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If you ever needed an antidote to the blood curdling TV series called True Blood, you may have found it with Ana Lilly Amirpour’s no frills vampire film, A Girl Walks Home Alone at NIght.

Set in Bad City, somewhere in the Arab world, maybe Iran, the cast speaks Farsi, though one of the stars of the Blacklist is featured in the movie (Mozhan Marno). She’s a far distance from one of Red’s FBI agents here.

Arash Marandi is a James Dean type who drives a little old T-bird and has all the pouting mixed sexuality required. He decides to go to a costume party as Dracula, but he meets a real life vampire on the way home. As the Girl, Sheila Vand is suitably creepy in her black cape on a skateboard she steal from a little boy

The film echoes the 1950s, Fellini, bad horror movies, and manages to make it rather hypnotic. If you are looking for the sort of action-packed silliness of American vampire movies, forget it. This is a slow moving tale with few special vampire effects, but the images shown are rather startling.

Can a sweet boy find happiness with a real vampire? It sort of follows True Blood in some ways, but this black and white dark vision will only appeal to the adult viewers who liked Jim Jarmusch’s little foray into the vampire world earlier this year.

All the best scenes are not in the movie—and when you check on the deleted scenes in the DVD, you realize that the director wants to give us less. We applaud any attempt to stay away from needless excess when it comes to vampire lore.

This was a Sundance film despite its Iranian trappings. And, it is clearly out of the American pop music and film school. The characters love that stuff.

We wonder where the director will go next.

Brady Sends Regrets to Obama

DATELINE: POLITICS AS USUAL

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Tom Brady decided to skip going to the White House to be honored by President Barack Obama. This means he missed a meaningless photo op in which former Patriots Darrelle Revis and Stevan Ridley did appear. They know they will never again have such a chance.

Brady has been to a bunch of these things—and gave as his excuse “prior family commitment.”

We are not sure taking the family dog to the groomer really qualifies as a bona fide excuse. Maybe it’s more like a bone fido excuse.

The outcry and hue has not rivaled the nasty anger when a certain Bruins goaltender refused to go to the White House, but his family commitment had to do with staying in a family bunker to protest Obamacare.

A few cognoscenti are pointing out that Tom Brady is a bona fide Republican who may want to go to the senate when his career is over. He also said he may want to go into movies with Gronk.

The President praised the Patriots as one of the finest sports organizations around—apparently forgetting that Aaron Hernandez, former Patriot, just was found guilty of first degree murder and has a few others to answer for.

Robert Kraft was there with Bill Belichick, not too proud to give the President a Patriots jersey—no, it was not 81, the former Hernandez jersey, and it wasn’t #12 which belongs to #12.

We await the Tom Brady Facebook zinger that is sure to be released now that the political hullabaloo is upon us.

 

 

 

Low Rent Hitchcock Always Nicer than No Hitchcock

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

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Scrumptious Couple

We took in—again—Julien Duvivier’s marvelous little thriller from the late ‘60s that has a freshness about it that seems contemporary.

Diabolically Yours features beauty hiding evil everywhere.

Start with Alain Delon and Senta Berger never more stunning. They are a beautiful husband and wife, or at least they seem to be. They are rich and live on a gorgeous estate in a house decorated with Ming Dynasty treasures. Everything is lovingly filmed. They made two versions, one in French and one in English. Either is fine.

The problem is that gorgeous George Campo has amnesia after a car accident and nothing quite is familiar to him. His wife is a bit standoffish—and his best friend happens to be his doctor. Throw in a Chinese manservant who is inscrutable, but keeps all Madame’s clothes in his room with a lifesize mannequin of her to dress.

Poor George! Even his dog doesn’t like him. But his wife keeps feeding him those sleeping pills and refusing conjugal visits. It’s enough to make you start looking for dead bodies in the garden.

Short and slow until its sudden denouement, this is one of those classic French mysteries that used a Hitchcock template after Hitch stopped making his kind of movies.

This had a style reminiscent of Reflections in a Golden Eye, made around the same time, and also a contemporary flopperoo. But, audiences then are less astute than today when we have to shop in the past since the only fare nowadays is superhero light.

If you want a tantalizing mystery for 90 minutes with a hilarious sudden ending of poetic justice, then you could do worse than spending some time puzzling over this dittie.

 

Delon and Berger were never more beautiful and delicious.

Big Hullabaloo Over Big Papi Brings Big Wind

DATELINE: HUMOROUS TIBIA

While we went on our luxury vacation from sports to work on our new book about the Titanic, David Ortiz hit an iceberg in Boston.

Well, it was 70 degrees and a beautiful day, the next day was iceberg weather. Boston is like that in April. And, sure enough, if the Queen Mary of Designated Hitters did not go bump in the night. He ripped a hole in the Sox hull.Featured image

While Ortiz was complaining about balls and strikes, which is an offense against man and humanity in the eyes of MLB, he carried over his anger to a second umpire.

When you bump the third base umpire while complaining about the home plate man in black, you are likely to be abducted by little green men from the Commissioner’s Office.

Usually in situations like this, Ortiz makes a direct attack on the Bell Telephone in the dugout with a bat. Not this time, fans. Ortiz decided he would take down the iceberg with a heated exchange.

Suffice it to say, the justice league always prevails. You may think you are Batman going up against Superman, tugging on his cape, but you are merely a glorified pinch hitter.

And, the league is not about to let superheroes grow into green monsters like the incredible hulkster that Ortiz has become. He is now bigger than the game, or at least bigger than his britches.

Right now, he has driven off the britches before counting his chicken.

Wicked Wick, Sticky Wicket

 

 DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

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When those teenage heartthrobs of the ‘80s come back as middle-aged mean, you better look out.

Keanu Reeves, one time pantywaist, is now tougher than dirt. His new film John Wick reincarnates him, raises him from the dead, and breathes new life into an old actor.  John Wick is a familiar movie about a retired killer for the Russian mob that should be the dog that you let sleep. When some inconsiderate minor league mobsters pick on him and kill his puppy, they make him return to form. And, that means he is a one-man superhuman wrecking machine.

Oh, we’ve seen it before—in fact, in The Equalizer just last month. He can clear a room of deadwood before it’s dead.

With a cast of familiar faces (Ian McShane, Willem Dafoe, John Leguizamo, etc.), we have a movie so intensely cool that you will need to fan yourself at the half-way mark.

John Wick apparently is a candle in the wind that everyone recognizes. His friends simply defer and step aside. His enemies won’t have time.

Though you’ve seen the dance steps before, they are done with style and panache again. The old wine is now in a new bottle, perhaps a franchise movie.

Reeves is so laconic you may start to become giddy with his no-nonsense mechanical killer. We still can’t figure out why these sort of movies are entertaining. Violence and kill count are astronomical, but it works on a plane or dimension that string theory can only dream about.

Time flies when you’re counting corpses left in John Wick’s wake. Director Chad Stahelski already has the sequel on the drawing board.

 

 

Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette!

DATELINE: HUMOR

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The Hernandez jury had a pressing issue to raise with Judge Susan Garsh—and court was convened to address it.

Smokers on the jury want a smoke break. We heard testimony that Aaron Hernandez used to take smoke breaks all the time: of course, his cigarette of choice was the marijuana brand.

If you recall the old Phil Harris song from the 1950s, you may recall that, “Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette…till you smoke yourself to death.”

Jurors are ready to tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate that he will just have to wait because the jurors just gotta have another cigarette.

The old song noted that if the singer ever met the guy that invented the cigarette, “I’d murder that son of gun in the first degree.”

Heavens, we are reminded that nicotine slaves are all the same: everything has to stop while they have that cigarette.

Judge Garsh reminded jurors that they can take a smoke break. Smoke’em if they gottem. But they will be on police duty of the courtyard grounds at the end of every day.

And, the nonsmokers cannot deliberate while the smokers go out for a final puff before the EMTs arrive with oxygen. You hate to make Hernandez wait, but the jury just must have that cigarette.

It’s almost enough to make Hernandez take out his Glockenspiel and play the tune while he waits for a verdict.

Missing Time, But Never Missing Ancient Aliens

DATELINE: TV MASHUP

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Hey, Porcupine!

The History Channel runs their ever-popular Ancient Aliens series as a marathon at least once or twice per week. With its usual batch of crypto-experts, including the guy with the electrically shocked hairdo, we have come to listen to their endless expertise on any and all mythologies under the sun–or beyond it.

Of course, we don’t know how much expertise these guys truly have, or what degrees they hold, if any. Nonetheless, they now speak to us with authority on the unsolved mysteries of the universe.

They haven’t ridden in flying saucers that they admit to, but know someone who has.

It all started with the granddaddy of crypto-UFOlogists, Erick Van Daniken. We read his stuff back in the hippie days—and many things have passed since. He is as topical as ever. In fact, he may be completely mainstream now. We know those creatures exist, visited Earth, and the government has covered everything up–from the Nazca Lines to Roswell.

Well, Ancient Aliens has a new batch of episodes, and we couldn’t miss it—though we wish we had missing time on this week’s show.

The series is at the bottom of the barrel, contending that aliens were influential on the American Civil War. As protectors of the great Republic, they were sending messages to Abe Lincoln and trying to save the Union. Following the premiere came Hangar 1, season two, that suggested UFOs have fought against the United States in Korea and Vietnam.

These space gods can be fickle. Either they’re for us or against us. It depends on the war. We wish they’d get their act together.

If you think Ancient Aliens may have crossed wires with ghost hunters, you’d be with us on this one. When they noted that writer Ambrose Bierce suffered a head wound during the war and that’s what made him a great writer, we knew where this was headed. All great writers have their inspired stories coming from UFO visitors. Our blog is a direct result of alien abductions.

In 1913 Bierce went missing—apparently joining aliens in the great beyond, in the Mexican desert. Lucky guy.

It all ties together—different dimensions, UFOs, spirit worlds, string theory, and lost time. It’s just that they seem to be stretching credulity beyond the big bang they get for the buck.

We just wish those aliens would take us away.

Vice Squad Required

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP REDUX

 

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If you have a sense of “been there before” after seeing the first ten minutes of this movie, you would be accurate. It was called Westworld, Jurassic Park, or Fantasy Island, when it was the high rent district. Now the place is called Vice.

You can only tell inmates from paying customers by the little bracelet they wear. It’s a shiny brave new world for dolts. Turn left at The Outer Limits.

Yes, it’s one of those adult fantasy locales where clients can commit turpitude with impunity. This time the greedy owner and manager is Bruce Willis, playing Ricardo Montalban, playing Richard Attenborough. Usually Willis has a nose for selecting good sci-fi scripts, but he seems to have settled for the contempt of familiarity this time on the GPS of script locators.

Unrecognizable in his appearance as a jaded cop investigating the looney fantasy resort is Thomas Jane. He used to be a blond Mickey Mantle type, but in this film with his stringy long black hair he resembles Kurt Russell with toothpick in mouth and rasp in his throat. He misplaced his eyepatch.

It seems one of the androids has had memory bleed and escapes from the self-contained pleasure palace. Since she is a killing machine that doesn’t realize she’s a robot, you have a problem, Houston.

The movie is a glossy, mindless romp of violence, sex, and ersatz moral decline. The women are topless, and the men never take off their pants. It’s heterosexual fantasy time, according to PG standards. The real villains in this movie are the religious fundamentalists who want to close down any place where license is given to licentiousness.

You’d think this movie would be set in a Nevada desert where no one would care—but then you wouldn’t have a movie. For trivia enthusiasts, it’s Mobile, Alabama.

Ben Hur Meets Leave It to Beaver

 DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

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Well, call it pretension.

When we learned that Boyhood was innovative filmmaking and all the rage for its cleverness, you could have knocked us over with a Huck Finn metaphor, or like a Tom Sawyer simile.

Instead, we were mistreated to an almost three-hour epic. Yes, indeed, the film took years to complete, following the coming of age and shoe size busting nature of a young actor growing up. And it takes hours to tell.

Normally in movies, you have several actors depicting a character growing up in phases. One of the hilarious consequences is that the young man never seems quite likely to become the adult. We recall when Sal Mineo morphed into Tony Curtis. Now that was a stretch of growth. The movie was Six Bridges to Cross. Our dear friend Jan Merlin played the same character at age 14 and age 31. Now that was a stretch of acting.

So, we are not terribly impressed to see the same child grow up before our eyes. We have been there and done that. We watched all the reruns of Leave It to Beaver in a marathon session. Then we took a look at the adult Beaver raising his own kids. Yep, it was Jerry Mathers all the way. And no one gave him an Oscar.

If you want an epic of time travel, you can likely hit any of the children growing up on TV shows that last more than five or six seasons. They even wear the same clothes for years. Ask John Boy Walton.

Our beef with Boyhood is that it is not a TV series. It is a movie of some little consequence. So, to give it the full breadth of nearly three hours running is an offense against bladders.

At least a TV series is in chunks with commercials breaking us up—and no one pretends they are telling the greatest story ever told in epic time.

We know that the director thinks he has a special movie when it runs over two hours nowadays. How much over two hours may tell you how much ego has been injected into the film.

Boyhood is on steroids, which sounds about right for Millenial kids.

Imitation Game: Sincerest Form of Flattery

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All the best films this year appear to be docudramas.

We highly anticipated The Imitation Game, and we were not disappointed with the movie—but we were furious at how a hero of World War II was so miserably treated by his own government.

Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) invented the crypto-computer that cracked the Nazi codes. He could not be celebrated, nor thanked, because it was top secret.

Following the story on three flashback levels, the film shows Turing as a youth with his friend Christopher in the years before the war, his team of cryptography experts during the war, and his run-ins with the police for being a consenting adult in 1951.

Populated with the usual familiar faces of high quality British drama on TV, you won’t be disappointed with the acting performances that are head and shoulders above anything much produced by American filmmakers. Charles Dance, Allen Leech, Mark Strong, and Matthew Goode, are familiar faces—and thank heavens for them.

Cumberbatch, of course, runs away with the film—proving himself one of those versatile actors that we may enjoy for decades in a variety of roles. He slips into his parts effortlessly (so it seems), and he can adapt to all sorts of film parts—from Sherlock to Khan to Julian Assange.

Dare we compare him to the classic British actors of yore? We still await his work in some Shakespearean film efforts before calling him another Olivier or Burton. He is less classical leading man and more odd stick character, but that should give him breadth many others do not.

His final moments in this movie are extraordinary.

Eaton Place, Gosford Park, Downton Abbey? High Rent Stuff

MOVIE MASHUP

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With the final season of Downton Abbey nearly a year away, we decided to give ourselves a fix with the movie that helped Julian Fellowes decide to write the hit TV show.

We refer to Gosford Park, which we did not put on our A list back then. It seemed to be too American filtered—with Robert Altman directing like Agatha Christie had decided to redecorate Upstairs/Downstairs.

By far the worst part of the film was Bob Balaban as the intrusive Hollywood producer at the English shooting party. Heaven knows, he was an anachronism then—and remains one now. He just did not fit in, whether it is bonking his beautiful manservant Ryan Phillipe, or calling butler Alan Bates, Mr. Jennings. It seemed too precious for words.

Yet, the overall effect was to pick out all the actors who found work on Downton Abbey—including Maggie Smith, playing well, Maggie Smith as a dowager.

One of the key effects was the all-star cast. It seemed to bring in every actor who had a role in a British miniseries to those who frequented Ivory-Merchant period movies. It was a great idea, making characters jump out instantly. Without the weekly series to bring familiarity to the characters, Altman hit on a highly effective idea.

Of course, there is something insidious going on—and we see the clues everywhere—from bottles of poison to missing knives. There is murder in the air, and we aren’t even close to the Orient Express.

It helps to have a great cast, clever plotting, and a director at his peak of power. We found this bargain basement Downton, but then again Downton is bargain basement Brideshead Revisited.

If you are into the genre, then it all falls into period place. You know where you are and what to expect. We were not as up or down as the first time around. Gosford Park started to feel comfortable.

 

 

A Modest Proposal of Marriage by Gronk

DATELINE: Dullard Central

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Gronk, the New England Patriot Playboy of the Western World, went on TV this week to give the qualities he needed in a wife.

This sent hearts aflutter—for a spikey minute.

Women who want to apply for the job may be like Shayanna Jenkins, more interested in a good buck than any rhyming scheme.

Gronk listed his qualities in a descending order that might send most women into a downward spiral.

He wants someone who cleans, cooks, takes care of the house, stays at home, lets him do what he wants, and is beautiful. At least those were the salient points.

In the words of another odd couple, “Hokey Smoke, Bullwinkle.”

If you think Gronk is looking for a mother, you’d probably be wrong. He did not mention sex, though beautiful could possibly cover that dimension. We suspect Gronk doesn’t really need another person for sex. He is everything he needs in one package.

And what does Gronk offer in return? Well, there is the unlimited money making possibility of endorsements and movies. He can give the perpetual joy of having the excitement of a man-child discovering the world. And he has a body to rival Michelangelo’s David—well, at least in the short haul.

As we look over this list, we know that we are not a viable candidate, having passed the age of most old gray mares. We also must ponder that Floyd Mayweather already has rounded up Justin Bieber. But we do realize that Gronk does not want a wife. What he wants is a houseboy.