Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “Suicide Squad”


Trash Film Guru

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If there’s one thing that’s even more pathetic than the “Marvel Guy” vs. “DC Guy” debates that have been raging among comics fans for years, it’s seeing those same arguments steroid-pumped beyond comprehension now that four-color funnybooks have become the go-to “IP source” for multi-million-dollar Hollywood blockbusters. “Marvel movies are the best!” “You take that back, DC movies are the best!” — it’s all so mind-numbingly tedious.

Not to mention fundamentally dishonest. Just as neither publisher deserves to have anyone rooting for them given their sorry ethical histories and largely substandard product of recent vintage, the same is true for both cinematic universes — by and large, they’re entirely unexceptional on their best days, offensively mediocre on their worst. 2016 hasn’t bucked this trend in the least to date, with Marvel’s Captain America : Civil War being yet another bland two-and-a-half hour TV episode with lots of guest stars, and…

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Happy Birthday Lucille Ball: THE DARK CORNER (20th Century Fox 1946)


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Having grown up on endless reruns of I LOVE LUCY (and her subsequent variations on the Lucy Ricardo character), I’m not used to watching Lucille Ball in a dramatic role. In fact, I think the 1985 TV movie STONE PILLOW is the only time I’ve seen her play it straight until I recently watched THE DARK CORNER on TCM, a minor but enjoyable noir with Lucy headlining a good cast in a story about a private eye framed for murder. And since today marks the 105th anniversary of the redhead’s birth, now’s as good a time as any to look back on this unheralded hardboiled tale.

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Lucy, looking mighty sexy at age 35, plays Kathleen Stewart, secretary to PI Bradford Galt, recently relocated to The Big Apple. He’s got a secret past that’s dogging him, and a shady man in a white suit following him. Galt confronts the tail, who claims to be…

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Hallmark Review: The Good Witch’s Gift (2010, dir. Craig Pryce)


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I haven’t done a Hallmark movie in awhile. It’s been even longer since I did one that I watched on DVD. I only mention it because once again it is difficult to get it to start in VLC, and the close captioning is a little wonky. That leads to some humorous captions. I bring them up in case you go to watch it using VLC, or need to use the close captioning for more than just convenience. This is also the last of the Good Witch movies I have left to review. Let’s dig in.

The movie begins and we immediately join Jake Russell (Chris Potter) as he is doing some window shopping to decide what to get Cassie (Catherine Bell) for Christmas. He’s also doing a bit of foreshadowing.

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He spots a guy that he clearly knows, but then Cassie pops up like she always does to say “hi.”

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This is as good a time as any to mention that she uses her powers a little more explicitly this time around. It’s not like in a later one where she teleports right in front of a camera. However, she does pop around more, and she makes the doors to her shop open right in front of Jack to the point where he asks her if she installed automatic doors. At least that’s what they say if you can hear. If you can’t, then this is what shows up onscreen.

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The next important thing is to find out who that guy was that Jack saw while window shopping. It’s a guy named Leon Deeks (Graham Abbey) who was part of a bank robbery and was recently released after having served his time. The issue is that not only was the money never recovered, but Jack’s son is going out with Deeks’ daughter played by former Degrassi: TNG star Jordan Todosey. It’s interesting that with this film it means that actor Matthew Knight was in a movie with one of the late stage Degrassi: TNG actors, and one of the early ones in Jake Epstein who was in an episode of Matthew Knight’s short-lived TV Show called My Babysitter’s A Vampire.

Deeks of course stops by Cassie’s place, and as usual with new people, she nearly gives him a heart attack by suddenly showing up behind him. He remembers the place when it used to be rundown and is impressed with what she has done. There is an ulterior motive to him looking around the place. It will turn out the unrecovered money from the robbery is under her floor.

Lori (Hannah Endicott-Douglas) makes a return, but really won’t play too much of a role in the film. Mainly when Cassie’s ring goes missing, she runs around looking for it. However, good old quintessential small town busybody Martha Tinsdale (Catherine Disher) is sure around for her plot line.

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At the start she is being annoying, making people angry, and really getting into hitting that gavel. She is rejecting a local business’ request to put up a sign to advertise for their business. Her plot line is like the rest in that it will revolve around family, and will resolve with family. It’s what the “Gift” in the title means. The formation or maintenance of family is the central theme around which the plot lines revolve. I do love how at this meeting, which is where we first see her, she manages to piss off everyone at the table. Then she leaves only to be confronted by her husband the mayor who tells her they lost a lot of money, and she needs to get a job as a result.

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Catherine Disher really does have that Jim Carrey facial expression thing about her. I love it.

Then we meet Brandon (Matthew Knight) and Jodi Deeks played by Jordan Todosey.

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So, we have Cassie and Jack who need to end up getting married to each other. We have Jodi and her father who need to be reunited despite Jodi’s mother fighting against it. It’s understandable because the time he served was ten years on top of committing the crime. We also have Martha who needs survive this bump in the road with her husband. However, we have one last piece of setup.

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What do we do with grandpa (Peter MacNeill)? He actually has one of the more subtle ways of having family in his plot line. The woman he met last time at the orchard departs. Since Cassie is going to go and live with Jack in the end, what is going to happen to Grey House?

That’s your setup. The movie is on autopilot now as the plot lines run their course to their happy conclusions. Let’s talk about how these different plot lines all resolve.

The reason for the marriage being rushed is that Jack is getting frustrated that it keeps getting pushed back, so come hell or high water, he’s going to make it happen before Christmas. The marriage runs into a few small speed bumps with finding a preacher at the last minute, getting the wedding together at the last minute, and getting the marriage license also at the last minute. It’s the standard stuff you’d expect. Martha’s husband marries them since he is the mayor. They get the marriage license since Cassie has been around long enough legally that the government says that’s enough to establish an identity. I’m not sure it really works that way, but it’s a movie, and a very minor point that is just there to stall the film a bit.

Martha goes around trying to sell herself as a prospective employee, but she’s pissed off too many people for that to be an easy task.

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In the end, she’ll become a party planner. Cassie is the one who suggests this to Martha. In this one, more than others, she seems to be more conscious of these actions to help people. I swear I remember in the past that she treaded the line between some sort of an all knowing being, and a regular human better.

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As for grandpa, that’s actually easy. He moves in to take care of Grey House and the B&B with Cassie.

The hard one is getting Jodi and her father back together. That’s really what Cassie puts her mind too. In the end, that works out too, but she has to attack that problem from several angles. Turning the money in is the major step he takes to turn things around for him and his family.

It really has been awhile since I watched other Good Witch movies, but this one felt a little different. I recall the others having a main plot, and several micro-plots around it that really didn’t have any reason to be there. This time around we have the Deeks plot line that has some more importance, but they are all treated rather equally, tie together, and have a central theme. Kind of like a Good Witch version of Signed, Sealed, Delivered: From The Heart (2016) except that it doesn’t have so many plots that it gets overwhelming. This is average, but recommendable as far as Good Witch movies go.

Jedadiah Leland’s Adventures In The Internet Archive


I have just returned from exploring the Internet Archive.  The Archive, which is also the home of the Wayback Machine, is a non-profit online library with millions of free books, movies, software, music, and websites.  In particular, I have always been interested in their collection of old MS-DOS games and that is what I was looking at tonight.  While I could have played Oregon Trail or maybe one of the many Leisure Suit Larry games available, I instead decided to check out four lesser known games.

The first game I played was Hidden Agenda (1988, Trans Fiction Systems, Inc.)

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Hidden Agenda is a strategy game.  You have just taken over as the president of a South American country and you have to decide how you are going to rule.  Are you going to be a corrupt dictator or an idealistic reformer?

I played the game twice.  The first time I played, I filled my cabinet with right-wingers, pardoned the leader of the former dictator’s death squad, and sanctioned the murder of a labor leader.  The second time I played, I filled my cabinet with communists, jailed the leader of the death squad, and gave into every demand.  Both times, my government was overthrown after a year and I was executed in my office.

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Hidden Agenda has a learning curve that I have yet to master but it was still an interesting game.  Some players will probably find it to be too dry but I appreciated that the game attempted to take a realistic approach to the trials and tribulations of leading a post-revolutionary society.

After getting executed for the second time, I decided to play a safer political simulation, President Elect (1987, Strategic Simulations, Inc.).

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A perfect game for political junkies, President Elect allows you to manage a presidential campaign.  You can either take part in a historical campaign, like Kennedy vs. Nixon in 1960, or you can create your own candidates by answering questions about their positions and their abilities as a campaigner.  You get to decide everything your candidate does, from what states he visits to whether or not he agrees to a debate.

I decided to run a simulation based on the current election.  Since the game does not include any candidates beyond 1988, I created versions of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Gary Johnson.  I did my best to be fair and unbiased while determining their strengths and weaknesses as campaigners.  For instance, I gave Hillary a low public speaking rating while rating her highly for her poise under pressure.  I gave Trump a low score for poise under pressure but a high score for his ability to get and hold an audience’s attention.  I then entered in the current economic conditions.

For 9 game weeks, I managed Gary Johnson’s campaign and got nowhere.  I did not have as much money as Trump or Clinton, which meant I could not afford to campaign as extensively as they could, and I watched as my national support got smaller and smaller with each passing week.  On election night, it was clear who was going to win.

I don’t want to panic anyone but here’s the final result of the simulation:

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After watching Donald Trump win every state in the union (though he did lose the District of Columbia), I decided to give Kingmaker (1994, TM Games) a try.

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Kingmaker opens with none other than William Shakespeare explaining the history behind the War of the Roses.

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In Kingmaker, you are one of the claimants battling to become the king of England.  After Shakespeare’s introduction, you are given a series of options regarding how difficult you want your game to be.  This was my favorite:

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Advanced plague?  This was going to be fun!

Unfortunately, then the game started:

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I spent a few minutes moving the arrow over England and clicking.  Nothing happened.  I clicked on the boxes at the bottom of the screen.  Nothing happened.  I clicked on the names over on the right side of the screen.  Nothing happened.

I had run into the biggest potential problem with playing the games in the Internet Archive: none of the games come with their original instruction manual.  Kingmaker looked like it could have been fun and I usually enjoy strategy games but I got frustrated trying to figure out how it worked.  Perhaps if I can find a copy of the game’s manual, I will try to play it again.

Once it became clear that I was never going to figure out how to play Kingmaker, I decided to try Executive Suite (1982, Armonk Corporation).

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Executive Suite is a largely text-based game in which you attempt to go from an entry-level job to being president of the Mighty Microcomputer Corporation.

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The game starts with the receptionist, Angie, asking if your resume is on file or if you need to go through the interview process.  Angie is so helpful!  I bet MMC is going to be a great place to work!

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Since I did not have a resume on file, I decided to submit to the interview process.

The interview started normally enough.

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The interviewer then asked me what part of the country I was from.   I selected the northeast.

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The questions continued.  The interviewer asked me where I went to college.  He asked me if I had an advanced degree.  He asked me what I majored in.  I selected Girls.  (That was an option.)

Then he asked me this:

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I am sure that question violated some sort of law but I must have given the right answer because he then told me this:

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Finally, I was allowed to apply for a job.

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Once I was finally hired, I was presented with my first big decision:

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Of course I’m going to go drinking with the boys!  What could possibly go wrong?

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That worked out well!  This Bucky Carter seems to be a great guy.  I wonder what other ideas he has.

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Another chance to bond with the boys?  Forget studying, let’s get down at the local house of ill-repute!

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I made a mistake but I’m new here and it was just my first day.  Surely, this will not still be held against me after I’ve been with the company for a year.

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This doesn’t look good.

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An envelope?  Maybe I’m getting a promotion!

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That’s not good.

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It does not look like I am going to be the president of the Mighty Microcomputer Corporation any time soon.   I’m not giving up though.  I will definitely be playing Executive Suite again!

In fact, there are still many games in the archive that I am going check out.  In fact, I just spotted something called Sex Olympics. 

I shall return.

Music Video of the Day: Rio by Duran Duran (1982, dir. Russell Mulcahy)


Would you believe that until a week or so ago I didn’t know we had an Olympics coming up? I only realized it because the Diet Coke cans I pulled out of the fridge had changed and had the rings on them. This is seriously my life. So is trying to figure out how to talk about a Russell Mulcahy masterpiece that everyone has seen.

I’m going to go ahead and call it now. Russell Mulcahy is the father of the music video. They existed before he started making them sure. There were films going back to at least the 1940s that were essentially music videos hung on a clothesline plot. I’m watching this music video over and over while I write this, and I have yet to see a single shot that isn’t perfectly done. The angles, the use of iris shots, split screens, the incredible use of color, and everything I’m seeing in every frame is perfect. The music video even goes into black and white widescreen as if you have suddenly stepped into The Longest Day (1962). I love the two guys playing the sax–Nick Rhodes and John Taylor–who are paired via a split-screen. There’s also the part where we think he is going to slip on a banana peel, but he misses it only to be hit by a giant bowling ball. I can only imagine being alive in 1982, turning on MTV, and seeing this. This was probably the first exposure most people had to a truly well-made short film that happened to be built around a song. It certainly would have been for a child who was lucky enough to have cable in 1982. My first exposure was Hungry Like The Wolf, but that’s another Duran Duran/Russell Mulcahy collaboration we’ll get to eventually.

This is one of those music videos where we know more than just the director. Jackie Adams produced this music video. She seems to have worked with Mulcahy on a total of five music videos, and made an appearance in Mama by Spice Girls. Those music videos range from something surreal like Billy Joel’s Pressure that starts off with a version of The Parallax View (1974) training montage to something simple like Only The Lonely by The Motels. By the way, what the heck is it with Billy Joel music videos being some of the most interesting and well-made ones that never get enough attention? Just saying that I’m looking at Pressure right now, and it is amazing.

But back in Rio, we have to mention the band itself because Duran Duran are more than just a band that stood around and played their song in this music video. This is an embodiment of their music and style. As I’m sure you all know by now, Duran Duran are a group of guys from the UK who came over to the US bringing style over substance synthpop with very well-crafted songs. We mentioned synthpop when we spoke about Ministry. I contend that we had style over substance with Duran Duran. We then made it substantive with Depeche Mode, but it was still quite radio friendly, and hadn’t shed the legacy of groups like Duran Duran. Then we had Ministry forced to try and be like them, but then had them turn to something very much on the fringes before evolving synthpop into industrial metal. Ultimately, we had groups like Nine Inch Nails who came along and broadened it into an almost orchestral sound with industrial rock. At least that’s my excuse for the next four music videos I intend to feature after this one.

Sit back and enjoy this classic music video directed by one of the best in the business with all the style and 80s dripping off your screen while a wonderful Duran Duran song plays.