Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Last Post of 2010

The next time I post, it will 2011. Can you believe it? This year sure flew by, didn't it?

I, for one, am not really sorry to see 2010 go. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of great moments in 2010. I made some wonderful new friends; got to direct three shows; got my third tattoo and spent my birthday at an iconic amusement park with several dear friends. I saw a few really terrific movies and even more really bad ones. I watched some groundbreaking TV, was crushed (and eventually glad) to find that Sharktopus was more interesting to SyFy than Army of the Dead and got that much closer to completing a script I think is even better than Army of the Dead. My sister made a rare trip North; my parakeet finally learned that I'm not a threat (we even play a game with one of his toys, now); I finally realized how unfair it would be for me to get a boxer, even though I desperately want one and I had delightful year-end holiday experience (so far, anyway). I was part of my first YouTube video (and am about to instigate another*); I was lucky enough to spend my 8th year as a board member of the JTMF and managed to convince our founder to add The Trevor Project* as one of our beneficiaries with our recent production of It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.

Even with all the amazing and good things that happened this year, the terrible things seemed to have weighed more heavily. There was the Great Kitchen/Bathroom Disaster of January, followed soon after by the Great Health Scare of February. Then the most repulsive movie ever made was released and my faith in good Horror movies was reduced to ashes... May saw the end of TV's most intriguing drama in years; and the scandal that should have (but didn't) blow the lid on religious hypocrites. June gave us not only JTMF's Sordid Lives, but my pick for the Worst Movie of 2010. July may have given us the Double Rainbow and my amazing birthday celebration, but August extended the Summer of Suck, as far as movies were concerned. September saw me battling my continuing struggle with depression, though Top Girls helped me through a lot of that (not to mention the addition of several new friends). Then Fall suddenly came, slip-sliding into the Holiday Season without any warning at all, and Uncle Prospero found himself with his faith in humanity curiously renewed, as he seems to do every year.

Still, I want to know where my jetpack is; where my flying car is and what other lifeforms are living on Io. Is that really so much to ask in this, the start of the second decade of the 21st Century?

In all seriousness, I wish all of you the Happiest, Healthiest and Best of New Years. Be safe, sane and most of all, kind in the coming year. I hope your dreams come true (or at least closer to it) and that you find your bliss. I hope you know the kinds of friendships with which I have been blessed and that all of your endeavors end in nothing less than success. Thank you for reading. Thank you for commenting. Thank you for caring about what I have to say. I hope 2011 is better or all of us.

Happy New Year!

*Watch for the JTMF "It Gets Better" video soon.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Gayest Thing You'll See This Holiday

I almost titled this post "Get Me a Hot Tub, Stat!" That's gorgeous James Marsden (X-Men; Hairspray; Enchanted), who will be the guest star on ABC's "Modern Family" when new episodes start to air again on January 7th. I've been a fan of Mr. Marsden since 1998's "The Stepford Teens" movie Disturbing Behavior, which is a terrible movie punctuated by a terrific performance by a leading actor who is far better than the material he's been given to perform.

He did a stint on "Ally McBeal" and lots of second-banana roles in X-Men; Superman Returns; Hairspray and Enchanted. Sadly, his next big leading role was last year, opposite Cameron Diaz in Richard Kelly's bomb, The Box. He was also (sadly) in this remake of Death at a Funeral. Happily, he spent much of that film naked.

Now (via) comes this delightful clip in which he plays Cam and Mitchell's new (straight) neighbor, Barry who wanders into Cam and Mitchell's hot tub, thinking it's for everyone in the building. I know that "Modern Family" has it's detractors in the Community, but I find it hilarious. Well-written and exceptionally well-acted by an ensemble of some of the best actors on TV, it never fails to make me laugh.

I don't know about you, but I would have no problem finding a half-naked Jimmy Marsden in my hot tub. And I certainly wouldn't act like a 16 year-old girl, if I did (read into that what you will).

I also wouldn't mind finding a half-naked James FrancoBoris Kodjoe; Hugh Jackman; Stephen Dorff; Bradley Cooper:  Jake Gyllenhaal; Christian Bale; Ryan Reynolds or my obsession in my hot tub, if I had one. Maybe that's my problem -- no hot tub. So, to reiterate, "Get me a hot tub, stat!"

More, anon.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Snowed In!

That's the hedge at the bottom of my driveway this past February. It will probably look very much the same tomorrow, despite what a co-worker who has a degree in meteorology told us on Thursday when we left for the holiday break. What makes it okay is that I have off tomorrow, anyway. And it makes my neighborhood so pretty, especially at the houses with holiday lights. I know many of you don't have off, but you may get to extend your holiday weekend anyway. It's a pretty epic storm, I guess. The NFL actually re-scheduled the Eagles' game tonight. It's the first time the NFL has postponed a game because of snow since the 30's (sometimes I 'm just so butch I almost can't stand it).

And yes, in case you're wondering, I got several pages  of the screenplay written last night and think I've pretty much outlined the rest of the plot in full. After this brief post, I'm off to rewrite a scene so it supports the new outline. I'll probably spend a good portion of my snowed-in day writing, as well. The snow here won't stick around long - they're predicting temps in the 50's for next weekend.

I hope all my East Coast readers get a snow day tomorrow! I hope you're all snug and warm, watching the movies or playing the video games you got for Christmas or Hanukkah. I hope you have enough milk, eggs, bread and batteries to see you through the dig-out (is there some French toast rule I don't know about?).  I hope some kids offer to shovel for $10 or $20, so you don't have to (so worth it). Even better, I hope a kind neighbor with a snow-blower digs you out for free (though you should at least offer a cup of cocoa). I hope you got a sled for Christmas! I hope you have a place to use it on your snow day! I hope you're careful! Wear a helmet! You'll shoot your eye out! Wait... wut?

If you're unlucky enough to have to go back to work tomorrow, I hope it's an easy and quick week for you.

More, anon.

You're Never Too Old for Toys!

Merry Christmas, friends! I know there's a bit of geek in all of you, or none of you would read a damned thing I had to say. So this (originally intended to be) short post is for the geek in all of us. 

My sweet, crazy sister apparently spent three months looking through every 'trading post' that Disney had set up for their Vinylmation Park line of figurines. Earlier this fall, she sent me an article about the Steampunk Mickey figurines and I responded by hinting very broadly (and several times) that Christmas was coming. Every time they went  to the park (which is a lot - they have a timeshare on property) my sister and brother-in-law searched for one of them. Sis said that in some places when they asked about it, the 'Cast Members' looked at them like they had three heads. Finally, in an unlikely Trading Post the 'Cast Member' said "Yeah. Sure. You have to trade up for it." So the B-i-L went and bought a random figure to trade up for the striking and oddly sinister Steampunk Micky 3" Vinylmation Park figurine you see in the picture at the top of this post. And as an added bonus, she literally stumbled upon the T-shirt with a graphic of the very figure, itself. Double-plus Good!

Now, I have to be honest and tell you how conflicted I am about Disney some day, but you have to admit, these are an aging Film/Sci-Fi/Animation Geek's perfect gifts, sent by a self-professed Disney Dork (no that's not her blog, but I know she reads it). Santa bought some very excellent stuff (like the Tom-Tom with infinite map updates; a new pair of my favorite "comfortable" shoes and an exceptionally clever and useful tripod LED flashlight) and I really loved them all. Still, Sis also got the number three and four spots with my (shamefully) first personal copy of Evil Dead II on DVD and an astonishingly soft and luxurious faux-lambskin throw. I'm telling you, this thing is softer than a baby's cheek and cozier than a snuggle with a teddy bear. My presents to them were good but their presents to me were better. I love getting toys for Christmas and I hope all of you got at least one, yourselves!

Today is Boxing Day, but I didn't get any gloves this year... Sorry, lame pun attempt... I'm on a carb high  followed by an Asti Spumante chaser...

Anyway, if this post comes off as bragging, it's bragging about my little sister who spent three months looking for a 3" piece of useless plastic because she knew it would geek me out and make me smile. Double-plus Double-Plus Good. 

And there was (thank goodness) only one case of this last night (via):

Though I won't tell you who had it. 

I have every intention of attempting to finish the first draft of the screenplay I've been working on for almost a year while I'm off from the day job this week and we're supposed to get some significant snow here in the Delaware Valley tomorrow into Monday, so it's a good time to sequester myself a bit and figure out the rest of Act II and the segue to Act III. If I don't post over the next few days, it means I'm toiling. If I do, it means I'm flying along, happy with every word I write... (as if). 

Okay, so spill. What is/are your favorite present(s) this Christmas? Make me jealous so I stop thinking these exceptionally geeky gifts are complete "geek chic" and more than appropriate for a man old enough to have witnessed Nixon's resignation. 

And now a private message to my sister - you may skip a paragraph ahead, if you like :

Love ya, Sis! Miss you lots! See you in April! Remember what kind of cake I want (and yes, it can be low-carb, as long as it's delicious). Simi-tata; bwooouussccchh; "Canons to the left of me!" and Owl Hootsey to you, Silly Girl. Never stop making me laugh and smile and I'll never stop making you. Oh, one more thing - "CAMILLE!!!!!!!!!!!"

Now to those of who did read the above paragraph: You're undoubtedly shaking your heads and completely agreeing that what you have suspected all along is true and that your dear old Uncle Prospero is completely bonkers (which I have never denied, btw). But I promise you all, Uncle P's sister will probably be convulsing in laughter when she gets back to her day job and finishes reading that paragraph. I could have gone on with at least several dozen more non-sequiters and nonsense words that have meaning to her and me only. Of course, when she reads the Revenge, she emails her responses directly to me. Let's all encourage her to reply here, instead. She can be pretty funny when she wants to be...

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas! Tell me what your favorite present(s) was/were and tell the little baker lady to speak up. I know she has a Gmail account, so it's not like she can't... (Think she's getting the hint?) By the way, she can even create a secret identity to reply and I'll know it's her, because she'll use the other Pee Wee quote (on Letterman) that has equal effect on both of us.

More, eventually.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Silent Night

A very Merry Christmas to all of my readers. Thank you for stopping by now and again to indulge my take on film; theatre; music; politics; LGBT issues; life; assorted nonsense and of course, zombies. I wish you all the joys of the holiday season and many, many more. 

My life may be far from perfect (really, whose is?) but I can only hope that all of you are having as much fun as I seem to to be and that you are surrounded by as many loving friends as I am blessed to be. I hope that Santa is wise and generous; your turkey (or ham) is moist and flavorful; your children are well-behaved; your brother-in-law doesn't drink too much and that you won't have to wait long in return lines on Sunday.

"At Christmas play and make good cheer, for Christmas comes but once a year." ~ Thomas Tusser

More, soon.

Added about 2 hours later, (via) some Christmas gratuity (or weirdness,depending on your POV):

"I like him. He's silly!"


Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Bit of Christmas Nonsense

Okay - it's not Saturday and while these two things probably belong on the Zombie Zone, I've already done my Christmas post there, so here they are. The first bit of nonsense is from Failblog and is a Google autocomplete inquiry. That means at least one person searched for that specific question. Why? Why would anyone need to know that? Of course, as a screenwriter doing research, I've searched for some pretty outrageous information, but nothing that comes close to this particular inquiry.

And since I've already brought up eating human flesh, the zombie-lovin' loons over at BoingBoing posted the video below, today. It made me laugh. I hope makes you laugh, too. I really will be taking tomorrow and Saturday night off (and maybe Sunday). I'm on vacation from the day job all week and plan on finally finishing the the first draft of the screenplay I've been working on for the past year or so. Anyway, enjoy this:

More, anon.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Gayest Songs of the Year?

Apparently, everything old is new again. OMG Blog has posted their list of the Top Ten Gayest Songs of 2010 (via). Among them is 'Somebody to Love Me," sung by Boy George and produced Mark Ronson (who I must assume is related LiLo's ex, DJ Samantha Ronson - please correct me if I'm wrong). The video features a young (and presumably female) Boy George look-alike, though I can't for the life of me figure out why a 25 year-ago androgynous pop-star's image is still relevant in the 21st Century. Especially given his recent prison stint and failure on Broadway. Bitchy? Maybe. Relevant? Hardly.

By signing the repeal of DADT into legislature this morning, President Obama took yet another step toward moving counter-culture into the mainstream. No longer are Americans shocked by images of effeminate men, masculine women and/or the androgynous in-betweens. Gay icon Cher has a transgendered son; America's most popular sitcom features a pair of gay dads; one the most critically admired films of the year features a lesbian relationship and the number one daytime talk show in America is hosted by a woman who is legally married to another woman.

Here's the thing: I personally cannot wait until the day when my "Gayest Thing" posts are no longer relevant. We are on the verge of the second decade of the 20th Millennium (according to the Julian calendar). We should have long ago gotten past this issue. Gay, straight, bi, transgendered should all be terms which have long fallen out of use, especially when music is concerned.

As an audiophile since I first discovered the power of music, I have long thought that music transcends race sex and class. If it makes you move, if it inspires you or if it relaxes you, then it shouldn't matter who wrote, sang or interpreted it. Like any art form (or maybe even more so), music is the one thing that should unite us. Why then, should we give music labels? 

I suppose labels are somewhat important, so we can make distinctions between genres and types. Still... do we really need o classify 'gay' music? I, for one, look forward to the day when 'gay' is no longer a special classification, but simply an adjective applied without prejudice, used to describe people who are not in any way abnormal. Is that too much to ask?

I think I may have gotten a bit off topic, tonight. But that's what happens when I'm tired, cranky and ready for an upcoming vacation. Don't look for anything new or pertinent from Uncle P in the next few days. I'm off to celebrate the Holidays. As I've said before, I'm tired. Rant over...
More, anon.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's the Thought That Counts

I miss my mother's mother. "Grandmom Cookie" (so named because she always had a cookie jar of goodies for us)* was a barmaid. She was funny and salty and did everything she could to make my father crazy. She had Tuesdays off, and she would come over and take my mother and I out shopping, often buying my sister and I anything we wanted, which drove my father absolutely bonkers. One day, after a particularly generous trip, my father said "Jesus Christ! You'd buy those kids the world, if you could!" The next week my sister and I came home with globes. I never really wondered how I ended up with such a sarcastic sense of humor.

Cookie would come and spend the night on Christmas Eve and my sister and I would open her presents that night and presents from Santa on Christmas morning. One year, after a particularly prosperous season, we opened a few gifts from Cookie, only to find about a hundred more from her the next morning. the entire house was filled with presents. The living room; the hallways; the kitchen and even the bathroom were piled high with toys. I can still see my father, steam practically pouring out of ears, unable to say a word because it was her prerogative to spoil us rotten if she wanted to.

The first Christmas after Grandmom Cookie passed away (just a few moths earlier, in October) was rather sad. Mom, deciding we needed some cheering up, let us open one present on Christmas Eve. The following year, we opened all our presents on Christmas Eve. Neither my sister nor I believed in Santa any more, and it seemed a fitting way to honor Cookie's memory. The tradition has remained and we always open our presents on Christmas Eve, leaving Christmas Day as a day of leisure. We sleep in, I make an awesome brunch and we just relax for the rest of the day. 

Of course, Grandmom's generosity has spilled over to me, and I often find myself buying too many gifts for those I love. That doesn't mean that I equate Christmas with tons of gifts or that I'm obsessed with 'things.' But I did learn how to shop for holiday gifts that have meaning to the folks about whom I care. And seeing their faces when they open those gifts gives me more joy than any present I might receive, could.

This year, I tried to restrain myself. A few of my dearest friends decided we should set limits on our spending, and I did my best to abide by their wishes, though went overboard as usual with everyone else. And while the money I spent this year was probably less than lest year, knowing I got gifts that will bring smiles to the faces of those I love is what matters to me. 

So, what's the point of this post, you may well ask? I suppose it's only to remind you that giving is the best part of Christmas (whether or not you are a 'believer') and that having people in your life for whom you want to buy gifts is far more important than the gifts you receive from them. 

I hope you have as many people you love in your life as I do. I always feel blessed for those in mine. Without them, I'd just be some opinionated jerk with Internet access...

More, anon.

* That is almost the exact cookie jar Grandmom had, BTW

Monday, December 20, 2010

The 'Religious Right' Continues to Lie

The image on the left is what the so-called 'Religious Right' would have you think about when you think about the repeal of DADT. Truly, this is what they want you to believe is going to happen when gay men and women are allowed to finally serve openly in the military. The Religious Right must watch a lot of gay porn.

When I think about gay soldiers; marines; sailors and airmen serving openly, I picture folks like Lt. Dan Choi; Major Mike Almy; Sgt. Darren Manzella; and Major Margaret Witt. All of them were discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." And every one of them was willing their lay their lives on the line for the country they love.

After promising to end the outright ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military, Bill Clinton came under fire from the conservative right and thought DADT was a workable compromise. Today, the former President regrets that decision. More servicemen and women have been discharged under DADT in its 17 year history, than under the outright ban, itself. And while most members of our military forces will admit to knowing a gay or lesbian comrade, they will also tell you that they don't care. And while a devout pacifist, I understand the need for effective protection against those who would try to destroy what America stands for. 

"Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." That applies to every American citizen: Black; White; Hispanic; Asian; Christian; Muslim; Buddhist; Taoist; Hindi; Shamanistic; gay; straight; bi-sexual; transgendered; asexual and anything else (within reason) one can think of. If you are willing to die for my right to those precepts, why should I (or anyone else) care who you sleep with? I shouldn't. And neither should anyone else. 

Now that DADT has been repealed, I can only assume the "Religious Right' will take on same-sex marriage, stem-cell research and abortion. And I also assume that those of us who can think rationally will continue to expose those people for the liars they are. I recently commented on a friend's blog that while I was against publicly outing those people (celebrities, in particular) who choose to remain in the closet, I was all for outing religious leaders and politicians who decry homosexuality in the pulpit and on the dais, but practice it in their bedrooms. Liars and hypocrites should (and deserve) to be exposed for who they really are, especially when they spread their hate, fear and ignorance among those who trust and believe them.

The repeal of DADT is just the beginning of social justices for the LGBT community and I hope that it adds impetus to the so-called "Gay Agenda." LGBT rights are simply Human Rights, and anyone who thinks otherwise is not  (and never will be) a friend of mine. It's been a while since I talked politics, but recent events and the Right's response has gotten me a bit worked up.

Okay. Another rant over. Go about your business. But watch (and listen) to people like Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper, Dan Savage and Michelangelo Signorelli. Fight the good fight against ignorance and intolerance. Let the liars know we aren't about to let them win.

More, anon.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Too Tired

I must admit that I am rather pleased to see 2010 come to a close. It was a rather tumultuous year for Uncle P, and I'm not sorry to see it go From unexpected (though ultimately welcome) home renovations to health scares and artistic challenges, 2010 was a hell of a year.

And while I was actually able to finish my holiday shopping yesterday, there's still a ton of wrapping to be done, not mention cleaning; cooking; food shopping and assorted falderal to attend to before the year is officially over. And let's not forget that 2010 was the Summer of Movies That Sucked (and the year that Good Movies Didn't Play Here). 

I may have had my first gift exchange today, but I still seem to have very little Christmas Spirit this year... Maybe I'm just tired.

I have the week between Christmas and New Year's off again this year. I hope it will serve as a sort of rejuvenation. Or at least a week to sleep late and finish the first draft of my latest screenplay.Either way, I find myself with little of interest to talk about tonight. And that's not really a bad thing... just a reminder that I need to concentrate on other facets of life. And as a certain Homemaking Diva would say. "That's a good thing!" Or is it? I don't know. As I've said, I'm tired...

More, anon.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Shoppin' 'til I'm Droppin'

If you haven't noticed, there are just 7 shopping days until Christmas. Uncle P still has a few gifts left to pick up, but I'm not panicking yet. My first gift exchange isn't until this Sunday when I visit Auntie. I have to wrap her gifts, but at least they're bought. 

And I actually braved my local mall tonight after leaving the day job and survived quite well, even though the Disney Store's computer system went down and gave me considerable agita. I have gifts I have to send to Florida tomorrow, dang it! (And don't think the irony of sending Disney Store gifts to Florida is lost on me.) I even bought myself a gift, though I will wrap it up and deprive myself of it until next week. Still, it was 40% off, and I just couldn't resist, especially since they had it in my size.

I have a total of 8 gifts left to buy, though I won't be seeing some of the folks with whom I exchange until after the 25th, so there's a bit of a safety net there. Still, I'm usually well done my shopping by this time and just picking up extras and incidentals as I come across them. Of course, this year I've cut back quite a bit (as has almost everyone, I think). A lot of that has to do with the money spent on my aging house earlier this year. And less O.T. at the day job. And the economy in general. 

I still have tomorrow and part of Sunday, as well as Monday; Tuesday; Wednesday and Thursday night (we exchange on Christmas Eve in my house). But I still have to clean the house for guests, prepare holiday goodies, etc., etc., etc. It will get done. It always does, somehow. It's very much like putting on a play -- just when it seems like nothing will be ready in time, suddenly it is. And I can sit back and breathe a little sigh of relief. Until next year.

I hope all your shopping; wrapping; decorating; cleaning; baking and cooking is done. I hate you if it is (not really), though doubt that is...You're all probably in the same boat (or worse) than I am.  (Unless  of course, you don't celebrate Christmas, even as a secular holiday, like Uncle P does). Don't worry - it will all be over soon. Just remember, it could be worse:

More, anon.

A Legend Lost

Director Blake Edwards left us today at age 88, after a career in TV and film that spanned more than 5 decades. Starting with the screenplay and an appearance in 1948's Panhandle, Edwards was involved with dozens of projects before making a directorial splash with 1961's Breakfast at Tiffany's, a toned-down version of Truman Capote's novel about free-spirit Holly Golighlty and her love affair with the ambiguously sexual Fred. Andy Rooney's performance as Holly's Japanese landlord may well be one of the most horrifically racist since Gone With the Wind, but Audrey Hepburn's iconic performance and the classic "little black dress" will live on in the hearts of movie-lovers forever. 

Gee, wasn't George Peppard dreamy?
Of course, Edwards' greatest successes would come with the Pink Panther series, starring the amazing Peter Sellars as the incompetent Inspector Clouseau. The films went on well beyond Sellars' interest in them, but each one seemed funnier than the last (until Sellars' death, when archival footage was combined with new material to make really terrible films).

Oh, Herbert Lom and that twitching eye!
Then there was 10, the film that made Bo Derek a star and turned Ravel's "Bolero" into the ultimate sex accompaniment:

Next, he turned the world's sweetheart, Julie Andrews (and his devoted wife) into a sex object by exposing her breasts in S.O.B.

Then came his last great film, 1982's Victor Victoria, a remake of a German film about a performer who pretends to be a transvestite in order to make her name in Parisian burlesque in the 1930's. Victor Victoria is one of my favorite movies, not in the least in part due to the amazing performance of Robert Preston as Victoria's gay agent, Toddy. Julie Andrews; James Garner; Alex Karras and the amazingly hilarious Leslie Ann Warren all give the best performances of their careers in this delightfully funny film about sexual ambiguity and art of theatrical illusion.I made sure I was in attendance for Ms. Andrews' last Broadway performance in the stage adaptation, but was disappointed to find that it lacked the spark that made Edwards' film so delightful. Still, it was Julie on Broadway - a magical experience in and of itself.

After Victor Victoria, Edwards directed a few less-than successful comedies like Micki & Maude; A Fine Mess; Blind Date; Skin Deep and  Switch. But none of them had the success or finesse of his earlier works. Married to Julie Andrews for over 40 years, Edwards was an old-school Hollywood veteran, the likes of which we will probably never see again. I for one, am very saddened by his passing and can only hope that cinema will see will his like again.

More, anon.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Forgotten Gems: "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken"

Well, it's been quite a while since I've done a 'Forgotten Gems' post, and this is a movie I've been meaning to talk about for a while, but just never got around to, for some reason.

A childhood favorite of Uncle P and his sister, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken is a 1966 vehicle made solely for the purpose of showcasing the physical comedy attributes of its star, Don Knotts ("Mayberry, RFD;" The Incredible Mr. Limpet; Pleasantville). 

Knotts plays Luther Heggs, a lowly typesetter at a small town newspaper who dreams of being a real reporter. When the 20th anniversary of the town's most infamous murder/suicide rolls around, Luther is finally given his big break - he is assigned to spend the night in the 'murder house,' where the ghost of Mr. Simmons has been reported to be heard playing the organ at midnight. Luther is terrified and has a horrible night, but his account is a sensation and the paper sells more copies than it ever has. Until he's sued by the Simmons' only heir for libel and made to look like the fool he is in court. It doesn't help that he's in love with a gal completely out of his league or that his 'mail order karate lessons' are just ridiculous. And I don't know about you, but a night in this house would surely freak me out:

The only other name you might recognize in the cast is Dick Sargent (best known as the second Darren on "Bewitched") but there are plenty of 50's and 60's character actors you'll recognize like Reta Shaw (Mary Poppins); Sandra Gould  (the 2nd Mrs Crabtree on "Bewitched" - is there a pattern here?) and Ellen Corby ("The Waltons"). The movie is actually quite silly and would never fly today (though I imagine some studio 'genius' is contemplating a big-budget remake starring Jim Carrey, Jack Black or Seth Rogan as I type this) but no one did physical comedy quite as well as Knotts:

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken  may not be the best movie ever made. Or even the funniest. Still, it brings a smile to my face and elicits fond memories of my childhood. If you've never seen it, you should. Just remember to access your inner 8 year-old before you press "play" on the remote. If you do, you'll find a delightfully goofy movie suitable for the entire family.

More, anon.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

All Over the Place

I was going to do a "Forgotten Gems" post tonight but after my usual round of surfing, I came across a couple of other things I wanted to talk about, first.

Does anyone else remember 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture? That's Iranian model Persis Khambatta as Illia, a character who is killed and replicated by V-Ger in the movie. While essentially an expanded (and exceptionally boring) episode from the original series, the first 'Star Trek' movie posits that Voyager I went to the furthest depths of space where it essentially became a sentient being after encountering a silicon-based race of aliens. Because of space wear-and-tear (I guess), it called itself "V-Ger" and demanded to be reunited with its creator. Illia became V-Ger's avatar aboard the Enterprise and eventually she/it merged with Stephen Collins' ("No Ordinary Family") character in cinema's first intergalactic orgasm. Damn! Collins was sure pretty then, wasn't he?

So, what does that have to do with anything? Well, launched by NASA in 1977, Voyager I is now poised to become the first man-made object to actually leave the Milky Way. Discover Magazine is reporting that Voyager I, while no longer propelled by solar winds, is about to move into deep space, potentially fulfilling it's cinematically prophesied destiny. This story has restored my fascination with deep-space travel and everything we don't know about Life, the Universe and Everything (which I doubt actually adds up to 42, which non-nerds should look up).

Okay. On to other sort-of related movie news. Take a deep breath, boys (and str8 gals). The Sexiest Man Alive is single again! Salacious gossip site TMZ (via) is reporting that Ryan Reynolds and his wife of two years Scarlett Johansson, are divorcing. I, for one, would be more than happy to console the poor boy. Anyone care to join me in that effort? I mean after Alanis and Scarlett, surely he must be looking for something different, no?

And since we're (okay, I'm) already talking about movies, (also via) New York Magazine has posted this gallery of the best film performances of 2010 that will not be winning any awards. Surprisingly, I agree with most of their choices.

And finally, (via) comes the trailer for the Most Unnecessary Sequel Ever, Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger TidesJohnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush return, joined by "Deadwood" alum Ian McShane; Dame Judi Dench and the oh-so-creepy* Penelope Cruz in this fourth installment in Disney's ride-turned-into-a-movie. This time, directorial duties are taken up by Chicago director Rob Marshall. May God have mercy on them all. Though I will give it a shout out because it does it does feature zombies...

*I'm glad I'm not alone in my assessment of Cruz's creepiness, as my oldest friend Q thinks she's creepy, too. It's her mouth, I think. It looks like it was badly drawn by a child with a crayon or something. Of course, she's now married to Javier Bardem (and with child), so maybe her "creepy" quotient will decrease after she whelps... Ooh - that was kind of cruel, wasn't it? Still, she makes me throw up in my mouth a little, every time I see her. Maybe it's just me.

I promise to post my "Forgotten Gem" tomorrow.

More, anon.

5 Best and Worst Movies of 2010: Part 2

So, last night I talked about the 5 Worst Movies I'd seen this year. So let's brighten the mood and talk about the 5 Best Movies I've Seen 2010 (a list which admittedly - and hopefully - may change before the year is over). Having already proclaimed 2010 as the Summer of Movies that Suck, finding 5 that I actually enjoyed was kind of hard. And it's just a little odd that 2 of the movies on the list were meant for children (especially since I have none of my own).

Of course, if there had been more films that made me say "I have to see that!" the list might actually be a full 10. Or more precisely, if there had more films that made me say "I have to see that!' which played out here in the 'burbs, I might have come up with 10. Why do exhibitors in suburbia think suburbanites aren't interested in seeing independent/art house films? Why do I have to travel to a dingy, flat-floored city cinema to see films like Winter's Bone; Black Swan and 127 Hours? Why am I expected to pay tolls and parking fees just to be entertained by movies that also happen to make me think? I'm starting a letter-writing campaign. Who's with me? 

Oops! Sorry. Got a little off-topic there. Anyway - here the 5 Best Movies I've seen so far this year:

#5 - Kick-Ass

Who doesn't dream of being a superhero? When high-schooler Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) decides to train himself to be one, he creates Kick-Ass who soon finds himself allied with Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his foul-mouthed daughter Hit Girl (Chloe Moritz) in a fight against a major crime boss, whose own son (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) pretends to join them as Red Mist. Based on Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr's comic book and directed by Matthew Vaughn (Stardust)*, Kick-Ass was the most fun I had at the movies in a long time. For many, Kick-Ass was a love-it-or-hate-it kind of movie. D and I both loved it and can't wait for the sequel.

#4 - Despicable Me

Steve Carell ("The Office;" Date Night) voices Gru, a criminal mastermind who along with his minions (see photo above) is plotting to steal the moon with the help of a shrink ray and three adorable orphans he adopts as part of his nefarious plan. With a dream cast of voice talents which includes Jason Segal; Julie Andrews; Russell Brand; Kristin Wiig; Jermaine Clement and Miranda Cosgrove, Despicable Me is one of the first (and probably funniest) super villain movies, ever. You don't have to be (or even have) a child to enjoy it's delightful lunacy. 

#3 - Toy Story 3

The second animated movie on the list (and the only sequel), Disney/Pixar's Toy Story 3 is just... well, wonderful. Tom Hanks; Tim Allen; Don Rickles; Wallace Shawn and Pixar touchstone John Ratzenberger (the only actor to voice a role in every Pixar film) are joined by Ned Beatty, Michael Keaton and Jodi Benson (The Little Mermaid) in the story of what happens to Andy's toys when he goes off to college and they are mistakenly donated to daycare center. Hilarious, sentimental and exciting, Toy Story 3 once again proves why Pixar is the leader in modern animated films - story and substance plus flash and panache = critical and box-office gold. A pure delight from beginning to end.

#2 - Let Me In

When most people think of foreign horror movies these days, they think of Japanese movies like Ringu or Pulse. But the Swedish vampire flick Let the Right One In was one of the best films of 2008 and it's American remake Let Me In is one of the best remakes I've ever seen. Chloe Moritz (see Kick-Ass) is Abby, the new girl in the apartment complex where lonely Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) lives with his divorced mother. Owen is picked on at school and Abby convinces him to take a stand. Abby's 'father' (Richard Jenkins) stalks young people to bleed for Abby's food, and as much as Abby tries not to befriend Owen, she knows she'll soon need a replacement thrall to do her dirty work for her. Cloverfield director Matt Reeves proves his abilities here, eliciting amazing performances from his two young stars. Quiet, often subtle and even more often quite intense, Let Me In isn't about moody teen-aged vampires sulking about and sparkling in the sunlight, but rather an insidious monster with only one thing on her mind... as any decent vampire movie should be...

#1 - Inception

Director Christopher Nolan has never been afraid to make smart, complicated movies, even when they're about comic book superheroes. Inception is certainly a complicated and smart movie, using state-of-the-art special effects; a talented cast and a heart-wrenching love story to tell the tale of a futuristic group of industrial spies who have found a way to infiltrate the dreams of their targets to steal their secrets. This time, the band is hired to implant an idea, rather than steal one and the ride Nolan takes us on is nothing less than breathtaking. Some complained the movie was too hard to follow, though I had no problems with it's convoluted and admittedly bizarre plot. With outstanding performances from a cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio; Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Tom Hardy; Marion Cotillard; Cillian Murphy; Ellen Page and Michael Caine (who has been in almost all of Nolan's films), Inception was without a doubt the best movie I've seen all year (so far). And let's not even talk about Hans Zimmer's astounding score... we'll save that for another post.

So, what do you think? What were your favorite films of 2010? I won't judge (unless you say it was Transformers 2). As I've said, there are still several films on my list of 'must sees," so this Top 5 List may very well change come January. In fact, I'm hoping it does, though it's a shame that I had to wait so long to see some of what I think may actually be the best movies of the year. 

More, anon.

*One of Uncle P's favorite fantasy films.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

5 Best and Worst Movies of 2010: Part 1

Sadly, this isn't a post about Best Worst Movie, the hilarious documentary about the cult phenomenon that Troll 2 has become. Even sadder, I have not seen enough movies this year to make a Top Ten list, mostly because there just weren't that many movies that interested me enough to make the effort to go and spend the money to see them.

Still, the year isn't over and there are several films either playing now (Black Swan) or opening soon (The King's Speech) that are on my "must see" list. Ask me at the end of January and I may have a very different list (or at least larger) list of Best and Worst Movies of 2010. 

But for now, it's 5 of each.

Let's start with the 5 Worst Movies of 2010, shall we?

#5 - The Wolfman

Wow, what a cast! Benicio del Toro; Anthony Hopkins; Hugo Weaving; Emily Blunt and Geraldine Chaplin starred in the much-anticipated remake of the 1941 classic that starred Lon Chaney, Jr. Seriously - three Oscar winners, Agent Smith, an acting royal and the creator of the FX for An American Werewolf in London should have combined for a terrific update. Sadly, in the clumsy directorial hands of Joe Johnston (Jurassic Park 3), it's a silly and derivative bore filled with bad dialog and even worse CGI. P.U.

#4 - Alice in Wonderland

Can anyone tell me what happened to the wunderkind that was Tim Burton? Alice in Wonderland should have been a no-brainer, given its amazing source material.* Sadly, Linda Woolverton's feminist revision of Lewis Carroll's brilliant nonsense story only served to let Burton loose with a wild assortment of visuals that do absolutely nothing to serve Carroll's story. I may be one of a handful of people who actually liked Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but after this mess, I have to admit Burton needs some reigning in.

#3 - Death at a Funeral

In 2007, Frank Oz (Little Shop of Horrors) made a delightfully madcap British comedy about a funeral in which the decedent's family discovers all sorts of terrible secrets about him and themselves. The movie was decidedly British and delightfully hilarious. Just three years later, director Neil LaBute  (The Wicker Man) remade Death at a Funeral for the American black audience. Crass, unfunny and loaded with stereotypes, LaBute's movie is not only completely unnecessary, but insulting to the original.

Here's the trailer for the original:

#2 - A Nightmare on Elm Street
Jackie Earle Haley may be enjoying a career renaissance, but his reinterpretation of Wes Craven's most famous Horror icon Freddy Krueger, will not go down as one of his better performances. Music video director Samuel Bayer takes everything that made the 1984 original so scary and reduces it to a CGI-infused mess devoid of any real human emotion.

#1 - Splice

This was one movie Uncle P really wanted to like. Writer/Director Vincenzo Natali (Cube) got two of my favorite actors, Adrien Brody (King Kong; The Pianist) and Sarah Polley (The Adventures of Baron Munchausen; Dawn of the Dead) to star in this tale that had the potential to be a truly horrifying treatise on genetic engineering and manipulation. Instead, audiences were treated to a silly and sickening movie about which my movie-loving Dear D said: "I hate this movie so much, I never want to see it again." By far, the worst movie released in 2010.

Tomorrow, my picks for the 5 Best Movies of 2010 (so far).

More, anon.

*Uncle P is a rabid fan of Carroll's works and loves them like few others do, which led me to watch this mess of a movie in abject horror. I own every version of his works you can imagine, including 'The Annotated Alice." Carroll's skewering of Victorian society and language has inspired me to no end, and I consider myself somewhat of a devotee. That whirring sound you heard every time this movie screened was the poor Reverend Dodgeson spinning in his grave over the bastardization of his work.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Two More Movies for 2011

If you don't already know, that's hottie Bradley Cooper (The Hangover), whose most recent film with reported girlfriend Renee Zellweger, Case 39 was less than boffo at the box office, as industry headlines would have put it (though I still very much want to see it, if only to see another performance from Jodelle Ferland, one of the most underrated child actors working today).

The gorgeous hirsute hunk has a new Sci-Fi movie coming out next year called Limitless, about a drug that unleashes the human brain's full potential, but with potentially deadly side-effects. Directed by Neil Burger (The Illusionist), it tells the story of an advertising copywriter (Cooper) who uses the chemical enhancement, only to discover that a shadowy group of killers is following his every move.

The movie also stars Robert DeNiro; Abby Cornish (Candy); Anna Friel (my much mourned "Pushing Daisies") and Johnny Whitworth ("CSI: Miami"). Limitless is scheduled for release in March of next year.The teaser below comes via i09:

Also via i09 comes the teaser for the crowd-financed Horror movie The Tunnel. From the lunatics at i09 comes the official synopsis:

"Set and filmed in the real maze of tunnels underneath Sydney, and using the truth as a starting point, The Tunnel tells the story of investigative journalist Natasha Warner, who leads a news crew underground to investigate why the government suddenly scrapped a plan to utilize the water in the disused underground train tunnels beneath Sydney's St James Train Station. They went down into the tunnels looking for a story - until the story found them."

The Aussie independent film is financed entirely through donations of $1 per frame. I'd probably describe this movie as a cross between The Descent and Rec. There's no official release date for The Tunnel, but you can bet that I'll among the first in line to see it when it hits my local cineplex. 

More, anon.