32 posts categorized "Food and Drink"

12 October 2017

The thrill of the (Harbor) Chase

HarborChase300
Making Movie Memories with (from left) Bridgette, Lisa and Glenda from HarborChase of the Park Cities.

I was humbled to be asked by Bridgette Walshe, executive director of HarborChase of the Park Cities, to present my "Life Lessons I've Learned at the Movies" Movie Memories presentation Tuesday afternoon at the historic Highland Park Village Theater in the trendy Park Cities area of Dallas near the George W. Bush Presidential Center and Southern Methodist University.

It's always a little special when I speak about the magic of the movies and my adventures interviewing internationally famous movie stars like Tom Hanks and Shirley MacLaine (just to namedrop a couple) and see the presentation spring to life on a huge movie theater screen.

Continue reading "The thrill of the (Harbor) Chase" »

07 June 2017

What ice cream addiction? Or 'Hey buddy, can you spare a spoon?'

True confession time:

BBLarry300When it comes to entertainment, the only thing I love more than movies in general are movies that make me laugh.  Really laugh!  Films like the Mel Brooks' masterpiece monster mash comedy Young Frankenstein (1974), Dr. Strangelove or:  How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) and the first Toy Story (1995).  Movies like that.

The only thing I love more than movies that make me laugh is making people laugh through my stand-up comedy routine We Might As Well Laugh.

Continue reading "What ice cream addiction? Or 'Hey buddy, can you spare a spoon?'" »

10 August 2016

Mother of mercy, is this the end of Milk Duds?

MilkDuds320
(Courtesy: google.com)

The temperature was pushing triple digits as I drove across town around noon, weaving in and out of traffic, heading for the local movie art house.

It was hot enough to fry an egg on a shrinking block of melting ice, but I didn't care.  I had one thing on my mind:

Milk Duds.

We go back a long way, those unfortunately colored morsels of caramel covered in light-brown chocolate.  I grabbed a box of Duds on my way into the darkened abyss of a Harlingen, Texas movie theater to review my first film as a professional critic in 1980.

Continue reading "Mother of mercy, is this the end of Milk Duds?" »

01 July 2016

Flags of our great grandfathers and grandmothers

Yankee330rI make no apologies for star-spangled banter when it comes to Independence Day.

So, proudly fly the U.S. flag, thump an ice-cold watermelon, crank some homemade ice cream and get the family together, it's the Fourth of July weekend, time to celebrate this great country of ours.

Continue reading "Flags of our great grandfathers and grandmothers" »

09 June 2016

Is the Casa Blanca a movie theater or bowling alley?

Actually, it's both.

Casablancamarquee350
(Courtesy: Santikos Entertainment)

The Casa Blanca, opening today (June 9), is the latest sparkling jewel in the impressive San Antonio-based Santikos Entertainment group.

On those days or evenings when you just can't decide if you want to catch a movie on a state-of-the-art laser projected digital screen or go bowling, now you can do both.  Or either, or both and have dinner at the Café, or have dinner while enjoying a movie in one of four Bistro theaters, or ... well, you get the idea.

Continue reading "Is the Casa Blanca a movie theater or bowling alley?" »

06 June 2016

Guess what turns 83 today? Happy Birthday drive-in movies!

Drive-in400r
(Courtesy: www.movies.com)

And I bet the popcorn was rubbery and cold that first night in Camden, N.J. back on June 6, 1933.

That's when Richard Hollingshead Jr., an auto parts salesman, invented the drive-in movie by putting a projector on the hood of a car and parking it in front of two bedsheets tied together and strung up in the yard.

Continue reading "Guess what turns 83 today? Happy Birthday drive-in movies!" »

07 March 2016

When Ronnie met Nancy

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

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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" »

08 January 2016

Somebody slipped the Golden Globes another Ricky

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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.

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.

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?

01 October 2014

The five-week rule?

Fritos330
(Courtesy: cedarposts.blogspot.com)

You've heard of the five-second rule, right? It's the unwritten rule that if you drop a morsel of food and it's only on the floor five seconds or less (and, hopefully, no one is looking), it's quite all right to pick up said morsel and continue snacking.

Consumer note: Don't do this! Yesterday I dropped a piece of a Frito on the floor under my desk. I picked it up well under the allotted five seconds and ate it. So good so far, right? Wrong. When I picked it off the floor in a hurry I noticed another Frito tidbit in the general vicinity. Hurrying like crazy to beat the clock, I tossed that piece of Frito in my mouth, chewed it about half-of-once and swallowed.

Y-u-u-c-c-c-c-k-k-k! It was definitely old -- near-petrified, actually -- and obviously not from yesterday's spillage. Then I remembered. The last time we had a bag of Fritos in the house was about five weeks ago.

I don't feel so good. I'm going back to bed.

03 September 2014

At the movies: 2025

Theater350r
(Courtesy: aprillynnescott.com)

Let's begin our not-too-distant future visit to the neighborhood movie gigaplex in the parking lot.

What's a gigaplex?

Oh you silly people still stuck in the early 21st century.  Movie gigaplexes have 100 screens, of course.

Now, back to the parking lot.  No need to worry about how far away from the building you park.  That's so old learning dome.  The theater will send a personal pod for you and your guests.  Just find a parking space, glance at the button on the dash marked PI (Plug in), and your car will be all charged up when the pod returns you.

I like the pods.  Just take two or three steps from your car into the pod and those are the last steps you need to take before you return to your car.

That's right, no stopping at the ticket booth, concession stand or even, ahem, the restroom.  All of that is taken care of right there in the pod, which, when landed and locked-in-place, becomes your couch-away-from-couch.  I don't want to say too much about how the restroom-stop problem has been solved.  Just know this, catheters will soon be greatly improved.

And did I mention that movies are pet friendly now?  Sure, bring Astro along.  Each pod comes with invisible sound mufflers so your dog -- or dogs for those so-minded -- can enjoy popular movies like Guardians of the Galaxy:  Yet Another Sequel or Richard Linklater's eclectic favorite Grandpahood right along with the family.  It's all included with any $109.99 adult ticket.  That's only $107.99 for seniors, children under 3 and military (Our side only, please).

Once your pod is locked and loaded, concessions like Blast Off, the instant energy caffeine drink equal to three full pots of coffee, or Milk Duds arrive in your armrest automatically.  Yes, Milk Duds are still around but they now come in three varieties:  Melt in Your Mouth, Extra-Soft or Regular, still the favorite movie candy of dentists everywhere.

Theater300l
(Courtesy: tribecafilm.com)

Oh, here's a couple of things a little different than they used to be at the movies.  Talking is encouraged.  In fact, the louder the better.  Most people shout out how many likes they have on Bobybook (It's about so much more than just the Face these days).

And wristcomms -- once called cellphones -- are left on at all times in movie houses now.  That announcement comes right after President Bieber's safe driving plea to drivers 11 and younger and Vice President Jenna Bush Hager's Previews of Coming Tweets.

Goody, that includes Social Media.  That's what we've come to see.  

The 200-by-90-foot screen is filled with Tweets from us, you, the neighbors, celebrities (including any, let's just say, risque photos they tried to protect, but couldn't), world leaders and drone pilots safely ensconced on leather sofas in Washington bunkers bombing the heck out of undesirables (definition to come when President Bieber and his cabinet figure it out).

This is so much more fun now that privacy rules have been voted out by the TMZ-controlled Congress.  People can now post whatever they like and it's out there for the world to see.  Of course the fact that due to worldwide giga-use Twitter now limits each tweet to six digits, there is a bit of sameness to the futuristic movie-going experience.

As a theater full of people scream out their Bobybook like totals and wristcomms light up the auditorium enough for me to see the corpse-like pallor on hundreds of chubby faces slurping down caffeine and inhaling Milk Duds, here's what I'm looking at on a giant movie screen:

Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ...

Sweet.

11 December 2013

Naughty cinematic Santa perfection

How many times have you considered something aptly described as "totally disgusting" a very good thing?

BadSanta350r
Shopping mall Santa Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) prepares to greet the little darlings in "Bad Santa." (Dimension Films)

I can think of exactly one.  That's Billy Bob Thornton's riveting and revolting performance as a boozing, booty chasing, conniving thief of a department store Santa with a good (but very well hidden) heart.

And here's something else.  Can you believe it's been 10 years since Thornton, the star and Academy Award-winning screenwriter of the equally disturbing Sling Blade (1996), slipped into the worn Santa suit, lit up a cigarette and greeted the kiddies as a conman St. Nick in Bad Santa?

Nor can I.  But if you're in the mood for an edgy alternative to the usual holiday season leading man, like Jimmy Stewart as squeaky clean George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life or the persistent, but kind of annoying kid in A Christmas Story, slide Bad Santa (Rated R) into the DVR, grab hold of something and hit "play."

Just to make sure everyone understands, we're not talking family entertainment here.  So wait until the kids and/or the grandkids are safely out of sight.

As Willie, Thornton, in one of his finest screen performances in my humble opinion, grovels brilliantly as a desperately lonely, womanizing alcoholic with nowhere to go but up.

Willie, of course, goes down.  Way down.

 

Don't miss Friday's Richland Emeritus kick-off

The Richland College Emeritus plus 50 spring the kick-off, originally planned for Dec. 6 but postponed due to the recent icy blast, will launch with free hot coffee and muffins this Friday (Dec. 13) at 9 a.m.

Beginning at 9:30, instructors will take turns touting their upcoming classes in everything from aging issues, current events, nutrition, music, religion and even screenwriting. 

Yours truly will be among the instructors.  My spring class, very likely be my last in the Richland Emeritus plus 50 program for a while, will focus on Oscar-winning Hollywood icon Marlon Brando.  We'll dive into the fascinating subject of the man behind the myth.

This is my personal invitation for you to sign up for my spring class and others and to come to the always exciting kick-off event on Dec. 13 (Richland's Sabine Hall, Room 118).

It's free and there's snacks; coffee and muffins at 9 a.m.  Call 972-238-6972 to reserve your spot.

A sad silent (good)night

Do you appreciate, love and/or admire silent films?

I'm afraid there is some startling news bouncing around media outlets this morning.

Gatsby320l
This single frame may be one of the few remaining from the silent version of "The Great Gatsby." (flixist.com)

In a shocking report just out by the Library of Congress, it appears about 70 percent of 11,000 silent movies made between 1912 and 1930 have been lost due to what the Associated Press is calling "decay and neglect over the past 100 years."

According to an article posted on the Hollywood Reporter website:

“'The Library of Congress can now authoritatively report that the loss of American silent-era feature films constitutes an alarming and irretrievable loss to our nation’s cultural record,” Librarian of Congress James Billington said in a statement. “We have lost most of the creative record from the era that brought American movies to the pinnacle of world cinematic achievement in the 20th century.'”

Some of the classics starring silent film era stars Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Mary Pickford (Wings) have been saved and, in many cases, restored to near-pristine condition.

Sadly, other classics like The Great Gatsby from 1926, Cleopatra (1917), The Patriot (1928) and Lon Chaney's London After Midnight (1927) are presumably lost forever.

Silents, it appears, are no longer golden.

Parody, the new way to disrespect

Who says I'm not on the cutting edge of everything cinematic and trendy?

Well, plenty of people, but that's not the point.

Stewart325
George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) once caught a fish this big! Not really, but as long as we're spoofing. (RKO Radio Pictures)

Parodies are all the rage this year.

From music videos like the Bound 3 spoof of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian's Bound 2 by Seth Rogen and James Franco to feature films, videos are hotter than this year's "must-have" toy on Black Friday.

Frank Capra's 1946 Christmas classic It's a Wonderful Life appears to be the holiday target of choice this year when it comes to movies.

According to an article posted on the Hollywood Reporter website, "One is by comedian Owen Weber and the other is from Jean-Marc Vallee, director of the Oscar contender Dallas Buyers Club.

Wolf300r
Leonardo DiCaprio as the title character in "The Wolf of Wall Street." (thewrap.com)

"Weber recut a Wonderful Life trailer to the tune of Kanye West's  Black Skinhead, which is also heard in the first trailer for Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street (opening Dec. 25).

"Weber's parody The Wolf of Bedford Falls ... depicts Jimmy Stewart's hero as a corrupt sellout to evil banker Mr. Potter," the article states.

Sacrilege or homage?

I'll say a little (actually, a lot) of both.

I know this, though.  The version of "It's a Wonderful Life" you'll see in the video below is not your mama's version of George Bailey.

30 October 2013

If you can't wait until dark

Wait463

It was my pleasure to bring my Movie Memories presentation "Boo!  Hollywood's Great Thrillers" to the Intermezzos seniors group at St. Rita's Catholic Church on Inwood Rd. in Dallas Tuesday night.

It was all part of a festive Halloween-themed gathering that included catered food, costumes, prizes and my presentation of classic movie thrillers ranging from the original Alien (1979), ranked as my personal scariest movie ever, to John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) and beyond.

So thanks to Carol and all the fine, fun Intermezzos over at St. Rita's.  It was a great night of frivolity, food and scary movies, like Wait Until Dark, the creepy 1967 thriller starring Audrey Hepburn in an Academy Award-nominated performance as a sightless women going up against some very bad guys who invade her apartment in search of drugs she has no idea have been placed in her home.

Looking for something really scary to see on Halloween night?  You could do a lot worse than that one, and you don't even have to wait until dark to get creeped out.

 

 Outsidebox463
Buying a movie ticket used to be as simple as strolling up to the box-office window, stating the name of the film you've chosen and saying something like, "Two for 'The Sound of Music,' please."

These days, gaining admission to a movie may not be as difficult as signing up for affordable health care on-line, but it's close.  There's regular (no frills), 3-D (special glasses), XD (super digital), IMAX (super-sized screen), IMAX 3-D (super-sized screen and special glasses) and even Sony 4K Digital (twice the usual digital resolution).

It's no surprise that I recently got a near-frantic post movie theater visit call from my brother:  "What is XD and why did it cost me $11.50 per ticket to see 'Captain Phillips?'"

Easy, big bro.  This is all you need to know:

Glasses280lIf you really want to get launched into the experience of what I like to call a big movie like the outer-space odyssey "Gravity" starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, I say opt for the biggest screen and even those awkward 3-D glasses.  You'll pay premium prices at IMAX theaters and even other chains boasting IMAX screens, but, occasionally, spending the extra bucks pays off in added thrills and sound.

Otherwise, I suggest just going for what we used to call the movie.  Let's put it this way, if you were at a gas pump, you'd opt for regular unleaded.  Not plus.  Not premium.  For many of us, we're just looking for "regular gas" entertainment without the frills and sell-you-up gimmicks.

That would be my chosen path for intense dramas like "Captain Phillips," comic-dramas such as "The Family" and the like.

It can be tricky, though.  My brother ended up paying a premium price because he just looked at the movie ad in the newspaper and picked out the best time.  Unfortunately, movie planning is not that simple anymore.  Make sure there is no XD, 3-D, IMAX or IMAX 3-D in that little square of the movie ad (with tiny type) that contains your chosen time.  You'll still enjoy the movie and even have a little money left over for popcorn and Milk Duds.

But don't get me started about the price of Milk Duds at movie houses these days.

This should come as no surprise

Aging movie-goers, especially baby boomers, will still line up for aging, but not necessarily baby boomer, movie stars they admire.

A recent article in The Hollywood Reporter pointed this encouraging fact out in an article and online post titled "Box Office Lesson:  Older Crowd Prefers Seasoned Stars, Shuns Youngsters."

Cited in the article as examples are the aforementioned "Gravity" and "Captain Phillips."

Phillips300r"Older audiences require a more substantive reason to see a movie than just a 'wow' factor or an effective trailer. Star power, while seemingly unimportant to younger moviegoers who appear to only care about concept, acts as sort of a movie insurance policy," says Rentrak box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

"A Hanks, Clooney or Bullock in a movie takes some of the risk out of the equation when older audiences make the decision to invest their time and money in a particular film," The Hollywood Reporter article added.

Click here to read the entire article.

The movie I can't wait to see

I know, I know.  "Last Vegas," starring Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline as "mature" guys heading to Vegas to celebrate the upcoming wedded bliss of the last single member of the foursome, looks like "The Hangover" for geezers.

OK, then.  I'm in.  Call it a guilty pleasure.

"Last Vegas" opens Nov.1 at a theater near you.  No 3-D, IMAX or super-digital sound required.

(Audrey Hepburn photo from "Wait Until Dark" courtesy:  Warner Bros./"Captain Phillips" photo courtesy:  Sony Pictures)

24 October 2013

Tickets, please ... but which one?

Outsidebox463
Buying a movie ticket used to be as simple as strolling up to the box-office window, stating the name of the film you've chosen and saying something like, "Two for 'The Sound of Music,' please."

These days, gaining admission to a movie may not be as difficult as signing up for affordable health care on-line, but it's close.  There's regular (no frills), 3-D (special glasses), XD (super digital), IMAX (super-sized screen), IMAX 3-D (super-sized screen and special glasses) and even Sony 4K Digital (twice the usual digital resolution).

It's no surprise that I recently got a near-frantic post movie theater visit call from my brother:  "What is XD and why did it cost me $11.50 per ticket to see 'Captain Phillips?'"

Easy, big bro.  This is all you need to know:

Glasses280lIf you really want to get launched into the experience of what I like to call a big movie like the outer-space odyssey "Gravity" starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, I say opt for the biggest screen and even those awkward 3-D glasses.  You'll pay premium prices at IMAX theaters and even other chains boasting IMAX screens, but, occasionally, spending the extra bucks pays off in added thrills and sound.

Otherwise, I suggest just going for what we used to call the movie.  Let's put it this way, if you were at a gas pump, you'd opt for regular unleaded.  Not plus.  Not premium.  For many of us, we're just looking for "regular gas" entertainment without the frills and sell-you-up gimmicks.

That would be my chosen path for intense dramas like "Captain Phillips," comic-dramas such as "The Family" and the like.

It can be tricky, though.  My brother ended up paying a premium price because he just looked at the movie ad in the newspaper and picked out the best time.  Unfortunately, movie planning is not that simple anymore.  Make sure there is no XD, 3-D, IMAX or IMAX 3-D in that little square of the movie ad (with tiny type) that contains your chosen time.  You'll still enjoy the movie and even have a little money left over for popcorn and Milk Duds.

But don't get me started about the price of Milk Duds at movie houses these days.

This should come as no surprise

Aging movie-goers, especially baby boomers, will still line up for aging, but not necessarily baby boomer, movie stars they admire.

A recent article in The Hollywood Reporter pointed this encouraging fact out in an article and online post titled "Box Office Lesson:  Older Crowd Prefers Seasoned Stars, Shuns Youngsters."

Cited in the article as examples are the aforementioned "Gravity" and "Captain Phillips."

Phillips300r"Older audiences require a more substantive reason to see a movie than just a 'wow' factor or an effective trailer. Star power, while seemingly unimportant to younger moviegoers who appear to only care about concept, acts as sort of a movie insurance policy," says Rentrak box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

"A Hanks, Clooney or Bullock in a movie takes some of the risk out of the equation when older audiences make the decision to invest their time and money in a particular film," The Hollywood Reporter article added.

Click here to read the entire article.

The movie I'm looking forward to

I know, I know.  "Last Vegas," starring Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline as "mature" guys heading to Vegas to celebrate the upcoming wedded bliss of the last single member of the foursome, looks like "The Hangover" for geezers.

OK, then.  I'm in.  Call it a guilty pleasure.

"Last Vegas" opens Nov.1 at a theater near you.  No 3-D, IMAX or super-digital sound required.

 

("Captain Phillips" photo courtesy:  Sony Pictures)

03 October 2013

Who let 'The Killer Shrews' out?

Guild brochure280The red carpet was rolled out, a golden Oscar standee was in place and around 135 members and guests of The Guild of Dallas Heritage Village filled the Lakewood Country Club ballroom Wednesday for the Guild's Annual Fundraiser Luncheon.

I was honored to be the guest speaker, performing my "Lights, Camera, DALLAS!" presentation celebrating movies made in and around Dallas over the years.  So a big thanks to Guild members Carol Campbell, Lucy Blachly, Rae Marquis and Gary Smith and Scott, the Lakewood Country Club audio-visual guru, who made my part of the event a joyous experience.

Some of the Dallas movie titles might surprise you, like the football comedy "Semi-Tough" of 1977 or even the violence-laced "Bonnie and Clyde" of 1967, which comes complete with a banjo-picking movie score featuring bluegrass maestros Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.

No Dallas-made flick got a more vocal reaction than the one featured just below, though.  Click the button to revisit Dallas film-making circa 1959.

 

You are for whom the school bell tolls

The Brookhaven College school bell is ringing for my "Movies Set in the Lone Star State" series of classes that begin Oct. 15. 

Don't miss your chance to see some terrific films set in Texas.  Call and register today!

Here's the official class listing:

ENTERTAINMENT

Movies Set in the Lone Star State

SRCZ 1000-21103                                                      Cost:  $25                                                           Ratliff

Tuesday           12-3 p.m.                     10/15-11/12                             M116

Book cased by two big-screen treatments about the fall of the Alamo, this Texas-based series includes "Tender Mercies," "Hud" and "Places in the Heart."  Learn the vast differences between John Wayne's Davy Crockett in the 1960 "Alamo" and Billy Bob Thornton's in 2004.  See Robert Duvall at his finest in "Tender Mercies" and Paul Newman as the worthless son you'll love to hate as "Hud."  Also, find out what prompted Sally Field's "You like me" outburst at the Academy Awards in 1985.

To register and find out more contact:

DeBorah Whaley-Stephenson, M203

Brookhaven College Students 50plus

972-860-4807

www.50plusclasses.com

21 June 2013

Oh boy, what movie should I rent?

Young301I've often thought I missed my real chance to get wealthy as a film critic.

If I were in it for the money alone, I wouldn't have wasted my time writing about which movies to go see or rent, I'd just hang out in front of a popular video store and offer my expertise for cash on the spot.

A film critic as street performer, if you will.  Crowdfunding, I believe, is the term being texted around these days.

The process would go something like this:  You, confused by what movie to rent, would get out of your car in the parking lot of Blockbuster or other video store (when those were still around) and slouch toward the door.

Nine times out of 10 you knew you'd be overwhelmed by hundreds, perhaps thousands of choices inside.  And, most of the time, you had already forgotten what title your spouse, significant other or child told you to get.

And then, there I'd be, right by the door with suggestions for latest arrivals, a really good foreign film, a classic or even, dare I mention it, a documentary.  You would give me a dollar and move inside to rent your movie with confidence.

Oh, and I would get rich (counting on hordes of happy return customers, of course).

I said all that to say this.  If I were standing in front of your favorite video store today, I would urge you to rent the superb documentary titled "Young @ Heart" that graced movie screens in 2007.

"Young @ Heart" chronicles the final weeks of rehearsal as the Young at Heart Chorus of Northampton, Mass. prepares for its annual concert series.  This is not your usual chorus.  For one thing, the average age is 81, and many of the chorus members have major health problems to overcome.  Oh, and did I mention these vibrant seniors sing everything from James Brown to Sonic Youth.

The scene where they melt the hearts of young prisoners with their version of "Forever Young" will fill your heart with joy.  "Young @ Heart" never gets better, though, than when the late Fred Knittle, a former World War II machine-gunner, sings a haunting version of Coldplay's "Fix You."

Knittle died at the age of 83 in 2009.  He is survived by his wife, four children, 12 grandchildren, thousands of movie fans and one film critic you may know who desperately wanted to attend his funeral, but couldn't due to circumstances beyond his control.

 

Vacation Movie School

Remember Vacation Bible School when you were a kid?

Boy, I do.  Mom would drop my brother and I off at the First Baptist Church in Grand Prairie on a weekday -- and a morning at that -- for Bible study shortly after regular school broke for the summer.

And, if we could recite all the Books of the New Testament, we'd get a snow cone.

That's sort of what's going on with what I'm calling Vacation Movie School, except for the mandatory memorization and, sadly, the sugary blast of a dripping grape or red snow cone as a reward.

You need to sign up in the next week or so, but some seats are available for my "Hollywood's Hot Movie Scandals" non-credit Emeritus plus 50 class at Richland College next month.

The admission fee is a mere $22.  Over the course of four Tuesdays in July (the 9th through July 30 from 10:30 a.m. to noon) we'll dig into some of the biggest scandals that rocked Hollywood over the years.

MM352On July 23, for instance, we'll take an in-depth look at the meteoric rise to stardom and the sad end to actress, sex symbol Marilyn Monroe.  The death of the "special friend" of a couple of famous Kennedys and Frank Sinatra was ruled a "probable suicide."  But was it?  Hmmm.

The four-week series, which will also put scandals involving Lana Turner (July 16) and Ingrid Bergman (July 30) under the microscope, kicks off July 9 with the sordid tale of the crash to blacklisting and ruin of silent film star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle in the early 1920s.  But what's the real story?

The Richland Emeritus plus 50 classroom only holds 20, so if you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area ensure yourself a seat by signing up today.  Click here for registration info for "Hollywood's Hot Movie Scandals" (Course No. SRCZ 1000 84915), or call 972-238-6146 or 972-238-6147.

I can't promise snow cones, but there will be snacks!

14 June 2013

Vacation Movie School

MM352
Marilyn Monroe (Courtesy: photobucket.com)
Remember Vacation Bible School when you were a kid?

Boy, I do.  Mom would drop my brother and I off at the First Baptist Church in Grand Prairie on a weekday -- and a morning at that -- for Bible study shortly after regular school broke for the summer.

And, if we could recite all the Books of the New Testament, we'd get a snow cone.

That's sort of what's going on with what I'm calling Vacation Movie School, except for the mandatory memorization and, sadly, the sugary blast of a dripping grape or red snow cone as a reward.

Arbuckle300
Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle (Courtesy: sfweekly.com)
You need to sign up in the next week or so, but some seats are available for my "Hollywood's Hot Movie Scandals" non-credit Emeritus plus 50 class at Richland College next month.

The admission fee is a mere $22.  Over the course of four Tuesdays in July (the 9th through July 30 from 10:30 a.m. to noon) we'll dig into some of the biggest scandals that rocked Hollywood over the years.

On July 23, for instance, we'll take an in-depth look at the meteoric rise to stardom and the sad end to actress, sex symbol Marilyn Monroe.  The death of the "special friend" of a couple of famous Kennedys and Frank Sinatra was ruled a "probable suicide."  But was it?  Hmmm.

The four-week series, which will also put scandals involving Lana Turner (July 16) and Ingrid Bergman (July 30) under the microscope, kicks off July 9 with the sordid tale of the crash to blacklisting and ruin of silent film star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle in the early 1920s.  But what's the real story?

The Richland Emeritus plus 50 classroom only holds 20, so if you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area ensure yourself a seat by signing up today.  Click here for registration info for "Hollywood's Hot Movie Scandals" (Course No. SRCZ 1000 84915), or call 972-238-6146 or 972-238-6147.

I can't promise snow cones, but there will be snacks!

A Friday funny

Want to end the work week and kick off the weekend right?  Start with a laugh.  Nobody made me laugh more than the late, great Rodney Dangerfield.  Enjoy!

 

 

11 June 2013

Strange bedfellows

Pillowtalk462
Doris Day and Rock Hudson in "Pillow Talk" in 1959. (Courtesy: amazonaws.com)

Film critics don't get many death threats.  On major daily newspapers (Remember those?), anger-driven threats are usually blurted out to political columnists or someone dumb enough to mess with the layout of the crossword puzzle or TV schedule.

I got an impassioned death threat in the wee hours of the morning of Oct. 4, 1985, though.  It all began shortly after severely withered movie idol Rock Hudson, who had kept his homosexuality secret from his fans for decades, succumbed in Beverly Hills weighing a mere 140 pounds.

Rock322
(Courtesy: findadeath.com)
The next day, I was charged with writing the obituary for the Oscar-nominated star of "Giant," "Pillow Talk" and "The Undefeated" for the San Antonio Light newspaper.

"And don't forget to mention that he died of AIDS," my editor mentioned casually over his shoulder as he walked away.

That sounded a lot like a straight news story to me.  Why me?  Film critics prefer something other than the grit and grime of real life.  That's why many of us became film critics in the first place.  We like to sit in a dark room and be transported off to somewhere wonderful like Oz or Willy Wonka's chocolate factory or -- if that's not possible -- to the concession stand where Milk Duds await.

It only took me a few seconds to realize that the San Antonio Light was not my rodeo to run.  So I wrote what seemed to me at the time to be a glorious bit of prose about Hudson's long career that began as a truck driver and hanging around outside the movie studio gates in Hollywood passing out glamor stills of himself.  If we can believe Hollywood legend, and why the heck can't we?, a movie publicist coined the phrase "beefcake" with the square-jawed Rock Hudson (real name Roy Harold Scherer Jr.) in mind.

And, since the Associated Press had already spilled the beans, I included the fact that Rock Hudson, widely beloved for his squeaky clean romps in the cinematic sack with Doris Day and other starlets, had succumbed to AIDS.

You must know this.  AIDS is a horrible disease these days.  In the early and mid-'80s, it was a mystery disease that killed people -- primarily gay men -- in a raging storm of controversy.

So the next day my Rock Hudson obit hit the streets.  That night, or I should say about 3 the next morning, a telephone ring (probably about the 20th ring) rattled me out of my slumber. 

"If you write that Rock Hudson died of AIDS again, I'm going to kill you," an almost shrieking person shouted into my ear.

This is the point in our little one-sided conversation here that I'd like to report that without missing a beat I quipped back, "I don't think Rock Hudson is going to die of anything again.  Once pretty much does it, as far as we know."

I didn't, though.  I froze, then checked to make sure the doors were all locked and went back to bed thinking, "Hey, somebody is actually reading this stuff."

The next day I casually mentioned to my colleagues at the paper that I -- a film critic, no less -- had gotten a death threat during the night.  Let's just say the editors sprang into immediate action; insisting that I report the incident to the police right away.  Their prompt concern impressed me until I finally realized that they were just protecting themselves in the event of my untimely demise and a possible lawsuit by my heirs.

The two police officers who showed up at my house -- you know, the scene of the crime -- appeared to be right out of Central Casting.  We've all seen this scenario at the movies on a regular basis.  There was literally one grizzled vet two weeks away from retirement and a rookie still getting used to all the free doughnuts.

"The caller said what, that he would kill you?" the rookie asked excitedly, jotting everything down furiously in his notepad.  "Yes he did," I replied, catching a discreet glimpse of the beat-weary cop staring idly out the window into my backyard.

The last time I saw a grin that big on a policeman was years later when I was pulled over for doing 80 in a 55 trying to get down to the Blue Bell Ice Cream factory in Brenham for a Fourth of July celebration.

Hudson's death has been on my mind lately because The Hollywood Reporter posted a story recently about how Hudson's wife confronted her husband in 1958 and recorded a still-startling confession.  Click here to read the Hollywood Reporter story.

Don't miss out

If you enjoy these Movie Memories updates, here's your chance to get some bonus issues every month.  Almost daily, there's something going on in the movie industry that catches my eye and inspires a comment or two.

Or sometimes, it's just a notable event that you might not want to miss, like today's item about Gene Wilder's 80th birthday (See below).

There are two easy ways not to miss out.  Look up to the right on this Movie Memories Update page and you'll see "Join our email list" just under the Movie Memories logo.  Enter your email address and click the "Go" button and you won't miss a thing.  And we promise not to sell your email address to the Chinese government.

And/or, if you have a Facebook account, please click on the "Like" button in the white square just under the "Find us on Facebook" title.  It's not that we need the praise, but we live in a society where it's important to be "Liked" on Facebook.

Now, sit back and enjoy some dynamite outtakes from the Mel Brooks classic comedy "Young Frankenstein."  It's the least we call all do to celebrate Gene Wilder's birthday.

If you bump into Jerome Silberman today (June 11), wish him a happy birthday for me and comedy lovers around the world.  We know Jerome a little better as Gene Wilder.
Hold onto something, Mel Brooks' go-to funny guy in "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein" ("That's Frank-en-steen!") turns the big 8-0 today.  Check out this tremendous reel of bloopers from "Young Frankenstein" that's posted on You Tube.  As an added treat, listen to the genius man himself, Mel Brooks, say "Action" and "Cut."  
 

04 June 2013

I wonder who's Kissinger now?

Seagal465
"Above the Law"? It looks like former action star Steven Seagal might be promoting the Russian arms race. (Courtesy: sky.com)

Henry Kissinger, where art thou?

I suppose at the age of 90, Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State for both Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and the Nobel Peace Prize winner who negotiated a settlement of the Vietnam War, is probably not available to whip this country's international affairs in shape.

That's a shame because you'll never guess who it's come down to:  An aging actor (of sorts) and a pierced, tattooed. over-the-hill athlete.

NKorea299r
Dennis Rodman in North Korea in February, where he's apparently applauding the fact that Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un "once caught a fish this big." (Courtesy: cnn.com)
You've probably heard about Dennis Rodman's trip to North Korea in February.  He posed with Kim Jong Un, North Korea's Supreme Leader and Chief Rocket Launcher.  They took in a basketball game or two, posed with the masses and sipped bubbly at dinnertime.

Rodman returned to the U.S., saying something like he'd worked out all the tension between this country and North Korea.  The words had barely passed Rodman's pierced lips when North Korea's youngun -- sorry, Jong Un -- aimed his rockets at the U.S. and Austin specifically.  I'm thinking the new supreme leader failed to get an invitation to Austin's South By Southwest Film Festival, which can be a tough ticket to snag.  (This has yet to be confirmed, but I'm pretty darn sure that's what happened.)

Now, there's even bigger trouble looming on the volatile international scene.

Russia, it seems, has decided that fading Hollywood action star Stevan Seagal, who once hinted to me that he was, or had, worked in U.S. intelligence  ("I can't talk about it.  It's that secret," he said over lunch at the time.), is the perfect guy to be the -- And I am not making this up -- "face of a new campaign to promote Russian weapons."

That's right.  According to published reports, like this one posted on sky.com, "the 61-year-old American appears to be the unlikely choice to boost the
country's arms sales as it makes a push to be the world's number one
exporter.

"Seagal accompanied Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin to the Degtyarev gun manufacturing plant in Kovrov earlier.

"According to Russian news agencies, Mr. Rogozin said the actor may head up an international marketing campaign for the factory.

"He said: 'You're ready to fight American (manufacturers) with your teeth and
your intellect, and if Americans are prepared to promote and support you, that says we're learning new ways to work on corporate warfare markets,'" the Sky.com article states.

One of my favorite phrases is, "Well, the world has still not gotten crazy enough for me."

I admit, though, with this news it's edging plenty close.

Oh brother, Henry Kissinger, where art thou?

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