Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Day in the Life: Truckstop Radiation & Wal-mart

Not the real name of course, but that's what I call it.

The good: I got off work early.
The bad: It's so I can come here to Truckstop Radiation to get another MRI. This time on my neck.
The ugly: I'm really beginning to hate this place. I should own shares by now. I'll update later.
Another reason to hate it:  I’ve been here a half dozen times over the past few months.  Still, they want me to fill out the same idiotic form with the same questions and the same answers every damn time.  I even asked the guy why couldn’t they just Xerox it.

“We just want to know if there are any changes,” he said.

“No, there aren’t.  Now here’s your paper back,”  I said.  In my mind that is.  I filled the damn thing out.

Update: 5:30 and I'm done. Didn't take as long as others I've had. This new blogger app is better than what we had but it still needs work. For instance, any time I do an update, if I add a picture it should beneath or above your text . Instead it just shoves them all to the bottom of your page.  There’s no way to actually place them unless you’re an HTML whiz kid.  I am not.   I also wish there was a way to auto watermark your pics, but there isn't as far as I can tell.  (Note:  these were watermarked  and placed properly after I returned home)

Update: Traffic isn't as bad as usual. At the Rosedale Wal Mart to pick up some Allegra my HCP wants me to take. I was in Rite Aid yesterday and the price was outrageous. Even for the store brand. I would have bought it anyway because you don't save any money driving all the way into Bakersfield, but I knew I had to come into town anyway for the MRI so I just waited since Wal-mart was in the vicinity.  Hell, there’s always a Wally World in the vicinity.

The 15 tablet pack of Allegra was almost 18 bucks at Rite Aid yesterday. It was about $5 less here. The generic store brand was less then ten dollars at Wal-mart. That's what I bought.  Here’s some comparison price shopping for you though.

There were only a couple of packages of the Wal-mart brand left and they were kind of beat up.  But I didn’t really want to spring for the 30 pack since these are one a day tablets and I have to go back to the HCP in two weeks so she can see how I’m doing.  And I will be doing just fine, because the last thing I want is another specialist hitting me up for my 15 dollar co-pay.

I hate shopping here at the Wal-mart in Rosedale though.  The place is a Zoo.  There’s always a bunch of little monsters running amok and the aisles are way too narrow.  I had to wait forever to get to the aisle with the Allegra in it.  After I got the stuff, I headed to the back of the store for some DVD and electronics browsing.  But first I had to stop off for some needed supplies.

Usually I would buy the Gain and use it to pollute our environment with.  I’ve found that the really generic cheap shit doesn’t clean your clothes very well.  But with the six dollar price different and the inviting aroma of lavender, how could I resist the Great Value?  And dig that colorful packaging!  Or am I just becoming a cheap skate.  I would prefer to buy Tide but with Guiding Light off the air, why should I support Proctor and Gamble?  Oh hell, they probably made all of these brands.


If I buy microwave popcorn at the local Save-Mart, the best I can do is get the generic Sunny Select brand for $4.49.  For that price you get ten bags.  Here, for $3.68 you get twelve bags.  So since I eat a lot of this stuff (it’s my one major indulgence), I stocked up.  The best low fat microwave popcorn I’ve tasted is Jolly Time, above and beyond the taste of any others.  Since I don’t eat regular fatty popcorn, I can’t attest to the taste of those.  The problem with Jolly Time is that it’s so darn expensive.  At Save Mart, it only comes in three packs, for about $2.69.  So that’s almost 90 cents a bag which means ten bags is about $9.00.  I did get some at Rite Aid not too long ago because they had single bags for 69 Cents.  Still, that’s seven dollars for ten bags.  But this stuff is okay for the price.

You’ll recognize the above picture.  It is the $5 DVD bin where all DVD’s go to die.  I used to get some goodies out of here but lately the pickings have been slim.  Such was the case this time.  The rule of thumb is if I don’t already have them, chances are that I don’t want them.  That is not always the case though because I did find one DVD that I decided to get.  Believe it or not I’ve never seen it, although I did see it’s unrelated predecessor.  Maybe I’ll end up writing a review on it.  How this did not end up in my collection I don’t know, and I’m a Julia Roberts booster.

I see I screwed up the watermark on it though.  I don’t know how the date and time got turned on for this picture and none of the others.  Freaking IPhone!  Anyway, I’ll put this on the shelf and get around to it.  I haven’t seen Erin Brockovich either, something I really need to do.  It’s here at the house somewhere.    I mean after all, she did win an Academy Award for that one.  The next thing I came across was the following worthless piece of shit.

Wasn’t this out at theaters less than a month ago?  I notice theater owners aren’t bitching about this movie’s quick release to DVD.  Although this shelf is full, I bet there’s plenty of wing nuts out there to spend their $13.00.  Idiots.  Damn, I just now noticed that.   At that price for a new release, they really are desperate to get rid of these drink coasters.  However, if somebody wants to send me a copy, feel free to do so and I promise to be fair and watch the thing before I write a review ripping it to shreds.  (I sure as hell am not wasting a spot in my Netflix Queue or a dollar at Redbox on it)  The next time I watch The Undefeated, it’ll have John Wayne and Rock Hudson in it.  And Missy, if you’re reading this, will you please return my gawddamn DVD’s?

Speaking of bad movies, whatever you do, don’t ever ask me to review these next three films.  There is no way I’ll ever sit through them again.  Once was one time too many and it’s taken me all of these years to cleanse them from my memory.  I don’t care if they are just $13.00.

I own seasons one through eight of Hawaii Five-O, then I had to quit on it.  The darn things were just costing me too much money at $35 or more a season.  And besides, you can now stream the show on Netflix so what’s the point?  Still, I might finish off my collection when the price comes down.  The consensus of opinion is that the series was on a steady decline after the seventh season anyway.  Being honest, I would love to own the whole series, but time and money are not on my side.  It was a great series though and maybe some time in the future I’ll write about it.
I love Chucky.  He’s a class act.  Too bad a few of his movies stank up the joint though.  Still I came close to buying this.  I didn’t for two reasons.  One was that the first film, the most important one, was not a part of this pack.  So it wasn’t the complete series.  Two, I already own one of these (Seed of Chucky) so I wouldn’t have been getting as great of a deal as I would have otherwise.  But I still yet may buy this.  I did find the original Child’s Play film in the following set.
Yeah, you can buy this if you want the original movie.  I wasn’t tempted.  I already own a special edition of Carrie (and have reviewed it and will soon move it over to this blog),  and the original Amityville Horror is a really lousy movie.  Or at least the way I remember it when I originally saw it at the drive in years ago.  I know I wasn’t scared at all and was pretty much bored.  So I would in a sense, have been paying $13 for Child’s Play, and that crap just ain’t happening.
I did give a quick look to the blu-rays before moving on.  But I usually get those on line because they are cheaper.  Wal-mart does have one blu-ray I want but you have to order it from their internet site because it’s an exclusive.  Why they don’t just put it in the damn store is beyond me.  That would be the  blu-ray of Legally Blonde for $10.  So there was nothing else in this department that said “buy me.”   Besides, I just got Scream 4 and Fast Five this week, and a spanking new Ben-Hur last week.
And then there’s this.  This is the same blu ray player I bought some months back for the TV in the bedroom.  Once they added Amazon to it the way it was supposed to have been, the thing has worked like a charm and certainly at $88 I probably got my money’s worth.

Last stop, The Sims.  Boy how I used to love this game until EA ruined the fun with it’s endless marketing shenanigans and it’s Crappy Sims 3 Store they invented to take advantage of the mindless guppies that buy that crap.  Buying the games is one thing, but giving in to the greedy corporate mindset and to continue buying way overpriced pieces of digital dung, is just silly.  I know the guppy and the sheep will argue that it’s okay to be guppy and sheep, but I can’t deal with that.  I read what these zombified goof balls have to say on The Sims 3 site, and it really makes me want to puke.  I haven’t bothered loading the game up in months, and if I do, it’ll be so I can rewrite my Sims story.  I really need to write an article to vent about this crap.  And how many go rounds is this for the digital dogs anyway?

By the time I checked out of the store I had spent about $83 bucks, I had one of my bad dizzy spells, my back was hurting and my leg was on fire.  So I decided just to stop at the local Long John Silvers/A & W Root Beer place to get something to take home. I love the atmosphere here, the 50’s styling and the juke box.  Food is just so-so cakes, but I get tired of burgers.  I had the chicken and fish mix (1 piece and 2 pieces)


And finally, I read somewhere that Microsoft is going to discontinue the Zune.  It’s too bad.  I own one, and it is a superior dedicated digital music player when compared head to head to the iPod.  (We’re not talking Ipod touch here.  Get real.)  As a matter of fact, I prefer using it for music before using my IPhone.  I was going to get a new Zune HD but guess I won’t now.  The Zune connects to my car radio, and you can actually get more music on it’s 8 GBS than you can an IPod's 8 GBS.   How is that?  It has to do with reducing the bit rate.  You can go lower on the Zune and not have it affect the music.  You only have two choices on the Ipod.  Take me home, Nat.

May I Have The Netflix/Qwikster (or whatever the hell it is) Envelope Please?---Uptown Saturday Night, Let’s Do It Again, A Piece of the Action


Back in the seventies, Sidney Poitier decided he wanted to stretch his directing wings a little further, called up his good friend Bill Cosby on the phone and said, “Let’s make a movie together.  We’ll both star and I’ll direct as well”

And Cos replied, “Nope, let’s make three of them.”  And that’s how we ended up with this Cosby/Poitier trilogy from the seventies.  Good story, right?  I thought so too when I made it all up.  You can actually find the true story regarding how these films came to be on the special features of two of them, that being Uptown Saturday Night and a retrospective on A Piece of the Action.  

After having been on a Doris Day binge, and having danced with Schwarzenegger as Conan, I decided to have a fling with Sidney Poitier.  Why these three, when there are so many great Poitier films to choose from?  Because I already own many of Poitier’s films, he’s always been Grade A in my book, and one of his films would be in my top ten of all time list.  So I decided to start with these because my recollection of them was mostly vague.

I did remember quite a bit of Let’s Do It Again which was a good sign.  I couldn’t  remember if I had seen Uptown Saturday Night or A Piece of the Action for sure,  although I was pretty sure I had seen them both somewhere in time.  So I thought it was high time I gave these films another viewing to see how they stack up.  One thing though, while they are considered a trilogy, these films are not related in any other way except that they starred Cosby and Poitier and that Mr. Poitier directed all three. So in fact, they live or die on their own.  Let’s get busy.

If there’s one thing about Netflix/Qwikster envelopes that’s outstanding, it’s their fine use of adjectives to make you want to see a film.  Right there on line two it says, “hilarious misadventure.”  And oh, how I wish it had been so.  But Uptown Saturday Night wasn’t very hilarious.  If you’re lucky, you may get a few seconds of laughs but not from anyone mentioned on this particular envelope.

At least the plot is pretty much on the money, minus a few details.  Steve Jackson (Sidney Poitier) is on vacation from his blue collar job when his best friend Wardell Franklin (Bill Cosby)  talks him into sneaking out late one night while the wives are sleeping to visit the legendary Madame Zenobia’s after hours joint.  Besides good hard liquor, there’s rumors of fancy women and illegal gambling which all turn out to be true. 

Once inside, Wardell ends up at the craps table where he hits a winning streak by playing along with a patron by the name of Leggy Peggy (Paula Kelly).   Right in the middle of this streak, the place is robbed by masked gun men.  Wardell is forced to turn over his winnings, Steve is forced to turn over his wallet.

The next day while reading his newspaper, Steve realizes that his ship has come in.  The lottery numbers he plays on a regular basis hit.  Steve and wife Sarah (Rosalind Cash) begin celebrating until Steve realizes that the winning ticket was in his wallet that was stolen in the robbery at Madame Zenobia’s. 

He enlists the help of  Wardell to find out who robbed the joint so that they can retrieve the winning lottery ticket.   Their first attempts don’t go so well.  They try just hanging out in seedy neighborhoods to get some information, but all it does is get Wardell arrested.  They then try to hire a private detective, Sharp Eye Washington (Richard Pryor), but as it turns out Washington is simply a con artist on the lam.

Their detective prowess next lands them in  the office of Congressman Lincoln (Roscoe Lee Browne), supposedly a man of the people, but he keeps a portrait of Richard Nixon on his wall when nobody’s looking.  He’s not much help to the guys until his wife shows up, who happens to be the one and only Leggy Peggy that had launched Wardell on his winning streak.  

She tells them to track down a hood by the name of Geechie Dan Buford (Harry Belafonte) and to locate another hood who goes by the name of Little Seymour (Harold Nicholas).  Later, they discover that Geechie Dan is at war with a mob boss called Silky Slim (Calvin Lockhart) who is trying to take over Dan’s territory, which in turn lands our two heroes in the middle of their dispute.  So who has the lottery ticket and how will the guys recover it?

To be honest, by the time you reach that point you probably aren’t really going to give a damn, because except for two or three scenes, the film is just not funny.  There’s a lot of talent involved, but most of it is wasted. 

Richard Pryor’s appearance is short lived, so don’t blink.  But this could be a good thing considering he’s ill used.  Strangely, he would practically reinvent the same type of  character two years later for Silver Streak.  The difference being that Grover is a million times funnier than  Sharp Eye Washington.  Granted, his screen time is about five minutes total here, but Poitier just as well had left it on the cutting room floor for what it’s worth.

Harry Belafonte’s thing  is to do a Marlon Brando Godfather impression,  which would be okay if you have your audience rolling in the aisles with laughter.  Instead the whole Brando Impersonation shtick just become tiresome after a few minutes.  It might have been a better idea to have Belafonte develop a unique character instead of a pale carbon copy of someone else that wouldn’t even make the grade in a Saturday Night Live skit.  At least not for as long as it goes on here.

What’s amazing to me  is that Bill Cosby just seems totally uncomfortable as if he’s unsure of himself.  For the most part, Director Poitier let’s Wardell carry the film and do his thing while Steve simply reacts.  And whether it’s the script or the direction, it’s hard to say.  But neither of them elicited so much as a faint chuckle from me.

At one point, when Steve and Wardell confront Little Seymour in a bar, Wardell does a long monologue, which Steve then lamely tries to imitate.  The problem is that the monologue wasn’t that good to begin with let alone have it repeated with Wardell coaching Steve on his delivery.  This is all followed by a big fight which involves some slapstick not worthy of the prowess of Larry, Curley and Moe. 

Poitier’s direction does nothing to lend a spark to the film either.  It’s pretty straight forward and workmanlike in a film that requires something more considering the weak premise it is based on.  It simply lacks imagination much in the way that the script lacks hilarity.

On the get it where ever you can bright side, Uptown is not exactly a total loss.  Paula Kelly and Roscoe Lee Browne are in fact outrageously funny and made me laugh out loud.  So if the Netflix envelope was talking about those particular actors, then yeah, I could go along with that.  But since they aren’t even mentioned in the description, you know this pair is not whom they were referring to.  When Leggy Peggy and Congressman Lincoln are around, the film comes to life for a few quick shining moments before the patient is then pronounced dead and unable to be resuscitated.

If Uptown Saturday Night shows up on Netflix Instant Watch, then I would recommend fast forwarding to the Paula and Roscoe scenes and skipping everything else.   It’s a shame they weren’t in a better film then this, or hell they should have just made a movie with these two characters.  I would have watched. 

I can’t really recommend Uptown on it’s entertainment value, but if you want to watch from a historical perspective regarding black cinema from the seventies than maybe that would be a reason to put it in your queue, or maybe if you want to watch the trilogy you’ll feel incomplete without it.  But as it is, I have no choice but to give this film a D, saved from total failure by the Congressman and Ms. Peggy.

A year later, Poitier and Cosby would team up again in this film which has a very clever title for the follow up.  Sort of like if at first you don’t succeed, try try again.  Sort of like practice makes perfect.  Sort of like once bitten twice shy.  Wait, that last one doesn’t work does it?  For the most part, Let’s Do It Again succeeds where Uptown failed.

The envelope only gives you basic details, hardly enough to make you want to put this in your Netflix/Qwikster/Whatever queue.  On top of that, the description gets it wrong.  That’s really a pet peeve of mine with Netflix/Qwikster/what was that stupid name again?  This happens way too often.  Granted, I’m not the world’s greatest movie expert, but if I were running a company I would make sure I would at least get the envelope right instead of having someone like me embarrass you with your inaccuracies.

First off, Clyde (Poitier) and Billy (Cosby) do not host the boxing match.  The boxing match takes place in New Orleans, and they  have nothing to do with “hosting” it.  It is in fact already a scheduled match between Bootney Farnsworth (Jimmie Walker)  and 40th Street Black (Rodolphus Lee Hayden) .  And second, they don’t recruit the hapless boxer, in the sense that he’s in on the plot.  Throughout the movie he’s never aware of his manipulation.  The envelope gives no details about how this boxer is to be manipulated which may seem like small potatoes to some, but it’s a very crucial plot point.  Never fear though, I’m here for you.  Because I care.  It’s all about you and your needs.  Are you buying that?  I didn’t think so.

Clyde and Billy head down to New Orleans with their wives Dee Dee ( Lee Chamberlin) and Beth (Denise Nicholas) in order to  find a boxing match they can fix, in addition to meeting the other criteria needed for the wacky plan to work.  They first must find a heavy underdog (Bootney) going up against an opponent (40th Street Black) with very long odds.  

Clyde, who learned how to hypnotize people in the army, must then put Bootney into a trance and convince him he’s the greatest fighter in the world.  Both Clyde and Billy, using funds they “borrowed” from the lodge then place huge bets on the underdog with the two main mob leaders in town, Kansas City Mack (John Amos) and Biggie Smalls (Calvin Lockhart). Biggie and K.C.  also happen to be bitter rivals much in the same way that Geechy Dan and Silky Slim (also played by Lockhart) were in Uptown Saturday Night.  But in this film, it plays out a lot better aided by the fact that we don’t have to put up with Harry Belafonte’s Don Corleone impersonation. 

Having a good idea is one thing.  Trying to implement it is another.  For one thing Bootney is well guarded in his hotel room.  Don’t know why that is since he’s such a crappy boxer and apparently in no danger from anybody unless it’s someone who got fed up with hearing him shout “Kid Dyn-O-Mite”.  But let’s not quibble over details. 

So getting to him and putting him under Clyde’s Evil Eye is rather tricky business that leads to more complications.  Other than that, it’s best for me not to give too much away.  Keep in mind though, just when you think the movie is about over it isn’t, because it’s never over until it’s over.  There’s a nice well played twist at the end that is sort of like putting the whipped cream and cherry on top of the ice cream sundae.

In Uptown, both Steve and Wardell had wives, but they were more or less window dressing.  In this film, they are actually an important part of the story and both of them have distinctly different personalities.  Clyde’s wife Dee Dee is your down home strait laced strait arrow gal.  Billy’s wife Beth is her opposite:  free wheeling and no holds barred.  In one scene in a fancy New Orleans restaurant, Beth and Clyde talk openly about their sex life  much to Steve’s delight and Dee Dee’s chagrin.  This one moment in it self is worth the rental, and  more fun than the entire hour and forty minutes spent on USN.  This 15 second clip will give you some idea as to what I’m talking about.

No doubt that some of you won’t even know who Jimmy Walker is unless you caught his act on TV Land or Nick at Nite reruns.  In the seventies, he starred as J.J.  in a family comedy called Good Times and stole the show out from underneath the two stars John Amos (who is also in this film) and Esther Rolle.  But too much of Walker’s  J.J. shenanigans can get on your last nerve.  And the earlier “Kid Dyn-o-mite” reference?  Witness it for yourselves.

Here he plays basically the same character, but not exactly the same.  J.J. was always brash and outgoing.  Bootney is shy and retiring, not good qualities when you’re a boxer trying to make it big.  After being hypnotized, he slips more into his J.J. persona and by golly it works.  Director Poitier obviously knew this as well and keeps Walker in check by trotting him out as Bootney just when the plot needs it and nothing more.  I’m grateful for that, but probably not as much as John Amos was. 

Speaking of TV characters, Denise Nicholas is as far removed from the do gooder teacher Liz McIntyre that she played in the show Room 222 as she could be.  Cosby and Nicholas are a perfect match .  There’s a reason Nicholas won three Golden Globe awards and she shows why here.  Unfortunately it always seemed as if the good stories were always going to student teacher Alice Johnson played by Karen Valentine.   And having seemingly stifled himself in the first film, Poitier loosens up this time around. 

He’s still the straight man for Cosby most of the time, but instead of just reacting to Cosby’s lines, this time he helps sets those lines up.  For his part, Cosby seems to have overcome whatever was holding him back as well and seems a lot more comfortable.  I really like this film.  In a way it reminds me of a film like The Sting.  It’s not always roll in the aisle type of hilarity although there are a few of those moments, but it stays amusing and unpredictable throughout.  Easily it is the best of this trilogy so I have no choice but to give a grade of B+.

A Piece of the Action is the third and final film in the Poitier/Cosby trilogy from the seventies, released two years after Let’s Do It Again.  But by my way of thinking, they should have done at least one more film.  I’ll explain why momentarily.

This film is quite a bit different from the initial two offerings.  For one thing, it would be difficult to label it as a comedy, or even a dramedy for that matter.  There’s very little humor on hand but before you go getting all pissy about it, I’m 75 per cent sure that there was never any intent to make this a laugh riot.  It starts out as more of an action/caper film than anything else, and in fact the two main characters, Manny Durrell (Poitier) ad Anderson (Cosby) don’t even know each other exist.

They are in fact thieves.   Dave is an accomplished cat burglar, and Manny is a con man.  Dave steals from the very rich, and gives unto himself.  Manny makes a big score conning mob boss Bruno (Titos Vandis) with help from some associates in particular one Bea Quitman (Frances Foster), important because she figures greatly in later developments.  

The opening sequences with Dave and Manny pulling off their cons and heists are particularly well done.  Unfortunately for them and for us, police detective Darth Vader Joshua Burke (James Earl Jones) has gathered enough evidence to put them both behind bars for about 30 years.  What exactly is this evidence and how did he get it?  I can’t answer that.  Not because it’ll give away part of the plot, but it’s because we’re never really told what it is that leads him to surmise who the two are. 

Maybe it’s not a big necessary detail that we need to know, but  a rather obvious plot hole that will bug the piss out of you especially in regards to Manny.  It would have been almost impossible for Burke or anybody else to know Manny was the one who pulled off the con since the police were never involved in any investigation or any funds reported stolen.  In other words, Burke would have had to have been part of the Psychic Friends Network or maybe an associate of Syliva Browne.  

Yes friends, the Psychic Network does live on and on and on via the internet, and you can track them down yourself if you are that gullible.  Minus Dionne Warwick of course, who quit the psychic business when the checks stopped rolling in.  Yes, you and I know PFN wasn’t around in the seventies and Ms. Browne didn’t make her big splash on TV until the nineties either.  But Burke didn’t know that and he could have communicated with them mentally over the space time continuum couldn’t he?  He seems to know everything else.  But hey, there was always The Not So Amazing Kreskin back then for him to buddy up with.  Oh horse poop, there I go getting way off track again.   Let’s see…..hmmmm….where was I?  Dave…Manning….con….heists…Burke…Okay, back on track.

Having retired from the police force, Detective Extraordinaire Vader Burke decides to use his information to blackmail both Manny and Dave.  Does he attempt to get the two crooks to pay him off in mucho dinero?  Nope.  Does he try to get Manny and Dave to work to together to pull off more heists and cons together, using their prowess to take out one underworld  criminal after another as sort of their own Mission Impossible duo? Nope, not that either.   Instead he forces them to give back to the community by working as volunteers for Lila French (Denise Nicholas) helping and aiding inner city kids to find jobs thus making the world a better place for them, and us, God, apple pie, and the United States of America.  Unfortunately though, it doesn’t necessarily make for a better movie.

Burke does all this in such a way that our two heroes don’t know who it is doing the  blackmailing.  But from the information that is provided to them, it is obvious that he has both Manny and Dave right where he wants them.  I think it’s called having them by the balls. 

At the school, they decide to split up.  Manny will stick around with the delightful young ones who have been assigned to the center by the juvenile courts as a last resort, and Dave will hit the streets trying to round up some employers stupid enough willing to take a chance on them.  And while doing these jobs, both will look for clues as to the identity of their blackmailing benefactor so they can get him off their case and go back to doing what they do best.

There’s probably another reason why Poitier gets the thrill of working with the troubled teens.  He’s been down this road before.  First, as one of them in The Blackboard Jungle, and after having been straightened out by Glenn Ford, hw went on to teach their British counterparts in To Sir With Love.   But the kids in those films seem like the Vienna Boys Choir when compared to the nasty bunch he gets saddled with here.

And while all of this is going on, Dave who is supposed to be using Lila to get information develops a crush on her.  Manny already has a girlfriend that he lives with, Nikki McLean (Tracy Reed).  But she’s here for two reasons.  The first reason is so that we can have a strange scene where her doting parents come to visit their daughter who is living in sin.  I think this is supposed to be the comedic portion of the movie for all those who entered the theater thinking they were going to get another film like Let’s Do It Again. And the second reason is to be there when the plot calls for it late in the film.

To add to Dave and Manny’s misery, especially Manny’s, Bruno has not given up on finding the person who conned him and took his money, and eventually he gets a lead which helps him close in on the culprit, that being Manny.  And Bruno is no fun loving Mob Boss like the ones in the previous movies.  This guy means business, and no Cosby monologue is going to discourage him in the least. 

To say this film is schizophrenic is an understatement.  What we have  are two entirely different films trying to mesh together, but it’s the old oil and water story.  You just can’t get those suckers to mix no matter what you do. 

We have the film where Manny and Dave are thieves and con-artists being chased down by the mob, while trying to locate the man who is blackmailing them.  And then we have the story of Manny and Dave trying to turn the young and the restless into Citizens of the Year. 

In fact the troubled youth story is a real downer most of the time.  There is one particularly cruel scene between a student, Barbara Hanley (Sheryl Lee Ralph) and the instructor Sarah Thomas (Hope Clarke) that is so intense in it’s cruelty that the film never really recovers from it.  It  makes one dislike these students to the point where we begin to not really care what the hell happens to them, and the only thing we really want from this point on is the Manny/Dave/Bruno/Blackmail plot.  As for the scene I’m talking about, you’re in luck.  Or maybe not, it depends on your feelings about it.  But someone did upload it to YouTube so decide for yourselves.

Sheryl Lee Ralph gets mean and nasty in A Piece of the Action

Remember when I said they should have made a fourth film?  This is what I meant by that.  If they wanted to make another film dealing with these kids, then they should have done that.  They had a good film going in the beginning, then did a 180 degree turn and tried to make it about something else while still keeping elements of the original idea going on the side.  Thus one story is nothing but a distraction from the other.  You can do things like this in a film, but when you make that spin, then your film has to go totally in that direction.  You can’t have it both ways.

Case in point, would be Hitchcock’s Psycho.  For the early part of the film we believe we are watching a film about embezzling.  Then, in one scene Hitchcock changes the game and makes the film about something else altogether, and that is what the film is about and it stays there for the rest of the movie.

In this film, they try to have their cake and eat it too.  Once the work at the center becomes part of the film, they should have either focused on that or not gone that route in the first place.  Blackboard Jungle is a good film because it has focus.  The same can be said of To Sir With Love.  Could you imagine Poitier’s Mr. Thackery taking a sabbatical in the middle of that film to go pull a heist?  Neither could I.   To make matters worse, after this scene and another one like it, they try to bring in Nikki’s parents for the previously mentioned comedy relief, and it just ends up being idiotic, stupid, as if they had spliced it in from some other film.  I’m not denying the well meaning intentions involved, or that the acting in the above scene is anything but excellent.  But like I said, maybe they should have done one more film instead of cramming all of their ideas into this one.

I can’t really fault any of the actors here.  They all do well, so I suppose I could fault  Poitier, who as a director should have recognized the problems with the script.  Or I can just blame the writers who weren’t sure what kind of a movie they wanted to make so we get this instead.  The film is certainly worth a rental.  You won’t hate it.  But you may start wishing for Manny and Dave to pull off another con or some big heist.  I never thought I would see the day that I wished for J.J. to make an appearance, and if you make me wish for that I have no choice but to give you my grade of  a C.   It’s a nice effort that ultimately fails.

But I’ll leave you with something that doesn’t fail and is pretty cool to boot.  The Staple Singers and their rendition of Let’s Do It Again.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Day in the Life: Hanging Out


I'm hanging out at Blockbuster, killing some time after having dropped some papers off at my neurologist. The more things change at Blockbuster, the more they stay the same (as you can see). One worker, lots of people.

Outside the weather is cloudy but nice. At home, I'm working on a post I hope to finish tonight. Debating with myself about dinner which will be after the Doc. Have a good day, catch you later.

Update: Made it to the doctor's office. I'm not sure why I am here except to have my kidney cyst explained more thoroughly. I have to have another MRI on Thursday, this time on my neck.

What I need is some pain meds but there's a problem I'll explain later. And no, I'm not addicted, just hurting. All the time.


Okay here's the explanation. About five months ago I was sent to a pain specialist because one doctor wasn't sure what was causing the pain. The pain doctor put me on Neurontin and vicatin, both of which I used sparingly to make them last. Since then, the cause of the pain has been diagnosed by my neurologist who should be prescribing the meds. But he can't because technically I'm still under the care of Dr. Feelgood, whom I haven't even seen in three months. So, in order for the neurology guy to prescribe my meds, I have to get a release from Dr. Feelgood. Easier said then done.

I call his office, the receptionist was clueless, but said she would call me back. Since I had to go burning up fossil fuels in Bakersfield today I had hope to resolve this idiots situation. But no dice.

Anyway I just had my vitals taken so stay tuned.


Final update: Got the pain meds straightened out. The magazine cover?
It's a July issue. Typical for a doctors office. Just wanted to offer up some doctor type atmosphere.  I also got some medication for my chronic laryngitis.  As for my tendency to write too much, sorry, but my doctor says it’s incurable.

Final final update:  I’m back home.  Let me offer up an explanation to those of you who are new to this blog.  If you go back a couple of months, I made it clear this blog was going to have a personal touch.  It would be not just about things I was interested in, but about me as well as much as possible.  Therefore, you get this health stuff.  And as I go through this, I’m a perfect example of why health care is in such a sorry shape in this country.  It’s so piecemeal, and everybody wants to put their hand in the cookie jar instead of finding out what the problem is and doing something about it.  Since I have to go have an MRI on Thursday  (yes another one), I’ll explain then.  Hopefully back later tonight, but have to rest now.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Clyde’s Movie Palace: Elizabethtown (2005)

Directed by Cameron Crowe
Orlando Bloom
Kirsten Dunst
Susan Sarandon
Judy Greer 
(CLYDE NOTE:  This a reboot of the first review I ever wrote for my old blog.  When I finally made the decision to move all my writing to Clyde’s stuff, it was the first review hat made the trip.  When I transferred it, there wasn’t much to it.  Just a handful of pictures and one video.  The marquee was lousy as well, seeing as how it was a first effort.  But reading the text I discovered something important.  How can I describe it?  I’ll describe it the same way Donald Sutherland’s professor in Animal House described the novel he was working on:  It was a piece of shit.  But I was in a hurry to start the transfer and decided to get back to Elizabethtown another day.  That day was kind of forced on me last night when I accidentally deleted some of the pictures form my web albums that went with the review.  I decided that since I had to redo the photo’s I might as well redo the whole damn thing.  And I actually watched this thing again on Netflix instant watch to see if my opinion would change now that I’m older and wiser.  But no, just like the original review I wrote, the movie is mostly crap as well.  But here is my own rebooted movie review.)

Having taken a four year coffee break since having brought Vanilla Sky to the big screen, Cameron Crowe awakened from his slumber to bring us Elizabethtown. It took him five years to bring Jerry Maguire to the screen, so the fact that his work output is increasing is an encouraging sign.  If he ever gets to a level where his output is once every three years, I’m sure he’ll collapse from exhaustion.  (As it turned out, I was overly optimistic. Crowe’s next feature will be We Bought A Zoo scheduled for release in December. It’s been six years since Elizabethtown Clyde)
As I always say though, if you’re going to make something you ought to be sure you’re making it right, and if it takes you four or five years to get from initial concept to perfection, then so be it. However, if it takes you that long to make a film and it turns out to be crap, don’t let it eat at you too much that you spent so much time creating a pile of donkey doo-doo. But take heart.  Elizabethtown isn’t  a total waste, but the product that Crowe ended up with is a long way from perfection.

Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) designs what is suppose to be the world’s first perfect tennis shoe for his company. He has spent the past seven or eight years of his life designing the shoe that’s like “walking on a cloud”. The shoe flops big time causing the company he works for to lose almost a billion dollars ($972 million to be exact). 
As Drew walks through corporate headquarters to receive his walking papers, the former Golden Boy is treated as if everyone just found out that he has melanoma.  In fact, death seems to be preferable than losing his status as a big shot revolutionary shoe designer and being fired by head honcho Phil DeVoss (Alec Baldwin) who is “ill equipped in the philosphy of failure.”   And to emphasize this point, DeVoss walks Drew through corporate headquarters making damn sure he understands that he alone will take the fall for what his failure will cost DeVoss, the company, and some of the employees.
Drew decides to commit suicide, and rigs up his exercise bike as some sort of half assed harakiri machine that would have made Jack Kevorkian pea green with envy.  He is about to embark on his journey into darkness, when the phone rings, thus enabling his life and Crowe’s movie to continue a while longer.  Correction, make that a whole lot longer.
On the phone is his sister Heather (Judy Greer) calling to let him know that his crappy day has really gone to shit because their father, Mitch,  has died in Elizabethtown, Kentucky and it is up to Drew to fly there and take care of funeral arrangements. Drew temporarily postpones his suicide attempt, although it’s too late to retrieve his belongs which he had unceremoniously dumped on the sidewalk to the delight of lucky scavengers below. 
He is accompanied to the airport by his mother, Hollie Baylor (Susan Sarandon) and his sis.   He promises them that he will bring dear old dad’s body back in two days and that Daddy Mitch will be dressed in the “blue suit”.  And having completed his mission, he’ll then be able to finish his own suicide and join Daddy in the great hereafter for Elizabethtown Part II. 
He  hops on a plane to Louisville, where he meets stewardess Claire Coburn (Kirsten Dunst).  Somehow, Drew ends up as the only passenger in coach, and she requests that he move to first class.  Drew is unwilling to go until she tells him in a very polite way to move his ass to the front because her own tired ass doesn’t want to have to keep walking to the back of the plane all night long.  Of course, the fact that the only other passengers on this plane are in first class, and just a handful of them at that,  tells us one of three things: 

1. This is actually a new Twilight Zone movie that we’ve begun watching.
2. The Only people who fly to  Kentucky must be filthy rich
3. Nobody in their right mind goes to Louisville unless they play basketball or eat a lot of oats.
I think the correct answer here is number 3.  I’ve been to Kentucky, I was in fact born there.   But except when the horsies come out to play every May, who in their right mind would want to go there on purpose?  And that’s in the big city of Louisville.  
Compared to Harlan though,  Elizabethtown  probably seems like an exotic resort, just by way of comparison.  On my list, Kentucky falls somewhere in between Alabama and Mississippi as a vacation getaway state.  No offense to my relatives past present and future that still reside there, but it is what it is and I’m sworn to truthiness. 
Once Drew gets comfortable in his new seating arrangement, Claire attempts to strike up a conversation with Drew but he is insistent on wallowing in his misfortune, something he’ll have in common with about 40 percent of the users of Facebook some four or five years later.  But Claire is persistent, no matter how much Drew tries to shun her.  Reluctantly, he succumbs to  Claire’s charms and from that point on were not sure if we’re watching a quirky romantic comedy, the tragic story of one’s life, or as you’ll soon see when Drew hits the big town,  an extended version of the long ago almost forgotten television show Evening Shade.  Sorry Burt. 

In Elizabethtown, Drew meets up with cousin Jesse (Paul Schneider) who travels with him to the funeral home where Mitch is laid out in his blue suit.  Mitch examines his father up close and personal, doesn’t seem to be too overcome with grief, but is inspired  to think of one word:  whimsical.  Why?  As far as I can tell the word hasn’t one single thing to do with anything that happens in this film except that in one really weird moment, Drew actually believes his father is smiling back at him.  All of this happens to the tune of  Elton John wailing away in the background on My Father’s Gun.  What is the significance?   I don’t know, maybe Cameron Crowe promised Elton some residuals or something.
Afterwards, Drew heads to the big family and friend get together where they celebrate the deceased person’s life while eating like a bunch of pigs.  Or is that eating a bunch of pigs?  There’s way too many of  them to be named here and most of them have little consequence as to later film events. Some of them don’t even have real identitites and are referred to in the IMDB credits with names like Another Cousin.  However, I do think I recognized two of my own cousins and relatives, and an old grade school buddy in the crowd.  
We get to meet each and every one of them just as Jack does.  It is all very sentimental, heartwarming, and as in the case of Samson the kid from hell, mildly amusing at times.  But in the end, it is no different than being asked by your girlfriend’s mother to have a look at the family photograph album.   There is no real connection.
And that’s exactly what Aunt Dora does.  She takes Drew to  see the pictures of all the cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, and friends.   But just like Drew,  you still really don’t know the first thing about any of them. Worse yet, they don’t tell us enough about Drew’s father so that by the end of the film, we’re still kind of in the dark and clueless about him too.

But maybe all of that is a side journey for what the film is really about. Drew hooks back up with Claire and an unconventional non-romance begins between the two of them. They start their non-relationship by spending a whole evening talking to each other on the phone, shortly after Drew’s girlfriend Ellen breaks up with him. 
Claire suggests that Drew needs to take a road trip of discovery.  For the most part though, the conversation is a wasted opportunity. Much of the conversation is done in silence as the song Come Pick Me Up by Ryan Adams plays in the background for no particular reason except Crowe seems to love his soundtracks.  Clever choice of songs, but it simply detracts from the business at hand and drags the scene out endlessly.  There is a funny bit in the hotel hall  with a guy from a wedding party but  by the time Claire and Drew hang up and meet again, you’ll feel like three days have passed instead of one night.  Crap, I kept trying to figure out what they powered their cell phones with to enable them to talk that long without a recharge.
But have no fear.  The loving couple spend real time together that very same day where we travel along as they buy an urn, visit a monument to Colonel Sanders, and horse around in a cemetery.   Claire and Drew finish the night with the big…..well, no they don’t.  They don’t even kiss because  Claire says that enables them to be friends for the rest of their lives.  So the whole purpose of the past half hour of this film was what exactly?
The long debate continues.  Will Mitch be buried, cremated or half buried and half cremated?  The townsfolk want a burial.  Hollie wants a cremation.  Sis just wants Drew to get his ass back to Oregon.  Clyde just wanted them to drop the body off of the Brent-Spence Bridge and for the movie to get on with whatever it was Crowe was trying to do.

If Crowe had made a nice hour and forty minute film concentrating on the relationship between Claire and Drew, it may have been a good film. But there are so many needless side trips that don’t amount to anything, and most of these scenes are nothing more than setups for the "big funeral scene".
For instance, Drew spends a lot of time with his cousin Jessie (Paul Schneider), and there is a lot of talk about how Jessie’s band once played on the same bill as Lynyrd Skynyrd, and I guess we’re supposed to see him as sad and pathetic. As it turns out though, it is nothing more than a set up for later events at the Mitch’;s  funeral.
Much of the same can be said for Drew’s mother Hollie (Susan Sarandon.) We see her in bits and pieces until she too lands in Elizabethtown for her husband’s farewell and to give us the reason why she actually is in the film at all. And although it’s a funny bit, it’s not much of a payoff for such a long  never ending preliminary round.
Then there’s Bill Banyon (Bruce McGill).  He supposedly caused Mitch and Hollie to lose some money years ago or something like that.  It’s never made clear exactly what happened or how it happened.  It doesn’t matter, because it’s here only for Bill to make some kind of a very brief very weak confession at Mitch’s funeral.  To put it another way, it’s just a side story that leads to another dead end, or should I say dead Mitch?

I liked Orlando Bloom in this film, and the film’s failure can’t really be attributed to him.  If his character Drew seems a bit too morose and depressed at times, you  would be too because you have a tendency to be kind of  on the down side yourself if you were no longer a big wheel who designed the Späsmodica shoe, and your old man decided to keel over in Kentucky. 
In pirates, Bloom was  Abbot to Johnny Depp’s Costello and it worked well.   He runs into the same problem here.  The only time the film comes alive at all is when Claire shows up.  His scenes with Claire are fun to watch for the most part, but again it’s Kirsten Dunst who carries them and makes most of the film worth watching. It just seems to me that Bloom does better in films when he has a strong character to play off of. Whether or not he will ever be able to truly carry a film on his own,  still remains unanswered to this day.  But he does have the Hobbit thingamajiggy in his future where he’ll reprise his role of Legolas Greenleaf, and a Three Musketeers film that will be out here in the states in a couple of weeks after having already debuted overseas.  He plays the Duke of Buckingham in that one.
But the biggest problem with this film is that it could use one helluva lot of tightening.  It goes on way too long with so many scenes that lead to dead ends, which may be fitting considering the subject matter but hardly entertaining.  Trim about twenty minutes, and Cameron Crowe might have had something.   But even at that, he would have had to dream up some kind of a plot which amounted to more than what we got for wading through this puddle of sludge.  The only person on the planet that this film means anything to must be Crowe.  Elizabethtown did manage to make it’s budget back in worldwide gross, or maybe a bit more or a bit less depending on which figures you use, but a lot of that can be attributed to the fact that both Dunst and Bloom were riding high on star power at the time.   She because of the Spiderman films, he because of the Lord of the Rings and the three Pirates of the Caribbean Films.
But please, don’t let me go without mentioning the fine outstanding performance of  Tim Devitt as Mitch’s dad.  A corpse hasn’t been played this believably since Fred Gwynne played Herman Munster.  So my hat’s off to him.  He deserved better than this movie as a Eulogy.

During the last twenty minutes or so, after being urged on by Claire who has given him full instructions on how to enjoy himself, Drew goes on a road trip.  Unfortunately, you will be awfully tempted to hit the road yourself and return the DVD to the video store long before Drew ever makes it to wherever Claire is sending him.   You’ll laugh, you’ll cry….no you won’t.  You’ll see Drew do that stuff but  at that point you won’t give a rat’s ass.
I was tempted to but somehow managed to stick it out to the bitter end.  But the fact that I was tempted not to means I have no choice but to give you a grade of C-, a grade which can be directly attributed to some of the actors.  By that I mean if it weren’t for a few winning performances, by Dunst, Sarandon, Schneider, Greer, and Baldwin, the grade would have been much worse. 
And if you want, you can watch the film on Netflix instant watch, at least as I write this.  (10/3/2011).  But you know Netflix:  Here today, gone tomorrow.  Or is that Qwikster?  No, Qwikster is the DVD branch.  I think.  Maybe.  Possibly.  Who gives a damn.  Here’s the trailer.  I’m going to watch some Buffy and cleanse myself.