May 19, 2013
Anyone who lasts as long in show biz as Mel Brooks–who started as a TV writer in 1949–is going to have hits and misses. So it’s understandable that Brooks’ body of work is uneven, from the truly inspired (Young Frankenstein) to the truly lame (Robin Hood: Men in Tights).
But it’s also one of the greatest comedy oeuvres in American cinema. Call him what you will, but Brooks is a king of comedy — a manic madman of mirth — and also one of my heroes. Let’s put it simply: He knows how to make us laugh.
PBS’ latest American Masters program, Mel Brooks: Make a Noise, isn’t about making us laugh so much as showing us how all this happened. It’s done with interviews — lots and lots of interviews. And while some are vintage (clips of Brooks talking with Gene Wilder and the late Madeline Kahn), most are newly conducted by many of Brooks’ colleagues and admirers, from Cloris Leachman and Joan Rivers to Carl Reiner and Matthew Broderick. Read the rest of this entry »
May 19, 2013
OK, I’m a name-dropper. Can’t help it — because some things need to be said.
In 2005 I had a lengthy interview with Steven Spielberg about his then-new film Minority Report. It was filled with special effects of the CG (computer generated) variety — effects which it needed, given the futuristic and technologically oriented story.
Yet still, I had mixed feelings about such effects in general, and I sensed Spielberg did too.
So I asked him: “If you’d had CG when you made Jaws in 1975 . . . “
And he finished for me: “It wouldn’t have been as good.” Read the rest of this entry »
May 10, 2013
It’s a good thing Glee has summer to reset for Season 5, since despite some soaring moments for Season 4 finale All Or Nothing, season’s end, in many ways, was a hot mess.
Season 4 had enough of a challenge fragmenting into two casts in two settings while introducing many new characters. But at year’s end, the double punch of Cory Monteith’s absence via rehab and Heather Morris’ semi-absence — as Brittany’s usual dancing self — via pregnancy threw things off. And raising expectations with promos’ promises of a big cliffhanger that never materialized didn’t help this send-off at all.
I mean, on what cliff are we supposed to be hanging? That Blaine will ask Kurt to marry him, as he’d already said he’d do, and for which he had a ring in hand for the final shot? We knew this already. The true cliff on which to hang that would have been Kurt’s decision, and the finale didn’t even get that far. Read the rest of this entry »
May 3, 2013
Beware the literal hype claim in titles. Just as Smash has been no ratings smash for two seasons, neither was Glee’s Episode 21, Wonder-ful, a wonderful show. Much like last week’s Lights Out, its songs felt stitched-on and vaguely pertaining to plot, and beyond that lay a minefield of narrative gaffes beyond even Glee’s own stretched standards for continuity.
Where do I begin? How about with the fact that, since the glee club warmly welcomed Finn back to McKinley at the end of Episode 19 as co-coach with Mr. Schue, Finn not only has disappeared. He hasn’t been mentioned. Not one line of dialogue to account for his absence. Nothing. Nada. And it stinks.
But it also underscores why I think Glee has faltered for the last two weeks: With Cory Monteith’s sudden departure for rehab, three original scripts — and surely better ones — had to be rewritten, quickly and on the fly. Add the double-whammy of Heather Morris’ pregnancy, and Glee has had to improvise.
And hasn’t done it well. Read the rest of this entry »
April 26, 2013
Was Episode 20, Lights Out, Glee’s most lightweight and inconsequential show of the season? Beyond the fleeting heaviness of childhood sexual abuse revelations by Ryder and Kitty, its plot went nowhere, and even that meaningful message was undercut by the idiocy of Ryder confessing his childhood trauma and, in the next breath, hooking up with his deceitful stalker via Internet — again.
This show also stretched the limits of Glee’s heedlessness of continuity far beyond even its own shaky standards. Yes, we know Cory Monteith went to rehab and Heather Morris is preggers. But that’s not true of their respective characters. Yet there was no Finn and no Brittany (not to mention still no Sugar or Joe) — in fact, not even an offhand mention of Finn and Brittany, and that was damn awkward. Read the rest of this entry »
April 19, 2013
For those who couldn’t tolerate one episode of Glee having a serious side (last week’s Shooting Star), are you satisfied? Episode 19, Sweet Dreams, was as gleeful as they get, from song choices to plot lines to celebratory scenes. And though it was awkward seeing Finn in a party-down college setting now that Cory Monteith is in rehab (at least we never saw Finn take a drink or do drugs), we also know that Monteith didn’t make that move in response to party-animal extremes so much as a personal slip off the wagon. And besides, Finn — and even Puck — saw the light enough to get back to business, with Finn rejoining Mr. Schuester with the show choir.
Or has he? As we know, Finn will be written out of the last two episodes, which means next week’s Lights Out episode will be the last time we see him this year. But the show must go on. To wit: Read the rest of this entry »
April 12, 2013
And Glee is in the comedy category for the Emmys?
As I’ve long said, this show can’t be pigeonholed. It’s so much more than comedy, musical or “dramedy.” Rather, Glee is truly unique on TV’s littered landscape — now, and historically. And as it showed with Episode 18, Shooting Star, its fanciful fictions also can maintain a deceptively meaningful grounding in life’s everyday realities and truths.
For this show, that sad truth was the specter of school violence, notably in the form of gunplay, a hot-button issue that Glee is as entitled to address as it was teen suicide, school bullying, texting while driving and teen pregnancy. And to those who insist Glee shouldn’t try to be that kind of show — that favored “ships” and a song in its heart are all it should deliver — you can take comfort, at least, that no one was hurt by the shots which rang out at McKinley High, and galvanized so many tearful self-examinations and soulful declarations.
Well, no one was hurt — except Sue Sylvester. Read the rest of this entry »
April 8, 2013
You heard it here first — I hope: Shout! Factory has announced the lineup for the DVD set Mystery Science Theater 3000 XXVII, due July 23. And it is:
Rocket Attack USA, The Deadly Mantis, The Slime People and Village of the Giants (above).
Each will be new to DVD.
Bonus features will include Chasing Rosebud: The Cinematic Life Of William Alland. That producer for Universal creature features also was touched upon in the latest boxed set regarding The Mole People, and here it’s for The Deadly Mantis. Read the rest of this entry »
March 22, 2013
If the latest rumors are true, and Glee’s still unannounced but presumed Season Five will be New York-centric, then this week’s Episode 17, Guilty Pleasures, shows why that may be a good idea.
After all, the largely Lima-based tale was as insubstantial as any episode for months, with a theme-of-the-week feel echoing Season One and precious little going on in terms of characters or story. Given that I enjoyed most of the guilty-pleasure performances on some level (can Jacob Artist dance, or what?), I contented myself with the thought that the music could be its own reward, and the music tonight would have to be enough.
But when the show shifted more fully near its end to a Brooklyn loft and a Manhattan college, with post-high school characters immersed in weightier matters, it brought home to me how much Glee owes the natural move to its new Gotham setting, where more is at stake than learning weekly lessons, and where its best core characters — Rachel, Kurt, Santana — now reside. Read the rest of this entry »
March 21, 2013
And lo, a new MST3K box set came unto them, and it was good.
In terms of extras, not great in this case, but definitely good. We’re talking Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXVI, new on DVD Tuesday, March 26 from Shout! Factory, with four more episodes scattered from Seasons Four through Eight, and a routine but often rewarding array of special features.
The beefiest of that bunch is the 17-minute Of Mushrooms and Madmen: Making The Mole People for the disc with that early Season Eight episode, when we could rejoice with Earth’s future apes that it was “32nd Annual Lawgiver Daze.”
Brought to us from the reliable folks at Ballyhoo, Of Mushrooms and Madmen surveys the career of William Alland, who produced 1956′s The Mole People as well as more highly regarded sci-fi fare such as This Island Earth and the three Creature (as in Black Lagoon) features. Read the rest of this entry »