Cleaning Out the DVR #24: Crime Does Not Pay!

cracked rear viewer

We’re way overdue for a Cleaning Out the DVR post – haven’t done one since back in April! – so let’s jump right in with 4 capsule reviews of 4 classic crime films:

SINNERS’ HOLIDAY (Warner Brothers 1930; D: John Adolfi) – Early talkie interesting as the screen debut of James Cagney , mixed up in “the booze racket”, who shoots bootlegger Warren Hymer, and who’s penny arcade owner maw Lucille LaVerne covers up by pinning the murder on daughter Evalyn Knapp’s ex-con boyfriend Grant Withers. Some pretty racy Pre-Code elements include Joan Blondell as Cagney’s “gutter floozie” main squeeze. Film’s 60 minute running time makes it speed by, aided by some fluid for the era camerawork. Fun Fact: Cagney and Blondell appeared in the original Broadway play “Penny Arcade”; when superstar entertainer Al Jolson bought the rights, he insisted Jimmy and Joan be cast in the film version, and…

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Armed — And Dangerous? Alex Nall’s “Kids With Guns” #1

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Ostensibly the story of a friendship between 10-year-old Milo and his 80-year-old neighbor, Mel, the first issue of Alex Nall’s apparently-ongoing new self-published minicomics series, Kids With Guns, clearly aims to touch on much more, and goes about its business quickly but in a manner that’s no way forced — its title is as combustible as it is topical, and its interior contents are tailor-made to match. Where it’s all going is, at this early stage, an open question — but whether or not you’re going to want to follow Nall and his characters there? That’s a lead-pipe cinch early on.

Which isn’t the greatest metaphor for me to conjure up, I suppose — why bring a lead pipe to a gunfight? — but it’s late as I write this, and this comic has yet to worms its way out of my brain. Few cartoonists not named Schulz have…

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Music Video of the Day: Anxiety by Chastity (2019, dir by Justin Singer and Brandon Williams)

When you’ve got three ghosts following you around on a bicycle, it’s going to make you a little anxious.

Actually, in all seriousness, I’m sure everyone can relate to this video.  We all have our ghosts following us.


Lifetime Film Review: Undercover Cheerleader (dir by Danny J. Boyle)

Autumn (Kayla Wallace) has just transferred to a new high school and she has a decision to make.  At her old school, Autumn was the star of the dance team but it turns out that this new school doesn’t have a dance program.  Instead, it appears that Autumn is going to have to settle for either becoming a cheerleader or working on the school paper.

It’s a difficult decision and it was one to which I could automatically relate.  When I was in high school, I was constantly told that I should follow in my sister’s footsteps and try out for cheerleader.  I was also told that, with my big vocabulary and love of gratuitous sarcasm, I would be a natural for the school paper.  Myself, I didn’t want to be a cheerleader because I wanted to establish my own identity as opposed to just following in my sister’s footsteps.  At the same time, I didn’t want to join the paper because, as much as I love to write, I hate being edited.  I ultimately decided to do neither.  However, Autumn apparently has a bit more initiative than I did at that age because she decides to do both!

That’s right.  Autumn is going to try out for the squad and then she’s going to write anonymous articles about her experience for the newspaper!  She’s going to be an …. UNDERCOVER CHEERLEADER!

Autumn makes the squad and, not surprisingly, she discovers that there’s a lot to write about.  For instance, it turns out that that high school’s cheerleading coach is kind of a fascist who forces the cheerleaders to eat laxatives and who takes an immediate and irrational dislike to the only black girl on the squad.  The coach is also obsessed with controlling every aspect of her cheerleaders’s lives and it’s obvious that she’s less concerned with their well-being than she is with winning another championship.  She even forces one cheerleader to seriously injure herself for no apparent reason.

When Autumn’s first article comes out, the entire school is like, “Ewwwww!  Laxatives!?”  Everyone on the squad is trying to figure out who wrote the article.  Why they didn’t automatically suspect Autumn, who they already know is friends with the paper’s editor, I’m not sure.  While the article does get the coach in trouble, it also leads to a cheerleader power struggle and ultimately a murder.  This is a Lifetime movie, after all.

A lot happens in Undercover Cheerleader.  In fact, you could probably argue that too much happens in the movie.  It takes forever to get to that murder, which is unusual for a Lifetime film.  But no matter!  Undercover Cheerleader is a well-acted film and one that even has a few unexpected moments of wit.  Autumn is an interesting character because, even as she writing articles about how much it sucks to be a cheerleader, she’s also discovering that she likes the other members of the squad.  Kayla Wallace does a great job of capturing Autumn’s conflicted emotions about her assignment and she’s well-matched by Maddie Phillips and Ryan Grantham, who play two cynical student journalists.

If you’re a fan of Lifetime films, you should enjoy Undercover Cheerleader. 

Music Video of the Day: My Best Friend’s Girl by The Cars (1978, directed by ????)

On Sunday night, it was announced that Ric Ocasek, the co-lead singer and songwriter of the Cars, had died at the age of 75.  First Daniel Johnston.  Then Eddie Money.  And now Ric Ocasek.  We’ve lost some of the truly great ones this past week.

My Best Friend’s Girl is one of the many songs that Ocasek wrote and recorded as the lead singer of The Cars.  Sung from the point of view of a man whose girl has left him for his best friend, it was one of the Cars’s biggest hits and it continues to endure as one of the signature songs of the 70s and 80s.

Ric Ocasek, R.I.P.