Rustlers' Rhapsody

"Rustlers' Rhapsody" is a 1985 tongue-in-cheek spoof of all those Saturday matinees that Republic Pictures used to make. In fact, it starts with black-and-white establishing shots that are soooo familiar they make you smile... the solitary cowpoke strumming his guitar and singing to his palomino, the fleeing stagecoach beset by robbers, the rearing stallion silhouetted against the skyline. ..you know...

A VERY young Tom Berenger ("Platoon" and "Eddie and the Cruisers") is Rex O'Herlihan, the classic lonesome stranger; but in this spoof, he travels with a huge armoire on wheels pulled by a mule. He has to write his mother for traveling money and worries about grass stains on his elaborate cowboy shirts. He is a "Good Guy" through and through.

"The Colonel" is played by Andy Griffith ("Waitress" and "What it Was Was Football"). He's the corrupt Cattle Baron ...you know, big hat, no cattle... He is ably assisted by Sela Ward ("Day After Tomorrow" and "Runaway Bride") as his daughter, and Marilu Henner ("Noises Off" and the TV series "Taxi") is the local "Hostess" with a heart of gold.

The town drunk, who desperately wants to be a sidekick, is played by G. W. Bailey ("Police Academy" and sequels.) This isn't a surprise because the Writer/Director Hugh Wilson ("Blast From the Past" and "Dudley Do-Right") originated the successful "Police Academy" franchise.

Of course, a railroad is slated to be built through this little western backwater, transforming it and the property values as well. The Railroad Colonel is played by Fernando Rey; he and his hired hands all wear Spaghetti Western outfits, much to the envy of the town drunk.

Despite having the movie shot in Spain, the country/western soundtrack is pure Americana, with Rex Allen, Jr. doing some of the honors. Play the DVD all the way through the credits to get as much of the soundtrack as possible.

Two things take this one over the top! Rex O'Herlihan's amazingly well-trained palomino and John Wayne's incredibly handsome son Patrick. Individually or together, they are worth the price of admission...or your Netflix dues...


The Producers

When I saw this movie at the cinema, most of the attendees were aficionados of musical theatre, consequently, after a big production number, we would actually applaud as though we were in a "live" performance. We were struck by the oh-so-clever choreography of the wonderful Susan Stroman who did the honors for Mel Brooks and his Broadway version, then was handed carte blanche to develop the new, more elaborate one we see on film. To say that she is creative and resourceful is a major understatement. Let's hear it for this next generation of choreographers breathing new life into Broadway!

When watching the DVD of this movie, I was suddenly amazed by the terrific lyrics and music written by Mr. B himself! I didn't "get" them in the theatre because I was too busy being overwhelmed by the comedy, the choreography and the clever performances by all of the principals: Matthew Broderick (you have NEVER seen a security blanket better used!), Nathan Lane (how he avoids a stroke with all of that prancing, I'll never know!), Uma Thurman (who has legs that go "all the way to her ass," to quote the late, not-so-great John Bramlet), and Will Ferrell (terrible German accent, pathetic yodeling and stylish lederhosen) as the unrepentant Nazi who writes "Springtime For Hitler," the show that is guaranteed to fail. Having the captions turned on will give you the specifically naughty lyrics Mel Brooks wrote for each production number. He's really BAD!

If you ever doubted Stroman's abilities as a choreographer, take a gander at how efficiently she has all those old ladies tapping their walkers in synch!

Need I remind you? This is MEL BROOKS, so there is no depth to which he wouldn't stoop! No political correctness, no tender sensibilities, no ox left un-gored... This is colorful, funny, crass and entertaining. Uma will surprise you, too!



This one has been around awhile. My volunteer daughter directed me to it.

It is based on true-life events that might seem a little farfetched, but you know the English!

The story is about a convicted felon who is transferred to a new experimental prison where the main thrust is rehabilitation rather than incarceration. Our central character Colin, played by Clive Owen ("The Inside Job" and "Croupier") just wants to be left alone; the prison warden has other plans. Because Colin refuses to choose a vocation, he is put to unsavory tasks, whereby an elderly fellow advises him to become a gardener, because at least he can be outdoors.

To his surprise, he not only has a knack for gardening, he really enjoys it. A local much-celebrated doyenne of gardening, played by Helen Mirren ("The Queen" and "Prime Suspect") needs extra help for a TV special, so she borrows a crew from the nearby prison. The upshot is that after she becomes acquainted with Owen and his uncommon skills, the prison is entered into competition for England's most-prestigious garden show award.

Bingo! Bureaucracy springs into action...

Quirky, sweet and above all, based on real people, "Greenfingers" is a satisfying little film.


Salaam Bombay

Many of you have seen this, because it is over 15 years old now, but if, like me, you have missed the boat, there is no time like the present. Current DVDs have interviews with the adults who were children at the time it was shot and the story of the workshops and the process they went through to be cast in the movie is fascinating. None of them went on to become Bollywood stars, although the interview with the lovely woman who played the main prostitute would lead you to believe she has continued on as an actress.

The clip of one boy who was adopted by the American camerawoman is very, very interesting. The children thought she was extremely old because she was blonde and the only light-colored hair they had ever seen before was grey. He is now a well-educated American, a college graduate who would like to somehow use his good fortune to help the children in India. (His family too, was cared for by the camerawoman.)

There are many interviews with people who are the directors of schools/ shelters for street children in three major Indian cities; they are named after and funded by the revenue from this film and the subsequent interest and charity it has generated over the years. This was the first film directed by Mira Nair ("Monsoon Wedding" and "Vanity Fair" [2004]) and it not only launched her highly respected career but others on the project also went on to professions in screen writing, etc.

This is a story of the street life in Bombay (now Mumbai), complete with street children, drug dealers, prostitutes and scam artists, all surviving at the most basic level. If it sounds like "Oliver Twist," it should, because that's exactly what it is! (minus the storybook ending due to coincidences that Dickens loved) The friendships, (misplaced) loyalties, desperation, street smarts, betrayals and broken hearts are the stuff of wonderful cinema!

This film won many awards the year it came out and the little boy who starred in it was also honored. The interview with him as an adult is particularly telling. The scene that earned him his awards is the final, transformative one, done in one long, single take in which a full array of emotions works its way slowly across his face. The final look fixed on his face will stay with you for a long while.

This one is definitely worth a NetFlix viewing.

(And I highly recommend her other two mentioned in this note, as well...)


The Fountain

Let's start with the good stuff:
  • Hugh Jackman ("X-Men") is a fine actor and he's gorgeous, although there are no "money shots" here...sorry.
  • The camera loves Rachel ("About a Boy") Weisz's face and she is a highly capable actor. (This movie was directed by her husband, Darren Aronofsky ("Requiem for a Dream".)
  • Ellen Burstyn ("Spitfire Grill") is holding up well.
Now, here are some "spoilers."
  • Too many fluids - tears, spit, snot, puddles, ponds, blood, surgical cleansers, tree sap, have I missed anything?
  • Too arcane, muddled, incomprehensible, and "woo woo."
  • No clear narrative - just Hugh Jackman looking terribly concerned ...most the time.
  • If it wasn't a doleful string quartet playing chamber music, it was a New Age orchestra going nowhere.
  • Too much CGI - too many patterns of bright light ebbing and flowing.
  • Terrible sound - most dialogue is whispered, thus muttered, distorted, and indecipherable.
  • No captions - without which there is no way to understand the complicated story.
  • Hugh Jackman periodically shows up floating in a bubble, bald, serene, and in a full lotus position.
  • The sap from the Tree of Life causes flowers to pop from the ground.
  • When ingested, those same flowers erupt from one's torso, ala "Alien," then from the mouth, nose and eyes.
Between murderous Incas and self-flagellating priests, it's enough to put one off religion for life!
Any questions?
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The ad before this preview is very short:


Slings and Arrows

"Slings & Arrows" is a Canadian TV series about theatre. To those of us who love theatre, whether as a performer or as an audience member, this one will be a satisfying (and hilarious!) treat.

The lead character (played by an absolutely yummy Canadian, Paul Gross) is the failed artistic director of a defunct shoestring theatre, closed by a landlord because his rent check bounced...again. His life is complicated by the fact that eight years earlier, during the third performance of his towering portrayal of Hamlet, he had jumped into Ophelia's grave and exited the theatre. He has spent seven of those intervening years in a mental institution. His Ophelia has soldiered on to a respectable career playing ever-older characters and becoming more and more diva'ish...

Gross saunters through this series in a Columbo-style raincoat, which is every bit as disreputable as Peter Falk's. His original theatre hires him back as a temporary artistic director when their current artistic director dies (you have to see it to believe it!). Our star, the deceased director and the (aging) actress had, before his breakdown, been an inseparable trio. His job is complicated by several things:
  • The theatre is looking for a permanent artistic director to replace him.
  • Our (formerly) inseparable trio still has "issues."
  • The ghost of the deceased director persists in appearing to our impoverished hero, telling him what to do, arguing with him about his interpretation of the current production of "Hamlet," and living with him in the prop room.
This show is peopled by folks you come very quickly to care about. The actress/diva has a penchant for (very) strapping young men, which creates a delightful subtext to the production events roiling around. Hamlet will be played by an American movie star with a huge following of teenagers. He was hired for his box office appeal, not his acting skills. I could go on and on.

The backstage interplay and rehearsals have an unmistakably authentic feel, most members of the cast (two of whom are also writers for the series) have a LOT of theatre experience. The portrayal of actors, with their egos, their insecurities, their impractical world-view, are all lovingly but accurately, depicted. (The tax audit is spot on!)

Season Two features "Macbeth" in all its gory glory...casting, rehearsing and performing.
Season Three focuses on "King Lear" with an aging "name" actor signed in a casting coup.

The only Canadian "face" you will recognize is Rachel McAdams in Season One, who is known to us from "The Notebook," "Mean Girls," "Wedding Crashers" and "Redeye." (All of which you wouldn't mind watching, by the way....) She is Ophelia's understudy who, naturally, is called upon to take to the boards when Ophelia breaks her leg...
I LOVE theatre!


The Devil Wears Prada

"The Devil Wears Prada" was fun. Anne Hathaway ("Brokeback Mountain," "The Princess Diaries") is actually the central character. The book on which it is based, was written by a woman who briefly worked for Anna Wintour, who was/is the head of Vogue magazine.

Wintour has always been known as a notoriously vain, evil, demanding, self-centered bitch, now recreated with delicious glee by Meryl Streep "A Prairie Home Companion" and "The Manchurian Candidate"), who obviously got a huge kick out of playing a fictitious, glammed-up version of her.

Hathaway plays the whipping boy/girl who applies for the chronically vacant assistant editor's job simply because she is a journalist and wants a chance to write for "Runway" (a fictitious version of Vogue). Her character has never read the magazine and she is obviously tone-deaf when it comes to haute couture.

We enjoy a competent supporting cast, comprised of Emily Blunt ("The Jane Austen Book Club"), who portrays a fellow sufferer/arch rival; and Stanley Tucci ("Swing Vote"), in the de rigueur role of the gay mentor who provides our heroine with fashion tips, wardrobe and a shoulder to cry on.

This movie makes a point of illustrating how petty and arbitrary Streep's character can be; AND, she never lets up or changes! According to what I see/hear/read, Wintour is exactly like that! Yikes!


Mrs Henderson Presents

This is an interesting snapshot of an actual series of events that took place during the WWII London blitz.

A wealthy widow, played by Judi Dench ("As Time Goes By" and the James Bond films) decides to go into the theatre business. Things start out with great success, but then inevitably slow down. She does some research, assisted by her hard-working and dedicated artistic director, played by Bob Hoskins ("Hollywoodland" and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?") and they come to the decision that nudity would rejuvenate her mostly military audience numbers.

When she is told that nudity in legitimate theatre is illegal, she meets with the Minister of Culture, played by Christopher Guest ("Waiting for Guffman" and "Best of Show"), who adamantly refuses her personal plea for an exception in her case ("to lift the morale for our boys!"). During tea, she quizzes him on why nudity is allowed in art galleries but not in the theatre. They finally ascribe it to: "in art galleries, the nudes don't move."

She dashes back to the theatre where she and Hoskins develop a series of tableaux wherein the nudes stand immobile while a musical number sashays around at the front of the stage.

The scenes where she and Hoskins must convince the actresses that they CAN appear nude are very funny and their ploy (having everyone else nude, including Hoskins! while they rehearse), works just fine. 1940's clothing, hair styles, social mores, etc., are immaculately done, and the secondary plot of an actress falling in love with a soldier, is wrenchingly sweet.