Eurocomics Spotlight : “Blossoms In Autumn”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

There’s really so much to like about Belgian writer Zidrou and Dutch artist Aimee de Jongh’s Blossoms In Autumn, recently made available in a hardcover English translation from upstart UK small press powerhouse-in-the-making SelfMadeHero — the story of late-life romance between 59-year-old widower Ulysses, recently forced into early retirement from his job as a mover, and 62-year-old- former-model-turned-cheese-shop-owner Mediterranea is nothing if not absorbing, wistful, endearing (frequently in spite of itself), and gorgeously illustrated.

It’s also important in that it shines a light on a subject too often neglected by all media, yet rife with untapped potential and possibility — I mean, we all know lonely older folks need love too, maybe more than anybody, and yet the sexual and romantic lives of elders are constantly ignored by movies, television, literature, and comics. Go ahead and insert an “of course” after that last one, in fact, since this is…

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Goodnight, Vienna: THE THIRD MAN (British Lion 1949)


cracked rear viewer

I’m just gonna come right out and say it: THE THIRD MAN is one of the greatest movies ever made. How could it not be, with all that talent, from producers Alexander Korda and David O. Selznick, director Carol Reed , screenwriter Graham Green, and cinematographer Robert Krasker, to actors Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli , and Trevor Howard. It’s striking visuals, taut direction, and masterful acting transcend the film noir genre and make THE THIRD MAN one of the must-see films of 20th Century cinema.

The story starts simply enough, as American pulp novelist Holly Martins arrives in post-war Vienna to meet up with his old pal Harry Lime, only to learn that Harry was recently killed in a car accident. He attends the graveside service, meeting Harry’s mysterious actress girlfriend Anna Schmidt, and is quickly pulled down a rabbit hole of intrigue and deception involving the British…

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Film Review: Murder Mystery (dir by Kyle Newacheck)


There are actually two Adam Sandlers.

First, there’s the Adam Sandler that everyone knows.  This Adam Sandler is the comedian who has won multiple Razzie awards and who has produced and starred in some of the most critically derided comedies of all time.  This is the Adam Sandler who often seems to make movies specifically so he can either take a vacation or give some work to the less successful members of his entourage.  This is the Adam Sandler whose movies were cited as a tool of patriarchal oppression in the “cool girl” speech during Gone Girl.

And then there’s another Adam Sandler.  This Adam Sandler is a sad-eyed character actor who is probably one of modern cinema’s best portrayers of existential malaise.  This is the Adam Sandler who starred in movies like Punch-Drunk Love, Reign Over Me, Funny People, Spanglish, The Cobbler, Men, Women, and Children, and The Meyerowitz Stories.  Some of those films were very good and some of them, admittedly, were very bad but what they all had in common was that they featured Adam Sandler giving a surprisingly good dramatic performance.  In fact, if someone only saw Adam Sandler’s dramatic work (and not his work in films like Jack and Jill or Grown-Ups, to cite just two examples), they would be justified in assuming that Sandler was one of the most acclaimed actors around.  (One reason why we get so much more annoyed with Sandler’s bad comedies — as opposed to all the other equally bad comedies out there — is because we actually have evidence that Sandler’s capable of doing so much better.)

Unfortunately, almost all of Sandler’s dramatic films were box office disappointments.  Punch-Drunk Love is now widely viewed as being a classic but, when it was first released, it failed to even recoup its production budget at the box office.  Audiences consistently indicated they preferred silly Adam Sandler to dramatic Adam Sandler and so, Sandler continued to make silly theatrical films until even those started to bring in less money than they had before.

As of now, Sandler does most of his work for Netflix and the results have been mixed.  His performance in The Meyerowitz Stories was rightfully acclaimed while his comedies have been considerably less celebrated.  And then you have the just-released Murder Mystery, which seems to straddle the line between the two Sandlers.

On the one hand, Murder Mystery is just as silly and implausible as a typical Adam Sandler comedy.  Sandler plays a New York police officer named Nick Spitz.  Nick has failed his detective’s exam three times but that still hasn’t stopped him from telling his wife, Audrey (Jennifer Aniston), that he’s been promoted.  Nick’s living a lie and he deals with his guilt by taking Audrey on a long-promised trip to Europe.  On the flight over, Audrey meets the charming and wealthy Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans) who invites Audrey and Nick to a party on his family’s yacht.  The yacht is owned by billionaire Malcolm Quince (Terrence Stamp) and, when Malcolm’s murdered during the party, it’s up to fake Detective Nick to figure out who is responsible!

Was it the glamorous actress, Grace (Gemma Arterton)?  Or the handsome race car driver, Juan Carlos (Luis Gerardo Mendez)?  Or how about the genocidal warlord, Colonel Ulenga (John Kani)?  Of course, the local Interpol detective (Dany Boon) thinks that it was Nick and Audrey and he even threatens to reveal that Nick’s been lying about his job!  Can Nick and Audrey solve the murder and rekindle the romance of their stalled marriage?

As I said, it’s all pretty silly.  Most of the film’s humor comes from just how out-of-place Nck and Audrey are in the world of high society.  Audrey is excited because the murder mystery is just like the plot of one of the paperback novels that she likes to read.  Nick spends most of the movie trying to keep his wife from discovering the truth about his job.  While everyone else is scheming and plotting and trying to kill one another, Nick and Audrey are literally searching Wikipedia for information on all the suspects.  It’s dumb and occasionally amusing and it’s also rather innocent.  If your grandmother ever wants to watch a comedy with you, Murder Mystery would probably be the one to go with.  There’s nothing to offend grandma but, at the same time, the shots of Monaco and Italy are nice to look at and the film is occasionally amusing enough to hold your attention.

Interestingly, even though the film’s a silly comedy, Sandler gives one of his more grounded performances.  There’s no silly voices or sudden yelling or any of the typical Sandler shtick.  Instead, he’s rather subdued and it works for the film.  He and Jennifer Aniston (another performer who often seems to settle for material that’s beneath what she’s capable of) make for a likable and believable couple and they both play off each other well.

Murder Mystery is a likable, lightweight comedy.  It’s not necessarily something that you’re going to remember much about after you watch it, of course.  It’s not that type of film.  Instead, it’s a perfect Netflix film.  It’s entertaining but you can do other stuff while you’re watching it without having to worry about accidentally missing a brilliant moment of cinematic history.

As for Adam Sandler, he’s following this up with Uncut Gems, a crime drama from the Safdie Brothers.  The Safdie Brothers worked wonders with Robert Pattinson in 2017’s Good Time.  So, who knows?  This time next year, Adam Sandler could be the new Superman….

The Covers of North-West Romances


Artist Unknown

North-West Romances was a pulp magazine that was published, by Fiction House, from 1938 to 1953.  Like many pulp magazines, North-West Romances featured stories that combined adventure with romance.  Much like Ranch Romances, the majority of the stories in North-West Romances could be classified as westerns except, instead of taking place in the Wild West, they took place in the Northland, the famous Yukon area of Canada.  Instead of walking along dusty trails, the heroes in North-West Romances trudged across frozen tundra.  Instead of being ranchers, they were often gold prospectors.  Often times, the only thing standing in the way on the path to true love was a grizzly bear.

The covers for North-West Romances all featured typical western situations, reinterpreted for the Yukon.  Among the those who provided covers for the magazine during its run were notable pulp artists like George Gross, Norman Saunders, and Allen Gustav Anderson.  Below are just a few example of their work:

by Norman Saunders

by George Gross

by Allen Gustav Anderson

by George Gross

Unknown Artist

by Norman Saunders

by Allen Gustav Anderson

by Norman Saunders

by Allen Gustav Anderson

Unknown Artist

Better Drugs and Bigger Parties: The Dirt (2019, directed by Jeff Tremaine)


If you want to experience the sex, drugs, and rock and roll lifestyle, you could start a band, play some clubs, get signed to a record deal, go on tour, and eventually burn yourself out.  Of course, if that’s too much trouble or if you’re already older than 30, I guess you can just watch The Dirt on Netflix.

The Dirt is the latest band biopic.  This time the band is Mötley Crüe  and the film has all the usual VH1 Behind the Music style anecdotes.  Watch Nikki Sixx (Douglas Booth) nearly die of a heroin overdose!  Ponder how Tommy Lee (Chase “Machine Gun” Kelly) could have been stupid enough to cheat on Heather Locklear (Rebekah Graf)!  Listen as Mick Mars (Iwan Rhoen) refuses to tell how old he is!  Gasp as Vince Neil (Daniel Webber, giving the movie’s best performance) deals with tragedy after tragedy!  When you’re not watching Tommy Lee go down on a groupie or Nikki learning how to shoot dope, you can watch as Ozzy Osbourne (Tony Cavalero) snorts a line of ants and slurps up his own urine.  The movie is based on Mötley Crüe’s autobiography and the actors playing the members of the band take turns breaking the fourth wall and telling their story.  Nikki Sixx says, “We were a gang of fucking idiots!” and the movie seems to agree.  Nikki has always had a reputation for being the smartest member of Mötley Crüe.  Of course, when your main competition is Tommy Lee, that’s not too high of a bar to clear.

Especially when compared to other band biopics like Straight Outta Compton and Bohemian Rhapsody, The Dirt is shallow and overly episodic.  Nikki says that Mötley Crüe’s main concern was finding “better drugs and bigger parties,” and The Dirt is the same way.  It never digs too deep into the band’s music or the reasons why, for a period of time in the 80s, they were so popular.  The story is told by the members of the band so it often switches between being honest about the band’s history and making excuses for some of the members’s worst behavior, like when Tommy punches his first fiancee.  Fans of Mötley Crüe might enjoy seeing all of the stories about the band brought to life.  Meanwhile, those who didn’t care about Mötley Crüe before watching The Dirt will probably care even less after spending nearly two hours watching them act like self-destructive fools.  One thing that the movie gets undeniably correct: After all these years, Dr. Feelgood still rocks.

 

Music Video of the Day: Somebody Save Me by Cinderella (1986, directed by Mark Rezyka)


Today’s music video of the day comes from 1985, the year when anyone with big hair could be a rock star.

It starts with two women running down a hallway in Philadelphia.  Are they excited to see Cinderella, the generic glam rock band that had a few hits in the 80s just to be washed away, as so many similar bands were, by the arrival of grunge?

No, of course not!

The girls are excited because they’ve heard that Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora are in the building!  Bon Jovi and Sambora’s cameos are significant because Jon Bon Jovi was the person who initially discovered Cinderella and convinced PolyGram Records to sign them.  So, basically, this is all Bon Jovi’s fault.

To be honest, this video would probably be totally forgotten if not for it’s appearance on an episode of Beavis and Butthead:

Enjoy!