Fish-Flavored Baseball Bat

It's a John Cleese reference.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

VHS Vednesday: Murder in Space

MURDER IN SPACE (1985). Directed by Steven Hilliard Stern. Starring Wilford Brimley, Michael Ironside, and Alberta Watson.

An international space mission's imminent return to Earth is complicated by the sudden death of one of the crew members, Soviet cosmonaut Olga Denarenko (Cathie Shirriff). The first concern is that they might be quarantined, or even be forbidden from landing at all, in case they're carrying some kind of alien infection. However, it's soon determined that this was no was murder. In SPAAAACE! Further complicating matters is the discovery that she was two months pregnant...and they've been in space for five months. Who done it? Was it the egotistical, studly Canadian astronaut (Tom Butler)? Her fellow countryman and potential defector (Damir Andrei)? The no-nonsense, by-the-book mission commander (Michael Ironside)? Or any of the other suspicious crew members? It's up to ground control (represented by Wilford Brimley) to solve the mystery before the spacecraft lands.
The most interesting aspect of this movie was its original presentation; it premiered on Showtime as an unfinished cliffhanger, ending with a challenge to the viewers to solve the mystery. After the contest was over, Showtime reran it with the ending revealing the solution. It's this complete version that was released on VHS, and the break between the cliffhanger and the resolution is jarringly abrupt. As a contest, it's a mildly intriguing challenge; as a movie, not so hot.
The politics and the nationalistic stereotypes of the movie are laughably dated; it's mentioned a few times that, even if the ill-fated cosmonaut had returned safely, her husband (a high-ranking Politburo member) would have had her killed for "disgracing" him. Because, y'know, Commies DO that sort of thing.
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
The primarily-Canadian cast includes quite a few familiar faces who have done bigger and better things (Alberta Watson, Wendy Crewson, Peter Dvorsky, etc.). Michael Ironside, traditionally the prime suspect in ANY thriller he's in, plays it relatively understated but firm as the voice of authority. And Wilford Brimley...well, he's Wilford Brimley. What else can I say?


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Kids' Jokes for Foolio: TTFN

Today was the final edition of Uncle Grampa's Hoo-Dilly Storytime of the season, so until it returns in the fall, here's the last installment of the Kids' Jokes for Foolio:

"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"Weenie who?"
"Weenie who went into a basket!"

"What do you get when you cross a chicken, a poodle, and a cow?"

"Why did Foolio attack Phineas?"
"Because they're both the same!"

"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"Foolio who?"
"Foolio has a snake on his head!"

"Why didn't the toilet cross the road?"
"Because it was pooped!"

"What did the dog say to the tree?"

"Why did the chicken cross the road?"
"Because it wasnted to go to kindergarten and the second grade at once!"

"What fish lives in Heaven?"
"An angelfish!"

"A deer, a duck, and a skunk go into a restaurant. The deer said he didn't have a buck, the skunk said he didn't have a scent, so they put it on the duck's bill."

"Why did the elephant sit on the marshmallow?"
"So he wouldn't fall in the hot chocolate!"

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Friday, April 25, 2008

What I Sang 4-24

Tonight's offerings:

"'65 Love Affair" by Paul Davis (RIP).
"Don't Panic" by Coldplay (because Jessica wasn't there last time I sang it).

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

VHS Vednesday: The Art of Dying

THE ART OF DYING (1991). Directed by Wings Hauser. Starring Wings Hauser, Kathleen Kinmont, and Michael J. Pollard.

Perennial screen tough-guy Wings Hauser directs and stars as Jack, a hard-boiled Hollywood cop who won't hesitate to throw a perp through a window, yet still remains a hopeful idealist at heart, looking out for the runaways who come to L.A. with dreams of stardom. He does his best to rescue them from the pimps and send them back home to the Midwest (or wherever)...but his best isn't good enough for one teen would-be actress (T.C. Warner) who refuses to leave town and soon ends up dead. Taking a personal interest in the case, Jack learns that numerous aspiring actors and actresses have fallen victim to a crazed "director" (Gary Werntz) who has been auditioning them in re-creations of famous screen murder scenes (The Deer Hunter, Psycho, Scarface, etc.) in a, shall we say, cinema-verite style. (In one memorable monologue, the egomaniacal auteur proclaims his superiority to Cimino, DePalma, Scorsese, and Hitchcock, yet it never occurs to him that he's only copying the directors that he's deriding...he doesn't even have the creativity to stage a murder on his own! On the other hand, I'll grant you that he is better than Cimino...)
In between his investigations, Jack has to deal with his messed-up personal life, specifically his tempestuous relationship with a mysterious woman (Kathleen Kinmont), who shows up periodically at his beach house for hot sex, but refuses to tell him her full name or reveal any other information about herself, insisting that they keep it anonymous and physical rather than form any emotional attachment. Seriously, has anybody in the real world ever had this happen to them?
Wings Hauser makes a great screen villain (his murderous pimp in Vice Squad is one of the most chilling bad guys of the '80s), but he's less effective as a hero. He's certainly an appealing, competent actor, but the good-guy role holds him back from cutting loose and revealing the intensity that makes his villains so memorable. As if to prove the point, Gary Werntz' psychotic filmmaker steals the show from the comparitively bland hero, chewing the scenery with relish...right down to the climactic showdown, where Werntz shouts (with more petulance than pain) "STOP SHOOTING ME!"
Hauser proves more effective as a director, creating an appropriately sleazy atmosphere and crafting a number of memorable set pieces. Too bad he didn't continue in that field; he only made one more feature before concentrating full-time on acting.
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
The supporting cast is full of familiar faces, with the top honors going to Michael J. Pollard, bringing his undefinable quirky Pollard-ness to his part as Jack's put-upon colleague, who complains "nobody ever listens to me" as the bodycount rises. The part as written may be generic "secondary cop" material, but Pollard makes it his own. Unfortunately, Sarah Douglas is unable to rise above the constraints of her role, and remains "secondary cop #2." The ever-reliable Sydney Lassick provides his usual nervous presence as a bartender menaced by the bad guys. And Ona Zee (her again!) shows up as a dead body, not even getting a single fame of "live" screen time. (One wonders whether the rest of her part wound up on the cutting room floor.)


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Captain Doug Dank: The Monologist Who Could Be YOU!

Just read the announcement on Moisten Manapkin: This Wednesday at The Doug Dank Project, they'll be trying something different...instead of their usual guest monologist, audience members will put their names in a hat, and whoever is chosen will get to share stories from their life and see them inspire improv scenes. Awesome.

Wednesday, April 23, at PushPush Theater.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Catching Up with Foolio & the Kids

Even though I haven't gotten around to posting them for a few weeks, I've still been dutifully recording the kids' awesome jokes from Uncle Grampa's Hoo-Dilly Storytime, so now I'll be making up for lost time. And away we go!


"Why did the chicken cross the road?"
"To save the world!"

"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"Who who?"
"Sorry, I don't speak owl language."

"Why did the chicken cross the road?"
"So he could get a donut for the ostrich!"

"Why didn't the chicken cross the road?"
"Because he was chicken!"

"What do you call a deer with no eyes?"
"I have no idear."

"Why kind of shoes do you make out of bananas?"

"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"Interrupting cow."

"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"Little old lady."
"Little old lady who?"
"I didn't know you could yodel."

"Why did the chicken cross the road?"
"So it could get hit by a car!"

"When is it a good time to go to the dentist?"
"Tooth hurty!"

"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"Boo who?"
"Don't cry, it's only a crying petition."

"Why did the chicken cross the road?"
"Because it had to go to the bathroom!"


"How do you know when a train is eating?"
"It goes 'chew chew'!"

"What kind of jam can you not eat?"
"A traffic jam!"

"Why did the clock go around the town?"
"Because he wanted to go to the dinosaur museum!"

"Why did the dinosaur cross the road?"
"To get to the other side!"

"How do you know when a tree is eating?"
"Because they don't eat anything!"

"Why did the chicken cross the road?"
"Because they don't eat anything!"

"Why did the eagle eat the fish?"
"Because he wanted him for dinner!"

"Why did Foolio cross the road?"
"To get to the trashcan with his jokebook!"

"Because he didn't want to!" (no set-up, just a punchline)

"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"Cow who?"
"No, cow MOO!"


"Why did the cross cross the road?"
"Because he went on egg!"

"Dinosaurs weren't hit by meteors, they actually bumped into the moon!"

"Why was 6 afraid of 7?"
"Because 7 8 9!"

"Why did the chicken cross the road?"
"I don't know!"

"I just flew in from London, and boy, are my arms tired!"

"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"Orange who?"
"Orange you glad I didn't say apple?"

"What did the quarter say to the other quarter?"
"Will you marry me, mama goo goo?"

"Why were the stuffed animals at the birthday party not hungry?"
"Because they were stuffed!"

"What happened when the pig was injured?"
"He went in the hambulance!"

"Do you want to hear a construction joke?"
"Well, I'm still working on it."

"Why did the turkey not want to take a plane to Colorado?"
"Because it was two blocks down the road, duh!"


"Why did the chicken cross the road?"
"To get a penny out of the floor!"

"Why are bananas never lonely?"
"Because they hang out in bunches!"

"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"T. Rex."
"T. Rex who?"
"T. Rex eat you!"

"What did one duck say to the other?"
"You quack me up!"

"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"Tom Sawyer."
"Tom Sawyer who?"
"Tom saw yer underwear!"

"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"Volcano who?"
"Volcano explode!"

"When do you put whipped cream on sauerkraut?"
"At the end of the show!"
(If you've ever seen Uncle Grampa's Hoo-Dilly Storytime, you'll understand.)

"How do you make a tissue dance?"
"You put a little boogie in it!"

"Why did the dog cross the road?"
"Because he was jumping on the train!"

"Where do you find a cold pirate?"
At the Arrr-tic!"

"Why do cows go to the movies?"
"Because it's the moo-vies!"

"What does an alien say to a gardener?"
"Take me to your weeder!"

"What do cats say when they get hurt?"

"Why did Foolio stick his hand in the volcano?"
"To get burned up!"

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Friday, April 18, 2008

What I Sang 4-17

Tonight's offerings:

"All the Young Dudes" by Mott the Hoople. (Yes, I've just rented Juno, why do you ask?)
"Dear Prudence" by The Beatles.
"Little Willy" by The Sweet.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

This Makes Me Sad

Facebook Disrespects the Dead

This is pretty upsetting...I can understand Facebook's desire to protect the privacy of the deceased, but this goes too far. Surely it would be simpler (and more respectful) to keep her comments visible to the people who were in her Friends list (the people who were meant to read them in the first place), while hiding them from strangers.

The attitude displayed in Facebook's final e-mail to the correspondent doesn't help matters, either.

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This Makes Me Happy

I've been out of the loop and haven't checked out a couple of my favorite comic-strip blogs (The Comics Curmudgeon and This Week in Milford) lately, so it came as a cool surprise when I finally took a look and discovered that Rod Whigham is the new artist on Gil Thorp. I've always liked Whigham's's not the kind of flashy, stylish artwork that creates a "fan-favorite," but it's good, solid storytelling. Plus, he's an Atlanta artist, so that gives him a little home-town support from me. I'd recently wondered what he was up to lately...and now it's good to know.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

VHS Vednesday: Provoked

PROVOKED (1989). Directed by Rick Pamplin. Starring Cindy Maranne, McKeiver Jones III, and Harold Wayne Jones.

Okay, I think I'm officially scraping the bottom of the barrel with this one (but undoubtedly there's always something even cheesier out there). PROVOKED is an action vehicle for Cindy Maranne, whom you may remember as "Americana" from G.L.O.W. (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling). And if you don't remember G.L.O.W....well, you're just making me feel old.
Newlyweds Casey and Michael Kennedy (Cindy Maranne and Bob Fall), about to leave on their honeymoon, have to make a quick stop at the real estate office where they'd accidentally left their airline tickets. Unfortunately, they happen to come by at the exact time when a gang of ludicrous two-dimensional thugs try to rob the place (only to discover that there's no money there). Casey manages to escape while Michael is taken hostage, along with the few employees of the office. The cops arrive, represented by Captain Rader (McKeiver Jones III) and Officer Adkins (Memphis officially my favorite name ever); to the movie's credit, it avoids the "bumbling cop" trope, but falls victim to another cliche--the cops are dedicated and competent, but held back by that Damned Red Tape. The spineless mayor (Nick Roberts) won't risk a confrontation, so it's up to Casey to save the day. Fortunately, she makes contact with friendly arms dealer "Machine Gun Joe" (Joe Sprosty), who accompanies her on her rescue/assault mission. (Also be on the lookout for the interview with the "terrorism expert"--that's right, the movie repeatedly calls the thugs "terrorists," even though they have no political or social motivation--who spouts such ridiculously exaggerated "the criminals are the victims, and the victims are to blame" psychobabble that it would make even Bruce Tinsley say "Oh, come on!")
As for the acting...well, what can you say about a movie where the best performance comes from a porn star? (And I hasten to add that I only know that from her IMDB credits.) Ona Zee, using her "mainstream" name of Ona Simms, turns out to be amusingly sly as the ambitious but tactless TV reporter eager to exploit the situation for airtime. Not a brilliant performance by any means, but compared to the rest of the cast, it's Oscar bait.
Filmmaking tip #1: If the only location you have for filming is an abandoned warehouse, set your movie IN an abandoned warehouse. Don't try to tell us it's a real estate office.
Filmmaking tip #2: If you're going to put the word "tryst" in your dialogue, make sure the actor knows how to pronounce it. (Actually, the mayor's pronunciation, rhyming with "iced," is an accepted but rare alternative--but it still sounds jarringly weird.)
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
Hardly anybody involved in this movie had any sort of film career either before or after this picture (apart from star Cindy Maranne and the aforementioned Ona Zee), but there is one other performer worth mentioning. Joel Von Ornsteiner, who plays gang member "Nick the Knife," had a few other B-movies under his belt (including the MST3K fodder ROBOT HOLOCAUST), but soon after this, he turned his back on acting and got his Ph.D. in psychology. Now known as Dr. Joel Buzz Von Ornsteiner, he can frequently be seen on TV discussing high-profile criminal cases. I wonder what the celebrated forensic psychologist would have to say about Nick the Knife?


SCANDAL! Episode 7

Just finished the latest SCANDAL! summary and posted it on the SCANDAL! blog:

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A Friend on TV

I know I haven't been posting lately, except for the regular features I'd pretty much committed myself to ("VHS Vednesday," "What I Sang")...things have been pretty busy, and I've also been feeling a little down (not because of anything personal, just because of all the bad news that's gone down in the past few months, from Heath Ledger and Brad Renfro, to Steve Gerber and Dave Stevens, to the campus murders of Lauren Burk and Eve Carson--sorry, now I'm probably getting you down as well).

Anyway, I really need to lighten up, so I just thought I'd share some fun news. Tonight, a friend of mine--Jen Caldwell of Dad's Garage, JaCKPie, and Anna NicoleMiner's Daughter--is going to be appearing on "Tyler Perry's House of Payne" at 10:00 EST on TBS. I'll be watching!

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Friday, April 11, 2008

What I Sang 4/10

Tonight's karaoke offerings:

"Don't Panic" by Coldplay.
(Ordinarily, my karaoke posts are just silly fun, but I feel I should inject a serious note regarding this selection. A couple of days ago, I received my memorial wristband for my donation to The Lauren Burk Memorial Fund. The inscription on the band, "We Live in a Beautiful World," was taken from "Don't Panic" because it was one of Lauren's favorite songs--so I wanted to sing it in her honor.)
"Keep Me in Your Heart" by Warren Zevon.
"Running Up That Hill" by Kate Bush.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

VHS Vednesday: Blood Beach

BLOOD BEACH (1981). Directed by Jeffrey Bloom. Starring David Huffman, Marianna Hill, Burt Young, and John Saxon.

As you can tell from the tagline in the above poster (which is also repeated in the actual dialogue), Blood Beach makes no secret of its debt to Jaws. However, it owes an equally large debt to the monster movies of the '50s and '60s (Attack of the Giant Leeches comes to mind, for obvious reasons).
In the opening scene, harbor patrol officer Harry Caulder (David Huffman) is going out for his traditional morning swim when he meets and old friend and neighbor, Ruth Hutton (the ever-familiar character actress Harriet White Medin, whose credits range from Fellini's La Dolce Vita to numerous Italian horrors of the '60s to Paul Bartel's Death Race 2000) walking her dog. As Harry swims, Ruth strolls along the beach...and is suddenly sucked beneath the sand. In this way, the movie drops you headfirst into its premise and says "Just go with us on this, okay?" And I, for one, went with it.
As the police investigate Ruth's disappearance, her daughter Catherine (Marianna Hill) comes home to find out what happened. The already-tense situation is complicated by the past relationship between Harry and Catherine, and the presence of his current girlfriend Marie (Lena Pousette). Marie is considerate enough to become the creature's second victim, opening the door for a reconciliation for Harry and Catherine.
Meanwhile, the police, in the form of slovenly, crass Sgt. Royko (Burt Young), sarcastic Captain Peason (John Saxon), and straight-laced Lt. Piantadosi (Otis Young), do their best to figure out what's going on and to maintain order at the beach. Not an easy task when the chaos is being caused by something previously unknown to science, as you might imagine.
Fortunately, the wormlike creature's lair is eventually found and the creature destroyed with explosives. Unfortunately, the gung-ho Royko had disregarded the warning of coroner Dr. Dimitrios (Stefan Gierasch) that a wormlike creature might also have a worm's regenerative properties as well. The movie ends with a crowd of happy, reassured beachgoers enjoying themselves...oblivious to the small sinkholes forming around them.
Contrary to the title, Blood Beach is surprisingly mild in terms of gore...only three people (and a dog) are killed during the course of the picture (though several more bodies are reported to be found in the monster's lair, and there are a few serious maimings as well). The monster attacks are effectively filmed, with the quicksand-like disappearances making for a memorable visual. Unfortunately, once the creature is actually revealed, it falls flat. The design is decent enough, but it's stiff and immobile--a big disappointment after the build-up we'd been given through the entire movie.
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
As cheesy as the movie itself is, I can't fault the performances of any of the individual actors...however, as a whole, they just don't mesh together. Some of the cast seem to be trying to play it straight despite the absurdity of the situation (Huffman, Hill, Otis Young), while others appear to just cut loose and have fun with the bizarre premise (Burt Young, John Saxon). And then there's Stefan Gierasch, who delivers his theories and conclusions with such intense gravitas that I'm still not sure whether he's playing it seriously or going over-the-top.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

What I Sang 4-3

From tonight's karaoke session at El Azteca:

"She Blinded Me with Science" by Thomas Dolby.
"Annie, I'm Not Your Daddy" by Kid Creole & the Coconuts.

Ono, ono, onomotapoeia...


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

It's SCANDAL! Episode 5

Earlier today, I finished the latest SCANDAL! synopsis and posted it on my SCANDAL! blog.

Sorry I haven't been posting the past few days...things have been pretty hectic for me. I don't even have time to write my usual "VHS Vednesday" review this week, but hopefully I'll be able to get back into the swing of things soon.

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