Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Carla Balenda Marathon Part 1: Assorted Appearances

Ever since I watched the complete series of Adventures of Fu Manchu, I took a liking to actress Carla Balenda. She's a fine actress, and I've been slowly but surely watching her entire filmography. I always find her entertaining, and if Brandon Lee is my all-time favourite actor, then Carla Balenda is my favourite actress! And why not-She fought undead Hitler twice! I'm not joking!

One thing I've noticed about her is that she was pretty short. In almost everything I've seen her in, everyone she's around towers over her. Granted, Balenda is still taller than Mickey Rooney.

So, starting with this, I'll be combing through her entire filmography, step by random step...

Date With the Angels-The Train

Not only does this show contain a young Betty White, but can you guess who young Betty White just so happens to be a dead ringer for? Carla Balenda! I am not joking!

Date with the Angels was a sitcom from the 50's, starring Betty White and Bill Williams as newlywed couple Vickie and Gus Angel.

The Train focuses on the couple, and their married friends Carl (George N. Neise) and Dottie (Joan Banks), and the madcap jealousness, and anger at manly indignation...

It's the 50's, so of course, everybody smokes! And of course, given that it's the 50's, the MEN handle the BEER, while the women drink lemonade.

Balenda has a small role, as one of the women on the train who take a liking to the two guys (in a friendly manner, not a homewrecker bitch one). She's good, but barely in the episode. She might be the opening 'criminologist', or ihat could be Betty White. Frankly I can hardly tell the two apart.

Having seen this episode, I do feel incensed to watch the rest of Date With the Angels. If this episode is any indication, it should be a fun watch!

Men into Space-Lunar Secret

A group of astronauts head up to the moon for a mapping expedition, and while looking through reconnaissance photos, they see a strange, unnatural object...

From what I've read, Men Into Space almost always stressed on scientific accuracy. If only this show was set in a dystopian future-it could have been a proto-Firefly! But as it stands, it definitely seems a realistic portayal of future space-travel, even if it is apparently 50's-ish at times.

I can't personally speak for the whole series, but this episode manages to be both realistic, and not boring, so for that I give it props.

Black-and-white is very much this show's friend, as if Men Into Space was in colour, the moon effects would look hilariously shoddy.

One annoying thing is the photo showing the 'object', which isn't very good. At first, the episode explicitly says that the cliff face in the photo is unusual, and not created by nature, but it looks pretty natural to me. Then the episode seems to forget that the formation was what was strange about the photo, and it turns out that what the astronauts saw was a space suit. Don't know how they weren't able to identify that right away

Also, why didn't the astronauts take more than one oxygen tank with them when investigating the object? One per person seems stupid when you're on an expedition to somewhere two hours away.

Another thing is the funny (unintentionally so) over-the-top musical stinger at the end of a random, nondescript sentence.

The acting is all decent. Balenda's appearances in this are very much bookends. And thankfully not particularly short ones. She gets a good 6/7 minutes of screentime in a 25-minute long episode. Also, she plays a doctor!

A woman doctor?! Bah! That'll never catch on. Wimminfolks brains are too small!......I can only assume that at least half the viewing audience for this 1959 show thought that as they watched. I'm surprised that a programme from the 50's had a female character be a doctor, rather than a nurse. It's refreshing!

Wagon Train-The Story of Annie Duggan

On the wagon train (or wagon trail, as you'll undoubtedly misread it, as I did), things aren't going well. The Typhoid is infecting people, and while each time, what seems to be the cause is stopped, more people are steadily getting sick with Typhoid, and the only link is woman Annie Duggan...

This is a decent story, akin to Typhoid Mary. It's got good writing, decent characterisation, and fine acting (Balenda has a pretty major role, but only has a bare handful of scenes). The only real problem I have with it besides main actress Caroline Kearney's inability to keep her 'Irish' accent at all consistent, is that's pretty depressing in the last fifteen minutes (and through the whole thing, thanks to expectation, due to modern knowledge of disease carriers). Also, the character of Annie Duggan is written so positively, she's almost messianic! It's annoyingly trite.

Also, the majority of the story is a flashback, but due to poor editing, there's no way you'll pick up on that 'till the forty minute mark. The climax is also a pain too, when Jenny gets super religious about her situation.

Carla Balenda is decent, but underused. The episode tries painting her character as defacto villainous, but the script is so backwards that she doesn't come across as mean at all, but rather sensible.

Ultimately, this is a downer, so I don't recommend it.

The Phantom Stallion

No, this isn't a TV appearance, but it's only a 50 minute film, so I can feel comfortable in lumping The Phantom Stallion into this list.
Or at least I WOULD, if not for infuriating circumstances. I WAS going to watch The Phantom Stallion, on Amazon's free instant watch thing, but as I start it up, I find out that it's geographically restricted! GGGRRRRR!... What is the point of damn annoying geographical restrictions that sites like Hulu and Amazon use? Is a random western from the 50's so American that it must only be watched there, and can never leave its shores?! What the hell?!

Well, I'll get to watching The Phantom Stallion another time, if and when I manage to get ahold if it.


Well, that's all out of me for this year. I'll be back the moment the clock strikes 2014, and through the next year, I'll watch and review every single episode of MST3K I can see, as well as separately watch and review the movies, to get the unriffed experience, I'll review the entire series of Roger Moore-Tony Curtis show The Persuaders, the entire Smokey and the Bandit series, all of Man in a Suitcase, and possibly some Warehouse 13 and Macgyver! Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a Carla Balenda movie to hunt down on Ebay! Happy holidays!...

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Love Actually, and a Girl with the Dragon Tattoo New Year!

*This review is imageless for now, as I've been busy with a little thing called Christmas.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all! I hope you've all had/will have a great day! As for mine, I got the ultimate collection of comic miniseries Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. from my sister, the entirety of Doctor Who spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures, and Seasons 2 and 3 of M*A*S*H* from my mom, a Doctor Who Sonic Screwdriver, watch, and book from my other sister, and PS3 game The Last of Us from my other brother-and now I feel embarrassed that I only got him a box of chocolates! I figured he'd do the same, as we hate each-other's guts.

Funny story, the reason my mom got me the MASH was because she remembered my grumbling from some months back about the complete lack of M*A*S*H* clips on Youtube. I mean it-there's none! All I wanted to do was watch the end of Abyssinia, Henry, and Charles first experience with meatball surgery. That's it, but no dice-no clips. Come to think of it, that story isn't funny at all.

This next one is, though. Nearly a year ago, I found out the existence of Andrew McCarthy's travel book The Longest Way Home, and I wanted to get it, so the next time I went to Perth (the nearest city-I live in bumfuck nowhere, by the way), I sent my mom to look for it in the bookshop (hey, I was busy), and she reported back that it wasn't there, but they could get one in stock in a couple of weeks. Well, next time I'm in Perth, a couple of months later, I go to the bookshop myself, where they have no records of ever holding the book, ever. Growl! Flashforward some months to now, and my mum has remembered my want for this book, and told my sister Rachel. And so Rachel went a-looking in various bookstores in Perth , and as it turns out, there were pretty much only two copies of The Longest Way Home in the whole city!

So my sister ended up going on an epic journey to hunt down this book. I'm sure Andrew McCarthy is laughing somewhere.

Ok, now, time to give my thoughts on two Christmas movie traditions of mine!...

Released in 2003, Love Actually has become somewhat of a Christmas tradition. I love it, and like most people, I've seen it a multitude of times.

Love Actually is about the interspliced love stories of several diverse characters...

The biggest problem I have with this film is that none of the stories' have enough time for them. Because of this, it's a bit farfetched that these characters are in love. The chemistry definitely sells it, but more time would have much improved things.

The acting is almost all great, as are the characters! I can't really pick any favourites, because they're all so awesome, from Bill Nighy as Billy Mack, the kooky former-musician looking for a comeback, Martin Freeman and Joanna Page as the couple working as stand-ins on a movie's sex scenes, to Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Thomas Sangster as the lovelorn Sam,  etc. And of course, there's Hugh Grant's lovable and affable prime-minister!

Hugh Grant for President!

Cthulhu for President!

Fu Manchu for President!

Oh, and by the way, the girl who plays Joanna-She's Marceline the Vampire Queen from Adventure Time!

The other big problem I have with Love Actually is the Sarah-Carl storyline. For one, I find Laura Linney annoying (so annoying that despite being a guy, I never remember that she has a nude scene in this movie, nor do I ever care), secondly, the characters-Carl is dull, and Sarah is a dumbass who can't prioritize, or turn off her phone-and thirdly, there's not enough story to make it all worthwhile. What's really annoying is that I can only fastforward through half of these scenes, because a few of them have Alan Rickman in them, and there's no way I'd fastforward through him!

Also, what the hell is with all the fat jokes at character Natalie's expense?!

Love Actually is romantic, and very, very funny! It's also really quotable-Billy Mack: "Kids, don't buy drugs-Become a pop star and they give them to you for free!".

Probably the movie's funniest scene is Rowan Atkinson's scene. He's hilarious! By the way, in the original script, his character was meant to be a guardian angel. In that version of the script, he was deliberately stalling Alan Rickman from getting the expensive present for the homewrecking bitch, and he was also the reason why Colin has such good luck with women in America. That makes so much sense! In the finished script, the character of Colin is just the luckiest man on Earth!...Or the movie missed out the scenes of him waking up in a bathtub full of ice, with a couple of surgical scars on his chest.

The music in this film is just fantastic! Enough said!

So, to round up, I can't recommend Love Actually enough! It's a perfect watch for Christmas

Now onto my second Christmas time tradition...

Yeah, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series is a Christmas tradition for me. Strange, I know.

Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist is invited to the secluded town of Hedestad by old businessman Henrik Vanger, to solve the forty year old mystery of the disappearance of the teenage Harriet Vanger. Meanwhile, ace computer hacker Lisbeth Salander... is actually only involved with the film's events pretty tenuously...

The biggest issue I have with Swedish mystery-thriller Dragon With the Girl Tattoo (based on the book in the series by Stieg Larsson) is that a book can explain a character's point of view, but a film can't, unless there's everpresent thought narration, which would just get in the way of a movie like this, or in fact, most movies (Macgyver, Burn Notice, and the first few seasons of Dexter are the exceptions to this). Because of this, Lisbeth Salander is a pretty nothing character. We never know what he's thinking, or feeling, and neither does she come across much at all as someone with Aspergers. I don't mean to say that she's not an interesting character in this film, but from what I've heard about the book, this seems like a shadow of the literature character.

Also, while the two sequels revolve around her, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo doesn't, and Lizbeth Salander and her plot feels pretty railroaded into the story.

While those are two pretty big issues I have with the film, do they mean I don't think the movie is as awesome as its reputation says? Hell no! The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is still awesome! It's a great thriller, with a very intriguing plot, fine acting (Noomi Rapace is fantastic). The film is tense, the writing great, and the locale is both gorgeous and eerie.

The film is definitely dark, but never to a ridiculous degree, and the ending isn't dour or depressing, but upbeat, which I appreciate.

I can't really say anything more without spoiling anything, or ruining the experience, so I'll just leave you with my recommendation, then be off.

Well, that's all out of me this Christmas day. Again, Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year!...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The El Brendel Marathon

For the last year or so, I've been interested in early 20th century comic performer El Brendel. Some find his simple Swede act to be grating, and he can be a tad annoying at times, but for such a simple and re-used act, I find him to be loads of fun, as do others!...

Here's a quote from Stacia, of She Blogged By Night, on why she like El.

"El Brendel was unique, the one comedian from late-era Vaudeville who showed a surprising talent for both silent films and early talkies. An almost freakishly adorable elf with an inappropriate accent and a penchant for naughtiness, El was a solid comedy character actor with impeccable timing, whose silly Swede characters were just a little <i>too</i> successful, and he found himself typecast long after dialect comedy was out of style. Still, I gotta love an underdog, and despite a few missteps, many of his comedy shorts are among the best of the 1930s and 1940s."

*{Another quote from elsewhere to soon be added later}*

So, today, I'm going to be looking at three El short films...

Now, I was going to also watch and review Phoney Cronies, but that was removed from Youtube, and there's no other way to see it, other than wait for it to air on a channel I don't get here, so this post will have to be shorter, and contain less reviews. Drat. It's not much use calling it a marathon, really, but hey, it fits with what I called my Carla Balenda post (to be posted on the 26th).

I Spied or You

I Spied for You is about Oley Oleson, a Swede who's gotten a job on an ammunitions storage (and cruise, I think) ship, where he earns the ire of the captain (Bud Jamison), and the affection of the captain's daughter (Kathryn Keys). As the trip goes on, Oley discovers a Nazi plot...

El Brendel stars, in...The Al Jolson Story!

I Spied for You is a hilarious little short!* It has a goofy, fun plot, an entertaining main character, and good acting, which is a perfect mix for a 16-minute long film.

*I like using tautologies

Love at First Fright

In the south, a beer-maker famous in the area dies, and his will bequeathes his secret still recipe to Zeb, the long lost relation of the Hatrack family, with the stipulation that if he's not found, the secret goes to rival family, the McCune's. The Hatrack's go looking, and in their search for him, they mistake a radio host (Brendel) for Zeb, and kidnap him...

This short has the dumb hillbillies cliche in abundance, which is annoying enough, but even moreso to me, because there are at least seven TV shows on during the week on channel 7-Mate that focus on hillbilly's down out in America's south, where the people catch alligators with their bare hands, and need subtitles to be understood.

Also, I thought the gag at the very end (involving the hole) sucked. And the title has nothing to do with anything, neither does the story deign to have a damn ending! It's like the makers were like "Oh shit, we've almost run out of film. Harry, get a two-cent devil costume down here stat-I don't care if you have to go homemade and raid your wife's pantyhose draws. Get something, and get it here now. We're wrapping up shooting in two."

The part with El in the radio station is funny, and probably exactly how a small-time radio station is run. And the film has plenty of Brendel's trademark "J-Y" switching-"I hope you enyoyed our yam session"-"Yee vizz!"

Love at First Fright is ultimately a decent way to kill 16 minutes, but I doubt I'll ever watch it again any time soon.

Ay Tank Ay Go

Out in the American south, there are two families feuding. The only ones not a part of it are Oley (Brendel), and Mary Lou (Phyllis Crane), who are in love. Oley wants to marry her, while his family want him to marry a daughter of a family friend (It's not clear. She's either that, or eewwwww!)...

While the casting of El in the deep south doesn't make sense (I've no idea why a bunch of southern hillbillies have a Swedish child), I don't care. And anyway, this is an entertaining short, so it doesn't matter.

The humour is funny enough, and the film has one particular funny line from the priest who marries El and his beau at the end-"Do you take this gal to be your lawful wedded wife?" Yeah, it's a simple gag, but I definitely got a kick out of that line. It's a second right behind the "Do you? Do you? Kiss her!" in Spaceballs!

El Brendel stars, in...There's Something About Mary!

To finish, this is a fun, funny little short, which I recommend if you're able to see it/get ahold of it somehow.

It's a shame things starring El Brendel are so hard to come by. The guy was definitely a laugh, and I'll gladly hunt to the ends of the earth to find them, especially if they're purportedly lost!...Or I'll just sit on my backside in the middle of nowhere where I live and hope someone else does it, and I'll just write a fictional adventurous lost film search!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Sit down, and let me tell you a story, ladies and gentlemen. A bone-chilling story of exsanguinatory pleasure, and wrist-snapping horror. This is a story not for the faint of heart, but neither is it a story that the strong could take easily either. This...is the tale of how I first saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show...

...Ok, it's a story with none of those things. My mum was out on holidays, so my brother and I were staying with a friend of hers for a few days. One dark and stormy night (it may have actually been dark and stormy, I can't remember) he put on a taped video tape of The Rocky Horror Picture Show! And it was that same guy who showed me Casino Royale, so I owe a lot of my taste in film to him. Ever since then, when I was a young kid of all of five years old, I've loved The Rocky Horror Picture Show!

Rocky Horror is a 1975 musical goofball sorta horror-comedy film about Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), a villainous Transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania, and Brad and Janet (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon), a couple who go to his castle one night when their car's tire bursts during a road trip to their high school teacher Dr. Scott's house, and experience the most bizarre night of their lives...

When first released back in 1975, Rocky Horror was a flop, but it quickly found an audience on the midnight movie circuit*, and its theatrical runs and rereleases gained some strange habit, such as people throwing various things at the screen, dancing in the aisles, wearing the Rocky Horror outfits, and creating an unfunny and annoying fan comedy commentary.

*An annoying tidbit. One of the reasons that sequel Shock Treatment tanked so hard, and one of the main reasons you've likely never heard of it, is that it was only ever shown in theatres as a midnight release! Naturally, no-one even knew it existed, no-one saw it, it was quickly withdrawn from theatres, and the gods cried out at the great injustice that had been done! Between Shock Treatment and Grease 2, musical sequels don't have all that much luck unless they star Gordon MacRae!

One of the few problems I have with Rocky Horry is the plot, or lack thereof. It's not so much that there's not much plot (though there isn't), but more that we have no idea who any of these 'strange people' are, or what the point of  their plans/intentions are. That does detract from the movie, but not too much. It's very easy to just put that concern at the back of your head as you sit back and enjoy the movie.

There are plenty other confusing litte things about the movie too. For one, how is calling Dr. Scott 'Dr. von Scott' implying that he was a nazi? If you don't know that that's the film's intent, you won't even get the scene! Also, why does Riff-Raff kill...a certain character before going after Frank? What's with Magenta and Riff-Raff's confusing dialogue right after they [word removed due to spoilers] Frank? What's with the weird one-time fourth-wall break from Dr. Scott?

Also, am I the only one who wished Eddie (Meatloaf) had more to do than sing one song, then get killed?

Onto the good stuff, the movie is extremely rewatchable.

Tim Curry is fantastic as Frank-N-Furter. He's a gleefully demented villain, as are Richard O'Brien and Patricia Quinn as the weird incestuous siblings Magenta and Riff-Raff. Frankie is such a loved character that there are so many fans of this film who are sad about his fate in the end (he was a murderer, you strange people!), and many more write embarrassingly bad* fanfiction where he's the hero.

*Yes, I am qualified to say that. I once sat through 1000 pages of crappy Rocky Horror-Shock Treatment fanfic from this one particular author.

Barry Bostwick is great as the Masculine 50's-McHero Brad.

I don't like Susan Sarandon at all. I tolerate her here. She does have some killer cleavage though! I would gladly touch-a-touch-a-touch-a-touch those! Yowza!

Little Nell as Columbia, Charles Grey as the narrating Criminologist, and Jonathan Adams as Dr. Scott are my favourites by far, though that really doesn't mean much, since everyone here who isn't Susan Sarandon is awesome!

Now, onto the songs...

From the first one, to the last, the songs in Rocky Horror are all fantastic! I would go into them, but I'd just be repeating myself again again, saying how awesome each song is. I will mention a couple of things though.

For one, what is the deal with You'd Better Wise Up, Janet Weiss?! For one, what's it called? That's its title, though there are plenty who think it's called other names, mainly Planet Schmanet Janet (you mean that line that's only in the song once, as opposed to the oft-repeated chorus line?). But mainly, the song's structure is fucked! It goes from part of the song, to dialogue for a minute, then more song, to more dialogue, to more song, then there's more, different sounding song, that many decree a totally different song. You see that pink puddle on the floor? It's my melted brain.

I like In Just Seven Days, I Can Make You A Man already, but I really enjoy it thanks to my knowledge of Charles Atlas and those little comic strip commercials he'd do. And no, I don't know about those from the internet, I know from old comics I'd read when I was a kid, way before the internet was a thing. I like it so much, because it was a somewhat obscure (well, at least for someone Gen Y it is) reference that I got when I was a pre-internet kid.

Strangely, the penultimate song, Superheroes, is always cut out on certain TV broadcasts of the film (and in the American release of the film back in '75). I've no idea why. If it was a mistake, you'd think it would have long since been rectified in the THIRTY-EIGHT years since! And if it's to save time, 1, Then why are they showing a film this long in a tight time-slot, and 2, Why cut out the song that's only a minute long?!

The singing is all great. There's not a bad performance in the bunch!

So, to finish, go watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Right now. Then go watch its awesome sequel, Shock Treatment! You'll have a great time!...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Grease (1978)

Ah, Grease! One of the most famous musicals of all time!...Yeah, I don't like it that much.

Don't get me wrong. I don't hate the movie, or even think it's bad. I just don't gel to it. In fact, I think its sequel is better!

I really hope your reaction to that statement was "There was a Grease 2?!", and not "Ugh, Grease 2! I've heard that movie is awful!". As far as I'm concerned, the movie's a bit of an unsung musical classic! It's got fun characters, a good plot, some great, memorable songs, yet not only was it not given it's dues, it's considered to be one of the worst sequels ever made! What?! WHAT?!

As for Grease 2's failure, I can only guess that everyone just assumed it was shit because they probably viewed it as a cash-grab sequel that'd suck big-time, and so they avoided it in theatres, and when the negative reviews came in from film snobs everywhere, that clinched Grease 2's fate at the box office. Poor Grease 2. And poor Maxwell Caulfield's career. Don't worry Grease 2, I think you're kinda terrific*!

*Props if you get that!

Well, onto the word!...

Grease is about Danny Zuko (John Travolta), leader of the T-Birds, and Sandy (Olivia Newton-John), a new student from Australia, who joins up with the Pink Ladies. Danny and Sandy met and fell in love during the Summer, and when they're unexpectedly reunited, Danny acts like a tool, because he wants to maintain his reputation among his friends. Sandy is despondent, and Danny tries his best to get her back...

By far the biggest problem with Grease is the story. There really isn't one. The majority of the film is just 'stuff happens, with about ten minutes of a love story'. It's because of this that Grease isn't even in my top 10 favourite musicals list, and its sequel is.

Sandy really isn't in the movie a whole lot, but is an ok character*. Danny is a pretty unlikeable dick for the majority of the screentime, and add that to the fact that I don't particularly take to John Travolta, and you can see why I prefer the sequel over this.

*I'm glad that Olivia Newton-John used her real accent in this, rather than do what literally every other Australian actor in history besides Eric Bana in Funny People has done-put on an American accent.

The T-Birds are all extremely annoying to start off, but they become tolerable as the movie goes on. As for the Pink Ladies, they're great fun! My favourite is Frenchy, Rizzo is well-written, Jan is adorable. And the, uh, other one is ok, I guess. I can't really remember her all that well.

Principal McGee and Blanche make for a funny duo, and I'm glad they returned for Grease 2.

The acting is all good. Travolta and Olivia Newton-John make fine leads, and the singing is pretty much all good (that is, excluding moments like Travolta's travolting opening verse to You're the One That I Want).

By the way, on one hand, assuming what I've read about it is true, the filmakers were dicks for not letting Harry Reems play Coach Calhoun just because he was a porn star, but on the other hand, we got Sid Caesar playing him, so it doesn't matter too much.

By the way, did you know that Frankie Avalon was the Beauty School Dropout guardian angel?! I didn't! I've got to get to watching some Frankie Avalon movies, stat! I should go watch Blood Song, or failing that, It's A Bikini World!...

The songs are all fine. Some I love (like Grease is the Word, and Summer Lovin'), and others I merely like. There aren't any that I hate, so that's a good thing. And while I don't love the majority of Grease's songs, they're at least very memorable.

I particularly like the song Sandy,  but there is some stupidity to it, as I'll mention a bit later. My main problem with Sandy is that it's too short. I really like the chorus, but it's only sung once (technically twice, but the first time is spoken verse to start off the song, so it's different).

Is it just me, or does the Beauty School Dropout song (sung by who I can only assume is Random the angel from Happy Days) seem pretty judgemental towards Frenchie?

When it comes to You're the One That I Want, that line of the song isn't so much verbalised as it is slurred-"you'rthewathaahwa! Ohh, ooh, ooh!". Other than that, and what I mentioned before, it's a great song!

And when it comes to Summer Lovin' in recent years, there have been buzzkills complaining, saying how the "Did she put up a fight" line is rapey. No, it isn't. It's a figure of speech! I would explain how, but really, if you don't understand it, I am no teacher, so I can in no way be bothered to teach the obvious!

However, there is some slight rapey-ness in the film though...

Thankfully, Danny only forces himself on Sandy once. Why is that a good thing? Well I remembered it as being three times, so, good for Danny Zuko that he didn't do it that much. Bad for him that he did it, period. "I sit and wonder why-yi-yi oh why you left me, oh Sandy"-Um, maybe it's because you tried to rape her!

As for the ending (no, this is hardly spoiling anything. If you haven't seen Grease, but know of just one moment from it, then it's this one, for sure-no doubt about it), people complain about it, feeling that Sandy is totally overhauling her personality for her man. While that does seem to be the case, have the hate-filled complainers actually listened to the lyrics of You're the One That I Want?! They're about how Danny had better shape up, and prove that he's willing and able to change for Sandy just as she has for him! And if you really hate the ending so much, you could easily assume that she was just doing a fun act, and went back to her old self once the credits rolled.

By the way, there is one distracting thing about this movie-the characters smoke. A lot! The "Come on, try one, it won't kill ya" line is hilarious in hindsight.

So, to finish, I do recommend Grease. While it isn't a movie I love, or even like a whole lot, I'd be willing to sit through it if a date wanted to watch it. Take from that what you will.

In some closing thoughts, if only there was a Grease 3. It could have been about Frenchy, and an older Dolores from the second movie. That would have been cool! Two of my favourite characters in the spotlight! Too bad that'll never happen...unless I'm willing to write fanfiction that is...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Final Girl Film Club: The House That Screamed (1969)

This review is for Stacie Ponder's Final Girl Film Club

La Residencia-The House That Screamed-The Finishing School-This film has quite a few titles, doesn't it! You know what that means-it's European! They-mainly Italian ones-very much tended to have more titles than there are in the Bible. Both Black Sunday, and Twitch of the Death Nerve, have about forty alternate titles between them! Yeah, now this film with its mere two seems a lot more meagre in comparison.

La Residencia is a 1969 Spanish horror film about something. Best I can do for you.

This film was a chore to get through! If it really did inspire Suspiria, well then kudos to Dario Argento for not making Suspiria 90 minutes of nothing (well, actually Suspiria is also pretty plotless, but its visuals and atmosphere more than make up for it).

The House That Screamed is never boring for the first hour, but from then on, the film becomes a total drag, because it's at that point where the film has passed the point of no return of when you realize if it's a slow-burner, or an eventless bore. Barely anything happens althroughout this movie. You don't even find out what the plot even is until the last three minutes!

You could do much better with this concept with Jaun Picquer Simon's Pieces. That film does it much better, and is not only not boring, but it's heaps of fun!

The schoolgirls are mostly all pretty interchangeable. I could barely work out who was who. The 'main character' of Theresa is very non-proactive, to an annoying degree. And the movie doesn't even think very highly of her, given how casual/nonchalant her...um, exit...is.

As for headmistress Forneau's son-Andre, Luis, Henry, what's his damn name?! Dammit movie, pick a name and stick with it!

*I've since read some other Film Club reviews, and realized that Luis and Henry are two different characters. I blame the movie for not being clear, and possibly contradictory. I remember Forneau's son being referred by her as Henry.

The headmistress, played by Diana Rigg lookalike Lilli Palmer, is ok, but the film hardly does her justice. The rest of the acting is just that-merely ok.

The film is poorly written, with very little plot, and very little character beyond Forneau's son is a peeping tom, Forneau herself is strict, and school person Irene is a psycho bitch just because. And there's one aspect of the characters that the movie just totally skips over-the relationship with Forneau's son and Theresa. One moment, they've never met, another, and they have a strong connection, and are in love.

The effects are ok, but there's not much of them.

Ultimately, if a movie takes an hour or longer to start the plot, then I have no patience for it.

"The culinary arts are most important for future housewives."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rana: Legend of Shadow Lake (1975/1982)

Today, I'm reviewing a film called Croaked: Frog Monster from Hell! Oh ok, it's really called Rana: Legend of Shadow Lake, but with an alternate title such as Croaked: Frog Monster from Hell, you know that I'm gonna call it that always!

Rana was made by notorius filmmaker Bill Rebane, who's output consisted of stuff like Monster A-Go-Go, the horror movie starring Tiny Tim, and other various borefests, from what I've heard all over the interwebs. The film was distributed by sleaze-flick company Troma, and head Lloyd Kaufman considers this to be one of the five worst films Troma ever put out. If you've seen some of their output, then that statement should scare you. It didn't scare me though. Why? Because I've seen some of the most boring horror films ever made-I have a thick skin.

However, Rana: Legend of Shadow Lake surprised me. It's actually good! Nothing amazing, but it's a more-than-decent way of killing 90 minutes

The movie is about Kelly, a guy who's returned to his childhood home-an isolated island-with his girlfriend in tow. He's there for a specific reason, and he tells his girlfriend Chris the nightmarish story of what happened on this abandoned island during his childhood...

The plot of this Rana is decent. It has slow buildup, yeah, but it's never boring.

The acting's here and there. Some is decent, some isn't as much, but none is terrible.

There is one almost poorly written moment, when the film returns to the present day for the first time. Kelly says a few things about kooky island inhabitant Old Charlie, which is fine, but then he goes on to say about how he had a crush on Susan, showed her around the island, and about her feeling that something was bad/wrong about the lake. SHOW, DON'T TELL! But then the movie switches back to the flashback story and shows just that, so it works out just fine.

The only real problem with the plot is that the story revolving around the lake-which is bottomless as far as anyone can tell, and is as old as the dinosaurs-is interesting enough to warrant more plot concerning it.

The music is all fine, although at one point, there's some really out of place 70's wakka-chicka cop music.

The effects for the monster, Rana, undoubtedly look bad, but the movie holds itself to the rule of Jaws (wait an hour before showing the monster, and even then, don't show it much). You barely see the Rana costume, so it's not like this is The Galaxy Invader or something...Until the last fifteen minutes that is, and it shows Rana in all his costumed glory.

I didn't like the ending of the framing story much, but it wasn't as bad as I though it would be. It's when Kelly finishes his story, and goes to the lake with girlfriend Chris. They dive in (Aww man, they're so dead!), swim down until they find a large subterranean cavern that they enter and go deep into (Ah, they're gonna die! I can't look!), and..

Well the reason I wasn't liking it while watching was because I thought it'd be depressing, but thankfully it's not...It's abrupt is what it is! The damn movie ends mid-scene! But hey, if Kelly and Chris didn't die while the movie was going, then I don't have to watch them die, and I can pretend that they both survived unscathed. It's either a win-lose, or a lose-win.

The music in said finale though, is great! It's well-scored, and definitely fits the mood.

The movie isn't anything to look at, unfortunately, as the quality is so low, you'd think it was kept in Rana's underwater footlocker for a thousand years.

As the first Bill Rebane movie I've ever seen, Rana: Legend of Shadow Lake was surprisingly decent. It sure is no Monster A-Go-Go, that's for sure! I definitely recommend this movie, especially if you're on a Creature from the Black Lagoon kick,.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pillow Talk (1959)

Uh, I, uh, caught this movie on TV. Uh, yeah, and I was paralysed by a Brazilian punching worm, so I had no choice but sit and watch this Doris Day-Rock Hudson romantic comedy Pillow Talk. That's it. I absolutedly did not see this on the Doris Day four-pack I definitely did not buy...

Ok, I'm a Doris Day fan. I've seen On Moonlight Bay and its sequel By the Light of the Silvery Moon about four times each! Doris Day is always fun, as are the movies she's in.

Pillow Talk is about Jan Morrow (Doris Day), an interior decorator and one part of a telephone party line, which she shares with womanizing ladies man* Brad Allen (Rock Hudson). Allen becomes intruiged by Jan, and since there's no way she'd go out on a date with him, he ptetends to be a wholesome Texan gentlemen named Rex Stetson...

*Yes, the tautology was necessary.

Pillow Talk is a very fun movie! As far as I think, everything works here, from the acting (and chemistry), to the characters, to the writing, as well as pacing. The film isn't one to overstay its welcome, thankfully.

When it comes to phones, the movie is dated, but in a charming way. Sure, party lines may be a thing long since dead in the past, but given how advanced and different phones are in this day and age, it's interesting seeing a time capsule like this.

Like I said above, the characters are all fun and well written, and the acting is all fine. Tony Randall is fun as Brad's neurotic friend, and Jan's attempted suitor, Johnathan, and Thelma Ritter is awesome as boozehound maid Alma! Jan: "We're you listening in?" Alma: "Yes M'am.". Brad: "Boy, I've had hangovers before, but this time, even my hair hurts..." Jonathan: "And you were gonna get her drunk, huh?" Brad: "I stayed with her through a bottle of scotch. I lost her halfway through the vodka." Yep, Thelma Ritter can drink Rock Hudson under the table! Unfortunately Ritter is not nearly in the movie enough.

The film is very funny, and has some great dialogue-Jonathan"Jan, if you marry him, you'll have to live out there. Look at that, New York! People, jostling, shoving, struggling, milling, fighting for their lives and you're part of it! In Texas, there's nothing but a bunch of prairie dogs and stuff. And even the air out there, there's nothing in it but air! In New York you've got air you can sink your teeeth into, it has character!"

The ending is insanely ridiculous, but still very funny. Though don't try to emulate Rock Hudson's moves unless you are in fact Rock Hudson, otherwise your girlfriend will gut you like a fish, and have you mounted (which wouldn't be the kind of mounting you were expecting).

So, in closing, this is a film I definitely recommend, unless you have a seething contempt for all things romantic comedy...

The Picasso Summer (1969)

There's a story behind my watching of this movie-The Picasso Summer. It caught my eyes in the TV guide, where it was given 1-and-a-half stars, and called a 'turgid arthouse mess'. I thought to myself, uh, that must be crap, and didn't give it a second thought. But later, I did give it a second thought, and for a reason I've now forgotten, I looked the movie up online and found that by most accounts, this is a good movie. Couple that with the fact that the local TV guide has either been very mindnumbingly stupid (it called JCVD a sweetly comic movie, wherein Jean-Claude Van Dame lightly pokes fun at himself), or just had reviews that I've very much disagreed with (it hates Casino Royale '67 and only gives Rambo: First Blood Part II 2 stars), and I was incensed to give this movie a watch.

...But it didn't start 'till 4:30 in the morning (it was also on earlier in the day, but I only looked it up come nightfall). I stayed up 'till 2:00 in the morning to set my DVD player up to tape the movie. And in recording the channel for six hours, I unknowingly taped the entirety of Casablanca as well!

So, onto the movie itself...
The Picasso Summer is about George (Albert Finney) and Alice (Yvette Mimieux), a married couple. George is having a bit of a mid-life crisis, and when he sees some Picasso paintings of his, he gets the idea to use his week off from work to an advantage and go to the South of France with Alice, to try and find Picasso and tell him what an amazing artist, and inspiration he is...

This is an entertaining little film. It's simple, just focusing on two characters as they journey* through France looking for the famed artist, but somewhat effective, although the story doesn't have quite enough meat on its bones. The film has some funny dialogue here. My favourite line is at the start, when Alice sees George looking glum and says, "You look like the end of the world".

*They journey through the French countryside, on bycicles. I got serious And Soon the Darkness flashbacks!

The two main characters are fine, but you'll want to engrave the word 'dickhead' into George's skull when he leaves the reluctant Alice in France, and goes to Spain.

The Picasso Summer is adapted from a short story by Ray Bradbury, and is probably better than it. I say that because this is a story that's definitely more suited for the silver screen rather than literature, because it's difficult to have a story talking about how awesome art is, because you can't see the art it's talking about*.

*Well, unless it's illustrated, that is.

The music is nice, but the main theme is a bit repetitive throughout.

Shot on location in France, the movie looks beautiful! It's shot wonderfully, from the city of San Franscisco, to the countryside of Southern France.

At times, the movie drops acid, and in a bout of "Aaahh, freak out! Le freak, c'est chic", the movie shows lengthy Picasso style animation sequences. The animation is good,and the events therein creative, but I think they should have been shorter, because they do drag. It probably would have been better if there were a few smaller interludes, rather than three long ones. By the way, if you're epileptic, don't watch the animation sequences. They include lots of strobe flashing.

There is one really boring part of the movie. It's when the Spanish friend of Picasso starts regaling a story. Not only does he waffle on about nothing, but the scene really makes you think "Bullfighting is annoying!" All it's doing is agitating the bull, and giving the matador an adrenaline hard-on (and possibly a nasty goring). I'm really plum surprised that Spain as a whole hasn't gotten completely sick of seeing guys in funny hats do nothing but wave a red sheet in front of a bull, then dodge it. Also, at the end of the scene, the bull is murdered by the Spanish guy! (That is, the bull in the movie, not in real life...err, as far as I know).

In fact, the whole Spain portion is boring. I'd almost lost hope in the movie, but it returns to form once the action goes to Alice in France. If you want a complete viewing experience of The Picasso Summer, it's imperative that you fast-forward through the whole Spain section.

Unfortunately enough, the Spain section of the film has even more wrong with it than I originally thought! The friend of Picasso's was playing himself. He really was a good friend of Picasso's. Was. He was persona non grata the moment he banged Yul Brynner's wife. Apparently Brynner was also a friend of Picasso, and the artist furiously burned bridges with this guy, even going so far as to not have any part with The Picasso Summer because of the dick's involvement in the film! So as you can tell, the Spain section of The Picasso Summer is the absolute worst thing about it in every way imaginely possible!

The Picasso Summer is a somewhat entertaining little movie to start, but once it temporarily shifts locations, things get interminable for nearly half-an-hour, and the overlong animation sequences make things worse. I do, however, recommend this movie, especially if you're a fan of art, and/or Picasso...

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

High Society (1956)

Here's one of my favourites! High Society, a 1956 musical, is a film I could watch over and over again and never tire of. Sharing that distinction with The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Shock Treatment, Street Fighter, and Bloodsport 2, I enjoy High Society immensely!

High Society is about Tracy Lord (Grace Kelly), a socialite getting married. Her previous husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Bing Crosby) however, is very much still in love with her, despite her emnity towards him. And when SPY Magazine reporter and photographer Mike Conner (Frank Sinatra) and Liz Imbrie (Celeste Holm) arrive to do a story on the wedding, Mike somewhat falls for Tracy...

As I said before, High Society is a musical, something it succeeds perfectly at being. The songs here are all great and memorable (like Who Wants to be a Millionare, You're Sensational, Have you Heard, and others), as are the characters, and the humour is all funny too.

A bit of a problem with the story though is why would Tracy want to marry such a horrible stick in the mud like George Kittredge? But, this was the 50's after all, when you were all but required by law to marry on the second date*.

*If you've read Agatha Christie's The Listerdale Mystery, you know exactly what I mean.

The acting is all perfect. In her final film role, the famous beauty that was Grace Kelly shines as the acerbic Tracy Lord! Bing Crosby is a lot of fun, and Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm are both great. John Lund is good at playing a stern dickhead, and Lydia Reed is a load of fun as Tracy's sister Caroline, though unfortunately she disappears from the movie about halfway through.

High Society is a remake of 1940 movie The Philadelphia Story. I once tried to watch that, but I tapped out after about half-an-hour.

I like High Society better, for three reasons. At the start of The Philadelphia Story, there's a brief flashback to the end of Tracy and Dexter's marriage, where Tracy breaks Dex's golf clubs...and he socks her one! What the hell, 1940's?!

As for the other problem, a little way into the movie, the perturbed Mike and Liz are talking about the upper class, and Liz says "Ask me. Would I trade places with Tracy Lord for all her wealth and beauty?"...and then the scene just ends! With no Who Wants to be a Millionare, the scene just feels empty, and ends before it starts!

And finally, black and white can either be fine for a film, perfect for a film (ala Psycho, or Night of the Living Dead), or it can sap all colour and life from a film. It's that third one for The Philadelphia Story, I feel. Or at least, I felt all those years ago.

The songs in High Society, for the most part, evenly spaced althroughout the movie, minus a couple of music-less twenty minute gaps. And unfortunately, one of those moments is from Mind If I Make Love To You* to the ending! There's no song to play the movie out!

*That sure is one straightforward song!

There is one small distracting problem to the film-the blue screens when characters are driving! For God's sake, Twentieth Century, give me one hour, a few small blocks of wood, a bandsaw, and some nails, and I could easily whip up a camera holder that could be put on the front of the car, so the super fake blue screening/rear projection doesn't have to be used. There's also one inexcusably bad use of it-in a bus! Where a camera could easily be! At least Grace Kelly was smart enough to not be lulled into a false sense of security by the fake driving, and still has her eyes permanently fixed on the 'road' rather than look at the passenger she's talking to.

So, to finish, don't watch The Philadelphia Story, watch High Society-It has Louis Armstrong!