Bend Unbroken, Stir Unshaken

DATELINE:  James Bond Satire

Chris Lew Kum Hoi Dr. Tu Yung

How amusing is a gay parody of James Bond? Well, if you tune into Matt Carter’s one-hour spoof, you may be more than pleasantly surprised. It is not too violent, nor too sexual.

It’s Jayson Bend: Queen & Country.

So, it falls into a Goldlocks world of gay cinema. And, thank heavens, it is not about teenagers with a coming out angst and done on videotape.

Some of it is heavy-handed, as it is always difficult to satirize a satire—and people often forget that James Bond was Ian Fleming’s satiric secret agent. He is taken too seriously.

Matt Carter seems to have his name and paws all over this little film. It stars Davis Brooks as Jayson Bend (not Bent), but it’s Jayson with a “Y”—and don’t ask.

We find the cute girls are replaced by cute boys—and Dr. Tu Yung is an adorable villain (played by Chris Lew Kum Hoi).

What may be a great surprise is that this film has a big budget look about it. The color is bright and bold, and the fast cars and special effects are just right. The only violence is at the start, and the sex is chaste: hints by kiss.

It’s safe for straight guys.

In Search of….Life After Death

 DATELINE: Thereafter in the Hereafter?

alcor Freeze Your Asset Off?

Dead to rights, you are likely afraid of death. This episode of In Search of…would not be a comfort if you are. It seemed to spook Zachary Quinto, the unflappable host.

The series tackled the question of surviving death, immortality, fountains of youth, and cheating the Grim Reaper, with a variety of considerations.

We met a few experts—one in paranormal with engineering skills to make devices to catch spirit sounds. Another expert in near death experiences (NDE) spoke of the “wonderful experience,” of dying.

Yet another talked about the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel when he almost drowned—and seeing a busy Grand Central Station of spirits, by the cartload, wandering these long halls. It seems commuting never ends.

There are, we are told, 200,000 near death survivors from all cultures, and they tell the same story about their minutes on the steps of the Afterlife.

Quinto wanders the halls of the Omini Parker House hotel in Boston which is reportedly haunted. There he manages to hear some voices from beyond.

The most ghoulish and creepy stuff centered on Alcor, the business in Arizona that promises new life by cryogenically freezing either your head or entire body. To have your brain (still in its safety skull) frozen will cost you about $80,000.  Cheap if they have not destroyed your brain cells in the process of putting you 320 degrees below zero. Baseball legend Ted Williams is there.

Quinto also took in Harvard Medical School where a pill keeps mice young—and soon will alter your DNA enough to keep you alive for about 140 years.

All in all, one bioethics expert noted that postponing death will render the point killer of art useless. No more need for Mozart’s Requiem, if you never die. It will be meaningless.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

Ideal Home is Broken

DATELINE: Gay  Grandparents

coogan & rudd

A big budget, well-acted gay comedy is not to be taken lightly. It’s as rare as hen’s teeth.

This one features a couple of solid actors:  Steve Coogan often is unrecognized, falling into parts like the protagonist who helps Philomena. In this film Ideal Home, he is a refugee from La Cage aux Folles.

Coogan’s partner is Paul Rudd (who plays a Red Sox catcher and real-life spy in another recent movie). He too can strike many poses. The two actors play a TV producer and his celebrity chef star and boyfriend. They are convincing.

Their extravagant and funny life is complicated when a nine-year old grandson of Coogan shows up in a shocking surprise. The foul-mouthed kid is not adorable, and the ultimate fuss over him seems implausible. He is pedestrian.

The strain put on the middle-aged gay couple is the source of humor and good-natured joking. It could have gone over the line and been offensive to gay people, but good actors tend to prevent that liability.

Alas, the plot is routine. The ne-er-do-well son of Coogan’s chef wants his son back when he is released from prison. Apparently, there is no problem with returning custody of a child to a convict.

The two grandfathers have, rather expectedly, grown accustomed to the child (for reasons that escape our comprehension).

Since this is a fun picture, you can expect an ending worthy of the Friends of Judy, which literally seems to come true.

All in all, it is a frivolous entertainment, and you could do worse than spending time with these loose cannons.

When a gnarly little boy is sent off to live with his gay grandfather who is a TV celeb chef, you have merriment galore.

This is enhanced with really good actors like Paul Rudd and Steve Coogan giving it their gay walkabout in a luxurious Santa Fe ranchero home.

 

Ancient Aliens Returns with Two Hours & Two Heads

DATELINE:  Twilight of the Hosts

Giorgio & Ramy

Giorgio & Ramy, that’s who!

The hiatus of the popular series Ancient Aliens was short-lived.

However, they have put their nuclear option on the table: Giorgio of the hair explosion has now joined forces with Ramy Romany and his Indiana Jones fedora, another new rising star and quasi-Egyptologist on the show.

They are teamed up to go to Cairo for a two-hour tour, a new age version of Gilligan and the Skipper.

This is a power move after thirteen seasons and a midseason hiatus. The two most popular hosts are on the chessboard.

Let’s hope their arc of the alien covenant does not shut down in the Great Pyramid.

Ramy plans to take Giorgio into the bowels of Khufu’s power plant (it’s no longer considered a tomb).

This is one-upsmanship, as Ramy takes great pleasure in escorting Giorgio into the Great Pyramid. How he did this feat is revealed shortly when the great Hawass drags his ass into the picture. He’s a man who never met an Egyptian tomb he did not visit on TV.  It seems Ramy is related to national blowheart Zahi Hawass, and that explains a great deal about the great Hawass and the great Pyramid.

Through judicious editing, we never learn how much Hawass hates the ancient alien theory about builders of the pyramids. He likes to say the native peoples did it.

It’s also amusing to watch the facial expressions of Ramy Romany when he disagrees with some of Giorgio’s more outrageous theories. He never lets a sourpuss pass without notice.

Of course, it all comes to a head with the twin hosts sitting at dusk before the Great Pyramid, with Ramy smoking a waterpipe for great effect. Their profiles and agreeing to disagree is certainly the start of long and beautiful friendship, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Captain Renault ran off with Rick Blaine at the end of Casablanca.

 

 

Odd Couple 2, Bittersweet Reunion

DATELINE: Original Stars, 30 Years Later

grumpy old odd couple

Grumpiness as a Joy to Behold!

The two men who single-handedly created a movie/TV franchise of Neil Simon’s comedy classic stageplay, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, returned twenty years ago, aged in the wood, to reprise their roles as Oscar and Felix.

We discovered Odd Couple 2 to cheer us so many years later.

We confess to having missed this event when it happened, and we were surprised to find it available now on streaming format. It is, however, a sad and bittersweet experience to behold. The two great stars keep their chemistry, but age has sapped them of vitality. It is like watching Laurel and Hardy in their final film.

Time is never kind.

Oscar and Felix have been separated for nearly twenty years, though they made the original film in the late 1960s, and the sequel is 30 years later. They are brought together by the marriage of Felix’s daughter to Oscar’s son.

Jokes about slobs and neatniks have been replaced with a series of old age jabs and dollops of humor.

More than ever these grumpy old men (Lemmon & Matthau) epitomize Oscar and Felix, as if the aging process has turned them into fine wine.

The storyline is filled with pratfalls and lowbrow situations as the two men battle each other’s foibles in the California desert, trying to make it to a wedding.

Though the situation is forced, you must see past that and simply enjoy the actors as they return to their beloved characters, not missing a beat, not letting age and time distract their timing and their experience.

 

 

 

Flush Twice: Unspoken Story of The Toilet

DATELINE: The Real Poop!

toilet 

After years of Upstairs/Downstairs and Downton Abbey, looking for a water closet, we find the BBC on the job and off the pot.

Yes, your upper-crust bathroom humor is alive and well.

A British documentary called The Toilet: An Unspoken History actually speaks volumes in a dry wit fashion, providing all the poop for your chute. Having a staid British narrator makes the puns about toiletry all the more eye-rolling.

Our host travels around ancient ruins, poking his nose into latrines and down old drop-offs, making more double-entendre than in a Mae West film festival. Those openings in the castle wall provided more than a draft. Yes, this is an eye-opening experience.

Jolly old England’s history of the Crapper and Queen Elizabeth’s elaborate john are all examined up close. In some manor houses, the chamber pot was kept in the dining hall—and you didn’t have to miss a morsel of your meal.

You may find a discussion and visual aid of urinals less watered down. In some cultures, the urinal has a center bull’s eye of a bumble bee: in Latin the word for bee is ‘apis.’ There’s a joke in there somewhere.

From ornate porcelain bowls, to the outhouse with three seats, of differing sizes, The Toilet makes for a Goldilocks of choices. No, families did not commune together, but you could find that one size did not fit all. Hence, you looked for the right dumping point.

After a while, you may begin to say TMI: too much information about privy moments and sanitary selection, up to and beyond the sponge on a stick, or colored pieces of wool with an aloe vera soothing texture.

Sitting on the serious part, the documentary explains how Bill Gates and his foundation are looking to eliminate use of water in toilets—turning waste into zapped gas power. And, Third World countries are still dangerous places, owing to poor bathroom facilities.

Yes, this amusing documentary is on streaming service for those with the wherewithal to expel the impurities, leaving you flush with the bloom of a water closet and relieved of laughter.

 

 

 

 

 

Ancient Aliens Between Rock & Hard Place

DATELINE:  Geo Giorgio! 

Ramy  Ramy!

Episode 13.5 of Ancient Aliens dealt with 10,000 year old geoglyphs, or large (we mean big) desert drawings.

You thought the Nazcar lines were the ultimate, but they are merely the tip of the rock berg. With satellite photos now mapping the world in detail, you can find these no-longer unique stones all around the world from South America to the United States to the Middle East.

Iraqi walls extend from Syria to Saudi Arabia, hundreds of geometric shapes made 10,000 years ago. There are 400 at last count, but the onerous narrator intones that this is “astonishing” not moments after mentioning that some of these are about 10,000 years old. Ancient Aliens always has its cake and its plenty too.

The big geoglyphs are king-size versions of petroglyphs, swirling designs on smaller boulders. They now are finding even more of these creations by using HD cameras.

Of course, one of the over-excitable guests insists these were made by ancient alien civilizations to alert us of an important connection. Apparently, they could not leave the message on a CD.

They locate one design called the Cosmic Egg, which may be a code like semaphore. Those giant aliens felt we needed simple, cartoon-like messages or we may miss the message.

Ancient Aliens also points out that there is a rocky parrot design on the surface of Mars, matching a particular dirty bird on Earth in 17 points.

This week’s heart throb is Ramy Romany, who makes Giorgio look like Rocky the Flying Squirrel.

 

Kinky Puss’n Boots

DATELINE:  A Really Big Shoe

 kinky boots Kinky-Dinky!

Kinky Boots may kindly be called an old-fashioned character drama. The difference is that it’s about drama queens in men’s shoes. It was later turned into a smash stage show, but the 2006 version is one of those working class British angry young man movies (except the young man dresses like a woman).

The two characters in juxtaposition are, first, the son of a shoe factory heir facing bankruptcy for making traditional footwear for men when disposable sneakers are the rage.

The second young man likes to wear high-heels and becomes a cabaret star in drag shows.

Under normal circumstance, you almost would expect the two men to slip into each other’s loafers at some point. Thank heavens, Kinky Boots keeps us in our own lanes and avoids any moments with glass slippers.

Joel Edgerton is the scion of shoemakers who learns that market niche for men’s boots with stilettos is high end. He meets Chiwetel Ejiofor in a career-busting role as Lola, the giant man in glitter. They kick up the story. Chiwetel also sings us a torrid version of “Whatever Lola Wants.”

Unfortunately, to walk a mile in one man’s shoes, or high-heels, may be a stretch too far. The movie makes its points early and often but keeps on giving us more. The climax on the runways of Milan for shoe biz is too much glitz for our own good. Hero and audience fall flat.

Lessons in what defines masculinity and manhood are made a few times too many. It’s always hard to figure out British men anyhow since, to American eyes, they all look ready to put on a feathery boa and dancing shoes.

Tom Brady’s Successor

 DATELINE: Patriotic QB Gore

CK The Next Patriot QB?

Failing to find a Baker or a Mayfield at the NFL draft, so long, Baker Mayfield, or Baking Maybe, it looks like the Patriots of New England may be in a “heads, you lose/tails, you lose” situation when it comes to Tom’s follow-up.

It’s beginning to look like a basketball game after the NFL draft, and the Patriots need a sixth man to spell Tom Brady as he reaches into his Social Security years.

To save their 40s old quarterback, the Belichick team may need to sit him halfway through the third quarter of every game, and well into the fourth. Perhaps they merely play him every other game this season.

Or perhaps he sits down when the game is out of hand or in hand. He needs his rest. Keep him hydrated and ready.

In this week’s episode of Grabbing Headlines, Tom Brady himself stated how much he appreciates those who kneel during the National Anthem. His owner Robert Kraft said the same words reportedly to other billionaire owners of NFL teams at a meeting.

If any team is going to tackle the Trump approach, it may be the Patriots. If any team can afford to lose fans who have already given up on football because they hate kneelers (except in church apparently).

The NFL has already lost ten or twenty percent of its racist fans. Good riddance.

Are you listening, Colin Kaepernick?

Perhaps in plan two, the Patriots plan to sign Johnny Manziel of Boy Zeal fame. The playboy QB may take a page out of TB12, or AA, depending on how bad he wants to play football.

The Patriots would swirl in controversy for picking up “bad boys” once again and trying to rehab them to win the Super Bowl. It’s a scenario usually reserved for Hollywood and the Patriots.

 

 

 

 

First Sci-Fi Western with Gene Autry

DATELINE: The Real Westworld

 autry

In 1935 came radio’s singing cowboy star Gene Autry, ready to make the transition to the silver screen. He wound up bigger than John Wayne (at least in the money department, and sang ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ to his ever-lasting fame).

His first movie was a serial from Mascot called The Phantom Empire in which he played, no one else but, Gene Autry, the singing cowboy. His costars were irksome Frankie Darro and Dorothy Christie. It also marked his first appearance with comic cowboy Smiley Burnett.

Phantom Empire is staggering in its uniqueness. The Scientific City of Murania is buried five miles under Gene’s dude ranch and is upset by all the activity going on above their kingdom. Ancient Aliens should do an episode on this legendary city that buried itself 100,000 years ago.

Queen Tika is an autocrat at the TV screen. She may be the first person to own a giant screen—and she watches more TV action than a movie critic in his home theatre.

The serial contains cell phones, nuclear torpedoes, death rays, resuscitation machines, more robotic workers than Westworld, and everyone wears capes, including the Thunder-Guard in gas masks who ride the range on horses.

Evil archaeologists want to unearth Murania for money, not fame. They are guests at Gene’s radio ranch and plot to eliminate the singing cowboy tout suite. Worse for Autry, Queen Tika (Dorothy Christie playing it like RuPaul) wants him dead too.

Autry is put into a Lightning Death Chamber and then revived in a hyperbaric convection oven that looks like a microwave out of The Day the Earth Stood Still. Indeed, the robots bear a resemblance to Gort.

This is big budget on a small budget for effects—and it astounds at every turn, including the single express elevator that shoots up and down from the surface.

Murania seems to be the lost continent of Atlantis out West. And, the music goes from Autry’s cornpone tunes to some futuristic serial orchestral suite to convey sheer insanity.

In twelve looney episodes.

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow Brick Road Leads Out of Foxboro

 DATELINE: Patriots in Munchkinland

bosch Gillette Stadium?

Something has happened to the New England Patriots in the past month. You may not be in Kansas, but it sure doesn’t look like New England.

Less than kind Patriot-haters might say the rats are leaving the sinking ship.  Whatever your thoughts, the good ship SS Belichick is listing badly after hitting an iceberg in the Super Bowl.

Key players have opted to leave in free agency—and teammates remaining are wishing them good luck and happy voyage, almost as if they are envious.

Foremost among the congratulations on social media are coming from Tom Brady and Gronk.

Gronk still has not dispelled rumors he is going Hollywood on New England, and Tom Brady dropped a hint that he is a man of his convictions in his TV autobiography series—and he appears to have switched convictions in mid-stream.

Life begins at 40—but not in Foxboro.

These key Patriots (Nate Solder, Amendola, Butler, Lewis, and who knows who else) have talked among teammates. If you don’t realize that, you don’t know what’s happening.

It’s like a bad Bob Dylan song: the mattress is now balancing precariously on Bill Belichick’s head. Someone is ready to drop a house on Wicked Witchy Belichick. His former coaches and underlings are picking up the pieces Belichick has shed. And they are happy to have them.

During the season, opposing players attacked the Foxboro as being as unpleasant under the control of Ebenezer Scrooge Belichick before any ghosts haunted him. It was worse than Hieronymus Bosch’s depiction of Hell.

We see the end as coming in a whimper, not a bang. Brady and Gronk are packing their bags, and everyone else is cashing in their chips.

Oh, my. Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my. The gold brick road is leading to ruination for the Kraft family of marshmallows.

Trump’s New Idiot Cards

DATELINE: How to Influence People!

idiot list

To humanize President Trump, his aides now give him a crib sheet.

Yes, to help him remember how to be sensitive and how to conduct himself as a decent member of society, he is now given a sheet of instructions to carry with him in large block print.

All the easier to read for this self-professed “stable genius.”

Poor social skills are often the sign of genius, but in this case the lack of social skills may be more a sign of his lack of humanity. Trump is a human slug.

What do these cheat-sheet comments tell Trump?

He is to say, “I hear you.”

He should ask people, “What can I do to help?” We are not talking complex, hard-to-conceive commentaries. We are talking every-day, mundane, off-the-cuff throwaways.

Of course, there is no way to know if Trump will hear the answers to his comments, or even care what it is said. He may be on to the next point on his “top ten humanity points” list.

We may well ask who compiled a list of comments for him to make to those people who are not billionaires or millionaires, as he has often indicated he doesn’t think much of people who haven’t made a lot of money in their lives.

The humorist finds all these qualities or lack of qualities in President Trump to be fodder for jokes, but we also shake our proverbial noggin at the notion that we have a leader who knows nothing about how to talk to the people he purports to lead.

Trump doesn’t care, and neither do his apologists.

Oh, yes, Trump no longer has supporters. He must constantly be surrounded with people ready to apologize for his foibles, idiot character, and basic lack of humanity.

 

 

The Haunting of Patriot Place

DATELINE: Your Worst Nightmare

haunted

The ghost of Malcolm Butler now walks the halls of Patriot Place. Forget the Overlook Hotel and its shining denizens. Foxboro will be a worthy subject for Stephen King.

Like unfriendly spirits, this Patriot specter may hang around for decades, frightening children and bringing back the horrors of Super Bowl LII.

Bad karma often is behind the haunting appearances of ghosts.  We recall in Boston that the ghost of Babe Ruth put a curse on the Red Sox for 80 years. We now wonder if the ghost of Malcolm Butler might do the same for the Patriots.

If you wonder why the Patriots never win another Super Bowl in the 21st century, you will be wise to remember that the Butler did it.

Like some benighted head of the Inquisition, Bill Belichick made his decisions to burn the defense at the stake during the Super Bowl. Heretics be damned, and leading the charge was the ingrate (in Swami Belichick’s eyes), the man who tried to jump ship before the season began: Malcolm Butler.

It was an unforgivable sin—and now Malcolm Butler has paid for it with his reputation. Oh, someone will give him a big payday—and perhaps he will fade into oblivion in some other football venue.

However, in Foxboro, his curse will be laid upon Tom Brady worse than broken mirrors and contempt for sports superstition.

The howls in the night and the bumps and bangs you hear are the restless spirits of players done dirt by Bill Belichick.

Though he may go into retirement, he will leave a haunted Patriot Place for Josh McDaniels, forcing him to call in ghostbusters and hold séances for the betterment of the Kraft legacy.

Move over, Shirley Jackson, Gillette Stadium is the new house on Haunted Hill.