Thursday, June 28, 2007

dvd review: the lucille ball collection

Lucy and Henry Fonda in The Big Street
She was a television icon, a gifted comedienne, and a lovely talent that worked in all of the entertainment mediums of the 20th century. She was and still is beloved by Americans, and her popularity continues. Her television show still runs in syndication across the nation today... over fifty years after it's initial debut. Of course, I'm talking about Lucille Ball. Lucy may be more remembered for her television show with Desi, but she enjoyed a long career in films and radio before she first appeared on the small screen in 1951. Last week Warner Home Video released a five disc DVD set of some of the films from her career that will give you a different side of Lucy and will definitely illustrate how versatile and talented she was. Is the set worth your hard earned cash? Is it a Shelf Classic, or should you even bother. Find out in today's Shelf DVD review of The Lucille Ball Film Collection!

The hard facts:
Lucille Ball Film Collection
Five Discs in Snap Cases
Studio: Warner Home Video
B&W /Color (Technicolor)
Release Date: June 19, 2007
Rated: PG for Mame, NR for rest
All Films Star: Lucille Ball

Lucille Ball was born and bred in New York, and by the age of 15 had left home for the bright lights of Broadway. She didn't find success initially, and instead turned to modeling which eventually helped get her first on screen job as a "Goldwyn Girl", singers and dancing girls backing up the main stars in featured attractions. She received a contract with RKO and appeared in small parts and supporting roles in such films as Top Hat and Follow the Fleet and even appeared in a Three Stooges Short, Three Little Pigskins. Soon she was getting bigger parts and getting noticed. Her comic flair and beauty is evident in roles in the Marx Brother's classic Room Service and in Stage Door with Katherine Hepburn.

It was her performance in Stage Door, and perhaps her turn as arrogant nightclub chanteuse Gloria Lyons in The Big Street, helped gain her more acclaim and attention and led to bigger roles. She eventually left RKO and then signed with MGM in the early 1940s. The movies were better and she had better parts, but she never enjoyed "A" star status during the 40s. The pictures during this time really show her evolution as a performed and Technicolor didn't hurt her career either. Although performing as a blond, her first picture in color, Du Barry Was a Lady, was as a red head. Her hair was died flaming red specifically for the picture, but was a sensation and eventually became something of a trademark. She was known as "Technicolor Tessie". It was also during this time that she met and married Desi Arnaz after they worked together in the film Too Many Girls. I

It wasn't until she found success on the radio, on the show My Favorite Husband, that the big doors started to open. CBS came knocking on Lucy's door with an interest in creating a television show based on My Favorite Husband. Lucy agreed, but insisted that Desi play the part of her husband, and that they incorporate part of his background as a bandleader into the show. Lucy was not only a shrewd business woman, but was also seeking to strengthen her now strained marriage. CBS was reluctant, so Lucy and Desi formed the production company Desilu, and produced the pilot themselves. CBS saw the pilot and the success that Lucy and Desi had in testing the show out on tour and signed them to a contract. I Love Lucy was born.

I Love Lucy became more than just a hit, it was an institution. It is also evidence, not only of Lucy's talent, but also of her show business acumen. Desilu pioneered using film instead of kinescope, to produce the shows, which eventually led to the concept of rerunning shows later in the season or during hiatus. The show also led the way to syndication. Lucy was the first female head of a Production company, and was very successful at it. The success of the show also led to starring roles in more films, but more often than not, comedies. She made several films with Bob Hope and also re teamed with Henry Fonda in the classic Yours, Mine and Ours.

The Films:
This set gives a great look at the span of Lucille Ball's career in films, from supporting role to starring roles, to entertainment icon. The DVD set includes five films:

Dance, Girl Dance (1940, RKO)
Also Stars: Maureen O’Hara, Ralph Bellamy and Louis Hayworth
Director: Dorothy Arznar
This film is sort of a potboiler romance film that centers on the story of two competitive women who love to dance. Maureen O'Hara is Judy who loves to dance for the art and joy of it, but her friend Bubbles (Lucy) loves to dance for the fame and money it can bring. They have started out as part of a dance company of girls finding work at dives here or there, but eventually Bubbles finds success in burlesque and strip tease . She changes her name to Tiger Lily and is propelled into fame and fortune. Meanwhile Judy is scraping buy, never really pushing herself forward, but hoping for a chance. When Bubbles comes by offering a part in her show, Judy accepts. However, she doesn't realize the part is that of a "stooge" to dance a ballet in between Tiger Lily's performances to build up the hype. Even when faced with this humiliation, Judy decides to continue in the job for the money, but also not to back down from Bubbles.

Eventually a man that the girls briefly met sometime ago, and both liked, comes back into the picture. Jimmy Harris is wealthy, but also has been divorced by a woman he still loves. Naturally this complicates things and eventually Judy and Bubbles lock horns over everything between them. Ralph Bellamy appears in his typical "Nice Guy" guy role as a producer of a serious dance company who is interested in signing Judy and sees her real talent. It's a pleasant enough film, but overstays its welcome about half way through. The plot is conventional enough, and everyone performs well. Maureen O'Hara has none of her trademark spark until the very end of the film, but Lucy takes the opportunity to vamp up her role considerably. Ralph Bellamy is fairly flat, but Louis Hayward must have decided to make up for Bellamy by going in the opposite direction. He is too ham-handed when he's on screen; he's either low or high- nothing in-between. What makes this picture stand out is that Lucy's singing voice isn't dubbed, and her singing and dance numbers are quite enjoyable. The film's themes are expressed well; about men's perception of women, chasing your dreams, and the difficulties of women making their way in the world.

Extras: The DVD includes the comedy short, Just a Cute Kid and the delightful Warner Brothers cartoon: Malibu Beach Party. Malibu Beach Party is a Hollywood characiture cartoon that centers on Jack Benny (called Jack Bunny in the cartoon) giving a beach party for all his Hollywood films. It's nice to see this on DVD.

The Big Street (1942, RKO)
Also Stars: Henry Fonda, Eugene Palette, Agnes Morehead, Louise Beavers and Sam Levene
Director: Irving Reis
This Damon Runyon story includes a lovable cast of characters of low level con men, bookies, nightclub hang abouts and gamblers who have that Runyonesque heart of gold. Henry Fonda plays "Little Pinks", a busboy who has a eternal crush on nightclub singer Gloria Lyons. The problem is that haughty Gloria has a mobster boyfriend and turns her nose up at anyone who doesn't reek of money. When Pinks saves her beloved dog, Gloria repays the favor by getting him hired at her boyfriend's nightclub. Pink jumps at the chance and waits on her hand and foot.

Things take a more drastic course when Gloria's boyfriend smacks her down some stairs, which leaves Gloria with out the use of her legs. Soon Gloria is also without a job, money or even her former rich friends. Pinks never leaves her side and, with the help of his friends, is able to get Gloria treated and out of the hospital and into a room in his building. All the while he keeps up the notion that Gloria is loved and admired and missed by her former circle of friends. Pink's own friends see how much Gloria takes advantage of and orders Pinks around and they resent her for it. But when Pinks comes calling for help, they can't give up helping her for his sake. Eventually Pinks gets Gloria to Palm Beach to bask in the sun for her health, but also because she believes that a former suitor is waiting for her and is going to marry her. It isn't long before she begins to see the truth, and the icy exterior begins to crack, but it may all be a little too late.

This is an enjoyable, funny, sad and charming melodrama. I hadn't seen it in many years, and it was better than I remember. The primary reason is the supporting cast, who do a wonderful job in bringing these rascally lovable characters of assorted "guys" and "dolls" to the screen. Sam Levene is a favorite as Horsethief (you may remember him from all sorts of roles, including a recurring role as Lieutenant Abrams in The Thin Man movie series), and one of my favorite character actors, Eugene Pallette steals the show as Nicely Nicely. Agnes Moorehead (looking very different from her famous role as Bewitched's Endora) has a nice role as the voice of sentiment and reason as Violette. Fonda and Ball doing an excellent job, essentially playing against type, as the timid Pinks and the egotistical Gloria. All in all an excellent, enjoyable film.

Extras: Includes the musical short Calling All Girls (essentially a look at casting girls as chorus girls in musical shows) and the classic Warner Brothers cartoon The Hep Cat.

DuBarry Was a Lady (1943, MGM)
Also Stars: Red Skelton, Gene Kelly, Virginia O’Brien and Tommy Dorsey Director: Roy Del Ruth
This is MGM's first color musical, and it's very lavish. Adapted from the Cole Porter Broadway Musical, this is the story of Louis (Red Skelton), a hat check boy at a night club who is in love with the singer and star of the club (do you sense a running theme here?), May Daly (Lucy). Unfortunately for Louis, May is looking to marry someone with money. Despite this, she has already fallen in love with hoofer Alec, who doesn't have a dime. When Louis wins the Irish Sweepstakes, May reluctantly agrees to marry him, but not for love- just for the money. Louis doesn't mind, as long as she'll be his wife, thinking she'll grow to love him. May at least lets him know upfront, that even though she likes him, she isn't in love with him.

Alec is against the marriage and tries to talk them out of it. In an attempt to get Alec go along with things (or out of the way until they get married) one of Louis' friends slips Alec a "Mickey Finn" doped drink, but Louis drinks it instead. During his drug induced slumber, Louis dreams that he is King Louis XV of France, and that May is his mistress and Alec is the notorious rebel the Black Arrow. When Louis wakes up, he has realized that perhaps he was wrong and that money won't buy him May's heart, but that he should bring Alec and May together instead. True love and friendship win the day.

This is perhaps the highlight of the set. The rich technicolor print is a sight to see. The real star of the show is the lovable and funny Red Skelton, but there are a few others besides Lucy, Red and Gene that steal the show. For starters, this is Zero Mostel's screen debut as the nightclub swami. He is hilarious and practically runs away with the scenes he's in. Virginia O'Brien plays nightclub cigarette and candy girl, Ginny. Her deadpan singing style is highlighted in a great song, Salome (you might remember her and her deadpan delivery from the Marx Brother's film, The Big Store). Backing everyone up is the great Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra. Musically highlights abound, including Six Hits and Miss, drummer Buddy Rich and singer Dick Haymes. One of my favorite numbers is early in the film, performed by a trio known as The Oxford Boys or The Three Oxford Boys. This is their only known film appearance, as far as I can tell.

Extras: Includes the Oscar-nominated Pete Smith specialty short, Seeing Hands and a great Barney Bear MGM cartoon Bah Wilderness.

Critic’s Choice (1963, Warner Brothers)
Also Stars: Bob Hope, Rip Torn and Marilyn Maxwell
Director: Don Weis

Critic's Choice is the screen adaptation of a Ira Levin Broadway play about a Broadway critic and his wife who writes a play. The film comes late in Lucy's career, after the success of her television show, and there is some element of bring that to the film. Bob Hope plays critic Parker Ballantine, a successful critic of the great white way. Parker's reviews have closed many a show, including that of his ex-wife. Remarried and raising his son, Parker is happy with where things are in his life. His wife Angela decides that she wants to write a play based on her eccentric mother and sisters. Parker is initially opposed to the idea, saying that she doesn't know how to write. Angela pushes on despite his objections and resents his resistance. Once she finishes writing the play, however, she is eager for his honest opinion. His opinion? It's a stinker. Angel gets upset, but is even more determined to get the play produced and she succeeds in doing just that. But the one thing that can come between her and Broadway success, and can cause marital problems is a review by a famous critic; her husband

This is perhaps the least worthy of the films in the set, and that's disappointing because that's a rare thing to say for Bob Hope and Lucille Ball. The film is supposed to be a comedy, but it just falls flat. The throwaway lines from Hope are funny enough, but the rest of the material is threadbare. It just shows that very talent stars can still make enough of the material to make a film OK. And Critic's Choice is OK, it's just not great. Look for a very young Rip Torn as the director of Angela's play. You won't recognize him. In fact, I was always distracted when he was in the scenes. I couldn't stop thinking about the show thirtysomething. He was a dead ringer for Ken Olin in that show.

Extras: Includes the comedy short, Calling All Tars with Bob Hope and the classic Oscar-nominated Warner Brothers cartoon, Now Hear This. In this case, the film is worth popping in for the extras alone. The comedy short shows Bob at his early funny best. It's a funny vitaphone short that's great to have in your collection. I've noticed several Bob Hope shorts beginning to appear in some of the more recent WB box sets. Here's to hoping they'll continue to do so.

Mame (1974, Warner Brothers)
Also Stars: Bea Arthur, Robert Preston, JaneConnell and Bruce Davidson
Director: Gene Saks
Lucille Ball takes over the title role, Angela Landsbury made famous on Broadway in the 1970's musical Mame. Mame is an eccentric, fun loving adventure seeking and free thinking woman, who is suddenly thrust into the role of parent when her only nephew is orphaned at the age of 10. But Mame is a woman who loves fiercely and openly, and it there for anyone who needs her. Her nephew, Patrick, steals her heart, and through her trials and ups and downs, always seeks the silver lining and bring that light to everyone she knows. The songs are classics by now, and anyone with an interest in musical theater can recognize the melodies and singing along with the words.

Bea Arthur recreates the role she originated as Mame's "dearest friend", Vera Charles. Jane Connell also recreates her role as Patrick's nanny, Anges and Robert Preston appears as Mame's husband, Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside. Gene Saks, who directed the show on Broadway, returns to direct here. I was somewhat surprised by the film, even though I had seen it on television when I was a kid. I've seen it several times performed on stage and really preferred the stage version. I had always felt the film was slow, and not as upbeat or exciting as the stage show. When I watched the film, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the songs and the routines. I still feel as Lucy was miscast in this role, but she pulls it off well enough. I would love to have seen Angela Landsbury in the film, but overall it's an enjoyable film. Also some scenes felt abruptly cut, like I was missing something here or there. I don't remember this in the film from when I originally saw it.

Extras: The only extras are a theatrical trailer and Lucky Mame, a sort of extended trailer for marketing. It's by watching the trailer that you can contrast the print of the film to the trailer and see just how much a great job Warner's did in securing a fine print.

As always, Warner Brothers does a fine job in getting quality prints, and restoring and cleaning them for transfer. All of them look great, and the real eye-popper is Du Barry Was a Lady. It's has the effect intended by Technicolor. The sound is superb, again, with the real standout being Du Barry Was a Lady, and Mame. The music is just great. If you can secure a soundtrack from Du Barry was a Lady, you should.

The Bottom Line:
Fans of Lucille Ball will definitely want to pick this up, especially those who are only familiar with her from her television show. You can really see the evolution of her career through these films, and there many others already out there on DVD. It's difficult to think of any other titles that haven't been released on DVD, that I'd rather see in the collection, except perhaps The Fuller Brush Girl, which was screwball comedy that I'd love to see on DVD.
Pick up The Lucille Ball Collection for Du Barry was a Lady and you'll enjoy The Big Street and Mame. Dance, Girl Dance is worth a viewing and Critic's Choice is only worth skipping through for a funny Bob sequence or two and definitely for the extras. Those who aren't particular fans of Lucy would at least want to see The Big Street and should make every effort to see Du Barry Was a Lady. Most of the films are at least a rental, but film lovers, especially musical fans, will want to make Du Barry a part of their permanent collection.

Review Rating:
If Professor Loophole were individually grading the films, they would earn the following:
Du Barry is an A+
The Big Street is a B+
Mame is a B
Dance, Girl Dance is a C>
Critic's Choice is a D-.
Overall rating: 3 1/2 stars (Groucho Glasses)

DuBarry Was a Lady is a SHELF CLASSIC. That combined with the rest of the films and the extras, and subtracting for Critic's Choice, makes The Lucille Ball Collection overall a Must Have set.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

For parading without a license each of you gets thirty days. For planning to knock me off, you get the guillotine.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

oh mickey, you're so fine...

...A fine man and actor that is. Ahem.

Recently Mickey made a statement on today's Hollywood that ties in with Wolf's recent commentary. He expressed distaste and disappointment in today's Hollywood. Today's stars "lack class and dignity". He further stated:
"Most of the people today... no-one can teach you how to act. Method acting! Huh! Spencer Tracy never went to acting school. Clark Gable, Jimmy Cagney, Edward G. Robinson... never. Today's stars, they don't know what it means to be stars. They have too much money too young. They don't care about people. The first thing they do, they hire a publicist and a lawyer, and they do whatever they damn well like, with a sense of entitlement.It wasn't like that in our day. We paid our dues, respected others, were courteous and decent. Today, they don't have the class or the sense of dignity. It really saddens me to see what stars of today have become."
(Quoted from Yahoo News, read article here.)

Mickey during those Studio daysYeah, Mickey. It's nice to hear a veteran and pro speak up. But this isn't the only time the outspoken...plain-spoken, Rooney has expressed his opinions. Almost 10 years ago, Mickey gave an interview to a Canadian reporter in which he expressed similar sentiments in response to the question "Is there anything about Hollywood today that really disturbs you?":
"Yes--everything. The studio system is the only way that Hollywood worked. Now there are only four or five celebrities. I won't call them stars, because stars were people like Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Bette Davis, you know what I mean? Don't give me Jim Carrey, who came from a comedy club." (read the whole article here)

Mickey's been around the block a time or two, and has never backed away from his problems and faults. But he also makes his opinions known. I appreciate his statements. The man has made more movies than alot of the current crop around today. And more hits. He's an Army vet to boot. He knows whereof he speaks. He is an icon. I mean the man was Santa Claus for goodness sakes. How many celebrities would you hear saying something like this: "Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar. Do you know who the scholars were? Marxists!" He doesn't hide his feelings behind what's currently hip in the political sense. I think he knows that that Mickey and his current wife, Jankind of public capital can't be spent for long. You could spend hours counting all the celebrities who said downright ignorant and terrible things about Bush and anyone who ever voted for him, or didn't see their movie. By the way, outside of perhaps New York and California, that's most of you out there.

Sure you might disagree with him. He thinks that's alright whether you are talking movies or society: "You and I think identically different. We take the same tack in many respects. I will close it off by this, by saying, you have the right to disagree. You have a right to your own opinion. That is a great gift. To have the right to do that."

Just wanted to share that with you. We see so many big mouths firing away on so much nonsense out there, it's refreshing and nice to see a pro who gets it.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

The audience and I are friends. They allowed me to grow up with them. I've let them down several times. They've let me down several times. But we're all family

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

attack of the 50 foot roundup

50 feet? Not quite, but in the spirit of today's roundup theme, it seemed appropriate. It won't be a long roundup today- which seems to run counter to my title. Maybe it should have been: Land of the Roundup? Or, maybe...Hot Rods to Roundup. Nah- not as catchy. Irregardless we have some fun stuff to get to, so let's hit it.

Top Shelf Pick of the Week:
Cult Camp Classics, Vol. I - 4
Years and years ago, I remember going to the drive-in with my folks. I was real little, so my memories are kind of vague. About the only things that stick in my mind was the enormity of the screen, the novelty of watching the film (who knows what it was) in my pajamas in the car, and the sound box hanging on the window.
Today that old drive in has been cleared and there is a chain grocery store standing in its place. The novelty of watching a movie in the car for my kids consists of a tiny DVD screen on the back of the seat. Nothing can compare to the huge screen, but I guess they don't know any different. As you know the movie screens have shrunk in the cineplex and a lot of drive ins are gone. Some still exist but even now, like my dad and his generation will tell you it isn't the same.

Back then, there were all kinds of pictures, but the ones that seem to be sentimental favorites are the science fiction, big epics and cult films. Warner Brothers has dipped into that reservoir of that type of film and released 4 volumes of Cult Camp Classics. With titles like, Hot Rods to Hell, Caged, and The Prodigal you can probably surmise that we aren't talking AFI 100 years, 100 films territory. But the less said about that travesty, the better. Needless to say, with a moniker like Cult Camp Classics, that's not what's being aimed for anyway. It's the the entertainment they are going for, and not all of the films really fall under the "cult" or the "camp" categories. In fact there several really great gems here, and that's why I go with the drive-in theme with these films. Highlights of the sets include: Howard Hawks' The Land of the Pharaohs, Dana Andrews in Zero Hour (the basis of the spoof film Airplane), and the fun and truly cult camp classic, Attack of the 50 ft. Woman.

Reno 911! Season 4
Last week's Reno 911! Miami was perfectly timed to coincide with the release of Season 4. Or is it that Season 4 was perfectly timed to coincide with..., aw never mind. Either way the fourth season of those cops from the biggest little city in the world hits the shelves today. If you aren't watching, you are missing the funniest show on television. Most of the cast and creators come from the 90s MTV sketch comedy show, The State. That show is overdue for a release. Until it is, snap up this set and pop it in the DVD drive and enjoy.

Psych - Season 1
USA Network (cable network owned by NBC) produced a great hit on their hands with Monk. (Season 5 of Monk is also out today) Riding on that success, they produced another comedy mystery series called, Psych. James Roday stars as Shawn Spencer, the laid back son of a by the book police officer. He has a photographic memory and a cocky attitude which got him in trouble when he tried to show off his skills to the police. He is so good, the police begin to suspect he was in on the crime. In order to get out of this jam, Spencer pretends to be a psychic. Instead of helping him out, Spencer's act actually helps him get in on police work as a freelance detective/psych. His exasperated friend, Gus (Dulé Hill) is unwittingly thrust into the role of Spencer's sidekick. Psych is funny and a bit of a throw back to the fun mystery series of old.

That's all for today, folks. I told you it would be short and sweet. Now that I think of it, perhaps Ankle Bite of the 50 Inch Roundup! Yeah, that's the ticket....

Stay tuned; we'll have a couple of DVD reviews coming up.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Our survival hinges on one thing - finding someone who not only can fly this plane, but didn't have fish for dinner.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

the beautiful people

People, Us and similar trash should be published once a month in a single periodical called "Chronicles of the Stupid". Mrs. Flywheel and other ladies in my family love these rags for a reason that is well beyond my grasp. We tend to have a copy or two collecting dust around the house at any given time and when I happen upon one of the things, I feel like I have to go take a shower. I'm sorry for coming on strong about this stuff, but it's exactly how I feel. Every time I stand in the check out line of my local grocer, my eyes are littered with headlines about who's dating who and who lost 20 pounds. For cryin' out loud, I wouldn't care about that sort of thing if it were about close friends of mine. Sit back and think about it. How much of the "news" reported today has something to do with Hollywood and her elite? It's well more than this country needs and something should be done about it.

The last century was filled with folks of fame and fortune who, for better or for worse, were role models to the country. In the early days, most of these role models were very careful of how they were portrayed by the media and perceived by the public due to the simple notion of human decency. This flew out the window with yesterday's wash-water at some point which can't be pinned to a specific person or event. If it could, I'd personally find Doc Brown and his DeLorean and give him the plutonium needed to go back and reverse the trauma. What happened to the respectful Hollywood of yesteryear when your favorite stars spoke out against communism and other atrocities? Now-a-days we're stuck with Cameron Diaz prancing around with a purse emblazoned with a slogan made famous by Chairman Mao. Is it stupidity? Is it ignorance? Is it arrogance? Maybe it's a little of all three. Such dingbats as Sean Penn prance around in their smug (shout out to South Park) writing op-ed pieces for left wing publications and about how the voice of the American liberal is stifled by the neo-con administration and it's atrocities against the Constitution. Mr. Penn declared, "We will be snowed no more." I don't know about any of you, but I fail to see where any voices have been stifled. If I could figure out a way to do it, I would've turned down the volume on some of these goobers a long time ago.

Our rich and famous who have traditionally served as the face of our country have been tooling around the world too long in the guise of Scaramouche when the rest of us in the states just see Bozo. Where have they gotten their system of values? Sometimes I just blow it off with a mild scoff, but this is a serious issue that must be addressed. There is no doubt that entertainment effects the development of the younger generation. I see it everywhere when I'm out and about and as my children get a day older every 24 hours I get more and more worried about this influence on them. It is important that we play a large role in the lives of our children. They need to learn about life and it's mysteries from us, not Sheryl Crow or Rosie O'Donnell. Values are timeless, yet pop culture changes their interpretation every decade or so. The popular consensus of what is good and bad, right and wrong are changed slightly every so often by that dirty tactic of "pushing the envelope". Where did the envelope come from and who said we wanted it pushed? The values that were taught to my father and his father are the values I should teach my children. Right and wrong does not change, so why do the Hollywood elite feel the need to mask it as if it does? It makes me wonder who taught them their values. Sherlock Holmes would point the finger at Prof. Moriarty, but I'm sure it is a mix of the three ingredients I mentioned earlier: stupidity ignorance and arrogance.

Stupidity speaks for itself. Forest Gump told us that, "Stupid is as stupid does." and there sure are plenty out there doin' some stupid. Being an actor doesn't make you smart. Heck, being a scientist doesn't make you smart. It only means you're intelligent in that field or those relating to it. Common sense and practicality have to be taught outside of schools of higher learning. To be fair to those I am trampling upon, I feel there is a fair amount of ignorance involved in their actions as well. A large amount of today's Hollywood is a product of life in the Hollywood bubble. There are plenty of working actors and actresses today who have been acting since a young age and quite a few who are second generation thespians. This would lead me to believe that the lax values of the previous Hollywood generation were surrounding these folks from a young age making them "come by it honestly". Lastly and mostly, I feel that arrogance plays a large role in the issues we face with today's Hollywood elite. To feel that your fame makes you a spokesperson for the people with an inside line to truth and pure, flawless understanding is the height of arrogance. Have you ever noticed how folks with no more political than you or I get on television and pound our foreheads about the rights and wrongs of the current administration's foreign policy? What about when they tell us about how great and righteous they are while keeping two nostrils high in the air? The worst is how they flood media with their "thoughts" on things to the point that most folks who do no research on their own except the poison fed to them and begin to chant along. Then in the few instances when some of these goons mouth off and the "lowly commoners" of the public react to it, they portray themselves as martyrs and speak of how they stand strong against insurmountable odds. I just can't figure out how they feel like they are the lone voices crying out in the wilderness when they are backed by and reprinted over and over by most of mainstream media. Their thoughts ad beliefs are slipped into the dialogue of movies and television and stated as fact which causes the weak minded to absorb these ideas and grow closer to believing.

We can't change the "rich and famous". Heck, we could never effectively boycott their products either. The truth is , we are not the America we once were. I often ask my grandfather about what the country was like during WWII and he always starts off by saying, "This country came together." We are certainly not together. We no longer share the same values as a country which leads to us not sharing the same culture. We are truly divided and though they don't hold the entire burden alone, the Hollywood society and the bile it spews does not help any. If we want to take this country back as a united people, we need to drop the "hyphenated American" status , the battle over who owes who and who's political party is more evil. Above all, we need to put an end to the tight grip that pop culture has on our society. W e need to put an end to allowing the self appointed "envelope pushers" dictate our values. Right is right and wrong is wrong. Free speech be damned, it's wrong for an American to aid in producing propaganda films for an anti-American government. It's wrong to negotiate with terrorists under the banner of "diplomacy". It's also wrong for someone who has gained fortune in this great country to become a mouthpiece for a world class thug who makes his fortune from the misfortune of others. I don't know if you realize this, but a majority of the current college-age citizens in this country worship these fools. You would think that kids smart enough to be in college would see through these buffoons, but they cheer on the Hollywood "emperors" as they prance around in the clothes of their arrogance and the tailors like Castro and Chavez laugh all the way to the political bank. Useful idiots all.

I didn't intend to come on here today and engage in an endless and unorganized tirade, but it was one of those days where I happened across something that struck a nerve and set me off. Your regularly scheduled Shelf programming will resume soon enough. To those of you still reading after all of my street-corner preaching today: thank you for your perseverance and your tenacity.

In America you can go on the air and kid the politicians, and the politicians can go on the air and kid the people.

Please feel free to comment if the need strikes you.

“If God doesn't destroy Hollywood Boulevard, he owes Sodom and Gomorrah an apology ”

Friday, June 22, 2007

the shelf shuffle

Some news for this Friday morning; we've added some new links and members to our Shelf Links and Shelf Community sections. They are as follows:

Shelf Links:
Archie Comics: The website for the Archie Comics publishers. Wolf and I grew up on Archie as well as other comics, and this is an interesting website for all things Archie. You can find the daily newspaper strip, order monthly Digests and other goodies and even listen to Archie OTR! Quite frankly, I was even more impressed when I read their Note to Parents section. My kids will be checking this one out.

Radio Lovers: A great OTR site that has hundreds of shows, free for your enjoyment.

The Fred Thompson Report: This is Fred's site on ABC radio for his commentary that can be heard on ABC Radio in print form. I've enjoyed reading his thoughts and ideas and have come to understand where he is coming from even more and where he stands on some issues. Caution: reason, common horse sense and real, tough talk ahead. Here's an excerpt from his thoughts on Harry Reid this week:
Harry Reid voted for the war, like a majority of our legislators. America decided as a nation to free Iraq and the region from Saddam Hussein's tyranny. I have friends, both Democrat and Republican, who questioned the decision at the time, but the Republic made a commitment based on constitutional and democratic procedures. So they are now a hundred percent committed to moving forward in a way that’s best for our country. None of them, by the way, believe surrendering to the forces of terror in Iraq is what's best for our country.

Shelf Community:
We've added several new Classic Film Blogs. I'm encouraged by such interest and writing about classic films that's out there. There are some great articles here and there. Enjoy reading the blogs: Another Old Movie Blog , Self-Styled Siren and Classic Movie Lounge.

You may also be aware that TCM has a movie blog with several writers blogging about old cinema. It's called Movie Morlocks and I've enjoy reading it for a while now. While it is accessible through TCM's site which we have had linked forever, I thought it make things easier to post a direct link.

Classic Cinema Online is exactly what it's name implies; classic films available to watch online. While members of Netflix and other places make watching films online possible, it's nice to have a site dedicated to bringing public domain classic films in a nice themed presentation.

DVD News:
Disney has announced that they will release The Jungle Book: Platinum Edition two disc dvd set for October 2nd. The film is celebrating it's 40th anniversary this year. The Jungle Book is one of my favorite Disney films, and the film and extras look like they will be great. Extras include audio commentary, The Bare Necessities: The Making of The Jungle Book documentary plus lost footage, DVD games and interviews with animators who were influenced by the film, including Pixar/Disney animator and director Brad Bird. This is one to put on your short list folks. You can also pick the DVD release of Disney's Meet the Robinsons in October.
Also for any Disney Treasures fans or collectors (like me), Disney announced some time ago their 7th Wave of Treasures sets that will be released this December. While we're talking Disney lets pass along what they will be (no cover art yet). Wave 7 will consist, as of now, three titles: Disneyland: The Secrets, Stories and Magic, The Chronological Donald, Volume Three and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. This is sure to be one of best waves yet, so be sure to put these at the top of your Christmas list! We'll bring you set info when we get it.

That's all for now, but stick around. Be sure to come back later for a review of some recent Fox DVDs and then a full review next week of the week's Top Shelf Pick: The Lucille Ball Collection. Same Shelf time, same Shelf channel.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

I'm gone, man, solid gone.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

here's lucy

The Roundup is here, my friends. And what an eclectic bunch of stuff we have for you today. If you heard our weekly audio version on Geekerati, then you've had a sneak peak at our Top Shelf pick. But as you know, we have the full package on the web version! Lot's of stuff. You'll have to catch both, for we have a few extra items for the radio show only. What's a Shelfer to do? Tune in to Geekerati Monday nights at 7pm PT/ 10pm ET, and then direct yourself to The Shelf the next day in order to get the entire rundown. We've done all the leg work. All you have to do is order your favorites. I mean, we can't do everything for ya! Give a man a fish, and all that jazz. Speaking of jazz- let's get to it, shall we?

Top Shelf Pick of the Week!:
The Lucille Ball Film Collection

You know the old saying from the song..."A pretty girl is like a melody"? Well, we are fairly melodious here at The Shelf. For years, many in my generation only related to Lucille Ball as..., well, Lucy. You know, from I Love Lucy. I saw her in reruns and boy, was she funny. It never crossed my young mind that this person did other things before television. Then one night I caught a late night feature of the film, The Big Street with Henry Fonda and... what? Lucille Ball? That can't be the same person! Sure enough, that was her in a way I've never seen her before. Then, not too long after I thought I recognized her in a Three Stooges short: Three Little Pigskins, and then in Room Service with The Marx Brothers. I was enchanted. Here was a beautiful talented, funny woman who did it all: radio, movies, and television.

This week Warner Home Video releases the five feature Lucille Ball Film Collection. The films are making their way to DVD for the first time, and while a few fall short of greatness, there a quite a few hidden gems in the set. The films included are: Dance Girl Dance, The Big Street, Du Barry Was a Lady, Critic's Choice and Mame. The real treasures here are The Big Street with Henry Fonda and Du Barry Was a Lady with Red Skelton. Critic's choice is a later film (post I Love Lucy) with Bob Hope, a frequent co-star. Dance, Girl Dance is a 1940 romantic comedy starring Maureen O'Hara and Ralph Bellamy. Mame is based on the Broadway Musical of the same name (which, of course was based on the earlier film Auntie Mame). Lucy was perhaps a tad ill-cast in this film, but you'll enjoy the music and the performances nonetheless. One thing is for sure, Lucy sure played against type on I Love Lucy. She didn't need to go through all those schemes just to get on Ricky's show. We all know she had talent in spades.

The Secret of Nimh: Family Fun Edition

This is a re-release of the 1982 Don Bluth classic animated film. Bluth had recently left Disney and struck out on his own. Some of his films have been hit or miss, but this is one that I remember really enjoying. It's different, and it's a bit darker. The children's fantasy features during that time were a bit on the dark, gritty side. Think Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.
This re-release two disc edition may not be worth an upgrade if you own any of the previous editions, just because there is so much more they could have done with it. In fact the audio commentary with Don Bluth and the deleted scenes and making of featurette only really are a tipping point with die hard fans, or with those who don't own previous versions.

Picket Fences: Season One
I remember this odd ball show fondly. It was an early David E. Kelley series, and quite frankly, one of his best. Picket Fences centers on a small town Sheriff (Tom Skeritt) and his wife (Kathy Baker) and three kids. The series introduced future stars Holly Marie Combs (yeah), Lauren Holly and Don Cheadle. By far, my most favorite characters were the judge played by Ray Walston, who always seemed like the most sane, yet exasperated person in the town, and of course the lawyer, Douglas Wambaugh played with great aplomb by Fyvush Finkel. The series combined comedy, family drama and conflict in way that was different and new for its time. I'm glad to see that this show, with it's great writing and wonderful cast, has finally made it to DVD.

Reno 911!: Miami
I have to truthfully say that I have not seen this movie. I love the series, but I haven't seen the movie. Wolf has, and he claims it was pretty good, but almost would've been better if it was condensed into a few episodes of the regular series on Comedy Central. Now is my chance (and yours) to catch it on DVD. Robert Ben Grant, who plays Dep. Travis, Jr. directed the film.
Was the show really ready for a film? It did fairly well at the box office, and the cast has their characters down pat. Look for appearances and cameos by some stars like Danny Devito, Paul Rudd, and The Rock. Also look for some frequent Reno 911 perps and a few Reno 911 regulars, like Patton Oswalt in different roles.

The Card: Collectors, Con Men, and the True Story of History's Most Desired Baseball Card, by Michael O'Keeffe and Teri Thompson
The most valuable baseball card in the world is the Honus Wagner card, which only a dozen or so are known to exist. Most are in terrible shape. But THE card is only one of the Wagner cards, known as the T206 Wagner, which is in excellent condition. It worth over 2 million dollars today. This book not only details the story of the T206 Wagner, but also gives an entertaining and enlightening look into the story of baseball cards, collecting, and the great Honus Wagner himself, whose own card has seemed to eclipse him in fame.

Jazz Trio:
Deborah Cox: Destination Moon
Ron Carter: Dear Miles
Bobby Hutcherson: For Sentimental Reasons
I gotta tell ya, nothing relaxes me more than a little soft jazz, a cool drink and a nice book while sitting in a comfy chair. These discs are perfect for that time you want to unwind, go somewhere else in your mind, or just spending time with your significant other. Assuming they like jazz, that is.
Singer and Broadway star Deborah Cox brings her talent to cover a disc of songs in tribute to one of her greatest influences, the great Dinah Washington. Her vocals and the accompaniment blend perfectly and she does justice to Dinah. My absolute favorite on this album is currently Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Other highlights include Destination Moon and the upbeat and sexy Squeeze Me.

Ron Carter is one of the greatest bass players who ever lived, and perhaps the most recorded one as well. Carter has headlined his own group and has played with some of the best, too numerous to mention all, but including a long stint as a sideman for Miles Davis. This collection brings his world class talent and technique to a set of standards. Highlights are the cuts: As Time Goes By, Bags' Groove and My Funny Valentine.

Bobby Hutcherson is a wonderful musician who plays the Vibes (kind like Xylophones), and whose sound really developed in the 60s. He has been influential in modern jazz and fusion, but is just at bringing his talents to bop and classical jazz. He also has played with many greats including Trumpeter Woody Shaw and Tenor Saxophonist Harold Land and the ubiquitous Herbie Hancock. Album highlights include the title track, What Are You Doing For the Rest of Your Life and I'll Be Seeing You.

Turner Classic Movies
The weekly Shelf picks for TCM
These are our picks for this week and thru Monday of next week. Set the TiVo or DVR.

June 20th:
That Forsyte Woman (1949), Sylvia Scarlett (1936) and That Touch of Mink (1962)

June 21st:
It's a night of the battle of the sexes: Adam's Rib (1949), Born Yesterday (1950), Theodora Goes Wild (1936), and My Favorite Wife (1940). Also don't miss the original drama, Three on a Match (1932).

June 22nd:
Murder and mystery abound in this day with some Film Noir classics: Angel Face (1953), Anatomy Of A Murder (1959) and Sunset Boulevard (1950). Also don't miss the TCM original documentary, Billy Wilder Speaks (2006)

June 23rd:
Intrigue, drama and adventure: Naked City (1948), On The Waterfront (1954), Sahara (1943), and Island In The Sky (1953).

June 24th:
See some stars get their starring debuts: Gene Kelly in Cover Girl (1944) and Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday (1953). Historical drama classic A Man for All Seasons (1966) is next. Later get your giggles with two of the greatest comedy teams the screen has seen with Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) and Martin and Lewis in At War With The Army (1950)

June 25th:
Some mystery flicks with Charlie Chan In The Secret Service (1944) and Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn (1939). Stick around for the drama's in TCM's night of Screened Out: Tea And Sympathy (1956) and The Children's Hour (1961)

June 26th:
How about a healthy mix of Capra, politics, and comedy? Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), All the King's Men (1949), Jack Benny in Broadway Melody Of 1936 (1935) and then Lucille Ball and Bob Hope in The Facts of Life (1960).

That's all for the Roundup today, gang. Look for our promised post on happenings at TCM and also we'll have some DVD reviews of some recent Fox Cinema Classics releases on the way. All this, and more from Wolf and me. Stay tuned!
Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Love is something that gets you one room, two chins and 3 kids.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

passing parade o' stuff

Just a couple of items today. A semi regular feature of news you can use, that we like to call: The Passing Parade. The roundup will be posted tomorrow. Now, on to the headlines:
Shelf Community News

OTRE moves!
First off- Our pal Sallie over at Old Time Radio Experience has broadened her blogging horizons. She has decided to create a new blog that will encompass OTR with her interests in classic films and more. So go check her new site out, it's called The Vintage Place. I know you'll be interested. Just click the sign below and away you go. We'll have a permenant link in the sidebar, but we'll also leave up OTRE for a time, as there are some great stuff to download and look at still. Good luck, Sallie!

If you missed last night's broadcast of the show Geekerati, you can still catch it as it is archived. Last night Christian, Shawna and the gang talked about entertainment and viral marketing. And of course, ol' loveable Loophole was there with the audio version of this week's Roundup. So for a sneak preview of the Roundup every week, and lots of entertainment talk and more, listen to us at Geekerati Monday nights at 7pm PT/ 10pm ET. Just click the link below to head on over and listen to archived shows.

I Have a Talk Show

DVD News

Mickey and Judy set!
Here's a bit of DVD news that you may have seen over at Laura's Miscelanous Musings or DVD Times, but we would be remiss if we didn't mention it here for the Shelf faithful (Hat tip to DVD Times for info and from whom we shamefully cribbed the picture:
Warner Home Video will be releasing The Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland Collection: Ultimate Collector’s Edition on Sept. 25th. The films in the set will be Babes in Arms, Babes on Broadway, Strike Up the Band and Girl Crazy. As you've come to expect and appreciate Warner's is including a ton of features for each disc, including musical and comedy shorts, cartoons and more. There will also be a fifth bonus disc of special features that will include and episode of TCM's Private Screenings: Private Screenings with Mickey Rooney, The Judy Garland Songbook: a 21 song collection of Judy's best and Mickey and Judy Trailer Gallery. We know fans have been clamouring for this set for awhile, so mark your calenders. The WHV Ultimate series are known for great DVD sets, and this is no slouch, brother. The set also includes 20 collectible photo postcards and a booklet which includes photos of vintage memorabilia, reproduced advertisements, and production notes written by film historian John Fricke. By the way, the films have new introductions by Mickey Rooney! Take a gander at the glorious goodies below:

The 8th and final season of Charmed will hit DVD on Sept. 11th. Unlike past sets, Charmed: The Final Season, will feature several extras, incuding a look at the creation of the show, several commentaries, and a look at the set, makeup and production of this magical series. Mrs. Loophole and I love watching the show and are eager to catch up on season 8 again. The ending was not praised by all fans, but it certainly tied many storylines up. The show which starred Shannon Doherty, Alyssa Milano, Rose McGowan and Loophole's favorite, Holly Marie Combs was the longest running television show with all female leads. Good entertainment, lots of backstory magic and mythology. The series also had lots of drama, romance and comedy. Great fun.

Well kiddies, the parade has gone by. But don't fret, we'll return tomorrow with the Roundup! Stay tuned.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Who would shoot a gnome? And why is the 'g' silent?


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