Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Boy, A Thracian, And An Airline Pilot Walk Into A Blog...

A friend recently inquired as to why I haven’t been blogging much lately. I said, “Who do you think I am? Leo ******* Tolstoy? In case you haven’t noticed, I've posted blog entries on everything from snow shoveling to sports, music, art, literature, poetry, holidays, travel, fashion, technology, animals and, literally, all kinds of topics from A to Z. My brain is tired!”

He responded. “Really? I've read your blog. It sure doesn't look as if you've overworked your brain on it.”

Well, he may be right. Even so, I just want to take this opportunity to send my best wishes to that friend who is currently in the hospital recovering from reconstructive nose surgery.

However, I have done some writing of late; I've reviewed some movies on the website Rotten Tomatoes.

I used to think being a film critic would have been the world’s greatest profession. Imagine, being paid to watch movies and expressing your opinion. Now I think it would be a nightmare! Can you imagine having to sit through three hours of a James Cameron supposed-epic, with music by John (The Big Schmaltzy) Williams, and possibly starring (we'll scrape the bottom of the barrel here) Adam Sandler, and in 3D? I’d rather be a Wal-Mart greeter in Antarctica. But, I suppose there could be worse jobs.

As a favor to you faithful readers, I've decided to post some of my reviews here so you don’t have to e-travel all the way over to the Rotten Tomatoes site.

HUGO (2011)
Hugo is directed by either Spielberg or Scorsese. I think it's Scorsese, but it felt like Spielberg. The film even had some John Williams-style BIG music, composed by Canadian Howard Shore. Yeah, that's right, the Canadian saxophone player from the Canadian band Lighthouse! (I had to get in some Canadian content there)

This fantasy is about a boy who lives in the walls of a Paris train station. Not since The Legend of 1900 have I heard of anything this screwy. Inside these walls are the guts of the station's clocks. The guts consist of cogs, gears, counterweights, pinions, springs, and - inexplicably - steam.

During the course of the film, we learn that Hugo is the dude that built C3PO (or some C3PO prototype). C3PO reveals to Hugo that the local old grump (played by Ben Kingsley) is in fact a forerunner to movie wizards like Spielsese or Scorberg.

Anyway, I saw this movie in regular old boring 2D at a local theatre which hasn't changed much since its days as a Nickelodeon. I didn't realize it was a 3D film until the scene where some pages with drawings go flying from the kids' hands and drift all over the screen. At first I was thinking, "What the hell is this all about? Am I supposed to be mesmerized by fluttering stationery?" Then I realized that this was intended to be seen in super-duper 3D. "Ahh," I thought, "Now I see. Ooooh, that would have been so cool to see all that paper flying around in 3D." We haven't witnessed anything like this in cinematic history since the famous bolo-bat scene in the 1953 film House of Wax.

Hugo does a lot of hiding and running, primarily from a train station cop played by Sacha Baron Cohen. Cohen's character is an amalgam of Inspectors Javert and Clouseau. He and his trusty Doberman Pinscher cannot seem to track down the elusive boy who knows the station and its walls like the inner workings of an automaton. During one climactic scene, Hugo gives the Inspector the slip by doing a Harold Lloyd impression from a clock tower.

Once the Inspector catches up with Hugo, they have a talk. During the conversation, the little urchin makes the Inspector laugh. The Inspector tells him that he's funny. Hugo then says, "I'm funny how? I mean funny like I'm a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh, I'm here to ******' amuse you? What do you mean funny? Funny how? How am I funny? What the **** is so funny about me? Tell me, tell me what's funny!"

Wait a minute. I might me confused. That dialog might be from a different movie - a real Scorcese film.

Editor’s Note — Anyone who has read ALL my posts will recognize that part of an old blog entry was used in this review. Forgive me. As I said, my brain is tired.

In 1960, Stanley Kubrick released his colossal, towering, gargantuan, monumental, epic blockbuster SPARTACUS!!!! Okay, it isn't that spectacular, but it is a pretty dang good flick.

Spartacus stars Kirk Douglas as an impudent Thracian slave. Thracians, as depicted in the film, were a race of people known for a particular physical characteristic - they had chin dimples the size of walnuts.

Because Spartacus is such an uppity wisenheimer, he is sentenced to a life as a gladiator. Not that it's all bad. He gets to work out a lot and is "whipped" into incredible physical shape. Also, he receives occasional visits from another slave who also happens to be a tasty dish named Varinia (played as a genteel aristocrat by Jean Simmons).

Douglas does a fine job as the brooding gladiator. Other standouts include Charles Laughton as Gracchus; not to be confused with Crassus, a gourmet who likes both escargot and shellfish, played by Laurence Olivier. Peter Ustinov provides some Oscar-winning semi-comic relief as the sniveling sycophant Batiatus.

Another major character in the film is Antoninus, played by Tony Curtis. Tony (which is short for Antoninus) is a "singer" of "songs". His "songs" are just poems spoken in a Bronx accent.

During the course of the movie, Spartacus escapes from gladiator school and assembles a considerable army of fellow undergraduates. Spartacus is well-loved by his men, and this is illustrated in one particularly moving scene.

When the Romans capture Spartacus and his men, Crassus threatens to kill them all unless someone betrays their leader (who Crassus believes is a communist). Spartacus - in a heroic effort to spare his men - stands up to reveal himself, but Antoninus beats him to the punch. He jumps to his sandaled feet and yells out, "I'm Spartacus."
This sets off a chain reaction. Another guy stands up and shouts, "I'm Spartacus."
And another, "I'm Spartacus."
Another, "I'm Spartacus."
And so on.

The Romans were very frustrated by this, because now instead of one pesky Spartacus, they found that they had to deal with a whole slew of Spartaci.

Legend has it that this event spawned an entire generation of scofflaws. Whenever a centurion confronted a non-Roman for some infraction - say a speeding chariot - the inevitable happened:
"All right wise guy. Thirty days in the dungeon."

Anyway, this is a very good film that I highly recommend. And, if I may, I'd like to close out this "review" with one of Antoninus' "songs":

"When the blazing wind hangs low in the western sky
when the sun flies away to the mountain
when the "song" of the crow scares the locusts from the fields
and maidens sleep in the sea foam
at last at twilight time..."

Or something like that.

FLIGHT (2012)
Flight stars Denzel Washington as Whip Whitaker, a pilot who can fly a passenger jet through the eye of a needle even though he's downed enough alcohol to put Haystacks Calhoun on his keester.

Whitaker is no stranger to other mind-altering substances. He apparently can drink ten gallons of 150 proof hooch, fall asleep, then get himself back on his feet by snorting several lines of cocaine. And with all those drugs swirling around in his liver, he can expertly maneuver a disabled airplane upside-down (to be clear, it's the airplane that's upside-down. Although the Whipster could likely fly it standing on his head). What a stud!

However this is a pretty good movie. You'll really enjoy it if you first dispose of your jaded negativity.

— — —

There you have it, two full reviews and one pathetic, measly, tepid critique.

But, before I go, I'd like to give a shout out to a fellow blogger who has a new book coming out. Congratulations Susan on the upcoming release of Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade.


  1. Some terrific chuckle-producing reviews! As enjoyable as any I've read, so maybe you missed your calling.

    Thanks so much for the shout-out.

    1. And thank you for your comments dear Susan.

      I have thought about doing a blog on just movie reviews. I've even reserved the blog title Cantankerous Canadian Critic. Not sure if I'm going to use it though; it would be the most panning by a Canadian since the 1896 Klondike gold rush.