Thursday, December 31, 2009




Thursday, December 24, 2009

Spend a deliciously dysfunctional Christmas Eve with the Chasseur family in THE REF

It's hard to imagine how The Ref, a caustically hilarious and original movie, got pitched to the big boys at Touchstone. "Dog Day Afternoon meets Reservoir Dogs meets National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation!" Nope. "Ordinary People meets Desperate Hours meets Home Alone!" Not exactly. Touchstone went ahead and made the movie anyway, but they never did market it correctly. The problem starts with the title. This is not a sports film, people. Unless you consider the flinging of marital brickbats a sport.

The Ref, which covers the events of one fateful Christmas Eve, is more a collection of stocking stuffers than a present you would find under the tree. That's because, unlike conventional presents, stocking gifts have no rules. Anything could go in the stocking: an orange, a pair of socks, a nifty set of prehistoric animals, a lump of coal, all of the above. And that's The Ref in a nutshell.

Denis Leary, who plays a fast-talking thief named Gus, robs a suburban mansion and sets off all the alarms, so he needs a getaway car and a place to hide till he can figure out how to get around the roadblocks. It's his bad luck to choose as hostages the bickering Chasseurs, whom we've already met in a blackly side splitting, no-holds-barred session with their marriage counselor. To say that Caroline and Lloyd Chasseur (Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey) are bickerers is to say Mystic Mints are cookies. These two are the most merciless human migraines you've run into since you last looked in the mirror. Gus is flabbergasted at the sheer venom of their attacks on each other, especially since they are living what certainly looks to him like the good life. He is so dumbfounded at the invective they spew that he unwittingly finds himself playing the role of mediator more than hostage-taker (hence the title of the film).

Though Leary has the most immediately funny scenes (he is, as usual, all bottled energy and screw-you attitude) and shows terrific screen timing and presence, it's Davis and Spacey who are the heart of the film. The rest of this prom-night carwreck of a family includes the Chasseur's son, the possibly still redeemable "demon seed" Jesse (Robert Steinmiller Jr.), Glynis Johns as the preposterously overbearing matriarch, and a number of other first-rate familial irritations. Steinmiller proves our theory that the kid who played Alfalfa did not grow up to be killed over a $50 debt; he was cryogenically frozen and subsequently thawed out for this film.

While the acting is what really works in The Ref, the writing comes in a very close second. Screenwriters Richard La Gravaneses and Marie Weiss's dialogue crackles, and just when you think one of the stabbings from one of the spouses will sting fatally, the other volleys back with a kamikaze zinger. It's how you wish your parents had argued, because damn it's entertaining. Potential dvd renters should be forewarned about one thing. At the beginning of the movie, Leary is sprayed with cat urine as he bungles his burglary attempt, and throughout the film, one character after another remarks, "What's that smell?" This is a metaphor, in a way, for you will notice an odor, too. Near the end you're going to say, as you wrinkle your nose and whiff the air, "Is that... Touchstone I detect?" Yes, yes, it is. Touchstone processes good scripts with the same reluctance that W.C. Fields's liver processed alcohol, so, true to their name, they use their touch to turn living things into stone: Leary is never allowed to be quite bad enough, and things do have to work out with mildly tedious agreeability at the end. But these are just quibbles, and, after all, when you grab your stocking off the fireplace mantle, you have to take the socks along with those nifty animal toys.


Sunday, December 20, 2009


1 cup of water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup of brown sugar
lemon juice
4 lg eggs
lots of nuts
1 bottle of Vodka
2 cups of dried fruit

Sample the vodka to check quality.
Take a large bowl.
Check the vodka again. (to be sure it is the highest quality.) Pour one level cup and drink. Repeat.
Turn on the electric mixer.
Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl.
Add one teaspoon of sugar.
Beat again.
At this point, it's best to make sure the vodka is still okay. Try another cup... just in case.
Turn off the mixer.
Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.
Pick fruit off floor
Mix on the turner.
If the fried fruit gets stuck in the beaters, pry it loose with a screwdriver.
Sample the vodka to check for consistensy.
Next, sift two cups of salt (or something... who gives a shit.)
Check the vodka.
Now sift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.
Add one table.
Add a spoon of sugar, or something. (whatever you can find.)
Grease the oven and piss in the fridge.
Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over.
(Don't forget to beat off the turner.)
Finally, throw the bowl through the window, finish the vodka and kick the cat.
Fall into bed.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Joan Crawford is a terrifying vision in fishnets in the late 60s camp masterpiece BERSERK

There's nothing certain in show business," Joan Crawford tells us in the aptly titled 1967 gem Berserk. "We've eaten caviar, and we've eaten sawdust." Connoisseurs of Bad Big-Top Movies We Adore like Big Circus, Carnival Story and The Greatest Show on Earth can be certain of one thing, though: Berserk --  which features Crawford looking even more butch and self-enchanted than usual -- offers up the tastiest mouthful of sawdust to be found anywhere in this demented genre.

When 59-year-old circus ringmaster Crawford (a terrifying vision in her trim tuxedo jacket and fishnet stockings) introduces her world-famous high-wire soloist, the audience is definitely not ready for what happens next: the high wire snaps and coils around the performer's neck, leaving him dangling above their upturned faces. Oblivious to the human tragedy, a post-show Crawford busies herself with the night box-office receipts. "How can you be so cold-blooded?" asks her business partner. "We're running a circus, not a charm school," Crawford growls, going on to point out that the violent death will be good for business. Then she changes tack. "What can I do to cheer you up?" she queries. "I just may let you tuck me in tonight." God forbid! Even with Vaseline smeared on the lens and strategic shadows cast across her face, our star looks, at best, like a short, male senior citizen in elaborate drag.

The next day, who should turn up but a high-wire soloist in need of a job. The suspiciously useful newcomer is strapping studmuffin Ty Hardin, who is soon embroiled in a torrid affair with Crawford, despite the fact that he's 22 years her junior. The biggest scare in this whole movie is the appearance of a postcoital Crawford, done up in a negligee and a big-hair wig. "Long ago I lost the capacity to love," she purrs, very believably indeed. "If you want me to spell it out for you, I will. What we have is no more than a greeting card. Maybe not as friendly." Just as you're thinking that's not exactly what you'd say if you looked like an aging female impersonator and had somehow gotten Ty Hardin into bed, Hardin replies, "You're playing a dangerous game!"

When Crawford's business partner is murdered, the circus performers get agitated. The magician -- obviously the thinker in the group -- announces, "It is clear to me there is a killer loose." Enter blowsy, badly bleached blonde tootsie Diana Dors (who was at one time hailed as England's answer to Marilyn Monroe -- i.e., Jayne Mansfield with bad teeth). As the magician's new paramour/assistant, Dors expresses her view that bosswoman Crawford is the killer. Overhearing this, Crawford snaps, "You slut!" Whereupon Dors demonstrates the accuracy of this assessment by boozily coming on to Hardin. You may want to memorize Hardin's reply for your own future use: "You're peddling your merchandise at the wrong booth." When Hardin tosses Dors out on her rear -- literally -- a high-water mark in cinema cattiness is reached as an onlooking circus babe croaks, "You must be more careful, you'll damage your brain!" Happily, a nail-scratching, wig-pulling catfight ensues.

Enter Crawford's unhappy teen daughter (Judy Geeson) who's just been expelled from charm school. "Let me stay here with you," she pleads to her mom. "The circus is in my blood like it's in yours." Speaking of blood, the next big-top demise occurs when the magician saws Dors in two for real. Now even Crawford is afraid. "I've got the jitters!" she confesses to Hardin. "I'm not made of stone!" Actually, wax is what we were thinking.

Doing what anyone whose circus is being torn asunder by a psychopath would do, Crawford throws a gigantic party, at which she confesses to Hardin that she's made him her partner: "You'll have 25 percent of the circus and 100 percent of me." When charm school dropout Geeson appears to be sulking her way through the shindig, Crawford wonders out loud if the girl is spoiled. "You certainly never lacked anything," she points out. "No, except what I needed most... you!" the teen shrieks, bolting into the night. "I have an eerie feeling the killer will strike again at any moment," Crawford murmurs. Hmmm. Is this just a doting mom's wishful thinking? We don't want to spoil the ending for you, but suffice it to say that Berserk parallels its star's real life in some amusing ways. The on-screen Crawford often had her hands full with pesky teen daughters -- think Mildred Pierce, Strait-Jacket, Della -- but for cinematic subtext on the offscreen Crawford's doubts about her adopted daughter Christina, Berserk is unsurpassed.

Note: If you do happen to catch Berserk, be sure to note circus owner Crawford's special booth for Pepsi-Cola, a company in which the real-life Crawford was a major stockholder. Given the homicidal goings-on of the film, Pepsi's slogan on the booth -- "Come alive with Pepsi" -- is a brilliant touch.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Armageddagain: ‘2012’ writes a new chapter in the destruction manual

We like to imagine that the director Roland Emmerich had a key transformative experience at the age of 7, when a relative visiting from Bavaria accidentally trampled his scale model of the Reichstag. Suddenly a light bulb went on over our young Teuton’s head as he realized: People will pay for this.

In what exact sense he may have meant that remains ambiguous, but Emmerich now stands as our premier Hollywood Disastermeister, nuking and zapping historical landmarks in Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla, and other works of taste and forbearance. He has long since surpassed the previous title-holder, producer Irwin Allen (The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno), to become the Cecil B. DeMille of his generation, purveying jaw-dropping sensation yoked to cheap sentiment and appallingly (or is that appealingly?) flimsy characterizations.

Allen, after all, only turned an ocean liner upside down. In 2012, Emmerich flips our entire planet on its head. The result is a state-of-the-art multiplex three-ring circus whose special effects stagger the senses and play like a video game, whose human drama aims for the cosmic and lands waist-deep in the Big Silly. Call it “Apocalypse Really Soon,’’ or, better yet, “Airport 2012.’’

What’s the rumpus? Not the end-times foretold by the Mayan calendar, but those darn solar neutrinos, streaming from the sun and heating up the Earth’s core to a point where the crust has broken free and the continental plates start doing a merry dance. A few teacups get chipped: California slides into the sea and Yellowstone Park blows straight up into the sky. And that’s just the opening act.

Emmerich and his co-writer Harald Kloser get the “science’’ of the movie out of the way fairly quickly, starting their tale in 2009 as US government geologist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) journeys to India to get a first-hand peek at the planetary core from the bottom of a copper mine. It may look like a giant Jacuzzi to you, but you’re not a scientist in a Hollywood movie.

Helmsley races back to Washington to warn President Wilson (kindly Danny Glover) and cabinet secretary Carl Anheuser [Bush?] (meanypants Oliver Platt) while 2012 races to introduce us to the rest of the movie’s overcrowded passenger list. A disaster movie needs an Everyman, so we have John Cusack as Jackson Curtis, a divorced dad and author of failed sci-fi novels that everyone in the film seems to have read.

Camping with his kids (Liam James and Morgan Lily) in Yellowstone brings Jackson in contact with both the geologist’s team and a conspiracy theorist (Woody Harrelson, mining his tabloid crackpot persona for all it’s worth) who explains everything and has a map for it. This cues the main action of 2012: Jackson, his estranged wife Kate (Amanda Peet), her plastic-surgeon boyfriend (actor-director Tom McCarthy, who must be wondering what on earth he stepped in), and the kids skedaddling from one literal hot spot to another as the ground caves in just behind them.

Much of the movie takes place in the air (the boyfriend’s an amateur pilot) as our plucky survivors barrel between tilting buildings and beneath collapsing freeways. The carnage in 2012 is distant and PG-13; Emmerich keeps us back from individual human suffering because that’s just not box-office. Civilization here is a high-end ant farm, and its death is the occasion for wonder, pity, and popcorn. We do zoom in on a few individual tragedies, most of which befall the ethnic and the old. The sinful, too: the pop moralism of 2012 isn’t far from that of the “Left Behind’’ series or any classic Hollywood western.

Glimpsed in the chaos of 2012 are some welcome hambones: Harrelson, as mentioned; the wattle-shaking Platt; George Segal as a cruise-ship entertainer who really should have called home earlier (one of the film’s many inadvertent laughs); Zlatko Buric as a corrupt Russian industrialist whose voice seems to emanate from a vodka-soaked crypt beneath the Kremlin; Beatrice Rosen as the industrialist’s goodhearted bimbo mistress, not quite as smart as her lapdog; the dog itself, who gets a hilarious scene toward the end and who in fact may be the Shelley Winters of this particular enterprise.

Did we mention the airborne giraffes? Or the Tibetan Buddhists who join our heroes mostly to provide new age spiritual validation and a climactic thumbs-up? Or Thandie Newton as the President’s daughter, making goo-goo eyes at Ejiofor and struggling with the potted dialogue, which at times seems to have been poorly translated from the German? When Jackson and Kate stop in the middle of a cataclysmic deluge to discuss why their marriage failed, the melodramatic double-vision of 2012 turns actively ridiculous. Forget the Mayans - Humphrey Bogart had it right: The problems of two people really don’t amount to a hill of beans in this movie’s crazy world.

Anyway, admit it, we’re here to see the Sistine Chapel come crashing down on thousands of screaming digital extras, or the Washington Monument totter and fall, or Caesar’s Palace tip into a fiery pit of magma (repent, ye weekend gamblers!). The attraction of disaster movies - which by definition have to get bigger and bigger if we’re still to feel them - is that they allow us to imagine our own extinction from the cheap seats, jolting us with spectacle, reframing our perspective, sending us home safe and sound.

In the wake of 9/11 (whose iconography this movie toys with in the form of collapsing skyscrapers and ash-covered faces), the need for entertainment apocalypse seems weirdly keener. 2012 is only a movie, and reassuringly so: It’s one huge, overlong, cornball Armageddon - a work of shlock and awe. In one scene Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is seen on TV declaring that “Da vurst iss ofah,’’ but he couldn’t be more wrong. Roland Emmerich is just getting started.

If 2012 falters, it does so in its running time. It could lose a subplot or two. But at least Emmerich's denouement is nicely compact, with a final exchange that is at once absurd and as beautifully succinct a reassurance as the famous “Nobody’s perfect!” that ends Some Like it Hot. This is next-level nutjobbery by a filmmaker at his peak. He can end our world any time.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

We interrupt this blog for a brief word from Ms. Karen Walker...

"Honey, when you were born, you were born in a gay tree.
And then you fell out and hit every gay branch on the way down.
And then you fell on top of a gay man.

And then you did him."

thank you, Karen...

And now
we return you
to our blog.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The long-awaited return of CARRIE THE MUSICAL?

Tony Award winner Sutton Foster and Tony nominees Marin Mazzie and Jennifer Damiano will take part in the industry presentation of the 1988 cult musical Carrie.

Yes, my dumplings, there actually was a Broadway musical based on Stephen King’s CARRIE!

Carrie (1974) was Stephen King's first published novel. The book follows a shy teenage girl who is raised by a fanatic Christian fundamentalist mother in a small Maine town. Carrie soon discovers she has telekinetic powers and ultimately uses them to take revenge on the classmates who taunt and humiliate her throughout the novel. Carrie was later adapted into a 1976 film starring Sissy Spacek in the title role, with Piper Laurie as her mother and Betty Buckley in a featured role as the gym teacher.

Fame songwriters Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford collaborated with Carrie screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen on the musical adaptation which premiered in London at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1988 starring Linzi Hately as Carrie, with Tony winner Barbara Cook as her mother. The cast also featured Tony nominee Charlotte d'Amboise, Gene Anthony Ray and Darlene Love.

Terry Hands directed the production that featured choreography by Debbie Allen, both of whom repeated their work for Broadway. The musical proved challenging to mount, with numerous special effects and the crucial plot point of dousing its leading lady with buckets of fake blood.

Carrie arrived on Broadway at the Virginia Theatre in April 1988 with Betty Buckley (a veteran of the 1976 film) replacing Cook in the role of Margaret White. Much of the original London principal cast, including Hately, d'Amboise, Ray and Love, reprised their performances.

Capitalized at over $7 million, Carrie gained cult status for being such an expensive and short-lived Broadway venture. After being derided by critics and leaving audiences divided, Carrie closed on Broadway after playing only 16 previews and 5 performances.

For those of you too young to remember this 1988 debacle, may I recommend Ken Mandlebaum’s magnificent book NOT SINCE CARRIE which details the show’s rise and fall along with hundreds of other flops throughout the decades. (For theater afficionados and collectors of flop musicals, there simply is no substitute.)

From Mandelbaum’s book:

What makes CARRIE so unique in flop musical history is its combination of soaring, often breathtaking sequences and some of the most appalling and ridiculous scenes ever seen in a musical. It alternately scaled the heights and hit rock-bottom. CARRIE also had non-stop energy and, unlike so many flops, was not dull for a second.”

While the response of those who saw CARRIE varied wildly, the response of those who missed it was uniform. Never have so many people who missed a flop musical wished so fervently that they had seen it. Many of those who did see it found themselves unable to stop talking about it, and live tapes of the score were widely circulated and treasured. When flop musicals opened during the season that began with CARRIE, critics and audiences had to admit that the new flops did not begin to live up to the standard set by CARRIE. CARRIE was fascinating, thrilling, horrible, and unbelievable. The ads said, “There’s Never Been A Musical Like Her” – and there never would be again.”

While Broadway has had it’s share of musical triumphs, it has also seen hundreds of musicals that had brief runs, lost millions of dollars and broke the hearts of their creators and performers. The legendary catastrophe Carrie has inspired websites, blogs, unauthorized productions, rip-offs and imitations and even a petition to the authors asking them to release the performance rights. There are also countless live bootleg recordings of the entire show - both on audio and video, which has led a growing legion of fans to wonder just what went wrong.

Well, they may not have to wonder anymore. As of today it has been announced that this infamously short-lived 1988 Broadway musical will have a private reading in Manhattan in November. Stafford Arima (Altar Boyz, Tin Pan Alley Rag, Somewhere in Time, London's Ragtime) will direct the Equity reading; the industry presentation is Nov. 20. Musical direction is by Stephen Oremus (Wicked, 9 to 5).

Variety reports that Tony-winning producer Jeffrey Seller (In the Heights, Avenue Q, Rent) has reunited composer Michael Gore, lyricist Dean Pitchford and book writer Lawrence D. Cohen to take another look at the property.

The cast will feature Foster (Shrek, Thoroughly Modern Millie) as gym teacher Ms. Gardner, Mazzie (Passion, Ragtime) as Margaret White, Molly Ranson (August: Osage County) as Carrie and Damiano (Next to Normal, Spring Awakening) as Sue.

Also revealed are "American Idol" finalist Diana DeGarmo (Hairspray, The Toxic Avenger) as Chris, Matt Doyle (Spring Awakening, Bye Bye Birdie) as Tommy and John Arthur Greene (West Side Story) as Billy.

The Carrie ensemble includes Corey Boardman (Next to Normal, Altar Boyz), Lilli Cooper (Spring Awakening), Katrina Rose Dideriksen (Things to Ruin), Benjamin Eakeley (Sweeney Todd), Emily Ferranti, Kyle Harris (The Cure), Philip Hoffman (A Catered Affair), Kaitlin Kiyan (Hair), Max Kumangai (What's That Smell?), Mackenzie Mauzy (White Noise), Preston Sadleir (Mrs. Sharp), Jonathan Schwartz (The Fantasticks) Bud Weber and Sasha Weiss (Jerry Springer).

On a personal note, I just adore Carrie the musical and hope that this time it works. The score is simply fantastic and no matter how it turns out, this is one theatrical event that promises to be most memorable.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

LOVE NEVER DIES - The Sequel That Gaston Leroux Somehow Forgot To Write. (click here for official website)

Ever since Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical megahit Phantom of the Opera became a money-making juggernaut, the composer has feverishly been consumed with trying to top himself (if not artistically, then - at least - financially).

And so he gave us Aspects of Love (1989), which enjoyed a long (if undeserved) run in London’s West End. However, when the show transferred to the Great White Way in 1990, it received rather lackluster reviews. In fact, New York Times theater critic Frank Rich wrote “Whether Aspects of Love is a musical for people is another matter.” (well...  ouch.)

Aspects of Love closed after only 377 performances, losing its entire $8 million investment and, according to the New York Times, “Making it perhaps the greatest flop in Broadway history.” (Although Cyrano the musical (1993) managed to topple that record.)

Next up for ALW was Sunset Boulevard. Most people are familiar with the famous Billy Wilder film starring William Holden and Gloria Swanson. It is classic cinema of the first magnitude and if you haven’t ever seen it, stop reading this and go rent it immediately. As to the Lloyd Webber incarnation, here was a show where the offstage shenanigans threatened to overshadow the onstage plot.

Originally cast as faded silent film star Norma Desmond was American diva extraordinaire Patti LuPone (Evita). Nobody believes that LuPone is more talented than Lupone herself, so it must have come as quite a shock to her when the show closed down for repairs, (after the London critics savaged it), and she was not asked back for the revamp. Instead, the producers brought in steely-voiced belter Betty Buckley (Cats). Buckley received excellent notices and LuPone sued and received a reported $1 million.

Simultaneously, the producers had a production of the Sunset revamp running in LA starring film star Glenn Close. When the stars of this production were ready to bring the show to Broadway, it was announced that Faye Dunaway would replace Close in LA. But alas, this was not to be. Lloyd Webber deemed that Dunaway’s voice was not up to snuff and he opted to close the LA production. Dunaway deemed this a breach of contract, also sued and won a reported cool million.

In his book The Hot Seat, Frank Rich noted that these lawsuits contributed to Sunset Boulevard setting the record for the most money lost by a theatrical endeavor in the history of the United States. According to The New York Times, operating costs soared far beyond the budget and the “Broadway production has earned back, at best, 80 percent of the initial $13 million”. Running costs and advertising fees exceeded ticket sale intake. The road companies also generated large financial losses. Rich puts the final figure near or above $20 million lost, making the show what he termed a “flop-hit,” as it ran more than two years.

Lloyd Webber’s next two shows (Whistle Down the Wind (1996) and The Beautiful Game (2000)) never even made it to Broadway and it would be five years until Broadway received his next effort, 2004's The Woman in White.

The Woman in White was based on the famous novel by Wilkie Collins. With lyrics by David Zippel and a book by Charlotte Jones, it ran for nineteen months in the West End and three months on Broadway in 2005, making it one of Lord Lloyd Webber’s least successful shows.

And now, God help us, The Phantom of the Opera is coming back - but this time, he'll be haunting the amusement park at New York's Coney Island. Star composer Andrew Lloyd Webber announced Thursday a long-awaited sequel to his massively successful Phantom, one of the world's best-loved and longest-running musicals.

'Till I Hear You Sing' video sung by Ramin Karimloo

Love Never Dies Press Launch

"There's unfinished business," Lloyd Webber told journalists assembled for a teaser - a new song featuring the titular Phantom, played by Iranian-born Canadian Ramin Karimloo, and his love interest, Christine, played by American actress Sierra Boggess - "I don't regard this as a sequel; it's a standalone piece,"

The new musical will be called Love Never Dies. It is due to open in London in March. It will also be staged in New York beginning in November 2010 and will open in Australia in 2011. The musical picks up a decade after the original's conclusion, and has the Phantom trading his customary hideout beneath the Paris opera house for Coney Island, the iconic Brooklyn amusement park known for its roller coasters and "Nathan's Famous" hot dogs.

Lloyd Webber said he wanted to produce a sequel because the original's ending, which sees Christine leave the brooding Phantom for his rival, Raoul, was unsatisfactory. "Christine goes off with this boring guy, the Phantom disappears," Lloyd Webber proclaimed. He said he wanted to set the piece at Coney Island because, at its turn-of-the-century heyday, it was "the eighth wonder of the world." "Think of Vegas and then triple it," he continued.

Lloyd Webber sketched out an outline of the plot, saying the Phantom made his way to Coney Island after losing Christine. The Phantom rises from one of the attractions at a freak show to control the entire complex, without ever losing his love for Christine.

Other characters from the original also reprise their roles. The original hit musical, a longtime fixture on the London and New York stages, featured elaborate staging and songs such as "The Music of the Night," and "All I Ask of You." Based on the French novel by Gaston Leroux, the play is the longest-running show on Broadway, beating out Webber's other dubious hit, Cats, in 2006 and reaching an unprecedented 9,000 performances on the night of Sept. 17. Producers say it has been seen by more than 100 million people worldwide and has been translated into 15 languages and staged in 25 countries, including Brazil, China and Poland. The album of the show has sold more than 40 million copies.

But musical sequels on Broadway have tended to flop.

Annie, which opened in 1977, was one of Broadway's biggest hits, but Annie 2: Miss Hannigan's Revenge closed during its 1989 out of town tryout in Washington. The sequel to Bye Bye Birdie, a Tony-winning hit in 1960, died on Broadway in 1981 after only four performances. And does anyone recall the 1994 sequel to The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas?


Mr. Lloyd Webber avoided trying to predict the sequel's success. "I'm very happy with the piece and that's enough for me," he said.Love Never Dies had a difficult birth. The composer abandoned a previous attempt at a sequel more than decade ago, saying the story wasn't right. Frederick Forsyth, who the Lloyd Webber  said helped him with the idea, eventually published a novel, The Phantom of Manhattan, in 1999.

Director Jack O'Brien acknowledged that tampering with such a wildly popular music and theater franchise was dangerous. "No one's going to thank us for doing this," he said. "We're playing around with people's memories." But he defended the sequel, saying the years of back-and-forth made it a more solid work.

Naturally, a success would be another coup for the musical megastar, whose hits include Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita. Lloyd Webber's entertainment empire has made him one of Britain's richest men, with an estimated wealth of $1.2 billion, according to The Sunday Times of London Rich List

So could there ever be a sequel to the sequel?

Mr. Karimloo, who plays the Phantom, said he wasn't against the idea."Maybe somewhere warm," he said, joking that the Phantom "seems like an L.A. kind of guy." The composer was less enthusiastic. "There isn't going to a sequel set in Tahiti," he said. "I don't see how the story could possibly continue." Unless, of course, Love Never Dies manages to beat the odds and becomes a hit. But given Lord Lloyd Webber's track record since Phantom of the Opera opened, there almost seems little chance of that.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I have no words.
Click on the title of this
entry to go to the
website and just let
the insanity wash over
you. But not to close to
mealtime or I won't be
held responsible...

I simply won't.

Friday, September 18, 2009


. . . Or Afghanistan,
Argentina, Austria,
Australia, Belgium,
Brazil, Chile, China,
Cuba, Costa Rica,
Cyprus, Denmark,
Finland, France,
Germany, Greece,
Iraq, Iceland, Ireland,
Israel, Italy, Japan,
the Netherlands,
New Zealand, Oman,
Portugal, Russia,
Saudi Arabia, Spain,
Sweden, South Korea,
Sri Lanka, Ukraine
and the United Kingdom.

DELICIOUS visits 'THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES' and finds that it's not quite the "BombFire" we always heard it was.

Brian De Palma's film version of THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES was savaged by the critics with a vitriol that still seems remarkable. Remarkable because it is one of De Palma's tamer movies, no doubt eviscerated for not living up to the same image critics held in their heads when they read Tom Wolfe's enormously popular novel three years earlier. The movie's nastiest pans came from journalists comparing it to the book -- one called it a "fascinating calamity" and another, more frighteningly, commanded readers to "destroy this film."

Watered-down as it may be, Bonfire of the Vanities politically and artistically is a challenge -- a visceral wake-up call to the mind and the senses. To watch De Palma lampoon the self-indulgence of the '80s, as Wolfe did much more straightforwardly in his book, is to be forced to confront a long list of off-kilter images and incongruous tones -- embodied here by the innately good-natured Tom Hanks's performance as Sherman McCoy, a slimy, adulterous investment banker; Melanie Griffith's gleefully absurd vixen mistress Maria Ruskin; and, most important of all, the sudden and jarring shift from farce to straight-faced moral declaration that is Morgan Freeman's masterful courtroom speech.

"I don't do satire," De Palma reportedly said in an interview. And so it is true. De Palma prefers to wear his parody with a big, dumb grin -- or with his fangs fully protracted. Tom Wolfe's novel was satire; the movie is broad comedy, playing up its characters' vices and follies to viciously cartoonish levels, rendering them more laughable than contemptible. This is why it was ultimately necessary that the movie's corporate sleaze bucket be played by Hanks, who up to that point had been tied to light comedies. And why, naturally, Melanie Griffith chose to make her character more daffy than sexy; likeable or detestable, De Palma's protagonists fumble at everything they do. And it's worth noting that both actors punctuate their billboard-size representations of greed, racism, and infidelity with some of the more gut-busting moments in movie history, such as when Griffith squeals at the ominous sight of two approaching black men in the Bronx, "Oh my God, natives!"

De Palma's characterizations may not have the subtle tongue-in-cheek wit of Tom Wolfe, but his version of the story is both more comic and angrier for it. His sinuous camerawork, (expertly captured by master cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond), suggests a fiery examination of New York's racial and economic head-butts -- if critics were searching for the film's muscle, this is where it is. A glorious time-lapse shot opens the film, observing 24 hours in the city's vibrant goings-on from atop the Chrysler's building's high perch. On one hand ecstatically unifying all New Yorkers under one sky, the image is also strangely foreboding, as a peering eagle statue looking down on the landscape insinuates the precarious social imbalances that exist among different neighborhoods. Never since has there been such a brilliantly singular distillation of a city's cultural strife.

For all its polish, Bonfire of the Vanities can become stunningly hot-tempered, a quality most journalists are too quick to ignore. A cutting sorrowfulness underlies slapstick humor that can quickly turn violent. When guests at a cocktail party condescend to his downfall, McCoy runs them out by blowing shotgun pellets into the ceiling. Here Hanks's point of view is the camera's, and so his character's frustration is the audience's, and that of every one of New York's underdogs, rich and poor, who struggle to find genuine human feeling within the city's partisan theatrics (signified here by a crooked Mayor, a savage media, and a pretentious intelligentsia, one of whom hysterically fawns over a gay poet by saying, "He's on the shortlist for the Nobel Prize. He has AIDS.").

But not hopelessly, as Morgan Freeman articulates in his genius climactic speech -- absent from the novel -- playing the only good-natured character, a judge who presides over McCoy's case. With a gavel in his hand to symbolize De Palma's own measured plea for common sense, and approaching the camera directly as if to lecture the audience, Freeman turns various groups' self-righteousness back on them, exposing each one's duplicity and crying out for "decency." "It's what your mother taught you," he explains, in a down-home vernacular that reverses, radically, the movie's giddy parody into earnest speechifying. It's still self-aware, of course, but the sentiment is meant sincerely.

De Palma doesn't do straight satire, and as such his coda puts everything prior into a clarifying moral focus while simultaneously challenging the way we watch movies: In an unjust world, law is our "feeble attempt" to make things right. Bonfire of the Vanities is De Palma's.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Patrick Swayze, the hunky actor who danced his way into moviegoers' hearts with "Dirty Dancing" and then broke them with "Ghost," died Monday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 57.

Fans of the actor were saddened to learn in March 2008 that Swayze was suffering from a particularly deadly form of cancer. He kept working despite the diagnosis, putting together a memoir with his wife and shooting "The Beast," an A&E drama series for which he had already made the pilot.

A three-time Golden Globe nominee, Swayze became a star with his performance as the misunderstood bad-boy Johnny Castle in "Dirty Dancing." As the son of a choreographer who began his career in musical theater, he seemed a natural to play the role.

A coming-of-age romance starring Jennifer Grey as an idealistic young woman on vacation with her family and Swayze as the Catskills resort's sexy (and much older) dance instructor, the film made great use of both his grace on his feet and his muscular physique.

It became an international phenomenon in the summer of 1987, spawning albums, an Oscar-winning hit song in "(I've Had) the Time of My Life," stage productions and a sequel, 2004's "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights," in which he made a cameo.

(Dirty Dancing - "I had the time of my Life"):

Swayze performed and co-wrote a song on the soundtrack, the ballad "She's Like the Wind," inspired by his wife, Lisa Niemi. The film also gave him the chance to utter the now-classic line, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner."

Swayze followed that up with the 1989 action flick "Road House," in which he played a bouncer at a rowdy bar. But it was his performance in 1990's "Ghost" that showed his vulnerable, sensitive side. He starred as a murdered man trying to communicate with his fiancee (Moore) - with great frustration and longing - through a psychic played by Whoopi Goldberg.

"Ghost" provided yet another indelible musical moment: Swayze and Moore sensually molding pottery together to the strains of the Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody." It also earned a best-picture nomination and a supporting-actress Oscar for Goldberg, who said she wouldn't have won if it weren't for Swayze.

(Ghost - "Unchained Melody"):

Swayze earned three Golden Globe nominations, for "Dirty Dancing," "Ghost" and 1995's "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar," which further allowed him to toy with his masculine image. The role called for him to play a drag queen on a cross-country road trip alongside Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo.

Among his earlier films, Swayze was part of the star-studded lineup of up-and-comers in Francis Ford Coppola's 1983 adaptation of S.E. Hinton's novel "The Outsiders," alongside Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Emilio Estevez and Diane Lane.

Other '80s films included "Red Dawn," "Grandview U.S.A." (for which he also provided choreography) and "Youngblood," once more with Lowe, as Canadian hockey teammates.

In the '90s, he made such eclectic films as "Point Break" (1991), in which he played the leader of a band of bank-robbing surfers, and the family Western "Tall Tale" (1995), in which he starred as Pecos Bill. He appeared on the cover of People magazine as its "Sexiest Man Alive" in 1991, but his career tapered off toward the end of the 1990s, when he also had stay in rehab for alcohol abuse. In 2001, he appeared in the cult favorite "Donnie Darko," and in 2003 he returned to the New York stage with "Chicago"; 2006 found him in the musical "Guys and Dolls" in London.

Off-screen, he was an avid conservationist who was moved by his time in Africa to shine a light on "man's greed and absolute unwillingness to operate according to Mother Nature's laws," he told the AP in 2004.

Swayze was married since 1975 to Niemi, a fellow dancer who took lessons with his mother; they met when he was 19 and she was 15. A licensed pilot, Niemi would fly her husband from Los Angeles to Northern California for treatment at Stanford University Medical Center.

With 'HUSH', Jessica Lange hurls herself into Grande Dame Guignol cinema with delicious results. We just dare you to try and stifle your giggles.

Anyone who's witnessed Joan Crawford’s female impersonation in Johnny Guitar realizes that it spoiled her for any “normal” roles forever after, while Faye Dunaway’s loony one-woman floor show in Mommie Dearest (playing Joan Crawford) altered her once stellar career into one as a roving mercenary actress in films as disparate and desperate as Supergirl, The Temp and Dunston Checks In. For Jessica Lange the film that transformed her from a critical darling into a misshapen, overblown character out of Tennessee Williams or William Castle is Jonathan Darby's daft potboiler HUSH. We defy anyone not to giggle as Lange waltzes around in jodhpurs playing Martha Baring, the head of a large Kentucky horse ranch called Kilronan.

When Lange's upper-crust hunk of a son, (bland Johnathon Schaech) arrives at Kilronan with his wide-eyes and his void-of-a-girlfriend Gwyneth Paltrow in tow for a down-home Christmas, Lange flares her nostrils incestuously, regarding poor Paltrow as merely a vessel for Schaech's child and simply not the "right" woman for her little man. Naturally, when she finds Gwyneth lounging naked in her son's room (instead of in her assigned spot in the guest bedroom), Lange leaves nothing to chance and puncture's Paltrow's diaphragm. (well, wouldn't you?) The kids leave but soon Paltrow finds herself preggers, and - for reasons to convoluted to explain - they return to the bowels of Kentucky to wait out the trimesters. Oh no!

Lange immediately takes possession of Schaech and Paltrow like Hitler invading Poland. A visit by Gwyneth to grandma Nina Foch, (a game old broad who knows where all the bodies are buried), reveals Lange's evil past and the suspicions surrounding the death of her husband. From then on, Lange turns into a psychopathic harridan. With the aid of powerful horse medication, she succeeds in inducing Paltrow's pregnancy. The result is a harrowing home-birth sequence that will forever after give natural childbirth advocates a bad name. This ordeal finally ignites Paltrow's anger. When she is able to walk upright again (a mere 24 hours later!), she goes hunting for Lange and revenge.

Movies this bad can't happen by accident, and Lange (who must have realized she didn't have a campy-psychotic role under her belt yet), treats us to some of the funniest scenes involving rats, horses, pregnant women and naked old ladies that you'll ever want to see. She drawls, vamps and guzzles the scenery with gusto. It's like she's competing in a late career Bette Davis contest and Glenn Close just took the lead.

But the true find here is Johnathon Schaech. Actually, his acting talent is tougher to spot here than his name is to spell. But if they ever decide to make a film entitled "Barbie & Ken: The Genitalia Experiment", here's your Ken.

Bernice took the cutbacks to her household allowance very hard.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Today, my darlings, we attempt to ride with C.C. AND COMPANY. This much fun cannot possibly be intentional.

"You've seen too many motorcycle movies!" cries fashion designer Ann-Margret to some lust-crazed bikers at one point in the irresistibly awful 1970 biker flick C.C. AND COMPANY. Well, somebody has. Our guess is that it was Ann-Margret's husband, Roger Smith, who penned this laughable compendium of chopper cliches about five seconds after EASY RIDER became the number-one box-office smash all over the world.

Football hero Joe Namath, making a (thankfully) brief stab at screen stardom, plays a thieving, lowlife biker who, while cruising the desert with two fellow gang members, comes across mini-skirted, maxi-haired Manhattanite Ann-Margret stranded in a broken-down limo. "You guys gonna sit there like 'The Wild Ones' or you gonna give a girl a hand?" A-M vamps, as only a half-clad sex kitten stranded in the middle of nowhere might think to do.

When Namath's pals predictably move in on A-M and one threatens to strike her, Namath nobly intervenes with this bit of roadside rape etiquette: "Man, you don't hit something that looks that good. I mean, laying her is one thing, but bruising her--that's something else again." After the two ill-mannered bikers ride off, A-M realizes that Namath was only saving her for himself, but before she gets a chance to show him how much she doesn't mind, a tow truck shows up and he takes off.

Fortunately, the star-crossed lovers meet again soon, this time at a dirt-bike track where A-M is overseeing a fashion magazine shoot of models wearing her latest couture designs while bikers race around them. When Namath appears in the background of the pictures, A-M has to ask him to sign a photo release, for which she promises him what sounds suspiciously like what the studio must have offered him to star in this movie: "Your name in a magazine, fan mail from oversexed housewives, a year's subscription to Popular Mechanics -- anything but money."

But Namath balks at signing, whereupon A-M utters the fateful words, "I need a release!" With that, Namath puts the comely fashionista on the back of his Harley for a long, hard ride, then takes her go-go dancing, and then gets naked with her. After a happy-lovers montage to the sound of A-M's own voice crooning, "When you smile that special smile/As you listen to whatever I say/You've given me such tenderness/You satisfy me in every way," Namath abandons his biker pals to move into A-M's digs.

Alas, the resentful roughnecks, believing Namath has made off with the group's cash, kidnap A-M and unleash their own skanky motorcycle mamas on her. One Harley hussy buries her face in A-M's bountiful boobage and exclaims, "Oh, fragrance divine!" Then she grabs A-M's titian tresses and snarls, "A natural redhead, you suppose? Only her hairdresser knows for sure." When Namath rides to the rescue, he's told that if he doesn't come up with the missing moolah, "Little Orphan Annie here gets a royal gang bang." Namath proposes instead a tough-guy bikes competition -- a hog-off -- so everyone heads to a deserted university track to watch the race. A campus security guard threatens to break things up, but one of the chopper chicks talks him out of it by explaining that they're actually students making a movie: "It's a cross between Antonioni and A.I.P."

Naturally Namath wins and takes off with A-M on his motorcycle, which leads to the portended Antonioni homage. Stopping at a meaningfully empty intersection where a red light blinks "Don't Walk," A-M asks, with ineffable ennui, "Where are we going?" Namath replies, "I gotta split for awhile." Full of angst, A-M growls, "Remember when we talked about looking for something? I'd like to look with you. For a while, anyway." With that, a green light blinks "Walk" and the two roar off into the night, searching, presumably, for better scripts.

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