|ATTENTION FELLOW FORMER FANS OF KABL
FIGHT THE AWFUL NEW FORMAT!
Join Will the Thrill and Monica, Tiki Goddess in protesting the horrendous change from classic Standards, Swing & Big Bands to creepy "Adult Contemporary" - if you prefer Louis and Keely to the Captain and Tennille, or if you know Dean Martin is way cooler than Ricky Martin, write to the clueless Corporate clucks who think only old people like great music, firstname.lastname@example.org, and demand they bring back our music that no one else plays! Don't let the eternally cool sounds of Sinatra disappear from the Bay Area airwaves - or die altogether in the 21st Century!
Also, call the KABL comment line to complain: 415.344-9060
On This Month's Thrill-bill:
Lost & Lonely: B Movie Noir
hese remakes need to stop.
I recently received the bad news that Mark Wahlberg, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Bruce Willis and Bill Murray have joined George Clooney in the ill-advised remake of the Rat Pack classic Ocean's 11 (1960), to be directed by Steven Soderbergh (who has actually made some decent flicks, most recently Out of Sight and The Limey). This is on par with remaking I Love Lucy without Lucy, but with Ricky Martin as Ricky Ricardo (now that I've written it outloud, some moron will do it, just watch). And what will this modern band of losers be dubbed by the moniker-lovin' media? The Brat Pack is taken (and why couldn't they just remake St. Elmo's Fire? That I wouldn't mind - or even notice.) Are George, Brad, Marky, Julia, Bruce and Bill The Suck Squad? The Poseur Posse? The Bonehead Bunch? One thing is for damn sure: they ain't no Rat Pack. Check Bogart's grave - the earth must be loose by now from all the spinning.
First KABL goes from swing to sap, from Nat King Cole to Lionel Richie. Now this. It's the Conspiracy Against Cool. I am exposing this massive bowel movement here and now.
Steven Soderbergh needs to stop this. Now. Or he needs to die. There's no third way. The option of him living and going ahead with this travesty is simply unacceptable to me. For the Boomers out there who don't dig my indignant objection to this Rat Pack re-touch: imagine if A Hard Days Night starring your beloved Beatles was being remade - with the Backstreet Boys. Get it now?
First of all, Brad Pitt needs to keep his skanky grunge-monkey ass away from anything having to do timeless grace and classic style, two qualities the Rat Pack possessed in spades. The only time I appreciated Pitt's bull was when he played a burned-out stoner in Tarantino's one great cinematic achievement, True Romance. It's when Brad tries to actually act that he bothers me. And anyway, this has nothing to do with thespian skills. He's perfect for stuff like Fight Club, an imaginative movie made primarily for guilt-ridden yuppies. But to stick him in a remake of a Rat Pack movie is cosmically wrong. He is the antithesis of everything Frank, Dino, Sammy, Joey and even Peter stood for. Those guys had class and talent to burn. Brad Pitt has bongs to burn, and that's it. And in this case, where there's smoke, there ain't no fire.
George Clooney is cast in the Sinatra part. I have nothing against George really, he has some old-fashioned charm, but the best thing about him is his Aunt Rosemary. If Georgie Boy - who seems like a nice enough guy with marginal charisma - can't pull off Batman, he certainly can't sit in the Chairman's seat. And you know if he makes Frank look bad he'll end up back in the E/R - but not as a doctor. Bruce Willis is supposed to do Dino's part. Willis was perfectly fine in Moonlighting and Pulp Fiction and any movie where he plays opposite a little kid. But if he takes a crack at singing "Ain't That a Kick in the Head" I will hunt him down and grind my heel into that oversized dome of his. Newsflash for Bruno: you ain't no Dino, pallie. Mark Wahlberg is taking on the Peter Lawford bit, I think. Lawford was my least favorite member of the Clan, but still, this ain't Boogie Nights. Wahlberg is a decent little actor - but he cannot begin to comprehend the meaning of Suave. How could he? He's a product of his generation, a head-bangin' baggy pants-wearin' trash-talkin' hip hopper. At least Lawford knew what a sharkskin suit was, and how to wear one. I hear Marky's also in Tim Burton's needless remake of Planet of the Apes (STOP IT!). What's next for Little Marky - Rhett Butler? Bill Murray must be taking the Joey Bishop part - I guess because he's supposed to be the funny one. Yea. Ha, ha. Whatever.
And to make the whole thing just perfectly, horribly nightmarish, my least favorite actress of all time, Julia Roberts, has been cast in the Angie Dickinson role. Now, Jennifer Lopez (who played opposite Clooney in Soderbergh's Out of Sight) I could dig - at least she's about half as sexy as Angie, in a plastic, contemporary sort of way (no getting around that these days). Sticking bony, bland, bitchy, boring Roberts in here, who has zero appeal in my book - she's like the female Tom Cruise, for Chrissake - means Soderbergh must really have it in for me. Personally.
It's bad enough Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts are appearing in the same movie - normally I could just ignore something so frightening, like I always try to do when I read about disasters in the news I can do nothing about. If other people - and there are millions of them, the little devils - enjoy watching overpaid talking mannequins in big, dumb movies, they are entitled to it - just not in a remake of the ultimate Rat Pack flick. That's treading on Thrillville territory, and I am very territorial. To me, Roberts and Pitt epitomize everything that is wrong with Hollywood today: shallow, stupid, superficial - in short, everything Frank, Dino and Sammy were not.
It looks like talented Don Cheadle, who played the real Sammy so ably in the HBO biopic The Rat Pack last year, is basically gonna do the same thing here. This is the only casting that doesn't bug me - as long as he doesnt try to sing. Could've been worse: Martin Lawrence, Puff Daddy, Sinbad. Sammy was the greatest entertainer of the 20th Century. These modern superstars aren't fit to shine his shoes, much less dance in them. If Puff-Pop - or anyone - raps "E-0 Eleven" on the soundtrack, I will have to put some kind of cap in his arrogant ass. It will be my civic duty as an upstanding citizen of Thrillville.
A while ago I was extremely worried when Martin Scorsese, once one of our greatest modern filmmakers, announced a biopic of Dino - incredibly starring white bread Tom Hanks in the title role (!!!???), and chubby disco dancer John Travolta as Sinatra (!!!???). That puzzling, pathetic project has either been put on hiatus or scrapped altogether. Maybe Marty went on medication and belatedly realized the insanity of his intentions. This is what most likely happened: the Mob put out a hit on him. It was their duty as conscientious, proud Italian Americans to stop this cinematic offense in its tracks. And poor Sandra Dee has publicly stated that Tom Cruise would make a perfect Bobby Darin (???!!!). She needs to climb back on the wagon before she embarrasses the memory of her late great ex-hubby any further. That casting would truly be a mission:impossible.
I can tell you this: if I have anything to do with it - and I book most of the movies here, even the second runs I don't watch myself - you will NEVER see the remake of Ocean's 11 at The Parkway, because I take this one as a personal insult. Hopefully it will bomb bigger than Tri-Star's Godzilla. Filmmakers and dealmakers remake movies for two reasons: to cash in on the original's name, and because they think they can actually improve on the original, either artistically or with the number of explosions. (Actually, there's a third reason: lack of imagination.) Firstly, these idiots are completely missing both target demographics. Take Wild, Wild West, for instance. Most Will Smith fans, at least the young ones, never even heard of the great TV show (one of my all-time favorites) that it was based on, so what commercial appeal does the title and source material hold for them? And older fans with sentimental stakes in the franchise, who loved Robert Conrad as Jim West and know that Dr. Loveless is a midget, not a paraplegic, could only take offense at the whole mess. Same deal here - Ocean's 11 was originally made so the Rat Pack would have something to do between shows at The Sands. It's a Rat Pack showcase, plain and simple, filmed during the apex of Vegas' beauty as a world class adult playground, long before it became the atrocious mainstream amusement park it is today. The Clan is gone, and with them the spirit of Las Vegas. They're all swingin' in that Big Casino in the Sky now. What Hollywood should do is re-release the original, so these kids today can be exposed to a true example of Cool. It's an historical document of a bygone era, and should be preserved and appreciated as such. Soderbergh thinks now that they're all history (with the exceptions of Henry Silva and Bishop, who should sue), he can assemble a cast of big name Hollywood hunks and recapture that ol' black magic. This is yet another cynical attempt to cash in on dead peoples' legends while raking in mega-bucks from clueless kids who have no idea that they're buying a re-hash. I find this incredibly insulting to the memory of my spiritual mentors. Remaking this movie would be like blowing up The Dunes and building a big new modern resort for families and oh. Shit. They did do that, didn't they? I get it now. The same mentality that razed all the great Vegas casinos to put up Disneyland Hotels is the same one behind this remake. The Conspirators Against Cool are calling too many shots in this world. But not in Thrillville, baby. You're safe with me, the Lounge Lizard King and sole heir to the one and only Rat Pack. And Monica, Tiki Goddess is the only broad around who could give Angie D a run for her money.
Speaking of true style and original cool, every day this month at The Parkway I am proud to present my second annual Film Noir Fest, a comprehensive retrospective featuring a dozen classics ranging from the 40s to the 70s, from classic to neo-noir, from the B's to the Best. The more famous ones are playing throughout the week, three days apiece, at 6:30PM (6PM weekends; Mondays at 9:15PM). Tuesday 6:30 shows are still designated as Thrillville Nurserys (Thrillville Theater for the Baby Brigade). I'm saving the really weird, obscure movies for Thursdays in Thrillville Theater, because I know I attract some really weird, obscure people - my favorite kind of movie and person!
Details for the entire series, including brief summaries and exact showtimes, are posted under the Film Noir Fest link on our web site and on the front page of our newsletter, The Parkway Planet.
My co-host for the salacious sub-series in Thrillville Theater, billed as "Lost & Lonely: B Movie Noir", is author/historian/hep cat Eddie Muller, of Alameda. Eddie co-hosted my very popular premiere Film Noir Fest in April of '99. He is the acclaimed author of the definitive book on the subject, Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir, as well as co-author of Grindhouse, a titillating tome illustrating the history of sexploitation cinema. He has also written a recently completed documentary about legendary sexploitation filmmaker David Friedman, Mau Mau Sex Sex, which we'll get around to showing sometime soon. Eddie's now working on several projects at once, including a collection of femme fatale profiles called Dark City Dames; a massive coffee-table style film noir poster book; and soon he will celebrate the publication of his first novel, The Distance. You also might've caught him interviewed for the recent A&E bio of noir icon Richard Widmark. If Eddie wasn't such a loveable guy, I'd hate him! Actually he's a great pal of ours, plus he really knows his stuff, and we're very lucky to have him here. He programs the annual noir fest at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood every April, which Monica, Tiki Goddess and I always attend. Eddie attracts and arranges incredible guests for that series, too - true living legends like Claire Trevor, Marie Windsor, Evelyn Keyes, Lizabeth Scott, Robert Wise, Janet Leigh, and even our beautiful pal, the great Mamie Van Doren, to name a few. Sometime if you're lucky Eddie might let you take him out for a drink so he can describe in detail the night Lawrence Tierney showed up uninvited and quite unexpected at a screening of his 1947 hardboiled masterpiece Born To Kill. Kiddies know this authentic tough guy from Reservoir Dogs (he's the old dude), but Tierney had a very long and violent history on both sides of the camera before 1992. I'll have to let Eddie himself share this anecdote sometime - it's one of the funniest, and most pathetic stories I have ever heard. You couldn't make up a better one if you tried.
If you're reading this in the newsletter, just flip the page over for a rundown of the series, a concise definition of what noir is, and why I chose these particular films. If you're on the web reading this, click over to the Special Events page for the complete lowdown. Eddie made some great suggestions, like The Devil Thumbs a Ride, Odds Against Tomorrow and 99 River Street, which I was unable to obtain for this series. I also wanted to show two great Burt Lancaster noirs from the 40s, The Killers and Criss Cross, but couldn't get those either. Or Shack Out on 101 or Dark Passage or a number of other titles that were unavailable for a variety of reasons. Go to Movie Image in Downtown Berkeley or the Video Room on Piedmont Ave for completist sections of noir on tape. But come to The Parkway every day this month to view these classics as they were meant to be seen: on the big screen with a bunch of drunken strangers in the dark.
In this age of forgettable consumerism and mass (re)production, you have a refuge where the originals stand the test of time, right here in Thrillville Theater, which serves up the antidote for our cultural amnesia in one cool cocktail. Too bad this widespread societal affliction is actually promoted by the media these days.
One fact consoles me:
In the 70s or 80s or some other screwed-up decade there was a short-lived TV show based on Casablanca, with David Soul of Starsky and Hutch fame in the Bogart role of Rick. Anybody remember that?
Didn't think so.