Monday, August 31, 2009

Forgotten 'FUNNY GIRL!'

Prior to its 1964 Broadway run, FUNNY GIRL did indeed have a title tune that ultimately did not make it to the great white way. (No - not the same title song that made it into the film version. This earlier effort is very different - and far more entertaining if you ask us.)

It was recorded on the flip side of Streisand's pre-opening Columbia 45' of "People" and got quite a bit of airplay as far south as D.C. when the show was trying out in Philadelphia. Ultimetly, the show didn't need the song but the single also got a brief and obscure lp release on a multi-performer anthology disc called "The Headliners '65," Columbia Record Club (S) DS-80.

Here's the lyric:
A fella loves to be with a funny girl.
The evening flies when he's with a funny girl.
Female gigglers do better than wigglers.
Fancy dancers are fast on their feet but slow with the answers.

The boys don't want the tragic and teary kind,
They've got a thousand problems to cloud their mind.
Some ladies find when they've lost their guys,
They should have made faces and crossed their eyes.
Debutants would give up the social whirl,
To be a funny, funny girl.

The boys don't want the tragic and teary kind,
They've got a thousand problems to cloud their mind.
But if true love should decide to come,
You'd better keep those laughs to a minimum.
And when his lips feel softer than bunnies,
Show him that you'll do more than make funnies.
Tell him it's real, if he ever leaves, you'll die.
I said "No jokes, funny girl."
Even funny girls can cry.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The tale of PETER PAN grows up in 'THE CHILD THIEF'

"A gruesome and darkly fantastical twist on a classic tale. Brom injects pure horror into fantasy." (Holly Black, New York Times bestselling author of Ironside and The Spiderwick Chronicles )
"Brom has always been an artist who gave us his nightmares fully realized, but with THE CHILD THIEF, he paints in words. A wonderfully nasty Peter Pan reboot that stands on its own as a dark, twisted adventure." (Christopher Golden )
"Ancient magics combine with feral logic to culminate in Brom's The Child Thief. A retelling of Peter Pan spanning America's earliest, magically rich beginnings to today's bare whispers of belief. Wickedly poetic, The Child Thief makes me want to believe." (Kim Harrison )

From the fantasy artist Brom comes this well-written reimagining of J.M. Barrie's immortal Peter Pan. But unlike Barrie's youth-friendly tale of childhood fantasies come to life on the faraway island of Neverland, THE CHILD THIEF resets the tale in the much darker present. Peter is still the youthful pied piper of children but in this case, he recruits them from the dark and seamy streets of Manhattan, taking them to Avalon, an island retreat which is far deadlier than in the original classic. Filled with flesh-eaters led by the Captain, Peter's new recruitment of Lost Boys (or "Devils" as he calls them) won't grow up primarily because they most likely won't live to. Peter and his ever changing band (which include girls as well as boys) have been at war with the Captain and his "pirates" for centuries. But when Peter's latest recruit Nick wishes to return back home, this Pan is less accommodating.

With wonderful illustrations by the author, THE CHILD THIEF is dark and bloody, violent and gruesome. This is not for the kiddies but it is highly recommended. A page-turner for those who enjoyed Gregory Maguire's WICKED or anyone who likes their fairy stories on the "grimm" side.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Deliciously nasty! DEATH BECOMES HER spanks the liposucked fannies of Hollywood.

By Rita Kempley, Washington Post Staff Writer, July 25, 1992 (reprinted without permission) 

Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn battle Mother Nature, the witch who invented maturity, in DEATH BECOMES HER. This inventive black comedy ridicules two gorgeous fortysomethings in search of the ultimate wrinkle cream. More cosmetic than cosmic in its approach, it thrives on what it condemns and in its own weird, wonderfully savvy fashion, spanks the liposucked fannies of Hollywood. It's as irresistibly nasty as The War of the Roses and as cheerily Gothic as The Witches of Eastwick.

A tale in four chapters, it begins with Streep's parody of an Ann-Margret-inspired production number that asks the musical question, "When I look in the mirror, what do I see?" and answers, "I see me." Towed about the stage by a chorus of boy dancers, Streep is amazingly good at being bad. How gleefully she heads down Sunset Boulevard in the role of Madeline Ashton, an imperious star whose popularity is falling along with her face instead of growing with her waistline. That night the bookish Helen Sharp (Hawn) brings her fiance (Bruce Willis) backstage to meet her old friend, which is pretty foolish when you consider that Madeline has a history of man-grabbing. And since Helen's fiance is a mild-mannered plastic surgeon named Ernest Menville, we assume he represents not just one man but all who bear the XY chromosome. Well, before you can say, "Don't forget to moisturize," Ernest and Madeline are wed.

Helen, who gains 200 pounds on a diet of cake frosting and enters a mental hospital, returns 12 or so years later to find the brilliant doctor an alcoholic reduced to making up corpses. Motivated by her hatred for Madeline, she has transformed herself into a va-va-voomish beauty-book author who is determined to win back Ernest. Her taut little tush and her chipper little chin leave Madeline in a jealous rage. Madeline would do anything, she'd pay anything to get rid of those darned liver spots. And who should step in but Lancome spokesmodel Isabella Rossellini, ironically cast as a mysterious goddess endowed with a potion from hell. Drink it and you are forever young -- and beautiful, provided you take infinitely good care of your body. Unfortunately, Madeline takes a nasty spill down a flight of stairs and comes up looking like Linda Blair, with her lovely head on backward. When Helen gloats, Madeline retaliates by blowing a hole through her the size of a trash-can lid, after which the two women are condemned to an eternal cat fight. Fed up with the feud, the doctor goes into a new-age phase.

Director Robert Zemeckis, who took us Back to the Future (thrice), directs this technically complicated, stylishly imaginative extravaganza with the sure hand of Dr. Menville before he got into Scotch. It's rich in terms of offbeat lines and unexpected laughs, as might be expected from the authors of the kinky thriller Apartment Zero. It is also refreshingly old-fashioned, reminiscent less of Roger Rabbit and Back to the Future than of '40s screwball and horror spoofs. Overall, this is an excellent black comedy that boasts the talents of three A-list actors at the top of their game. The film maintains both a dry wit and a dark edge throughout, and its wonderful comic book feel gives it an originality, and a refreshing longevity, as Zemeckis (again) takes his audience into a superbly crafted fantasy world. It's delicious!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Today we attempt to unravel BARB WIRE - a deliciouly misguided remake of ...Casablanca!?!

The years between 1994 and 1996 were Bad Movie manna for fans of deliriously cheesy sci-fi thrillers set in the near future, what with Johnny Mnemonic, Strange Days and John Carpenter's Escape From L.A. But the ultimate booby prize in this genre we call "Aschlockalypse Now" goes to Barb Wire. And what boobies! From the opening Flashdance-esque strip club routine, in which millions of gallons of water are sprayed onto heroine Pamela Anderson's bared casabas, Barb Wire is a perky paean to the wonders of silicone. The unrated video version (which we'd call "the director's cut" if there were any signs there'd been a director), contains miles more footage of Anderson's nipples looking as sharp and deadly as her stiletto heels. Speaking of which, when a rowdy heckler calls Anderson a "babe," she high-heels the ringsider to death, before snarling, "If one more person calls me "babe'!" We can only surmise she'd prefer a more accurate nickname--say, "boob"?

As you may have heard, Barb Wire lifts its entire plot from Casablanca. In the Humphrey Bogart role, Anderson runs a bar friendly to both villains and freedom fighters in America's last "free city," circa 2017. Since she's a neutral mercenary-for-hire, Anderson plays no favorites, and to prove it moonlights as a hooker/hit woman, explaining, "You gotta use everything you've got." Cinched into rib-crushing leather bustiers, Anderson is definitely doing just that. But, dependent as the "Baywatch" vet is on careful lighting, she is frequently sabotaged by the cameraman -- with hilarious results. There are moments when she appears to be a Karen Black lookalike trying to pass herself off as Jessica Rabbit.

When corrupt police chief Xander Berkeley turns up to collect blackmail money, cop a feel and down a cognac, Anderson demands payment for the booze (the feels are free). "Add it to my tab," he sneers, finishing with the irresistable, inexplicable, presumably future-speak exclamation, "Boom, boom, boom!" Anderson puts up with some things, not with others. When a rude drunk snarls, "Blow me!," for example, she calls on her attack dog, Camille, and the faithful pooch bites the boor in his crotch and drags him out of the bar. Boom, boom, boom! And when the Ingrid Bergman character shows up in the guise of one Temuera Morrison, Anderson doesn't just mutter, "Of all the gin joints...," she decks him and screeches, "Get out!" Boom, boom, boom!

The clever dialogue doesn't stop here. Evil Colonel Steve Railsback roars at cop Berkeley, "I will personally rip yer heart outta yer ass and stuff it back down yer throat!" Boom, boom, boom! Casablanca fans will have dissolved so completely into helpless tears of laughter by the time Barb's kid brother (Jack Noseworthy) appears, they'll surely agree with this observation, "This must be a post-traumatic stress flashback."

Endearingly, Anderson maintains her haughty act of narcissistic self-assurance throughout this chaotic trash. To keep us awake, she does things like stroke her naked flesh in a transparent bubble bath. It all ends, as you'd hoped it would, with police chief Berkeley and out-of-the-closet Resistance fighter Lee alone on a rain-drenched airfield. When Berkeley confesses, "I do believe I'm falling in love," the endlessly self-enchanted one snaps, "Get in line!" Barb Wire only begins to tap the Bad Movie Pneumatic Goddess potential of Anderson. This girl is a find. She is Pia Zadora come back. But where is the cinematic Svengali who can package her genius? Alas, Anderson is Mamie Van Doren without Albert Zugsmith, Jayne Mansfield without Tommy Noonan, Joe Dallesandro without Paul Morrissey. Paging Zalman King!

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Perhaps it was the disgraceful (even by republican standards) shenanigans of the former Bush/Cheney administration finally getting to me... or maybe it's the current idiotic behavior of the G.O.P. over Obama's yet to be unveiled health care plan... but more than likely, it is the impending visit of Magda, my hateful mother-in-law, that possessed me to watch a movie about a blood-sucking demon from hell who preys on innocent victims with sinister abandon and then laughs about it.

Francis Coppola's DRACULA saga is an extravagantly nutso affair shot through with several terrible performances. (No letters please, you know who they are.) But if you're going to have one really good performance in a vampire movie, it helps if it's from the actor playing Dracula. Gary Oldman is so much the life of Bram Stoker's Dracula that we the audience, unlike the characters in the movie, are safe only when Dracula is around.

Oldman's Dracula is by no means scary -- going for scary probably would have been futile and fatal -- but he is creepy, unpredictable, funny, sexy and compulsively watchable. (Just like my husband Jim after a few highballs.) Oldman succeeded in invoking the familiar, ghoulish Dracula with ease and wit, while at the same time evoking a new, modern, "F"d-up Dracula that has the kick of the unexpected. How difficult was Oldman's job? For starters, he was actually playing several different characters -- the medieval warrior; the crazed, debauched old man; the hairy giant bat; the seductive prince. That alone was potential chaos. But he also has a movie sliding off into silliness all around him. And he had gobs of makeup to contend with. You could see how the guy who became famous playing rock psycho Sid Vicious would have no problem handling this last challenge -- Oldman could act right through a brick wall, not to mention heavy prosthetics. How Oldman succeeded in keeping Coppola's sputtering blarney half-afloat is another matter.

Oldman seems to have thought a lot about how someone who has been pursuing a very bad habit for 400 years might feel and behave. On the one hand, the relic in the castle who unnerves Keanu Reeves is a combination of cheesy Bela Lugosi tribute and purely original strangeness -- as the terrifying razor-licking scene shows. The lethal geezer has the manners of someone who hasn't been out in public in a few centuries. (Which brings to mind my Aunt Marie, just before we had her put down. But I digress.) On the other hand, the blue-spectacled fashion plate who fascinates Mina (Winona Ryder) is all seductive single-mindedness, with a subtle -- here's the key and the surprise -- vulnerability. The elegant prince has been consumed by a love since the fall of Constantinople -- and he has the gaze to prove it.

Besides giving Dracula a low voice and slooowww way of talking (why hurry when you've seen everything and you're never going to die?), Oldman paid special attention to his character's eyes. Dracula almost never blinks, telegraphing that, physically speaking, he doesn't have normal human needs, and metaphorically speaking, he can't be surprised or intimidated. (It was my hateful mother-in-law that inspired me after all!) The moment when Oldman does have Dracula blink -- when he sees the picture of Mina on Harker's desk, and later when he is with Mina and she is "remembering" his love Elisabeta -- are precisely when his ancient humanity has been aroused. Oldman also uses his hands to feed energy into his portrait of the "undead." The old Dracula, whose palms are hairy (a good joke), does some fancy finger-waving that is complemented by a sort of bat-flapping of the arms when he gets ticked off. A great effect. The prince's hands are flawless, manicured instruments of seduction. Very sexy.

But these are just the specifics of a performance that is thoroughly thought out and fearlessly executed. And all within the confines of a basically terrible movie! With the whole enterprise of Bram Stoker's Dracula pitched so dangerously, and at points disastrously, toward extremism, it was something of a miracle that Oldman managed to resurrect a woefully picked-over legend with the strength of his own dramatic nerve.

Now if you'll forgive me, I have to get little Jimmy jr. busy sharpening those stakes and hanging the traditional strands of garlic in preparation for his grandmother's visit. --  TTFN


idiots since 1996.
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Thursday, August 6, 2009


John Hughes, the writer-director of a memorable string of 1980s teen films — from The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles to Ferris Bueller's Day Off — has died of a heart attack, according to his Los Angeles-based publicists.

Hughes died suddenly during a walk while visiting family in Manhattan, spokeswoman Michelle Bega said. He was 59.

He was born in Michigan but later moved to suburban Chicago. He began his writing career as an advertising copywriter in the Windy City — and set most of his films in the Chicago area.

Much of his work focused on high school antics coupled with teen angst. It was a comic formula that made stars of such actors as Molly Ringwald, Matthew Broderick, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy and Anthony Michael Hall.

Other future stars who made early appearances in Hughes films included John Cusack, Jon Cryer, Lili Taylor and Steve Carell.

He directed just eight films, but as a writer he was behind a larger mixture of box-office hits and cult classics, including Home Alone and the National Lampoon comedy Vacation. Other writing credits: Beethoven, Maid in Manhattan and his final film story credit, for the Owen Wilson comedy Drillbit Taylor.

Hughes began his Hollywood career in the late 1970s as a writer for the short-lived television series Delta House, based on the successful film Animal House.

Then came writing credits for the feature films Class Reunion and Mr. Mom, as well as Vacation.

In 1984, Hughes rocketed to fame with the release of his directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, which he also wrote. The film launched the careers of Ringwald and Hall.

Both stars teamed with Hughes again the following year for the quintessential high-school-angst film, The Breakfast Club. The film's group of young stars included Ringwald, Hall, Estevez, Nelson and Sheedy. They became known as the "Brat Pack."

Hughes followed that success with Weird Science and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, featuring a young Broderick. In later years, he went on to direct Planes, Trains & Automobiles — featuring an adult cast pairing Steve Martin and John Candy — She's Having a Baby and Curly Sue.

As Hughes advanced into middle age, his commercial touch faded and he increasingly withdrew from public life. He wrote just a handful of scripts over the past decade. He was rarely interviewed or photographed.

According to his publicists, Hughes spent much of the last decade maintaining a farm in northern Illinois.

He is survived by his wife, Nancy; sons John and James; and four grandchildren.

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