Saturday, December 29, 2018

Aquaman Movie Review

This is one of those movies that makes you wonder if the filmmakers were testing how keen the public is to watch an overload of CGI. The producers, along with Warner Brothers, are no doubt cracking a bottle of champagne on the basis that the D.C. Cinematic Universe is clearly profitable after reviewing box office receipts from the opening weekend, and because the studio insists on a damn-the-cost attitude with production costs. Wonder Woman was the only film that generated large enough margins, and critical acclaim. While this film will boost the margins, the critics (myself included) are going to speak against it. On a cinematic level of visual storytelling, Aquamanstarts out great and progresses downhill until the last 45 minutes when the film becomes a cluster ----. Sadly, no amount of dark satire or comedic humor will prevent the studio from green-lighting a sequel.

The movie travels at a fast and steady pace, jumping right into the story with little build-up, as any motion-picture should – and few do. The opening scene, before the title credits, sets up the opening chapter brilliantly. An equal and generous helping of not one, but two villains, work perfectly in the script and the special effects of characters floating under water is a feat that even computer could not have provided two decades ago. Regrettably, this is the only saving grace in a movie that involves over-blown computer-generated special effects with a lack of concern for scientific details. How can so much fire-power, liquid lava and explosions (with flame) be accomplished under water? Why is there a cartoon squid banging on drums for music? Why does Aquaman smell his armpits while he is under water?

Even with suspension of disbelief, the character of Aquaman becomes more like a cartoon character for children. Perhaps the best part of the movie is Amber Herd, who is magnificent as Mera, a hydrokinetic-powered princess who will ultimately understand why Arthur Curry (a.k.a. Aquaman) chooses to concern himself with the land folk.

Not a fan of Zack Snyder’s dark take on superheroes who should be making the world a brighter place, and possibly inspired by the movies produced by Marvel Studios, I could not help but notice somewhere in all this scramble it manages to hit the reboot button. There might be hope for this franchise if they can avoid the computer and instead focus more on the story.

For those looking for a faithful adaptation from page to screen, Aquaman has enough to please fanboys. With a plot that is routine and formulaic, such a franchise should not be falling into the paint-by-the-numbers trap. This reviewer has seen so many films that he wishes an opportunity like Aquaman featured good storytelling; sadly, the movie was downplayed to an endless animated rumble. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

It's a Christmas Tradition

For those of you hoping I would continue with the annual tradition of featuring holiday glamour photos of Hollywood eye candy, you won't be disappointed. Randomly selected from the archive.... here you go!

Santa knows Audrey Hepburn was a good girl.

Mary Carlisle

Okay, not a year has gone by without sexpot Clara Bow. Why break the tradition?

Kittens? Elizabeth Taylor asked Santa for diamonds!

Jeanette Loff and Carole Lombard

Ida Lupino is being a bit naughty...

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz

Cyd Charisse likes kittens, too.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Stan and Ollie, Faithfully Yours

You can ignore those man-babies on Facebook. You know the kind... purists at heart who watch a movie solely to seek out what they feel is wrong with the picture, based on what they merit from the movie trailer on YouTube and IMDB. Those supposed stalwarts who brag about having seen Laurel and Hardy on the big screen when they grew up, and brag about seeing every Laurel and Hardy movie and film short multiple times, but threaten not to go to the movie theater and pay for a ticket to see a movie about Laurel and Hardy? Well, I ignored those who rant on social media and Faithfully Yours attended a preview showing a few days ago and you can take my word for it: Stan and Ollie is a loving tribute to the comedians who came to the realization, during the early fifties, that their career was coming to an end. 

Steve Coogan (left) and John C. Reilly (right) as Laurel and Hardy.

Following a dismal stint at 20th Century Fox (after leaving a successful career at Hal Roach Studios), Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy agreed to perform on stage in England, a tour that would ultimately take a toll on Hardy's declining health. Even standing by the ticket booth they hear a woman asking who will be playing Stan and Ollie on stage, the hotel clerk remarking "Honestly, I thought you two were dead," and dismal box office receipts that barely warrants playing in larger houses. Along the way their friendship is pushed to the limit as the men relieve their grievances for what each blamed the other as the cause and effect of their downward spiral. In the end, friendship grows stronger and Hardy agrees to go out with a bang... like any true comedian.

For John C. Reilly, who co-stars with Will Ferrell in those stupid comedies that are routinely terrible when viewed at home but somewhat funny in a theater filled with laughter, no greater compliment can be paid to a comedian than the opportunity to play the role of a comedy legend. Reilly does not ham up the performance, neither does he buffoon his way across the silver screen. Steve Coogan does a great job as Stan Laurel but it is Reilly who will certainly win an Oscar nomination for Best Actor come February. Regrettably, it remains doubtful that Reilly will win the Best Actor award as a result of the recent policy to diversify the judges at the Motion Picture Academy, many of whom are too young to know who Oliver Hardy is and not comprehend the character he played.

Earlier this year I attended the International Sons of the Desert convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, where aged fanboys addressed concern why young people were not devout followers of Laurel and Hardy. As a youngster myself, I could theorize a few answers to that puzzle but allow me, instead, to provide the following footnote: Everyone in the theater last week at the screening of Stan and Ollie was older than myself and almost all of them probably had an AARP card in their wallet. Before the film there was a brief introduction and the speaker asked if anyone in the theater was a member of the Sons of the Desert (the official Laurel & Hardy fan club). 

Not one person rose their hand.

Stan and Ollie will play in limited theaters as it qualifies as an "art house picture" so many reading this may have to wait until this loving tribute gets released on DVD in mid-late 2019. But any Doubting Thomas who wants to pick this picture apart by the seams (even before going to the theaters to watch the film) and question whether Laurel would have really said such harsh words to Hardy, or whether Hal Roach really had a beef with Laurel about finances would be wise to pause for a moment and remember this: In this day and age, we should be thankful that they even made a movie about Laurel and Hardy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis on Radio and TV

Michael Hayde’s latest book, Side by Side: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis on TV and Radio, fills in a gap that most biographers tend to overlook – their radio career.
His mother introduced him to Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis when they watched Jumping Jacks(1952) on television one afternoon in the early 1970s. “They were much funnier on The Colgate Comedy Hour,” she remarked. That sparked a lovely conversation that planted the seed for Hayde’s love and appreciation for their careers.
In an era where most biographers are preoccupied with the motion-pictures and their bitter breakup, the comedians’ radio and television program have largely gone overlooked or – at best – documented through observations of viewing the programs and listening to the recordings.
Die-hard fans will agree that Martin and Lewis were at their best on the weekly television comedy, and the radio program flopped at first until the fall of 1951 when the same script writers of the television series began writing the radio scripts. (Anyone who listens to those 1950 radio broadcasts and compares them to the 1951-1954 broadcasts will agree as well.)
That is the beauty of Michael Hayde’s book – he fills in the gap that has been overlooked. Heavily researched, with details from salary costs and recorded interviews, Hayde corrects a number of errors that appear in other books and sets the record straight. 
Anyone who has a copy of Michael’s other books (DragnetCharlie ChaplinThe Adventures of Superman) know how well he writers and how far he digs into the archives.  Looking for a Christmas gift? You can buy a copy of the book today at

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Hopalong Cassidy Meets Judy Canova

As an early holiday gift to everyone, here is the December 24, 1949 broadcast of THE JUDY CANOVA SHOW from a direct disc transfer. 

And the best part? Hopalong Cassidy meets Judy Canova!

1949 was a busy year for Canova. She turned down an offer to perform in a traveling circus but made a large number of public appearances on stage, nudged producer Joe Rines into taping her radio program in advance (rather than broadcast live), signed a deal with Simon & Schuster to publish the biography of famous relatives to be titled, "A Collection of Canovas," played on stage at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, broke records at the El Cajon Country Fair in San Diego, was mulling over plans for a kiddie album for Decca Records for which she would sing and narrate, and in November she was talking with the Ted Bates Agency regarding making the transition from radio to television in the coming season.

Her radio program was cancelled officially in June of 1949 by Colgate-Palmolive-Peet as a result of the sponsor's insistence that television provided a platform for better promotion, and with the belief that Canova was more of a visual act, but in July she agreed to a renewal for a weekly budget of $8,500. Prior to that her program cost $11,500 per week. Canova realized that without weekly exposure her motion-pictures (including movies being re-issued in theaters courtesy of Republic Pictures) would have less draw appeal. This required Canova to strike deals with Hollywood actors in lieu of a performance fee, helping to maintain budget control.

In early December 1949, William Boyd agreed to appear as a guest on her weekly radio program. Boyd had recently invested his own funds to produce a weekly syndicated radio program of Hopalong Cassidy and the actor wanted to cross-promote through celebrity guest appearances. But then something happened... Behind the scenes Canova's office was besieged with ticket requests, mostly from youngsters. This put her into a tough spot since NBC would not allow children under 14 to enter the studio and view the show. I have not been able to find anything pertaining to whether or not NBC granted an exception but try to hear the sounds of children in the audience when you listen to the broadcast.

In case someone is curious about the count: there is an official list of 78 episodes of The Judy Canova Show known to exist in collector hands, while seven additional episodes supposedly exist. I say "supposedly" because every couple years the broadcast dates for those seven recordings, including this Christmas Eve 1949 broadcast, were made public and multiple people crawl out of the woodwork claiming they have a copy. Multiple people provided a photo image of the disc label, but never provided a recording for various reasons: "No one wants to listen to Judy Canova these days..." or "My asking price is $800 if you want to hear the recording." I doubt Canova's name was the motif behind the ransom prices, but rather William Boyd's continued appeal to baby boomers. When half a dozen people over the years claim to have a recording but no one is willing to prove it, we have to take such claims with a grain of salt.

Anyway, about a year ago a transcription disc was put for auction and noticing it was the Holy Grail of the seven "supposedly existing" episodes, with no hesitation I bought the disc and had a friend do the transfer to digital. Now the official count is 79.