Free e-books

DATELINE:  Is there really a free lunch?

Starting Wednesday on most titles.

Apparently in the world of Ossurworld.  On Amazon.com, this week for the first time you can find a few of Ossurworld’s favorite movie review books available for free. The offer lasts for a few days. Grab’em while they’re hot.

The Menu:

Is It Real? or Just Another Movie

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Movies to See or Not to See

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Movies in the Stream

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Mal Tempo

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When Jack the Ripper Met Ben Hur

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Unwell in a Kafka World: A Cure for Wellness

DATELINE:  Not exactly Obamacare

Dane DeHaan

You have to admit that actor Dane DeHaan usually chooses the most peculiar films and roles available to young stars.

In this movie, A Cure for Wellness, he manages to look rather unwell, doughy, and pooped out. That surely goes against the grain of buff, health-addicted, superheroes among his generation of leading men.

Director Gore Verbinski’s Kafkaesque tale is creepy enough for horror, surreality, and German expressionism, rolled into one hyper-barbaric chamber for eels.

A young executive of a billion-dollar corporation is sent to retrieve its CEO from this strange Swiss clinic where clients go to take “the waters,” a cure for what ails you. It’s either that or go to jail for white-collar crime.

Like clockwork, DeHaan’s Lockhart arrives at a Swiss mountaintop roach motel where people check in, but never apparently check out.  Instead, they are put through a health regimen worthy of Tom Brady’s personal trainer.

Jason Isaacs as Volmer runs the place like the reincarnation of a mad Teutonic baron two centuries ago. He will kill you with kindness.

The cure is worse than the illness—but DeHaan seems more than willing to stick around. We’d be suspicious the moment they kept insisting you drink the water. And, alas, your cell phone won’t work in this altitude.

The hydrotherapy seems a bit on the extreme side, but sado-masochism never had it so healthy.

The atmosphere is suitably Germanic, if not germ-free. We are told that Adolph Hitler was at the spa location, Castle Hohenzollern, for a cure during World War I. How fitting, indeed. It makes Last Year at Marienbad a pleasant stroll.

The film is not for dummies, and one of the attendants is reading a Thomas Mann novel about a health spa where people are convinced they need treatment, whether true or not.

If there is a drawback to this movie, it can be found in the length of the film. We have grown unaccustomed to movies pushing two & a half hours, which is a sure sign they are considered “important” by the makers. There is apparently no cure for this.

Our Town Too Close for Comfort

DATELINE:  Thorton Wilder Classic

the deadDoro Mirande, Fay Bainter, and Martha Scott, stand out among the dead.

With music by Aaron Copland and set design by William Cameron Menzies, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town of 1940 is an emotional wallop, despite Hollywood’s interfering new-fangled ending. It’s the sort of thing that gave Hollywood a black eye for years.

Once the staple of high school reading lists, Our Town has fallen out of favor being the work of a dead white guy. Of course, that was the point of the play: but we now agree that Our Town is wasted on anyone young. And wisdom is never an easy lesson.

If you are beyond middle-age, seeing this again will be chilling. Instead of a homespun tale of Americana, this is a cynical and downbeat tale of birth, life, and death.

Though it starts out with amusing details of a 17-year old boy (William Holden, looking adolescent) and his next door girlfriend Martha Scott, as George and Emily. Set in 1901 until 1913, it seems like a quaint Mayberry in New England story.

Grover’s Corners was fictional, of course, set on the border of New Hampshire. Well, that’s where we live now—which certainly gave us pause. We are in the midst of the world of Our Town (exteriors filmed nearby). Wilder wrote the play while staying in Peterborough at the writers’ colony.

The setting feels more like Rindge or Jaffrey, NH, than artsy Peterborough.

The final third of the film takes place in the graveyard, brilliantly depicted with the dead (most of the cast) standing in solitary, morose fashion. It is a frightful depiction of what death means, and what life becomes.

According to this story, you have one day to re-live, as a ghost in time travel. These are trendy concepts today, let alone in pre-World War II America.

The ghosts debate that you should choose the most unfortunate day to re-live because happy times will be unbearable.

Performances are powerful—realistic and distressing. This is not a story for young people, but in 30 years they may be drawn to the play’s extraordinary insights, even those scornful diverse young critics of today.

Death is a great equalizer. The film is not tragic, only whimsical.

 

Peter O’Toole on TV in 1986

DATELINE:  Rare Appearance

Banshee

In one of his rare acting performances on the small screen, legendary Peter O’Toole took a role on a Ray Bradbury Theatre production of a short story called “Banshee.”

This anthology series ran for several years and featured notable stars in a thirty-minute Twilight Zone-style show.

Most of the summaries of the episode with O’Toole are oddly incorrect on various websites.

The man who was Lord Jim, Lawrence of Arabia, and Henry II (twice), plays an eccentric film director living in Ireland on his remote estate. He plays John Hampton, which clearly is a play on the real eccentric legendary director who lived in Ireland on his estate.

That was, of course, John Huston. The dialogue even has that lilt of Huston’s—and O’Toole wears jodhpurs and boots with swagger, to suggest Huston.

He is visited by a nebbish writer played by Charles Martin Smith who comes for a spooky interview with a script that O’Toole shreds to pieces.

Greeting the writer in the dead of night, the flamboyant director is more than a little unsettled by the cry of a banshee, an Irish female ghost, out in the dark, forboding woods around his estate. While he urges the writer to go out to find this creature who cries for death, Smith locates an ethereal beauty near a graveyard who wants O’Toole to come out.

The story was written by Ray Bradbury and seems a trifle, though highly moody and atmospheric. The show falls short of Twilight Zone quality, but who can complain when Peter O’Toole enlivens every scene.

 

 

 

 

Unusual True Ghost Story Revealed

DATELINE:  New Book about Spirit from Titanic Disaster?

mystery kindle coverIn his new book Mysterious Mill Circle, almost as an addendum, Dr. William Russo has finally told part of the true story about the strange activities at the former estate of two victims of the Titanic disaster.

In the final chapter of the new book comes the revelation about a possessed doll and its strange connection to the Titanic.

For years the story has circulated privately and quietly among local residents of the sleepy New England town where two victims of the Titanic were born and raised. Only one is buried nearby when his body was recovered. The other was never found in the North Atlantic.

Is the spirit or ghost taking hold of a doll version of Edvard Munch’s “The Silent Scream”? According to the author, the inflatable doll deflates and inflates on its own. But, that is only part of the mystery.

scream up close  “Silent Scream”

Previously Dr. Russo told the story of the victims in his nonfiction biography entitled Tales of a Titanic Family, but that historical work did not explain some of the paranormal activities associated with the neighborhood where the victims formerly lived.

The book also contains several tales of grotesque and odd wildlife on Mill Circle.

Now on Amazon in both paperback and e-book versions (strictly for smart readers).

 

 

 

Th

Collateral Beauty: Time for Love & Death to Take a Holiday

 Mirren Kills'em.jpg Mirren Kills’em

DATELINE:  Bereavement Hallucinations

Every once in a while a movie comes along that invites insult and derision. This time it is  Will Smith’s dramedy called Collateral Beauty.

It has echoes of so many other, better stories, that we aren’t sure where to begin the diagnosis.

From the trailer you might believe this is a fantasy film on the lines of Love, Death, and Time, Meet in New York. You’d have been deceived, sort of.

A depressed man, dealing with the death of his child of six, has business associates that want to have evidence to commit him to a looney bin.

So, they arrange for actors to play Love, Death, and Time, to pay him a visit. It’s Gaslight—but as Helen Mirren, playing Death, discovers in the course of the movie, no one remembers that classic film, known for its good acting. No one will remember this one for that same reason.

When you start out with some of the most unlikable characters all woven into one plot, you are already behind the Oscar voting. Will Smith knows about being overlooked for a good performance—and lets his natural gray hairs show his love for acting this time as the movie lay dying.

We presume this is a cautionary tale—but we aren’t quite sure if we are being warned about sneaky business partners, cruel fate, or bloated self-pity. There is plenty of that stuff to go around in this movie. Just call it a sentimental journey.

Here’s the rub: you probably will watch it and hate yourself in the morning, which may be the opposite emotion the film wants you to have. It preaches at the audience enough to cause a backlash.

You may actually begin to think those “actors” playing at Death, Love, and Time, may be the real thing, like a coven of witches hanging out in the Big Apple for laughs.

At one point, Helen Mirren says, “This is not Noel Coward. It’s more like Chekhov.”  Yes, the movie never falls short on lofty pretensions. You could do worse.

Everywhere a Movie Set in La-La Land

DATELINE: Movie Myths in Song & Dance

lalla land

 

You may remember La La Land as the film that won the Oscar for five minutes. It was a mistake, for sure. We aren’t sure if the film is supposed to be a take off, or a throwback, or just to feel good old-fashioned musical. It may be much more.

La la Land is some mystic, mythic American place where gridlock results in a mile-long sing-along.  If this is your cup of tea, stay out of Starbucks. If you love movies, this has more movie references than a Mel Brooks comedy. Yet, this one is a romantic gem.

Director Damien Chazelle manages to squeeze everything from Fellini’s 8 & a Half to Rebel without a Cause into his film, while resonating Gene Kelly’s American in Paris.

Ryan Gosling’s character wants to single-handedly save jazz for a new generation—and Chazelle does too. We thought there must be a trick to Gosling’s piano performance, which is bravura at the least. He sings and dances too.

Emma Stone’s eyes may be reminiscent of Bette Davis, but she is show busy to the nth degree. Attention, movie fans, we have a movie here, right down to the fluorescent green drapes out of Vertigo.

Dreams in La-La Land may be achievable—but at great cost, though the journey is richly detailed in this hypnotic movie.

The last musical we enjoyed was A Chorus Line, which we saw a dozen times because our friend Jimmy Kirkwood wrote it. He loved show biz stories too, and this would have grabbed him.

Though this movie missed out on its big Oscar, it’s the sort that will live in legend and re-telling and re-viewing in the generations to come. You cannot miss this film and call yourself a fan of Hollywood, jazz, or creative impulse.

Bell, Book & Candle: Bewitching Entertainment

 DATELINE: Early Bewitched

stellar 

After Hitchcock made them a romantic couple with perfect chemistry in Vertigo, they made another film that year. It was called Bell, Book, & Candle.

It was a sharp satire about a coven of witness in Manhattan.

James Stewart and Kim Novak excelled in turning suspense to laughs, with an assist from actors like Jack Lemmon and Ernie Kovacs.

At least one scene echoes Novak’s San Francisco apartment in Vertigo, but she has a scene-stealing cat named Piwacket this time.

Stewart is a book publisher who falls under Novak’s spell, but the entire concept was done to death in the 1960s under the TV series name of Bewitched. The original idea here seems to have been undercut over the years—except for the striking adult subtlety.

Lemmon and Kovacs shack up in a hotel room to write a book, but their relationship sounds a great deal like consenting adults. They play it to the hilt in the closeted 1950s, which may be the biggest surprise. The Zodiac Club where Lemmon hangs out with other warlocks certainly doubles for a 1950s gay club.

Novak is stunningly beautiful, and Stewart still has enough in the tank to be at the top of his game. The scenes shot in New York with body doubles indicate that Stewart and Novak never left the Hollywood studio when making this film.

The magic of movies is perfect here, from the lush color, muted effects of witchcraft, and the interplay of adults not into situation comedy.

Bieber & the Mayan Connection

Mayan Woes for the Latest Generation

 

It’s almost as bad as having Justin Bieber climbing among the Mayan ruins and destroying them with his vandal rich attitude. The pop star was at Tulum, Mexico, on holiday and went scampering where ruins are not fully excavated.

They threw the book at him. If the Mayans were still around, they’d have cut out his heart.

In true adventurous spirit, Bieber came to Boston this week and wandered on the Boston Common barefoot. His bravery was thought foolhardy.

Speaking of which, in a semi-related matter, a teenager examining satellite photos of the Yucatan noted square and rectangular shapes under the vegetation. Voila, he found a lost Mayan city.

Now, the slug Ph.D.s did not take kindly to this. Here is someone with no degrees usurping the insights of the so-called experts. As one with a Ph.D., we are the first to tell you the intelligence of such doctors is rather limited. In fact, you have to be a dullard to muddle through doctoral programs. We should know.

Jealousy in the professions wastes much gray matter.

No one has yet to go into the jungle to thin out the bushes and see if a pyramid or city square may be under the centuries of rain forest.

However, smug doctors of ancient antiquities can say “junk science” is responsible for creative thinking and accidental discovery. We suspect that every innovator was guilty of junk science to his contemporaries.

So, we take our hats off to the Bieber generation. Their treasure is the junk of scholars.

Kevin Durant Conquers Boston’s Fans

DATELINE:  Boston’s Newest Crush

What’s with these guys named Kevin?

In the NBA, they all come to Boston and fall in love with the basketball franchise. Well, Kevin Love came to Boston and met Rajon Rondo, which is as close to a cure for a love potion as you might find.

Kevin McHale came here to live in fame. So did Kevin Garnett.

And, now the Thunderous Kevin Durant came, saw, and conquered the fans. They didn’t care if he beat the home town team. They loved his stuff.

Celtics fans were squealing under the notion he is a free agent—and they gave him love not usually bestowed so freely on those not in green, especially around St. Patrick’s Day.

Durant will be a free agent, but there will be nothing free about him, but after his lovefest interview with the media, singing praises of Boston, its history, and its young coach, there is a sense that he may not be free, but he may be willing to dicker.

The idea of Kevin Durant in Celtics lore sends chills up the ying-yang of Bill Russell and Larry Bird. As a legitimate superstar, and well-spoken, intelligent, and demure, he would be a hit in Boston where sassy and crassy usually reign.

We may be losing David Ortiz this season with the Red Sox—and Chandler Jones has headed off to play for the “New England Cardinals” (his gaffe, not ours), but KD may be the new KG.

If this is summer love, then give us a long duration Durant.

 

Dwight Howard Never Wears Green

DATELINE: Rocky Rocketman

 

You know Superman has been beaten by Batman when Dwight Howard is being mentioned as a trade possibility to Boston. Danny Ainge is no Ben Affleck when it comes to movie heroes in Celtic uniforms.

As with rumors of Blake Griffin, the chance of such a Celtics trade comes about three years too late. Rajon Rondo would have complemented either man to the point of a championship. Now, Father Time has passed by—and the Superman mantle has passed from Dwight to Cam Newton.

Cam won’t be playing basketball in Boston any time soon.

Other than trading too many prospects, damaging team chemistry, and creating turmoil, the idea that the Boston Celtics feel like regressing becomes supercilious.

Just what workmen are given up for the novelty of having a washed up Superman? Houston may well demand the impossible: Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas are not worth Howard, even if they stand on each other’s shoulders to reach his height.

To top off the absurdity of comic book victories at the Boston TD Garden, you have to realize the Justice League is a team, not a solo performer.

Only Frederich Nietzche still believes in supermen.

Sorry, phone booths are yesterday’s mode of communication, Superman. To fit into the new teamwork and communal style of play, the Celtics might want Atom Ant over Superman.

Danny Ainge needs a superstar as his go-to man. But, Kevin Garnett is not walking through that door, fans. In fact, we think Dwight Howard might bounce off the door instead of coming through.

 

Betting Your Tails on a Heady Chance: FanKings and DraftDuel

DATELINE: Games for Profit

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BoyKings and FanDooDoo websites have been shut down in New York state.

And bettors are claiming they have real skills.

We have been trying to predict winners and losers on a weekly basis for years, but we have never been stupid enough to put money on it. However, many fans of many sports apparently are desperate for a quick fix or a get-rich opportunity.  They bet weekly, if not daily.

This once was considered an addiction. Now it is a skill.

If you look at the losers both fantasy betting companies use in their commercials, you’d be indignant that if those idiots can win millions, so can you. What a brilliant dodge: make young male bettors angry by showing nerds winning sports bets. BoyKings indeed.

Our experience is that each week the NFL has at least two or three upsets. By the nature of upset, you have an unexpected victor coming out of bad referee calls, or with overtime luck. Picking which team will upset the others is hardly a skill. It is sheer happenstance. You never know what team the officials will screw that week.

Are we betting on a fixed notion? You bet your life.

The unknown fate of injury during a game can change the complexion of a drive for points.  Your skill may be character based: like knowing which idiot football player will be suspended for illegal performance enhancing drugs, drag racing in his car, or beating the mothers of his many offspring. Good luck with that one.

FanDooDoo will do you in.