Friday, October 24, 2014

DELICIOUS ANTICIPATION: This Christmas, the folks at Disney and director Rob Marshall bring Stephen Sondheim's Broadway musical masterpiece to the big screen with an amazing cast!

CLICK THIS LINK TO WATCH MERYL STREEP PERFORM A NUMBER IN THE FILM: "Into the Woods" is a modern twist on the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales, intertwining the plots of a few choice stories and exploring the consequences of the characters' wishes and quests. This humorous and heartfelt musical follows the classic tales of Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Jack and the Beanstalk (Daniel Huttlestone), and Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy) - all tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife (James Corden & Emily Blunt), their wish to begin a family and their interaction with the witch (Meryl Streep) who has put a curse on them. Rob Marshall, the talented filmmaker behind the Academy Award®-winning musical "Chicago" and Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," helms the film, which is based on the Tony®-winning original musical by James Lapine, who also penned the screenplay, and legendary composer Stephen Sondheim, who provides the music and lyrics. Produced by Marshall, John DeLuca, "Wicked" producer Marc Platt and Callum McDougall, "Into the Woods" hits theaters December 25, 2014.

Monday, October 20, 2014


Hungry for memorably, side-splittingly Bad? Then look no further! The infamous 1973 mega-bomb LOST HORIZON gives you 149 minutes worth, dished up faux Asian style by producer Ross Hunter. Hunter was already richer than Midas from producing such gems as Imitation of Life and Magnificent Obsession when he spent zillions to remake Frank Capra’s classic movie fantasy about Shangri-La into a Burt Bacharach/Hal David musical, all of it starring non-singing, non-dancing, non-actors.

The hilarity begins with a planeload of cardboard characters: diplomat Peter Finch, his surly brother Michael York, engineer George Kennedy, entertainer Bobby Van, and Sally Kellerman as a suicidal Newsweek photographer who, at first sign of air turbulence, starts popping pills. Hyperventilating, Kellerman swoons, "I feel we’re heading for outer space."

No such luck: Instead of a snowy death, our heroes’ plane crash dumps them in a smiley utopia apparently inspired by a Liberace theme park.

Resident guru, ancient John Gielgud (picture a mummy on Prozac), brings Finch to confer with the even more ancient High Lama Charles Boyer (picture a mummy beyond Prozac), who suggests that Finch linger forever. He doesn’t need much convincing; he’s already fallen for schoolmarm Liv Ullman. "Is there some delicious drug in our food?" Finch asks "or is this all a mirage?"

Drugs are the only possible explanation; in any case, only drugs can help get you past the sight of Ullman swinging her hands, bugging her eyes, thrashing in fields, and lip-synching "The World Is a Circle" – it’s enough to make one appreciate Cybill Shepherd in At Long Last Love. (Well... maybe not appreciate so much as tolerate.)
No sooner is Kellerman talked down from leaping off a ledge (did she foresee the reviews?) Than she, too, is bleating in song. Then steel yourself for the "Festival of the Family"number, in which James Shigeta and scads of arrythmic extras dance a two-step, singing about family values.

Everybody’s soooo bloody happy except York, who plots his escape with dewy (If obviously pregnant) librarian Olivia Hussey. Gielgud grumbles that Hussy’s youthful facade will shatter if she leaves this magical land – it’s only Shangri-La that keeps her from growing ancient, you see – but York eventually persuades Finch to escape with them. Just as Gielgud predicted, Hussey ages to, oh, about Gielgud’s age, and York tumbles to his death down a mountainside. Lucky them.

Finch, sadder but wiser, returns to his paradise "with its feet rooted in the good earth of this fertile valley while his head explores the eternal." We can’t vouch for where anybody’s head was at in making this movie, but we can hazard a guess.

Be sure to catch it on the recent 2012 issued (restored to its original Roadshow length!) Twilight Time Blu ray. Essential, if life-shortening, viewing.

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Quick now, who was the least likely musical talent to ever have hoped they'd make it as a star of the silver screen? If you guessed Luciano Pavarotti in Yes, Giorgio, Cyndi Lauper in Vibes, Mariah Carey in Glitter or Madonna in just about anything, then you've never seen Liberace in the 1955 howler SINCERELY YOURS. With his moist eyes, congealed smile and mortician's manners, Las Vegas headliner Liberace was doubly miscast here as a talented concert pianist who is also a practicing heterosexual.

Somebody must have realized just how ridiculous this project was, because how else would you account for this scene: when secretary Joanne Dru offers up a choice of PR opportunities - "How'd you like to ride an elephant for the circus?" then, "Would you like to be king of the avocado festival?" and finally, "Open a new aquarium?" -- Liberace is miffed at their inappropriateness to someone of his stature and storms into his bathroom, where his roommate and manager, William Demarest, is taking a bubble bath and chewing on a very large cigar. As if the tableau alone were not enough, Liberace tosses Demarest a washcloth and says, "Don't forget to wash behind. . . your ears."

But the real fun begins as gorgeous, rich Dorothy Malone understandably mistakes Liberace for a lowly piano teacher and haughtily informs him, "When your family has money, you're supposed to be accomplished. So I learned to paint, to ride, to dance, even to try and play the piano. Some people are born listeners--I'm one of them. But my family won't be convinced until I get a letter from you, saying I should stick to Mediterranean cruises and canasta."

Just as you're about to grab a pen and paper to take care of this matter yourself, Liberace sneers at Malone, "Where did you practice your scales - reaching for martinis?" Now that these two have expressed their mutual contempt, Liberace proposes marriage: "Did you ever wonder what it would be like spending a lifetime married to a musician?" he queries Malone. Just in case she's been overwhelmed by his charm, he goes on to warn her, "It's not easy competing with a concerto!" But hey, it's not easy competing with 10 percent of the male population either, right?

Malone is too in love to heed warnings, not even the one she gets at Liberace's concert from serviceman Alex Nicol, who utters words any bride-to-be should pay attention to: "He respects the classics, but from a sitting position - not from his knees." Meanwhile, up on stage Liberace is bouncing on his bench, rolling his eyes ecstatically, and smiling in such delirious self-enchantment he appears to be deep inside his own musical remake of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. Just when you're thinking you'd rather go deaf than listen to one more note from Liberace, he does. This situation puts an end to his concert career, allowing him to mope around his swanky Manhattan penthouse and, in Lana Turner style, to make many of the 29 costume changes that won this movie it's place in cinema history.

Dim bulb Malone isn't the first girl to wonder why her fiance hasn't been taking her calls, but she's probably the first to be given this excuse: "He's deaf." Putting on a bright face, Malone insists they should marry anyway, explaining, "I fell in love with a person, not a pianist." Actually, of course, he's neither, but it's a nice thought. His spirits restored, Liberace embarks on a 12-week course in lip-reading that goes by in what feels like real time. It all pays off, though, when we get to see how he applies this new skill. Leaning off his terrace while holding a big pair of binoculars, Liberace scans Central Park some 30 stories below. That's right, he's become a full-time, long-distance lip-reading voyeur.

To get full mileage out of this plot point, Liberace's hearing returns, and he races down to Central Park to eavesdrop in person on the latest twists in the two-hankie saga he's been lip-reading from afar. It seems that young Lori Nelson is pulling a Stella Dallas on her white-trash mother (Lurene Tuttle) by telling her she'll never fit in with Nelson's ritzy in-laws. After Nelson leaves, Liberace takes the heartbroken Tuttle in hand and happily buys her just the heels, hats and evening gowns he might have picked out for himself. That night he goes with Tuttle to a charity fund-raiser where all the snooty blue bloods are charmed by Tuttle, particularly when she talks Liberace into performing "The Beer Barrel Polka." Then, as divine punishment for this musical lapse, Liberace is struck deaf all over again.

A still hearing-challenged Liberace is casually gazing through his binoculars one night when his eyes settle on none other than his beloved Malone with his serviceman pal Alex Nicol in what is certainly a romantic rendezvous. Amazingly enough - since it's pitch-black outside - he reads their lips to learn that Malone is in love with the other man. What will Liberace do? It all ends happily with Liberace so quickly reconciled to life without wedded bliss that he hops up from his piano and tap dances "Tea for Two," which is meant to have you asking, "Is there no end to this man's talent?" You'll more likely be wondering, "Is there no end to this movie?" Well, yes there is, and it happens to have been the end of Liberace's chances at a starring screen career, too.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Douglas Sirk lives on in the deliciously overwrought COLOR OF NIGHT - a 1994 Bruce Willis misfire that had us doubled over with delirium!

Just when you thought they'd never make a mystery thriller as deliriously bad as Midnight Lace, just when you imagined that the gold lame spirit of Douglas Sirk had departed forever, comes director Richard Rush's COLOR OF NIGHT to brighten up your dull evenings. Color of Night isn't just bad: it's bad with raisins in it.
 If you were one of the few who saw Color of Night in a theater, you probably remember the plot, but for those millions and millions who missed this gem, let's recap.
Bruce Willis stars as a psychologist. (Are you laughing too hard or can we go on now?) Willis is having a crisis of conscience/ confidence because one of his patients leaped out of a window after applying lots of lipstick. (We all know, don't we, that applying lots of lipstick is a sure sign of suicidal depression?) Anyway, Willis goes out to L.A. to visit fellow shrink Scott Bakula, who takes Willis to his group therapy session so that the fun can start in earnest. Remember "The Bob Newhart Show" from the '70's? His group therapy meetings weren't nearly as funny as these: we have a nympho, an obsessive-compulsive, a split personality, the Professor and Mary Ann -- well, you get the idea. Bakula gets killed in a scene that looks like Psycho directed by Mack Sennett. The sad part is that Bakula is the most talented and attractive member of the whole goddamn cast and 30 minutes into the picture he's been bumped off.

Willis stays on in Bakula's grandiosely modern home (crammed with screamingly bad art) despite the fact that someone keeps stalking him and leaving snakes in the mailbox. (Are hotels in L.A. that expensive?) It's like the TV movie where that devil doll keeps chasing Karen Black around her apartment going, "Yanni yanni yanni," and it never occurs to her to just leave.Instead of ruining the horribly implausible and helter-skelter plot for you, We'll just point out some of the more outrageous lapses of sanity: a) Willis's patient jumps out of a Manhattan office tower, causing pedestrians to scream and run, whereas real New Yorkers would have lifted her purse; b) Three days after famous psychologist Scott Bakula is killed in an exceedingly colorful way in his midtown office, his patients still don't know about it -- okay, we've already established that there are no reasonably priced hotels in L.A., but surely there must be at least one newspaper or TV station; c) The whole plot hook -- Willis goes color blind after seeing his patient's blood -- goes nowhere. Period. You keep thinking there has to be a reason for it or a plot twist that depends on it -- but nothing ever happens.

The film is a laugh riot and we don't want to give away all of the jokes. When we saw the film in the theater, the audience laughed all the way through the first sex scene, which took place underwater and was about as erotic as an Esther Williams movie. Oh, yes, we do get to see generous portions of Bruce Willis, though not as much as he'd have liked.

Then there's the acting. Even the extras overact. Keep your eyes out for one unbilled woman playing a hooker in a police station. She only has one line, but she gives it such gusto that she will leave you stunned. Even formerly respected actors lose all sense of self-control; Lesley Ann Warren (decked out in a Shelley Long wig) twitches and twitters like a road company Billie Burke, and Ruben Blades does what appears to be a Jose Jimenez imitation. Willis actually seems like a model of intelligent understatement compared with the rest of the cast, but the truth is, he just wasn't acting at all.

And then there's Jane March. Ever so much of Jane March. Watching her try to match wits with Bruce Willis really makes you appreciate the bang-up job Cybill Shepherd was doing all those years. Jane spends half the movie dressed in disguise as a teenage boy. (How hard is she to spot? She's got teeth like Bucky Beaver! This gal could eat corn on the cob through a picket fence!) It all just gets sillier and sillier until the grand finale, which tried to come off as Hitchcockian but reminded us more of silent film legend Harold Lloyd. Judging by the guffaws from the audience, we weren't alone. So, watch Color of Night if you're feeling down in the mouth. Just don't try to eat popcorn during it -- unless you know the Heimlich maneuver.

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