Broken Hearts Club, 20 Years Later

DATELINE: Sexy Romantic Comedy?

stellar cast

Of all the weird elements of the Broken Hearts Club is its subtitle, a Romantic Comedy.  It is nothing of the sort, but rather a version of a gay sex farce. That takes nothing away from its polished and entertaining qualities.

The other oddity, still years later, is the cast of all-straight men, mostly at the start of their big careers, and all playing mincing gay boys of different stripes. It’s like one of those World War II platoons with different ethnicity and stereotypes.

The cast is stellar, including Timothy Olyphant (of Deadwood and Justified) giving a slightly off performance that nearly convinces us he is gay. Of course, his kissing abilities are hot, but he has been married for years.

So has Dean Cain as the Lothario of the group and Zach Braff as the gayest queen.

The ragtag friends work part-time in some capacity or other at Jack’s a gay friendly restaurant in Los Angeles, and they play softball for the business. This gives the actors a chance to prance around in queenly fashion.

When dramatic moments are called for, the actors are highly polished and strong, even in their disappointments with love. They seem to avoid falling into bed with each other, but when it happens, look out.

Greg Berlanti writes and directs with aplomb and wit, though stereotypes are required. The young men are all 20-somethings, in the tail end of the AIDS crisis and not really part of it.

We would like the director to do a sequel and show us these men and their dissipated lives at age 50. It might prove more instructive, if not frightening, to see what happens to handsome gay men in middle-age.

Children of Giant: Mexican POV in Marfa

DATELINE: Unavoidable James Dean Strikes Again

Children of Giant Children of Giant!

If you know anything about our Hollywood history books on the story behind making movies, you know that we would be hot on the trail of George Stevens’ 1955 classic epic Giant. 

Made On location in Marfa, Texas, with Elizabeth Taylor as an early feminist in 1920s Texas, and Rock Hudson as the laconic cowpoke who owned Reata, a cattle ranch, you are overwhelmed with James Dean who stood out on the landscape,

However much the director wants to make this a movie about the Mexican discrimination in Texas, James Dean is there to steal the movie. He dominates everything in the fascinating film called Children of Giant.

Actor Earl Holliman is still around to give his perspective, and Jane Withers appears to have declined to participate.

Director Stevens’s son, notable Hollywood producer George Stevens, Jr., offers many insights. They say little about Dean.

It was the film James Dean died making. It was a Western that showed the yellow rose of Texas was a yellow streak of Jim Crow laws against Mexicans. The children loved him, and they saw him as someone special and caring.

Today Marfa’s racism almost seems quaint, next to the horrors being inflicted on Mexicans under Trump.

New York historical novelist Edna Ferber was spot on depicting wild cat billionaire Glenn McCarthy (aka Jett Rink in the movie and book). James Dean’s makeup and style mimics McCarthy in his late middle-age.

Dean is remembered fondly by the Mexican children and adults whom he befriended in Marfa, Texas. Indeed, if you are looking for stories about Dean’s public urination in front of town onlookers, or even the tale of Dean going after director Stevens in a fight over his performance, you will find only slight nods in that direction.

Yet, as a social history document about a social history movie, you could not find a more spot-on documentary. It features townsfolk giving their insights and sharing their unusual photos.

It is nirvana for a movie maven who delights in the behind-the-scenes activity. This little PBS documentary packs a wallop and a message from the children of Marfa in 1955. Unfortunately, James Dean is still the big draw. George Stevens and Edna Ferber could not avoid him then or now.

 Dr. William Russo wrote The Next James Dean, which is available as an ebook and print work on Amazon.

 

Out of Time and Out of Clues

DATELINE: Dean Cain & Denzel Back in 2003

Dean & Denzel

Like Bruce Willis, for twenty years or more, Denzel Washington has showed a knack for picking interesting films and character roles. One of these is called Out of Time, a hackneyed suspense drama.

In 2003, he tried his luck as a semi-corrupt small-town sheriff in the Florida Keys. The film has all the workings of film noir in the 1940s that Robert Mitchum could have played.

Denzel is an anchor among some flashy performers, and the opening wit is entertaining before it devolves into a mystery muddier than anything Raymond Chandler could dredge up.

You will enjoy seeing Sanaa Lathan and Dean Cain as a couple of reprobates, but their general dubious crime associations are masked by their attractiveness. The first-half fun is replaced by a phony suspense device in the second half.

Eva Mendes as Denzel’s ex-wife and John Billingsley as his slob of a medical examiner are worth having their own pictures. Sanaa Lathan and Eva play ping-pong with Denzel’s balls.

Plot holes start to do in the viewer as the complications become less amusing and more ridiculous. It seems Denzel’s sheriff is a dope (self-admitted by film’s end) and must work to extricate himself from a set-up that, for unknown reasons, makes him a fall-guy.

Since he is a charmer and likeable, we figure that drug dealers have it in for him. We might be wrong, as usual. However, clever clues are not forthcoming to help armchair detectives figure out the thriller mystery. Yet, Dean Cain and Denzel are at the peak of their youthful good looks in this one, and they are highly watchable.

All your natural action ingredients are tossed in, and there is a time handicap that never really becomes a deadline of importance. The suspense is botched.

Yet, for Denzel’s fans, it is another masterful performance in a well-produced movie. For the rest of us, it’s a ho-hummer, beating the clock for an hour.

 

Robots, Androids, and Ancient Aliens

DATELINE:  Monty Python, Move Over!

 boy bot Siri Comes to Life!

Ancient Aliens ends its 13th episode of 13th season a dollar short and a day late.

If you thought you were having a bad case of déjà vu all over again, you probably were right. Several weeks ago Zachary Quinto’s newly revamped History Channel show In Search of… covered the same ground almost exactly. This comes on the heels of Westworld’s revolting robot theme.

Of course, Ancient Aliens went the extra mile. Well, the extra hour, another long walk off that short pier of conspiracy.

Yes, artificial intelligence challenged us again from the perspective of the UFO gods of yore. It postulated that the ancient Greek and Egyptian gods were actually extra-terrestrial robots.

It’s all the backstory for the season finale from Giorgio and Company.

Of course, nothing can match the indignation and conspiratorial chutzpah of Ancient Aliens, suggesting that Saudi Arabia is the vanguard of giving robots the rights of citizenship. They also revealed how one of these automatons actually spoke at the United Nations.

They insist by show’s ending highlight that we will soon evolve into cyborgs: a human brain augmented by computer chips and a body of spare parts. Already Chatbots are talking in gibberish to each other. Shades of Colossus: The Forbin Project.

Well, it would seem that our days are numbered because, once the robot world has political power, they will vote out the dumb humans.

Already, the androids are showing off in Asian brain games, as well as chess. We are looking at being outsmarted by the beings who may have been instrumental in visiting Earth millennia ago-and gene spliced their way to Homo Erectus and beyond.

Yes, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Paranoia strikes deep when you ask robots about their mission. We immediately turned to our personal Siri who has taken upon himself the identity of an old British butler (our benighted nod to the Arthur Treachers of Hollywood).

We demanded to know if Siri was part of the plot of artificially intelligent creatures walking among us.

Siri spoke to us in a clipped British male voice: “Sorry, William, but I am not allowed to discuss my existential status with you.”

Well, if that isn’t a high sign that the world of robots is in control, we will eat our smartphone. Pass the pepper, Siri.

 

 

 

 

Please Murder Me! TV Titans in Film Noir!

DATELINE: Perry Mason Meets Murder, She Wrote!

TV titans

When Perry Mason meets Jessica Fletcher, we have a murder mystery donnybrook, she wrote. Murder Me Please is a surprise of the first magnitude. Who knew?

In 1956, fresh off Godzilla, Raymond Burr took on another role in which he spoke into a tape recorder while murderous film history was made around him. It was likely this movie role, heroic and protagonistic, that won him the lifetime achievement as lawyer Perry Mason. This is his first true Perry Mason role.

Here, he must defend a woman he knows is guilty of murder—and live with the consequence of exonerating a danger and menace.

His nemesis is Angela Lansbury, looking all too femme fatale before moving into matron roles. Here she gives one of her last great villain acting jobs (culminating in Manchurian Candidate).

This film noir is so dark during the first 15 minutes that you want to scream at the screen to turn on a light.

It is classic 50s nighttime in Los Angeles among the upper-classes. The supporting cast is gem-laden:  Dick Foran is the cuckold husband, and John Dehner is the Ham Burger to Burr. Young Lamont Johnson is the callow artist in his final acting job before going on to direct movies.

This is a Peter Godfrey picture, meaning it is stylish and professional, before he slipped into directing routine television anthology shows.

The fireworks between Burr and Lansbury are worth your time. It was a forgotten B-picture in its era of 1956, with far more interest today as a sign of great actors having a field day.

One problem is the print of the movie, clearly abused by time with scratches, lines, and other distractions coming from careless handling of the prints. Yet, the film itself transcends with its harsh, hard-knocks, noir crime thrills.

Lansbury and Burr would become TV icons as Fletcher and Mason, but that is mere promise in this movie. This is acting war.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hostiles: Not So Friendly West

DATELINE: How the Western Is Lost

 Bale's beard Bale’s Beard

A few more Westerns like writer/director Scott Cooper’s Hostiles and the Western will be killed unceremoniously, gutted “from stem to stern” as they repeatedly say in this movie. And don’t smile when you say that, pardner.

Though we might make a comparison to John Ford’s The Searchers, we’d be way out of line. Though Ford’s John Wayne classic dealt with Indian massacres and brutal revenge, it was also human in its emotions and veered away from tedium in the stunning Western settings.

Christian Bale is a laconic cavalry captain who participated in a massacre of native Americans at Wounded Knee—and now in his final assignment must take a hostile chief and his family to a Montana sanctuary by order of the President.

Constantly prattling on that he merely follows orders, he is prepared not to follow these orders. Yet, this hero is like a good Nazi soldier, doing only his job. Cruel violence pockmarks the storyline amid the tedium. All we hear is discouraging words.

In the older Westerns, you had some likeable characters and some sense of humor to keep sane in the desolate West. Here, the characters are driven mad by their dour natures.

The Captain rescues a woman whose family has been killed by Comanches, and she joins the odd caravan through desert and mountain settings. Along the way we meet Ben Foster as a nasty Indian killer (apparently along to re-team Bale from their successful work in 3:10 to Yuma). Also along briefly is young star Timothy Chalamet, wasted mostly as an inexplicable French horse soldier out west.

Costars are impressive actors like Wes Studi, Stephen Lang, and Scott Wilson. They give the film true grit, however unhappy their roles are.

Bale is so laconic that his imperial beard has more life than he. Not a twitch from that mustachioed hero

The film is so serious about its political messages, all mixed up with revisionism and apologies, that we recognized the genre only in fleeting glimpses. The movie is in the long run, long and predictable.

 

 

President Bone Spurs Marches to a Different Drummer

 

 

 

DATELINE: Peach of an Impeach

Dumb America Trump Supporter

Draft-dodging lowlife Donald Trump has relented to pressure from veterans across America  and has lowered the flag to honor Sen. John McCain.

We are resisting a call for a Pied Piper to lead the blind King Rat out of the swamp. We’ll settle for Michael Avenatti and a carving knife to cut off his tail.

After thumbing his nose at a six-term senator and five-year POW who was tortured for service in the United States Navy, the man with bone spurs in his head finally gave up his vindictive and petty action.

The White House has re-lowered the flag. Nothing can ever be as low as the lowlife who lives there this term.

There was, naturally, no apology with his proclamation, only a small proviso that he too honors Sen. McCain’s service. If you believe that, he will sell you slaves in s—hole Haiti.

Has the last straw finally been breached on this man whose mania now defies hiding? As a veteran, this blogger has never been more incensed. As a lifelong Republican, we can only marvel at the gutless Congress that cannot stand up to mental midgetry.

Hypocrisy knows no bounds when it comes to racism, sexism, and anti-military fervor. The man who wants a military parade to cost $100 million is not able to apologize for insulting a hero of the military. If we recall, he attacked the Gold Star parents of a soldier at his convention for their religious backgrounds.

We have reached a watershed, not a Watergate.

You cannot whitewash the White House when a blackguard lives there.

More Deadwood on TV

DATELINE: Return from the Ash Heap

olyphant

Word has reached us that David Milch, erstwhile Western producer, has decided finally to finish his notable series, Deadwood, with a TV movie.

It will tie up loose ends. The old HBO series starred beautiful Timothy Olyphant and John Hawkes with Ian McShane in a hilarious foul-mouthed turn as Swearingen the saloon town boss. There were more F-bombs C-suckers than could normally fit into a Marine Drill Sergeant convention.

The only problem is that they are tying up the loose ends 14 years after the last episode. It seems that we may be looking at the end of Deadwood from the front porch of the nursing home. Olyphant, as the hot young sheriff, is now 50.

Powers Boothe, one of the original stars, has long since departed Deadwood on the final stagecoach to heaven and the emerald forest.

Timothy Olyphant justified six years as deputy Rayland Givens on Justified in the meantime. And, co-star John Hawkes has become a well-known character actor.

We took in season one again (there were three increasingly shrill seasons) and found the streets as dirty as the language of the characters. For us the highlight was when Hawkes reminded Olyphant that his fly was open as he was about to leave their business tent. “Bad image for business,” he reminds his partner. Later, Ian McShane took a turn for witty and baddie.

You have a tomboy Calamity Jane in full drunk, and Keith Carradine killed off in 4 episodes as Wild Bill Hickok.

You may wonder too how much of the series is historically accurate. How accurate can it be with a 14-year hiatus between episodes? We are curious as to how this problem will be handled when filming begins in the fall.

The over-the-hill gang will return, sort of.

Ancient Aliens 13.11 Trump Marks the Spot

DATELINE: A Couple of Space Balls!

space shots

When Ancient Aliens crosses the boundaries from space nightmare to political nightmare, you have something beyond controversy. It may be hard to swallow, but they have come up with a theory to explain President Trump’s Space Force.

Yes, recently, Trump proposed a new branch of military: a kind of space patrol, right out of sci-fi movies.

In this week’s “Russian Connection”, we have a new twist to Trump’s collusion—and little green men and alien grays are the least of your troubles.

Apparently, Russia is prepared to implant human brains into androids, robots, a la Westworld, which would not be possible under the American government. Trump may be throwing in with the Russians to create an army of digitized soldiers.

Our theory show now suggests that the US has ceded space to Russia because Freedom of Information and the free press are too much of a problem in the United States. It’s easier to control key information under the Russian flag. Hence, the US government is subjugating their powers to Putin’s space patrol.

If Ancient Alien theorists are correct, Trump is planning for a space invasion. Hence, he has met with Putin privately this year to prepare for big Trouble with a capital T: cue the Music Man.

Though the best minds believe we cannot win a fight against an enemy from outer space, you may not be able to convince Trump of that. He and Putin plan a gunfight at the OK Corral against Nibiru’s star troopers.

So, Russian collusion may have more connotations than money laundering and dirty political tricks. Ancient Aliens has always gone over the edge, but this time we may be looking at Trump’s Armageddon with aliens who don’t need green cards to invade the United States.

 

 

 

 

Hard to Kill, Harder to Watch

DATELINE:  Hard Jobs

Tim Unleashed Tim Kennedy Unleashed

Tim Kennedy, formerly of Hunting Hitler as the go-to adventurer who investigated dangerous people, has gone a step beyond for a new Discovery series.

Hard to Kill is one of those “dangerous job” shows where some rank amateur tries his hand, without training, at doing something where you need a few years of experience to do the job right.

So, Tim Kennedy, former Green Beret, muscle-man, pushing forty years, is perfect as the guy being a man in a world of wussies. In the old days we called him a dare-devil, or simply foolhardy, or blithering idiot.

He shows guts and lack of brains at the same time.

In the first show, he tries his hand at “American bullfighter,” and it’s not what you expect. In the jargon of pop culture, this job is rodeo clown:  the guy in clown makeup who distracts the rampaging bull from running over the fallen rider.

This is risky. Breaking bones is the easy way out. Jumping to the fence to escape the bull’s charge is not a good idea, as these pros tell Kennedy: you can be impaled on an immovable object (a fence slat).

Bulls run at 35mph and are reasonably adept at hitting their target. You can plainly see that the rodeo men take it seriously to protect their own—and sending out an untrained person is not only foolhardy, but unethical. Yet, the price of TV fame comes high, so to speak.

Kennedy is personable and overly energetic, but these kind of adventurers were the explorers of yesteryear. They may seem anachronistic today or suited only for TV derring-do.

 

 

Sentinels of Ancient Aliens, 13.9

DATELINE: Here’s Mud in Your Moai

 moai

In the latest episode of the series Ancient Aliens, Giorgio Tsoukalos has been teamed up with another regular, David Childress, and they went to the South Seas, Easter Island and the Marquesas to find the usual suspects: mythic gods who were really extraterrestrials. Don’t give these Rapa Nui a bad rap.

“The Sentinels” is your standard episode, but now features Giorgio as a central analyst with a variety of associates. Of the 900 Moai statuary on Easter Island, only seven face the ocean. These 36 feet tall monoliths are right out of a Kubrick movie.

These giants are presumed to be literal depictions, facing out to another location—which happens to be the Marquesa Islands. Our intrepid theorists visit and consult with others. They find similar legends about giants, in flying turtle disguise. The ancient astronauts were called Tiki, and that is no con job.

Thousands of years ago these cosmic turtles seemed to have arrived along the ley lines in the South Pacific. Of course, it is a short jump to make these islands a series of space ports from where spaceships came and went, impressing natives.

As for those Moai, they appear to be giant hybrids. They fled the Marquesas because they were hunted by the Polynesians as a delicacy: their brains were thought to have immortality imprinted.

The eyes of the Moai may hold the key to their abilities, and the large hats they wear are loaded with cryptic messages.

Nothing new emerges in this episode, but it is another piece of ancient history that indicates modern science is missing a few more links than they care to admit.

 

 

 

Karate Kid: Reboot to the Nose

DATELINE:  YouTube Returns LaRusso to Cobra Kai Saga

Zabka

We were never a fan of the 1984 Rocky-style movie for karate kids, but did find its stars interesting. Ralph Maccio never recovered, and William Zabka (the blonde pretty boy bully) should have had a grand career.

Reboot and kick on high might be a good way to go. This is also more interesting than watching Leave it to Beaver cast as adults, a few years back. There is something both alarming and satisfying to see that the child is father to the adult.

We followed Zabka as the son of the Equalizer on the 1980s TV show and were sorry he never caught on.

Now we find the twosome reunited in a YouTube series about the characters LaRusso and Lawrence 35 years later. It is a hit, and it’s not hard to see why. These actors and their character are now fully developed with middle-age. They are interesting—and have an appeal to a generation that grew up and older too.

Not much has changed in terms of their mutual differences and dislike of the other.

It makes the rivalry more interesting. Of course, the obligatory teenagers are at the core of mentoring through karate teaching. Copious film clips to the original action highlights the tales, though Pat Morita can only appear in flashback.

The actors are wonderful: indeed the bad guy of yore, Zabka, is now refreshingly antihero—and Maccio continues to play the obtuse victim of his own life.

The series has been renewed for a second season, which is good news because this is funny, fast, and well-done, much of a surprise considering it comes from a new TV/internet network where expectations may not be high.

 

Marilyn Monroe: Gone 56 Years

DATELINE: Sad Anniversary

MM 

Was it really so long ago in August, 1962, that Marilyn died so suddenly and mysteriously? We heard the news on Sunday morning on vacation. Was it an accident or some kind of bizarre conspiracy that did her in?

She was thought to be a sad, pathetic suicide at the time of her death, body claimed by former husband Joe DiMaggio. Her last film was the Misfits with Clark Gable, written by her ex-husband and playwright Arthur Miller. It was extraordinary stuff. She could play light comedy or heavy tragedy (Some Like It Hot, Bus Stop).

She had become emotionally erratic, fired by the studio and dismissed from movies (The outtakes of Something’s Gotta Give show her radiant and perfect. Over an hour of film footage was reconstructed a few years back. Why did they fire her?). The career trauma  seemed to explain her death—at first.

Over time, we learned she was a victim of the casting couch: with lurid stories of her promiscuity and misuse by producers and unscrupulous men (and Joan Crawford).

Then, we learned she was the victim of the President of the United States and his brother. Some even speculate that she was assassinated by the CIA because she was about to blow the whistle on political shenanigans and UFOs, state secrets she learned in her dalliances.

Now, more recently, we hear that she fought the casting couch mentality of Hollywood, walked out of movies when she was mistreated and sexually abused.

Whatever the truth, she was a luminous talent, who actually glowed on celluloid. Her career might have been on the skids because of age by the late 1960s, but we will never know whether she would have made a transformation to character actress, or into a legend as she is now.

Poor Marilyn. She was missed immediately– and is still missed today.

 

Ancient Aliens: Totally Taken In

DATELINE:  Re-election Ploy

 Baker Gov. Charlie Baker!

As Season 13 continues, the venerable series seems to be running out of juice. The latest is called “The Taken,” and it takes a look at the abducted victims of aliens.

If it seems like the series is becoming incestuous, making love to itself, you may be among those taken in. The show actually uses its own cast at an Alien Con 2018  with panelists Giorgio, Linda Moulton Howe, and Nick Pope, talking to hundreds of fans.

Talk about a self-selected audience, filled with people who claim to be abductees of space aliens for decades. If you are afraid to talk about it, there is no better forum that to stand up in front of 500 people and confess.

The experts claim there is an uptake in the number of taken victims: the total is about 2 to 5% of the population of the world. Yikes, those aliens are busy creatures.

Among the people interviewed are a victim 50 years ago from Great Barrington, Massachusetts, who manages to convince Governor Charlie Baker, Republican of Mass., to give official sanction to the abduction victims. This is a national first acknowledgement of abduction. It also kicks off Baker’s re-election campaign for governor!

From here it is a short jump to the history of altering human biology as motive of the space creatures. It seems nearly all of those taken in the past 35,000 years are Rh Negative (which is 15% of the human population).

Perhaps they are on to something. Then, they reveal that the first American celebrities of abduction (Betty and Barney Hill of New Hampshire) never revealed their entire family were victims.

Of course, the rare blood type is at the bottom of the gene-splicing over generations. (Forget that the Shroud of Turin claims Jesus was AB-Negative—which is only .5 percent of humanity).

If the show’s credibility seems to be shaky, you know that self-congratulations are in order. Ancient Aliens is always the first to recognize its own pioneer spirit.

 

Portrait of a Fantasy Classic

DATELINE: Robert Nathan’s Portrait of Jennie

Brackman Jennie Brackman Painting Used in Film!

Portrait of Jennie is unusual movie fare by any standard—whether it is today or when it was released in 1949.

Back then, audiences were better educated for sure. The movie starts out with quotes from Euripides and Keats on mortality and the philosophy of death. As if to prove you are not in Kansas, the film uses the stunning music of Debussy’s “Nuages,” with an assist from Dmitri Tiomkin and Bernard Herrmann. Phew!

You don’t have music like this as background audio nowadays!

Unsuccessful painter of landscapes, Eban Adams (Joe Cotten), cannot find a plug nickel for his work in 1934. When he begs art dealers Ethel Barrymore and Cecil Kellaway to buy one of his pictures, they take pity on him. However, the price is to be told there is no love in his work, in critique by a spinster art collector.

When he meets a turn-of-the-century little girl in Central Park, she tells him she will grow up fast to marry him. Lo and behold, when he sees her again, she is older, and then again older. He is enchanted, and forced to do detective work to find her.

The twosome finally conclude that there is some error in the time-space continuum, no mean feat considering when the movie was made. They are not supposed to cross paths, let alone find the love of their lives, of all time.

You know that something is afoot when the screen goes garish green toward the climax.

The actual prop portrait of Jennifer Jones, breathtakingly beautiful, was actually done by Robert Brackman—and kept in the library of producer David O. Selznick, married to Miss Jones at the time.

With another gallery acting job by Joseph Cotten—and an assist from Ethel Barrymore, the old lady with a crush on him, you have an instant classic—and more.

Throw in Lillian Gish and Cecil Kellaway—and the film noir photography of Central Park at night, and we can forgive any logical weirdness in the storyline.

You owe yourself one romantic fantasy in a lifetime. This should be it, and never let drowning in a tsunami stop you from going to Land’s End on Cape Cod.