20 posts categorized "Books"

16 November 2020

Jim, beam me up

Big news! Virtually-Open300

Movie Memories with Larry Ratliff has gone VIRTUAL!

If your group, corporate gathering, 50-plus community, retirement facility or club is looking for a virtual presentation that's informative and fun, virtual Movie Memories presentations "Life Lessons I've Learned at the Movies" and "Romantic Comedies of the 1990s and 2000s" are just the thing to take our minds off the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Continue reading "Jim, beam me up" »

24 September 2019

Fall guys

Courtesy: IMDb.com

Don't let Gary Kent's personal kindness and gentle demeanor fool you.

Inside Kent, the subject of Joe O'Connell's fascinating documentary Danger God, rages a cunning creative lion of a stuntman, writer, filmmaker, author and actor who fell off a horse for a young Jack Nicholson in some Monte Hellman Westerns in the 1960s, got in a knife fight with The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant in the '70s, flipped cars, orchestrated and participated in scores of cinematic fist fights and had a run-in with Charles Manson (Yes, that Charles Manson) along the way.

Continue reading "Fall guys" »

16 September 2019

Rush, rush, busy, busy: Great week

Fattycrop293What a busy, crazy-good week at Camp Movie Memories last week.

Tuesday: "A Salute to the Great War Movies" at The Preston of the Park Cities.

Thursday: "'Casablanca' -- Hollywood's Classic Happy Accident" at the Southwest Women's Club meeting in Duncanville with Suellen offering a great assist (resulting in a 5-star review on Thumbtack.com).

Friday: "Hollywood's Hot Movie Scandals" before a large, enthusiastic crowd at the Canyon Creek North Garden Club in Plano.

Continue reading "Rush, rush, busy, busy: Great week" »

17 July 2019

Secrets & Lies

(Courtesy: google.com)

Let's face it, thanks to the Age of Social Media everyone is free to spew their political stance, opinion, jokes, opinion disguised in jokes, photos of cute kitties romping with lions (and/or mice, doggies, etc.), what we're having for breakfast, lunch, brunch and munch and things really much too personal for universe-wide distribution ("Does this look infected to you?")

The line between truth and fiction has become severely Mr. Magooed.  For those of you who don't know and are probably under the age of 100, that means blurred.  (Mr. Magoo, you see, was ... Oh never mind!)

So, how about some unabridged truth?

Continue reading "Secrets & Lies " »

12 June 2019

Daddy Dearest

Father's Day was June 16.  So here's a question:  Who is the best movie father in cinematic history?

(Courtesy: Walt Disney)

We could certainly make a case for Geppetto, the elderly woodcarver of Pinocchio, Walt Disney Productions second full-length animated feature of 1940.

Geppetto wanted a son so badly that he carved one out of wood.  A Blue Fairy gave the puppet life and freed the lovable-but-gullible "boy" from his strings.  My nose would grow and grow if  I denied that Pinocchio made an indelible impression on me as a boy.

Continue reading "Daddy Dearest" »

18 March 2019

Can you hear me now? Yes, indeedy

(Courtesy: sonnymelendrez.com)

My heartfelt thanks go out to legendary San Antonio-based radio personality and good friend Sonny Melendrez, the nicest guy I know and one of the finest keynote speakers in the U.S., for having me on his radio show Sunday morning.

I had the honor of serving as sidekick and movie guy on Sonny's top-rated San Antonio radio show a few years back. Now Sonny is back on the air with the all new "Sonny Melendrez Show" Sundays at 11 a.m. on San Antonio's 930 AM The Answer.  You can listen live by going to the station's website.

Sonny and I had a great time on his new show Sunday morning.  It was like old times, but fresh and new.

What, you missed it?  What if I said you didn't, not really?

Sonny, always on the cutting edge of radio and technology, archives his weekly shows as podcasts.  If you're in the mood to have some fun and find out how yours truly slowly morphed from a shy guy afraid to even raise his hand in class in high school to a nationally known film critic, public speaker and comedian, click on this link to hear the podcast.

Continue reading "Can you hear me now? Yes, indeedy" »

07 March 2019

The mother of reinvention

(Courtesy: VoyageDallas.com)

Have you ever pondered how you got to the place you're at in your life right now?  This minute?

I have more times than I care to share.  Usually it's in the wee hours of the night or early morning, when I'm tossing and turning in bed. I toss and turn sometime when I'm not in bed, which is not pleasant to witness and may be what "threw my back out" as they used to say.

My innermost self evaluations most often come down to "Why me?" or "Why now?" or the dreaded "Oh [EXPLETIVE DELETED], not now!"

Occasionally, though, there's a "Well, how about that. What a pleasant surprise." That's what today's contribution to literary history is all about.

Continue reading "The mother of reinvention" »

27 August 2018

Savoring Covenant Retirement Community memories

John and Ellie Milton with You Know Who

Be grumpy and/or glum about politics, the tragedies on the local newscasts almost every night and things going wrong at work or around the house if you want.

 I, on the other hand, am in the mood to celebrate.

Recently back from my Movie Memories with Larry Ratliff swing through the Chicago area, I'm savoring the fact that I was lucky enough to meet scores of very nice people, make some new friends and enjoy the best chicken salad sandwich of my life.

Continue reading "Savoring Covenant Retirement Community memories" »

12 October 2017

The thrill of the (Harbor) Chase

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" »

21 August 2017

R.I.P. -- Bob Polunsky

Bob Polunsky (Courtesy: www.pinterest.com)

As far as I know, longtime San Antonio film critic Bob Polunsky was never a "Robert."

Bob, who died at 85 this week in San Antonio, Texas, was just Bob, a kindred spirit in the love and appreciation of any film really worth watching.  He was also never shy about condemning a flawed movie for its shortcomings in a Bob Polunsky style dubbed "Flicker Footnotes."  Bob's reviews were direct and sometimes ruthless but always honest.

Bob was well established as The Guy when it came to film criticism in San Antonio when I arrived in 1983.  Bob wrote for the Express-News daily newspaper.  After a year of general entertainment reporting at the other daily newspaper in town, the now-dark San Antonio Light, I became "that other film critic in town."

Continue reading "R.I.P. -- Bob Polunsky" »

01 December 2016

That's all write, Mama

(Courtesy: www.etsy.com)

Bonnie Ratliff, my mother, was quiet and reserved unless wronged or riled.  She was also an excellent, creative cook who could sling a mean hash and make a plain cake so special I can still taste it quite a few  years after we lost her.

We never called her Mom, and I'm not sure why.  That being said, Mother made too many sacrifices for me to count as my older brother and I spent our formative years in the noisy, engine-revving, windows rattling shadows of an aircraft plant in Grand Prairie, Texas.

Three major things Mother did for me, though, changed my life and greatly influenced who I am, what I am today.  No, make that four.  There's the whole birth thing, you know.

Continue reading "That's all write, Mama" »

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.

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?

(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?"

02 March 2015

It's civic duty time

(Image courtesy: stuffwriterslike.com)

Things we forget.  Things we remember.

It's too bad we don't get to choose.

I still remember vividly, for instance, the only real fight I had as a kid.  The elementary school bully pushed me too far one day, and I snapped.  With a fury I had never experienced before, I got the best of him.  And when I let him go, got up and dusted myself off, I said, "If you want some more of me, I'll be around."

I haven't seen anyone spring to life as fast before or since.  Without going into gory details, let's just say the bully -- Mr. Bully, now -- found his second wind and knocked what little I had left out of me.

That said, I have a gut feeling we, as a society, may be sitting idly by and letting a potential injustice we can do something about snowball out of control.

You probably recall the startling news of about a month ago that Harper Lee, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, had another "novel" stashed away in a bank safety deposit box for six decades.

Now Ms. Lee, who reportedly resides in an assisted living facility, has suddenly altered her 60-year stance that Mockingbird was her one and only novel and is delighted that the new book will be published in July, if we can believe what others, but never the lady herself, have said.

This news still gnaws at me and refuses to move farther back in my memory bank.  That's why I used my Getting Reel column space in the March-April issue of The Senior Voice newspaper to voice my concern.

Please click here to read my column titled To Revive a Mockingbird? 

Things we forget.  Things we remember.

It's too bad we don't get to choose.

23 February 2015

The Academy of Yawns & Staleness

Mama Ratliff told me two things while I was growing up that have always stuck with me:

  • Always keep a $20 bill in your wallet in case of emergencies, and
  • If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

I've never had much luck with that first one.  Every time I have folding money at the ready, there's always an irresistible temptation lurking within arm's reach.  Like a half gallon of Blue Bell for $4.99 or Girl Scouts armed with cookies setting up tables at the entrance of grocery stores.  Luckily, the Girl Scout thing is only seasonal.

Neil Patrick Harris, working the Oscar crowd.

Saying something nice or keeping my big trap shut has been problematic as well.  I'm going to try really hard to find something nice to say about last night's sluggish, basically non-eventful, overlong, boring telecast of "The 87th Academy Awards" on ABC.  (In case you missed it, here's a link to CNN's list of Oscar winners.)

I'm not even going to mention that first-time Oscar host Neil Patrick Harris, a veteran of working tough pat-each-other-on-the-back-rooms  hosting the Tony Awards and television's Emmys, appeared overwhelmed either by an audience of about a billion worldwide or the sea of bright lights and serious Academy voting members (or both) he faced -- at least once dressed only in his tidy whities -- for what seemed like about half my life.  (And not the good half, either.)

See, I told you I have trouble saying nice things.  So this Academy Awards wrap-up is for you, Mama Ratliff:

I really enjoyed the musical numbers, with one exception:  Lady Gaga.

Lady Gaga gets classy, sort of.

Before you look for the comment button to rave on about how wonderful the often-outlandish Gaga was singing a tribute to Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music in honor of the Best Picture Oscar-winning musical's 50th anniversary, let me state my case.  

And Mama Ratliff, forgive me for whipping this out:

Lady Gaga's tats (Read carefully; that's tats) took me completely out of what could have been a lovely, moving tribute both to the movie that took five Oscar wins in 1965 and to Andrews.

I have no problem with the gifted singer who until fairly recently liked to sing while a performance artist threw up all over her doing a 180-degree turn going semi-legit.

Gaga can really warble.  But when she rolled into the finale of Climb Every Mountain and thrust out her sleeveless arms to reveal an inked rendering of a trumpet on her right arm and inspirational script in German on the left, let's just say those were not two of my favorite things.

I'm no prude and I have nothing against tattoos on sailors, especially Popeye the Sailor Man, but Ms. Lady should have worn some elegant sleeves to kept her tats under wrap last night.

Now, for the untarnished good stuff:

Tim McGraw's rendition of Glen Campbell's I'm Not Gonna Miss You from Campbell's autobiographical documentary Glen Campbell:  I'll Be Me froze me to my recliner.  So much so, in fact, that I had a little trouble catching my breath when McGraw calmly, beautifully sang the lyrics inspired by Campbell's ongoing losing battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Anyone who has a history of Alzheimer's disease in their family, as we do, can appreciate the power of words that cut right to the frightening graphic honesty of the brutal disease so much that it rips one's heart in two.


 The other powerful musical moment came from gifted singers and performers John Legend and Common.

Common, left, and John Legend bring down the house.

Glory, the emotional anthem from Selma, the best picture nominee about the civil rights struggles to secure equal voting rights in 1965, brought the Oscar crowd to its feet.

In a perplexing Academy Awards year when no non-white men or women were nominated, it was a befitting tribute that brought tears to the eyes of some, including British actor David Oyelowo, who portrayed Martin Luther King Jr., but who was not nominated.

The heart-melting title tune ends with the word "glory" repeated several times.

Glory hallelujah.


10 June 2014

Oliver Stone takes on Edward Snowden

(Courtesy: indiewire.com)

I wasn't surprised to hear about a week ago that Oliver Stone, the gifted, but just a little goofy filmmaker who spun his version of the Vietnam War with Platoon, his slant on assassination politics with JFK, his version of a dethroned president with Nixon and then focused on President George W. Bush in W would shoot for the cinematic brass ring to bring his spin on the Edward Snowden whistle-blower story to the big screen.

What does blindside me a little, however, is the fact that Stone, whom I've interviewed several times since the Platoon days, has bought the rights to a novel penned by Snowden's Russian attorney to be used as part of Stone's upcoming movie.

"The announcement of the deal with attorney Anatoly Kucherena came a week after Stoneand long-time producing partner Moritz Borman acquired rights to The Snowden Files, The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man, written by journalist Luke Harding," according to Dave McNary's story posted on the Variety website.

Time of the Octopus, to be published later this year, tells the fictional story of an American whistle-blower who spends three weeks in limbo in the transit area of the Moscow airport and occupies his time there talking to a Russian lawyer about his life and what motivated him to expose a massive American surveillance program," the Variety article states.

Say what you will about Mr. Stone, a double directing Academy Award winner (Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July), but the guy isn't shy about stirring the controversy pot.

Make movie night a Movie Memorable evening

Here's some Movie Memories news:  Announcing a new service -- and it's on sale!

Liza Minnelli belts out a tune in "Cabaret." (Warner Home Video)

Many clubs, groups and facilities have movie nights.  Now I'll host your event to make the movie evening special and, dare I say, memorable for your group.  And you and your group members still get to pick the movie.

Let's say you plan to screen Cabaret, the edgy 1972 musical that produced a Best Actress Academy Award for Liza Minnelli.  Instead of just saying something like, "Well, here's Cabaret," I will introduce the movie with background and behind-the-scene facts, including personal stories related to the film, to set the mood.  After the movie's over, I'll lead a short discussion of the film and stir some personal memories about the film from attendees in the audience.  And I'll give away prizes and make it a real movie night event.

And there's even a special introductory offer.

The first 10 groups that book a Movie Memories Movie Night between now and June 20 will get a $25 discount.  Please don't delay.  This offer is limited.  We've only blocked out 10 of these discounted Movie Memories Movie Nights on our calendar.

Call 214-364-7364 to book and, once again, I'll see you at the movies.

20 August 2013

The jalapeño jar is ajar once again

Jals275rIt was about this time two years ago that I put a lid on my jalapeño jar, meaning I took a break from reviewing current movies in favor of concentrating on the classics.

I found out, though, that Movie Memories, my presentation series that celebrates magic at the movies, need not be limited to just movies from the past.

That's a huge part of it, of course.  But members of audiences kind enough to listen to my celebration of the classics embellished with my war stories of spending over 30 years reviewing movies, going behind the scenes and interviewing every A-list movie star you can think of from Jack Lemmon to Lindsay Lohan (OK, not exactly A-list in some cases) often want to know what new films to go see.

And, there's another reason.  Hollywood filmmakers have finally taken notice of movie fans who skew a little older than teens desperately seeking only the latest comic book-inspired action flick or zombie rumble.  Filmmakers are actually lighting up screens with a scattering of movies that don't insult the intelligence of adults; films like Bernie and Quartet and Young at Heart

So that's why I'm dusting off the jalapeño rating system and settling back into cinematic aisle seats on a fairly regular basis.  I'll be primarily concentrating on movies that appeal to those of us 50 and over.  But don't be surprised to find a nod to some interesting films aimed at those a little younger that have crossover appeal.

It all begins today with my review of Lee Daniels' The Butler, the historical drama starring Forest Whitaker.  Click here to read the review.  I'd like to also urge you to once again visit my website's Movie Review page.  That's where you'll find my full-length movie reviews.  

And, if you sniff really deeply, you might just get a whiff of jalapeño juice.

September:  A month with class

Woody300If you enjoy movies and can spare an hour and a-half on Monday mornings (10-11:30 a.m.) from Sept. 9 through Sept. 30, join us for my "Big Screen Dysfunctional Families" non-credit Emeritus plus 50 movie class at Richland College in Dallas.

Only a few seats remain, so sign up ASAP (see below).

We'll get it rolling with "Talented Guys, Troubled Lives" on Sept. 9 by putting the spotlight on Woody Allen, the genius comedian, comedy writer, actor and director whose brilliance was tarnished in the eyes of many when he left girlfriend Mia Farrow for Soon-Yi, Farrow's adopted teenage daughter in 1992.

There's no denying Allen's cinematic genius, however.  Pick a clip -- any clip -- from Allen's early comedies, like "Take the Money and Run" (just below) and see if you disagree.



On Sept. 16 we'll take on "Movie Families on the Brink."  Expect for us to get into Kevin Spacey's character's mid-life crisis in "American Beauty" and Paul Newman -- in my favorite Newman performance -- driving his screen father (Melvyn Douglas) to the brink of physical breakdown as the ruthless skirt-chasing Hud in the classic Texas drama of the same name.

"Movie Families on the Brink, Take 2" takes center stage on Sept. 23.  We'll focus on Marlon Brando as the crime family patriarch in "The Godfather" and the tormented, but strong-willed young woman named "Precious."

We'll wrap this series up on Sept. 30 with "Dysfunction for Comic Fun," spotlighting the atrocious table manners of the Klumps (played by Eddie Murphy) in "The Nutty Professor" and those crazy Fockers of "Meet the Parents."

Seating is limited to an intimate 20 for "Big Screen Dysfunctional Families," so call Richland College at 972-238-6146 or 972-238-6147 to register for course number SRCZ 1000 81908 (registration number 854032) today.

13 May 2013

Hip-hop in the Roaring Twenties?

Baz Luhrmann puts Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio through their paces in "The Great Gatsby." (Photo courtesy: Warner Bros.)

From the Hey, Don't You Think It's A Little Late For That Department:

Now that Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" is in theaters with a boffo $51 million and change opening weekend in the books, the Australian filmmaker with a flair for, shall we say, mass-appeal-of-the-day revisionist film-making, is feigning worry that "Gatsby" novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald might not approve of a flashy mix of hip hop and period music.

“I don’t know if he would say, ‘I was really upset you didn’t put the old-fashioned music in.’ He might have,” Luhrmann tells The Hollywood Reporter.  “He might have said, ‘Why did you put that immediate, now music? Why did you use this new thing called 3-D?’… I don’t really know what he would think,” an article posted on the Hollywood Reporter website said.

From this aisle seat, Luhrmann and (if you watch the video below) hip-hop artist Jay-Z, who draws an executive producer credit as Shawn "Jay Z" Carter, stars Leonardo DiCaprio (Gatsby), Carey Mulligan (Daisy) and former "Spider-Man" Tobey Maguire (Nick) all agree that fusing modern-day hip-hop into Roaring Twenties jazz is -- to split the difference decade-wise -- a groovy idea.

I'm not going to give a full explanation of how I think it worked today, since -- NEWSFLASH! -- Breaking News -- there's a good chance I may be reopening my Movie Review Jalapeño Jar soon.  That might just begin with my "Great Gatsby" review.

More to come on that news soon.  For now, check out the video below and see what those involved have to say about hip-hopping through F. Scott Fitzgerald territory.



19 September 2011

Some like it auctioned

Curtis250rIt happens all the time, but it still makes one feel odd, sad and eerie, like something's just not right.

An actor struggles to launch a career -- John Wayne as the Ringo Kid in "Stagecoach" (1939), Elizabeth Taylor in "There's One Born Every Minute' (1942), Tony Curtis in "City Across the River" (1949), etc. -- they find fame and when they're gone their precious possessions are cashed in by those left behind.

The jewels Taylor loved so much.  The eye patch Wayne wore in "True Grit," and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Now the not-so-wanted spotlight falls on the late Tony Curtis, the "Some Like It Hot" prolific actor/movie star who died Sept. 29 last year in Las Vegas.

Hollywood memorabilia, jewelry and art owned by Curtis went for over a million bucks Sept. 17 in L.A., including the yachtsman jacket Curtis wore to woo Marilyn Monroe in "Some Like It Hot"

 As is often the case, the heirs, or in this case the jilted heirs, air more than a little dirty laundry when it's time to divvy up the spoils of celebrity war.

The Hollywood Reporter website posted an item saying Curtis's children were even caught off guard that the actor's widow -- sixth and final wife Jill -- had put the items up for auction, according to daughter Allegra. 

"Jill Curtis is the only beneficiary of this auction. She did not consult us. This is not what my dad would have wanted. Jill's even selling off credit cards and driver licenses. She's also selling my dad's letters to Cary Grant, Jerry Lewis, Picasso -- these belong in a museum. It's the dissemination of the estate of Tony Curtis. He deserves better," Allegra said.

"Meanwhile, Julien's Auctions owner Darren Julien says: 'Tony came to many of our auctions with Jill and said he wanted Julien's to handle his auction after he died. I know this is exactly what he wanted,'" the Hollywood Reporter article stated.

Looking for something to read?

One of the reasons book lovers are often disappointed when one of their favorites is turned into a movie is that movies (like "The Help," for instance) have to condense plot-lines, dispense with some subplots and sometimes even combine characters.

So I'd like to recommend a couple of books by authors you'll no doubt recognize that have not, at this point anyway, made it to the big screen.

Steve Martin's "An Object of Beauty" (Grand Central Publishing, $14.20 in hardback on Amazon) is a clever, sexy novel set behind the scenes of New York art galleries.  It's an extremely entertaining read.

And so is "I Remember Nothing:  And Other Reflections" (Alfred A. Knopf, $13.49 in hardback on Amazon), Nora Ephron's funny, revealing insights into her life and her struggles to remember faces, places and things.

Recently added presentations

Those of you who visit this Web page regularly probably know that you can click on the list of Movie Memories presentations on the top left portion of the page for a description of each presentation.

There may be some new additions since you last perused them.  And recently, we added "Life Lessons I've Learned at the Movies" to the mix. 

If you have a club, group or gathering of weary senators and/or congresspersons looking for a little fun after debating the debt ceiling debacle for way too long, check out the description of "Life Lessons I've Learned at the Movies" and give us a call at 972-599-2150 to book your presentation

(Tony Curtis photo courtesy:  starpulse.com)

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