Here’s The Trailer for Eli Roth’s Death Wish!


We all know that Chicago has one of the highest murder rates in the nation.  What is not so clear is what to do about it.

Now, some would argue that perhaps a good first step would be for Chicago voters to stop electing douchebags like Rahm Emanuel, reject the city’s political machine, and actually make the sacrifices necessary for actual reform while taking an honest look at the effects of systemic racism, police corruption, and the bloated municipal government.

You could do all that or you could just give Bruce Willis a gun and send him out on a murder spree.  Guess which solution Death Wish goes for?

This film, from Eli Roth, will be released on November 22nd.  I imagine our resident Charles Bronson experts, Gary Loggins and Jedadiah Leland, will have a lot to say about it.

A Movie A Day #122: The Lost Capone (1990, directed by John Gray)


Chicago.  1915.  Up-and-coming gangster Al Capone (Eric Roberts) berates his younger brother, Jimmy (Adrian Pasdar), for not being aggressive enough in a street fight.  Not wanting to follow his brothers into a life of organized crime, Jimmy runs away from home and eventually finds himself in Harmony, Nebraska.  Claiming to be a World War I vet named Richard Hart, Jimmy impresses everyone with both his marksmanship and his incorruptible nature.  Soon, the new Richard Hart has been named town marshal.  While Al Capone is taking over the Chicago rackets, Richard is keeping the town safe with his Native American deputy, Joseph Littlecloud (Jimmie F. Skaggs), and starting a family with the local school teacher, Kathleen (Ally Sheedy).  When illegal liquor from Chicago starts to show up on a nearby Indian reservation, Richard Hart comes into conflict with the Chicago Outfit and his secret is finally revealed.

There is a sliver of truth to this made-for-TV movie.  Al Capone really did have a brother named James, who ended up changing his name to Richard Hart and working as a prohibition agent in Nebraska.  Otherwise, the movie changes so many facts that it is hard to know where to begin.  In real life, Al and James Capone grew up in New York.  James, who was actually several years older than Al, ran away from home not to escape Al’s bullying but because he wanted to join the circus.  (Al was only 9 when James ran away.)  James changed his name to Richard Hart not to keep people from realizing that he was related to Al but because he admired silent screen cowboy William S. Hart.  Though James did work in law enforcement, he never came into conflict with Al Capone’s organization and, in fact, regularly visited Chicago.

The Lost Capone is a forgettable mix of western and gangster clichés, featuring a notably stiff performance from Adrian Pasdar in the lead role.  It does feature two of the strangest performances that I have ever seen.  Eric Roberts, complete with a phony scar, playing Al Capone is just as weird as it sounds, while Ally Sheedy plays a wholesome and always smiling teacher but delivers her lines in the same halting tone of voice that she used as the “basket case” in The Breakfast Club.

There is probably a good movie that could be made about the life of James Capone/Richard Hart but The Lost Capone is not it.

A Movie A Day #121: Frank Nitti: The Enforcer (1988, directed by Michael Switzer)


Everyone knows who Al Capone was but few people remember Frank Nitti.  Nicknamed “The Enforcer,” Nitti was Capone’s right-hand man.  When Big Al was sent to federal prison for not paying his taxes, Nitti was the one who kept things going in Chicago.  While Al was losing his mind in Florida, Nitti was the one who moved the Chicago Outfit away from prostitution and into the labor racket.  Today, if anyone remembers Frank Nitti, it is probably because of the scene in Brian DePalma’s The Untouchables where Eliot Ness tosses him off of a building.  In real life, Nitti survived the Untouchable era just to become one of the few crime bosses to die by his own hand.  In 1943, With the feds closing in on him, Nitti shot himself in a Chicago rail yard.

Frank Nitti: The Enforcer was a made-for-TV movie that told the story of Nitti’s life.  Broadcast a year after The Untouchables, Nitti is, in many ways, a direct refutation of DePalma’s film.  Eliot Ness never appears in the movie and is dismissed, by special prosecutor Hugh Kelly (Michael Moriarty), as being a publicity seeker.  Al Capone (Vincent Guastaferro) is ruthless and resents being called Scarface but he never hits anyone with a baseball bat.  In this movie, the only real villains are the Irish cops who harass Nitti (played by Anthony LaPaglia, in his American film debut) and Chicago’s ambitious mayor, Anton Cermak (Bruce Kirby).  Cermak orders a corrupt cop (Mike Starr) to shoot Nitti and the film implies that Cermak’s subsequent assassination was payback.

Though it sometimes tries too hard to portray its title character as just being a salt of the Earth family man who also happened to be the biggest mob boss in the country, Nitti is a good gangster film.  Michael Moriarty’s performance is a forerunner to his work on Law & Order and Trini Alvarado is lovely as Nitti’s wife.  Anthony LaPaglia gives a good performance in the lead role, with the film’s portrayal of Nitti as a ruthless but reluctant mob boss predating The Sopranos by a decade.

2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees


The 2016 inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have been announced and classic rock wins the majority; with Deep Purple, Cheap Trick, Chicago and Steve Miller. Getting a boost from ‘Straight Out of Compton‘, N.W.A. rounds out this years inductees.

Eligibility requirements:

To be eligible for induction as an artist (as a performer, composer, or musician) into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the artist must have released a record, in the generally accepted sense of that phrase, at least 25 years prior to the year of induction; and have demonstrated unquestionable musical excellence.” **

Deep Purple:

Waiting for more than 20 years, Deep Purple finally got the honor they deserved. Deep Purple has been listed as ‘Heavy Metal’, ‘Hard Rock’ and ‘Progressive’. Having sold over 100 million albums, they are one of the most influential bands of all time. The band has gone thru many line-up changes thru the years, and it will be interesting to see which members show up on stage.

Chicago:

Formed in 1967 Chicago pulled a brazen move with their first release,  Chicago Transit Authority being a double album, which went Multi-Platinum. Self-described as a “Rock and Roll band with Horns” Chicago has changed their sound thru the years, but remains one of the best selling and longest running bands of all time.

 

Cheap Trick:

Having preformed more than 5,000 shows, Cheap Trick is one of the most enduring bands of all times. Formed in 1973 they broke thru in Japan first, before the US, often referred to as the ‘American Beatles’. In 2007, the Illinois senate designated April 1st as Cheap Trick day as opposed to April fools day in honor of the band.

Steve Miller:

Although releasing his most notable hits with the ‘Steve Miller Band‘, Miller is being inducted alone. After a storied career, Miller may be ‘The Joker’ after all!

N.W.A.:

Pioneers and legends in the Rap and Hip-Hop genre, N.W.A.’s induction into the HOF is only the third Hip-Hop / Rap group to be let in. Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, MC Ren and the late Eazy-E were portrayed in this years Oscar nominated ‘Straight Outta Compton

Lyrics NSFW:

Snubs:

Among many left out this year were ‘The Cars‘, ‘Nine Inch Nails‘, ‘YES‘, ‘Janet Jackson‘ and ‘The Smiths‘.

The 31st Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place at the Barclays’ Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on April 8, 2016 and be filmed by HBO for a later broadcast.

**VIA https://rockhall.com/inductees/induction-process/

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #102: Chicago (dir by Rob Marshall)


ChicagopostercastIt’s strange to refer to a best picture winner as being underrated but that’s exactly the perfect description for the 2002 film Chicago.

When Chicago was named the best picture of 2002, it was the first musical to take the top prize since The Sound of Music won in 1965.  Until the box office success and Oscar triumph of Chicago, it was assumed by many that a musical had to be animated in order to be successful.  After Chicago won, the conventional wisdom was changed.  Dreamgirls, Nine, Rock of Ages, Hairspray, Jersey Boys,  Into the Woods, Les Miserables, none of these films would have been produced if not for the success of Chicago.  It’s also due to Chicago that television networks are willing to take chances on shows like Glee and Smash.  And while I think a very valid argument could be made that we would all be better off without Glee, Smash, and Rock of Ages, you still can not deny that Chicago both challenged and changed the conventional wisdom.

And yet, despite its success and its continuing influence, Chicago is one of those best picture winners that often seems to get dismissed online.  Some of that’s because, by winning best picture, Chicago defeated not only The Two Towers (which is arguably the best installment in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy) but also Roman Polanski’s searing masterpiece, The Pianist.  Critics often point out that The Pianist won for best adapted screenplay, best actor, and best director but Chicago somehow managed to win best picture.  They suggest that the Academy was either worried about the implications of giving best picture to a film directed by Roman Polanski or else they were blinded by Chicago‘s razzle dazzle.  They argue that Chicago was merely an adaptation of an iconic stage production, whereas The Pianist and The Two Towers were both the result of visionary directors.

Well, to be honest, I think those critics do have a point.  The Pianist is one of the most emotionally devastating films that I have ever seen.  The Two Towers is the perfect mix of spectacle and emotion.  And yet, with all that in mind, I still love Chicago.

And it’s not just because of scenes like this:

Or this:

Or even this scene of Richard Gere tap dancing:

If you’ve been reading this site for a while then you know my bias.  You know that I grew up dancing.  You know that I love to dance.  And you know that I automatically love any film that features a dance number.  And, since you know my bias, you may be thinking to yourself, “Well, of course Lisa likes this….”  And you’re right.

But you know what?  Even if nobody danced a step in this film, I would still enjoy it.  (Though it would be odd to see a musical with absolutely no dancing.)  Chicago is not just about spectacle.  Instead, it tells a very interesting story, one that is probably even more relevant today than when the film was first released.

Set in 1924, Chicago tells the story of Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger).  Married to the decent but boring Amos (John C. Reilly), Roxie wants to be a star.  She has an affair with slrazy Fred Casely (Dominic West), believing that he has showbiz connections.  When Fred finally admits to her that he lied in order to sleep with her, Roxie reacts by murdering him.  Because Roxie is pretty and blonde and claims to have been corrupted by the big, bad, decadent city, she becomes a celebrity even while she sits in jail and awaits trial.

Also in the jail is Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a nightclub singer who killed her husband and sister.  Roxie idolizes Velma but, after Velma snubs her, a rivalry forms between the two.  Roxie hires Velma’s lawyer, the slick Billy Flynn (Richard Gere).  During the trial, Roxie becomes even more popular, Velma grows jealous, and the only innocent women on death row — a Hungarian who can’t speak English — is ignored and executed because she doesn’t make for a good news story.

Chicago is a cynical and acerbic look at both the mad pursuit of celebrity and the pitfalls of the American justice system.  In its way, it’s the film that predicted the Kardashians.  (If Roxie had been born several decades later, it’s not difficult to imagine that she’d build her career off of a sex tape as opposed to murder.)  Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones are both sociopathic marvels in their respective roles.  Even Richard Gere, who, in other films, can come across as being oddly empty, is perfectly cast and surprisingly witty in the role of Billy.

Director Rob Marshall does a great job of making this stage adaptation feel truly cinematic.  At no point does Chicago feel stagey.  Perhaps Marshall’s smartest decision was to tell the entire film through Roxie’s eyes.  Every musical lives and dies based on whether it can convince the audience that it would perfectly natural for everyone onscreen to suddenly break out into song.  Chicago is convincing because, of course, Roxie would view her life as being a musical.

And did I mention that the film features a lot of great dancing?

Because it so seriously does….

So, yes, it can be argued that Chicago beat out some worthier films for the title of best picture of the year.  But, regardless, it’s still a good and memorable film.

Something Horrific That Was Found On YouTube: The 1987 Max Headroom Incident


This is something that I came across on YouTube about a year ago.  Apparently, way back in 1987, person unknown managed to hijack the signal of Chicago television station.  The end result can be viewed below.

Personally, I find this video to be … well, disturbing.  And kinda scary, though not as scary as this one time in Arkansas when I was walking along these train tracks and I nearly placed my foot right into the middle of the mushy, maggot-ridden remains of a dog that had apparently been hit by a train.  (Agck!  Now, that was scary….)  I also find it kinda sad that somebody went through all the trouble to hijack a television signal (which I assume is not easy) and this is why they did it.

Anyway, Halloween seems to be the perfect time to share this video.  Not only does it feature a guy in a mask but it’s also one of those mysterious events that make Halloween a holiday worth celebrating.  So, without further jibber jabbering on my part, here is the 1987 Max Headroom Incident:

Let’s Second Guess The Academy: 2002 Best Picture


Hi there and welcome to the latest edition of Let’s Second Guess The Academy.  Previously, we second-guessed the Academy’s choice for best picture of 1990, 1994, and 1998.  It seems only fitting that we now jump ahead another 4 years and reconsider the race for best picture of 2002.

In 2002, the Academy nominated five films for best picture.  Those films were Chicago, Gangs of New York, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Pianist, and The Hours.  They ultimately named Chicago the best film of 2002.  Were they right?

And now, here’s my favorite part of second guessing the Academy.  What if none of the five nominated films had been released in 2002?  Which other films would you have nominated?  Below is a list of some of 2002’s most acclaimed and memorable films.  You can vote for up to 10 replacement nominees and write-in votes are allowed.

As always, have fun!