I Fell Into A Burning “Lake Of Fire”


Trash Film Guru

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Sometimes all that’s necessary for a new project to pique your interest is to see a familiar name in a new and unexpected place, so when I noticed that veteran comics colorist Nathan Fairbairn was going to be writing a new series for Image, my curiosity was sufficiently stoked — doubly so, in fact, given that the first issue of his ongoing title with artist Matt Smith (sorry, Doctor Who fans, not that one), Lake Of Fire, was being solicited as a “double-sized” 44-page comic for only $3.99. Honestly, at that price, they’re practically begging you to give their book a chance — why not take them up on it?

The “pull-quote” featured on the cover from the usually-reliable Comics Bulletin website calling it the “best debut issue to be published by Image Comics in 2016” was high praise indeed considering that said publisher has already given us finely-crafted…

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Artist Profile: Saul Levine (1915 — ????)


I couldn’t find much autobiographical information on the artist Saul Levine.  He was born in New York in the 1915 and he studied at the Corcoran School of Art and Design and graduated from Yale’s School of Fine Arts.  It appears that he began his career in the late 30s, doing paintings of everyday life during the Great Depression.  He painted murals for two post offices in Massachusetts and his paintings were exhibited in the Whitney, the Carnegie, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts.  In the 1950s, he painted a handful of paperback covers.  Searching the web, I found a death notice for a Saul Levine who was born in 1915 and died in 2010.  However, I don’t know if that notice was for the same Saul Levine.

Below are a few of his paperback covers, followed by some of his paintings:

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“A Little Nonsense Now And Then Is Relished By The Wisest Men”: RIP Gene Wilder


cracked rear viewer

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The world just got a little sadder. News has been released that funnyman Gene Wilder has passed away at age 83 from complications due to Alzheimer’s Disease. Wilder was without question one of the greatest comic actors of the late 20th Century, beloved by both filmgoers and peers for the manic energy he brought to his everyman characters.

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Born in Milwaukee, Gene Wilder (nee’ Jerome Silberman) made his film debut in the small part of Eugene, hostage of the outlaw duo BONNIE & CLYDE. He then scored the plum role of neurotic accountant Leo Bloom, caught by in Zero Mostel’s scheme to produce a Broadway bomb in Mel Brooks’ THE PRODUCERS. This was the first of three Wilder/Brooks collaborations, each one funnier than the last. BLAZING SADDLES casts Wilder as The Waco Kid, an alcoholic ex-gunfighter who helps Sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little) bring peace to Rock Ridge. Best of all was YOUNG…

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Back to School Part II #14: Grease 2 (dir by Patricia Birch)


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So, the whole reason that I watched Grease last week was so I would be prepared to watch the 1982 sequel Grease 2 over the weekend.  As I’ve mentioned many times on this site, I absolutely hate Grease and I know what you’re probably asking yourself:

“But Lisa, if you hate Grease so much, why did you want to see Grease 2?”

Well, there’s a very good answer to that question but I’m not going to reveal it.  I’m going to encourage you to learn to love the mystery.  For whatever reason, I wanted to watch Grease 2.  Perhaps it was because I’ve heard that Grease 2 is the worst sequel ever made.  I really didn’t see how that was possible.  How, I wondered, could a film be any worse than the original Grease?

And, so, I watched Grease 2 on Netflix and yes, it was really, really bad.  But you know what?  It was so bad that it became almost compulsively watchable.  Unlike the first Grease, which is full of slow spots, Grease 2 is oddly exciting in its mediocrity.  I watched much of it in open-mouthed horror, wondering if things could possibly get any worse.  And, with each scene, it did get worse.  It was so overwhelmingly and shamelessly bad and so thoroughly misguided that, strangely enough, I really want to rewatch it.

Grease 2 takes place in 1961.  There’s a whole new gang of students at Rydell High!  Well, actually, Frenchy (Didi Conn) has returned.  You may remember that, in the previous film, Frenchy dropped out of high school and went to beauty school.  (She was also visited by Satan, who came to her disguised as the Teen Angel.)  But now Frenchy is back, trying to pass a chemistry class so she can … well, I’m not really sure what the whole deal with Frenchy was.  I imagine that Didi Conn was probably free for a weekend.

The T-bird and the Pink Ladies are still around but they have a whole new membership.  The head of the Pink Ladies is Stephanie Zinone (played, in her film debut, by Michelle Pfeiffer).  Her boyfriend, Johnny Nogorelli (Adrian Zmed), is the chain-smoking leader of the T-birds.  Actually, Johnny is now her ex-boyfriend.  He cheated on her over the summer.

And there’s a new boy at Rydell!  He’s originally from England and he’s Sandy’s cousin!  His name is Michael Carrington (superhandsome Maxwell Caulfield, who is perhaps fated to always be best known for playing Rex Manning in Empire Records) and, when we first meet him, he’s getting off a school bus and he’s wearing a suit!  Michael really likes Stephanie but you have to be a T-bird if you’re going to date a Pink Lady and…

AGCK!

Sorry, that was a primal scream.  Trying to describe the plot of Grease 2 inspires a lot of primal screams.

Anyway, this is a film is also a musical but apparently, none of the original Grease composers were involved with the sequels.  All the songs kinda sound like something you would hear in a parody of Grease, as opposed to a sequel.  Also adding to bizarre feel of this sequel is that everyone delivers their lines as if they’re appearing in a stage production, projecting to the back of the theater and overenunciating every single syllable.  This may have made sense for Grease, which was adapted from an actual stage show and, despite efforts to open up the action, was still deliberately stagey.  Grease 2, meanwhile, is an adaptation of a stage show that never actually existed.

The film starts with a 7 minute production number called Back To School Again.  As the Pink Ladies and the T-birds and all the other students show up outside of Rydell, they sing, “Woe is me!  The Board of Education took away my parole.”  And the scene just keeps going and going, until you start to wonder if Rydell High is a cult compound.

This is followed by a song about bowling (!) that’s called “Score Tonight.”

And it just keeps getting worse from there.  The film becomes sickly fascinating as you find yourself trying to predict how much more worse it can possibly get.  You may be tempted to give up but you’ll definitely want to stick around for the scene in which Michael discovers that Stephanie wants a “cool rider.”  How does he know that?  She sings a song about it!

Naturally, Michael gets a motorcycle, a helmet, and pair of goggles and he starts to romance Stephanie.  Stephanie doesn’t know who that Michael is the mysterious motorcyclist, despite the fact that Michael is just wearing a helmet and a pair of goggles.  Though you have to admire Pfieffer’s commitment to her role (and she gives a fairly good performance, considering the material she was working with), you can’t help but feel that Stephanie might not be the smart.  Especially after she sings, “Who’s that guy?”

Uhmmm … it’s Michael.  It’s not like he’s dressed up like a bat or wearing the Iron Man armor.  He’s just got a helmet and goggles on.  Add to that, while Maxwell Caulfield doesn’t give a bad performance (he seems to be doing the best he can with what he’s been given to work with), he also doesn’t attempt to act any differently when he’s the mysterious motorcyclist than when he’s Michael.

There are other things going on as well.  The film is full of vignettes about life in 1961, all featuring the students and teachers at Rydell High.  For instance, former teen idol Tab Hunter shows up as a substitute teacher and sings a song about reproduction.

And again, it’s so bad that you can’t look away and you watch knowing that you’ll never get the images and the songs out of your head.  So compulsively watchable is this bad movie that I may have to watch it again after I finish this review.  (Then again, I’ll probably just rewatch the fifth season of Degrassi…)

(That said, I would actually argue that Grease 2 is a better directed film than the first Grease.  Grease 2 was directed by Grease‘s choreographer and, as opposed to the first film, the dance numbers are actually framed with modicum of care.)

(By the way, I’ve always wanted to use the phrase “modicum of care” in a review.)

Anyway, Grease 2 apparently bombed at the box office and, as a result, there have been no further Grease films.  It’s a shame because you so know that Grease 3 would have taken place in 1967 and featured hippies.

Oh well.

We’ll survive…

 

Music Video of the Day: Runaway Train by Soul Asylum (1993, dir. Tony Kaye)


You have to remember that this came out only a year or so after Jeremy by Pearl Jam and No Rain by Blind Melon. We also had America’s Most Wanted in full swing. The music video is partially made up of some scenes of the band playing mostly acoustic instruments while the lead singer does a better version of Eddie Vedder’s performance in Jeremy. The rest is made up of dramatizations of people running away/kidnapped, the consequences, and children’s pictures shown onscreen with their names and how long they have been missing.

The showing of actual missing kids led to some unintended results. It sounds like a good idea at first. I mean one of the members of Bone Thugs ‘N Harmony was found thanks to the TV Movie Adam (1983) that led to America’s Most Wanted, so why not? Well, if you hop over to the Wikipedia page, then you find out there were some bad things that happened as a result. In one case, the girl wasn’t actually missing, but had been killed and buried in the backyard by her mother. Another case was a girl who was forced back into a bad situation after having seen the music video. There are other details there too, such as the multiple versions of the music video with different kids in it. Some are still missing, while others have met unfortunate endings. It’s sad. Thankfully, according to the director, around 30 of the kids were found.

It is a classic both in song and video. It just also happens to be a sad case of the best of intentions turning sour for some.