Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Massachusetts, Connecticut and most recently Iowa, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire...

...But astoundingly, still NO on Gay Marriage in the (seemingly homophobic) state of California! Isn't it time for Gay Hollywood to swing wide its collective closet doors and get on the stick here? (Metaphorically speaking, of course.)

Countries Where Gay Marriage is Legal
Mexico (since 2006) Croatia (since 2003), Denmark (since 1989), Finland (since 2001), France (since 1999), Germany (since 2001/expanded rights 2004), Hungary (since 1996/expanded rights as of July 1, 2009), Iceland (since 1996), Sweden (as of May 1, 2009), Norway (since 2008), Netherlands/Holland (no amendments needed; language of existing laws inclusive)Belgium (since 2003), Spain (since 2005), South Africa (since 2006), Luxembourg (since 2004 with limitations), New Zealand (since 2004), Portugal (since 2001), Sweden (since 1995/expanded rights as of April 1, 2009), Switzerland (since 2005), United Kingdom (since 2005), Canada (since 2004/2005, * )

*How to get married in Canada - http://lesbianlife.about.com/od/wedding/ht/CanadaMarriage.htm

US States Where Gay Marriage is Legal
Massachusetts(as of July 2008), Connecticut (as of October 10, 2008), Iowa (as of April 3, 2009),District of Columbia (no gay marriages performed but will recognize the rights of same-sex couples who wed in other jurisdictions), Vermont (as of September 1, 2009), Maine (as of mid September, 2009), New Hampshire (as of June 4, 2009), New York (no gay marriages performed but will recognize the rights of same-sex couples who wed in other jurisdictions), New Jersey (as of February 2007), Oregon (as of February 4, 2008), Washington (as of April 15, 2009)

A Public Service Announcment from the G.O.P.


I HEARD HIS MIDDLE NAME IS LUCIFER.


"NO
DARLING,

HE JUST
WORSHIPS
HIM."

Monday, May 25, 2009

A DELICIOUS MOMENT WITH OUR FOUNDER


PUT
ON
YOUR
BIG
GIRL
PANTIES
AND
DEAL
WITH
IT.

TIM BURTON'S GRUESOME VISION OF STEPHEN SONDHEIM'S MASTERPIECE IS PERFECTION!

Tim Burton: Hollywood's undisputed champion of gothic horror.

Sweeney Todd: a psycho barber and famous purveyor of questionable meat pies.

Hmmmm... what took you so long?

It was screamingly obvious what a gorgeous team they would make. Rarely have we seen a film director so perfectly matched to a musical. And the black magic begins when Johnny Depp's white-faced Sweeney steals up the Thames at the dead of night. As the boat slips under a spooky London Bridge it becomes quite clear that Burton was put on earth to shoot this glorious melodrama.

The film unfolds like the Grimmest of fairy tales. Depp's bitter Sweeney returns to London after 15 years of hurt. His painful story emerges in hollow songs with haunting off-key melodies. He wears his grievances like armour. His plan to murder the men who condemned him to a penal colony in order to rape his wife hinges around the dismal apartment above Mrs Lovett's (Helena Bonham-Carter) ailing pie shop. The atmosphere is vintage Hammer Studios. The gleaming monochrome shots of cobbled streets are drained of color. Effectively overwrought and excellent, Sweeney Todd is a movie of bombastic, impossible camera moves and rhapsodic yuckiness. Burton can't resist filling the screen with scuttling vermin or surges of splatterific violence.

Depp's Sweeney is a fiery-eyed, razor-brandishing cadaver with a mad Pagliacci glare. Bonham Carter is comparably corpse-like -- a matched composition in bird-nest hairdo, death-pallor complexion, and heavily shadowed eyes. The musical chemistry between Depp and Helena Bonham Carter's genial cockney pie shop mistress is terrific. Sondheim approved the casting, and, surprisingly, Depp has a pleasing, if untrained, tenor. Alongside Bonham Carter's sweetly tentative voice, the numbers are inventively staged. Especially the cannibal waltz "A Little Priest" and the grotesquely wistful "By the Sea". Lovett's unreciprocated passion for Sweeney is the heart of the film and her bright idea of stuffing Sweeney's clients into meat pies seems almost perfectly sensible under the circumstances.

The film's pace is a surprise. Burton has pruned Sondheim's arias to fit the tempo of a real thriller -- brilliant editing -- and the villains are far less stocky. Yes, the ghoulishly attractive couple is supported by a suitable gang of gargoyles; Sacha Baron Cohen delivers a priceless cameo as a jealous unisex rival with plans to blackmail Sweeney. Alan Rickman is a sinister pleasure as Judge Turpin. And Timothy Spall is equally effective as his ultra-violent slithery enforcer, Beadle Bamford.

Burton has never been one to spare the gore. The sound of skulls cracking open when Sweeney tosses his victims head first into the basement is not for the faint-of-heart. The director's knack of finding comedy in these ghastly scenes is tested to the limit. And the haunting final shot of the film, the details of which we must keep to ourselves so not to spoil the plot, is a masterful shot, painterly in its composition of framing, detail, and color.

There is much that can be said about Sweeney Todd, but for now we must insist that you stop reading about it, and experience the film for yourself. A mad serial killer, a helpful, adoring woman, a vile judge, and a barber's chair - all elements that combine to form much more than this simple review can encapsulate. It is masterful cinema, art and entertainment, vision and sound combined for a truly riveting experience.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A DELICIOUS look back at a dilly of a 'DOLLY!'

Barbra Streisand stars as the memorable "woman who arranges everything," Dolly Levi, in Gene Kelly’s Oscar-winning film version of  Jerry Herman's musical classic HELLO, DOLLY! Originally produced on Broadway in 1964, Hello, Dolly! is based on Thornton Wilder’s 1954 play The Matchmaker. In her musical incarnation, Dolly! thrilled and delighted audiences in New York for over 6 years, featuring such legendary "Dollys" as Carol Channing, Ethel Merman and Pearl Bailey.

The setting is New York, just before the turn of the century. Dolly Levi, that seemingly ageless widow and Matchmaker sets out for Yonkers to deliver her hand-picked match for Mr. Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau), the "well-known half a millionaire." Vandergelder has his eyes on Miss Irene Malloy (Marianne McAndrew) but, before he leaves for New York City to propose marriage, Dolly has some ideas of her own. With her eye on the unsuspecting Horace, Dolly sets in motion a dizzying plan of "love happily ever after" involving everyone in Vandergelder’s circle.

It’s easier to view Dolly! years later
and enjoy it now for what it really is. After you’ve been removed from the media hype, after the publicity and reviews blend into one another, the film stands not only as a humorous and nostalgic peak at a bygone era in New York City, but a tribute to the bygone era of movie musicals. Reuniting director Kelly with many of the creative people from his days as an actor/director at MGM, the film, with it’s grand artifice, eager cast and exuberant dancing, could easily have been a product of that old golden studio system.

Hello, Dolly! was released in 1969 at the tail end of a trend of big-budget musicals precipitated by the tremendous success of The Sound of Music in 1965. None of these films came close to duplicating its success and, subsequently, were blamed for the ruination of many studio balance sheets. Suddenly, the merits of these films were beside the point. While some deserve their fate of late-night cable obscurity, others, like Hello, Dolly!, do not.

Like most of the other road show musicals of the late sixties, Hello, Dolly! was considered overproduced and out-of-sync with the times. By the time Dolly! reached the movie screen, she had already been played by many larger-than-life ladies of the theatre. Her score, including the title song immortalized on pop charts by Louis Armstrong, was filled with brassy Broadway cheer, An intimate version of Dolly! would have worked against both the material and its leading lady.

Though criticized at the time for being too young, Streisand brought rapid-fire humor, sex appeal and, of course, an inimitable voice to the role of Dolly Levi. Her performance gives Dolly, and the film, an unexpected urgency previously hidden in all the familiar material. As film critic Pauline Kael wrote when the film opened, "she [Streisand] opens up such an abundance of emotion that it dissolves the coarseness of the role. Almost unbelievably she turns this star role back into a woman..." Director Kelly recognizes this as he balances her "big" scenes with those of quiet introspection. Streisand’s delicate reading of "Love is Only Love" (dropped from Jerry Herman’s Mame and re-written especially for this film) reveals a vulnerability and warmth in Dolly Levi that grounds the character and prevents her brash antics from turning to caricature. While she does at times seem to be possessed by the spirit of Mae West, Streisand uses this as a humorous facade for something much deeper and no doubt sensitive.

Until the success of recent films like Chicago, Hairspray and Mamma Mia, the traditional movie musical as a commercially viable genre seemed all but lost. The sporadic attempts at reviving the form (A Chorus Line, The Wiz) were close to disastrous. The lack of a unified team of musical talent (such as at the old MGM or 20th Century-Fox studios) made an actress such as Barbra Streisand all the more rare. Thankfully, Streisand emerged in films at a time when there was still opportunity to feature her musical talents. While still in her twenties, she blazed her way onto the screen like a seasoned pro, but, like her films, she seemed to belong to a different era.

Among Hello, Dolly!’s competitors for the Best Picture Oscar in 1969 were Midnight Cowboy and Z, signaling the beginning of a new wave of more socially relevant films that would bury the likes of such "dated" properties as Dolly!. Now looking back on these films, whatever their merits, they ironically all seem to be part of another world as equally "dated" as Dolly! But now, preserved on Blu Ray and DVD in its original aspect ratio, Hello Dolly! sheds its "dated" reputation and becomes as timeless as its star and the era of moviemaking it recalls. It’s so nice to have her back where she belongs!

IN 1973, THE HOLLYWOOD MUSICAL REACHED ITS NADIR WHEN LUCY DECIDED SHE COULD INDEED SING AND TRIED TO BRING JERRY HERMAN'S DELICIOUS BROADWAY HIT TO THE SILVER SCREEN.



Among connoisseurs of unintentionally hilarious movies, MAME separates the men from the boys. It’s so terrible that it’s not just funny, it’s frighteningly funny. Watch it and wonder, "What were they thinking of?" Sunset Boulevard aficionados will quickly realize that this movie, rather than the Salome that Norma Desmond hoped would return her to glory, is the faded Hollywood star’s vanity production nonpareil, and that Lucille Ball as Auntie Mame is a good deal scarier than Gloria Swanson as Desmond. The difference, of course, is that Swanson was supposed to be scary.

Ball allegedly sank a large chunk of her personal fortune into the making of this musical Titanic, which is the only possible explanation for how anyone in Hollywood could possibly have offered her the title role. A movie chorus girl way back in the years before TV’s Lucy Ricardo, Ball envisioned a triumphant return to the silver screen in Jerry Herman’s hit Broadway musical (based on the earlier play and movie Auntie Mame). But to put it kindly, it had been so long since she’d sung or danced, every number in Mame had to be s-l-o-w-e-d d-o-w-n for Ball’s minute vocal range and one-two terpsichorean talents.

The results are like watching a musical taffy pull. It’s a model of self-deception: Ball, trying to look young enough for the role, employs every trick of the trade to tautly pull her wrinkles and lines into a mask-like visage of middle age. When she dons a plastic Santa Claus face for the song "We Need a Little Christmas," the eerie effect of one mask over the other sends chills up the spine – it stops the show, all right, but not the way Ball and company imagined.

Maybe you won’t want to watch Mame all the way to the end, but do: The conclusion is a loony montage of earlier scenes showing Auntie Mame hugging one co-star after another – a movie first and, one hopes, a movie last.

With Jane Connell, who stepped in to recreate her Broadway role of the nanny Gooch after Ball had Madeline Kahn fired (perhaps Ball realized that it was Kahn who should have been playing Mame?), Robert Preston, a scene-stealing Beatrice Arthur, Bruce Davison, Joyce Van Patten, John McGiver, and as the young Patrick, the utterly resistible Kirby Furlong.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

'PICTURE MOMMY DEAD' - A DELICIOUS MOTHER'S DAY GIFT FROM US TO YOU

After the usual mother's day goodies that come from dear hubby (You know the kind, girls - flowers, heart-shaped boxes of cheap chocolates, etc) all designed with one thing in mind - his erection. And after the usual handmade cards and goodies from little Jimmy jr. - designed to swell our hearts to bursting but somehow making us wish that we had upped his allowence (just a little) two weeks prior - how delighted we were to recieve a package from our oldest -and most sensitive- son, Thad. (He's away at boarding school, but just between us - he's always been our favorite.) So imagine my mixed emotions when I feverishly unwrapped the package, only to find a rare dvd of a dubiously titled Hollywood clunker called PICTURE MOMMY DEAD!

Starlet-In-Distress Cinema, that Bad Movie genre which always guarantees unintentional guffaws from its frayed formula --- assorted has-beens in a spooky mansion terrorizing a youngish, talentish gal sporting big hair and too much eye shadow --- reached its apex in the '60s: think Connie Stevens in Two on a Guillotine, Joey Heatherton in My Blood Runs Cold, and Stefanie Powers in Die! Die! My Darling! Let us now praise the very worst of these many stinkers, producer-director Bert I. Gordon's 1966 opus, Picture Mommy Dead. What distinguishes Mommy from the pack is the fact that instead of hiring a standard-issue "name" starlet as the requisite mentally-unstable-but-comely-heiress-in-jeopardy, auteur Gordon instead cast his own talent-free daughter, chipmunk-cheeked Susan Gordon, which gives the movie some real fizz when the plot's Electra complex kicks in at the finale. But Susan sets off double meanings throughout the film. Whenever she bleats, to screen papa Don Ameche, dialogue like "Daddy, what's the matter with me?" and, "I'm the worst thing that ever was alive!" she seems to be reviewing her own performance.

In terms of scene-swallowing antics, the film's many also-rans --- "guest stars" include Signe Hasso, Anna Lee, Wendell Corey! --- give Susan a run for her money. Thrill to Martha Hyer, Susan's adulterous stepmother, snarling at Ameche, "Is it true I made love to a bellboy at the hotel in Geneva? Or are you still wondering about that guide in Paris?" Delight to caretaker Maxwell Reid who --- sporting improbable false scars from the fire that killed Ameche's first wife, Zsa Zsa Gabor --- hopes the cops will reopen the case: "They may discover the person who took her life," he rants, "and my face!" Then there's Gabor, in flashback, camping it up with peals of stagy laughter and pearls of Zsa Zsa-speak: "Dahlink, don't be such a borink man!"

Even Susan's talking doll (which looks like Cher) gets to upstage her, for when the doll's cord is pulled, it spouts remarks like, "I'm hep! Like, uh, y'know, a beatnik!" and, "Come on, let's get with it, like, wheee!" It gets loonier: when Susan scratches a life-size portrait of Zsa Zsa, the painting bleeds. Inevitably, the shredding of just such a tacky canvas can often be a Bad Movie moment --- ever see Susan Hayward slash Bette Davis's likeness in Where Has Love Gone? -- and here, Susan attacks the painting of Zsa Zsa with a candlestick, screeching "Die! Die!" You'll long to call out to her, "Don't you mean Die! Die! My Dahlink!?"

For the big finish, we're meant to realize that Susan is hopelessly mentally ill because she can't tell the difference between aged starlet Hyer and aged starlet Gabor --- but since both are dressed in the exact same evening gown, sport similar cotton-candy dos, and have no acting talent whatsoever, who can? When Ameche kills Hyer, Susan helpfully torches the house --- just as the pair had destroyed the place years before, when Ameche killed Gabor --- so Susan can, at last, have her Daddy all to herself. Who knows what private fantasies the two Gordons were playacting here --- but, for the grand finale, he misguidedly apes Sunset Blvd., having Ameche and Susan descend the stairs not into utter madness, as intended, but straight into the annals of high camp.

I simply must remember to thank Thad personally. Perhaps some homemade marzapan frosted brownies delivered in his favorite Barbie lunch pail from first grade. Let's see ... he has third period gym class this friday. Perfect! I'm sure he and the other boys in gym will be thrilled.

. . .AND FINALLY, A TRIBUTE TO THE ULTIMATE MOTHER OF THEM ALL ON THIS FESTIVE DAY OF DAYS.



Caught up in all the sentimentality of Picture Mommy Dead, I began thinking about my own dear sainted matriarch, so I trotted out that tried and true mother's day favorite - MOMMIE DEAREST - put on my favorite hat and drove up to the Maximum Security Twilight Rest Home to enjoy our annual get together.

Here’s one that separates the fainthearted from the strong. Faye Dunaway, in the role she was born to play, is deeply, deeply scary as Joan Crawford who, according to daughter Christina’s best-selling book, tyrannized her kids almost beyond belief. The moviemakers surely expected to be rolling in dough and acclaim for this posh version of a red-hot literary property, so imagine their surprise when audiences rolled in the aisles. Why? Dunaway. So over-the-top, so out-there, so, well, Faye, she instantly installed herself as the all-time Countess of Camp.

The fun begins when Dunaway, as aging MGM star Crawford, realizes that her career’s skidding, so everyone around her catches hell. Wailing at her maid as she shoves aside a huge potted plant, Dunaway cleans the floor herself, saying, "You have to move the tree!I’m not mad at you. I’m mad at the dirt."

Mad is right: Figuring that, since she can’t have children, she’ll reap fabulous publicity by adopting one, enter orphan Christina (Mara Hobel), who isn’t the cooperative dream child Dunaway envisioned. When the kid gets sassy, Dunaway locks her up. Out of work, Dunaway gets battier, cursing her studio boss while she jogs: "The biggest female star he’s got – ever had – and he’s burying me alive. Survive! Survive!" and demonically chopping off Christina’s hair when she finds the kid mimicking her, snarling, "I’d rather you go bald to school than looking like a tramp!" She lays into lover-lawyer Steve Forrest, so when he starts to walk out, she pleads with him to stay, crying, "I’m not acting!" while doing nothing but.

When MGM drops her, brace yourself for full frontal Faye as she rampages in the middle of the night, cutting the blooms off her prize roses, then bellowing "Tina – bring me the axe!" Don’t miss the scene where Dunaway, her face covered in a cold-cream Kabuki mask, trashes her daughter’s clothes closet, shrieking "No wire hangers!" then showers the bathroom floor with Dutch Cleanser, ordering Christina to clean up the mess. This is capped with the most bizarre closeup in movie history, as Dunaway s-l-o-w-l-y turns her head away while staring out cross-eyed into space. (It’s anybody’s call whether Crawford’s supposed to be insane, or whether Dunaway perhaps just went bonkers playing her. However, it was at this point that my own dear mother began to have some sort of grand mal seizure and I had to call in several armed attendents to give her a shot. After which, the attendents and I - and dear gurgling, but sedated, mom - finished watching this wonderful family film.)

Dunaway clashes with grownup Christina (Diana Scarwid) too, nearly strangling her child in full view of a horrified magazine reporter. Widowed by a Pepsi magnate, Dunaway stuns a board meeting of executives who try to shove her out of the picture by uttering, "Don’t fuck with me, fellas, this ain’t my first time at the rodeo."

In the end, Crawford cuts both kids out of her will. "As usual, she has the last word," says grownup Christopher. "Does she?" asks Christina. No, we do, and we declare Mommie Dearest about as high in the Bad Movie pantheon as it is possible to go.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

'BOXING HELENA' PROVES THAT WHEN IT COMES TO OBSESSION, STIMULATING DIALOGUE (AND LIMBS) ONLY GET IN THE WAY.

Everyone loves a good smoking ruin of a movie. Witness the popularity of fascinating train wrecks like Crimes of Passion, Hudson Hawk and Last Action Hero, each infinitely more entertaining in their own way than a truckload of Oscar-winners. There are few pleasures to rival the completely sedentary evening spent with your most sardonic friends cackling like freshmen on hallucinogens at movies like BOXING HELENA.

Boxing Helena turned out to be one of the most hilarious 104 minutes of 1993. The initial buzz that surrounded the film -- insistently referring to it as "bound to be controversial"-- all but assassinated any potential audience this uproarious trash may have had to begin with. It was said that people who actually saw it tried to get their money back from embarrassed, albeit non-budging, theater managers. But for lovers of Bad Movies, owning the film is a whole other story. When you pop this into the ol’ dvd player at home with friends, you welcome the ridiculous plot and anticipate the ludicrous transformation Sherilynn Fenn will go through. Furthermore, Helena takes itself so seriously that we can only respond with gales of derisive crowing.

Fenn plays a convincing man-eating bitch who makes the mistake of sleeping (just once) with Julian Sands, a prominent surgeon, and obviously some sort of thumbsucking psycho whose mother used to parade around the house naked. Obsessed with Fenn, although she'd rather be bulldozed by a speeding truck than speak with him, Sands climbs a tree to spy on her in her bedroom, makes covert phone calls, and eventually throws a party for her. She comes, dances in the fountain (no kidding, our favorite scene) and, natch, leaves with another guy. This gets our flipped-out doc all steamed up and, apparently, sends him over the edge.

Soon enough, kismet strikes. Party-girl Fenn gets bulldozed by a speeding truck right outside Sands's estate, and the next thing we know she wakes up without legs in his mansion. Not in the best of moods, she berates him, screams her head off and throws anything she can get her hands on across the room. Can't have that, Sands concludes, and soon she's armless too, which is revealed to us when he's spoonfeeding her. "I have just one question..." she begins with a straight face. Just try to stem the reflex to ask -- for her -- "Where the hell are my arms?"

As improbable as it may seem, she grows to love him (sure, we'd fall in love with someone who cut off our arms and legs, too). That does not, however, stop her incessant talking, and we can only presume that Sands would have gotten around to cutting her head off as well, if the movie hadn't ended first. Fenn and Sands are both hopelessly earnest, while the supporting cast either has a superb handle on this nonsense (witness Bill Paxton's shag-haired rock stud) or seems to have wandered in off the street: Art Garfunkel, as Sands's pal, sits around in a silent daze as if someone told him Paul Simon was supposed to show up.

This is the movie that Kim Basinger had to fight like hell to get out of, not to mention cough up a hefty fine -- the best few mil she ever spent. As for writer/director Jennifer Lynch, (weirdo daughter of David), the 23-year-old director, who posed for press shots in front of the Venus de Milo and talked about how we're all in our own boxes, you've got to give it to her -- at least she makes us laugh -- if not with her.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

DELICIOUS REMEMBERS: Dom DeLuise


Actor/ comedian passed away in his sleep Monday.

Comedian and actor Dom DeLuise has passed away at the age of 75, according to TMZ.com and Entertainment Tonight. He is reported to have died in his sleep around 6 P.M. on Monday at a Los Angeles hospital.

DeLuise was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1933. He attended the School of Performing Arts in Manhattan and Tufts University. Throughout the 1960s, DeLuise appeared in various television programs, including a variety show with Carol Burnett and Bob Newhart, and spent many years on "The Dean Martin Show." In 1968, his own program, "The Dom DeLuise Show," debuted on CBS. For several years in the early '90s, DeLuise hosted "Candid Camera."DeLuise's first notable film role was in Oscar-winning director Sidney Lumet's 1964 movie, Fail Safe.

But DeLuise's film career took off with the help of Mel Brooks, who cast him in The Twelve Chairs, Blazing Saddles and History of the World: Part I; in the latter, which he had a memorable and hilarious turn as the lascivious, wine-guzzling Emperor Nero. He appeared with Gene Wilder in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother and The World's Greatest Lover.

DeLuise was a frequent co-star of Burt Reynolds, appearing in films like The End, Smokey and the Bandit II , The Cannonball Run and the film version of the broadway musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. He also supplied his vocal talents to animated films such as The Secret of Nihm, An American Tail and All Dogs Go to Heaven. DeLuise made his directorial debut in 1973 with Hot Stuff.

Reynolds released a statement to ET on Tuesday morning (May 5). "I was thinking the other day about this. As you get older you think about this more and more, I was dreading this moment. Dom always made everyone feel better when he was around. I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone. I will miss him very much," Reynolds said in the statement.

Aside from film and TV, DeLuise is known for his work in the kitchen and has published several cookbooks, including "Eat This...It'll Make You Feel Better!" As an author, he's also published numerous children's books.

DeLuise was married to the comedian and actress Carol Arthur. They have three sons, Peter, Michael and David.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

'THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK' CASTS A DELICIOUS SPELL AND PROVES TO BE A CAULDRON FULL OF FUN!

That old "Jack" magic has us in his spell in the ultimate Jack Nicholson part -- old Scratch himself. He is undisputably the star of THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK, despite formidable competition from his unlikely coven of modern day Rhode Island witches played delightfully by Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer and Susan Sarandon.

When John Updike wrote his risque' 1984 best seller, he was definetely dancing on the edge of antihereo in Daryl van Horne. Screen writer Michael Cristofer compounds the chaos with a beguiling brew of satanic spoof, sexual bickering, monster mash and Gothic slapstick comedy. If Hawthorne were alive and well in the '80s and inclined to caffeine abuse, he might have penned this frantic genre-bender, with its uninhibited exploration of repression's fruits -- political and physical -- with Daryl as devil's advocate to the women's movement. The sly chauvinist is against liberation, unless it's sexual. But he is not above using feminist propaganda to flatter and seduce the trio who inadvertently summoned him. Naturally, they find him irresistible. (Each of them manless and sorely oppressed in Eastwick.)

With its white steepled church and lawns more pristine than AstroTurf, it makes the perfect Puritan theme park. We fly down into this manicured doll town with its Halloween orange trees, aboard a cinematic broomstick, swept up in the fractured fantasy by director George Miller who directs this eccentric fairy tale with his customary flair and adolescent gusto. His proportions are outsized and the mood is demonic Disney. With a sky full of chubby, children's-book clouds and a dance number in an explosion of pink balloons, you think this is how the Devil would romance Mary Poppins -- provided Poppins would not be put off by cherry vomit.

One dark night over Cheez Whiz and martinis, the three women lament the lack of good men, wishing idly for the ideal lover -- "a dark prince, traveling under a curse, on a dark charger." They clink a toast to a thunderclap. And suddenly out of the wet New England woods, something wicked their way comes -- in a speeding black Mercedes with extra running lights and the power to leap potholes. Daryl van Horne, cloven hoofs hidden under his Lakers high-tops, makes his entrance into quaint, colonial Eastwick. He's a supernatural cutup, equal parts blasphemy, brimstone and catnip. Nicholson hasn't frothed like this since he cut loose in The Shining. His Daryl, unlike Devils of yore, arrives in sartorial disarray. He's a reactionary womanizer who makes man's men like Bruce Willis come off like closet quiche-eaters. Curiously, the allegedly independent women Daryl woos are easy catches, more willing even than Stepford Wives.

Cher, is first to succumb, as widowed sculptor Alexandra Medford. All it takes, in fact, is a little empathy. Daryl, wriggling like a kitty, invites Alexandra to join him in his king-size bed in a manner that may not be repeated here. "I appreciate your directness," says Alexandra. "But I am sure you are the most unattractive man I've ever met ... You're not even interesting enough to make me sick." "So which do you want, the bottom or the top?" asks the unflappable Daryl, who immediately mesmerizes her with a speech about macrame' and coffee makers.

Pfeiffer, as a small-town journalist with a half-dozen kids and a husband who deserted her, can't wait to join the magical me'nage. "I'd love to be a woman," whispers Daryl. "Look what you can do with your bodies ... make babies, make milk to feed the babies." We might gag at this ourselves, but Pfeiffer's Sukie Ridgemont is taken in, being inordinately proud of her fecundity. Sukie was the beginning of more substantial parts for Pfeiffer, who is exquisite and sweetly intent.

But it's Sarandon who makes the greatest impression in her transition from retiring wallflower to ravishing vixen. As recently divorced cellist Jane Spofford, she fleshes out the cartoon role as a repressed redhead who gives herself to the Devil in a smoking, bow-stroking musical interlude. After a duet, the sheet music bursts into flames, the cello burns and the lovers are equally consumed. From then on, Jane gives up her glasses and takes to wearing little girls' socks with her high heels. And we all know what that signifies.

But almost all are upstaged by the insanely underrated Veronica Cartwright, a former child star who plays the thirty-ish Felicia Gabriel, a prophetic pillar of the community who senses the Devil's presence, becoming ever more paranoid as the merriment progresses. It's a prissy part that's even harder to play sympathetically than Nicholson's, but Cartwright does so handily. She's terrific. And recent Academy Award nominee Richard Jenkins (The Visitor) is also a small marvel as her long-suffering husband.

The battle between the sexes escalates and the fantasies get nasty as we near the frenzied finale that finds Van Horne, covered in chicken feathers and pink slime, hilariously demanding of a congregation of Eastwick Christians if "God knew what he was doing when he created woman? You don't think God makes mistakes?" A moment of unmistakable brilliance!

Some purists will say that the film has very little to do with Updike's original novel, and they would be right. (The script was rewritten by award-winning playwright Cristopher on a daily basis.) But all that is small potatos when one views the final product. With outstanding performances, amazing art direction and cinematography, the film holds up as fun, diverting entertainment with a standout over-the-top Nicholson (in a role he was born to play!) There is also a lush score by John WIlliams that captures with amazing dexterity, both the witchy playfulness of it's subject and just the right feel of a small New England town.

This film was a big hit in theaters during the summer of 1987 and deserves to be seen again and again. One can only hope that Warner Brothers has plans to honor The Witches of Eastwick with a well deserved 2 -disc special edition that features a magnificent pristine print and enough bonus extras to equal the pull-out-all-the-stops finale of this marvelous film.

Delicious 'PROMISES, PROMISES'

Well kiddies, It's no secret to those who know me well, that the mere mention of the word musical sends moisture running down my thighs like a butter-based frosting dripping down a triple layer cake on a hot, summer day. (How vivid!)

One of the best muscials of the late 1960s was PROMISES, PROMISES by Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Neil Simon. Promises, Promises is a musical adaptation of Billy Wilder's popular film, The Apartment, about a corporate shlub named Chuck Baxter, who earns promotions by lending his pad out to executives for sexual liaisons. Things get complicated when Chuck falls for one of the office women, Fran, who is invited to the flat by an exec.

The musical spawned the memorable pop hits "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" and "Promises, Promises," both popularly recorded by Dionne Warwick.

Neil Simon penned the original book and revised it for the popular Encores! concert revival at City Center in 1997. In that revival, a "new" song, "You've Got It All Wrong," was interpolated. The score also includes "Knowing When to Leave" (which got radio airplay), "Where Can You Take a Girl?," "You'll Think of Someone," "Turkey Lurkey Time," "It's Our Little Secret," "A Fact Can Be a Beautiful Thing," "Wanting Things," "Whoever You Are, I Love You," "Half As Big As Life," "She Likes Basketball," "Upstairs," "A Young Pretty Girl Like You."

Jerry Orbach won the 1969 Tony Award for his work in the original staging, which was produced by David Merrick. The musical also received nominations for A. Larry Haine (Featured Actor in a Musical), Edward Winter (Featured Actor in a Musical), Jill O'Hara (Actress in a Musical), Marian Mercer (Featured Actress in a Musical), Michael Bennett (Choreographer), Robert Moore (Director) and Best Musical. Promises, Promises ran 1,281 performances and was one of the first mainstream Broadway musicals to offer a commercial pop sound in its score.

FOR EXTRA FUN:
Follow this link to YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qsEY9xw_D8 and watch the fantastic Broadway company perform the showstopping Act One closer "Turkey Lurkey Time". It's amazing!

AND
Here's a YouTube video of "Turkey Lurkey Time" at the December 2008 Burt Bacharach event in NYC. The evening's choreographer (Adam Cates) re-created the original production's choreography by Michael Bennett. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aukNN8J7EIY

Saturday, May 2, 2009

EVERYONE HAS A BREAKING POINT. 'WHILE SHE WAS OUT' WAS OURS.

Suburban housewife Kim Basinger is forced to fend for herself when she becomes stranded in a desolate forest with four murderous thugs led by a horrifically miscast Lukas Haas! What starts off as a quick trip to the mall ends in the woods with a fight for her life. All she has is a toolbox and her will to survive.

"...truly exceptional..." says Ain’t It Cool News

"...a first rate performance by Kim Basinger" exclaims LA Weekly

"Amazing and Truly Creepy" raves Film Fetish.com

"Ordinary and Truly Tepid" say we.

Apart from the occasional gratuitous graphic violence, WHILE SHE WAS OUT never rises above what it truly is; a woman-in-peril TV movie of the week (circa 1974) that probably would have starred Elizabeth Montgomery. Although Liz would have given a more compelling portrayal and probably would have nixed squeaky voiced Lukas Haas as the chief baddie. (Haas is not so much threatening as he is irritating.) The film is not even unintentionally funny. But there are plenty of eye-rolling moments. . .

On Christmas Eve, Basinger leaves her two darling twinsies at home with her abusive husband whiles she goes out to get wrapping paper at the mall. On the way, she realizes that her cell phone is dying and she's

neglected to bring the charger with her. Naturally, once at the over-crowded mall parking lot, she leaves an insulting note on the windshield of a car that is taking up two spaces. This turns out to be one really stupid move - in a film dedicated to stupid moves - because the car belongs to a melting pot of amatuer thugs who are out for trouble. Things go from bad to worse for our poor stupid (albeit plucky) heroine, and she finds that she is forced to defend herself (rather nastily) with nothing but her trusty red toolbox.

Sounds fairly interesting but, amazingly, nothing that follows elicits true scares (or even unintended chuckles) - just groans. At one point, Basinger is seen standing in a brook in the middle of the woods repeating "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." and you get the distinct feeling the apology is to the viewer and not to the last two bad guys that she dispatched. And the baddies really are horribly bad at being bad. They probably would have a difficult time against a blind nun.

The film is not just inept, it's terrible. The 86 minute running time seems interminable. (Most of it seems like filler.) Perhaps this should have been a 22 minute segment in some horror anthology. (One of the lesser segments to be sure, but at least short enough to forget after you've hopefully gone on to a better one.)

As to the spectacular "surprise" ending, we defy anyone not to have it figured out long before Basinger gets to the mall.

Friday, May 1, 2009

'SNAKES ON A PLANE' -- SEE IT WITH SOMEONE YOU LOVE.

Deliriously cheesy, SNAKES ON A PLANE is a riotous blend of Nature Runs Amok and In-Flight Terror subgenres. It plucks the best elements of both and tosses in a bit of TV Cop Show witness protection intrigue for good measure. S.O.A.P. begins and ends with beach montages. This threw us considering the film is about an airplane. During the opening credits, (which slide from beach shots to dirtbike stunts with all the narrative grace of a Mountain Dew commercial), we wondered if we had loaded the right film into our DVD player!

Nathan Phillips, the hunky motorcrosser in the opening, witnesses a bloody mob hit in Hawaii and is immediately almost taken out by members of the Eddie Kim gang. Luckily, Agent Samuel L. Jackson whisks him away to the safety of police custody via a hilariously hambone hotel-room shootout. From here we move to the airport - where you'll be thrilled to be out of the leafy wilds of Hawaii and into the sterile, claustrophobia-inducing halls and compartments of the travel industry.

Right off the bat, we're introduced to our flight crew, which features a few working girls, a sexually aggressive co-pilot, and even a token "Air-Mary" (or at least he seems to be). In the tradition of clichéd cop movies, Juliana Margulies is on her "last day on the job" and just wants it to be an easy one; however, somewhat NOT in the tradition of clichéd cop movies, she's not a cop - she's a stewardess. And we also learn that the chief baddie has decided to fill the plane with snakes, disguised as Hawaiian lais (don't ask), in order to kill off witness Phillips. (Already we're delighted at how the conventions of our various thriller subgenres are being appropriated, customized, retro-fitted, and inflated to near-bursting.)

Next we meet the passengers, who range from generic stereotypes (the fat woman in the muumuu; the kids flying alone for the first time) to outright celebrity parody (Rachel Blanchard as a blonde bimbo with a tiny purse-dog name Mary-Kate, who throws herself at Flex Alexander's germophobe rap star). This is all well and good because we just know that these idiots are going to be snake-bait in mere moments. (But honestly - don't think too hard about anything in this movie, because it doesn't pay. All we really need is to fill the plane with snakes, add passengers, stir and enjoy.)

Once the snakes arrive, this endearing little B-movie kicks into high-gear. The fanged stowaways start attacking and they pretty much don't stop for the duration, giving us dozens of hilarious attacks with a fairly hefty body count. The clichés also arrive in ferocious number - (The noble stewardess ventures back into the snake-ridden coach cabin to save the missing baby; the inevitable "is there anyone on board who can fly a plane?" Karen Black sequence), and with so many delicious snake incidents in between, it's pretty hard to get bored. Since Snakes On A Plane makes no attempt to rise above its B-movie premise, (and actually seems quite happy to wallow the ridiculous excesses it creates), it's very hard to get angry at it. The only thing that bothered us was the handling of the film's "gay" character, who ends up not being gay.

Yes, the gay-seeming steward who spends the movie clapping and looking wide-eyed and offering to suck the venom out of fat men's behinds ends up being a total hetero, which is kind of a dated joke and a bit of a screw-you to anyone who actually enjoyed the fact that a gay character was somewhat heroic, helpful, sensitive, and alive by the last reel. (And just why are the other stewardesses shocked that he's hugging his girlfriend at the end? Have they never had a conversation with this man during their 5-hour flights?) The filmmakers seem to be patting the homophobes in the audience on the head and saying, "it's alright to have liked that character because he's straight after all! Now get back to defacing pictures of Clay Aiken".
Anyway, while S.O.A.P. isn't high art it's certainly worth your time. Make sure and see it with a roomful of your snarkiest friends for maximum enjoyment. It's Fangy, Frothy Fun!

SEX IN L.A. GETS EVEN MORE DIFFICULT IN THE HILARIOUS SCI-FI THRILLER 'SPECIES'.


Just when you thought it was safe to skinny-dip with a semen-hungry supermodel, along comes SPECIES to warn you that at any moment she might grow horns on her back and rip you up like a parking ticket. This blech-gak-ptooey sci-fi thriller is in fact mostly ptooey – sillier than it is frightening. The movie puts a definitive '90s twist on the old alien-is-loose scenario: she's a six-foot blonde goddess, and all she wants to do is get laid. If you decided to pass on this load of goosey nonsense while it was in the theaters, it's easy to see why: its biggest star was Ben Kingsley, and it reeked heavily of Alien rip-off. But Species had one thing all three Alien movies didn't have -- sex.

In short, the movie details what a beautiful alien/human (spawned by dark and stupid government forces from alien DNA received via radar) must go through to spawn in L.A. Sil (glassy-eyed model Natasha Henstridge) is a guileless, Nordic, man-hungry mating machine whose life cycles are commemorated by a trail of male corpses. Sil's F/X designs were indeed mustered up by H.R. Giger, the depressive Swiss artist behind that distinctive rib-cage-and-womb vibe that anyone who's seen Alien will instantly recognize. Sil is pursued through L.A.'s worst nightclubs and bachelor pads by head honcho Kingsley, sleepy manhunter Michael Madsen, blubbering "empath" Forest Whitaker, scientific Brit Alfred Molina and hot-to-trot biologist Marg Helgenberger.

Species gets its snarkiest thrills from Sil's nightmarish physical changes, though they're less shocking than cool, like watching a blister rash spread on your own arm. In fact, the scare factor is dwarfed by the movie's bumper crop of outrageous Freudian subtext. There's really no way to ignore the film's horrified view of feminine body rites, from puberty to childbirth. (The sequel should have taken on menopause.) The film practically shudders with fear: fear of sex, of menstruation, of dating, of female orgasms, of impotence, of fatherhood, of pregnancy, of birth, of statuesque blondes who undress in front of you without your having to so much as buy them a cocktail first.

Well, the last one might be a legit source of dread, but wouldn't it have been more interesting, though significantly less hilarious, if Sil hadn't been gorgeous – can you imagine the drama of a homely alien trying to get laid in L.A.? But it's not our fear we’re writing about, anyway – it's the filmmakers'. Their apparent horror outpaces ours by a mile. Giger, director Roger Donaldson, writer Dennis Feldman, co-producer Frank Mancuso Jr.– these guys must have some super dating stories. We can't help picturing them dissolving into quaking, bug-eyed panic whenever their wives complain of mid-month bloat. In the movie, catch Sil's tentacle-filled cocoon-transformation from girl to woman – it's the wackiest first period ever captured on film. Every time she gets aroused after that, it's time for some poor sucker to get mauled. You'd imagine that somebody might have noticed that the film boils down to a bunch of nervous guys covering their testicles. But apparently no one did; maybe it is all just subconscious terrors worming their way to the surface.

Which is even better, frankly; it's a timeless joy when Hollywood unknowingly unleashes its own neuroses on the world. We laughed so hard we nearly popped a blood vessel in our eye when Sil aggressively tries to mount one guy in a pool and the luckless dope promptly loses his erection. She turns into a cat-eyed alien thing and kills him.

Though it's far more polished, Species reminded us most of Humanoids from the Deep, a Doug McClure stinker in which icky reptilian creatures rape and impregnate human women. Sweet stuff, but Species is a lot more fun, because you can just see everyone sweating tremulously behind the cameras.

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