Thursday, April 23, 2020

Love Wedding Repeat along with Short Takes on Selah and the Spades and suggestions for TCM cable offerings

“The best laid schemes of Mice and Men Go oft awry”
(translated from Scottish dialect of Robert Burns’ poem, "To a Mouse" [1785])

Reviews by Ken Burke

I invite you to join me on a regular basis to see how my responses to current cinematic offerings compare to the critical establishment, which I’ll refer to as either the CCAL (Collective Critics at Large) when they’re supportive or the OCCU (Often Cranky Critics Universe) when they go negative.
        Love Wedding Repeat (Dean Craig)   rated TV-MA

“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): Despite the overall critical opinion being much more in favor of Selah and the Spades I’m devoting this lead review to Love Wedding Repeat, a comedy of errors where intrusions, misunderstandings, foiled plots, and missed opportunities not only wreak havoc on what’s intended as magnificent nuptials at an Italian villa but we also get a chance to see it again with slight variations, demonstrating how simple twists of fate continue to reverberate into current events as well as throughout the distant future.  I wish the Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993)-aspects of it had been exploited a bit more, but overall it's an enjoyable farce on Netflix streaming, well worth your time.  In Short Takes I’ll gladly address Selah and the Spades, a story of high-school-clique-conflicts (summary farther below) with fine acting but just not a concept as impactful to me as for the CCAL; also in that section I’ll offer suggestions for some worthwhile choices on the Turner Classic Movies channel (but too much text for full-line-justified-layout like this, at least to be done by this burned-out-Blogspot-posting-guy—tedious software!), my usual dose of industry-related-trivia, and a mini-meditation on how various sci-fi stories project us far into the future, well beyond our current concerns with surviving this killer-pandemic.  The 2 reviewed movies are currently free for streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime respectively so entertain yourselves while continuing to save needed cash.  Onward, then to Love Wedding Repeat.
Here’s the trailer:
                   (Use the full screen button in the image’s lower right to enlarge it; activate 
                   that same button or use the “esc” keyboard key to return to normal size.)

If you can abide plot spoilers read on, but as this blog’s intended for those who’ve seen the film—or want to save some bucks—to help any of you who want to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify any give-away sentences/sentence-clusters like this: 
⇒The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.⇐ OK, now continue on if you prefer.

What Happens: This is an absurd-comedy-of-errors where just about anything that could go wrong does, creating awful difficulties for many of the main characters, most of which they have no control over.  Beginning with some off-screen-narration (by Penny Ryder, Judi Dench’s personal assistant [says Ty Burr—see So What? below about him]) reminding us how fragile our existences are because every event, every decision in our lives generates countless occurrences rolling into our evolving futures, we pick up the action with Jack (Sam Claflin) in Rome trying to muster up the courage to kiss Dina (Olivia Munn), his sister Hayley’s (Eleanor Tomlinson) American roommate from college (also visiting) prior to his boarding a plane back to London; before he can consummate his intentions, though, they’re interrupted by his friend, Greg (Alex Forsyth), also London-bound, who whisks Jack off to the airport leaving Dina mildly amused.  Then we jump forward 3 years to a huge, gorgeous Roman villa where Hayley’s about to marry Roberto (Tiziano Caputo), with Jack walking her down the isle because their parents are dead.  Former lovers complicate the event, though, because Hayley invited Amanda (Frieda Pinto)—and her new beau, Chaz (Allan Mustafa)—upsetting Jack due to his miserable breakup with Amanda (she still loathes him; Chaz is a bother as well, constantly concerned about needing praise for his penis-size, irritated his marriage proposal’s not yet accepted after several months), but then Hayley’s even more flustered when her ex, Marc (Jack Farthing), shows up, high on coke (not from a bottle), still professing his love for the almost-bride, determined to carry her away with him, despite absolutely no support in that endeavor from Hayley.

 Dina’s also invited so Jack wants to makes amends, follow through on past intentions, but he’s distracted by several things: Hayley wants him to drug Marc’s Champaign glass (most everyone who matters to us are all seated at the “English table”) with her sleeping-aid-sedative to take him out of commission for the afternoon; Jack and Hayley’s friend Bryan (Joel Fry) is a nervous, aspiring actor—he’s also the maid of honor, a designation for which we get no explanation—wanting to meet/impress Italian film director Vitelli (Paolo Mazzarelli) so he’s constantly using Jack to help muster up some gumption (also gets a quick haircut for a better impression); then there’s another guest, car-insurance-agent Sidney (Tim Key), wearing a kilt for some reason (he’s not Scottish) even though it gives him a major case of testicle-itch which he tries to forget by chatting up Dina.  Jack gets the knock-out-drops into Marc’s glass when no one’s looking, but after he leaves mischievous children switch the name cards so Bryan ends up being the one drugged (sadly for him, not fully unconscious) as he not only makes a fool of himself when trying to talk to Vitelli but also completely mangles his required speech to the newlyweds, then he stumbles headlong into their massive cake.

 Jack and Sidney manage to lock Marc in a closet, then Jack chases his helper away so he can finally talk at length with Dina but not for long because as a war correspondent she’s suddenly called away for work so this time she’s the one to exit without closure while Marc escapes, grabs the microphone to tell everyone he and Hayley had sex just 3 weeks ago (she earlier admitted this unintended-weak-moment to Jack, fearful the truth would come out) sending Roberto into a fit.  He argues with Hayley, accidently falls over a balcony railing (presumably to his death), bringing this long episode to a shockingly-horrible-freeze-frame-ending. Suddenly, our earlier voiceover-narrator returns, reminding us of how any present event depends on what’s preceded it, so we then watch a quick pixilation-montage of others at that crucial table being the ones who get the spiked glass indicating entirely different scenarios would occur because of those changes in the timeline, but this whisks by so fast there’s no real substance to it until we settle on a version where Jack accidently gets the fateful glass.  He realizes what’s happened, runs to a restroom trying to vomit the stuff up before it takes effect but he needs help in getting his desired response (my wife, Nina, has a similar problem—not with sleeping-meds-overdoses but with being unable to force throwing up even when she’s horribly-nauseous; in 33 years together I’ve only seen her vomit once, when she had the flu on our first trip to Los Angeles [I’m sure she’s happy I shared that with the whole world]) so he kneels, asks Bryan to stick a couple of fingers down his throat; at this point Dina comes in to to see if he’s OK, assumes Jack’s giving Bryan a blowjob then doesn’t speak with him much after that encounter.

 ⇒Bryan, on the other hand, gives a restrained, sincere speech to Hayley and Roberto impressing Vitelli enough to offer a role in an upcoming film; he also make a romantic connection with Rebecca (Aisling Bea), another Hayley-friend, whom he’d previously avoided due to a misunderstanding between them (his speech also convinces Amanda and Chaz they’re not really a true couple so they part amicably; conversely, Sidney gets some relationship advice from Jack, stops being such a jerk, strikes up a nice conversation with a friendly Italian, Cristina [Francesca Rocco]).  Jack manages to talk Marc out of disrupting the wedding but seemingly seals his own fate with Dina by dozing off as she sadly talks about her mother’s death, then she’s off again on assignment.  Jack’s ready to give up on her; however, Bryan convinces him otherwise so he runs after her, catches up, expresses his attraction—which is almost interrupted (again) by some guy she used to know but Jack sends him away—so all’s well as we reach the end.⇐   If you'd prefer an even-longer-summary, here’s one at Wikipedia (even as their editors want it to be more concise; that’s why I never write for Wikipedia).

So What? Awhile back I decided to go ignore a clear OCCU warning against Coffee & Kareem (Michael Dowse; review in our April 9, 2020 posting [at times I think I should have dropped to 2 stars]), instead trusting San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle who was quite enthusiastic about this urban “comedy”; score 1 for the naysayers, 0 for Mick.  This time I decided to risk a streaming-screening on Love Wedding Repeat in hopes Randy Myers* (of the [SF] Bay Area News Group, publishers of San Jose’s The Mercury News and East Bay Times [for those of us who live just between those larger metropolitan areas]—at times Randy does more standard-length-reviews, but unfortunately the honchos at BANG don’t often allot space for those so we usually have to be satisfied with just his brief summaries [yeah, I know I could learn some lessons from him]) might be more accurate than Mick when going against the grain as the OCCU is once again dismissive: Rotten Tomatoes offering a lowly 34% package of positive reviews while those at Metacritic are a bit higher (surprisingly, given their usual hesitant stances) with a 41% positive score (more details from these ratings-collectors for this movie and the one reviewed next are in the Additional Links section considerably farther below).  This time, I’m all in with Randy with our ratings roughly similar as he offers 3 of 4 stars (you’ll have to scroll down a little in the above link to see his comments) while my 3½ of 5 might actually seem a bit lower but please realize that I rarely go above 4 stars anyway, saving those precious higher numbers for true cinematic breakthroughs.  What we have here is a remake of the French film Plan de table [Seating plan] (Christelle Raynal, 2012)—which I haven’t seen, but based on a brief Internet summary it seems the seminal idea remains but with quite a bit of plot-renovation—a seemingly-odd-choice for an adaptation given the OCCU response (Rotten Tomatoes presents no reviews but the French Wikipedia site says their country’s Allociné ratings service tallied a 1.9 of 5 result [based only on 11 critics, though; RT offers a flimsy 28% positive audience response based on 69 users; Metacritic also has no reviews]but one with the potential of being even better than it is if it had more closely resembled what I understand to be the original premise, with even more focus on the “what-if”-scenarios based on mixed-up-seating-arrangements at the “English table” in Love … .  True, after the first scenario plays out with generally-disastrous-results for most of the main characters we get a brief sense of what else could have gone wrong for them before settling in for the second extended version which constitutes the last half of the movie, with much-more-acceptable-outcomes, but I had hoped for more elaboration.

*If, like mine, your Safari’s on an older OS X it won’t load this or the other Randy Myers link in the next section of this review but they do work fine in Firefox or Chrome so, if necessary, please go to one of those web browsers for these links in this posting if you care to (content’s marginal, though).

 Without knowing how this narrative was structured in Plan …, which ran only 84 min. compared to Love …’s 100, I can’t say for sure how additional mini-stories would play out as a unified feature, but it’s wanting to see an attempt at that other option which holds me back from going all the way to 4 stars for … Repeat, which is quite delightful as is (although maybe a bit too-easily-resolved in the second half) yet seems arbitrary in structure if the “butterfly effect” (different future results based on random changes in present actions) is to be explored here without much context or rationale if we’re just going to focus on merely 2 completely-different-explorations.  While I was assuming I'd find a little more variation on this intriguing theme to further enhance a fun (yet also contemplative) concept as it’s played out at a wedding banquet, the OCCU had considerably more problems: RT critics giving only 34% positive reviews (their audience score remained flat too at 38% positive), those at usually-more-restrained-MC slightly better, a 41% average score.  I guess RollingStone’s Peter Travers (a voice I usually trust) is indicative of the dismissers: “It’s not a bad idea in these dark days to provide sheltering audiences with a light-hearted romp. What a shame then that the soufflé writer-director Dean Craig labors to construct in Love Wedding Repeat sinks early on and never recovers. Instead of a fresh take on Four Weddings and a Funeral, Craig offers a shameless ripoff of that 1994 rom-com classic without a trace of its champagne fizz. […] Craig shows no mercy. Instead, he pulls a Groundhog Day and hits the ‘repeat’ button in his film’s title [not much, I'd say], contriving to tell us what would happen if someone else drank the tranquilizer. Incredibly, the following series of what ifs prove even stupider, sappier, and more unendurable.”  Yeah, damnation!

 Still, I’ll go with Boston Globe’s Ty Burr (another trusted voice) who—cautiously, not too eagersays, […]Love Wedding Repeat’ is a perfectly acceptable substitute for a comedy to be named later. It’s a piece of wedding-cake frosting designed to give you a sugar buzz for 100 minutes — a small screen diversion that in a movie theater might seem like much ‘I do’ about nothing,” although I enjoyed it more than he did.  If nothing else the pace is consistently active, the general-disgraces are easy to anticipate but still clever enough in their specific follow-throughs, the acting’s uniformly engaging (especially by Fry as a sedative-addled-klutz, Key as an obnoxious intruder on our main romantic pair constantly stymied by his own idiotic choice of wearing a kilt), as the scenery around the villa’s exquisite, making me long someday for another trip to Italy when wandering crowds and big overflowing restaurants are once again acceptable public activities in a planet-yet-to-be-healed.

Bottom Line Final Comments: For once, I think I’ve about exhausted myself (to your benefit, I'm quite sure) with all of my previous comments about this pleasant, endearing movie (even if not significant, but not everything has to be as long as we can enjoy it), so if the concept appeals to you and you’re ready to have some laughs.  (At the expense of the characters, of course, as most comedy tends to be about the mishaps of others [except for parody where we and the filmmakers will be mutually making obnoxious fun of a wide range of established concepts/
attitudes/characters/genres/plotlines/previous media objects just so we don’t let ourselves take what informs our culture too seriously, seen as too much of a determinant of “quality life,” or satire where humor’s used as a weapon of social critique, an attempt to call out the serious-shortcomings in a society or its leaders yet in a manner less directly confrontational, more slyly intended to encourage ridicule of the pompous/dangerous aspects of our culture in hopes of bringing about needed change].)  Love Wedding Repeat could easily be a nice escape from coronavirus news, especially given this format where even the unearned-problems confronting the principals in the former scenario are given a joyous chance at redemption in the latter one.  If you’re not a Netflix subscriber you can still stream it for free with their 30-day trial offer, which I encourage you to do even if you’ve read my spoilers because it’s still fun to watch even if you know what’s coming (in retrospect it’s fairly predictable anyway once you get a sense of the plot-flows in each half of this related-stories-pair; nevertheless, it’s all well played out).  To help get you properly in the mood, I’ll conclude with my usual Musical Metaphor tactic (this time a song used with the final credits, ending on an upbeat note, so I didn’t have to think too hard about this one), Dean Martin’s “On an Evening in Roma (Sott’er cello de Roma)” (a 1959 hit on—if not included also in other albums—the 2011 Bonus Tracks version of Dino: The Essential Dean Martin) at fhxM2-P57E with yearning-for-romance-lyrics such as  “On each lover’s arm a girl I wish I knew On an evening in Roma […] The beginning has just begun when the sun goes down So please meet me in the plaza near your casa I am only one and that’s one too few on an evening in Roma,” which speak well of the yearning (and final fulfillment) for most of the main Love ... characters even if they have to endure the uncertainties of alternate realities while in those ultimate pursuits of their desires.
SHORT TAKES (spoilers also appear here)
           Selah and the Spades (Tayarisha Poe)   rated R

At a pricey PA boarding school a domineering senior, leader of 1 of the 5 student factions basically running the place, faces graduation so she needs a replacement to keep her drug-pusher-group solid into the near future; she finds a likely candidate, builds a friendship, but tensions among the power-wielders grow causing interpersonal rifts as well.

Here’s the trailer:

       Before reading any further, I’ll ask you to refer to the plot spoilers warning far above.

 Randy Myers helped me again by recommending Selah and the Spades, also at 3 of 4 stars, directly matching my choice (because, as I noted above, a 4 stars-rating’s my usual top, keeping 4½-5 stars in reserve for truly-terrific-accomplishments), although this time we’re much more in line with the CCAL sentiment: RT’s reviews at 90% positive, MC’s average score 68% (may not sound too supportive, but they often don’t go much higher even for great films such as Blow the Man Down [Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy; review in our March 26, 2020 posting] and Tigertail [Alan Yang; review in our April 16, 2020 posting] that RT and I are much more in favor of).  This movie has a couple of parallels with Love … as both offer the feature-debuts of their writer-directors, both have a significant plot point about the impact of an unintentional (yet plotted) drug overdose, but after that they exist in different cinematic universes.  Here, the action’s in exclusive, expensive Haldwell prep school somewhat near Philadelphia where 5 student factions essentially run the place without the knowledge of teachers or administration (although Headmaster Banton [Jesse Williams] has growing-suspicions about what’s really going on); various groups are in charge of helping with cheating (for petty cash), gambling, keeping the adults clueless about students’ underground activities, but the ones we’re most focused on are the Bobbys (named for their Anglo leader [Ana Mulvoy-Ten]), responsible for unauthorized, after-hours parties, and the Spades, led by Black, viciously-competent, patriarchy-rejecting, 17-year-old Selah Summers (Lovie Simone), the drug-dealers for the campus, all (as best I could see) being African-Americans (but with this screenwriter-director also Black I see Spades being used for ironic rather than racist commentary—in fact, there seems to be no racial-tension within this school body, just struggles for social power among the various factions, apparently keeping a truce since the “war” in Selah's sophomore year).

 While Selah’s demanding mother, Maybelle (Gina Torres), is unwilling to accept her daughter’s 93 points on the latest test as being enough of an achievement (“What about the other 7?”), tries to force her talented-but-independently-minded-girl into applying to a college Mom feels will help protect Selah from herself, this student-head of the Spades (supported by second-in-command Maxxie Ayodade [Jharrel Jerome], who keeps the ledger of all their transactions) as well as the Spirit Squad is more focused on recruiting an understudy to keep her faction healthy after she graduates (why she’d care at that point I’m not sure) so new-transfer-student/newspaper-photographer Paloma Davis (Celeste O’Connor) seems right for the honor (despite initial hesitations, knowing she’s not as well off as most of her classmates, there mostly on scholarship as reminded by the Headmaster).  Paloma quickly warms to her new status, though, sometimes serving as a peacemaker when tensions arise (appropriately, her name taken from the Latin/Spanish for “dove”).

 Peace is needed when Maxxie gets careless with some orders, angering Bobby, diminishing the Spades’ reputation, so after Selah sends him alone to Philly to pick up some product (knowing he’ll get beaten-up there) she then fires him from the faction (there's no hint of personal attraction between them, with Selah declaring she has no interest in romance or sex although I sense some potential heat between her and Paloma but maybe that’s just because she desperately needs someone she can be sincerely close with).  The next crisis comes when Headmaster Banton knows just enough to feel retribution is in order so he cancels the junior/senior prom, prompting Bobby to challenge Selah charging the Spades are responsible.  Paloma comes up with the idea of doing an unofficial formal in the nearby woods (why everyone having a believable-excuse to sign out that night wouldn’t raise immediate suspicion I’m not sure).  Further trouble comes when Bobby tells Paloma about her predecessor, Teela, who incurred Selah’s wrath, was drugged so she drove her car into the football field’s goal post, then was expelled so tensions grow between the top Spades (with a hint of the duplicity permeating this story as the school play that year is Macbeth); Selah decides to slip something into a small booze taster for Paloma as they’re all out in the forest for the party without knowing the impact from different amounts, so when she gets more info from Maxxie they both get worried (not clear just what Selah’s intentions were), find woozy Paloma who almost falls over a railing into a river (another similarity with Love … regarding Roberto’s initial fate) until they grab her.  Selah stands alone seemingly contemplating suicide until her re-committed-friends come to her, then they all walk away.⇐  Overall, this is an effective drama, probably indicative of the social/personal pressures upper-class-kids face in at least some high schools today (although, except for the interpersonal spats, there was little I could directly relate to, but, then again, I was a senior back in 1966) which (according to the second item with this movie in Related Links not too far below) had personal resonance for director Poe, seemed believably-vital for the cast, and I could appreciate how Selah seems so disconnected from her parents (Mom sends her a sweatshirt from the “destined” college which daughter promptly rips up) even as she pushes herself to a level of perfection that neither Paloma nor Maxxie feel is necessary, yet overall maybe I’m just not the right audience for this movie as I found it interesting enough to watch (on Amazon Prime, still with a 30-day-free-trial-offer), yet I’m not as enthusiastic about it as those CCAL numbers indicate I could be.

 All of which just says I see this as a very-watchable-movie, certainly with more intended-substance than many older high-school stories like American Graffiti (George Lucas, 1973 [for me, the best of this cluster I’m about to name except Rebel …]), Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckering, 1982), The Breakfast Club (John Hughes, 1985), Heathers (Michael Lehmann, 1989), Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993), or Mean Girls (Mark Waters, 2004)—if anything it’s got more in common with Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955) than any of these othersbut one that ultimately doesn’t convince me enough of its intended merits to go higher than 3 of my 5 stars.  Consequently, the Musical Metaphor may be insulting to those who’d find this tale much more crucially-conceived-and-executed than I did, but it’s what comes forth for me anyway, Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” (from his 1975 Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album) at com/watch?v=wo1OwRTRKRk (an official video, seemingly in drag [not that there's anything wrong with that], featuring extraordinary B&W imagery, but if that’s a bit weird for you here’s another one a little less so, from the 1984 Live Aid concert at London’s Wembley Stadium).  I’m not necessarily implying Paloma and Maxxie are “Candy and Ronnie” to Selah’s “Bennie” nor are there any hints of “electric boots” or “mohair suits,” but I do find a parallel in the implied audience worship of the song's fictional rock group and the cult of celebrity the Spades have constructed for themselves along with seriously seeing some connection between the rebellious culture at Haldwell and attitudes of “Hey kids, plug into the faithless Maybe they’re blinded But Bennie makes them ageless We shall survive, let us take ourselves along Where we fight our parents out in the streets To find out who’s right and who’s wrong.”  I feel for Selah and the 2 friends she’ll likely open up to in her final time in high-school, hoping there’s better self-determined-options (not parentally-dictated) as she continues to grow in age, self-acceptance, and wisdom, but just not enough to be as moved as I might be (old White man that I am) by what’s going on in this age-old-tale of how money doesn’t buy happiness for anybody, no matter the privileges accompanying any level of raw power.
Suggestions for TCM cablecasts
 At least until the pandemic subsides Two Guys also want to encourage you to consider movies you might be interested in that don’t require subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon Prime, similar Internet platforms (we may well be stuck inside for longer than those 30-day free initial offers), or premium-tier-cable-TV-fees.  While there are a good number of video networks offering movies of various sorts (mostly broken up by commercials), one dependable source of fine cinematic programming is Turner Classic Movies (available in lots of basic-cable-packages) so I’ll be offering suggestions of possible choices for you running from Thursday afternoon of the current week (given that I usually get this blog posted by early Thursday mornings) on through Thursday morning of the following week.  All times are U.S. Eastern Daylight so if you see something of interest please verify actual show time in your area for the day listed.  These recommendations are particular favorites (no matter what time they’re on, although some early-day-ones might need to be recorded, watched later), but there’s considerably more to pick from on TCM; feel free to peruse their entire schedule.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

5:45 PM Seven Days in May (John Frankenheimer, 1964) The American President (Frederick March) has recently signed a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union so the Joint Chiefs of Staff (led by Burt Lancaster), worried about invasion, are plotting a coup but the plan’s discovered by a Marine Col. (Kirk Douglas) who works to prevent it.  Cold War tensions to the max.

Friday, April 24, 2020

8:00 PM Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944) Marvelous film noir co-written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler about a scheming housewife (Barbara Stanwyck) working with a shady insurance salesman (Fred McMurray) to kill her husband, but a claims adjuster (Edward G. Robinson) smells a rat (inspired Body Heat [Lawrence Kasdan, 1981] decades later).

Saturday, April 25, 2020

3:45 PM The Postman Always Rings Twice (Tay Garnett, 1946) Another noir classic, based on James M. Cain’s novel; this is another tension-filled story of a wife (Lana Turner) working with a drifter (John Garfield) to kill her husband but things go awry (great double feature with Double Indemnity; remade years later with Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange [Bob Rafelson, 1981]).

Sunday, April 26, 2020

11:30 AM Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) TCM ran this last week too, so I’ll just repeat my previous blurb here: Do you really need to know what this one’s about?  If so, Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre 
are “looking at you, kid,” to catch up, now! (This one truly defines 5-stars-"classic.")

6:15 PM Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977) Some don’t care for Allen after molestation accusations (denied, never charged), but if you’re open to his work this may well be the best, winner of Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actress (Diane Keaton).  Marvelous satire on romance between a charming pair of neurotics—so, “La dee da, la dee da,” go downgrade your wardrobe.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

3:30 PM Freaks (Todd Browning, 1932) This is a very disturbing horror film about a circus trapeze artist who plans to marry a dwarf only to collect his huge inheritance, so she pretends to buddy 
up with the sideshow folks who have various physical abnormalities even though she can’t stand being around them.  What happens to her must be seen to be believed.

 If you’d like to have a PDF of ratings/summaries of this week's reviews, suggestions for TCM cablecasts, links to Two Guys info click this link to access then save, print, or whatever you need.

Other Cinema-Related Stuff: Quickly, here are other items you might be interested in: (1) The Top 10 Amazon TV shows and movies for March 2020; (2) Georgia governor announces reopening of movie theaters for April 27, 2020; (3) A response that most Georgia theaters will not follow this directive to reopen: (4) another Variety article, about concerns other states will also want to reopen theaters but is this safe/financially-viable?; (5) 15 short films recommended by The New York Times (from a state—unlike Georgiawhere the Shelter In Place order won’t likely be lifted anytime soon).  As usual for now I’ll close out this section with Joni Mitchell’s "Big Yellow Taxi" (from her 1970 Ladies of the Canyon album)—because “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone”—and a reminder you can search streaming/rental/purchase movie options at JustWatch.

 I'll finish up by referencing the constantly-growing, oh-so-many-faceted standpoint of cinematic-optimism about our planet not only surviving the current COVID-19 crisis but also a huge range of future disasters (well, “survive” may not be the best choice depending on how much you care about the perpetuation of our species as we now know it, which is shown as mostly positive in the various Star Trek movies [beginning with Star Trek: The Motion Picture directed by Robert Wise, 1979] but then faces some disastrous dislocations in such tales as 12 Monkeys [Terry Gilliam, 1995] or the original Planet of the Apes [Franklin J. Schaffner, 1968] and its many descendants) shown on a chart sent around by a Facebook friend, David Tannenbaum, which takes us well beyond 2500, so take heart social-distanced-citizens of Earth, we’re projected to continue well beyond the troubles of our present century although we might want to prepare ourselves better for some of the dangers we could be creating for ourselves as indicated by the plotlines of the movies listed here (as well as other pandemics that will likely follow the one we’re fighting now), although it’s interesting that The Terminator series (beginning with the one of that title by James Cameron, 1984) isn’t part of this graphic despite the looming-probability of the Artificial Intelligence Singularity occurring in just a couple of decades.  So, if we do need some dependable guidance (some would say salvation) maybe we could find ourselves expressing such a desire in this final, semi-official Musical Metaphor, "The Prayer" (written by David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager, Alberto Testa, Tony Renis, originally for the soundtrack of the animated feature Quest for Camelot [Frederik Du Chau, 1998, sung in English by Celine Dion, in Italian by Andrea Bocelli]) here done by Dion, Bocelli, Lady Gaga, John Legend, with Ling Ling’s masterful piano work, culminating the recent April 18, 2020 broadcast, One World: Together At Home (I know that at least Nina will continue to draw inspiration from this rendition of the song, so, if for no other reason, I’m putting it here where she can always easily find it; if, like me, you weren’t all that previously-familiar with it, you might appreciate the English/Italian lyrics from that earlier collaboration by Dion and Bocelli).  Or, if you’re still a bit cynical about how all this coronavirus mess is playing out, maybe you’d prefer the Rolling Stones doing "You Can't Always Get What You Want" from that same fund-raising-broadcast, with the 4 of them also performing live together (just like the 5 musicians with “The Prayer”) despite them being in separate locations (marvelous technological feats for all involved).  However you react what’s going on around all of us, peace out from Two Guys until we meet again!
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
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*A Google software glitch causes every Two Guys posting prior to August 26, 2016 to have an inaccurate (dead) link to this Summary page; from then forward, though, this link is accurate.

Here’s more information about Love Marriage Repeat: (4:51 interview with actors Sam Claflin 
and Olivia Munn)

Here’s more information about Selah and the Spades: (9:34 interview with director Tayarisha Poe and actors Lovie Simone, Celeste O’Connor, Jesse Williams [whoever did the ID graphics for this video mixed him up with Jharrel Jerome who plays Maxxie], Ana Mulvoy-Ten [her name here and at IMDb is spelled without the hyphen but not so in other sources, so I’ve gone with the compound version])

Please note that to Post a Comment below about our reviews you need to have either a Google account (which you can easily get at if you need to sign up) or other sign-in identification from the pull-down menu below before you preview or post.  You can also leave comments at our Facebook page, although you may have to somehow connect with us at that site in order to do it (most FB procedures are still a bit of a mystery to us old farts).

If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my email address of if you truly have too much time on your hands you might want to explore some even-longer-and-more-obtuse-than-my-film-reviews—if that even seems possible—academic articles about various cinematic topics at my website,, which could really give you something to talk to me about.)

If we did talk, though, you’d easily see how my early-70s-age informs my references, Musical Metaphors, etc. in these reviews because I’m clearly a guy of the later 20th century, not so much the contemporary world.  I’ve come to accept my ongoing situation, though, realizing we all (if fate allows) keep getting older, we just have to embrace it, as Joni Mitchell did so well in "The Circle Game," offering sage advice even when she was quite young herself.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Circle Game knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.  But wherever the rest of my body may be my heart’s always with my longtime-companion, lover, and wife, Nina Kindblad, so here’s our favorite shared song—Neil Young’s "Harvest Moon"
—from the performance we saw at the Desert Trip concerts in Indio, CA on October 15, 2016 (as a full moon was rising over the stadium) because “I’m still in love with you,” my dearest, a never-changing-reality even as the moon waxes and wanes over the months/years to come.
Finally, for the data-oriented among you, Google stats say over the past month (which they seem to measure from right now back 30 days) the total unique hits at this site were 31,613 (as always, we thank all of you for your support with our hopes you’ll continue to be regular readers); below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week:


  1. Again, great music, Ken.
    Just a note: I do believe that you have held my hair back 1-2X here where we have lived for 27 years while my head was over the toilet about to vomit.


  2. What a lovely memory! I'll sleep so much better tonight with that in my dreams.