Archive for the ‘Movies’ category

Jersey Boys

September 25, 2020

Last night, we watched “Jersey Boys” on Netflix. It’s also running on Amazon Prime but you rent for $3.99. This is the film that is based on the Broadway show of the same name done a few years ago. The film and show are based on the pop music group “Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

So I was reading the obits in the Los Angeles Times a couple of days ago. (At my age, I find myself reading the obits more and more often. So I ran across an obit about Tommy DeVito (not to be confused with Danny DeVito, the actor). So that sparked my interest in watching Jersey Boys. Here’s the obit from the Los Angeles Times.

Mr DeVito died of the corona virus and he was 92 years young. He sang baritone along with the others in the Four Seasons.

The movie covers the beginnings of the group singing in bars and night clubs. Eventually, they met Bob Gaudio who wrote most of the groups most successful songs.

Bob Gaudio wrote hits like “Sherry”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, ”Walk Like a Man” and many, many more. One cannot help but sing along, even if you were not alive when these songs were first released.

Franki Valli, Bob Crewe, Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio

We watched the film to the very end, listening to all the music while the credits rolled by.

I suppose that Four Season’s musical journey is not unlike other pop groups struggling to get heard by the right people.

Starship Troopers

September 10, 2020

Last night we decided to watch a film that was dropping off of Netflix at the end of the month. The film was “Starship Troopers” starring Neil Patrick Harris, Casper Von Dien, Denise Richards, Dina Meger and Jake Busey. Directed by Paul Verhoeven.

Usually, the Times does a piece about the movies that are aging out of streaming services to allow you a chance to watch before they are dropped. Here’s a quote from Wednesday’s New York Times (on 9/9/2020):

An astonishing (embarrassing, frankly) number of film critics blew the call entirely on Paul Verhoeven’s adaptation of the 1959 novel by Robert A. Heinlein, dismissing it as a dopey sci-fi-action-monster mess while missing its pointed indictments of “patriotic” militarism and government authoritarianism (and mainstream cinema’s frequent carrying of those messages). In retrospect, Verhoeven couldn’t have made his intentions clearer: From the flag-waving propaganda sequences to the purposefully plastic acting, this is political satire with real teeth.

If you want to watch this on Netflix, do it before Sept 30. Else see it on Amazon Prime for $4.

So here are few of my comments:

  • There are no ugly people in this film. The guys are hunks and the gals are beauties. Everyone is beautiful. I suppose this is a general rule on this type of movie.
  • The giant bugs are great. I don’t know who did the special effects, but I loved the bugs.
  • None of the good guys ever run out of ammo. Another general rule for shoot’em up films. James Bond doesn’t run out of ammo either.
  • I wonder if any of the veterans who managed to survive would have PTSD. The film ends before you see any of the survivors heading home.
  • There’s a great bit where the head bug gets his nose out (I guess it’s a nose) and sucks the brains out of one of the troopers. Delightfully icky.

We loved the film. It was so outrageously bad. It made it worth watching.

Fiddler on the Roof

September 2, 2020
Fiddler on the Roof Poster

We watched another musical last night. This time it was “Fiddler on the Roof” on Netflix. The movie stars Topol, Norma Crane and Leonard Frey. It was released in 1971 following the successful run on Broadway.

The film is a bit on the long side (3 hours). We watched act I on the first night and Act II on the second night.

This is the story of Tevke, a poor Jewish man who lives in a small house in the town of Anatevka in pre-revolutionary Russia. Tevke lives with his wife of 25 years and his five adult daughters. Here is the storyline from IMDB.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Jews and Orthodox Christians live in the little village of Anatevka in the pre-revolutionary Russia of the Czars. Among the traditions of the Jewish community, the matchmaker arranges the match and the father approves it. The milkman Reb Tevye is a poor man that has been married for twenty-five years with Golde and they have five daughters. When the local matchmaker Yente arranges the match between his older daughter Tzeitel and the old widow butcher Lazar Wolf, Tevye agrees with the wedding. However Tzeitel is in love with the poor tailor Motel Kamzoil and they ask permission to Tevye to get married that he accepts to please his daughter. Then his second daughter Hodel (Michele Marsh) and the revolutionary student Perchik decide to marry each other and Tevye is forced to accept. When Perchik is arrested by the Czar troops and sent to Siberia, Hodel decides to leave her family and homeland and travel to Siberia to be with her beloved Perchik….

So why is Tevke playing his fiddle up on the roof of his house. It is not exactly explained, but my idea is that where else is Tevke going to get some peace and quiet in a house (a small house, at that) of a wife and 5 adult daughters.

So the music was written by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Hamock. The 1971 film won 3 Oscars (Best Cinematography, Best Sound and Best Music). The original Broadway Production ran for a record setting 3,642 shows starting in 1964. Click here for the complete Wikipedia article. That Broadway run was finally broken by Grease.

SPOILER ALERT

In the end all of the Jews of Anetvka are told to sell there homes and get out. The small community is broken up. They all go off in different directions. Some to New York, Some to Chicago, Some to Jerusalem. A very sad ending but one feels the hope of starting a new era.

Annie

August 26, 2020
Kathy Bates, Victor Garner and Alicia Morton

We decided a couple of days ago to start watching some musicals on TV. So last night, we watched “Annie” on Disney +. There seems to be plenty of musicals available either on Netflix or Disney+. Also, there are some on Amazon, but I usually avoid Amazon because they typically charge $4 to watch.

I couldn’t find an IMDB entry for the 1999 version which is weird. I did find an extensive article in Wickipedia. Clicke here for more than you would ever want to know about “Little Orphan Annie”. The reason there was know IMDB for this version might be that is was made for TV.

There have been several movies made on Annie. First one was in 1982. Next one in 1999/ And one in 2014. We watched the 1999 version on Disney.

In the 1999 version, Annie is played by Alicia Morton. Daddy Warbucks played by Victor Garner and Kathy Bates played the evil Mrs Hannigan.

So the movie(s) Annie is based (of course) on the smash Broadway show of the same name. The Broadway show first premiered in 1977 and was based on the comic strip “Little Orphan Annie”. It initially ran for about 6 years and won numerous awards. There have been numerous revivals and touring shows over the years.

And finally a little bit about the comic strip. First published in 1924 by Harold Gray. Gray died in 1964 but the strip continued until 2010.

Finally, here is a sample of the comic strip art work.

The Greatest Showman

August 21, 2020

Last night we watched “The Greatest Showman” starring Hugh Jackman on Disney +. This is the story of Phineas T Barnum and his development of his circus. One can watch it on Amazon Prime for $3.99 but if you subscribe to Disney + you can watch for free.

It was a pleasant romp of Barnum’s band of talented misfits including the midget, the bearded lady, the acrobats, et al.

There was much singing and dancing. Somehow, I think that the real PT Barnum couldn’t dance like Hugh Jackman, No matter, still pleasant. Jackman looked quite spiffy in his bright red tails and top hat.

The film also talks about Jenny Lind who was a soprano, known as the Swedish Nightingale. Barnum discovered during a tour of Europe. He convinced her to do a tour of the USA. She was paid $1000 per night. Eventually, she tired of Barnum’s style and did her own tour of the US.

This wasn’t the first film about the circus. There was a film done in 1952 titled “The Greatest Show on Earth” starring Charlton Heston, James Stewart and Betty Hutton. This was more of a film about some of the stars of the show. It won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Writing.

So what about the real Phineas T Barnum? P.T. Barnum was born in 1810 in Bridgeport CT and died in 1891. He is widely credited with saying “There’s a sucker born every minute”, but there is no proof that he actually said that.

Barnum served for two terms in the Connecticut legislature in 1861 for Fairfield CT. He spoke to the legislature supporting the ratification of the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution. (Supporting abolishment of slavery.)

Aladdin (Live Action Remake)

August 5, 2020

Last night we watched “Aladdin” on Amazon Prime. This is the live action remake of the original Disney animated version of Aladdin. It stars Will Smith as the genie, Naomi Scott as the princess Jasmine and Mena Massoud as Ali/Aladdin.

I’ve got to say that this was better than I thought it would be. Will Smith does a great job as genie.

So here’s the story. Ali is a street urchin who lives in Agrabah. He is also a thief. He meets Jasmine (who is impersonating her handmaiden). They don’t let princesses out to wander around town.

So Ali finds the lamp and seeing it is rather dusty and gives it a rub. Thus, he discovers the genie who will grant him three wishes. Ali wishes to become a prince so that he can win the heart of Princess Jasmine.

So on the story goes. Ali is not very good at being a prince. He discovers that the Sultan’s trusted consultant Jafar is plotting the overthrow of the Sultanate. Ali and the genie save the day.

Ali’s last wish is to free the genie from curse of the lamp. Ali/Aladdin and Jasmine live happily ever after.

It was a fun romp. BTW, the original animated Aladdin was done in 1992 with Robin Williams as the genie.

Fever Pitch

July 12, 2020

We watched another baseball movie last night. This time it was Fever Pitch starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore.

So this is the story of a young man named Ben who has season tickets to Red Sox games that he inherited from his uncle. He is a super fervent fan. He doesn’t miss any games, ever.

So Ben has real good seats located between home plate and home dugout. The tickets would have needed to be owned by his family for decades.

So Ben meets a young lady named Lindsey (Barrymore) who he takes a liking to. Ben has plenty of time for Lindsey during the winter, but when summer rolls along he has to decide whether baseball games are more important than love.

Okay, this movie was filmed in 2004 when the Red Sox were heading towards the World Series. And the playoff series between the Yankees and Red Sox is prominent in the story.

There was produced an extended Red Sox edition of the film with additional scenes from the actual baseball games. Guess which one we watched?

Other baseball themed movies on my list include “Bull Durham” and
“The Natural”.

So baseball starts up again on July 26th. We should be able to get in one or two more baseball movies before opening day.

Battered Bastards of Baseball

July 2, 2020

Well enough dancing for a while. Now, it’s back to baseball. Last night we watched a documentary called “The Battered Bastards of Baseball“. This is the documentary about an independent minor league baseball franchise called the Portland (Oregon) Mavericks.

The team was independent in that it did not have any relationship a major league team. In fact at the time, it was the only team in Minor League Baseball that was independent. The team operated in Portland from 1973-1977. Most of the team consisted of misfits and outcasts. But the people of Portland came to love the team and set attendance records for a minor league team.

Usually minor league teams are told who is on their team by the parent major league team. In this case, the Maviricks held tryouts to see who could do the job,

The team was started by Hollywood actor Bing Russell. Bing Russell was best known for playing the deputy on the TV show Bonanza and Robert on “The Magnificent Seven”. Bing was also the father of Hollywood actor Kurt Russell. Click here for his bio on IMDB.

It was an interesting story, full of interviews with Bing and Kurt Russell. There was a lot footage of games and players. The documentary runs about 1 hour and 20 minutes. It is showing on Netflix.

In the end, MLB seeing that the team was doing so well tried to buy out Bing Russell with $25,000 and replace the team with a AAA Minor League franchise. Bing took MLB to arbitration and eventually win $206,000 for the rights to running a baseball team in Portland.

Flashdance

June 30, 2020

Last night was movie night, again. This time we went back to the “dancing” theme and watched “Flashdance” starring Jennifer Beals and Michael Nouri.

This is the story of a young woman named Alex (played by Jennifer Beals) who works as a welder during the day and dances in a bar/night club in the evening. Her dream is to become a professional ballet dancer. So the manager/owner of the construction business (played by Michael Nouri) recognizes her when he sees her perform in the bar.

So it is a simple story. He meets her and tries to ask her out. She initially refuses but eventually gives in. Then he uses his contacts to facilitate getting her an audition with the local ballet organization. So she eventually does the audition and nails it. She gets the ballet gig and they live happily ever after.

So here is a little that Roger Ebert has to say about Flashdance:

I have a friend who has a simple test for a movie: Is this movie as interesting as the same things would be, happening in real life? A lot of movies aren’t, and “Flashdance” sure isn’t. If this movie had spent just a little more effort getting to know the heroine of its story, and a little less time trying to rip off “Saturday Night Fever,” it might have been a much better film.

See RogerEbert.com

So a manager/owner dating one of his employees is a BAD thing. He shouldn’t have done it and she shouldn’t have agreed to go out with him. But that would have ended the story, wouldn’t it.

So the film runs for about 1 hour 35 minutes and is rated “R” for nudity. Once she gets the ballet gig the show is done. Not much else to say. In comparison with the other “dancing” movies that we’ve seen over the past weeks, Flashdance looks decidedly light weight. We enjoyed it but not the best we’ve seen recently

The movie won the Oscar for Best Music, Original Song and had a few other Oscar nominations. The film was released in 1983. That being said, the movie has a fairly decent sound track. Click here for the Amazon entry.

So this was filmed in 1983. I was amused to see many articles of the time, like pay phones or desk phones. Like when was the last time you used a pay phone? Or not see someone with a cell phone in their hand? The film was filmed in Pittsburgh. Nothing much to say about that. Never been there. Not on my bucket list.

Back to baseball movies in a few days.

A League of Their Own

June 27, 2020

Okay, another baseball movie. Paula got her fix of dancing movies. So now we did another baseball movie. So last night we watched “A League of Their Own” starring Tom Hanks, Madonna, Geena Davis and Rosie O’Donnell

It is the story of the AAGPBL, ie the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. The league was created during WW2 to fill the need for people wanting to watch baseball games while male players were serving overseas in the armed forces. The league eventually grew to sixteen teams, The league mostly operated in the Midwest where people hungered to watch baseball games.

One of the things that caused girl’s baseball to end was the development of TV coverage of baseball games. Ie. People no longer had to go to a ball park to see a game.

Tom Hanks plays the manager Jimmy Dugan who was a former pro ball player. Slowly he manages to get his life under control and stops drinking. Indeed, many of the managers were ex-professional ball players.

So Jimmy was the manager of the Rockford Peaches. He has one of my all time favorite quotes. One of the players started crying when she was coming off the field. Jimmy says to her “There’s no crying in baseball”. This is rated #54 out of the top 100 movie quotes.

Here’s the link to the American Film Institute’s top 100 movie quote list. No. 1 on the list is “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”.