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Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Hey, Good Lookin'! We'll Be Back To Pick You Up Later
I'd say this and the FREEDOM ROCK spot are probably the best-remembered schlocky TV commercials of the late-'70s and early-'80s. Did anybody--anybody--ever buy a Mr. Microphone and spice up a boring party with it?

Of course, professional musicians used it. Riiiiiight.

Posted by Marty at 2:14 PM CDT
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Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Does Your Mother Know What You Do For A Living?

I started the THE ROCKFORD FILES: SEASON ONE DVD box set tonight with “The Kirkoff Case,” which was the first regular episode telecast after NBC aired the 90-minute pilot as a TV-movie several months earlier. For anyone who has never seen THE ROCKFORD FILES, “The Kirkoff Case” is a very good “starter” episode. It offers an intricate plot and plenty of writer Stephen J. Cannell’s trademark dialogue (one character is the deliciously named “Muzzy Vinette”), an exciting climactic car chase (star James Garner often did much of the show’s stunt driving), an early guest role for future movie star James Woods and plenty of humor. Best of all, Cannell and director Lou Antonio (who kept his dolly guys plenty busy) do an excellent job of establishing the main character, Jim Rockford (Garner), as an unconventional (for television) anti-hero, a guy who would rather talk than fight and a private detective who wasn’t particularly great at his job.

This is perhaps best illustrated in a scene where Rockford has been kidnapped by a bunch of goons and taken to a deserted warehouse, where his abductors rough him up. Of course, in most private-eye shows, the hero is able to endure great physical pain and still keep his trap shut, but not Rockford. When his attackers start asking questions, Rockford speaks right up. Hey, it’s better and easier (and less painful) than taking another punch to the gut, right? Rockford is no pussy--he can take a shot--but he’s perhaps the most realistic action hero network television has ever seen. He hits someone in the jaw, and his hand hurts more than the guy’s noggin. He doesn’t charge very much, ‘cause he can’t really afford to, and half the time, his clients stiff him anyway. But we surely do love the guy. He’s a great driver, a fast talker, a regular Joe just trying to pick up enough bread to take a few days off and go fishing with his dad (Noah Beery).

“The Kirkoff Case” finds Rockford working for a rich jackass named Larry Kirkoff (Woods), who was indicted for the murder of his parents, but not prosecuted. Rockford doesn’t think much of him, but can’t resist the smell of the $20,000 Kirkoff offers to find the real killer. His nose leads him to a glib golddigger named Tawnia Baker (Julie Sommars, known then for a sitcom called THE GOVERNOR & J.J…she played J.J.) and a muscleheaded brute named Travis (Roger Davis of ALIAS SMITH & JONES), who turn the tables on Rockford by slipping him a mickey and de-pantsing him. Not ten minutes into the show, and already the hero is being played for a sucker.

Cannell’s plot (which was originally planned, but not used, for TOMA) involves a real estate scam and labor organizers, but, as usual for ROCKFORD, the actual story plays second fiddle to the distinctive dialogue and the characters. This episode has the Cannell touch, particularly Sommers’ character, as “Tawnia Baker” was also the name of a regular character on his THE A-TEAM and was (likely) named after his daughter Tawnia, who now directs TV shows like LAS VEGAS and BONES.

Woods and Garner eventually became quite friendly and co-starred in two highly acclaimed TV-movies in the 1980’s: PROMISES and MY NAME IS BILL W. Woods won Emmy awards as Outstanding Lead Actor for both of them. Garner was nominated twice in the same category, but won one as executive producer of PROMISES, which was named Outstanding Drama/Comedy Special. Garner has been nominated for 15 Emmys during his career, and has surprisingly won only twice; his first was in 1977 as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series: THE ROCKFORD FILES, of course.

Posted by Marty at 11:00 PM CDT
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Well, Are You?

Posted by Marty at 6:30 PM CDT
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Monday, May 22, 2006
8 Months To Day 6
Now Playing: 24
Wow, the President is some lover, huh? What was that--about four minutes?

24 ended its fifth day tonight with a rock-'em-sock-'em two-hour season finale filled with so much coolness, I don't know if I can stand it. Well, come to think of it, if Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) can stand it, I guess I can. In less than two hours, Bauer boarded a nuclear submarine, disarmed a dozen missiles, killed an old friend, drove to the compound of the U.S. President (Gregory Itzin), commandeered Marine One, zapped a bunch of Secret Service guys, kidnapped POTUS, got busted by soldiers, masterminded the President's arrest, and got kidnapped and beaten by Chinese ninjas. Is that about it?

Rumors abound that Day 6 will take place outside of Los Angeles. The word was London, but maybe we're going to Hong Kong instead. Filming an entire season of 24 overseas would be a marvelous treat for fans and for television audiences. Very few American network TV series have ever filmed outside of North America for extended periods of time (there's I SPY and, uh, well, there must be a couple more, right? Not including British productions and syndicated shows?), and it would freshen up the 24 formula. It would likely mean that none of the series regulars besides Kiefer would be able to appear, but I could live with that.

I think that, next season, Jack Bauer, Aaron Pierce, Mike Novick and the O'Briens should open up their own private detective agency and stick it to The Man every week.

Admit teared up at that photo of Edgar and Chloe.

And Buchanan smiled! The unlikeliest event in a typically madcap 24 day.


Posted by Marty at 10:50 PM CDT
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Sunday, May 21, 2006
Good Stuff, Maynard
I pretty much did jackshit this weekend but sit on Chicken's porch with a cooler and watch sports on TV with Chicken and Randall. On Saturday, it was Cubs/White Sox (with a kickass fight), Cards/Royals, Fighting Illini baseball, the Preakness and some very dull NASCAR All-Star race in which a four-hour-plus telecast showed about 45 minutes of actual racing. Today, more Cubs/Sox along with some NBA.

The highlight of today, however, was the new KFC Famous Bowl. Have you seen these yet? We saw some TV spots for them, and today the urge was so strong that I ran out to KFC and brought back one for each of us. If you haven't seen it, the Famous Bowl from KFC is mashed potatoes, corn, popcorn chicken, gravy and shredded cheese all layered on top of each other. That is some tasty shit, son. I don't know if it's something KFC is just testing out or if it's a permanent spot on the menu, but I have not had my last Famous Bowl if I can help it.

Posted by Marty at 10:39 PM CDT
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Top 50
I found this old list hidden on my hard drive this morning. This was part of an old thread at Mobius Home Video Forum, where I've been a moderator for several years. The idea was to make a list of fifty of your favorite cinema moments. Not a list of titles or even necessarily scenes or performances, but just fifty things that make you light up and appreciate that cinema exists.

Making lists like these can be fun, but, in my case, they're usually amorphous, and if I made a new list today, it would be a lot different. Just looking at it, I can see one or two additions I would make to it. But here it is, as it was posted at Mobius July 4, 2004.

The no-legged Ron Slinker kung-fu-fighting in MR. NO LEGS
Jim Garrison's (Kevin Costner) "back and to the left" monologue in JFK
Caroline Munro's leather bikini in STARCRASH
Paul Newman's brilliant performance in THE VERDICT
Sonny Chiba taking a bull by the horns (literally) in CHAMPION OF DEATH
The crucified Lee Horsley pulling the spikes from his hands in THE SWORD & THE SORCERER
Steve McQueen jumping his motorcycle in THE GREAT ESCAPE
Mary Badham's performance in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
Stuart Whitman fights three transvestites in STRANGE SHADOWS IN AN EMPTY ROOM
Kurt Russell disco-dancing in USED CARS
Anne Randall disrobing during the opening titles of STACEY!
Brando's "coulda been a contenda" speech in ON THE WATERFRONT
The last scene of PLANET OF THE APES (1968)
Gene Hackman's sacrifice in THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE
Steve McQueen's car chase in BULLITT
The "Ecstasy of Gold" scene in THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY
Shatner vs. Shatner in WHITE COMANCHE
Tara Strohmeier's scrumptious body in HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD
Don Del Oro's costume in ZORRO'S FIGHTING LEGION
C. Thomas Howell dodges cars and exploding oxygen tanks in THE SWEEPER
The boys visit a nude beach populated only by men in EUROTRIP
Chuck Norris drives out of the ground in LONE WOLF MCQUADE
007 ski-jumps off a cliff in the pre-credits sequence of THE SPY WHO LOVED ME
The walking, talking cake of soap that wears jewelry in the educational short SOAPY THE GERM FIGHTER
The death and funeral of Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) in STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN
Eddie Murphy takes on a barful of rednecks in 48 HRS.
Sorority girls play strip football in H.O.T.S.
Richard Crenna saying, "You'd better remember one thing: a fresh supply of body bags!" to Brian Dennehy in FIRST BLOOD
Richard Roundtree strutting down 42nd Street like he owned it in the opening of SHAFT
The "Too Many Secrets" scene in SNEAKERS
Michael Caine convincing a little kid that the giant hallucinatory bee floating above him doesn't really exist ("There's no bee there!") in THE SWARM
"I am Spartacus!" in SPARTACUS
Lance Henriksen's demise ("Oops.") in HARD TARGET (the theatrical version)
I like the movie too, but just the title of SH! THE OCTOPUS
John Williams' theme to RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
Robert Forster's comeback performance in JACKIE BROWN
Burt Reynolds smiling at the camera in SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT
Mark Wahlberg and Julianne Moore's erotic sex scene in BOOGIE NIGHTS
Albert Brooks' on-air meltdown in BROADCAST NEWS
"They call me MISTER Tibbs!", says Sidney Poitier in IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT
Harrison Ford spies upon a bathing Kelly McGillis in WITNESS
Dean Martin vs. Robert Mitchum at the end of FIVE CARD STUD ("If that's a bible, you read it. If not, you drop it.")
Robbie Lee in SWITCHBLADE SISTERS ("It's gonna turn out baaaaaaaad!")
The wheelchair kid tumbles off a cliff in MAC AND ME
Gene Hackman's breakdown in THE CONVERSATION
Cary Grant vs. cropduster in NORTH BY NORTHWEST
Bruce Lee trashes James Garner's office in MARLOWE
Exploding prison warden in TURKEY SHOOT

How about your own list? You don't have to do 50, but leave a comment with some of your own. It's fun!

Posted by Marty at 10:52 AM CDT
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Saturday, May 20, 2006
SHARKY follow-up
Thanks to Jim Kenney for chiming in with his views of SHARKY’S MACHINE. Jim says:

SHARKY'S MACHINE is one of my all-time faves, and I too tracked down the R4 SHARKY'S MACHINE, which looks to me to be the full-frame version slightly squished w/ black bars put around it...I don't see any additional footage in any direction when I compare, do you ? (Or did you bother? I only note because your "close enough anyway" infers you weren't fully happy with the framing).

No, I wasn’t, and I think you’re right about it being squished. I don’t have the R1 to compare it with (I’ve been waiting for a Special Edition forever), but SHARKY’s aspect ratio is supposed to be 1.85 and the DVD image was off a bit. However, there didn’t appear to be anything missing off the sides, so the DVD could have been worse.

I affectionately disagree, though, which much else you say -- it's all those "pace-flagging" well-acted cop conversations that move this movie out of simple policier-territory into something more unique and memorable.

I like this stuff better than I let on, I think. A lot of these scenes are really good: one between Burt and Casey (all one stationary shot) where Bernie explains Zen; Keith bitching to Casey that he doesn’t “like ribs, don’t like chicken, don’t like hamburgers, you don’t like anything good”; a very well directed scene at the ballpark where Reynolds gets about seven characters together in the frame and has Durning walk back and forth to add some movement (and levity--”I DON’T GIVE A FUCK!”) to the expositional dialogue. I still think the pacing flags in the middle though. One more chase or five fewer minutes of Reynolds gazing at Dominoe might have fixed that.

And the initial ninja sequence for me was the worst in the movie, although the follow-up scene with the finger-cutting is another great one, and Reynolds escape sequence good too (although the Ninja's slight nod to Burt, a la "you have earned my respect" when he dies was a bit of Burt's ego acting up again).

I think Burt fighting the ninjas is one of the movie’s better setpieces. It’s a brutal fight choreographed well, and even though the notion of Chinese kung fu masters entering a relatively straightforward urban crime drama is over the top (I don’t remember if they were in the novel), Reynolds plays it fairly realistically. Sharky isn’t a superman, and even though he gets his licks in, the fight ends as it logically should. The follow-up scene is good, even though it doesn’t make any sense to me that the “asshole” should all of a sudden be Vittorio Gassman’s right-hand man. How the hell did that happen? In fact, there’s a lot about the narrative that doesn’t make much sense.

For me, it's a masterpiece of sorts, and started Reynolds 2nd decade as a superstar off on the right note -- it's still amazing how he quickly squandered both his money-making abilities and the critical goodwill he built up with this, STARTING OVER, SEMI-TOUGH and others so quickly

Well, Burt did fire the agent who got him the BOOGIE NIGHTS gig, not realizing that he was actually in a great movie for a change. In fact, it’s one of the two or three best films Reynolds ever did (and the only one to get him nominated for an Oscar).

Posted by Marty at 12:09 AM CDT
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Friday, May 19, 2006
Burt Reynolds Fights Ninjas
I'm betting you're thinking that if you live to be 100, you'll never enjoy the amazing sight of Burt Reynolds beating the shit out of a couple of ninjas. Well, you'd actually be right, but just barely.

LD and Chicken came by this week for a showing of SHARKY'S MACHINE. The dumb bastards at Warner Brothers have only released it in the U.S. on a 1998 full-frame DVD, so I had to find a dub of the Region 4 DVD, which is close to the proper aspect ratio. Close enough anyway.

SHARKY'S MACHINE is the best film directed by Burt Reynolds, who also stars in it as Sharky, a tough narcotics cop who gets screwed by the department after a bust goes bad and he takes the blame. He's transferred to the shithole of Vice, which is headquartered in the precinct basement and plays host to the worst pimps, hookers, dopers, and lowlifes Atlanta has to offer. The cops assigned to Vice were once among the cream of the crop, but the frustration and humiliation of what they do has turned them into jelly.

So it is that they leap at the chance to do real police work. A case involving a major pimp and a politician (Earl Holliman) running for governor spurs Sharky to put an illegal 24-hour surveillance on the apartment of a gorgeous $1000-a-night call girl named Dominoe (Rachel Ward). While spying on her, Sharky falls in love with her, and he takes the case personally when a crazed, cokeheaded assassin (Henry Silva) blasts her face off with a shotgun.

Reynolds the actor certainly loved the opportunity to put together a very sharp cast for his crime drama, including Charles Durning as his Vice boss, Brian Keith, Bernie Casey and Richard Libertini as his "machine", John Fiedler, Vittorio Gassman, Hari Rhodes, Joseph "Stefano" Mascolo and Darryl Hickman as a jerk cop named Smiley. Reynolds the stuntman certainly dug the brutal action scenes, including an opening shootout on a city bus and a suspenseful climax with Sharky and Silva stalking each other on the top floors of the Peachtree Plaza Hotel. And Reynolds the director got to spot the film with a lot of cool jazz songs by artists like Julie London and Joe Williams.

SHARKY's pace flags somewhat in the middle, as Reynolds spends more time than he needed on conversations (albeit well-acted ones) between cops that don't serve the plot and on Sharky's various introspections. What we'd rather see is Reynolds fighting ninjas.

Hallelujah! Can you believe it? While poking around a friend's basement, Sharky is attacked by two Asian badasses with "numbchucks", who start whaling away at Sharky, "kicking his ass," to paraphrase Casey. The fight is well-staged by Reynolds, who has to come out second best (let's face it, not even Burt can beat up a pair of awesome ninjas), but he holds his own and has nothing to be ashamed of. And Sharky gets a second crack at them a little while later, and two guesses as to who survives.

Posted by Marty at 12:23 AM CDT
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Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Anybody Seen This Video?
Anybody recognize the hottie walking tall in this Rolling Stones video, which was directed by David Fincher?

Posted by Marty at 12:22 AM CDT
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Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Anything Else I Can Do For You...Charles?
In the annals of great Fuck Yeah moments in 24 history, near the top will be in last night's episode where stalwart Secret Service agent Aaron Pierce told the evil President to go fuck himself. Er, at least in language Fox censors would allow.

Pierce, who was a steady member of the 24 crew going all the way back to Day 1 as the right-hand agent to David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert), has slowly and steadily turned into one of the series' most beloved characters. Writer David Fury revealed recently that Pierce was scheduled to die this season, but cooler heads at Fox prevailed, and I think it's a good thing. Until this season, Pierce was mainly seen in the background or doing day-player stuff, but this year he's become a pudgy red-headed action hero, and it's been a really cool thing for 24. After five seasons, last night was the character's best showcase and it was well worth waiting for.

Pierce is played by Glenn Morshower, a character actor who's been around since the '70s, one of those guys you see and say, "Yeah, that guy, geez, he's been around," even though you can't remember right away where you saw him. Horror fans might remember a really young Morshower as a teenage zombie in 1981's DEAD & BURIED. I once saw his film debut, a drive-in flick called, er, DRIVE-IN, which was filmed in Morshower's native Texas. I remember first seeing him (even though I know I've seen other things he was in before this) in ABC's short-lived Saturday-night series C-16, which starred Eric Roberts (!) as the head of a special FBI task force. Morshower played the prick boss in the same tight-lipped, high-strung mode in which he plays everything. Morshower doesn't appear to be an actor of great range, but when it comes to playing stalwart, by-the-book authority figures, he has few equals.

Something about the PRISON BREAK finale that surprised me was the off-camera death of the U.S. President (he appears to have been murdered by corrupt Secret Service agents under orders from Vice President Patricia Wettig). The President was seen in only one episode, in one scene, and he was played by the great Daniel J. Travanti (HILL STREET BLUES). I was under the impression from a recent Travanti interview that he was going to do more episodes, and I'm surprised that the producers would go to the trouble and expense to hire a name like Travanti just to do one little scene. I'm glad they did--it shows they care--but I would think Fox probably urged them to find a local Chicago actor instead.

So is Waterston leaving LAW & ORDER?

Posted by Marty at 11:27 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, May 16, 2006 11:30 PM CDT
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