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Skip’s Quips: Giving ‘The Big Chill’ a Cool Reception

Blog Sketch 082813I must’ve been the last person standing who hadn’t seen The Big Chill yet when I tuned in to the movie for the first time a couple of days ago.

It goes without saying that this is a hugely popular flick. It also goes without saying that I wasn’t too impressed by it.

Lots of characters … little genuine development. Personages felt two-dimensional, without heft or texture. I got the names of various individuals confused. Like it mattered.

I think there are good things in the film: The dialogue is often sharp, and there are a number of amusing scenes. Plus, there’s a nice collection of popular songs accentuating the action. Ultimately, though, I didn’t find the picture credible, and that was exacerbated by the pat ending, which does a poor job of wrapping things up. Conflict is left hanging. And so was I.

Who knows why I waited so long to see TBC; that will probably remain one of the world’s unheralded mysteries. (Riiiight.)  I will say that I’m happy I watched it … as I now don’t feel obligated to view it again. All because this Chill left me cold.

Groan.

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Setter’s ‘Spectives: Enough With the ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Remakes!

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613OK, maybe there has only been one remake of the “classic” Ira Levin tale. But still. The most recent iteration of Rosemary’s Baby (from 2014) just plain stunk.

So why did we watch it? Well, the blame for this falls on Trudi (love ya, Trudi!), who ordered this magnificent piece of garbage from Netflix. Hey, it has Zoe Saldana, Carole Bouquet and Jason Isaacs in it; can’t be bad, right?

Wrong.

A plodding, tiresome wreck of a film, RB slouches along interminably, stopping on the way to showcase tedious dream sequences, a bit of fake blood and bland dialogue. Unconvincing stuff, methinks, which is sad because the original 1968 version directed by Roman Polanski was so involving.

It just goes to show you: Some things do not need a remake. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And so on.

Apparently, this latest version of the story was made for TV, but in this day and age, that’s not necessarily the kiss of death. Plenty of quality television hits the airwaves in this era, much of it on cable, and so there’s no excuse for not churning out a good product on the small screen.

In other words, this flick should’ve been a lot better … especially given its bloodlines. Maybe they should’ve remade Robot Monster instead.

I would’ve watched that.

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Skip’s Quips: With Baseball Season A-Comin’, ‘Damn Yankees!’ Should Be on the Menu

Blog Sketch 082813I always thought Damn Yankees! was a severely underrated musical.

It has fun, catchy songs. Great, inimitable turns by Gwen Verdon and Ray Walston. And an amusing, baseball-centric story relating to the Washington Senators’ Devil-assisted quest for the pennant.

Now that baseball season is nearly upon us, this film should be on the plates of cineastes everywhere.

I’m not sure why it isn’t. For some reason, it’s hard to find on TV these days, despite the fame of many of its numbers (“You Gotta Have Heart” and “Whatever Lola Wants” included). There are laughs and charm within this piece of celluloid. Someone should schedule it for the telly more often.

I admit that my thoughts do turn to baseball when February and March roll around, and though a wealth of film choices pertaining to the Great American Pastime is available year-round, musical options are limited. That’s one of the reasons why Damn Yankees! is so valuable. It’s unusual, an anomaly. And good enough to be a standard.

I, for one, can’t wait to see it again.

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Setter’s ‘Spectives: ‘The Truth’ According to Michael Palin … and Its Movie Potential

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Ever read a good book and wonder what kind of film it would make?

That’s how I felt about The Truth, Michael Palin’s recent novel about a middle-aged British journalist’s quest to write his own tome about a famous globetrotting crusader for human rights. On the surface, this work is quiet, serious, unprepossessing … unusual for Palin, known for his hilarious turns on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. But underneath, the story is all about doing what’s right, even if it means uncovering wrongs from the past, and that’s a deceptively simple concept.

I think it might work well on the big screen.

Not sure if that’s a possibility, but anything can happen, right? There’s good dialogue, strong descriptive content, a powerful story and a celebrity writer behind the pages. Why wouldn’t this be a good option for the cinema, I ask?

Fine: There’s not a lot of sex … at least, nothing graphic. That could potentially be a turn-off to Hollywood, especially in this age of Fifty Shades of Grey. Still, it has a lot to like, and the bloodlines are impressive. Maybe one day someone will look at this as a strong cinematic project; it’s still a relatively new novel, and it’s quite topical. And it’s a lot more interesting than FSoG, that’s for sure.

It would be nice in the future to see The Truth playing in the theaters. I’d go to see it, definitely. Perhaps one day that will happen.

Sooner, I hope, rather than later.

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Skip’s Quips: ‘Irma la Douce’ a Prime Showcase for Sizzling Paris

Blog Sketch 082813Billy Wilder can do no wrong.

Well, that’s not exactly true. But he’s one of my favorite directors, and after seeing Irma la Douce the other night, I can confirm that he’s one of the most innuendo-laden as well.

This is pretty sexy stuff, the Paris-set tale of a prostitute (played by Shirley MacLaine) and her ex-policeman beau (Jack Lemmon). Terrific writing, cinematography and art direction, too, with the City of Light coming to marvelous life onscreen. It may not be my favorite Wilder picture, but it has a lot going for it, with the director’s usual tart dialogue livened up by a salacious setting.

It helps, of course, that Paris is one of my favorite places, and my fond memories of it complement the images put on celluloid.

Let’s not forget a performance by the inimitable Lou Jacobi as a worldly bartender; he helps make the movie. Which should be better known, in my opinion. That it isn’t smacks of a time-tested Puritan sensibility, though in this age of Fifty Shades of Grey, I wonder if that’s all in the past.

Well. I know which film I’d rather watch.

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From Skip and Setter’s Creator: My Interview With Honey Badger’s Randall Is Now Up

Blog Sketch of Me 092213Hello, readers! Just letting you know that I had the opportunity to interview the wonderfully talented Randall—yes, he of the famous Honey Badger series on YouTube–for CURNBLOG—and it’s up and running now. In it, you can discover what makes this very funny comic personality tick … from animals to causes, as well as how he got Lucy Lawless to star in one of his videos. It’s a terrific interview, and I hope you enjoy it. You can find it here: http://curnblog.com/2015/02/11/interviewing-honey-badgers-randall-life-worth-narrating/.

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Setter’s ‘Spectives: It’s the Met Orchestra, Once Again

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613No, this post doesn’t have anything to do with the movies. Instead, it concerns a great mystery: Why I keep seeing the Met Orchestra perform at New York City venues.

Yes, this is a fantastic group of musicians, and its conductor, the estimable James Levine, is one of the best out there today. But this is the umpth time I’ve attended concerts featuring this orchestra within only a few months, and I’m not even a subscriber to the Metropolitan Opera.

Don’t get me wrong … I don’t mind these concerts a bit. In fact, they’ve been terrific. For example, yesterday afternoon at Carnegie Hall, I saw and listened to wonderful renditions of Beethoven’s Second Symphony and Schumann’s Second, Dvorak and Strauss songs warbled by famed soprano Anna Netrebko, and some dreadfully noisy Elliott Carter “Illusions” that seemed quite out of place in the presence of such melodic masterpieces. In general, the afternoon was brilliant, and the sound produced was exciting, with Carnegie Hall’s renowned acoustics doing the great pieces justice.

I just wonder why I’ve been present so frequently at the Met Orchestra’s performances of late. Is it destiny? Fate? It’s like I’m in some Wagner opera dealing with predetermination.

At this juncture, it’s not clear when the next concert will be. I suspect, thought, that it’ll be sooner rather than later.

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Skip’s Quips: Getting in (Tommy) Tune With Gershwin’s ‘Lady, Be Good’

Blog Sketch 082813Last night, I had the opportunity to see the legendary Tommy Tune perform live at the New York City Center in a production of George Gershwin’s scintillating musical Lady, Be Good … and I have to say, it was worth squeezing in the tight seats to do so.

The shimmering Gershwin numbers, which included “Fascinating Rhythm,” were played in a sparkling manner by the small, on-stage orchestra (which nevertheless featured two pianos) and were complemented by singing and dancing from the towering Tune and a terrific, talented cast. Yes, Tune, even though he’s in his mid-70s, showed excellent range and a solid, well-maintained voice, along with lively feet that didn’t miss a beat. He’s still got it.

Strangely, Tune’s career in feature films has been sporadic, though he’s had a number of onscreen appearances, as well as quite a few turns on TV. If movie musicals were more prevalent in the 1970s and 1980s, I wonder if his career path would’ve been different. I’m not lamenting anything … just wondering.

Anyway, it was a treat to see him and everyone else perform the effervescent material the way it was supposed to be done. Kudos to Tune and City Center for making this wonderful evening come to fruition.

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Setter’s ‘Spectives: There’s No Imitating ‘Imitation of Life’ … in Lousiness

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613I’m not sure even the hallowed Cahiers du Cinéma could convince me that Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life is a good movie.

Maybe I’m missing something, but after about five minutes of this noisome, overdone film I’d had enough. I stopped watching, preferring to listen to the dialogue as it buffeted my ears.

Not fun.

Sirk may be highly regarded in some circles, but I just didn’t care for this weepy, obvious picture, and I suspect I’d feel the same way about many of his other flicks. Yes, I’m generalizing, but if this is the kind of thing Sirk is known for, I’m not interested. Give me Seven Samurai any day.

Oh, I realize I’ve got to supplement my intake of Kurosawa with lesser works now and then. I already do. Imitation of Life, however, is not something I want to revisit again; I’d even rather watch an old Steven Seagal hack-a-thon instead.

Though I hope I won’t have to make that choice. Anyway, on to better cinematic options.

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Skip’s Quips: Help! My Ears Got Punished During ‘The Trip to Italy’

Blog Sketch 082813Who doesn’t like movies about a couple of guys taking a trip to Italy to dine at fancy restaurants while doing interminable impersonations of assorted celebrities?

I don’t. And consequently, I didn’t care for Michael Winterbottom’s disastrously unfunny The Trip to Italy at all.

I wasn’t a big fan of The Trip, the film’s picaresque predecessor, but at least the concept, which involved Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon doing impressions during meals at various restaurants in England, was somewhat novel at the time. Its sequel, however, is not so lucky. In fact, many of the impersonations (Michael Caine, Al Pacino) seem to be rehashed from the original film, leaving the viewer wondering if they have anything actually new up their sleeves to bring to the table.

It’s quite an awkward mix, this picture, what with the “comedy” (basically Coogan and Brydon talking over each other without offering much context) juxtaposed with shots of food and Italian landscapes … though the cuisine and scenery seem to be extraneous, playing second fiddle to the duo’s tedious, presumably improvised schtick.

I’m sorry, but I like my comedy cooked throughout, not half-baked. And The Trip to Italy is so underdone it’s raw.

One of the biggest problems with the flick is that it’s not cinematic. It’s a collection of episodes punctuated by flat humor and pseudo-philosophical asides. You’d be hard pressed to find another picture in recent years that dwells so much on quotes provided by Shelley and Byron. But you’d also be hard-pressed to find one that trivializes their work so frustratingly by making fleeting references to them and not following up with any further insight. That’s pretentious, fellow viewers, and makes for problematic movie-watching. I like my Shelley and Byron well-done, too. Not the way The Trip to Italy cooks them up.

I’m not sure what the market is for this kind of thing; it can’t be too large. It’s definitely not my kind of comedy. All I can say is I hope a third installment isn’t in the works. Making this series into a trilogy would just be too much cinematically to bear.