This Is What A Mountain Of Coke And A Deal With HBO Will Get You: Disco Beaver From Outer Space (dir by Joshua White)


So, this happened:

Every Saturday, I get together with my friends in the Late Night Movie Gang and we watch a movie.  I’m usually the one who picks the movie.  I usually try to pick something fun and kinda silly.  For instance, every Christmas, we watch Santa Claus Conquers The Martians.  Last week, we watched Tobor The Great.  And this week, I selected a 51-minute program from 1978.  The name of that program?

Disco Beaver From Outer Space.

Now, I have to admit that this was one of the rare instances where I didn’t actually bother to watch the entire movie before selecting it.  I did watch the first five minutes on YouTube.  It featured someone in a beaver costume walking around New York City and eating stuff while disco music played in the background.  That was all I needed to see.

An alien beaver eating New York!?  I thought, Disco music!?  How could this possibly go wrong!?

Add to that, the movie only had 51 minute run time.  Even if it’s terrible, I thought, at least it won’t be long!

However, once the film started, I discovered that 51 minutes can be a very long time indeed.  Unfortunately, it turned out that the beaver wasn’t actually in much of the film.  He showed up at the start of the movie and then he popped up in the middle and finally, he showed up again at the end.  That the beaver was cute and came with his own disco song made it all the more regretful that he wasn’t in more of the film.

Anyway, it turned out that the film itself was a collection of vaguely connected sketches.  The idea was that a husband and wife were looking for something to watch and , as a result, they kept changing the channel.  One channel featured a country western singer.  Another channel was showing Masterpiece Theater.  And then there was this movie about a vampire called Dragula.

The joke about Dragula was that he was gay and … well, that was pretty much it.  Dragula was gay and everyone he bit turned gay and eventually Lynn Redgrave showed up as Dr. Vanessa Van Helsing and she managed to destroy Dragula.  If you think this sounds homophobic … well, it was.  When the humor wasn’t homophobic, it was misogynistic.  I’ve always been proud of the fact that I’m not easily offended and I’ve never been the type to need a safe space but I have to admit that I spent the majority of Disco Beaver cringing.  Of course, the problem wasn’t that the humor was politically incorrect.  The problem was that the majority of it just wasn’t that funny.

Disco Beaver was produced, for HBO, by National Lampoon.  In fact, HBO was only 6 years old when it broadcast Diso Beaver so I’m going to assume that this may have been one of the first original programs ever specifically made for the network.  Perhaps that explains why the entire production has a sort of “look how naughty we can be on cable!” feel to it.  “We just dropped the F bomb!  Here’s a whole skit about breasts!  And now, here’s a  skit about how to spot a homosexual.  We’re so daring!”

From the minute that Disco Beaver started, I felt as if I could literally hear the coke being cut backstage.  How many lines of cocaine were snorted over the course of the making of Disco Beaver?  Remember that scene at the end of Scarface where Al Pacino had a mountain of white powder on his desk?  I imagine that’s what the Disco Beaver production office looked like.

Anyway, we survived Disco Beaver and, at the end of it, we swore that we would never speak of it again.  And I learned a very valuable lesson!  Always watch the entire movie!

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 05/13/2018 – 05/19/2018, Special Whit Taylor Edition


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

New York-based cartoonist Whit Taylor recently sent me a package of her superb wares, so let’s take them all in chronological order so you might be introduced (if you’re not already) to this unique and compelling voice who’s definitely making her presence felt on the independent/small press/self-publishing landscape. Ms. Taylor, this week’s column is all yours —

Ghost is a high-quality, squarebound, full-color little book that Taylor self-published in 2015 featuring a triptych of stories about her meeting three of her all-time heroes : Charles Darwin, Joseph Campbell, and — well, that would be telling. Suffice to say that her first two meetings help give her the fortitude necessary for the third, and that in the third she finds the inner strength to not only come to terms with some very harrowing and unpleasant experiences that have left an indelible mark upon her life, but to hopefully grow from them…

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Here’s The Trailer For This Year’s Winner of the Palme d’Or, Shoplifters!


So, in case your curious about the film that just won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes film festival, here is the trailer for Kore-eda Hirokazu’s Shoplifters.  Magnolia Pictures has obtained the rights to release this film in North America but, as far as I know, it still doesn’t have an American release date.

(If I’m wrong about the lack of a definite release deate, please feel free to correct me in the comments.)

Here’s the plot of the film, according to Wikipedia:

In Tokyo, Osamu Shibata is married to Nobuyo, who live in poverty. Osamu receives occasional employment and Nobuyo has a low-paying job, but the family relies in large part on the grandmother’s pension. Osamu takes his son Shota shoplifting for groceries, and discover a girl, Yuri, homeless. Osamu takes Yuri to their home, where the family informally adopts her. However, the Tokyo police, aware Yuri is missing, begin to search for her.

And here’s the trailer!

Guilty Pleasure No. 36: The Legend of Billie Jean (dir by Matthew Robbins)


Two weeks ago, while I was sick in bed, I watched The Legend of Billie Jean, a deeply silly movie from 1985.

Okay, get this.  Billie Jean (Helen Slater) and her younger brother, Binx (an incredibly young Christian Slater), live in Corpus Christi, Texas.  Binx has always wanted to go to Vermont.  That right there should tell you just how silly this movie is.  Not only does it feature a character named Binx but it also features Texans wanting to go to Vermont.  I’m a native Texan who loves to travel but I can tell you right now that the last place I would ever want to go would be Vermont.  In fact, down here, we tend to assume that Vermont’s just a place that was made up by the media.  Bernie Sanders?  He’s just an actor.  Seriously, there’s no way that Vermont actually exists.

Anyway, after Binx throws a milkshake in the face of local bully, Hubie Pyatt (Barry Tubb), Hubie steals Binx’s scooter.  (If you’re stuck with a name like Hubie Pyatt, it seems kinda predestined that you’re going to grow up to be a bully.)  After getting nowhere with the police, Billie Jean returns home to discover that Binx has been beaten up and his scooter has been dismantled.  Billie Jean goes to Hubie’s father (Richard Bradford) to demand some money to get the scooter fixed.  Mr. Pyatt responds by attempting to assault Billie Jean, which leads to Binx shooting Mr. Pyatt in the shoulder.

So now, Billie Jean and Binx are on the run.

Joining them in their flight are two idiot friends (Martha Gehman and Yeardley Smith) and Lloyd (Keith Gordon), the son of the local district attorney.  Because this is a movie, Billie Jean quickly becomes a media superstar.  Everyone wants to meet Billie Jean.  Everyone wants to help Billie Jean.  A sympathetic police detective (Peter Coyote) is determined to capture Billie Jean without violence but that might be difficult with the media constantly getting in the way.

While hiding out in a motel, Billie Jean turns on the TV and watches the classic 1928 silent film, The Passion of Joan of Arc.  (I have to say that I’ve stayed in a few motels around Corpus Christi and never once did I turn on the TV and just happen to come across a classic silent movie.)  Moved by Renee Falconetti’s performance in the lead role, Billie Jean decides to cut her hair really, really short (though not as short as Falconetti’s).  I guess Billie Jean is supposed to be a 1980s version of Joan of Arc, which really doesn’t make any sense.  I mean, Joan of Arc heard the voice of God and led the French to victory over the British.  Billie Jean is just trying to get some money to get her brother’s scooter fixed and pay for a trip to the imaginary state of Vermont.

Meanwhile, Mr. Pyatt has recovered from his wounds and is now selling Billie Jean merchandise in his store.  The detective mentions how weird that is but Mr. Pyatt is just out to make some money.  Can you blame him?  The entire country is obsessed with Billie Jean!

As you might have guessed, The Legend of Billie Jean is incredibly silly but likable.   Despite having an inconsistent Texas accent, Helen Slater does a good job in the lead role of Billie Jean and it’s interesting to actually see Christian Slater before he developed the sarcastic style that, for better or worse, has come to define pretty much all of his performances.  Never for a second do you believe that Billie Jean would actually become a media superstar.  (Nor do you ever believe that she’s the type who would have the patience to watch a silent movie.)  I mean, when you get right down to it, it’s a pretty dumb movie.  But, when you’re sick in bed, The Legend of Billie Jean is a perfectly acceptable way to pass the time.

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight
  27. Sex Decoy: Love Stings
  28. Swimfan
  29. On the Line
  30. Wolfen
  31. Hail Caesar!
  32. It’s So Cold In The D
  33. In the Mix
  34. Healed By Grace
  35. Valley of the Dolls

Film Review: Tobor The Great (dir by Lee Sholem)


Last week, along with my friends and fellow members of the Late Night Movie Gang, I watched the 1954 sci-fi film, Tobor The Great.

As you can probably tell by looking at the top of this review, Tobor came with a really great poster.  It’s a poster that promises all sorts of sci-fi thrills and chills.  It screams, “B-movie masterpiece!”  You look at that poster and you think to yourself, This film is probably extremely silly but I absolutely have to watch it!

Of course, if you know anything about the B-movie aesthetic of the 50s and 60s, you won’t be shocked to learn that the poster has next to nothing to do with the actual film.  True, there is a robot is featured in the film.  The poster is honest about that.  And Tobor actually looks just as good in the movie as he does on the poster.  And there is a subplot about space travel but, at no point, do we see Tobor walking across the surface of Neptune or Jupiter or wherever it is that Tobor is supposed to be in this poster.  Maybe he’s on one of the moons of Saturn.  Who knows?

Also, at no point, does Tobor carry around a woman.  In fact, Tobor is pretty much a film for kids.  The main character, other than Tobor, is an 11 year-old boy named Gadge (Billy Chapin).  I can only imagine how audiences reacted when they went into the film expecting to see the scene in the poster and instead, they were confronted with a movie about a little boy and his robot.

Tobor is one of those films that opens with several minutes of stock footage.  Rockets take off.  The stars shine in the sky.  Scientists and engineers do stuff.  It all looks pretty impressive but, of course, none of it was actually shot for this film.  In fact, the use of all that stock footage mostly serves to highlight how cheap the rest of the movie looks.

As for the film’s plot, it has apparently been determined that it’s too dangerous to send humans into space.  So, Professor Nordstrom (Taylor Holmes) and Dr. Harrison (Charles Drake) build a robot that is specifically designed to fly an interstellar craft.  They name their creation Tobor, because that’s robot spelled backwards.  (Tobor even points out that his name is robot spelled backwards.)  In order to help Tobor explore the universe, they design him to be able to simulate human emotions.  In fact, they’re so successful at it that Tobor ends up befriending Nordstrom’s grandson, the aforementioned Gadge.

The press and the military are all very impressed with Tobor.  Unfortunately, it’s the 1950s and that means that the communists are impressed by Tobor as well!  Can the scientists and their families keep Tobor from getting abducted by a bunch of Russian agents!?  Let’s hope so because there’s a lot of space that needs to be explored….

Anyway, Tobor The Great is silly but kind of fun.  It has its slow spots but it also has a really cool robot and it’s always fun to watch the commies get thwarted.  It’s a real time capsule film, one that not only reflects the decade in which it was made but which also has a somewhat charming innocence to it.  If nothing else, it’s nice to think that, in the days before CGI, the filmmakers actually had to make a Tobor of their own.  Apparently, Tobor is currently in a private collection and I hope whoever has him is treating him well.

Here’s The Trailer for Mission: Impossible — Fallout!


We’re a few days later in sharing this but, as always, it’s better to be late than never!

Say what you will about Tom Cruise.  He’s definitely an actor who I have mixed feelings about.  On the one hand, he’s got undeniable talent and, whenever I watch him in a good movie (like Edge of Tomorrow), I’m surprised to be reminded of just how compelling he can be onscreen.  (Hell, I’d even defend his performance in The Mummy.)  On the other hand, I have some friends who flat-out refuse to watch anything that feature Cruise, specifically because they find the whole Scientology thing to just be too creepy.

But, with all that in mind, the Mission: Impossible films have consistently been exciting and entertaining.  While Daniel Craig’s James Bond spends all of his time drowning in self-pity, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt reminds us of why we love spy films in the first place.

Here’s the trailer for Mission Impossible — Fallout!  This film will be in theaters on July 17th.

 

Bond Goes Deep!: THUNDERBALL (United Artists 1965)


cracked rear viewer

THUNDERBALL, the fourth 007 adventure, will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s the first James Bond movie I saw at the theater, released at the height of the Secret Agent/Spy craze, and I was totally hooked! I even had all the toys that went with the movie, including Emilio Largo’s two-part boat the Disco Volante, with which I engaged in mighty battles in the bathtub against VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA’s Seaview (hey, I was only seven!).

SPECTRE is at it again, this time hijacking a NATO jet loaded with two nuclear bombs, and holding the world hostage. Bond, sent to recuperate at a health spa, stumbles on to trouble related to the crisis, and is sent by MI6 to investigate Domino Derval, sister of the NATO pilot. This leads 007 to Domino’s “guardian” Emilio Largo, a rich and powerful man who’s Number Two…

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Here’s The Trailer For Shock and Awe (which appears to deliver little of either)


Here’s the trailer for Shock and Awe, which is apparently a film about the media at the start of the Iraq War.

Don’t get too excited.  It was directed by Rob Reiner, who hasn’t done anything worthwhile in quite some time.  To be honest, this sounds like exactly the type of project that will bring out all of Reiner’s worst, most middlebrow instincts as a filmmaker.

But who knows?  At least Tommy Lee Jones is in it.

Here’s The Super Scandalous Red Band Trailer For The Happytime Murders!


So, at the start of this year, I thought that The Happytime Murders might be a one of those surprising, no-one-saw-it-coming Oscar nominees.  The film takes place in a world where both humans and puppets co-exist, though puppets are treated like second class citizens.  The film is a murder mystery but, obviously, the plot would seem to suggest that there’s a possibility that there could be a lot more going on underneath the surface.

Then I watched the trailer.

And … yeah, it’s probably not going to be an Oscar nominee.  The Academy has changed a lot of over the last few years but I still don’t know if they’re ready to embrace a film that features muppet jizz.  The trailer for this one so reminded me of Sausage Party that I was shocked to discover that Seth Rogen is not in the film.

However, Joel McHale is!  He’s so adorable.

Also, I noticed that the trailer bragged about being from the same people behind the recent Muppets TV show.  Uhmm … I’ll have to ask Leonard for sure, because I think he’s the only TSLer who regularly watched it, but didn’t everyone hate that show?

Anyway, here’s the red band trailer for The Happytime Murders!  If you have kids, be sure to take them.  You know how much kids love puppets…

 

Film Review: Fahrenheit 451 (dir by Francois Truffaut)


Tonight, HBO will be premiering a film version of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.  This version will star Michael B. Jordan as “fireman” Guy Montag and Michael Shannon as Montag’s boss, Captain Beatty.  It’s one of the more eagerly anticipated films of the current television season but it’s not the first version of Fahrenheit 451 to be filmed.

The first version was released, by Universal Pictures, in 1966.  It was the first (as well as only) English langauge film to be directed by the great French filmmaker, Francois Truffaut.  (It was also Traffaut’s first color film, allowing the flames to burn in bright yellow and red.)  Unfortunately, Truffaut would later describe the film as being his “saddest and most difficult” film making experience.

Though there are a few noticeable differences, the film sticks closely to the plot of Bradbury’s novel.  Guy Montag (Oskar Werner) is a “fireman” in the near future.  Montag lives in a society where books have been banned and the populace is kept to docile through a combination of pharmaceuticals and mindless television programming.  Montag’s wife, Linda (Julie Christie), is content to live life without questioning anything.  However, when Montag meets a school teacher named Clarisse (also played by Christie), all of his previous assumptions are challenged.  What if the government isn’t always right?  What if ignorance isn’t bliss?  What would happen if, instead of burning books, Montag actually read one?  After witnessing a woman choosing to self-immolate herself so that she can die with all of her books, Montag is finally ready to quit being a fireman.  But his captain (Cyril Cusack) tells Montag that he needs to go on one more call, this one to Montag’s own house.

Truffaut’s film leaves out most of the overly sci-fi elements of Bradbury’s original novel.  For instance, in the novel, Montag is terrified of the robots dogs that the firemen use but the dogs never appear in Truffaut’s film.  As well, Traffaut totally eliminates the character of Faber, the former English professor who uses a portable communicator to keep in contact with Montag.  (Today, of course, that hardly seems like science fiction.)  In Truffaut’s film, the setting is designed to appear as contemporary and familiar as possible, a reminder that the story may have been sent in the future but that the issues it dealt with were relevant to the present.  With this film, Truffaut asked the audience, “How different is the world today from the world of Bradbury’s novel?”

Truffaut’s other big departure from Bradbury’s text was to cast Julie Christie as both Clarisse and Linda.  In the book, Montag’s wife was named Mildred and Bradbury went of out of his way to establish her as being the exact opposite of Clarisse.  In Truffaut’s film, the double casting of Christie seems to suggest that Clarisse and Linda are two sides of the same character.  Montag loves them both, though each appeals to a different part of Montag’s psyche.  Linda appeals to the side of Montag that wants to just accept things the were they are and be happy.  Clarisse, meanwhile, represents the part of Montag that wants to be free to feel everything, even if it means occasionally being unhappy or uncertain.  When Montag finally meets the Book People, he discovers that they are just as fanatical about memorizing and reciting books as Linda was about watching her television shows.  Was this intentional on Truffaut’s part, a suggestion that both the government and the rebels are, like Clarisse and Linda, two sides of the same coin?

It’s an intriguing but uneven movie.  Truffaut apparently didn’t have a great working relationship with Oskar Werner and, at times, Werner doesn’t seem to be particularly invested in the role of Montag.  (Interestingly enough, it’s also been suggested that Jacqueline Bisset’s character in Day For Night was inspired by Truffaut’s experiences working with Julie Christie in this film.)  When the characters interact, the dialogue sometimes feel stiff and dull, as if Truffaut never got over his discomfort with having to direct a film in something other than his native French.  At the same time, the film is full of hauntingly beautiful images, from the defiant woman standing in the middle of her burning books to the Book People walking through the snow.  Truffaut makes brilliant use of color and the visuals are often strong enough to overcome even Oskar Werner at his most sullen.

Fahrenheit 451 is an imperfect movie but one worth seeing.  Will the new HBO version be able to match it?  We’ll find out soon enough.