Sunday, April 30, 2017

"SUPER HIGH" STILL SOARING

          After learning of the McDonald's diet documentary Super Size Me (2004), comedian Doug Benson said, if eating McDonald's for thirty days is a movie, and people are willing to pay to see it, I've got a movie..."
          What started out as a joke in Benson's act actually happened. (Instead of a movie poster featuring the star's mouth stuffed with French fries, Benson's is jammed with joints.)
          For a third to half of Super High Me we see Benson undergoing the first 30 days of the experiment pot- and alcohol-free. This is entertaining in and of itself. Laments Benson, "Everything reminds me of pot now that I can't have it."
          We see Benson hanging out with other comics talking about the experiment being filmed, we see him interviewed by a medical practitioner and a psychologist, and we see him undergoing a battery of tests, including the SAT.
          Packed with hilarity, science has never been so funny.
          The filmmakers also touch base throughout with a North Hollywood dispensary, and a rogue cop who keeps shutting dispensaries down.
          At one point Benson takes a trip to Canada to interview a pot guru. What he finds is that the guy blabs...and blabs...non-stop.
          "Holy crap," Benson says leaving, "I feel like I went through some sort of marijuana gauntlet."
          Once named by High Times the Number Two pot comic in the country, Benson's material often focuses on observations concerning exactly what you'd expect. Episodes of his show "Getting High with Doug", featuring celebrities getting high with Doug, abound on YouTube.
          In the recent The Lego Batman Movie, Benson voices Batman baddie Bane, and he's appeared as himself in about a hundred productions, including the series "Trailer Park Boys".
          Loaded with celebrity cameos, the film focuses on recreational users and medical patients avowing the benefits of use.
          To find out how his physical and cognitive test results with and without pot compare, and have a darn good time watching one man's quest to determine the effects of pot on the body, avail access to the hilarious and informative 2007 documentary online.


SUPER HIGH ME
Starring Doug Benson,
Brian Unger,
Bob Odenkirk,
Rob Riggle,
Patton Oswalt,
Sarah Silverman
Directed by Michael Blieden
Runtime 94 minutes
Rated R





Sunday, April 23, 2017

"HARRY" HITS 30

          Thirty years ago, the Hendersons hit a Bigfoot.
          How the dad, played by John Lithgow, managed to lift the stunned but not dead body off the road and pack it on top of the station wagon remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of cinema.
          Perhaps because the special effects are state-of-the-art for 1987, too much emphasis went into the costume, and not enough into the story and the characters.
          The subject matter fits the Pac Northwest like a giant hairy glove, but inexplicably the filmmakers target an audience of the very young.
          To keep things light, the Bigfoot (Hall) whom the Hendersons hide at their house, is a primarily simpering, sheepish creature, not all that gigantic, and looking very much like a guy in a suit.
          For major conflict we have a hardcore Bigfoot-hunter (Suchet). Lesser conflict appears in the form of a nosy neighbor (Kazan) who barges into the house and starts sniffing around, never realizing how close Harry stands by watching her the whole time.
          The filmmakers repeat that bit with Don Ameche as a Bigfoot-denier at the Hendersons' dinner table, denying the possibility of Bigfeet and unaware of the one inches away.
          Which would be impossible.
          The overall presentation is fluffier than the subject matter's hide. Consequently, after the movie, there was the TV sitcom. Different actors in the roles, but every bit as fluffy, plus the same guy in the same costume.
          Much of the movie relies on see-sawing displays of power. When Harry eats the teenage daughter's birthday corsage, she angrily tells the Bigfoot off...until he stops backing out the door and shows it's his turn to roar. All the while with generic cutesy-wutesy flute music.
          It's interesting that the filmmakers chose to make their Bigfoot male, because the famous Big-footage from Bluff Creek in the '60s shows a striding female Gigantopithecus. The pendulous breasts on the creature in Roger Patterson's film are always removed in chainsaw carvings, commercials, movies. Common sense would therefore seem to tell us that Patterson, former rodeo rider, was no different from anyone else, that he didn't make a female Bigfoot suit, but that it's actually real.


HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS
Starring John Lithgow,
Melinda Dillon,
Margaret Langrick,
Joshua Rudoy,
Kevin Peter Hall,
David Suchet,
Lainie Kazan,
Don Ameche
Directed by William Dear
Written by William Dear, Bill Martin, Ezra Rappaport
Runtime 110 minutes
Rated PG


Stewart Kirby writes for



Sunday, April 16, 2017

"FESTIVAL" EXPRESSES HIPPY SPIRIT

FESTIVAL EXPRESS
Starring Janis Joplin,
Jerry Garcia,
Rick Danko,
Robbie Robertson,
Buddy Guy
Directed by Bob Smeaton




          You'll want Festival Express to go on.
          Music lovers--especially fans of '60s rock, folk, and blues--will find much to hold interest in this excellent 2003 documentary of the 5-day trans-Canadian train trip in the summer of 1970 featuring performances by the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Buddy Guy, the Band, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and more.
          More concert than commentary, participants from the private train running east to west giving concerts on the way reflect on the "traveling circus" sometimes met by near-riot crowds angry at concerts requiring a nominal fee. As Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead notes, "These people were looking for trouble."
          In spite of facing a financial loss, the producers never held back on anything for the artists.
          What often looks like home movie footage proves a time capsule reflecting innumerable details of the age. Yet ultimately what we get are great concert performances. Highlights include renditions of "Cry Baby", "Lazy Day", and "The Weight" from Joplin, the Burrito Brothers, and the Band, respectively.
          "It was a train full of insane people," says the Dead's Phil Lesh. Drummer Mickey Hart adds, "This train was not for sleeping."
          "For any musician on this train," one band member recalls, "it was like heaven."
          Passing places such as Moose Jaw and Medicine Hat, the "La Bohemian society" of big music acts partied across Canada and gave shows arguably better than Woodstock.
          Though marred by the entitled stance taken by some audiences, the show rolls on never missing a beat, celebrating the '60s and kicking off the '70s just for the fun of it.
          Freely available on YouTube.




Stewart Kirby writes for


         
         

AXKLOWN

"A candy-colored clown they call the Sandman tiptoes to my room every night," crooned the clown, ax in hand...


Axl Topp was born into the circus of pure clown stock. Traveling on the road from town to town with his parents, Mr. Giggly and Miss Smiles, young Axl dreamed of becoming the first clown superhero. He hadn't yet learned the value of being a cut-up or for keeping people in stitches, but he was already knockin' 'em dead with his acrobatics and balloons.


Then one day recently the circus had to shut down. Not enough money coming in. Not enough revenue. Not enough ticket sales. Public attendance just...gone. After all that time. The journey, the struggles, struggles of the peoples. Motherfuck! this pissed him off. Axl Topp blew his top, that's what happened. Topp's sanity toppled--top that! And well the thing is, there really are aliens--and that's a whole other thing to get into some other time, but just, right now--there really are outer space aliens and all sorts of weird things, and well, someone had a plan for ol' Axl. They got him one night when he was sleeping, and they changed him, and they gave him amazing powers, so that they could watch him be funny getting back at the wrongdoing public as the self-proclaimed world's first serial killer (oops, said it!) serial killer superhero, Axklown!


He can make balloons do things! Like appear out of thin air, perhaps inter-dimensionally, envelope a man, struggling helpless inside (so funny!), and carry him away high over a sharp rocky gorge before, haha, suddenly disappearing! Poof! Just like that, no more balloon. See now, what makes it funny is that the man then falls to the hard rocky place way down there. And gets all broken.


So:  power over balloons, plus he swings a mean ax! So funny. Of course he has power over other clowns. They become entranced and unwittingly perform his bidding! He can control clown hordes.


Sometimes Axklown wears a wing suit. It's a full-body latex superhero-type deal, with dark clown colors stylized, like one of those tuxedo t-shirts, all classy. Yes, he does drive a small car, but it gets great gas mileage, and with the money he saves he's able to buy gasoline to squirt out of the flower on his lapel all over you before striking a match. HaHa! Although sometimes it's bleach, other times other things, always Axklown follows the comedic flow and just does whatever's funny. Usually with the ax...






Yeah, goin' ahead and starting yet another. Better to do it than to not. Try to hit it when I can. Gotta keep it fresh. Gotta dance harder for ya.


MORE
SOON



Sunday, April 9, 2017

TV VAMPIRE HITS 50



          So deeply did he sink his teeth into the role, he was asked to appear at the birthday party for President Nixon's daughter.
          Fifty years ago, April 18, 1967, Jonathan Frid made his debut appearance as Barnabas Collins in the daytime TV show Dark Shadows. The show became a hit only in response to a last-ditch attempt to save flagging ratings. Producer Dan Curtis had nothing to lose when he followed his daughter's advice and turned Barnabas into a vampire in a black-and-white world redolent with all things Gothic.
          The cult-favorite show, vastly aided by strong theme music, revolves around an upper-class Maine family, the Collins', whose matriarch, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, hasn't left the sprawling Collinwood mansion in twenty years.
          Initially, the show focuses on a young woman, Victoria Winters, who travels by train to Collinsport in order to work as a governess at the mansion. David, the boy to whom Victoria is governess, is the son of Roger Collins, brother of Elizabeth. But things change over time.
          Sundry other characters abound, the most memorable one being the highly stylized-looking cane-carrying sideways bangs-sporting vampire ever to hit the daytime TV world.
          In the show's five-year run (1966 - 1971), it went from black-and-white to color, and back in time...twice. Other characters include a psychiatrist, a Gypsy fortune-teller, a werewolf, an evil reverend, a witch, a ghost, and a phoenix, to name a few.
          After the show's cancelation, Dan Curtis produced of Trilogy of Terror (1975), featuring Karen Black in the lead role of three different tales of the macabre. He also made two feature-length Dark Shadows films, although not very accurate to the original material.
          The opening image from the original Scooby-Doo intro is pure Collinwood Mansion exterior. And like that cartoon, the action in the mansion originally took a page from Ann Radcliffe, suggesting Gothicism through atmosphere. As the show progressed, however, it transformed into a stage filled with actual monsters in the Monk Lewis tradition.
          There is a certain character to the datedness of the late-'60s soap opera. With five new shows to shoot every week, the stars had very little time to prepare for scenes primarily composed of dialogue.
         An excellent reboot of the show in the 1990s stars Ben Cross from Chariots of Fire as Barnabas and Joanna Going as Victoria. An equally impressive version stars Johnny Depp in the Tim Burton motion picture.
          Look for episodes online on YouTube, Hulu, and Daily Motion.