105 posts categorized "Current Affairs"

02 May 2016

'Ghostbusters' 2016: Are you gonna call?

Ghostbusters350r
New "Ghostbusters" Melissa McCarthy, left, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones answer the call. (Courtesy: Columbia Pictures)

This might not be great news for Columbia Pictures, the gender-switched cast of the re-thunked Ghostbusters brand or, for that matter, movie lovers et al:

According to an article posted on the Hollywood Reporter website, "Ghostbusters is the most disliked movie trailer in YouTube history."

Continue reading "'Ghostbusters' 2016: Are you gonna call?" »

27 April 2016

Ferrell the presumptive nominee to swear in as Reagan on the big screen

ReaganFerrell350r
Mr. Ferrell, pull off that role as Ronald Reagan. (Courtesy: gettyimages.com)

Well, according to a post on the Hollywood Reporter website, Will Ferrell will soon portray former President Ronald Reagan on the big screen.

Many of us remember Ferrell knocking down a pretty mean George W. Bush in numerous Saturday Night Live skits.

But for a sustained length of time in a feature-length movie titled Reagan?

Continue reading "Ferrell the presumptive nominee to swear in as Reagan on the big screen" »

07 March 2016

When Ronnie met Nancy

Nancy Reagan, who passed away Sunday (March 6), met her beloved Ronald Reagan in 1949.

Reagans290
The Reagans pose for a publicity still for "Hellcats of the Navy." (Courtesy: Columbia Pictures)

The future 40th president of the United States was serving in another office in the late '40s.  Reagan, as president of the Screen Actors Guild, agreed to have dinner with actress Nancy Davis.  Davis noticed that her name, which, according to reports turned out to be another Nancy Davis, had popped up in the infamous Communist witch hunt.

Continue reading "When Ronnie met Nancy" »

27 February 2016

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the new us!

Reopening280rClick right on in, everyone.  No need to push or shove, there's plenty of room for everyone.

We are very proud of the newly redesigned, greatly improved LarryRatliff.com website, home of Movie Memories with Larry Ratliff and all that involves.

Continue reading "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the new us!" »

18 February 2016

Under construction: Wait 'til you see the new us

New improved350lAttention all website owners and bloggers:  When your spouse tells you it's way past time to change the post on your website, it's way past time to change the post on your website.

Suellen is right, but I do have an excuse.  Does that help?  OK, didn't think so.

The fact is that LarryRatliff.com, home of everything Movie Memories, is undergoing a major overhaul, and we've been planning and building something we think is eye-popping special.

It's a little premature to give too much away, so let's just say that very soon you will be looking at a state-of-the-art Movie Memories and Larry Ratliff website home that, hopefully, will take your breath away (But only temporarily, we hope; safety first).

But wait, there's more!

We are also excited about being very close to announcing that Larry will be digging out his old TV makeup kit for a new movie critic position on a nationally syndicated television show. 

As they say on TV, stay tuned.

And as they also say, we'll be right back:  Bigger and better than ever.

I'm Larry Ratliff, and I approved this message (right after I wrote it).

 

12 January 2016

Joy and 'Joy,' my review, to the world

Joygun325r
Jennifer Lawrence takes aim at becoming a successful entrepreneur in "Joy." (Google.com)

A quick note about joy, that inner-tingling feeling of delight, and Joy, the award-winning movie.

It is my pleasure to inform anyone who doesn't already know that The Senior Voice is now a dual North Texas publication serving both Dallas and Fort Worth with separate issues.

That makes the circulation of Carol Butler's soon-to-be-monthly brainchild to bring news, features and other articles of interest to seniors and those who deal with that special section of the population to a whopping 100,000.

It's an exciting new year for Carol and the staff, which includes this semi-humble scribe as the film columnist/critic.

The (soon-to-be) monthly format will allow more access to timely movie releases.  We'll start the film review party with Joy, which earned Jennifer Lawrence, its star, a Golden Globe award as best performance by an actress in a motion picture - comedy or musical Sunday night in Los Angeles.

My review begins thusly:

Watching Joy, the mesmerizing dysfunctional family drama-with-comedy starring Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper, this thought kept running through my mind:

“Is there anything Jennifer Lawrence can’t do?”

Click here to read my full Joy review.  And, while you're on the Senior Voice website, take a little time to look around at a new major player in North Texas media.

   

08 January 2016

Somebody slipped the Golden Globes another Ricky

Gervais325r
Ricky Gervais (Courtesy: theguardian.com)

There's really just one reason I'll bother to watch the Golden Globes Sunday night:

It's a free snack zone.  That's why.  Why else would humans anywhere near being in their right minds plop down in front of a TV to vegetate, wasting three or four hours of valuable time watching filthy rich celebrities pat each other and, more disgustingly, themselves on the back?

I mean, who knows how much time we have left with looming disasters like terrorism, the possible crash of the stock market and American Idol back on TV?

So, I'm doing it for the snacks.  Fritos and Ranch dip to begin, perhaps a little chardonnay once the Globes begin to drag and, of course, a mini-mountain of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla nectar of the gods as the evening wears on and on and on.

Oh, there is one more reason I'll be watching.  Ricky Gervais will return as host of the Golden Globes this year (Sunday night at 7 Central on NBC) for the fourth time after a three-year hiatus.  Gervais vowed never to return after hosting in 2012.  In fact, the fearless comedian has been quoted comparing hosting chores of the movie and TV love-fest to a parachute jump.

"You can only really enjoy it in retrospect when you realize you didn’t die and it was quite an amazing thing to do,” he said.

Look for Gervais to have his fangs and one-liners sharpened and ready to pounce.  He packs the caustic, comic kill-shot punch of Don Rickles.  The witty Brit, who co-created the mockumentary TV series The Office across the Atlantic pond, then stares down the audience with the impeccable silence that Jack Benny mastered a generation (or two?  I lose count) before him, almost daring audience members not to laugh at him, which in reality, means laughing at themselves.

So that's what I'll be doing Sunday night.  Please don't call between the hours of 5 p.m. and midnight (allowing for the pre-Gervais monologue tailgate party and headache and unsettled stomach of the odd combination of snacks and the aftermath of the drudgery sure to follow).

There is one exception.  Go ahead and ring us up if you're a Powerball official saying there was a mistake in Saturday's announced winning numbers and you have $700 million and change waiting for us.

If that's the case, we'll host the Golden Globes next year at our house, which will be known by then as the former Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles.

04 January 2016

Close encounters of the Vilmos kind

Vilmos380r
Courtesy: est.hu

The first time a cinematographer truly rocked my cinematic soul was November 1977.

Steven Spielberg's wonder-filled sci-fi adventure Close Encounters of the Third Kind transfixed many of us to the screen with possibilities that we are not alone in the vastness of space.  John Williams' five-tone symphonic magnificence brought much to the party, of course, as did director Spielberg.

It wasn't until that afternoon at the movies in 1977, however, that I fully appreciated the contribution a gifted cinematographer adds to the movie magic.  I can still remember my insides rattling with the ferocity of those vibrating mailboxes that Richard Dreyfuss, portraying a soon-to-be-befuddled lineman for the county, was experiencing with a mixture of wide-eyed fear and curiosity.

Those unforgettable images in Close Encounters came from the creativity of master cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who died January 1 at 85, according to published reports.

The Hungary native hop-scotched in and around San Antonio to shoot Spielberg's breakout film, The Sugarland Express, in 1974.  My Zsigmond favorites, in addition to Close Encounters, include The Deer Hunter (1978), Deliverance (1972) and, especially, The Rose, showcasing Bette Midler channeling Janis Joplin in 1979.

According to Zsigmond's obit posted on the Hollywood Reporter website, the master behind the camera, who took home home his only Academy Award for Close Encounters "was taught in the European style of cinematography with particular appreciation for light gradations and color tone.

"Zsigmond’s work was noted for its use of natural light and often subdued palette, as visible in such films as McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971). To attain this look, he utilized a photographic technique known as 'flashing,' exposing the negative to a small amount of light before lensing. The procedure would ultimately mute the colors," the Hollywood Reporter post stated.

Let me just add this.  Vilos Zsigmond shot film, baby, when shooting film -- celluloid, not that digital stuff we see today -- was not only cool, but truly magical.

Rest in peace, Vilmos, thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of movie fans around the world will not soon forget your spellbinding contributions to our movie memories.

 

14 December 2015

Say hello to my little friends

BBLarry360It's a good thing I'm not trying to verbalize these thoughts right now.  My tongue appears to be frozen.

The same goes for my left hand, which has alternately been supporting two recently purchased half gallons of Blue Bell Peppermint and Homemade Vanilla ice cream.

Yes, this is the day Blue Bell finally returned to San Antonio.  I know other sections of the state got a month or two head start on the rebirth of the Creamy Nectar of the Gods, also known, sadly, as the brand of ice cream tainted by the much-publicized food-borne illness caused by listeria linked to the deaths of three people.  Blue Bell was yanked from freezer shelves back in March.

For those of us addicted to the tasty frozen treat produced from the milk of cows so contented they thought they were in heaven (so the TV ads said), the re-emergence of Blue Bell (especially Homemade Vanilla) is a banner day.

Now, as I try to peel the spoon, also quite frozen at this point, from my numb tongue, here's something you might not know.  The Great Listeria Scare of 2015 wasn't the first time I risked my life to tantalize my taste buds and freeze my innards with Blue Bell.

Nope, that would be years ago, when the act of a desperately addicted man drove him to the brink of madness so real you could cut it with a knife.  Almost did, in fact.

You can find the sordid tale in my new book titled Did I Write That Out Loud?  The Blue Bell madness episode unfolds in Chapter 16, The Real Cold War, which I am pleased to share here:

Despite what you may have heard on the news, the Cold War isn't over.
It rages on with me, a slightly bloated army of one. I'm deeply entrenched and flailing away on the front lines of a fierce, ongoing, losing battle.

I have this little ice cream issue, you see.

I wouldn't really call it an addiction, as such. To me, it's more like the cold, creamy, slippery slope to self-esteem hell.

It started out innocently enough. I remember sneaking into the kitchen in the middle of the night as a kid of 10 or 11 in Grand Prairie, Texas. While my family slept, I'd stand in the harsh glare of the refrigerator light and my nagging conscience. Degrading myself with one teaspoon of frozen self-esteem poison at a time.

BookCover290It was the cheap stuff back then; three-for-a-dollar iced milk. It tasted like frozen Elmer's Glue-All with a hint of cheap chocolate.

It made no difference to me. I'd scoop away, out of control (and often shivering), until one tiny teaspoon remained. Then I'd carefully replace the carton in the freezer and shamefully hope no one noticed that some thief in the night had gone on a binge.

For many years, my dad (who died in 2001) loved to tell the story about the time he replaced a flimsy carton I had previously ravaged with a brand-new one. Same generic brand. Same dull flavor. For once, my mom, dad and older brother got to enjoy an ice cream-like concoction at their leisure while I waited for my next target.

Good one, Dad.

In adulthood, the situation has gotten worse, not better. Needless to say, if my addiction were to a more lethal drug - say cocaine or “Lara Croft” video games - my life would be over. I'd be sleeping in a cardboard box outside some Baskin-Robbins store.

Don't get me wrong. I fight it. And I lose. Last winter, for instance, I had gone two or three weeks without giving in. But on the coldest, most miserable night of the year, I caved. It was sleeting. Every step outside was a precursor of doom and perhaps a visit to ER (not the TV show).

"If you don't absolutely have to go out, stay home," the weather guy in the loud bow tie was saying.

I absolutely had to go out.

I bundled up and gingerly made my way to the car, which was shrouded in a thick sheet of ice. De-icing would take at least 10 or 15 minutes. So I drove the four blocks to my neighborhood 7-Eleven at about 5 mph with my head sticking out the window like a flop-eared dog -- a flop-eared dog with icicles.

That's nothing, though, compared to the time a few years ago when I inadvertently swallowed a knife during a binge.

I don't exactly have patience when my craving gets the best of me. I have this dangerous -- ludicrous, in fact -- habit of chiseling chunks of rock-hard ice cream from the carton with a dinner knife.

One night, in my haste, I plunged into a solidly frozen half gallon of Rocky Road with a knife and reckless abandon. I plopped the chunk of instant gratification into my mouth. And I pulled back a rather incomplete table utensil.

A piece of the knife - about the size of a thumbnail - was missing. Since this kind of gluttony knows no shame and obviously makes no sense, I rushed through the rest of the abusive ritual.

The thinking, if we can call it that:

"I'd better hurry. This just might be my last shot at Rocky Road."

I'm happy to report that no dire consequences resulted. Once the empty euphoria of gorging had passed and was replaced by guilt, I thought that, at the very least, I'd have a difficult time getting through the metal detector at the airport.

I think the knife tip is still lodged somewhere in my body. I think it's in my "yet." I don't know which internal organ a "yet" is exactly. But I'll never forget a television news anchor reporting one night about a poor woman who had been shot.

"She survived," the golden-throated anchor said, "but the bullet remains in her yet."

Hopefully, the unwelcome foreign object won't relocate to a more easily damaged organ for either of us.

With a little luck and about $10,000 worth of therapy, I might just get this Chunky Monkey off my back before it's too late. I may not be so fortunate the next time a concealed sharp steel object rides the Blue Bell Express into my Homemade Vanilla-coated internal abyss.

*****

Did I mention that Did I Write That Out Loud? has been called "the perfect Christmas gift" by some (Well, me)?  To order online -- and please limit your order to no more than 200 copies at a time -- go to Amazon.com.

10 December 2015

Globes trotting: Ready for Ricky?

Ricky320 Don't get me wrong.  I love Amy Poehler.  Ditto for Tina Fey.

And when they're together, as they are in the new movie comedy "Sisters" and for the past few years cutting up as co-hosts of the Golden Globes telecasts, well, it's special.

For my money, though, the perfect Golden Globes host is acerbic playful rascal Ricky Gervais.  As the promo photo boasts, "Hold on to your globes," Ricky's back as host of the 2016 Golden Globes, which will air on NBC Jan. 10.

According to a post on the people.com website, Mr. Gervais is not about to tap the brakes on his brilliant (There, I said it) brand of caustic comedy.

"'I think if you make it fun for yourself, I think that filters through without being ridiculously self-indulgent,' says Gervais, who previously hosted the film and television awards show from 2010 through 2012. 'I think if you do things that excite you – that you think is original ... Sometimes when I write a joke I get an adrenaline rush. I'm excited about how good I think it is. But it's that unknown. It could go the wrong way,'" Gervais told People.

By the way, the Golden Globes were announced in Hollywood this morning before the sun came up.  Click here for a complete list of nominees.

Congrats to all the nominees.  I'll be tuning in mostly to see Gervais wield his hilarious verbal scalpel.

01 December 2015

Lawrence the cinematic conqueror

Winter325
Jennifer Lawrence on the run in "Winter's Bone." (Courtesy: outnow.ch)

Would you skin a squirrel in your back yard to land a movie role?

Jennifer Lawrence apparently would and, if an article posted on the Variety website is accurate, did to land the role as a tough Ozark Mountains girl searching for her drug-dealing dad in Winter's Bone (2010).

Lawrence has risen to worldwide fame as Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games franchise monster as the fearless bow-and-arrow defender of the common people.  The Hunger Games:  Mockingjay -- Part 2, the fourth and final (so they say) installment in the series, is riding high on the box-office charts.

But where did Lawrence come from?

That might just surprise you.  Aspiring young actresses and actors might be shocked to hear that Ms. Lawrence, a three-time Academy Award nominee and winner for Silver Linings Playbook in 2012, never took acting lessons.

"Lawrence had never taken an acting class, but explained how she prepared for the role: 'My brother’s friend came over with a squirrel he’d shot and we skinned it in my backyard.'

"The film earned four Oscar nominations, including best picture and best actress," the Variety article states.

If you ask me, Lawrence has risen to the top of the fame game because she isn't just a celebrity riding the wave of a huge movie franchise.  She's on top because she's the real deal; an actress with a natural gift and, from all appearances, enough smarts to keep ego and fame in check.

She's also savvy enough to step out of the movie studio tent-pole (mass market appeal) projects to flex her acting skills in less-gadget-driven movies with character depth.  I'm really looking forward to Joy, a based-on-truth drama with comedy starring Lawrence along with Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.

Joy director David O. Russell has worked with Lawrence before with tremendous success.  He called the shots on Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle (2013).

As Joy Mangano, inventor of the Miracle Mop, Lawrence takes on something perhaps scarier than the cutthroat competition in the Hunger Games fantasy series.  This time she's fighting against the all-powerful forces of Corporate America.

Joy opens Christmas Day.

  

24 November 2015

'Lost (in Space)' and found

Lost290
Courtesy: CBS

From the Hey, We Haven't Brought This One Back And Called It Good Looking Yet Department:

It looks like your favorite video streaming service, Netflix, is about to roll the dice on a Lost In Space reboot.

According to stories posted on the Entertainment Weekly website (and other sources), Netflix is remaking the cult 1960s series that was set in "futuristic" 1997.

Call it Back to the Past Future or Wow, How High Can Gasoline Prices Go?

"Executive producer Kevin Burns confirmed to EW.  (The) legendary TV’s remake, which has yet to garner a straight-to-series order, is being written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (Dracula Untold) and produced by Game of Thrones vet Neil Marshall, who’s in line to direct," the EW article states.

Burns, who has another project to dive into, is thrilled, of course.

“'We’ve obviously been developing Lost in Space for a long time, and we’ve had a couple of false starts. Just speaking for myself, we really felt that we had learned a lot from not only what we did, but what other people did and did wrong.

"'The original series, which lasted three seasons and 83 episodes, is set in a futuristic 1997 and follows the Robinson family’s space exploration. After the villainous Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris) sabotages the navigation system, they become helpless and, yes, lost,'" Burns told Entertainment Weekly.

Danger, Will Robinson.  I don't see a Star Wars like frenzy building for this Lost cause, which got a ho-hum big-screen do-over in 1998.

 

16 November 2015

'Author! Author!' What? What?

BookCover290Authors make all kinds of absurd claims about their books.  Frankly, that makes me sad.

Take my new book (Please!) Did I Write That Out Loud?, for instance.

I could claim that my new book bursting with entertaining essays about the raucous, roller coaster life of a veteran humorist, public speaker, film critic and stand-up comedian (that would be me) will lift your spirits.

It will, but I won't claim that.

Or, I could promise that you'll go behind the scenes and be amazed at what happened the day I sat down to interview Shirley MacLaine and she wasn't pleased with the lighting.

You will be amazed, but I'm not about to claim that, either.

All I'm going to promise is that if you buy Did I Write That Out Loud? you'll lose a few pounds.*

My new -- and first, I might add -- book covers topics such as why my family doctor broke up with me, what happens when pants begin to have minds of their own and news that the Cold War, a different Cold War, still rages.

I try to write from my heart and my funny bone, so even subjects such as a late-night encounter with paramedics, job loss and my father's late-life crisis are skewed with truth softened with humor.

Or as I like to put it, "We might as well laugh. It's only life."

About this time you're probably saying to yourself, "This is incredible!  Where can I get my hands on a book like this?"

Not to worry.  Just click this link to go to the Did I Write That Out Loud? page at the Amazon.com website.  You can be the proud owner of this hot, hot, hot collection of hilarious and heartfelt essays in paperback for the ridiculous price of only $8.95.

And that's for an exciting new book that's already on the best seller list.  Excuse me.  So sorry, I meant to say the "best cellar" list.

But wait, there's more.  Do you prefer to read books on a Kindle?  We've got you covered for under five bucks.  $4.99 to be exact.

So order away. Just in time for the holidays, Did I Write That Out Loud? is the perfect feel-good solution to the age-old question "What can I get for the person who has everything?"  Well, they don't have this surefire cure for the blues, the blahs and boredom.

You want it gift wrapped?  Amazon.com can handle that as well.

Oh, and one more thing.  About that claim that you can lose a few pounds reading Did I Write That Out Loud?:

* You will only lose pounds if you buy this book in Great Britain, British Overseas Territories, the South Sandwich Islands and the British Antarctic Territory, as well as Tristan de Cunha, where the British Pound is used as currency.

03 November 2015

Keep (Jane) Austen weird?

Prideand340r
(Courtesy: www.stylenoir.com)

Is there a movement afoot to, ahem, keep Jane Austen weird?

There must be because come February, the undead will meet the coyishly cool in late 18th century England in what promises to be a grisly little action-horror-romance ditty titled Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

I suppose it was bound to come (way, way) down to this in a time and marketplace where no entertainment icon, cinematic or literary, is sacred anymore.

I mean, come on.  We've already witnessed the out-of-sync wackiness of Harrison Ford and Daniel "Beg-Me-To-Stay-On-As-James Bond" Craig lassoing space aliens in Cowboys & Aliens in 2011, Sherlock Holmes sniffing out leads in modern-day New York City on TV in Elementary and the Republican debates.

So maybe we shouldn't be surprised when Jane Austen-ish ladies go for the jugular with bared fangs and not just verbal jabs.  

I suppose if they still sip their afternoon tea with pinkies properly extended, we shouldn't raise too much of a fuss when they go all zombie and start ripping each other to shreds.

Although I guess we won't hear much dialogue about saving face.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is scheduled to open (or slither out from under the door) Feb. 5 at one of the fine cinematic emporiums near you.

Consider this a jot-it-down-moment or a warning, depending on where you stand on the issue of co-mingling the prim and proper work of one of the most esteemed authors of the late 18th and early 19th century with bloodthirsty zombies with what I'm guessing will be deplorable table manners.

"Mary, mind your manners!  I told you to keep your elbows off the dining table.  And that goes for the elbows on those arms you're gnawing on as well.  And must you moan so?"


30 October 2015

Happy Hallo-, Merry next Christmas!

BadSanta320r
Billy Bob Thornton would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas next year. (Courtesy: www.denofgeek.us)

Well boys and girls, it's the day before Halloween.

You know what that means in every store around these great United States and, of course, in Hollywood:  Merry Christmas!

With that comes great news today.  Billy Bob Thornton is coming back as the title character in Bad Santa 2 not this holiday season, but in 2016, according to a story posted on the Variety website.

"Miramax and Broad Green Pictures announced that Billy Bob Thornton will reprise his role as Willie Soke in Bad Santa 2.

"Geyer Kosinski will produce. Miramax will partner with Broad Green Pictures to co-finance and co-produce. Broad Green will distribute in the U.S. during the 2016 holiday season.

"Sierra/Affinity will handle foreign sales with sales starting at the upcoming American Film Market.

“'We’ve been waiting far too long to see Billy Bob’s Willie Soke mess with the holiday season in his own unique way,' said Zanne Devine of Miramax."

Some say you have to be a little twisted or even sick to like this kind of extremely dark, sarcastic humor.

Well 'scuse me and call the doc, I can't wait to see more like this:

 

19 October 2015

You want the 'Truth'?

RedfordTruth290l
Robert Redford as Dan Rather in "Truth" (Sony Pictures Classics)

CBS can't handle the "Truth."

In what might very well be a case of reverse benefits, CBS has refused to air commercials for Truth, the dramatic-biography that focuses on Dan Rather's 60 Minutes report on the television network in 2004 that questioned then-President George W. Bush's military service.

The firestorm eventually cost Rather, once a CBS darling, and Mary Mapes, his producer, their careers.

According to a post on the Variety.com website, "The head of the firm handling media buying for the Sony Pictures Classics-distributed movie told the Associated Press that an effort to buy spots in 60 Minutes, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley and other programs was turned down by CBS."

Veteran actor Robert Redford, a best director Oscar winner for Ordinary People in 1980, takes on the role of Rather in Truth, while Mapes is portrayed by Cate Blanchett, who took home a best actress Academy Award in 2014 for her fine work in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine.

Despite the fact that CBS is quite possibly giving Truth inflated free publicity by refusing to run the movie ads (which would have generated solid income), I suppose the execs in the carpeted offices thought the situation over and decided when it came to Truth, they'd rather (or Rather) not.

 

30 September 2015

Gonged but not forgotten

Gongshortslogo250
(Courtesy: filmbaking.blogspot.com)

I had to chuckle when I was contacted by Kimberly Suta of Bunny Hat Productions about helping to spread the word about San Antonio's upcoming Gong Shorts Film Competition on Oct. 19.

My uneasy, slightly painful deep-seated laughter had nothing to do with S.A.'s Gong Shorts Competition, where original short films (3-15 minutes long on DVD) are guaranteed a 3-minute play before audience members are allowed to call for the, uh, gong.

I have memories of another local, live gong show way back in the '70s, you see, where I -- quite by accident, I might add -- was ... uh ...

I was gonged by a chimpanzee.  OK, there, I said it!

According to the first dictionary within reach, chimpanzees are defined as "a great ape with large ears, mainly black coloration, and lighter skin on the face, native to the forests of western and central Africa. Chimpanzees show advanced behavior such as the making and using of tools."

Deena275
(Courtesy: deenaszoo.com)

In this case, Deena the Chimp's tool of choice was a gong.

Picture this:  a North Dallas nightspot that featured a live gong show where up-and-coming and/or down-and-going comedians gathered on Thursday nights to wow audiences with their wildly funny wit or get gonged and laughed out of the joint a la a cheap imitation of The Gong Show produced and hosted on TV in the afternoons by Chuck Barris in the mid and late-'70s.

The audience didn't get to vote at the Dallas gong show, though.  A distinguished panel of judges, including, if memory serves correctly, the late, great Jerry Haines, the WFAA-TV personality also known as Mr. Peppermint, the show's organizer and the aforementioned Deena the Chimp.

Deena, you see, was not your run-of-the-mill primate.  Deena was billed by owner and Rent-A-Chimp proprietor Mike Stower as "the world's only stripping chimp."

Obviously, it was a very high class operation.  I had stopped performing comedy for free about then, having heard, "We'd love for you to come out and entertain, but of course we can't pay you anything" too many times.

I was holding steadfast to my rule, too.  But -- to give you some idea of how lean things were about then -- if I wanted to buy lunch, it was very likely that I'd need to sell some blood to do it.

I only agreed to perform at the gong show because of two things:  There was a $50 cash prize, and the organizer assured me that I would win and could breeze in, do five minutes of snappy comic patter and be out of there in a flash 50 bucks richer.

Words I'll never forget (although I'll keep trying):  "I've seen the other comedians.  It's a sure thing.  You will be the winner!"

If I learned anything that night, it was not to underestimate (or perhaps overestimate) a chimpanzee that strips for her bananas.

At about the 3-minute mark, I was rolling pretty good.  I could see the audience responding well to my hilarious material.  I also saw Mr. Peppermint having a good time.  Then my eyes -- about to fill with utter fear -- spotted Deena with the gong mallet in her paw/hands.  (Come on people, don't you know not to give a chimp the mallet at an EXPLETIVE DELETED, EXPLETIVE DELETED, EXPLETIVE DELETED gong show?)

If that wasn't bad enough, Deena must have had a cold.  I saw her fighting back a sneeze just as the audience was really laughing at my Class A Prime material.

Let's cut to the sad chase:  The sneeze exploded.  Deena's mallet hand/paw jerked in the direction of the gong and BLAM! I began thinking about where I might be selling blood for lunch the next day.

The San Antonio Gong Shorts Film Competition, to be held from 7-10 p.m. Oct. 19 at Alamo Street Eat Bar (609 South Alamo Street, S.A., 78205), sounds like real fun, however.  Comedian Jade Esteban Estrada will emcee and, hopefully, see no chimps -- stripper or otherwise -- near the gong.

The deadline to submit a DVD for competition is Oct. 12.  For more information, check out the event's website at www.eventbrite.com/e/6th-annual-gong-shorts-film-competition-in-san-antonio-tickets-18423662671

 Oh, and one more thing:

 Why Deena, why?

22 September 2015

Hollywood's quite 'Taken' with Neeson

NeesonTaken290r
(Courtesy: EuropaCorp.)

At 6-foot-4, Liam Neeson looms even taller in person than he may look gunning down a gaggle of baddies in a series of often-violent action flicks that include, but certainly haven't been limited to, the highly popular Taken series.

Since 2008 the Northern Ireland-born star, who took a few blows as a boxer back in the early days, has been playing Bryan Mills, a retired CIA operative drawn back into conflict over and over to save first his daughter, then others in a series of three Taken actioners.

If you're a movie star, you can rest assured that your film franchise is working when major TV shows spoof your character, as Jimmy Kimmel Live did with this fake Taken 4 trailer.

 

Neeson's been appearing on the big screen since the mid-'80s, in movies like The Bounty (1984) and The Mission (1986).

His distinctive look and lumbering style began to really morph into a Hollywood guy-to-be-noticed, however, when Neeson took on the title character of Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg's riveting historical-drama Schindler's List in 1994.

It hasn't always been an easy path for the 63-year-old matinee star.  Actress Natasha Richardson, Neeson's wife, died tragically in 2009, just days after a skiing accident and only a couple of months after the Taken debut.

Their son Michael, 13 at the time of his mom's sudden passing, has admitted to getting lost in drugs and alcohol to cope, according to published reports (such as an article posted on the Us magazine website in March).

It looks like the determined son of a cook and a Northern Ireland school caretaker is not going to fade away from the limelight anytime soon.  According to a post on the Variety website, Neeson has signed on the dotted line to star in The Commuter, which will begin production next year.

"(The) plot revolves around a businessman on his daily commute home, who unwittingly gets caught up in a criminal conspiracy. It threatens not only his life but the lives of those around him. Production is set to start sometime next spring," according to the Variety post.

It's fine for Neeson, the man, to travel as he pleases, but it may be time for his screen personas to just stay home for a while.  Those guys are trouble magnets, at least they will be as long as the box-office numbers hold up.

01 September 2015

Celebrating Bergman, classic movies

Bergman330r
Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund in "Casablanca." (Courtesy: ona.blog.so-net.ne.jp)

Had legendary Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman not died on her 67th birthday (Aug. 29) in 1982, the radiant screen star and three-time Academy Award winner would have turned 100 years old last Saturday.

We noted Bergman's lofty place in Hollywood history Sunday night during my "Savor Those Tunes -- Great Movie Music" Movie Memories presentation at Highland Springs retirement community in North Dallas.

Bergman won Oscars for Gaslight (1944), Anastasia (1956) and Murder on the Orient Express (1974).  Since the "Savor Those Tunes" presentation is a focus on the best movie songs in history, we celebrated Bergman's performance opposite Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca (1942), which also happens to be my favorite film of all time.

Bergman, who could shed a tear on screen like no other, commanded the camera and audience attention as she asked Sam (Dooley Wilson) to play As Time Goes By "for old times sake."

Thanks to Barbara Blachly, community resources coordinator, and all the great folks at Highland Springs for an enchanted evening of Movie Memories.

Harvesting the Fields of classic movie comedy

YouCant250
(Courtesy: Universal Pictures)

Maybe it was the fourth-grade education, or perhaps it was the fact that his alcoholic father allegedly hit young William Claude Dunkenfield over the head with a shovel.  Whatever it was, caustic comedy came flowing out of W.C. Fields with a flourish.

One of our objectives here is to scan the classic movie TV channels early in the week to offer suggestions for viewing or recording what we consider to be the prime offerings.

That's where W.C. Fields comes in.  TCM (Turner Classic Movies) is having a Fields day, if you will, on Friday.  The high jinks begin at 7 p.m. with The Bank Dick, written by Fields (under the nom de plume Mahatma Kane Jeeves) and starring Fields as a henpecked guy who replaces a film director, appears to capture a bank robber and eventually gets hired as a guard at the bank.  Please note that all times listed are Central Daylight Time.  (Check your local listings for times in your area.)

If that's not enough, TCM follows up with It's a Gift (1934) at 8:30 Friday evening and caps off the wacky comedy at 10 with You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (1939), in which Fields shares the screen with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.  It's up to you to decide which one is the dummy.

That's just the tip of the classic movies iceberg this week, though.  My favorite Western of all time, John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) fills the screen with a great cast of Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Andy Devine and Edmond O'Brien at 9 a.m. Saturday on AMC.

Later Saturday, at 7 p.m. on TCM, those in the mood for a little romance can enjoy a tangled web of romance and drama starring Bette Davis as a repressed and depressed woman looking for love in some of the wrong places in Now, Voyager (1942), co-starring Paul Henreid and Claude Rains.

If you're like me and you can't pass up a drama featuring the cinematic trifecta of Tennessee Williams (who wrote the stage play), director John Huston and gifted actor Richard Burton, check out The Night of the Iguana, co-starring Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr and Sue Lyon, at 5 p.m. Thursday on TCM.

And, you might want to consider:

  • Dr. No (1962) -- The first in a long line of James Bond action-spy thrillers features a very young Sean Connery as British secret Agent 007.  Ursula Andress provides the eye candy as Honey Ryder.  (3 p.m. Friday on MGM HD)
  • How to Steal a Million (1966) -- Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole join forces in a romantic crime comedy.  (Noon Saturday on the FX Movie Channel)
  • Lars and the Real Girl (2007) -- OK, it's not quite a classic yet, but if you're in the mood for something filled with touching moments with just the right amount of dark, dark, comedy, try this extremely offbeat tale featuring Ryan Gosling as a lonely young man who falls in love with a real doll.  Note:  When I say a real doll, I do mean a real doll.  (4:55 p.m. Wednesday on MGM HD)

If I had to choose just one classic film to see, this week, I would settle in at 10 Friday night on TCM to see the great W.C. Fields do his comic magic in You Can't Cheat an Honest Man.  I'm a sucker for the outrageous ping pong match.

   

25 August 2015

The best movie you never heard of?

Larry,

"Once again the residents LOVED the presentation! Please let me know what dates you have in October (I assume you don't have Sept dates available) and going forward.

Thanks!"

Mario Garcia

Enrichment Coordinator | Madison Estates

San Antonio, TX 78240

Cobb260r
(Courtesy: Warner Bros.)

I was humbled when I received this email from Mario the other day.  He was referring to my Movie Memories presentation titled "The Best Movies You've Never Heard Of."

I like to keep the contents of that presentation under wraps a bit because the surprise of some of the films we talk about adds to the fun.

Let's just say that Cobb, Ron Shelton's gritty-to-the-bone dramatic biography starring Tommy Lee Jones as legendary baseball Hall-of-Famer Ty Cobb, is on the list.

Cobb may be one of Jones' lesser-known dramas, but the way San Antonio's resident Academy Award winner gets under the skin and down to the icy cold soul of the arrogant, abusive Cobb is a cinematic ride you are not likely to soon forget.

So, thanks Madison Estates residents, for always welcoming my Movie Memories presentations warmly.  And a special thank you to enrichment coordinator Mario Garcia for the kind, humbling words.  I look forward to returning to Madison Estates next month for something a little different; my stand-up comedy presentation titled "We Might As Well Laugh."

Look, you can see 'The Invisible Woman'

Invisible260r
(Courtesy: Universal Pictures)

It sounds impossible, doesn't it?

It's true, though.  You can see The Invisible Woman, at least the classic 1940 sci-fi romantic-comedy co-starring Virginia Bruce, John Barrymore and John Howard, if you tune to classic TV cable channel TCM Tuesday night at 8:30.

That comic caper revolves around an attractive model (Bruce) with a few scores to settle.  She thinks being invisible might be just the ticket.  The Invisible Woman is just one of the vintage films I'm recommending this week.  Please note that all times listed are Central Daylight Time.  (Check your local listings for times in your area.)

And speaking of classic films with lady leads, Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke both took home Academy Awards for their performances as Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller, respectively, in Arthur Penn's The Miracle Worker (1962).  The mesmerizing biography-drama hits the MGM HD screen Sunday at 2:55 p.m.

This is also a big week for Greta Garbo fans.  Ninotchka (1939), one of all-time favorites, airs Wednesday at 5 p.m. on TCM.  I love the snappy banter between Garbo's title character, a stiff-as-nails Russian woman, and easy-going Leon, portrayed flawlessly by Melvyn Douglas.

In fact, at 10:45 Wednesday evening on TCM, you can light up the night with the second half of your own Garbo double-feature.  That's when Grand Hotel, Oscar's best picture of 1932, pairs the legendary Swedish actress with John Barrymore in a classic ensemble romantic-drama.

Some other choices of note:

  • Casablanca (1942), still the greatest film ever made in my humble opinion, heaps on romance and intrique at 7 p.m. Friday on TCM;
  • Meet John Doe (1941), featuring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck in a Frank Capra classic, on TCM at 12:30 p.m. Sunday;
  • Tombstone (1993), teaming Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, respectively, at 6 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday on AMC and;
  • The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Woody Allen's masterpiece about a dashing movie character (Jeff Daniels) who steps off the screen and into the life of a depressed woman (Mia Farrow) in the audience during the Great Depression.  It airs Sunday at 11:20 p.m. on MGM HD.

If I had to only pick one classic to watch this week, however, I'd hustle over to TCM Saturday at 7 p.m. for The Hustler (1961) just to see Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felson and Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats chalk up their cue sticks and go at it one more time.

  

My Photo

My Other Accounts

Like my Facebook page Connect with me on Linkedin Follow me on Twitter


Blog powered by TypePad
Member since 02/2009