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.

Reel History: 1960’s Damned Village

DATELINE:  Creepy Kids

 Stephens & Sanders

Martin Stephens & George Sanders

We know they could not call it by the John Wyndam title of the original novel, The Midwich Cuckoos.

The marvelous little low-budget sci-fi thriller, Village of the Damned, was only 70 minutes of brilliant detail.

Only George Sanders would be not intimidated by holding his own with a bunch of British child actors who occasionally use the special effect of glowing eyes.

After the movie’s opening 15 minutes, you are utterly hooked. It’s so brilliant that what follows doesn’t matter.

With no budget, this George Sanders movie had the most chilling opening of any film of its time. Camerawork is so effective by the director Wolf Rilla.

You see charming little British village in which everyone collapses in place, into a faint for several hours. Camera pans slowly over the entire village. Chilling.

Without the benefit of science’s discovery of DNA and genetic engineering, the story proposes that during the time in which the village is knocked out, all women of child-bearing age become pregnant. It leaves for puzzled and befuddled attitudes among many.

The script uses only several incidents to indicate how dangerous these alien children are: of course, since the children are adult-like Brits, they are creepy anyhow. Add in their mental powers and you have horror. Oh, kids grow up so fast in movies.

The children admire Sanders who is professorial and so unemotional like them. He even becomes their tutor.

In the Soviet Union, a similar community is bombed with an atomic weapon. There are nests of alien children planted around the world, we learn.

George Sanders must resort to his cold-blooded manner to save the day by using his own mind tricks.

Marvelous little gem.

 

 

Proud Mary: Person of Interest Undone

DATELINE: Taraji Firepower

 taraji

We should enjoy Taraji P. Henson while we have her. Her new movie Proud Mary is a throwback to her work on Jonathan Nolan’s hit show before Westworld.

Our initial discovery was on the TV series Person of Interest, where she played police detective Joss Carter, part of the secret organization saving people in vigilante fashion.

In her latest movie incarnation as Proud Mary, a mob hit woman, she has become her partner John Reese (who was played by Jim Caviezel), but has stolen the wardrobe of Miss Shaw, the deadly assassin in black.

The new film echoes the old TV show in so many ways. Mary has a closet hideaway full of armaments, like her pal John Reese, retired government assassin.

The film, produced by Henson, had its problems, including Taraji smashing up the Maserati she drives in a scene in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and John Fogerty who wrote the tune used in the film complaining he was not consulted.

This mob hit squad movie is different: mainly because of Taraji Henson, giving a softer touch, the maternal thing.

Yes, she feels some guilt about leaving a 12-year old boy as an orphan and takes him in. You know when he finds out that she caused his predicament, there will be trouble.

Danny Glover plays the mob leader and Billy Brown his son. Taraji is adopted unofficially as a child and raised to be a killer. History may repeat itself with her new ward (Jahi Di’Allo Winston—a delightful young actor as the orphan with a ridiculous name to his disadvantage).

The film was shot in Greater Boston on the waterfront (with Chicago standing in now and then). The locations are not exactly your favorite tourist spots, though Taraji jogs near the Paul Revere statue on the Boston Common.

When Proud Mary starts acting up to the Tina Turner version of the song (lyrics altered), you know everyone ought to duck. The mob hitmen she takes on are out of the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, another Boston crime tale. If you give her 100 to 1 odds, they will miss every time.

Taraji puts just the right amount of sentiment into her role to make this film contrast favorably with so many trite mob killer stories. We lost count of her shoot’em up tally, but it had to be approaching Clint levels.

 

 

After the Prejudice and Before the Pride?

DATELINE: Jane Austen Goes Gay!

  chase conner    Chase Conner as Mr. Darcy.

To take the chaste Jane Austen’s comedy of manners, Pride and Prejudice, and turn it into a gay story is an interesting twist. Director and writer Byrum Geisler has entered the brave, new world fearlessly. After gay pride comes the fall?

Before the Fall is tame gay entertainment for an audience with emotional reservations. It will offend gay activists and homophobes alike for being low-key and matter-of-fact.

Ben Bennett is so straight-laced that the only clue we have that he is gay are his professed feelings. He is attracted to a straight alcoholic man Mr. Lee Darcy (Chase Conner). Without overt sex acts and nudity, so often at the heart of gay movie drama, this film’s only sin is to have a couple of queeny friends of Mr. Bennett.

It’s like having Steppin Fetchit and Butterfly McQueen in a civil rights tale. It’s the only false step. Those characters are utterly offensive.

As for the rest of the cast and actors, they are buttoned up and long-suffering.

Indeed, you might think the central casting office found the usual good looking gay actors, but there is here something far more serious and sensitive. We have to laud any so-called gay film that flies in the face of the usual shenanigans.

Filmed in beautiful Virginia, a so-called place for lovers, Ben Bennett hardly puts an overt pick-up on Mr. Lee Darcy. They go hiking, and after some guilty gossip, Bennett works to remove a legal cloud over the other man, perhaps to help him with his alcoholism.

Billed as a comedy drama, which is Austen’s stock-in-trade, the label will confound modern audiences for whom social humor is tied into text messages and Facebook friendships.

If you stick around to the final romanticized happy ending, you may conclude that gay movies are growing up.

 

 

 

Sketchy Brady & Stormy Weather

DATELINE: Say It Ain’t So, Tom!

While Tom Brady is away in Arabia, playing at Lawrence of Best Buddies, on a charity junket to Qatar, riding camels, the home-front is afire.

It’s not bad enough that Bill Belichick is playing the Gunfighter from Westworld, trying to do a robot kill on Brady, but now Mickey Spillane Avenatti, the nightmare attorney who is giving Trump a nervous breakdown, has set his sights on Tom Brady lookalikes.

It appears that a criminal sketch artist has come up with a picture of the man who threatened Miss Stormy Daniels about revealing too much detail about Mr. Trump’s strumpets.

The last time a sketch artist did in Tom, he started to look like Quasimodo in a bad bell-ringer mode during the Deflategate trials.

Today, of course, he looks like a man whose TB12 method means he never had or needed Botox. The latest picture is supposed to be a young thug from 2011, back when Tom wore his hair askance and before the hair-plugs for men settled in.

It would seem that Tom’s one-time support for President Trump will go a long way to ruining his life now and forever. He is paying a dear price for having a MAGA hat in his locker for one enchanted evening.

Tom is so hated in some circles that concussed football fans think he is capable of approaching a porn star with a threatening glare.

We feel being out of the country at present may be the best strategy for Mr. Brady. He also ought to consider hiring a better public relations agency to handle his press junkets.

Noël Coward No Surprise in Surprise Package

DATELINE: Art Buchwald Satire

 Mitzi & Noel Mitzi & Noël sing and dance!

Sir Noël, showman and epitome of the English gentleman, made a plethora of movies from the late 1950s to the late 1960s. He only turned down playing Dr. No in the James Bond spy movie.

From Our Man in Havana to the Italian Job, he lent his delectable presence in costarring roles. In 1960 he went opposite Yul Brynner in the Stanley Donen comedy called Surprise Package.

The big surprise is that it was written by satirist Art Buchwald, though you would never know it. Our favorite humorist seems lost in this adapted script.

Apart from the delicious scenes between mobster Nico March (Yul) and the deposed and exiled King Pavel the Patient (Noël), the movie is not really funny or smart. However, every time you find Brynner and Coward in matchup mode, there is something extraordinary going on.

You almost have the sense that the film was meant for someone else: perhaps James Cagney, to shoot dialogue like a machine gun. Mitzi Gaynor seems to be playing Judy Holiday. Brynner is on top of it, impressive as always.

No one else in movies could have played the deadpan, throwaway lines like Noël Coward. He’s in his own movie world, like Mae West. The rest of the cast is along for the ride.

Coward steals every moment on camera, like the master showman he always was. He could depose Burton and Taylor in Boom, and so going up against Yul Brynner shortly before the Magnificent Seven might have amused Noël.

It’s a soufflé, for sure, and perhaps the success of Donen brought Coward in for the Greek isle locations shooting.

Yul had just finished another comedy with Donen, and likely enjoyed the change of pace from epical heroes and villains.

Surprise Package would be a bad TV movie nowadays with execrable actors. However, when the legends at the top of their game deign to appear in silly roles, you must pay attention.

 

 

 

 

Reel History: When Bette Met Mae

DATELINE:  What Becomes a Legend Most

 Bette & Mae The Reel McCoys!

Yes, a young fan at an intimate dinner party made an audio tape of a conversation with Bette Davis and Mae West when they met in November of 1973. And, now that young man has produced and directed a marvelous documentary that re-enacts that meeting with lip-synch lookalikes.

What a treat for those who love the old Hollywood legends—and it’s the actual voices of the stars, played to the hilt of re-enacting.

Their pre-dinner conversation is dotted and interrupted with annotations about their lives and celebrity that comprise a little gem that lasts over an hour.

You might expect fireworks, but Mae only plays her famous Diamond Lil for money—not for social laughs. And, Bette does her Margo Channing with an endless punch of hard drinks galore.

In some ways Davis dominates—and takes on the other two guests who came with Mae West.  But, the two legends have a love-fest as they run down the old Hollywood studio system, imitators, and worthless men in their lives.

All this is enhanced with two marvelous doppleganger actresses in the roles of Mae and Bette—looking so realistic that you feel like you really are there.

Wes Wheadon was a young friend of Bette and decided to put the chat on an old cassette tape from that long-ago night–and direct it as he recalls. Now he shares that wonderful evening with a new generation. With Victoria Mills as Mae and Karen Teliha as Bette, Sally Kellerman narrates this delicious night of stars.

 

 

 

 

To Utah & Back: Episode 4

 DATELINE: Curse of Civil War Gold

If you keep wondering when representatives of philanthropist Charles Hackley will sue the producers of this series for defamation of character, we are with you.  We are up to Episode 4 of The Curse of Civil War Gold and the defaming of Mr. Hackley continues full force.

The only curse from this series we see so far is the one put on viewers.

Gold panner Kevin Dykstra continues his unfounded assault on a 19th century banker who invested in a Utah gold mine, built a railroad, and according to speculation, brought Confederate gold out west to launder it.

There’s no gold like fool’s gold.

Evidence is in short supply, but conspiracy theory abounds. If you are wondering if this series can sink any lower, you should tune in next week when it literally hits bottom of Lake Michigan.

As for this week, what can you say about a group of grown men who drive 1700 miles to Utah and back in one week? Their excursion in the desert lasts about three days, and not one is apparently spent in a motel. Nor is there money for flying.

What’s interesting is how totally unprepared they truly are.

Indeed, they go out to Utah without a plan or previous research. When they get there, they ask passers-by for information. They never heard of the Internet.

Without any discernible information of reliable and valid import, they head out to the desert looking for railroad tracks. There is no local guide, no one with experience or expertise in desert conditions.

They have a gun and three campers and all-terrain vehicles to go looking for a needle in a haystack (their description).

Yes, they traipse through the mountains looking for old mine openings, no matter how dangerous or condemned.

One intrepid younger brother of Kevin Dykstra has the temerity to tell him not to enter a dangerous cave where a mountain lion has made its lair. (There are three brothers on this series, outdoing the Laginas by one).

Can this series deteriorate any faster?

Marty Lagina better give these guys food money, though not one looks like he is starved.

At hour’s end, they have no evidence for their efforts in Utah. They must go to Marty Lagina with only a silver coin found by old friend Gary Drayton.

Lo and behold, as they enter the palace of Marty Lagina, intimidating in itself, they discover he is not impressed with their lack of evidence. However, someone told him about the show’s ratings.  There’s gold in the History Channel audience.

He will finance another few episodes. Whether we have the interest to pursue them may be the bigger question. So many words, so little hard evidence. Ho-hum.

Murphy Trumps Olivia DeHavilland

DATELINE: Lady in a Caged Lawsuit

 Miss De havilland to you

DeHavilland as vindictive Heiress (1949)

Perhaps the 101-year-old legendary star actress has outlived her own values.

According to a California court, Miss Olivia De Havilland has no right to stop an unflattering portrayal of herself in Ryan Murphy’s ripe black comedy called Feud. It’s the nasty tale of how Bette Davis and Joan Crawford spoiling for a fight over their careers and in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.

Miss DeHavilland’s character called her own sister, actress Joan Fontaine, a “bitch” on screen, to which De Havilland objected. She called her many things, but never bitch.

She would have preferred “dragon lady,” but the producers of Feud and the courts felt that it was too archaic and not colorful enough to suit the story. Olivia De Havilland was kicked harder than Joan Crawford in Baby Jane, all in the name of artistic expression.

If the law is to be understood nowadays, you don’t have a right to stop the First Amendment, however disabused you may suffer at the hands of hack writers.

In all likelihood, Ryan Murphy, smug as ever, never realized Olivia DeHavilland, a two-time Oscar winner for 1940 and 1949, was still alive. He continued to call her “Olivia” this year, as if they were on a first-name basis, throughout the legal case.

So, Miss De Havilland stayed in seclusion in Paris while Hollywood glamour types and writers now have open season on living beings. A screenwriter can put whatever words he wants into your mouth, all in the name of artistic freedom, and therein rests the script.

Hollywood’s new bread-and-butter is the documentary bio-film with re-enactors and colorful revisions to history. Miss De Havilland did not stand a chance, and we wouldn’t blame her for calling Ryan Murphy “a son of a bitch.”

Hitchcock’s Little Bang!

 DATELINE:  Short Suspense Subject by the Master!

Mumy boy

What a treat to find ourselves looking at the last half-hour episode of his TV series actually directed by Mr. Hitchcock himself.

Sandwiched between Psycho and The Birds, he gave us a gift of a timeless tale about dangerous weapons in the hands of children. “Bang! You’re Dead” is a minor gem.

Once again, he used a child star who would soon climb to more legendary fame. Back in 1954, he came up with Jerry Mathers as the little boy who discovers the dead Harry in Trouble with Harry. Mathers later went on to more trouble with Leave It To Beaver Cleaver.

In 1961, he picked out Billy Mumy, half-a-dozen years before he made a star burst on Lost in Space. Mumy was an extraordinary child actor, and his brilliant performance makes the episode all the more chilling. In one scene, while adults around him talk, he keeps an unblinking eye on his uncle, just returned from Africa and promising a special gift to the boy.

In an age when all the boys were pretending to be cowboys and had hats and guns, Mumy finds a gun and bullets in his uncle’s suitcase and presumes this is his gift. He puts one round in the chamber and switches his toy gun for the real one.

Spinning the chamber as if playing Russian Roulette, he begins a journey around the neighborhood, figuring to plug those people who give him a hard time: and there are plenty of candidates from the mailman to an annoying father and daughter at the supermarket.

Hitch zeroes in on the little fingers stuffing more bullets into the chamber and spinning away, making each shot more likely to hit a mark.

The excruciating suspense is nasty as each incident makes the growing menace more frightening. At the least, the episode ends with seven years of bad luck.

Extraordinary short film is from the seventh season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

 

Kingpin Whitey Bulger on History Channel

DATELINE:  King Whitey & Crown & Anchor Gay Bar!

Jimmy  Rough Trade Whitey Bulger

Leave to History Channel to insult women with their series called Kingpin during Women’s History Month. The good news for women is that the first episode, of Kingpin features no women.

Indeed, the episode glorifies the bloody thughood of young Jimmy Bulger who rose from boy prostitute to homicidal maniac. Oh, you mean they didn’t mention the fact that Whitey Bulger started out as a frequenter of gay bars in Boston in the 1950s. The moniker Whitey came from his alabaster skin and blond hair.

The producers also left out the salient fact that Whitey’s brother was one of the most powerful politicians in Boston for a generation, the founder of the St. Paddy’s Day roast, Billy Bulger of South Boston.

Apart from general inaccuracy and consulting a bunch of stiffs who are thrilled at Whitey’s shenanigans, the series is nothing short of appalling. Boston ought to sue History Channel for slander and libel.

We remember that Boston was not Chicago in the 1920s. Crime was localized, however violent.  People like Howie Carr, radio celeb and sometime author, know better, but jumped at the chance to be on screen.

Carr knows better than anyone how Whitey, known as Jimmy in his more refined circles, was a frequenter of Jacques, one of the more notorious gay bars of the the 1950s in Bay (aka Gay) Village, among his foibles and indiscretions.

Cutie-pie and rough trade Jimmy carried on in P-town too, at the Crown and Anchor Bar, where he stayed with its owner often. There, too, he canoodled his affair with movie star Sal Mineo. Oh, they left that out too?

sal Sal Mineo

You don’t want to alienate the audience for this kind of drivel. They wouldn’t cotton to affairs among the cognoscenti when a bloodbath would do.

You can check out most of this stuff in books (try Mafia & the Gays) on the Mafia and Whitey, including one by Howie Carr.

How Many Oscars to Put Up a Billboard?

DATELINE:  Ebbing Tide!

McDormand

Two major Oscars went to the star actors of Three Billboards Near Hibbing, Minnesota, or was it Ebbing, Missouri?

We think the ridiculous title seemed laughable at first, but becomes seriously apt by the end.

Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell play borderline sociopathic and violent characters who are held in check by the small-town sheriff played by Woody Harrelson.

Audiences have been deeply bothered by a racist cop (who may be latently gay) and vindictive mother of a murdered girl who become, weirdly, sympathetic, owing to the brilliant performances of Oscar winners Rockwell and McDormand.

The audience faces a story wherein characters repent and try to mend their nasty ways. It’s not looked upon with much favor. It becomes far worse if they turn into outright vigilantes, leaving us with complete moral and ethical ambiguity. We seem to forget Bruce Willis has just released his remake of Death Wish, the ultimate film about taking the law into one’s hands, just to entertain us.

The Oscar winners are surrounded by other tour de force actors, playing small-town Missourians to the hilt. And, there were likely no other stars who could have played the leads: we doubt that Meryl Streep or Tom Cruise could have pulled it off with such aplomb or lack of glamour.

The story has absurdist elements that make for that most deplorable of all genres: dramedy or black comedy, with fewer and fewer laughs along the way.

Perhaps life is not so black and white as good guys and bad after all, but our movies usually refuse to reflect this. This film challenges its audience to live with moral ambiguity in their art, as well as in life.

This is the first movie in quite some time in which characters mention Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde in the same scene, among other quirks, making this the most intriguing film of the year.

 

 

 

Inventor of Xmas? Charles Dickens, Really?

DATELINE:  Ghosts for the Holidays

Dickens with ScroogeDickens with Scrooge!

One presumes Dickens would be appalled that he was given the label as The Man Who Invented Christmas because in 1842 under financial pressure, he wrote a little ghost story in six weeks. We always thought Jesus probably deserved a little credit for inventing Christmas.

Having dozens of movie versions of the famous holiday tale about the reclamation of Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol, it seems only fitting that a charming tale, slightly mythological rather than biographical, would be the latest incarnation of the story.

Dan Stevens, hot off Downton Abbey, plays a stylish, boyish Charles Dickens, a man surrounded by his own spendthrift ways and a brood of interruptions in his home, faces a daunting deadline to come up with a novella to make ends meet.

Stories about writers are usually deadly dull and impossible to show creativity, but this film manages to show how the characters, and caricatures, came to life for Dickens.

No small feat is the marvelous performance of the difficult quarry of Scrooge in the person of Christopher Plummer. He argues he wants his point-of-view better expressed, feeling the story is too one-sided!

The cast is up to the weird exaggerations of Dickens, including Jonathan Pryce as the author’s father. Many people in Dickens’ life take a role in his story.

Cute, by some standards, we see snippets of dialogue picked off the streets as Dickens goes on his daily duties. He hears the best lines and incorporates them into his text. But, it is his debates with Scrooge who visits him in his room that is the heart of the film.

Dickens purists might take issue with the pabulum portrait by Stevens, but this is a sentimental story, intelligently told, without profanity, sexual situations, or other unpleasantness, while maintaining dramatic and psychological effectiveness.

This is a film that insists Dickens did more for Christmas than you may want to believe. Yet, this is more than a holiday fest and more than a simple biographical movie. It is charming, an addition to the Christmas canon.

 

Super Dooper Looper Scooper

DATELINE:  Old Meets New!

like son, like son

Well, if you asked us to watch a futuristic sci-fi adventure about time traveling assassins in the 2040s with an old star teamed up with or against a new star, you might think we would tune in to see the sequel to Blade Runner. Nope, instead we found ourselves in an endless loopy movie.

From the past of 2012, Looper has all the elements you’d expect: the old star is Bruce Willis who has a fairly good track record of finding unusual, if not intriguing science fiction films. The young star is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose allure remains hypnotic but incomprehensible.

In this particular pastiche of all your favorite movies, Gordon-Levitt underwent hours of makeup each day in order to look like a young version of Bruce Willis, down to the mannerisms.

The result is that Gordon-Levitt looks like something quite odd, but not at all like himself, our favorite young actor. Instead, he turns into Keanu Reeves!

If the director wanted to make an early version of the John Wick saga, he cast the actor to rival Reeves.

The notion of the plot has something to do with a younger hired gun (a looper) in the 2040s who must assassinate his old self from the future. Alas, the old fox (Willis) is smarter than the young idiot (Gordon-Levitt), and a merry chase is on.

If anyone thinks a pack of bad guys can stop Bruce Willis, they haven’t seen any Die Hard movies.

Along the way the movie turns into a semi-mixed up film called The Terminator with Willis out to kill the future leader of a crime syndicate who happens to be 10-years old. Of course, said future villain also happens to be an expert in telekinesis, which turns the film into an over-baked film called The Omen.

You can take parts of all kinds of movies and toss them into a Hollywood crock pot, and out comes a crock of a movie.

Yes, to our endless shame, we enjoyed it.

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.