What Script? Improv Tries To Carry the Day
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.
The Lovebirds (Michael Showalter) rated R
“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): Following recent bouts of seriousness in these postings I decided to seek out comedies this week based on (relatively) strong recommendations, although the results weren’t as consistent for me as I’d been led to believe they’d be, so while my first object of analysis here, The Lovebirds, is racking up viewership on Netflix streaming where you can still take advantage of a free 30-day trial period, the other one—with even stronger support—will cost you a little so consider whether you’re willing to pay for it or not. The Lovebirds is set in New Orleans, although most of the locations shown aren’t the typical French Quarter or Garden District sites so you may get little sense of how most of us picture the “Big Easy.” The lovers in question started out strong a few years ago but now have reached a point of closure until they’re inadvertently pulled into a vicious murder so they spend the rest of the story either trying to prove their innocence of the crime or avoid becoming the killer’s next victims. There’s lots of clever improvisational comic banter between lead actors Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani, but on the whole it plays like a barely-feature-length-Warner Bros. cartoon. Then there’s The Trip to Greece, 4th in a series of meandering travelogues starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, supposedly following the path of Odysseus’ long journey home from the Trojan War (but in a compressed 6 days), also full of improv banner, augmented by daily-mouthwatering-meals; there’s even more praise for this one, but I was merely mildly amused by it. Also in my Short Takes I’ll offer suggestions for some worthwhile choices on the Turner Classic Movies channel (but too much text for full-line-justified-layout like what you see here [or all that Related Links stuff at the very end], at least to be done by this burned-out-BlogSpot-posting-guy—tedious software!) plus my usual dose of industry-related-trivia.
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.
|(Sorry about poor quality in this photo and the next; I had little variety to choose from this time.)|
What Happens: 4 years ago when Leilani (Issa Rae) and Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) met, fell quickly into sex, then in love, everything was blissful as he respected her independence, she was drawn to him; now they argue constantly (including how they’d function as a couple on CBS TV’s The Amazing Race), with her further irritated that he, a social-activist-documentary-filmmaker, won’t even let her see what he’s been spending so much time editing. As they drive to a dinner party he’s miffed she won’t consider marriage (for her, it’s “problematic”), leading him to call her “shallow,” she retaliates he’s a “failure.” Before they can even get to their destination they decide to call off the relationship, so his attention’s lost focus, he runs a red light, hits a bicyclist (Nicholas X. Parsons), thereafter known to us only as Bicycle (we learn much later his name’s Tom), who says he’s not hurt, peddles off quickly, but before they can take a breath a guy, known only in this script as Mustache (Paul Sparks), jumps into their car, says he’s a cop in pursuit of drug-dealer Bicycle, takes over the steering wheel, races after the guy. When Mustache catches up, though, he makes no attempt at arresting Bicycle, just knocks him off his wheels, runs over him a couple of times to kill him, then is about to shoot Leilani and Jibran when he hears police sirens so he runs away. A couple of passers-by immediately assume our protagonists killed Bicycle; they protest their innocence but not convincingly so they flee on foot, taking Bicycle’s phone in hopes it might reveal his identity along with info on his killer, after which they feel they might be able to safely go to the cops (given their feared-racially-profiled-outcome [a most plausible aspect even within this script]).
As they frantically discuss their options at a diner, Leilani gets a call from a police detective (they inadvertently referred to each other by name when departing the killing, so the quasi-witnesses could pass on enough identity-information to the law) which Jibran abruptly terminates, dropping her phone into a milkshake. They then see an appointment on Bicycle’s phone so they go to the Dragon’s Den bar to meet Edie (Anna Camp), hoping for some clarity. Instead, she has them knocked out; when they wake up, they’re tied to chairs in some barn with Edie convinced they’re working with Bicycle in blackmailing her and her Congressman husband Brett (Kyle Bornheimer). Despite all the denials they can spout out, Edie’s ready to pour hot bacon grease on Jibran’s face or he can choose what’s behind a door in front of him. He takes the door, it’s opened to reveal a horse’s butt, then he’s kicked halfway across the room.* As Edie turns her attention to Leilani the quick-thinking-captive kicks Edie, knocking over the skillet as Jibran’s (somehow) loose; between them they manage to clobber Edie and Brett, run to an address they got from Edie (after buying new [crazy, little-choice] clothes at an all-night drugstore), assuming it must be Bicycle’s apartment.
*Here’s an extensive video analysis (5:09) of that scene, narrated by enthusiastic Rae and Nanjiani.
When they arrive they enter via the fire escape, breaking a window into the bedroom where they find a bunch of frat boys having a party; they force one of them to admit he’s working with Bicycle in this mysterious blackmail scheme as he notes many envelopes of photos as part of the plan. Just then, Mustache comes in, kills everyone except Leilani and Jibran who manage to escape again, with one of those envelopes containing pictures of people wearing bird-like-masks. At this point our frazzled-runaways finally get to their long-delayed-dinner-party where they're able to convince a friend to unlock Bicycle’s phone which has an address for a formal event that night so they go, still trying to find evidence to clear themselves, get in as if they’re the couple in the photos, take substitute gold masks (claimed they forgot theirs at home) while most everyone else wears white ones. ⇒They find seats in the crowded balcony (somehow noting Edie and Brett are there too), listen to the leader talk of this ancient secret society, the Sacrarium, where 10 new initiates are called to the stage to be inducted by means of public sex. Just as that’s about to begin, though, the leader interrupts with news of intruders in the midst so everyone’s to take off their masks to identify themselves. Leilani and Jibran are the only ones who do so because the others know unmasking’s never allowed; caught again, there seems to be no escape now when suddenly more news breaks, this time a police raid’s on the way so they all scatter leaving our bewildered couple as the only ones taken to the station. However, once there Det. Martin (Andrene Ward-Hammond) tells them traffic cameras at the scene of Bicycle’s murder showed our frantic protagonists to be innocent, so they were being sought only as witnesses (in their nervousness they confess a cluster of minor crimes, but they’re not held accountable) so they’ll be driven home for a good night’s rest. Horribly, their driver is Mustache—actually a cop giving undercover protection to the Sacrarium while also running the blackmail scheme to expose them (he also tipped off the raid on this sex-cult), killed Bicycle in a dispute over dividing their profits. Next thing you know, Leilani and Jibran’s hands are locked behind them in zip-ties as they’re in the back seat being driven to a marina; Mustache goes to do something on a small boat, Leilani manages to activate the cigarette lighter (Do cars still have those?) with her mouth, uses it to burn off Jibran’s bonds, then he does the same for her. They fake being bound as they’re marched to the boat, then just as Mustache is about to kill them they jump him, get the gun, Leilani shoots him but he’s only wounded so Jibran knocks him out. The cops arrive, take Mustache away, tell our now-reunited-lovers they’ve rounded up many of the sex-society (for what I’m not sure as it seems the only laws broken were by Mustache, Bicycle, and their helpers). A year later Jibran and Leilani are winning The Amazing Race in London where they’re stopped short by their next task, Jibran's freaking out because it involves horses.⇐
So What? Rarely when I get to this point of a review do I feel like I have little else to say; thus, while I’ve put The Lovebirds in the spotlight position of this posting because I think it may have a wider audience—where it will at least get a couple more photos than what’s allotted to The Trip to Greece (reviewed below, had even less to say about it, but can at least justify that with its place in Short Takes)—even though my “So What?” commentary could almost be concluded with that question as I found little to hold my attention except for the more-lengthy of circumstances where it’s clear this movie’s leads are successfully working off each other with commentary sounding too random to be scripted (in their interview far below in the Related Links section of this posting Nanjiani admits there’s probably not one scene that didn’t have some improv in it, at least at some point in the production process); this is especially effective when they’re being questioned by uncompromising-Edie as they try to convince her they know nothing of what she’s asking about (Jibran defends Leilani as merely an advertising copywriter who created a popular commercial for a male deodorant; she explains how it’s based on a nowhere-guy she knew in college who suddenly became attractive when his smell improved; Jibran eagerly notes how that’s all it took for his now-girlfriend to go to bed with this guy [and others, apparently]) or when they first meet Det. Martin, slowly realize they’re not being charged with Bicycle’s murder, then begin to blab about their minor offenses (Leilani used to help her Dad sell pot when she lived in Chicago, etc.) as their relief—and seeming-end to their night-long-ordeal—causes them to keep citing their little crimes as evidence such behaviors define their limits, they're incapable of anything so heinous as blackmail or murder.
There’s also a brief, sweet interchange after Mustache’s capture as they wait at the rear of the ambulance to take them to a hospital for a checkup as Leilani admits she sneaked into Jibran’s office to see his latest documentary, liked it, as he admits he didn’t want to show it to her, afraid she wouldn’t find any value in it—then they agree to screw in the back of the ambulance on their way to the Emergency Room. So, yeah, there are extended or brief comic moments here fun to watch (certainly much more so than ongoing news about COVID-19, even as people around the country continue to crowd into pools, beaches, restaurants, and bars despite few states truly reaching even the Trump administration standards for such opening up), but taken as a whole this plot just feels like the result of a committee-ideas-session to see what further problems our protagonists can face trying to extend the premise into a relatively-short-result of 87 min. on screen. Definitely not a wasted night watching it (especially after a tasty takeout Italian dinner and a strong Manhattan), but at least it felt like a free choice because I’m already paying a monthly Netflix fee, cheaper than what 2 late-afternoon-tickets would cost. (If you can watch via the free-trial offer, you truly get a bargain!)
Bottom Line Final Comments: In truth, my 3 stars-rating (of 5, so 60%) is right in line with the CCAL where Rotten Tomatoes’ reviewers give a 67% positive response, Metacrtic’s close behind with a 58% average score (more details from these critical-accumulation-sites in Related Links; same goes for responses to The Trip to Greece), but based on reviews I’ve read I expected the entire movie to have more of a coherent feel to it, rather than an ongoing series of last-second-escapes from imminent-mortal-danger. Furthermore, there’s no way I can watch the scene in the Sacrarium auditorium without thinking of the overt similarity to how Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) also slips into a masked orgy in Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999—a great film I was immediately fascinated with, saw it twice, bought the DVD, as the critical establishment agreed with me that time too) only to be caught, unmasked, but without any of the humor woven into The Lovebirds; Showalter’s scene is from a script by Aaron Adams, Brendan Gall—good thing for them Kubrick’s not still around to claim copyright infringement, although his plot’s adapted from a much-earlier-novel, so he’d probably just have to ignore the similarities or at least appreciate how this situation can also work with some laughs worked into the tension (there’s another similarity here in that no sex happens with the Sacrarium’s initiates in The Lovebirds because of the impending police raid whereas in Eyes … the many explicit nude copulations going on while Bill wanders around were digitally obscured in post-production to soften the rating to R from a financially-restrictive NC-17 [the original Unrated version’s available on video]). So when I shuffle together my thoughts about The Lovebirds I think it has useful moments along with concocted situations only functional as they keep this plot in the realm of absurdity so we don’t focus too much on a Black woman and a Muslim man frantically trying to prove their innocence, convinced the law wouldn’t listen to them simply because of how they look (it’s nice to have a Black cop be supportive as the story winds down), great examples of successful improv for those interesting in honing such skills, but overall just something for short-term-distraction before moving on to whatever else is on the horizon. Thus, my standard review-ending Musical Metaphor this time is about as deep as this movie—which is to say, not much—“I Think We’re Alone Now” by Tommy James and the Shondells (written by Ritchie Cordell, on the 1967 album named for the song) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFWhTqLSVzE, a tune obviously about young lust hidden away from adults but retooled by me for Leilani and Jibran trying to gain respite from assuming they’re wanted fugitives, knowing they’re stalked by Mustache: “Children behave That’s what they say when we’re together And watch how you play They don’t understand […] Tryin’ to get away into the night […] I think we’re alone now The beating of our hearts is the only sound Look at the way We gotta hide what we’re doin’ ‘Cause what would they say If they ever knew.” The kids in the song find their pleasure just as Jibran and Leilani earn their reconciliation, so we'll comfortably leave them all in peace as we now head off to Greece.
SHORT TAKES (spoilers also appear here)
The Trip to Greece (Michael Winterbottom) Not Rated
British comics Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon go on another journey (4th of this series, originally done for BBC TV), this time mildly inspired by Homer’s The Odyssey, as they travel from the ruins of Troy to Ithaca (in only 6 days, not 10 years), taking in the sights, having fabulous meals, bickering about everything they can find, offering some nice actor impersonations.
Here’s the trailer:
Before reading any further, I’ll ask you to refer to the plot spoilers warning far above.
Here’s a case where the CCAL as a whole is quite enthusiastic about this movie (RT offers 92% positive reviews, MC’s average score is 69% which is in the realm of their usual most supportive responses; more details below), yet I’m at a mere 3 stars (60%, unless you factor in how I rarely go above 4 [see the Summary of Two Guys Reviews in Related Links farther below], saving my higher-star-clusters for the truly magnificent) because I couldn’t find myself all that enthused with watching these 2 talented British actor/comedians wander around Greece for a week, trading mild insults while visiting scenic locales, indulging in scrumptious meals. Admittedly, I’ve not seen any of their 3 previous Trips (to northern England, Italy, and Spain),* all apparently using the same premise of these well-known-actors playing themselves exploring a certain realm (each based loosely on a literary masterpiece related to the locations they visit) while bantering in a calculated-low-level-of-hostility whether they’re touring, driving, or eating (certainly I envy them the places they explore, the fabulous food they consume, but it just wasn’t all that engaging to me watching them tour and chat—truly, My Dinner with Andre [Louis Malle,1981] was a lot more interesting, even without the “action figures” featured in the hilarious Waiting for Guffman [Christopher Guest, 1997]). Without straining myself to recount all of The Trip to Greece stops during this on-screen-chronology, I’ll just repeat the promo blurb from IFC Films: “When Odysseus left Troy it took him ten years to get back to his home in Ithaca. Steve and Rob have only six days on their own personal odyssey in THE TRIP TO GREECE. On the way they argue about tragedy and comedy, astronomy and biology, myth, history, democracy and the meaning of life! Featuring locations such as: Temple of Apollo at Delphi, the Ancient Agora of Athens, the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, the unique island of Hydra, the Caves of Diros, Nestor’s Palace, Niokastro Fortress in Pylos, and Ancient Stagira, as well as a lot of shooting in restaurants and hotels in Athens, Hydra, Lesvos [better known as Lesbos], Chalkidiki, Pelion, Kavala, and at the Peloponnese.” These locations represent considerably more venues than this movie’s current presence in just 3 domestic (U.S.-Canada) theaters for a grand total of $1,110 in ticket sales so far (how you’d get Amazon to release rental totals I don’t yet know).
*To learn more about the 4 seasons of the BBC TV series (2010-’20) these movies are edited down from (each about 3 hours of broadcast fare, roughly 2-hr. versions for theatrical release) go to this site. You could also rent each of the 3 previous Trips on various platforms from just $2.99 to $3.99.
However, in the grand-adventurous-10-years recounted in Homer’s epic poem of The Odyssey the protagonist encountered considerably more sites than what we see here,* so what we have is based on Homer about as much as O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Joel Coen, 2000), which is to say, barely at best, especially given the compressed time of Coogan and Brydon’s excursion (although it actually occurs over considerably more production days as Winterbottom explains in the Related Links interview [second item connected to this title] where the various meals were shot several times over roughly 3 days each, so the entire filming clearly exceeded the 6 days we get on screen, beginning in Turkey [where Troy supposedly existed; just a pile of rocks now, plus a large Trojan Horse statue], finished in Ithaca, although there’s some debate as to whether the modern island of that name is actually where Homer was referring to all those eons ago) so the launch and ultimate arrival are there but lots in the journey's middle is missing (not that this was ever intended to be an archeological-style-documentary). There’s a foundational script involved here, with other actors playing characters as written, but the 2 leads seem to mostly do improv which at times is quite funny (Rob insisting on singing the “Grease” theme song [from the musical movie of that name directed by Randal Kleiser, 1978]), others times tedious (Do they ever get tired of doing Michael Caine imitations? Although Rob makes a meta-point by reading from Aristotle’s Poetics about the negative aspects of imitation in drama; Rob also claims Virgil’s Roman epic, The Aeneid, is just a ripoff of The Odyssey.) or questionable (their borderline-lewd-comments about staying at the "Lesbian Hotel" on ancient poet Sappho’s famed isle). Along the way we get other Greek sites noted above, gorgeous scenery, daily delicious meals, a short visit from their respective significant others, an ego-driven-swimming-competition, Steve’s caustic comments on a review of him in Stan & Ollie (Jon S. Baird, 2018; our review in our January 24, 2019 posting), and imitations of Tom Hardy, Dustin Hoffman (various roles), Sean Connery, etc., with a quiet ending to this quick journey.
*There’s considerable scholarly debate as to the named-locations Homer referred to (some may be purely fictional), but they’re all seemingly around Greece, Italy, and North Africa for the most part, with detailed explorations/explanations at various sites including this one or this alternative [may be a bit slow to load, in my experience]), while another one (scroll down to the Alternate Map) takes Odysseus all the far-away-westward across the Mediterranean Sea to the Straits of Gibraltar.
⇒Nevertheless, to respect my inclusion of a spoiler zone (ultimately for the benefit of those of you cheapskates who don't want to pay to see my review choices—a little kickback would be appreciated!) I’ll note a snarky exchange: Rob asks Steve what he’s proudest of, Steve says “My 7 BAFTAs”* to which Rob replies he’s most proud of his children, chides Steve who also has children, but Steve notes Rob has no BAFTRAs; there’s also the brief incident at the end where Steve’s son calls to say Steve’s father died so he comes home (I don't know if it's fictional or reality intruding upon a concocted journey), in a way like how Odysseus’ son, Telemachus, yearning 20 years (Trojan War also lasted a decade) for his father’s return, searched for him with help from the goddess Athena.⇐ I admire the comedic range of Coogan and Brydon, thank them for helping me see more of Greece than I’m now likely to as well as reminding me what a joy it is to simply order a tasty meal in a restaurant, but unless I’m missing something (or need to see the previous Trips to fully appreciate this one), I just wasn’t that impressed, bringing myself into a OCCU-mindset even as others praise this goofy “vacation.” Maybe I’d like it better had I accompanied it with a bottle of retsina (yes, tastes a bit like turpentine but gives me nostalgia for my college-art-major-days as a painter) which I generally only get with trips to Luke’s Grill, San Leandro, CA (oh, those months ago; still available for takeout but not quite the same as sitting with those Aegean-based-murals) or my annual trip with my Hellenistic-culture-fascinated-wife, Nina, to Oakland’s Assumption Cathedral Greek Festival (also a non-entity this spring—damn!). As I bid farewell to these British travelers, though, I’ll leave with a Musical Metaphor just as silly a choice as many of their spontaneous digressions, Ricky Nelson’s “Travelin’ Man” (written by Jerry Fuller, intended for Sam Cooke, ended up on the 1961 Rick Is 21 album) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0janfcZ8LUw (he sings it twice, second time with cheesy, superimposed footage illustrating the lyrics [words below the video screen]) where I admit Steve and Rob don’t impede their home-relationships with “a pretty Señorita [… a] cute little Eskimo [… a] sweet Fraulein [… a] China doll [… or a] Pretty Polynesian baby” (not that their journeys were to any of those places), but it’s clear their cumulative travels allow them to each exclaim “I’m a travelin’ man and I’ve made a lot of stops All over the world,” with many audiences and critics heartily in support of these excursions, their improvisational banner, luscious meals, constant mimicking of other actors (often with humorous results), so I’ll be just as happy with this song (especially because I saw Nelson in a well-received-concert before his untimely death in 1985) as Coogan and Brydon are with their oddball travels. This costs you $5.99 on Amazon Prime.
*British Academy Film and Television Arts awards, the Brits’ equivalent of our Oscars for feature films; Coogan’s most recent honor was BAFTA's Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy, his previous 6 wins enumerated here, along with his many other BAFTA nominations.
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.
Saturday May 30, 2020
1:30 PM From Here to Eternity (Fred Zinnemann, 1953) Set in Hawaii before the Pearl Harbor attack, focused on soldiers played by Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra with Deborah Kerr and Donna Reed as the women in their lives. Lots of misery occurs even before the war begins; a big hit at the time, winner of 8 Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (Sinatra), Supporting Actress (Reed), Editing, Sound Recording, Cinematography, Costume Design (last 2 for B&W films).
Sunday May 31, 2020
8:45 AM Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 1933) For me, the best of the Marx Bros. because it’s so anarchic/satirical about patriotism during the Depression when national solidarity was just short of mandated. Groucho as leader of fictional Freedonia (Zeppo as his secretary), on the verge of war with neighboring Sylvania, Chico and Harpo as spies; contains the famous “mirror scene” with Groucho and Harpo “reflecting” each other and “All God’s chillun got guns!” minstrel show parody.
5:45 PM Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959) Marvelous; big hit then now ranked as one of the best if not the actual top comedy of all time, with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis disguised as women in a nightclub band in Florida trying to escape gangsters after they witness the St. Valentine’s Day massacre in Chicago; also stars Marilyn Monroe, George Raft, and Pat O’Brien (won an Oscar for Best B&W Costume Design). Joe E. Brown’s final line was marvelous for its time, now immortal.
Monday June 1, 2020
8:00 PM A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan, 1951) From Tennessee Williams’ equally-searing play (even more brutal, given how Hays Code-dominated films conformed to “decency” standards), this masterpiece of interpersonal-brutality stars Marlon Brando in maybe his best role but the acting Oscars went to Vivien Leigh (Actress), Karl Malden (Supporting Actor), Kim Hunter (Supporting Actress). “Stella!”—what more can I say? Even with the censorship, this is an all-time masterpiece.
Tuesday June 2, 2020
12:30 AM Anatomy of a Murder (Otto Preminger, 1959) A powerful courtroom drama enhanced by constant twists; you never know what to believe, even at the end with James Stewart defending G.I. Ben Gazzara on a murder charge, a guy who can’t fully remember his actions except retaliation for the victim raping his wife (Lee Remick). Eve Arden and George C. Scott are there too; nominated for 7 Oscars (no wins) but the score by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn won 3 Grammy Awards.
Wednesday June 3, 2020
11:00 AM Cool Hand Luke (Stuart Rosenberg, 1967) Big hit at the time, especially with the anti-Establishment crowd, still revered today (100% positive at Rotten Tomatoes) with Paul Newman as a rebellious prisoner, George Kennedy (Best Supporting Actor Oscar) as his buddy, Struthers Martin as the cruel warden who spouts the famous line “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” Lots of cruel violence in this film, a harsh condemnation of the worst aspects of the prison system.
11:00 PM The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969) Monumentally more harsh in its famously-violent climax, this is an impressive, impactful deconstruction of the idealized heroism of the western myth, with William Holden, Ernest Borg nine, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, and Jaime Sánchez as the last members of a gang of outlaws pursued by ex-comrade Robert Ryan and bounty hunters into Mexico where these anti-hero protagonists come upon some true villains, a corrupt army unit.
If you’d like your own 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: In quick fashion, here are some other items you might be interested in: (1) Drive-ins doing increasingly-bigger-business, especially those showing a horror movie, The Wretched (Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce); (2) The Tribeca Film Institute shuts down operations for now; (3) Reopened movie theaters still need audiences as potential patrons are reluctant to attend. 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.
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
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Here’s more information about The Lovebirds:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaL3LJoG4ho (42:29 interview with actors Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani)
Here’s more information about The Trip to Greece:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8auL51H1oI (30:08 interview with director Michael Winterbottom)
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If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my email address of firstname.lastname@example.org. (But 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,
https://kenburke.academia.edu, 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 Hotel California 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.
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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 37,700 (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: