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THE MONEY PIT - 07/29/2005

Posted by Ken in Shopping Guides (July 29, 2005 at 9:34 pm)

Oy, the time flies! Where in the hol-lo-lo-ly heck has the summer gone? There’s something criminally wrong with how fast it’s disappeared… I mean, seriously – when I was a kid, the days just seemed to drag on and on… Until the last two weeks before school started, which seemed to rocket by. Stephen Hawking should look into that time dilation… Something in relativity must account for it… The Unified Theory of Summer can’t be far off…

Before we get started, a quick programming note – be sure to check out The History Channel’s supremely cool new series, Weird U.S., which premieres this Monday, August 1st, at 10pm/9c. Any show that investigates the urban legends, peculiar places, and strange stories that aren’t written in history books is a must-see in my book.

Like a latter-day Mork & Mindy meets The Coneheads, 3rd Rock From the Sun featured an alien crew attempting to blend into human society. What set it apart from its predecessors was a brilliant ensemble cast headed by John Lithgow as High Commander Dick Solomon. Showing a complete willingness to go completely wacky in his performance (not seen since the preacher father in Footloose), Lithgow leads by example, and the rest of the troupe (including French Stewart, Kristen Johnson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Jane Curtain) are up to the task. The 20 episodes comprising the first season (Anchor Bay, Not Rated, DVD-$39.98) prove the series hit the ground running, with none of the growing pains that usually hobble these initial TV-on-DVD sets. Bonus features include interviews with the entire cast, a behind-the-scenes featurette, TV spots, and a blooper reel. I can’t wait to see the “Big Giant Head” episodes with Shatner in future seasons.

After devouring magician/historian/actor Ricky Jay’s delightfully esoteric Extraordinary Exhibitions, I was delighted when’s Widgett Walls picked me up a pair of Jay’s earlier books while on a recent jaunt to New York with his lovely wife Maegan. I would recommend both of those books – Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women (Noonday Press, $22.95 SRP) & Jay’s Journal of Anomalies (Quantuck Lane Press, $25.00 SRP) – for anyone who wants a fascinating look at the heyday of sideshow eccentricities full of colorful entertainers.

Before they assembled into the ground-breaking comedy team whose influence is still felt to this day, the men who would one day form Monty Python worked on a pair of proto-Python sketch comedy series in the mid-60’s - At Last The 1948 Show & Do Not Adjust Your Set (Boulevard Entertainment, Not Rated, DVD-£19.99 SRP each). Long thought wiped (the BBC practice of erasing tapes for reuse, regardless of the eventual historical importance of the programs contained on them), these 2-disc releases contain 14 recovered episodes, complete and uncut. With a cast list that includes John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Marty Feldman, David Jason, Tim Brooke-Taylor, animation by Terry Gilliam (on DNAYS, which also includes musical performances by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band), these are true comedic treasures. Unfortunately, these releases are still only available in the UK, but they’re well worth tracking down and picking up.

The episodes contained on the 3rd volume of Sealab: 2021 (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$29.98 SRP) are the last batch that managed the same sprit (and humor) that made me fall in love with the show in the first place. The demarcation point is the tragic death of actor Harry Goz, who provided the voice of the surreally hilarious Captain Murphy. After his passing, it’s like the fight went out of the show… Watch the post-Goz eps on this set and you’ll see what I mean. The 2-disc set features 13 episodes, plus the original pilot, an interview with Stormy Waters (political pundit), a pair of abandoned episodes, and audio commentaries (mostly gag).

Anyone who doesn’t see Remington Steele (Fox, Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP) as a clear primer for Pierce Brosnan’s eventual inheritance of the Bond mantle must not have been watching too closely, as he’s got the suave swagger down right from the start of the first season. As conceits go, RS’s was a doozy – female PI Laura Holt can’t get any clients, so she decides to remake her agency for a chauvinist world, changing the name to the “Remington Steele Agency,” headed by the fictional Mr. Steele. What throws a wrench into her plans is the arrival of a man claiming to be Steele… Now come on, isn’t that a brilliant 80’s turn? The 4-disc set features all 22 first season eps, plus commentaries on a trio of episodes, and making-of featurettes.

You know, I actually enjoyed Not Another Teen Movie (Sony, Not Rated, DVD-$19.94 SRP)… which probably says more about the fatigue I was suffering from the late 90’s/early 00’s slew of teen “comedies” pelting our collective pop-conscious than any of the merits of the film. Still, you can double-dip back into that reactionary flick with the new unrated director’s cut, loaded with 10-minutes more off-color funny, nudity, and giggle-inducing social satire. The disc also contains brand-new bonus features including a trio of behind-the-scenes featurettes, the uncensored Marilyn Manson “Tainted Love” video, director Joel Gallen’s short film “Car Ride,” audition footage, promos, and more.

Any film that begins by introducing Steve Martin as having been “born a poor black child” is a comedy classic from the word go, and so it is with Martin’s big screen debut in Carl Reiner’s The Jerk (Universal, Rated R, DVD-$19.98 SRP). The adopted son of a poor black sharecropper family, Navin Johnson (Martin) goes from rags to riches to rags on the back of an ingenious invention, and falls in love with a lady motorcycle racer. Trust me – you just gotta see it, particularly in its newly restored form.

Considering how many years it’s been since the release of the first season, I despaired of ever seeing the second season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show (Fox, Not Rated, DVD-$29.98 SRP) on DVD. But lo and behold!, it’s finally here, with bonus material to boot. Mostly recorded and compiled during the production process of the first set long ago, those bonus materials include audio commentary on select episodes, the brand-new documentary “8 Characters in Search of a Sitcom,” the original 1973 documentary “Moore on Sunday,” Emmy Award Show clips, another trivia challenge, the Mad Magazine parody of the show, a photo gallery, theme song karaoke track, and more. Finally! Get me season 3 before the decade is out, Fox… And bring Malcolm in the Middle: Season 2 with it…

High concept gimmick movies can go either way – they can be works of sublime genius, or confused, muddled messes. Twenty Bucks (Sony, Rated R, DVD-$24.96 SRP) – which follows a $20 bill from the ATM to the bank shredder, and all the lives it touches in-between - is of the former category. The gimmick works in large part to the cast – which includes Christopher Lloyd, Brendan Fraser, William H. Macy, Elisabeth Shue, Steve Buscemi, and Linda Hunt – with a few genuine surprises, and a lot of comedy, along the way. The DVD features a pair of audio commentaries with the cast & crew, and a pair of behind-the-scenes featurettes.

Xena fans who may have been hesitant to shell out the big bucks necessary to obtain all 6 seasons her mythical adventures will probably want to pick up the Xena: Warrior Princess 10th Anniversary Collection (Anchor Bay, Not Rated, DVD-$59.98 SRP), which features 16 fan-selected episodes from across the show’s run, plus a bountiful bevy of extras, including interviews, audio commentaries, and featurettes – many of which are exclusive to this set (so even if you own all 6 seasons, you’ll probably want to snag this as well).

Take your pop culture bucket to the kitsch well with a second season helping of The Brady Bunch (Paramount, Not Rated, DVD-$38.99 SRP). From Greg’s science project to Jan’s attempt to remove her “ugly” freckles with lemons (oh, the lessons you’ll learn!) there’s nothing finer than unfettered Brady-isms, looking better than anything you’ve ever seen in syndication.

Long maligned for admitted schmaltz like “Silly Love Songs” (which is intentional, ya philistines – listen to the words), I’ve mostly enjoyed the solo output of Paul McCartney. Not as artsy as Lennon, as spiritual as Harrison, or as happy-go-lucky as Ringo, Paul consistently charted a middle ground, regularly displaying the melodic hooks that drove many a Beatles hit. Those solo-era McCartney hits are celebrated on “Listen to What the Man Said” (Oglio, $11.98 SRP), which finds artists as diverse as They Might Be Giants, Semisonic, and Matthew Sweet taking on the tunes of the mighty Mac.

I’m still quite ticked that what is hands-down the most mediocre of all the Trek series manages to get the best range of extras in DVD form (Including bloopers! The irony!), but I shall refrain from repeating completely my utter hatred for the show if only to spare the feelings of the fans that it has. Suffice to say, those fans should be pleased with the 7-disc complete 2nd season of Star Trek: Enterprise (Paramount, Not Rated, DVD-$129.00 SRP), featuring audio commentaries on 2 episodes, a profile of Jolene Blalock, a spotlight on LeVar Burton’s Trek directing, a retrospective on the 2nd season, an inside look at “A Night in Sickbay”, deleted scenes, “Enterprise Secrets”, and outtakes.

Frankly, I’m still enchanted by the world created by Kenneth Grahame in his classic tale The Wind in the Willows, and have been ever since I saw Disney’s Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. The characters of Toad, Mole, Rat, & Badger continue their adventures in the second series set of Cosgrove Hall’s wonderful stop-motion Wind in the Willows (A&E, Not Rated, DVD-$29.95 SRP) – which, if you haven’t already, is well worth checking out.

It’s fascinating to watch the History Channel’s in-depth examination of arguably the 20th century’s most influential president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in FDR: A Presidency Revealed (History Channel, Not Rated, DVD-$29.95 SRP). From his pioneering social reforms during the very depths of the Great Depression to his leadership during World War II, the ramifications of his landmark 3 terms in office are still being felt today, and this doc nicely dissects why, and how the challenges he faced compare to this post-9/11 world we find ourselves in. The 2-disc set also features a pair of A&E Biography episodes on FDR, plus a making-of featurette.

Be prepared for plenty more bawdy Brit humor with the third volume of the complete and unadulterated Benny Hill (A&E, Not Rated, DVD-$49.95 SRP), this time covering the years of 1975-1977. Yes, the laughs are often base, but sometimes a belly laugh is just necessary as an intellectual chuckle. The 3-disc set also includes the rare silent movie “Eddie in August.”

While watching the “classic” 80’s comedy (be aware, I use “classic” this way on films like Disorderlies and Summer School as well) Moving Violations (Anchor Bay, Rated PG-13, DVD-$14.98 SRP), you can’t help but thinking that this is a perfect early 80’s Bill Murray vehicle… which is probably why this late 80’s flick stars Murray sibling John as a smartass sentenced to a character-filled traffic school, who runs afoul of a crooked cop and judge (Stacy Keach & Sally Kellerman) who plot to sell-off their impounded cars. The DVD even features an audio commentary with director Neal Israel… See, I told you it was a classic.

And speaking of Stacy Keach, he stars as the five-times-divorced, overbearing, abusive father of Christopher Titus in the criminally overlooked sitcom Titus (Anchor Bay, Not Rated, DVD-$44.98 SRP), which gets its DVD debut in a 6-disc set featuring the first two seasons. The set also contains audio commentaries, an interview with Titus about the real-world source of his comedy, a promo, and rehearsal footage.

Balseros (Docurama, Not Rated, DVD-$26.95 SRP) is a slang term for Cuban rafters, and this documentary is the account of seven Cuban refugees as they risk their lives in shark-infested waters in pursuit of a better life in the summer of 1994. The film follows these refugees as they attempt to make a life in their new home – including some that, after being picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard, were detained at Guantanamo naval base for a year before being allowed onto American soil. On a somewhat lighter note (no pun intended), A Night in Havana: Dizzy Gillespie in Cuba (Docurama, Not Rated, DVD-$26.95 SRP) documents the famed bebop trumpeter’s journey to the Cuban isle as headliner of the Fifth International Jazz Festival in Havana. Great doc, great jazz.

Anyone who claims not to watch even a snippet of America’s Funniest Home Videos should they cross it whilst channel surfing is a complete and utter liar. Like any passing tragedy, it cries out for rubbernecking, and you can rubberneck to your heart’s content with the 4-disc first volume of episodes from the show, featuring host Tom Bergeron (Shout! Factory, Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP). Hey – at least it’s not from the Saget years.

How about a trio of releases from The Discovery Channel and Animal Planet? First up is a pair of releases from two of Animal Planet’s more popular hosts – Austin Stevens – Snakemaster: In Search of the Giant Lizard, Monster Rattler, & More and The Jeff Corwin Experience: Out on a Limb – Monkeys, Orangutans & More (Sony, Not Rated, DVD-$14.94 SRP each). Also available is the forward-thinking look at the odd forms of extraterrestrial life we may find one day on an Alien Planet (Sony, Not Rated, DVD-$14.94 SRP). The DVD also features extended interviews from Stephen Hawking, Jack Horner, and more. Faaaascinating.

It’s taken a few years, but you can now pick up the complete 6th & final season of Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman (A&E, Not Rated, DVD-$89.95 SRP). Containing all 22 episodes, the 6-disc set also features an audio commentary with stars Jane Seymour & James Keach on the episode “Point Blank,” and cast biographies.

It still smacks of a Friends wannabe, but the UK series Cold Feet is ingratiating on its own merits, including an agreeable cast and writing that, while not brilliant, is certainly entertaining. The Complete 3rd Series (Acorn, Not Rated, dVD-$39.98 SRP) features all 8 episodes plus a photo gallery.

Comments: 1 Comment

Doin’ the Benny

Posted by Ken in Ruminations (July 25, 2005 at 12:36 am)

Is it bad form to capture on (digital) film your appreciation for a fine gift from the man who made the mistake of asking you to be the best man at his recent wedding - that gift being an authentic Soviet-era officer’s cap - by wearing that cap and giving the patented “Benny Hill” salute?

I don’t know what’s cheapened more - me, the hat, or our friendship.

Comments: 1 Comment

It’s gotta catch on…

Posted by Ken in Ruminations ( at 12:28 am)

San Diego, Widgett Walls, and the sordid tale of Turkey Bass.

I am a genius.

Comments: None


Posted by Ken in Ruminations ( at 12:22 am)

I could say it, but I agree completely with Paul Dini’s take on the whole sordid, unfortunate affair… So my innate laziness wins out and I point you to said take on the new CHARLIE & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY…

Comments: None

THE MONEY PIT - 07/22/2005

Posted by Ken in Shopping Guides (July 22, 2005 at 12:15 am)

Coming back from any long, grueling, but ultimately productive trip means one thing – a heck of a lot of catching up. San Diego’s annual Comic-Con is always a draining experience, and when you add a trip up to LA on top of that (more on the coolness finalized on that trip will be announced in the near future), it’s just absolutely deadening. But, as Queen said, “Show Must Go On”…

Yeah, yeah, yeah – I know I’m a week behind, but I was out of town, for cripes sake. I’m sure most of you have already picked up your copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Scholastic, $29.99 SRP), the penultimate chapter in the Potter saga. Who would have thought that Snape would have turned out to be a muggle? Or that Dumbledore was a spy for Voldemort the whole time? Heck, even I didn’t see the revelation that Harry was really a Dursley coming. Boy, that was out of left field. Admittedly, though, I did expect Hermione and Ron to find out they were brother and sister… That was sooo telegraphed. And it was a pleasant surprise when Sirius walked out from behind that curtain… I knew he couldn’t be killed by a metaphor. Now, where’s Book 7?

If you’ve never had the good fortune to see one of post-Python Michael Palin’s excellent travel documentaries/adventures, there’s no better place to start than with the latest, as Palin navigates the vertical ends of the earth in Himalaya (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$49.98 SRP). The 3-disc set features all 3 programs, as well as copious amounts of excised footage and revealing audio commentaries with Palin himself. I hope BBC gets off their collective keester and releases the rest of Palin’s travel catalogue in the very near future.

You can cry drama from here to the Ozarks, but it’s my opinion that the finest film ever produced by HBO is The Pentagon Wars (HBO, Rated R, DVD-$9.97 SRP). Starring Cary Elwes and Kelsey Grammer in the unbelievably true story of the Army’s money pit production of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle – whose development was marred by short-sightedness, graft, frugality, and sheer incompetence. It’s a truly sobering look at the development process of the modern war machine – which is why it’s so wonderful that the film is one of the funniest comedies I’ve ever seen. Criminy, how I love this flick. The DVD features an audio commentary with director Richard Benjamin.

To sing the praises of Warner’s remastered special editions at this point would certainly border on belaboring the point, but belabor it I shall, because they continua to do such a top-notch job with catalogue releases that most companies would simply dump and run with lackluster bare bones quickies. Case in point – the second of their “Film Noir” collections (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$49.92 SRP), featuring 5 genre keepers (Dillinger, The Narrow Margin, Born To Kill, Crossfire, and Clash By Night), all of which feature audio commentaries (John Milius talking Dillinger is priceless), with additional featurettes and trailers to boot. Pretty dang snazzy. And while you’re at it, why not pick up the special edition of the classic Lee Marvin flick Point Blank (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$19.97 SRP), which is far better than its inferior Mel Gibson remake, Payback, and features an audio commentary with director John Boorman & Steven Soderbergh and a pair of vintage featurettes.

In this world, there are books, and there are BOOKS. The massive tome that is The Stanley Kubrick Archives (Taschen, $200.00 SRP) is just such a BOOK, and it revels in its exhaustive nature. Clocking in at over 500 pages, it’s the most comprehensive look ever at the films, process, and mind of Stanley Kubrick, using his films – produced and unproduced - as the bones upon which to hang the story of a creative life. I’ve not always enjoyed Kubrick’s films – in fact, there are a fair number I simply don’t like at all – but there’s never been any denying that they were, each and every one of them, exactly what he wanted to see on the screen. Full of photos, interviews, articles, and insights you’ll only get from the Kubrick estate (including an audio CD with an early interview), the first edition has an even more enticing incentive for the true Kubriphile – a film strip taken from a 70mm print of 2001 owned by Kubrick. How can you possibly resist that?

The reason for the cancellation of Showtime’s remarkably enjoyable Dead Like Me is still a mystery – it’s not like they were overflowing with quality series. Still the 15 episodes featured in the second season (MGM/UA, Not Rated, DVD-$49.96 SRP) are the last we’ll get - which is a damn shame, really, because how many other programs gave us the growing pains of a cute grim reaper? Bonus features include a pair of featurettes, deleted scenes, and a photo gallery.

No History Channel documentary has yet to even come close in approximating the incredible depth of the historical content and perspective offered up in 12-disc mega-collection The BBC History of World War II (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$149.98 SRP). From the post-WWI unrest that led to the rise of the Nazi state, and the European political climate that facilitated it, right through the end of the war, this is about as comprehensive a set as you can possibly imagine. Also included is a 40-page booklet written by Greg Neale, founding editor of BBC History Magazine.

On the subject of war – and, to be more accurate, on the subjective nature of a war when you’re actually on the ground – there’s the documentary Gunner Palace (Palm, Rated PG-13, DVD-$24.99 SRP). Taken from the name of the bombed-out former Hussein pleasure palace which now acts as a base for US soldiers, Gunner Palace provides a first-person view of what it’s like to actually be on the ground fighting in Iraq. Regardless of how you feel about the war, it’s a fascinating document of an ongoing situation, and the people tasked with negotiating it. The DVD features deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer.

There’s something not quite right with the world when Keanu Reeves is the best thing the big screen adaptation of DC/Vertigo’s Hellblazer – renamed Constantine (Warner Bros., Rated PG-13, DVD-$30.99 SRP) – has going for it. It’s unfortunate, really, since the elements are there to make a fine franchise out of the hell-fighting Constantine – but like Hellboy before it, the filmmakers can’t seem to pull it all together. The 2-disc collector’s edition features an audio commentary (with director Francis Lawrence, producer Akiva Goldsman, and screenwriters Kevin Brodbin & Frank Cappello), deleted scenes (including an alternate ending), a quartet of documentaries (“Conjuring Constantine, “The Production from Hell,” “Imagining the Underworld,” and “Foresight: the Power of Previsualization”), a music video, and trailers, plus an exclusive comic book featuring classic Hellblazer tales.

Compared to the relative disappointment that was the posthumous Genius Loves Company (admit it – it really was nothing to write home about, with much of its praise being more sentimental than accurate), the real genius duets are to be found in the re-release of Ray Charles’ 1984 album Friendship (Sony Legacy, $ SRP). Focusing again on country music, the multi-talented Charles teamed up with legends including Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, George Jones, and Merle Haggard, and the result is priceless. The remastered re-release features a pair of bonus tracks – “Baby Grand” with Billy Joel and “Everybody Has the Blues” with Tony Bennett.

Speaking of classic music, I get an endless kick out of anything that draws the curtain from in front of the creative process, revealing the machinations that led to the act of creation. That’s why I enjoy the Classic Albums series, which takes viewers behind the process of landmark rock albums. In the past, I’ve recommended the releases focusing on Fleetwood Mac and Paul Simon, and this time I’m going to suggest you pick up the discs on Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland and The Band’s landmark eponymous album The Band (Eagle Vision, Not Rated, DVD-$14.98 SRP each)

Good golly, this a huge week for TV-on-DVD. How about if we hit all the highlights? First up, we’ve got a teaser “Best Of” collection to whet fan’s schlock appetites for the premiere volume from the first season of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (BCI, Not Rated, $24.98 SRP). Featuring 10 episodes from Filmation & Mattel’s famous Conan knock-off, the 2-disc set also contains 2 brand new documentaries on the origins and creation of the show and its cast of memorable characters (a special shout-out to Orko is overdue, methinks).

If last year’s Disney Treasures release of the very first week of Muickey Mouse Club shows from 1955 got you all keened out on seeing more of the 50’s kiddie staple (my mom was a hat-wearing acolyte), then you’ll probably want to pick up a copy of The Best of the Mickey Mouse Club (Walt Disney, Not Rated, DVD-$14.99 SRP), featuring 5 complete shows (two from ’57, two from ’62, and one from ’64). If Annette and Cubby aren’t your thing, try The Best of Britney, Justin, and Christina (Walt Disney, Not Rated, DVD-$14.99 SRP) which – as you might have guessed – focuses exclusively on the New MMMC era of those pop darlings, before they all went certifiably insane. Though if just a taste of the Mouse in question is all your jonesing for, grab hold of a brief overview of some of his finest early work via Vintage Mickey (Walt Disney, Not Rated, DVD-$19.99 SRP), sporting 9 classics including “Steamboat Willie.”

I don’t care what people say – I like Ringo Starr. I think he’s the “fun” Beatle, providing music that isn’t serious, schmaltzy, or spiritual – just a rockin’ good time. I dug his last album, Ringorama, but I must admit that his latest, Choose Love (Koch, $17.98 SRP), has left me cold. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t seem terribly focused, or that the songs seem like jams more than tunes, but it there you go. I hope he can rebound on the next one ‘cause, like I said, I loves me some Ringo.

Get your sci-fi fix with a trio of releases that run the gamut from schlocky entertainment to entertaining schlock. By the time we got to the third season of Sliders (Universal, Not Rated, DVD-$59.98 SRP) the cracks were beginning to show as the script quality slipped, but it still had John Rhys Davies – and dammit, anything with him is worth watching. How many of you remember all the Spielbergian hype that went into the premiere of the Amblin-produced Earth 2 (Universal, Not Rated, DVD-$49.98 SRP) back in the day, only to have to show sink without a trace after a single season? But Tim Curry was there, and that makes everything all right. The 4-disc set also features deleted scenes, a blooper reel, and bonus episodes of Sliders and Cleopatra 2525. Speaking of Cleopatra 2525 (Universal, Not Rated, DVD-$49.98 SRP), you can also on the complete series that bears the unforgettable tagline “The Fight For Earth Has Never Been Hotter!” How can you possibly resist that? The 3-disc set features deleted scenes, outtakes, and effects and stunts featurettes.

Don’t let that stop you from picking up your very own copy of the astonishingly short first season of Tales from the Crypt (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$26.98 SRP). The 2-disc set features all 6 ghoulish inaugural episodes, featuring a brand-new introduction from the Crypt Keeper, an abbreviated version of Chip Selby’s excellent Tales From the Crypt: From Comic Books to Television documentary, and a retrospective featurette on the first season.

I’ve never really warmed to the stories found in Genndy Tartakovsky’s Samurai Jack, but there’s no denying the beauty of its design and use of limited animation as a storytelling device rather than a hindrance. A rare and difficult accomplishment. The complete second season set (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$29.98 SRP) features a creator scrapbook, an episode pitch, and an audio commentary on “Episode XXV”.

Nothing will brighten your weekend more than delving into the blatant, unsubtle life lessons to be found in the classic series of After School Specials (BCI, Not Rated, DVD-$12.98 SRP each), which are now available in a series of 6 “year” sets (1974-76, 1976-77, 1978-79, 1979-80, 1981-82, & 1982-86). Come on – don’t you want to see Rob Lowe as “The Schoolboy Father”?

Screw you, Laguna Beach (Paramount, Not Rated, DVD-$38.99 SRP) for being yet another TV series to feature whiny rich teenagers complaining about the petty problems of their lives in paradise. These spoiled high-school seniors had cameras following them around, documenting their fabulous frailties for the Running Man audience that is MTV viewers. The first season set features deleted scenes, interviews, casting tapes, featurettes, and music videos.

And in this week’s documentary corner – and in honor of the Kubrick spotlight above - we’ve got a pair of films that look at the creative impulse. The first is In the Realms of the Unreal: The Mystery of Henry Darger (Wellspring, Not Rated, DVD-$26.98 SRP). Darger was a janitor who had spent time in an asylum for feeble-minded children as a youngster and lived a relatively solitary life as an adult, but after he passed away in 1973, his landlady discovered an apartment full of nearly 300 paintings, some massive, and a fully illustrated epic novel. Using animation and voiceover, filmmaker Jessica Yu attempts to unravel the mystery of this self-taught, and undiscovered, genius. The other film is far funnier in a sort of American Movie kind of way. Put the Camera On Me (Wellspring, Not Rated, DVD-$24.98 SRP) is the story of filmmaker Darren Stein – specifically the filmmaker he was from the ages of 7 to 15 in the 80’s. Tackling subject matter as surprising as child abuse to the Holocaust, Stein emerges as a director who managed – intuitively – to manipulate his friends in a way that’s as shocking as it is familiar to anyone who experience the peer group politics of childhood. The disc features bonus short films, film festival Q&A sessions, and a trailer gallery.

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THE MONEY PIT - 07/15/2005

Posted by Ken in Shopping Guides (July 11, 2005 at 12:00 am)

This week’s column is pretty darn close to the definition of a “quickie,” for the very acceptable reason that I’m currently embroiled in the full-motion nightmare that is the San Diego Comic-Con. If there were ever a vote proffered to add another level to Dante’s vision of hell, I’d certainly cast mine for this headache of all cons. But c’est la vie, don’tcha know.

My top recommendation goes to the deluxe trade paperback reprinting of Don Rosa’s Life & Times of Scrooge McDuck (Gemstone, $16.95 SRP). Taking all the threads and nuggets of trivia the legendary Carl Barks wove into the original tales of Duckburg’s adventurous tycoon, Rosa crafts a linear rise of the greatest (and most wealthy) of the McDuck clan. The trade also includes Rosa’s notes and commentary, as well. Now, if we could only get a hardcover collector’s edition featuring this material plus all of the supplemental stories Rosa has added through the years, I’d be a happy Duck fan.

A deluxe collection celebrating the cinematic triumph that were the Bill & Ted flicks has been a long time coming, but the wait is over with the 3-disc Bill & Ted’s Most Excellent Collection (MGM/UA, Rated PG, DVD-$29.98 SRP). From their initial jaunt through history to their encounter with death, it’’ all here -–plus a bonus disc featuring a brand-spanking-new making-of documentary, a conversation with the screenwriters, an interview with guitarist Steve Vai, an air guitar tutorial, a gallery, video dictionary, radio spots, and the premiere episode of the cartoon series. Excellent!

Eager to get rid of the bad taste Marvel’s live action Fantastic Flop… er… Four left? Dig into the complete run of the 1994-95 animated series (Buena Vista, Not Rated, DVD-$49.99 SRP). The first season was largely forgettable, but the second season was full of gems, most of which were adapted from classic Lee/Kirby and John Byrne FF stories.

In the grand tradition of double-dipping “Unrated” editions, add to the list an expanded cut of the 21st century’s attempt at both Caddyshack and MeatballsDodgeball (Fox, Not Rated, DVD-$26.98 SRP). In addition to the restored and expanded scenes, there’s a brand-new commentary (with Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, & writer director Rawson Marshall Thurber), 9 deleted/extended scenes with optional commentary, uncensored footage of the Dodgeball Dancers, bloopers, and more.

After their surprisingly ingratiating turn in Amelie a few years back, (unbelievably cute) star Audrey Tautou reunites with director Jean-Pierre Jeunet for A Very Long Engagement (Warner Bros., Rated R, DVD-$29.95 SRP). Faced with notice that the love of her life has died on the Somme front in 1919, 19 year-old Mathilde (Tautou) refuses to accept what she’s been told. Instead, she decides that she will seek him out, defying the facts around her because she believes in her heart that she would know if he’s dead. The 2-disc set features an audio commentary with Jeunet, a making-of featurette, “Paris in the 20’s” featurette, and deleted scenes with optional commentary.

Making its DVD debut after the final set of its spin-off Xena, Hercules: Season 6 (Anchor Bay, Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP) wraps up Kevin Sorbo’s adventures as the legendary adventurer in fine form, although it’s quite evident the steam was going out of the series (as was Sorbo’s enthusiasm). Bonus features include audio commentaries, interviews with the cast & crew, a K.N.B. EFX group featurette, footage from the wrap party, a behind-the-scenes look at the final episode, alternate/never used main titles, and a photo gallery.

Continuing the series of epiphanies striking the music industry in the age of online downloading, Universal has begun releasing a line of Chronicles releases (UM, $29.98 SRP each) – essentially, they’re collections of three classic albums from a given group. The first trio of releases feature Tears for Fears (The Hurting, Songs from the Big Chair, & The Seeds of Love), Kiss (Kiss, Hotter Than Hell, & Dressed To Kill), and George Strait (Right or Wrong, Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind, &Something Special).

The recent spate of shark attacks in Florida this summer make the release of The Discovery Channel’s Anatomy of a Shark Bite (Sony, Not Rated, DVD-$14.94 SRP) sadly ironic. The documentary recreates the terrible ordeal of Dr. Erich Ritter – whose severe bite from a 350-lb bull shark is the only shark attack on a human being ever caught on film. The disc also features the bonus “Shark Week” episode Future Shark.

I will say this about Million Dollar Baby (Warner Bros., Rated R, DVD-$29.95) – it’s not as maudlin or overwrought as Mystic River. Still, all of the heavy hallmarks of a Clint Eastwood film are there in this flick that’s disturbingly similar to the last entry in the Karate Kid series, as Hilary Swank again finds herself being tutored in an arcane martial art by a grizzled old man, with boxing replacing Karate this go ‘round. The 2-disc set features a roundtable with James Lipton (featuring Swank, Eastwood, and Morgan Freeman), a look at the parallels between the film and real life boxer Lucia Rijker, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and the theatrical trailer. A 3-disc edition featuring the soundtrack is also available ($39.98 SRP).

Her whine can shatter glass and deafen dogs, but Fran Drescher’s star turn in The Nanny (Sony, Not Rated, DVD-$29.95 SRP) was an inexplicable – and long-running – success. C’est la vie. The 3-disc set features all 22 first season episodes, plus a retrospective featurette and an interview with Drescher.

Does anyone not like Weekend at Bernie’s (MGM/UA, Rated PG-13, DVD-$14.95 SRP)? It’s nearly impossible… and I really don’t know why. It just is. It’s almost frightening.

Comments: 1 Comment

THE MONEY PIT - 07/08/2005

Posted by Ken in Shopping Guides (July 8, 2005 at 1:20 am)

Another week draws to a close, and prep begins for yet another out-of-town jaunt, this time to sunny San Diego and supremely aggravating Comic-Con. Hey – you try and navigate your way through 60,000 people on a convention floor.

It’s not available in stores yet, but you can pick up the complete third season of The Kids in the Hall directly from (A&E, Not Rated, DVD-$59.99 SRP). This time around, the 4-disc, 20 episode set features such classic skits as the flying pig, Chicken Lady spotting Rooster Boy, Mississippi Gary singing the after-death blues, and a man accusing himself of sexual harassment. Bonus features include audio commentaries with the kids on the two best-of compilations from the season, more classic live footage from the Rivoli Theater, and a slide show.

The third season of Monk (Universal, Not Rated, DVD-$59.98 SRP) shall henceforth be known as the season in which a brilliantly quirky series faltered after the firing of one of its key characters. Halfway through the season, actress Bitty Schram (Sharona Fleming) was dismissed and replaced with a carbon copy character that paled in comparison to Sharona’s chemistry with the titular detective – which is a true shame, because this is a show that could have had some real legs if the writers didn’t get lazy and the producers didn’t get cheap. Bonus features include interviews with the cast and behind-the-scenes featurettes.

Admittedly, part of the enjoyment of watching hyper-cheeky chef Jamie Oliver in Jamie’s Kitchen (Capital Entertainment, Not Rated, DVD-$29.98 SRP) is the wait to see if it all goes disastrously wrong. That brink of disaster is brought about by Oliver’s decision to staff his newly-opened, first restaurant with 15 unemployed kids as chefs in order to prove his theory that passion for food is more important than formal qualifications. Truly brilliant TV.

I have some serious issues with the cinematic abomination that is Marvel’s big-screen desecration of the Fantastic Four, but I was able to get the sour taste out of my mouth with the classic Lee/Kirby stories contained within the six available Marvel Masterworks volumes focusing on the fabulous foursome (Marvel, $49.95 SRP each). From their cosmic ray-spawned origin and tussle with the Mole Man in FF#1 all the way through Dr. Doom’s wresting of the power cosmic from the Silver Surfer (concluding in issue #60), it’s all here – including the FF’s epic first battle with the world-devourer Galactus, the marriage of Reed & Sue, the Frightful Four, Namor, the Puppet Master, and much, much more. By golly, this *was* the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine! What in the hell happened to the movie? Forget about it… Pick these up, along with the 4 FF Visionaries: John Byrne volumes, and you’ll be feeling better in not time.

Hogan’s Heroes found levity in the second World War, and M*A*S*H managed to do the same for the Korean conflict, but Vietnam has been a tough nut to crack on TV, be it comedy or drama. Besides China Beach, the only other show that approached the subject was Tour of Duty. Focusing on a group of diverse characters as they brave the Southeast Asian terrain, it played like the TV version of Platoon – and managed to pull it off. Wit the release of the third and final season (Sony, Not Rated, DVD-$49.95 SRP), you can now watch the entire run in one go.

There’s something eerie about watching the footage found in World War I In Color (Capital Entertainment, Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP). The “Great War” has always – without exception – been a black & white war in most people’s minds. Even WWII has only recently become a color war, but the footage contained in this set is a revelation. Honestly, just pick it up and watch.

After wrapping up the first season, we’re now into the first season 2 volume of the expanded Starburst Editions of Farscape (ADV, Not Rated, DVD-$24.98 SRP), which collects the first 7 episodes of season two on 2 dual-sided discs, with all the original bonus materials plus a few surprises, including the “Re: Union” episode for the first time on DVD.

Sony Legacy’s nicely comprehensive 2-disc Essential collections keep on rolling, this time with a country legend and a big band icon. The Essential Dolly Parton (RCA/Legacy, $24.98 SRP) features 37 career-spanning tracks, from “Coat of Many Colors” right up to her wonderful cover of “Shine.” The other must-have is The Essential Glenn Miller (Bluebird/Legacy, $24.98 SRP), the very epitome of the big band sound (with tunes including “In the Mood” & “Over There,” how would you describe it?).

What do you get when you team Robert De Niro and creepy wunderkind Dakota Fanning as a recently mother-less father- & daughter whose upstate New York retreat is playing the mental heebie-jeebies on them? Hide & Seek (Fox, Rated R, DVD-$29.98 SRP) - a limp thriller that never manages to come alive and realize that the real scare-fest is in Fanning’s preternatural performances. Bonus materials include not one, but FOUR different endings, an audio commentary, deleted/extended scenes, rough conceptual sequences, and a making-of featurette.

For many, the only reason they’d ever think of watching Prozac Nation (Miramax, Rated R, DVD-$29.99 SRP) – the true story of writer Elizabeth Wurtzel’s disaffected formative years – is because it has the now legendary nude scene featuring Christina Ricci (look at the cover – they know what’s going to sell this thing). Other than that novelty, the movie has nothing going for it, sadly. Great scene, though. Bonus features include the Anatomy of a Scene spotlight on the film.

Although everyone brought the best game they could to it, there’s was just no click to the US version of the UK crime drama series Cracker, which starred Robbie Coltrane as the flawed police psychologist Gerry “Fitz” Fitgerald. For the American version, the late Robert Pastorelli took on the role of Fitz, and while he does a great job, it just doesn’t measure up to Coltrane’s original (which is no fault of Pastorelli – the character is just so perfect in Coltrane’s hands that it’s hard to accept anyone else). If they had done a completely original series, I think it would have been a hit, because the burden of translating a successful foreign series is a path fraught with danger. The Cracker set (Tango, Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP) features all 16 episodes of the short-lived series.

The only thing really missing from the otherwise superb documentary The History of Talk Radio (Kultur, Not Rated, DVD-$19.99 SRP) is a look at the recent rise of “liberal” radio with the introduction last year of Air America. That’s not the documentary’s fault, however, since it was made when the airwaves were still wholly the domain of Limbaugh, North, and Schlessinger – all of which are featured here, along with Larry King, G. Gordon Liddy, Imus, Howard Stern, and more.

By now, any collaboration between Tim Burton and Danny Elfman is going to have its own eccentric, overly familiar quality, and the score to Charlie & The Chocolate Factory (Warner Sunset, $18.98 SRP) is no exception. But there’s something to be said about sonic comfort food in a movie about an eccentric candymaker.

Stephen King hasn’t had the best of luck – when you stack up the totality – when it comes to adaptations of his work. For every Shining you’ve got a Children of the Corn. Quicksilver Highway (Anchor Bay, Not Rated, DVD-$14.98 SRP) is a made-for-TV anthology of a pair of King’s short stories – “Chattery Teeth” and “The Body Politic”. While mostly mediocre, writer/director Mick Garris (who did so very well with The Stand) tries his best, and it does manage to have Christopher Lloyd as the disturbing storyteller, but it never quite amounts to anything more than a distraction. The disc features an interview with Matt Frewer and an audio commentary with Garris and his wife Cynthia.

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Greetings and Salutations

Posted by Ken in Ruminations (July 4, 2005 at 1:01 am)

Welcome, one and all (you know who you are) to the completely redesigned, streamlined, optimized, snazzified, and downright easier-to-update TIBBY’S BOWL …

We’re fast-approaching the 10th anniversary of this here Online Entertainment Mag, so I thought a change was in order (and frankly, wasn’t 9 years of that clumsy Netobjects Fusion enough?).

Anyway, here it is. Interview archives will slowly be making their way over, Joe Corey’s PARTY FAVORS is here, and the weekly shopping guide will still bring you all the home video spotlights of the past, along with a whole bunch of other crap to waste your hard-earned moolah on.

Before I hit the sack, many thanks to Widgett - my good buddy and guru of both and our joint venture - for making this redesign possible.

You’re an a**hole, Widge, but dammit if you ain’t the bees knees.

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THE MONEY PIT - 07/01/2005

Posted by Ken in Shopping Guides (July 1, 2005 at 12:51 am)

Well, I’m back from my arduous, deadly duties as stunt Best Man up in hot, humid Montreal, Quebec – all of which went well, despite the abysmal maroons at Air Canada losing my luggage (including my tux), which was not found until, literally, 2 hours before the ceremony. Oh, BTW – Air Canada, you might want to find a better Indian call center to handle your luggage customer service… One that’s competent and polite. Just a thought. But anyway, I’m back, and here’s our pre-holiday guide-o-rama…

Clearance issues have long stymied attempts to release Comedy Central’s brilliant Daily Show with Jon Stewart (it has to do with all those news clips, natch), but the network finally found a way to release *something* - that something being a 3-disc retrospective of the show’s “Indecision 2004” coverage of last year’s presidential campaign (Paramount, Not Rated, DVD-$39.99 SRP). That means we get the coverage of both the Democratic & Republican National Convention, the debates, the hour-long election night special, and bonus features including the best bits from the correspondents (Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, Steve Carell, Bob Wiltfong, Rob Corddry, & Ed Helms), “Daily Show Rock!”, audio commentary, and much more. Okay, so where’s the next release?

Take one of those nifty little survival handbooks that were all the rage a few years back and turn it into a TV show hosted by Spaced and Shuan of the Dead’s Nick Frost, and there you’ve got DANGER! 50,000 volts! (Rykodisc, Not Rated, DVD-$29.95 SRP), which places our intrepid host into situations ranging from lightning strikes and minefields to fires and being impaled, all while teaching the audience how to get out of said sticky wickets. The 2-disc set features the entire first season with audio commentary from Nick and the crew, plus a bonus Zombie Survival Guide. Brilliant.

Seeing as how Bruce Campbell’s first novel, Make Love!* *the bruce campbell way (Thomas Dunne Books, $23.95 SRP), is the story of a B-actor’s attempt to star in a major, super-duper Hollywood blockbuster – even if it kills him – it’s not hard to make the leap into thinking there must be a grain of truth in the often bizarre, thoroughly enjoyable proceedings laid before the reader. Well, there’s also the clue that Campbell calls it an autobiographical novel, but frankly, I’m more keen on my brilliant literary analysis taken directly from the text… because it makes me look better. Just get the book already.

If you’ve only seen (or have fond memories of) the heavily edited American importation known as Battle of the Planets, you owe it to yourself to experience the first collection of the fully restored original Japanese version of Gatchaman (ADV, Not Rated, DVD-$ SRP). The 3-disc set features 12 uncut episodes, plus commentaries, clean closing animation, and a bonus disc with a character profile of Ken, unused footage, sketches, interviews, and more. Heck, the set even features cover and box art from Alex Ross. How cool is that?

After Robert Urich’s still-popular Spenser: For Hire was cancelled, the network eventually decided there was still enough interest in the wise-cracking Boston Detective to commission 4 feature-length TV movies, all of which are collected in the (appropriately) 4-disc Spenser: The Movie Collection set (Rykodisc, Not Rated, DVD-$59.95 SRP). Come for Urich, stay for the burning intensity of DS9’s Avery Brooks as Spenser’s tough-as-nails partner Hawk.

Produced by Robert Altman, Gun (Tango, Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP) was a short-lived, incredibly well-executed anthology series that examined – in it’s 6 episodes – the effects a single gun has in the lives of various sets of characters who encounter it. The cast was a truly impressive affair – including Martin Sheen, Kirsten Dunst, Edward James Olmos, Fred ward, James Gandolfini, Randy Quaid, Carrie Fisher, Jennifer Tilly, Kathy Baker, and more.

If you have not heard of Sid Caesar – for shame. Yes… I’m shaming you. But in my shaming, I’m only trying to point you towards discovering one of the last century’s truly great comedians – a rare combination of both a brilliant physical and mental comic. During the course of his two major television programs in the 1950’s – Your Show of Shows and Caesar’s Hour – his writing staff was a who’s who of comedy… Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Neil Simon, Larry Gelbart, and Carl Reiner, to name a few. If you’re ready to take the plunge, I can’t recommend The Sid Caesar Collection (A&E, Not Rated, DVD-$49.95 SRP) enough. Over the course of these 3 DVDs are collected many of Sid’s best sketches, as well and recollections from the show’s writers and costars. Each DVD also contains bonus sketches and interviews. Did I mention that I can’t recommend this collection enough? Well, how about one more time… You won’t regret it.

If Ray Bradbury and Stephen King were to get together and craft their own sketch comedy show, it would probably look a lot like the surreally macabre world Britain’s League of Gentlemen. Look no further than the clutch of darkly disturbing – yet unsettlingly funny – characters to be found in the troupe’s 3 seasons (and Christmas special) contained in the 4-disc League of Gentlemen Collection (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$99.98 SRP). The residents of the small village of Royston Vasey will make it very hard for you to sleep at night in between fits of laughter punctuated by hiding under the covers. Bonus features include audio commentaries, deleted scenes, outtakes, interviews, a documentary, featurettes, and more.

Have you picked up the new issues of Uncle Scrooge (Gemstone, $6.95), Donald Duck, & Mickey Mouse ($2.95 each)? Why not? Come on, people! I wouldn’t lead you astray… These are some of the best comics being produced today, featuring both new material and classic stories from legends like Carl Barks, Romano Scarpa, Don Rosa, and many others. Get past the funny animal stigma and realize what gems these comics are – you won’t regret it.

Go take a peek at what Sideshow Collectibles are unveiling at Comicon this year here and here. Can anyone say “Use the Force”?

First off, let me thank A&E for bringing to DVD one of the finest TV shows ever to grace the airwaves – the late, lamented Homicide: Life on the Street. A Big Thank You. With the release of the 7th & final season (A&E, Not Rated, DVD-$99.95 SRP), we close the book on the only cop show to give me the same kind of enjoyment I once got out of Hill Street Blues (which is criminally unavailable on DVD). Featuring all 22 episodes, the 6-disc set also contains audio commentary on the finale, a live panel discussion with the producers, and Barry Levinson’s VSDA Career Achievement acceptance speech.

If you still haven’t decided to take the (worthwhile) plunge and pick up the Live Aid box set (and you find yourself getting all amped up about the upcoming Live 8), you can get a limited edition hour-long highlight disc of the seminal event featuring choice cuts from the day’s proceedings – Live Aid: 20 Years Ago Today (Rhino, Not Rated, DVD-$9.99 SRP).

Remember a simpler, happier, less druggedly-emaciated time in the life and career of the once-lovely Lindsey Lohan with the special edition release of the remake of Disney’s The Parent Trap (Walt Disney, Rated PG, DVD-$19.99 SRP), starring Lohan as the matchmaking twins. Bonus features include audio commentary with the director and screenwriter, a deleted scene, a retrospective featurette, and a behind-the-scenes look.

Ever since I was mesmerized by his tunes in The Muppet Movie as a kid, I’ve been a fan of the elfin singer/songwriter Paul Williams. In fact, I’m a bigger fan of his original versions of tunes like “Rainy Day and Mondays” and “Just An Old-Fashioned Love Song” than I am of the covers by The Carpenters and Three Dog Night, and I still think “The Rainbow Connection” is one of the greatest songs ever written. Williams has just released a retrospective/celebration of his career in the form of a CD/DVD set - Paul Williams: I’m Going To Go Back There Someday (AIX, $49.98 SRP), which contains newly-recorded versions of his classic tunes with guest including Willie Nelson, Melissa Manchester, and even Gonzo. The DVD also features a live performance video, interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, a tribute to Jim Henson, a trip to the old A&M studios on the Henson lot, photos, and more.

And while we’re on the subject of “The Rainbow Connection,” why don’t you head over to Palisades Toys and pick up your own “Rainbow Connection” Kermit figure ($25), with all profits going to The Cooper Perry Fund, A special Project of The Miami Children’s Hospital Foundation?

This week’s soundtrack round-up kicks off with the latest John Williams/Steven Spielberg collaboration, the anemic cliché that is War of the Worlds (Decca, $18.98 SRP). Thankfully, the score is actually one of Williams better later-career efforts, even marshaling a nicely martial aspect as the titular conflict comes to the fore. Shame the film’s a dud, but oh well… At least we have the Tom Cruise show. Anyway, next up is Alexandre Desplat’s score to Bruce Willis’s Hostage (Superb, $16.98 SRP), which is – as a good friend of mine enthused recently – “one of the best damn scores I’ve ever heard.” How’s that for a recommendation? Last up is a pair of soundtracks representing the film Crash – Mark Isham’s score (Superb, $16.98 SRP) and an album featuring songs from and inspired by the film (Superb, $16.98 SRP). Way to cover all bases, eh?

If nothing else, the sheer energy and chutzpah exhibited by Bette Midler at the top of her game is entrancing, and her life is pretty darn fascinating. See for yourself with the documentary The Divine Bette Midler (Shout! Factory, Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP). Bonus features include extended interviews, deleted scenes, and a trio of full performances.

The Ren & Stimpy Show: Seasons Three and a Half-ish (Paramount, Not Rated, DVD-$38.99 SRP) pretty much wraps up the run of series creator John Kricfalusi, before his massive ego and inability to meet deadlines led to his removal from the show. Which is a shame, because at his peak – before the insanity kicked in – he really was doing some genius work. Unfortunately, much like JMS, the genius is gone, and we’re left with the shell of a man who gave us the wretched return of R&S on Spike. Ah well, at least we can re-watch the classics contained in this set, featuring audio commentaries with a still-delusional John K. and his talented animation team.

If you’re still baffled by Dan Brown’s semi-historical novel The Da Vinci Code, let the History Channel reveal the fact from the fiction in Beyond the Da Vinci Code (History Channel, Not Rated, DVD-$19.95 SRP). What may surprise you is just how much history is to be found in the novel… And just how pervasive the Templars were.

While nowhere near as disconcertingly out-and-out weird as the original adventures of Art Clokey’s bendy plasticene hero Gumby (and sidekick Pokey), the stories contained in the two volumes of The Very Best of the New Adventures of Gumby (Rhino, Not Rated, DVD-$9.95 SRP each) are still pretty off-kilter. Oh, wouldn’t it be great if Gumby were to team up with Mr. Bill to fight the evil Mr. Sluggo?

I wouldn’t say I’m an architecture geek (I don’t go giddy over a Frank Lloyd Wright design, for instance), but it’s the stories behind the homes featured in A&E’s America’s Castles (A&E, Not Rated, DVD-$39.95 SRP) that fascinate me – those built by names like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Morgan, and Guggenheim. Really, when you’ve got more rooms than relatives, you’ve gone too far.

Although it never quite lived up to its potential, Game Over (Anchor Bay, Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP) was a great idea for an animated comedy, throwing together stereotypical video game archetypes as a suburban family – from racer dad (Patrick Warburton) to secret agent mom (Lucy Liu), with an uber-angsty teen daughter (Rachel Dratch), a teen son (E.G. Daily) in love with an anime exchange student, and their pet of unknown species (Artie Lange). The 2-disc set features the complete series, plus behind-the-scenes featurettes, artwork, and a never-aired episode.

Taking a page from the Book of Ah-nold, Vin Diesel tried to infuse a spark in his fading career by going the suburban comedy route in The Pacifier (Walt Disney, Rated PG, DVD-$29.99 SRP), playing a Navy S.E.A.L. assigned to protect five unruly brats. Hilarity should ensue, but if you can believe it, Diesel is even more wooden then Arnie in his heyday. Bonus features include an audio commentary with director Adam Shankman, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes, Special Ops TV ads, and bloopers.

Hopefully, NBC’s pathetic “end o’ the world” miniseries Revelations (Universal, Not Rated, DVD-$27.98 SRP) will signal the end of all the religious-leaning pabulum studios have been shoveling out since last year’s surprise success of Mel Gibson’s unbearable The Passion. What Bill Pullman did to deserve a starring role in the 6-hour mess, I’ll never know – but I know it wasn’t because 0of Spaceballs. Maybe Independence Day. Bonus features include interviews with the cast and writer/producer David Seltzer.

Comments: None

Joe Corey’s PARTY FAVORS - 7/2005

Posted by Ken in Party Favors ( at 12:47 am)

NAGS HEAD – Don’t you hate it when you go down to the beach and discover the idiot manager forget to turn on the heater in the ocean? Who decided that “summer” starts on Memorial Day weekend? Cause this isn’t summer on the beach. I’m experiencing Eskimo Spring.

And don’t you hate it when you discover that Jimmy “J.J.” Walker is playing a hotel in that area, but you’re in no condition to saunter down the sandy path to take in Kid Dy-no-mite? I feel bad for you, my reader, because you missed out on another thrilling account of me meeting a childhood icon. Although mostly I’d be asking Jimmy about his time making commercials with Marc Jacobson from Toyota of Durham. Those were some of the most messed up local car ads. Marc looked like Ric Flair as a car dealer. He used to have this little doofus guy that he smashed pies into.

A source told me that Toyota offered money to Marc to stop making ads. He turned them down because the man loved showbiz. Although he’s toned down his 30 second spiels. Plus the little guy he smeared with pies died. It’s kinda like how Kid Rock just isn’t the same without Joe. C.

So there’s no real report here on the splendor of Jimmy Walker’s comic stylings. Although I’m guessing any regular readers in Reno know what his routine contains.

What we did end up doing that night was watching the second season boxset of Chappelle’s Show. Unbleeped, the show is funnier. Although the show is still “censored.” There are topless women that are still checkerboarded in the Rick James episode. Although in the Oprah’s Baby’s Daddy sketch, there are exposed breasts. This leads me to believe that the actresses didn’t sign off on having their nudity shown in the Rick James sketch – especially since Rick makes fun of them as “sour milk.” Could be worse – they could have had the mudbutt.

The sketch that really shines on the boxset is Wayne Brady’s midnight cruise. Wayne should have won an Emmy for turning his persona inside out. Every line out of his mouth is comic gold. He makes Dave his straight man and keeps him his straight man.

I’m not going to speculate why Dave flipped out and didn’t finish up the third season on time. But after watching the boxset, it hurt that the new ones aren’t coming anytime soon. Although I’m hoping there will be a new Charlie Murphy story about Dave.

It also hurt that the DVD player we watched the set on didn’t have a remote so we couldn’t explore the bonus features. So no report on the extra Charlie Murphy stories. But at least the “play all” worked cause we were in no shape to keep pressing “play” every 22 minutes.


If I read only one new book this year, I’m happy it’s Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation.

The book is a strange travelogue of a woman who can’t drive, but wants to see various sites that involve the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln, John Garfield and William McKinley.

For the longest time I’ve avoided Vowell’s work. I haven’t read any of her other books. I don’t listen to her readings on NPR’s This American Life. And when her name was mentioned as a guest on Conan, I would turn the channel to see what’s on VH1Classic. I think she reminded me of this girl I hated on the school bus in 7th grade who even though she was an outcast like myself, she sided with the popular kids in the back of the bus. I know it wasn’t really Sarah since she grew up in Oklahoma and Montana. But sometimes it’s hard to shake that vibe that she was the traitor.

I had two chances to see Vowell speak and both times I turned down the invites. That might be because I was just jealous that she was being treated like this golden child of the Birkenstock crowd. They’d drink their merlot, listen to a Bulgarian women choir and chat about those witty stories on This American Life. I couldn’t get on that show. Why? Because it isn’t called “My American Nightmare.” Sure I had colorful tales of growing up the child of a West Point grad and a Boston public school teacher, but they ended up being a blur of black and blue. Mine are the type of stories that normally get social workers sniffing under the welcome mat. There’s not too much cute and funny growing up knowing that your father’s favorite offspring was his imaginary son called Kevin. Do you know how hard it is to grow up in the shadow of a brother that never existed? This wasn’t even a case of a sibling that died at birth or miscarried. This was a complete Harvey in my house. Kevin never seemed to be around when Dad would snap from the simplest of actions like a missing TV remote. And Kevin never had to hold the board while Dad sanded. I bet Kevin has complete fingerprints.

So let’s just say that for the most part, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about Sarah Vowell because I was jealous that she had a colorful family that she could milk for material that didn’t come off like a Jerry Springer pre-interview. Why the change of heart? Why did I get this book out of the library? The Incredibles.

She was the voice of Violet. My wife who normally doesn’t care to see bonus material wanted to poke around the extra features. There was a short piece on Sarah. And as she showed off her collection of Lincoln assassination souvenirs and mentioned her upcoming book, my curiosity kicked it. And I put my name on the library’s waiting list.

During a nearly seven hour round trip to the coast for my wife’s grandmother’s family reunion, I tore through the book. There’s something refreshing about reading a book about traveling around the country while traveling around the country - especially if you’re not driving – cause that would be dangerous. Vowell’s obsession with these three murders is fully explained in these pages. She gives context to both the presidents and their assassins. Garfield’s killer isn’t reduced down to “disappointed office seeker.” Charles Guiteau’s life is exposed as a complete nutjob. The man lived at a sex commune and nobody wanted to sleep with him. We also see how McKinley’s death is nearly forgotten by exhibits let alone elementary school textbooks. This must be the fate of a guy who is killed in a temporary exhibit space. But she does make some interesting links between McKinnley’s policies and Our President W.

The real star of the book is Robert Todd Lincoln, the son of the dead president. He is Sarah’s fellow traveler on this gruesome pilgrimage. Not only did he witness his father’s death, he was around for Garfield’s shooting and arrived in Buffalo minutes after McKinley was gunned down by an anarchist. Talk about a bad luck streak. But what’s strange is that Lincoln’s life was saved by John Wilkes Booth’s brother. Talk about full circle of weirdness.

Vowell’s words roll fast over the eyes. It’s almost a shame that there are no pictures of the various sites – especially since she repeatedly talks about taking photos during her journey. It’s not nice to tease the readers. Probably around Christmas time we’ll see the illustrated version cropping up as a prize for donating $300 to your local radio station.

The one big missing thing from the book is some sort of address section for people who want to visit the various places. Even a quick guide to websites would have been nice. A book like this should inspire travel and it’s nice when there’s an easy destination guide for those with happy feet. But I guess you can always google search these various locations. Who wouldn’t want to visit Walter Reed Hospital to see fragments of Lincoln’s skull?

The book enraptured me. So now I have made my peace with Sarah. If she’s ever in the area, I’ll treat her to drinks. I might even treat her to the story about how Matthew ruined our Easter at DisneyWorld because he couldn’t keep his hands off a wood fence at the mall – that’s an MA rating story so it’s not fit for radio broadcast.


While watching Family Business on Showtime, there was a “crossover” moment as Seymore Butts showed Isabella Soprano her g spot. Isabella was the captivating hooker who enjoyed visits from couples on Cathouse II on HBO. And now she’s decided to flip her star power into a career in adult entertainment.

At first I was shocked seeing that the sparkling brunette beauty had reduced herself down to making porn movies. But then it hit me – she was a whore, now she’s a porn star. That’s a step up. The weird thing was that she had a part in Seed of Seymore, but didn’t partake in Seymore’s #1 activity that involves the #2 hole. Even Seymore isn’t sure how she got this far in the casting process without being told that you can’t be in the movies without (let’s just say for the sake of any kid’s reading) doing the dirtiest of deeds.

But for many of us, the reason of her appearing in the film is simple – to bring Pay Cable naughtiness together. Perhaps next year we’ll get to see Cousin Stevie hanging out with Dogg the Bounty Hunter.

It should also be pointed out that even with her new career, Isabella isn’t forgetting her old fans. She’s still showing up at the Moonlight Bunny Ranch to treat viewers willing to pay $4,000 an hour to more than just a signed 8×10 glossy. Talk about a giving performer. Don’t see Mariah Carey offering that sort of fun to the lambs on her website.


After MGM and Best Buy screwed America out of the latest wave of Midnite Movie Double Features, I imported several of them from Canada. No one is talking about why that deal crash and burned. Although a few of the titles are now available in America from various retailers instead of the Best Buy exclusive.

Instead of teasing you with the titles that are still MIA in the USA (like the amazing double bill of Last Man on Earth and Panic in Year Zero), let’s talk about one that is on the shelf this month: Fireball 500/Thunder Alley. These two movies represent the final two features that Annette Funicello made for the legendary indie American International Pictures. But instead of ending her career kicking around the sand, she found herself covered in dust from NASCAR tracks.

Fireball 500 can be considered the last of the Beach Party films since it was directed by William Asher and features Frankie Avalon, Annette and Harvey Lembeck except they aren’t close to their normal surf and sand creations. Lembeck is no longer nutty biker Erik Von Zipper. He’s a Southern bootlegger who also deals in racing. Frankie plays a racecar driver working his way down to Daytona. These are the early days of NASCAR before sponsors made life so much easier for the drivers. So instead of getting cash from Budweiser like Dale Jr., Frankie scores extra bucks by hauling moonshine for Lembeck.

There is a different tone between these films and it’s not merely going from sand to asphalt. You can feel the dividing line between Fireball 500 and How to Stuff A Wild Bikini during a fight between Frankie and Harvey. Instead of the slapstick mayhem of those early films, Fireball 500 shows these two men are out to hurt each other. They’re not aiming at the funnybone. No longer is Lembeck frozen by a touch of the finger. Now there is blood on their lips. Annette doesn’t have too much of a role. This racing movie is not her vehicle.

The same can be said about Thunder Alley. Fabian (Frankie’s racing rival in Fireball 500) plays a racer who has a pesky blackout problem as he circles the hardtop. So he tries to make a comeback by being part of a stunt show that features Annette. There’s even a wild party that gets out of control – especially compared with those soda drinking kids on Bikini Beach. Richard Rush directed this final AIP – Annette feature. He’s the same guy who a decade later would give us The Stunt Man – one of the cinematic greats about the madness of a movie on location.

Both films come off as a little more hard-edged than an Elvis movie. (And both were made before Elvis roared into the NASCAR circuit with Speedway.) But neither is shocking in their portrayals – especially when you consider that a month after Fireball 500, AIP would put out Roger Corman’s The Wild Angels – a biker film that didn’t flinch in its debauchery and violence. While the films were released a year apart, it seems the films were shot close to each other since they involve the same track in Southern California and the same footage of NASCAR events at Daytona and Darlington.

If there is a major buying point for these films, it is this amazing footage of early NASCAR. Both films feature Richard Petty’s blue 43 as their racer’s car. During that period of time, Petty dominated so the filmmakers were guaranteed that their character’s car would be zipping underneath the checkered flag when they shot the actual race. However this footage also includes a tribute to Johnny Reb complete with his confederate battle flag. So this isn’t the new multi-racial Nextel NASCAR. This is not for the squeamish or those who want to think that this sport wasn’t from hardcore Southerners.

The next time Annette shined on the silver screen, it was Back to the Beach in the mid-80s when her and Frankie tried to make us remember those beach blanket bingo days.


As summer approaches, the memories of freakish monster movies on TV fill my fancy. The joy of plopping down in front of my grandmother’s TV set to watch Creature Feature when the sun went down on Boston makes me smile. But last Saturday there was nothing. No monsters or mad scientists or superspies. Where have they gone?

People lately have been talking about the death of the local horror movie host. These people were goth before Sisters of Mercy were cool. The best recent example of such a person is Elvira of her Movie Macabre. There’s a great website that deals with various movie shows that aired on New York City TV. I don’t really count Mystery Science Theater 3000 since they talked over the film – so it wasn’t like you were watching Manos: The Hands of Fate. You were watching them watch it. A good horror host would pop up with a goofy sketch and a quick summary of what’s happened so far for the latecomers to not feel alienated.

It’s a shame that these genre driven TV slots have pretty much been pushed off the schedule for big budget action flicks. It seems like that ever since TNT yanked off Joe Bob Briggs and Monster-vision, it’s been an empty time on the various channels. Perhaps part of this can be blamed on a lack of good packages being shopped by the various studios. It’s just a shame as summer approaches that there’s no decent timeslot and destination to enjoy Psychotronic flicks.

The DVD has saved me from a pure abyss. I have a boxset of Godzilla flicks to feed the radioactive monster fix. There are sets of various Universal Classic Monster collections to make sure Karloff, Lugosi and Chaney roam freely from the crypt. Not to mention various public domain collections that give me a chance to watch Attack of the Killer Shrews and Hercules adventures. Plus all the Planet of the Apes films are on the shelf ready to be marathoned – not counting that crappy Tim Burton version. And the AIP weirdness is found doubled up on the Midnite Movies. Plus I have the Frankie and Annette Beach Party DVDs so I never have to lose the urge to hang ten with Deadhead. I have made my own world of cult-ure.

Two of the biggest boxsets that will feed this desire are coming up. August shall bring us the Matt Helm Lounge boxset. Thrill to Dean Martin’s superspy adventures. The guy drives around in a loaded up station wagon that features a wet bar that he can use while at the wheel. Yes, it’s a film that promotes drinking and driving! Shame this is coming so late in the season. But when it does come out, we will have friends over to enjoy a cocktail bliss.

WOR in New York used to show King Kong, Son of Kong and Mighty Joe Young after Thanksgiving. It was a holiday tradition in our house – right after the “you weren’t supposed to cut that pie!” threats. By Thanksgiving, a boxset featuring all three great ape movies will be available in time to cash in on Peter Jackson’s King Kong. The only film that’s missing from recreating the WOR experience is King Kong Versus Godzilla. Someday that’ll see this shore.

I do have to warn anyone curious about St. Clair Vision’s Giant Monsters collection that it’s not a bargain. Sure they promise 9 movies over three DVDs including tons of Gamera and Yongary, Monster From the Deep, but the transfers look like fifth generation bootleg EP speed tapes. It’s a shame this collection isn’t at least the same quality of a normal PD collection. And it’s also a shame that Sun Coast doesn’t let you check out the quality before you buy something. But I didn’t pay that much for it, so I’ll keep it on the rack. These are best watched when drunk.

It is great to own these DVDs and not have to worry about a programming dork taking away my favorite films. But I feel bad for kids growing up and not stumbling across these films. What will they do without a creature double feature to alter their idea of entertainment? And the thrill of being able to call up a friends and say, “Turn to channel 11! Gamera is on!”

Instead they are stuck with numerous replays of Adam Sandler’s Waterboy. And a 12 year old can’t afford buying that many DVDs to enjoy films they are clueless about. Maybe their parents will let them get them off Netflix? Or have a cool uncle.

Maybe someday the pendulum will swing back and there will be Vincent Price in his pit, eager to thrill and chill us all.


Has anyone else noticed how pro wrestler Triple H is trying to look like Lemmy from Motorhead with his latest beard? I wouldn’t be surprised if Triple H has surgically implanted warts put on his cheek.


That Shakira can work her belly. She really needs to enter some sort of Olympic competition. Even with all those tortured years of taking Spanish, I haven’t a clue what she’s singing, but I’m moaning as she shakes it up. Plus she’s heaving that bosom like she’s practicing for a Jane Austen film festival.


Scientists at NASA have proven that hindsight isn’t 20/20. Hindsight is really 10/20.


Is there a better series of commercials than Bacardi and Cola as Miami Vice with ice? I still laugh at the introduction of Diet Cola and his dance between the super models. What is the point of remaking Miami Vice? These two guys need a feature film. Or at least they need more ads.


While picking through a strange antique shop in the middle of farm country, I find a tiny NASCAR racer with Frankenstein’s monster on the hood. While this isn’t odd, what made it interesting to me was that instead of Karloff, the hood had Lon Chaney Jr’s version of the monster from Ghost of Frankenstein. I had to buy it so it can go next to my toy car with Lon’s Wolf Man on the hood.


The Fourth season of Seinfeld had to be the best. The boxset is filled with episodes that are nearly all the ones retold by friends – exception being Festivus.


After not feeling too motivated to see it in the theater, I bought a copy of Wes Anderson’s Life Aquatic on DVD. Mainly this was after a chat with legendary documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles at the Full Frame Film Festival. Albert told me he directed a bonus feature. Albert’s piece is better than the film. I’m not sure what Wes Anderson is trying to do in cinema, but entertaining an audience seems to go 20 rung beneath appearing like a smug New York bastard. I felt so bad for Bill Murray being dragged through an uninspired mess of a flick. Everything about the movie wants to be fun, but Wes sucks the marrow from the celluloid. Nothing makes sense and yet Wes doesn’t want to admit it’s brainless. And the action scenes are painfully bad. A shoot out seems like it was taken from the footage shot by the behind the scenes crew. Nothing wants to connect.

A few years back we watched Blue Water, White Death, about a ship searching to film a Great White Shark in the wild. And we thought it would make a fun comedy – cinematic explorers looking for a killer shark and nearly killing each other. After Wes Anderson’s floating whale turd, no one will ever fund our movie. Thanks for nothing, Sappy.


We’re already in summer and I don’t hear a song. There better be a song this summer! Perhaps an ode to Mudbutt?


NASCAR stole their races, but this town still has a need for speed. The former racetrack sits silently on the side of US 1. The signs hype the last race from two winters ago and even promotes the Winston Cup Series. It’s an artifact waiting to be put inside a box at the Smithsonian.

But there’s still a vroooom in the air since across the street is the Rockingham Dragstrip where the speed goes in one direction.

As the creepy PA, I was hired by Scion to help work on footage about Christian Rado for their website at the NDRA meet. Unfortunately we didn’t get to feel the speed. Rado’s team was supposed to debut his new Pro Outlaw front wheel drive Scion that has 1,500 horsepower under the hood. Except somewhere on the road from Reading, Pennsylvania to the countryside of North Carolina, somebody left the barn door open. The horses fled the undercarriage. The car could not crank.

It would make a sputter, but wouldn’t turn over. I can’t give too many details because my automotive knowledge normally ends at my credit card. There was no moment when I could save the day by saying, “What about replacing the difusitron?” I just sat back and kept wondering if the engine would ever go “vroooooom!”

And it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Rado’s mechanic, who reminded me of a lost Ween brother, spent nearly 24 hours working on the massive four-cylinder engine. He tore apart the engine of the $750,000 car that was supposed to hit 200 mph on the quarter mile blacktop. They had computers checking everything. They even had their main competitor, Jason Hunt and his mechanic came over to the pit to help work on the car. Can you imagine Tony Stewart giving Jeff Gordon a hand in gasoline alley?

And people were so looking forward to the car speeding past the concrete grandstand. Even with all the pressure of trying to get the car, Rado and his team were nice to the fans. During one frustrating moment, an onlooker asked a goofy question about the horsepower. The mechanic looked up and gave a serious answer and thanked the guy for dropping by their prep area. It was amazing how this team never tried to alienate the fans during the pressure.

And what a nice area they had. A super RV towed a garage trailer that held the racing car, an SUV and their golfcart for puttering around the parking lot. And can I please warn you that it was the most dangerous parking lot in the world (non-battlefield category)? People kept zipping around the parking area in their hopped up cars with the right headlight removed for better air-intake. Plus one freak was popping wheelies on a four-wheel ATV with kids hanging off him. And there were way too many close calls with those mini-motorcycles zipping underfoot. It was a miracle that the rescue squad wasn’t pulling bodies out of the grillwork of the numerous VW Bugs. (Although my favorite car not owned by Rado was a Bug called “Going Postal.”) And even if you avoided the cars, there was still a chance of having your eardrums busted wide open as they revved their engines.

You could also bust open your eyeballs on the NOPI Chicks. Not everything around the track was made of metal – some were merely enhanced with silicon. One of the bikini contestants looked like a young Jenna Jameson as she pranced around with her swimsuit glued onto her body. If you’re going for the prize, play to win. The sad moment was running into a Penthouse Pet from 2001. Even though the makeup was caked on her face like Tammy Faye, the former Pet looked like Darryl Hannah without makeup. I didn’t have the nerve to ask if her publicity pic was airbrushed or photoshopped.

We were told that around four on Sunday morning, Rado’s car started. We were excited at the news when we arrived at the track with our camera and the knowledge that the car had one last chance to qualify for the big showdown with Hunt. But at 10 a.m. the engine had reverted to its mystery illness. The super Scion would have to wait for its public debut.

Rado’s long sideburns come to a point on his chin, but they could have gone on for infinity as he looked at the engine that wouldn’t crank. In a moment of resignation that the day was scratch, he mentioned that the car cost seven times more than his house. And on that day, the house and car were traveling at the same speed. When a fan pulled up next to the guard rope, Rado cheered up as he spoke about what the car was going to do in an upcoming meet in Bristol. Someday that engine will be the gift under the Christmas tree that pushes him into the record books.

You can’t keep a good natured racer idled too long.


Did you know Bill Murray used to be funny and cool?

He wasn’t always a novice AARP member feeling the weight of the world on his forehead and squeaking out a wisecrack to ease the pain. He wasn’t always the voice of a stupid CGI cat that hates Mondays and loves lasagna. And he wasn’t always forced to perform minor comic relief to three clueless women in a big dumb action film.

The old Bill was the life of a party so splendorous that you give a quart of blood to gain an invitation. When you were at a party, after a few drinks, it was easy to slip into Bill’s outlook on life. As the night went on, the goal was to achieve a state of Billness: to become a sensitive cocky guy who connects with anyone who matters in the room. And after a few more drinks, you’d also butcher the latest hit songs with lyrics forced into the tune. Bill was the new Dean Martin for a generation that didn’t want to roast Foster Brooks.

Way back when, Bill Murray was someone I wanted to evolve into – at least his persona. I didn’t know what his real life was like. But the image he projected on the screen was an attitude took hold. Bill’s way of life offered protection from the dickless rodents that would prefer you follow orders and march toward the grave as pathetic fools with no thrills, passion or adventure. There was no moping around in the comic bravado of Bill. Before there was Kabbalah and Scientology, there was Bill.

I remind myself of his former screen presence while witnessing him sleepwalk through The Life Aquatic. Why did I spent $22 for the special edition Criterion DVD. Did I really need a bonus disc worshipping Wes Anderson’s diligence in sucking the panache out of Bill Murray’s marrow? I should have used that money to buy Stripes: The Extended Cut.

Murray demonstrates the law of diminishing returns in working with Wes Anderson. Rewatching Rushmore, it’s easy to see that Murray’s meaty role disappears as the film goes on. Once he makes amends with Max, he’s just a side character. And in The Royal Tenenbaums, Murray is completely wasted as Gwyneth Paltrow’s detached husband.

His sad sack schtick worked on Lost In Translation. And he was robbed of the Oscar that was rightfully his. I’m not talking Best Actor, but the Best Original Screenplay award. A bowl of Campbell’s alphabet soup put more words into his mouth than Sophia Coppola. But she clung to the masquerade of the writer-director auteur and didn’t give Bill co-writer credit for his contributions. Would she have stood on that podium holding an Academy Award if Lost In Translation starred Jim Belushi?

Bill went back for a fourth serving of pathos in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zizzou. When the project was announced, I expected Bill to be Jacques Cousteau after a pot of espresso. But instead he’s a sad, lost creature in a Speedo. It hurt me to see him stuck in this film. There’s nothing wrong with an actor stretching in their role choices, but when will the real Bill Murray return?

Doesn’t look like it’ll happen soon.

His upcoming movie is Broken Flowers written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. Judging from the Cannes reviews, Bill is described as “droll” and very restrained in his actions. The downtrodden streak continues. After that there’s The Lost City, an Andy Garcia project about Cuba with Bill playing “The Writer.” It’s hard to imagine that Garcia will be remaking Our Man in Havana. The kicker is his name has been attached to Rob Schneider’s Hard R with David Spade and Norm McDonald. This film could make people think fondly of Osmosis Jones.

His bit part as the shifty lawyer in Wild Things was the last time Bill was properly used in a film. That was seven years ago. And you have to go back to Kingpin in 1996 for a bigger screen time worth watching. There are children who went from high school to college graduation thinking that Bill Murray is either a middle age crisis case or an idiot. They’ve never experienced Bill as a comic genius at the local cineplex. They’ve had to witness his true talent via video on a small screen. The man who gave us Meatballs is MIA on the silver screen. They don’t know a Bill Murray that’s 20 feet high and worthy of looking up at.

At some point Bill must realize that people no longer want to emulate him for the same reasons as two decades ago. No one wants to be the 21st century Bill Murray. They merely want to be in his shoes so they have a chance of scoring with Scarlett Johansson.

And it’s not like the spark has gone out on Bill. He shines on David Letterman appearances to plug these “droll” roles. He’s not dead yet. He’s barely a decade older than Tom Cruise. It’s just a shame that the only work he gets (or accepts) is either restraining or stupid. Maybe this is how he tortures his fans for not embracing Razor’s Edge?

Perhaps Bill should just give up film work and enter politics. The man is ready to become president. Sure he might have some dark marks on his permanent record. But after Clinton and George W. Bush, whatever happened in the 70s and 80s and maybe the 90s can be explained away by a press secretary who swears he’ll look into it. And Schwarzenegger has proven that on location antics won’t kill you on the ballot. So whatever happened in the Saturday Night Live dressing rooms won’t cripple Oval Office aspirations. He might have to answer for his expatriate time in France.

Bill knows how to work a room. Even on a serious subject like his trainer’s suicide, he had people laughing without making a joke. Imagine how entertaining he’ll make the State of the Union – it’ll be more electrifying than XXX: State of the Union. He plays enough golf to grip and rip his way to the White House. Plus like the current resident, Bill owns several baseball teams. Isn’t that enough of a resume? He might lack a background in foreign affairs or economics, but does that matter anymore? Imagine what lyrics he’ll add to Hail to the Chief. Get this man on a bus in Iowa. At least the campaign trail will be a good excuse for Bill to avoid making another restrained film.

But for the health of the nation, Bill has to make at least one film where he sparkles with that cocksure attitude and take no prisoners wit for those of us who saw him as the way to live. Bill can’t let us think that at the end of the road we’ll end up with the same sad pathetic lives as the dickless rodents we tried to rise above.


John Phillip Law deserves credit for being in three films that define Pop Cinema: Barbarella, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Danger: Diabolik. The last title has come out on DVD and Paramount has actually given it a velvet touch without jacking up the price.

Diabolik is a master thief who rips off the mega-treasures with his hot girlfriend (played by Marisa Mell). They live in a hot underground lair. When Paramount first announced the DVD release, it was merely a barebones edition. And I was pissed when it was yanked off the schedule. But then they put out a new date and announced several bonus features including John Phillip Law giving a commentary. There’s a 20 minute film talking about the character going from Italian comics to the big screen. But the gem is the Beastie Boy’s tribute to the film Body Movin, where they used clips while dressing up as the characters. Now this is what I expected on DVDs – the ability to see how a movie has been used in other projects.

The only downside of the DVD is that the used the “suspenders and belt” box. But that can be overlooked since the disc inside shines with a dark character. Can I also recommend Monica Vitti’s Modesty Blaise to go in your collection if you like this title? And sometime this summer, you should host a John Phillip Law triple feature.


It’s the start of July and I’m not dancing around to a song that’s beach ready.


I haven’t seen much of either show, but The Princes of Malibu and I Want to Be a Hilton are proof that reality shows are now excuses for self-centered worthless people to become the center of the universe.

Princes of Malibu feature the sons of Bruce Jenner and former Elvis squeeze Linda Thompson and now the stepsons of David Foster, a songwriter of schmaltz. They are lazy pretty boys who now are supposed to earn a living in order to please Foster. Instead of getting real jobs, they do stupid stunts like run a drive in theater on their yard. It’s a rip off of Viva La Bam except more family friendly. And with two kids who should be worried that their real dad looks like a transsexual woman. Maybe someday their faces will transform into Bea Arthur. I will only watch this show if the digital cable guide mentions “Murder-suicide.”

I Want to Be a Hilton shows that the mother of Paris isn’t a complete whore bag. Honestly, how can this woman teach anyone how to be a proper human being? Her daughter is a vapid pain that makes internet porn, can’t figure out where her dog is and has no real talent outside of being a whore. Did Paris graduate from high school or merely a rehab clinic? And daughter Nicky almost outdid Britney Spears on marriages. Mother Hilton should only be on TV confessing that she has no business raising children since she didn’t mind letting her daughters become a couple of teenage bar crawlers. Will any of the competitions have to deal with seeing what contestant can get the most downloads of their homemade porn? Maybe they’ll have a Red Bull chugging contest?

What’s next on the reality schedule? Taking a Second Whack At Love with Robert Blake? Either way Mrs. Hilton and the Jenner boys really need a hobby to keep them off TV – how about heroin addiction? Or how about Mrs. Hilton follows in her daughter’s truest talent and make a video with the Jenner boys demonstrating the 11th Decathlon event.


I shall repeat my statement that Patti Kaplan is the director with the most cultural influence in America. Do you know how many people have tried something “new” in the bedroom after watching her work on HBO’s Real Sex series? Or think differently their traveling choices viewing Taxicab Confessions? Too many directors view themselves as merely artists or entertainers. Patti is a guide to an America that dares to peek under the covers.

And now she has expanded upon her amazing Cathouse specials by creating a series where we follow the inner-workings of the Moonlight Bunny Ranch Brothel. The show does an amazing job at giving us a view from both the whore and the client. The series educates the viewers with talks about the g-spot and ways to entertain a man with a foot fetish. What was amazing about the g-spot episode is that on Showtime’s Family Business, Isabella Soprano located her g-spot for the first time with the help of Seymore Butts. And now she was passing on the knowledge to others. This might be the first time in reality show history that education has been transferred from show to show.

And the star of the show is Isabella Soprano. She comes off as very smart, funny and most of all very eager to please her clients. While she does have implants, she doesn’t have that plastic enhanced face of some of the other gals. Her hair is a bouncy brown instead of a bleached and sprayed up blond. She has a smile that says she’s the girl next door except with a devious gleam in her eyes. She is America’s Sweetwhore. And I find it amazing that even with the stardom, she’s still working at the Bunnyranch so her old and new fans don’t need to merely teased by her sexuality – like Jessica Simpson.

If you want to get it on with Isabella, all you need is a plane ticket and enough cash to cover the hourly charge. If I only have sex with one hooker in my life, it will be Isabella Soprano. And the best part is that I can bring along the wife since Isabella enjoys couples. I’m not sure if she charges double for spouses or if like the breakfast bar at the Days Inn, wives eat for free.

Kaplan has truly given us another reason to see why she deserves to be feted with the Cathouse series. She’s giving America a peak behind the curtain and invitation to sneak onto the stage. When is the last time Scorsese or Spielberg or Lucas ever helped you make your partner moan for an hour? Kaplan can claim that honor.


I’m sick of hearing various media knowitalls attacking the Batman TV series from the 60s. Sure it wasn’t the Dark Knight gloom and brood of the latest film or the comic books. But damn it, I can’t get enough of this show. For me, the only real Batman is Adam West. Michael Keaton is always Bill Blazejowski from Night Shift. Val Kilmer is Chris Knight from Real Genius. George Clooney will never shake his days on Facts of Life. And even Christian Bale will be less a Batman in my mind than the guy who got his heat stolen by Tom Cruise’s love life. None of these four men will ever be cursed by being Batman. They will never have to spend part of their career bouncing around car shows signing their Batman promo pics. Batman was merely a role they played. For Adam West, the Cape Crusader is a role that he will wear to his grave.

And he best wear it proudly for many of us are still entertained by his campy capers. He is the Batman that a generation or two experienced on TV in the afternoons. It is a damn shame that Fox and Warners are still bickering over putting the TV show on DVD. But at least Anchor Bay released Return to the Batcave. I missed seeing the original airing of this freakish reunion special that has Adam West and Burt Ward forced to assume their former roles in order to hunt down a missing Batmobile. Along the way, they tell their story of what it was like in the mid-60s when they rode the wild wave that was Batmania. We see them go from nobodies to superstars with all the ladies hanging off their utility belts. Plus Frank Gorshin and Julie Newmar team up for one last whack at the dynamic duo. While this isn’t high art, it’s a guilty joy. And it’s a heck of a lot better than the normal interview and clip show slapped together by VH1. The one big thing that you’ll notice is that all the clips used came from The Batman movie that is available on DVD for a cheap price. Seems like Holy Batmania is the only place to get a taste of the original TV series.

At the end of the 80s, I had a chance to interview Frank Gorshin when he was performing at Ft. Bragg. He was a charming man who put up with a lot of freakish questions about playing the Riddler and his nightclub routines. He mentioned that he didn’t have any of the green question mark costumes since they shred as the shooting went on because they were made of nylon. He praised his stage work with Donny Most (Ralph Mauph on Happy Days). He described the coldness of when Johnny Carson stopped booking you on the Tonight Show. He spoke of Las Vegas before the corporations took over and nickel and dimed the entertainment budgets. I felt sad when it was announced that he passed away. But it was so nice that a few nights later, Frank was able to say goodbye to his viewing public with his role in Quentin Tarantino’s CSI episode. Instead of having his swansong be a straight to video release, Frank got to tell one last tale of old Vegas for 30 million people.

Hopefully future generations will get to think of Frank as the Riddler – if those DVDs ever get released.

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