Saturday, July 4, 2020

Slumgullion Episode 78: Artemis Fowl

Jeff, Scott, and Special Guest Fairy Expert MaryC watch Disney's new film adaptation of the beloved YA book series.

At was beloved before this thing came out. I'm not even gonna make the obvious Artemis Foul joke, because I refuse to befowl myself.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

My Heart Belongs to Daddy (Because He's an Organ-Collecting Psychopath)

By Bill S.

It's Father's Day, and, as we do every year, we celebrate by remembering the movie and TV dads who make us grateful for the ones we had. This year, we'll spotlight three memorably awful TV dads (if your own dad was worse, you have our sympathies.)

Billy (Denis Leary) on "Animal Kingdom"

It might not come as a surprise that none of the Cody brothers has the same biological dad. Apparently when Smurf was on the road, she hooked up with a different guy and added a new kid to her brood. (Instead of forming a pop band, like Shirley Partridge, she opted to make petty crime the family business. Probably because the wardrobe was cooler.) It's hard to decide which of Smurf's exes was the biggest waste of space, but I'd pick Billy, the father of youngest son Deran (the "nice" one). After abandoning him for years, Billy drops back into Deran's life, reeking of cheap liquor, skunk weed, and poor judgement (all of which were probably factors in the kid's conception). He nonetheless earns Deran's trust, and repays that trust by sticking around long enough to help the Codys pull off one job, then heading to Deran's bar to help out with some cleaning -- namely, the safe, which he empties, and takes off all over again.

August Cartwright (John Emmett Tracy)/Dr. Ethan Campbell (Sebastian Roche) on "Batwoman"

After witnessing a car plunge into a lake, he dives into the water to rescue 13 year old Beth Kane. He brings her to his home...and holds her prisoner, to be a playmate/pet for his facially deformed son Johnny, who's also basically a prisoner, isolated from the outside world. He turns those children into monsters. As a bonus, he also recovers the body of Beth's mother, and keeps the dead woman's severed head in a freezer, with plans to transplant her face onto his own mother. He later surgically alters his own face to assume the identity of a respected doctor.

This guy would scare the crap out of Norman Bates.

Dr. Martin Whitley (Michael Sheen) on "Prodigal Son"

A prominent surgeon, responsible for saving countless lives. Also, a serial killer responsible for at least 23 murders. When his son discovers one of the bodies, and with it, the truth about his father, he's emotionally scarred for life. 

Michael Sheen deserves an Emmy for turning "My boy!" into the creepiest phrase in the English language. In the Season one finale, we learn Whitley has also done severe damage to his seemingly normal daughter, leading him to proudly beam, "My girl!"

This guy would scare the crap out of August Cartwright.

I'll close with a message to all you Dads out there: Parenting is tough, and you may, at times, wonder if you've made the best choices for your kids. Take heart -- if you're not a murderous sociopath, chained to the wall of a prison cell, wondering when your kids will visit, then you're probably doing an okay job.

Happy Father's Day!

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Episode 77: Picard's Ass

Scott and Jeff sit down -- on their asses, to preserve the theme -- and talk about the ass-end of Picard (the series, not the character. Although they do have a brief group therapy session about that Speedo scene). Also featuring Special Guest Villain, Time Dick!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Episode 76: May the Fifth Be With

It's All (okay, Mostly) Star Wars on this almost May 4th Adjacent day, as big nerd news sets fan brains a'bubbling and geek tongues a'waggin'.

[Note: We actually recorded this on the 4th, posted it on the 5th, but flacked it on the 6th, because I clearly don't know how the 12 Days of Christmas work...]

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Happy Easter

It was the most difficult and joyless Easter the kids had ever known, separated from friends and family by the quarantine. But they didn't complain, or lose faith, and the Easter Bunny was so touched by their pureness of spirit and the goodness in their hearts that he rewarded the children by revealing his true form to them. It wasn't as enchanting as they'd hoped, and things didn't improve much when he whisked them away to a shuttered AMC multiplex and made them watch his entire collection of vintage 35MM porn.

How Do You Handle a Hungry Man-Fish?

By Hank Parmer

The Monster of Piedras Blancas (1959)

When The Creature from the Black Lagoon premiered in 1954, it spawned not just two sequels, but an entire sub-genre of amphibious man-monsters (along with the token She-Creature) coming up from the depths to terrorize unwary land-dwellers. And, typically, to lust after the wimmins, a theme that reached its nasty apotheosis with 1980's Humanoids from the Deep* -- but the less said about that one, the better.

The real heyday of this genre's popularity was the mid-Fifties to the mid-Sixties, an era which at its tail-end brought us such timeless classics as Del "I Eat Your Skin" Tenney's The Horror of Party Beach (1964) and the straightforwardly titled The Beach Girls and the Monster (1965).

As for The Monster of Piedras Blancas, it falls somewhere between those and the original Creature, both chronologically and in terms of production values. Producer Jack Kevan, director Irvin Berwick and cinematographer Phillip Lathan were contract workers at Universal-International, which was experiencing a major money crunch at the time. So the studio was willing to look the other way while its people did some freelancing, even going so far as allowing the producer to borrow equipment as well as bits and pieces of U-I's monster suits.

Because of this, the titular critter looks unusually convincing for a low-budget film and Lathan's cinematography -- while nothing to write home about -- was a cut above what what you typically encounter in this sort of outing. I just wish I could say the same about Berwick's screenplay and direction.

The Monster opens with an establishing shot of the scenic Point Conception lighthouse, followed by a quick dissolve to a close-up of a battered tin pan, chained to a stake driven into the rock. An inhuman, claw-tipped hand reaches up from behind the rocks, snatches the pan out of sight. But it's instantly tossed back.

Someone's impatient for their din-dins.

Cut to curmudgeonly loner, lighthouse keeper Sturges (John Harmon). He yells at a couple of teenagers who're hiking along the edge of the cliff to keep away from his light, then hops on his bicycle for a grocery run down to the sleepy coastal community of Piedras Blancas. (Spanish for "White Rocks".)

Down at the beach, Constable George Matson stares glumly at the off-screen corpses of two fishermen, the Rinaldi brothers. According to the guy standing next to the constable, the brothers' heads have been "ripped clean off". Matson remarks their skin is oddly pale, as if there's not a drop of blood left in their bodies.

When the lighthouse keeper pedals past, Joe Exposition mutters to the constable he's convinced old Sturges knows more than he's telling. Matson orders a couple of the men to take the brothers to Kochek's store, so their corpses can be kept on ice until the coroner arrives. (What with the Rinaldis' hemoglobin deficit, Kochek can probably just stack them right on top of the Swanson's.)

At Kochek's meat and grocery market, the proprietor is a garrulous soul, eager to impart the grisly details while he fills Sturges' order. He was the one who discovered the bodies, after all. Although Kochek claims the Rinaldis had their throats cut from ear to ear, not that they were decapitated.

I suppose, technically speaking, if your head's been removed your throat has to have been been cut at some point in the process, but still...

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Pre-Friday Beast Blogging: Quarantine Diary

APRIL 8, 2020: Day 20 in lockdown...
I wonder what my nose tastes like...

Ah! Hm...Mm-huh...

Cat ass...I probably could'a guessed that.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

I Hate Myself

I thought being an introvert would get me through isolation unscathed, but I dunno now...

I've been talking to myself for days, which is fine. Comforting even.

But yesterday I got in a heated argument with myself, and lost.

I still think I had a good point, but I was an asshole about it and had to apologize to myself. But I wouldn't accept it, and went to bed angry.

Now I'm not speaking to myself.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Masque of the Orange Death

Watching Trump's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, it struck me as the most tone deaf, myopic public health policy since Prince Prospero locked himself and a thousand of his richest friends in his abbey and tried to party through the plague. But then I remembered our own Henry Tifft Gage, and his "Business First! Bodies Second!" approach to the San Francisco plague of 1900.

Henry T. Gage was a lawyer from East Saginaw, Michigan who followed the advice of Horace Greeley and went west to seek his fortune. He managed to marry the heir to a minor Spanish Land Grant family, and parlayed her real estate holdings into a single term as California Governor.

Gage served from 1899 to 1903, and is chiefly remembered for his resemblance to Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain, and for his tireless efforts to hush up an outbreak of bubonic plague, fearing the news would be bad for business. And Henry was big on big business; if he'd still held the governorship in 1906, I imagine you would have found him in the smoldering ruins of San Francisco, bitterly denouncing the Fake News and their irresponsible rumors of rubble.

But why would someone in a position of public trust basically commit negligent homicide, especially when there were multiple better options (Gage spent the last half of his term beating the Federal government off with a stick to prevent their assistance). Well, Gage was a Republican, and like others of his kind he paid greater obeisance to his constituents in the boardroom rather than the boarding house. But he was also a pioneer, and faced with a deadly public health crisis, he whipped up an avant garde parfait of science denialism, sociopathy, and personal pettiness which anticipated the Trump Administration by well over a century.

Gage began his political career as a corporate lawyer for the railroads, which basically owned California government at the end of the 19th Century, and proved himself just the kind of grasping, ambitious, morally gray lickspittle the likes of which Cornelius Vanderbilt, Collis P. Huntington, and E.H. Harriman doted on. In 1898 the Southern Pacific Railroad engineered his selection as the Republican gubernatorial nominee, but even with the backing of the railroad barons he only managed to squeak out a narrow victory against his opponent, San Francisco's Congressional representative.

He began his inaugural address by slavering over the spoils of the Spanish-American War, rhapsodizing, "The peaceful acquisition of the Hawaiian Islands, extending our empire beyond our Pacific shore, should be followed as a political necessity by the annexation of the Philippines. The center of commerce must move westward." Which wasn't great for the Hawaiians, and wouldn't have been fabulous for the Filipinos either, but it would certainly have proven a windfall for the railroads, a fact which the press noticed. One newspaper published an editorial cartoon depicting a railroad tycoon leading the new governor around on a leash, and Gage responded by "ramrodd[ing] a censorship bill thru the Legislature, restricting the press whenever editorial content involved politics or politicians." Again, c'est très Trumpy!

Gage demanded the formation of a "western merchant marine for the carriage of our imports and exports, and luring to our markets the nations of the world." Unfortunately, that year one such ship arrived in San Francisco with a cargo of imports that included "rats carrying the Third Pandemic of the bubonic plague."

The disease quickly gained a foothold in Chinatown, and Gage, realizing this could be bad for his patrons' bottom line, snapped into action by denying there was any plague at all, and by defaming the head of the federal Marine Hospital Service, who was in charge of quarantines.

When the U.S. Surgeon General arranged for a commission to investigate the situation, Gage immediately denounced their findings, and "denied the federal commission any use of the University of California, Berkeley's laboratories to further study the outbreak."

Sticking with his belief that "On a scale of 1 to 10, the 1st Amendment has to be the least important, right?", Gage tried to ram through another law, this time making it a crime to even report on the plague. It failed, but other laws gagging the medical community did pass, making it harder for the public to get scientifically valid information.

Republican newspapers in San Francisco backed up the governor's lies, but scandal sheets like the Sacramento Bee honestly reported on the pandemic, even as Gage begged the U.S. President to cancel the quarantine. Rebuffed, Gage took the Trumpian tack of fighting news with rumor. He accused the Federal government, especially the hated head of the Marine Hospital Service, of injecting germs into cadavers to make it look like they'd died of plague. Can a dead body develop a disease? I dunno, and Gage gagged all the doctors who could'a told me, so...

They say money can't buy happiness, and apparently it also can't be used to buy off a virus, because even though "$100,000 was allocated to a public campaign led by Gage to deny the plague's existence", the plague continued to exist. And while the plutocrats holding Gage's leash were happy to pooh-pooh the plague to the hoi polloi, they did actually want the pandemic dealt with, before it killed all their customers.

So Gage backed down in a sulfurous cloud of ill grace, and sent a gaggle of railroad lawyers to Washington to "negotiate a settlement with the Marine Hospital Service", i.e. the federal official Gage had been slandering. Why not just negotiate directly with the man, who was right there across the Bay? For the same reason Trump refuses to meet face-to-face with Nancy Pelosi: his grudge was > the lives of his constituents.

Incapable of doing the right thing for its own sake, Gage devised a means to save face, promising that if the Federal government would only remove the head of the Marine Hospital Service, then "the state would secretly cooperate with the Marine Hospital Service in stamping out the plague outbreak."

You caught that, right? "[T]he state would secretly cooperate" in stamping out the plague the governor publicly declared was a hoax. When they finally went in and decontaminated Chinatown, ground zero for the outbreak, the state denied it was an anti-plague measure and painted the massive effort as routine street maintenance.

And in a final Trumpian gesture, when the feds agreed to remove the head of Marine Hospital Service (remembering that the only thing he did wrong was be right), Gage reneged on their bargain.

"Despite the secret agreement allowing for [MHS head's] removal, Gage went back on his promise of assisting federal authorities and continued to obstruct their efforts for study and quarantine."

Ultimately, the plague--or rather, Gage's response to it--was his undoing.  Business interests appreciated the lies and censorship, but now that other states were beginning to boycott California exports--due to a runaway plague problem obvious to everyone but the governor--the bald-faced denials in the face of fact finally began to wear away at Gage's support among the monied class.

Say what you will about Henry Tifft Gage (and make it profane, I beg you), he was an incompetent and, one might argue, homicidal servant of the people. But he was also a loyal and effective servant of the railroads dating back to his earliest days as a corporate lawyer in Los Angeles, which makes what happened next all the funnier.

Because now Henry T. had a credibility gap, and the railroads had a fall guy. "At the state Republican convention that year, the Railroad Republican faction refused Gage renomination for the governorship. In his place, [they supported] former Mayor of Oakland George Pardee, a German-trained medical physician."

So after spending much of his term harassing the press, stifling the medical community, and stymying public health efforts to contain the outbreak, because the only Red Death he feared was scarlet ink in his patrons' ledgers, Gage was bumped from the ticket in favor of...a doctor. Which led--for me anyway--to a long, richly detailed, Designated Survivor-style fantasy in which our current government is decapitated by the disease, leaving the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as the highest ranking official.
Stay safe, guys.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Happy Birthday, MaryC!

By World O' Crap Special Birthday Correspondent Bill S.

Today we celebrate the birthday of MaryC, and, as always, search for that perfect gift. It's a bit different this year, with most of the country in quarantine. What do you get for the girl who's housebound?
Let's see what we can find in the Carol Wright Gifts catalogue

all sizes only $19.99
This slimming-look, zip-front lounger has lace trim and two roomy pockets.

Best of all, it's stylish!

DELUXE GOPHER Pickup and Reaching Tool
$9.99, additionals $7.99
E-x-t-e-n-d You Reach Nearly 3 Ft.!

Hey, this is a great idea if you have to shop for essentials, such as liquor. Get two of them, grip one with the other, and hold it in front of you to maintain social distancing (and SMACK! anyone who tries to violate your space.)

Why pay $11.99? Ours only $9.99
Your Own Personal Bidet

If the hoarding of toilet paper continues, this could be the biggest seller during the holidays. (A, um, stocking stuffer.)

But what about fun indoor activities? Perhaps we can find something in that other great catalogue, Things You Never Knew Existed

[Note from Scott: Sadly, Things You Never Knew Existed, which has been a part of Bill's birthday posts for many years now, has gone the way of the Steller's sea cow. When you click on the link above, this is what greets you:

So let this last appearance stand, not only as Bill's encomium to Mary's special day, but also as an epitaph for that great American institution, the Catalogue Full o' Bullshit.]

Great Low-impact workout! Tone up your arms and chest muscles without ever leaving your seat! Sturdy fitness device secures to virtually any chair with 21" Velcro straps. Elastic Power Chord bands with cushioned handles--

So basically you sit on a bungee chord and stretch it out? I said a fun activity. Moving on...

Perhaps some light reading...?

EXECUTIONS IN AMERICA Over 300 Years of Capital Punishment
Heavily illustrated with rare pictures of the condemned criminals, their executioners, the official instruments used to carry out the sentences, and in many cases, the actual execution.

300 years? So they're including future executions?

Jeff Dunham and his iconic creations (Achmed, Walter, Peanut, and Bubba J.) travel the world pushing the limits on 5 continents, in arenas few Americans have dared to perform!

Well, that's probably a little bit funnier than the "Executions" book.

[From Scott: Only if it includes photos of Bubba J. in the gas chamber.]

Electronic vinyl keyboard fits around the commode so you can tap out a tune with your toes while you tinkle!
Well, I'd refrain from doing a Jerry Lee Lewis impression, but apart from that, I think we've found our winner!

Happy Birthday, MaryC!

[From Scott: And what's a birthday around here without the traditional Sexy Birthday Lizard!]
This Parson's Chameleon wants you. Bad.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Mary's Homeschooler Help Desk #2

Home economics lab at McKinley High School in Washington circa 1910

Okay! We are in our 2nd week (at least) of homeschooling. For this post, I'm going to suggest one of my favorite resources for teaching:

This resource has craft ideas, worksheets and lesson plans for almost all grade levels.

Here are my favorites for this week:

1. This class book project is sure to hatch students' interest in describing words. If desired, begin by reading aloud Easter Bugs by David A. Carter. Have each child decorate an egg cutout. Then give her a strip of paper with the question shown. Ask her to write in the blank a word that describes her egg.

Next, have each youngster glue her question near the top of a sheet of paper. Instruct her to trace her egg below it and to glue a small photo of herself in the middle of the tracing. Place her decorated egg on the tracing and staple it at the bottom. Compile students" completed work into a book. Have students look behind the eggs to discover the answers to the questions!

2. I love this one because it's all about decorating eggs:


What happens when you swirl an egg in tinted water and oil? Youngsters will be fascinated with the surprising results of this investigation!


food coloring
egg dipper
water in a clear
disposable cup
2 hard-boiled eggs
vegetable oil
paper towel
Mix a few drops of food coloring in the cup of water.

Display an egg. Ask, "What do you think will happen to this egg if we put it in the colored water?" After students share, immerse the egg. After a few moments, lift the egg and discuss the color of the shell. Then set the egg aside.

Pour a tablespoon of vegetable oil in the tinted water. Help students notice how the oil floats on the surface. Then stir the contents, directing youngsters' attention to the oily swirls.

Show the second egg. Ask, "What do you think will happen to the egg if we put it in this mixture?" After students respond, immerse the egg while swirling it and then remove it and pat it with the paper towel. Display the egg and discuss the marbleized results.

What Next?
Have students dye eggs in solid colors. Then have them marbleize the eggs with contrasting colors!

Marie E. Cecchini
West Dundee, IL

[Previous installments in this series: Quarantined Schoolhouse Rock!]

It's Twue, It's Twue, in Twends For You!

Twitter may have its uses beyond inducing daily panic attacks, but I've yet to discover them. Today I signed on and found this diabolical Trolley Problem waiting for me:


bye jackie chan??

Is he sick? Did he die? This is terrible! I grew up on Jackie Chan! Idolized him! He's a filmmaking legend! An international treasure! Why? WHY??

Fran Drescher

Huh. You know, I've met Fran. Worked with her even, and she's...definitely one of God's creatures. I mean, if you believe all human life has intrinsic value, then you'd certainly have to concede that hers meets that basic standard. No man is an island, and all that.


Yeah. Well...It's not exactly Sophie's Choice, is it?

[NOTE: They're both fine as of press time. The Jackie Chan trend is just about some asshole New Yorker being racist to an Asian cop, while Fran has evidently turned into Emma Goldman and is raging against the machine ("Capitalism has become another word for Ruling Class Elite!"). Fight the Power, Nanny.]

Friday, March 20, 2020

Slumgullion 75: Orson Welles' Lost Silent Film

New Slumgullion! It's a weirder than usual Unknown Movie Challenge as we take on Orson Welles' first film. No, not Citizen Kane, we mean the recently discovered Too Much Johnson, a 1938 silent flick (What?? IKR?) starring Joseph Cotton as Harold Lloyd and most of the Mercury Theatre as people who put on and take off hats.

A lot.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Quarantined Schoolhouse Rock

By Mary Clevenger

As a former school teacher, here is my advice for parents finding themselves needing to homeschool their children during this stressful time.

1. Let them have their spring break. They need it. Let them play, do arts and crafts, watch movies, whatever they need to unwind.

2. Once spring break is over, get them back on their school schedule. Get them started with their online schooling ASAP.

3. If there is no online learning being offered from their schools, contact their teacher and find out what the daily schedule is for each child. Set up your child's day based on that.

4. If you have no materials to help with their lessons--improvise!

For example: Math: Bring them into the kitchen and have them help cook meals. That can teach them measuring and fractions. Play Store with them; that can help with money, adding and subtracting.

Reading: Pick a favorite book. Have discussions about their favorite characters; break down the plot-it can be as simple as identifying the beginning, middle and end. Have your child write a book report about the book (google for great looking book report forms)

Choose a book they haven't read, yet. Read it yourself, first. Identify words that they may not be familiar with- instant vocabulary lesson.

Make sure to have your child read aloud to you. Note words that were difficult for them to read and help them with the phonics of reading.

History and Science: First find out what the standards are for your child's grade level for those subjects (again google for your state standards) Then use the internet to help. National Geographic for Kids is a great resource.

Finally, have your child keep a journal of their learning. Ask them to write down what they learned that day, then list any questions they have about their learning and what more they would like to learn about the subject.

Wow! This was long. I hope it helps!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Johnny Got His Price Gun

When I was a little kid, several intersections in my hometown had service stations on every corner, each with a sandwich board declaring a "GAS WAR!" on their surrounding competitors with all the Prussian hubris of a Großer Generalstab convinced Imperial Germany could prevail in a two front war. Failing to grasp the metaphorical nature of the taunt, I spent a lot of grammar school worried I would die as collateral damage in the coming conflict, never knowing love's first tender kiss, or even if the castaways ever got rescued from Gilligan's Island.

Later, after Omega Man came out, I was pretty sure I'd catch some biowarfare bacterium and become a crazed, mime-faced vampire who just wanted to kill Charlton Heston, even more than I already did after seeing Omega Man.

And even later still, when Ronald Reagan was president and Civil Defense tests of the Emergency Broadcast System suddenly returned to TV after a ten year hiatus, I became confident I'd end my existence toasted, like so many Lucky Strikes, in a nuclear conflagration.

I'm easily panicked, is what I'm saying.

But now that a genuine pandemic is finally here, I find I don't have the energy to panic. Fear is another matter; fear is on a pilot light and can be turned up at will, but panic requires a spike of freely available glucose that I can't seem to manage without sucking on a couple Pixy Stix. Instead, I'm filling the emotional gap with bafflement and disgust at humankind as I try to buy supplies for my invalid mother-in-law and confront aisles of denuded shelves at Ralphs and CVS. It makes me surprised that by this point God hasn't grabbed the earth, tucked it under his arm while angrily scrubbing away tears with the heel of his hand, and shouted, "Hoarding toilet paper? When it's a respiratory, not even an intestinal infection? Fine! FINE! If that's how you assholes wanna be--greedy and stupid--I'm taking my planet and going home!"

There doesn't seem to be much I can do to make things better, except sit here and not interact with the world more than I normally do, which is really only not making things worse. So I'm plowing through my Kindle library at a non-sustainable rate, and in looking around for fresh reading material I see a number of authors that I follow are cutting the cost of their books. I investigated how to do that, and now, armed with the knowledge and a mad sense of power...I'm declaring a "BOOK WAR!"

Until further notice, the ebook version of Better Living Through Bad Movies is 99¢. And unlike toilet paper, they can't run out of digital copies. Of course, unlike toilet paper you can't wipe your ass with it, but hey, that's what the Op-Ed page of the New York Times is for (and there's a new Bret Stephens column today, so eat plenty of roughage!).

Stay safe and sane everyone.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Slumgullion #74: The Abyss of BS Episode

Jeri Ryan goes on a killing spree! Disney convenes a Warren Commission to find out who killed Star Wars! While Jeff & Scott fill a half hour discussing fine, artisanal Bullshit, over a tureen of the rarest ruminant feces flown in at great expense from Stockyard City, Oklahoma!

Friday, February 28, 2020

The Mummy

Tom Cruise is a wee man but a big star who's made fifty-some movies over the past forty-some years. Movies in which he has given performances ranging from the barely passable to the entirely adequate, interspersed with a lot of running. An awful lot of running. So much so that if you watch several of his movies in a row, which I made the mistake of doing, it's a bit like standing on the sidelines of a leprechaun marathon. (In fairness, Tom isn't above poking fun at his own Forrest Gumposity, as his Twitter bio describes him thus: "Actor. Producer. Running in movies since 1981."

He's also known for doing his own stunts, and even in this era of computer generated effects and environments, many of these feats are legitimately hazardous, and made possible only because Tom's in astonishing physical condition for a middle-aged man, and because he's purged himself of "body thetans" (alien ghosts which infest the human body, according to ancient 20th Century scripture).

So I think we can all agree there is much to admire about Tom Cruise. Personally, I respect his work ethic, his consistent record at the box office, and the hang time he got while jumping on Oprah's couch. But most of all I esteem his courage in releasing The Mummy and not--as I would have done--immediately retreating into the witness protection program.

The Mummy (2017)
Director: Alex Kurtzman
Writers: David Koepp and Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman (screenplay by) Jon Spaihts and Alex Kurtzman & Jenny Lumet (screen story by)

Well! Judging by the writing credits alone, this looks like a fun group activity. Perhaps some sort of occupational therapy administered in a hospice for the Terminally Overcompensated. Not that I’m bitter.

Anyway, don’t get your hopes up, as this is not, obviously, the 1932 Boris Karloff film. It’s not even the 1959 Hammer version starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Instead, it’s an actiony Tom Cruise take on the classic tale of an ageless, terrifying freak who stalks the modern world bringing doom and despair. There’s also a mummy in it.

10th Century England: A group of crusaders solemnly bury a knight, pausing to Bedazzle the corpse with a giant ruby. But before they can break into a chorus from “Spamalot!”, we cut to Present Day, where a huge machine digging the Chunnel gets lost and wanders into London, accidentally boring into the ancient tomb of the jewel-encrusted Knights of the Order of St. Liberace.

Now, I’ve seen a lot of horror movies, and any time machines or workmen dig up a forgotten old chamber, your odds of entertainment are at best 50/50. Sometimes, admittedly, you get Quatermass and the Pit (1967). But usually you get Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981).

Russell Crowe arrives with a large staff of silhouettes to take over the excavation. As they fan out through the tomb he places a call to the audience, but we refuse to pick up, and send him straight to Voice Over.

Russell informs us he's Henry Jekyll (yeah, I’m not gonna call him that) and would like to show us clips from the life and death of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who judging by her name is some kind of Egyptian internet provider.

Ahmanet was the only daughter of Pharaoh, and poised to inherit his kingdom when Pharaoh had a son. So she cut a deal with Set, the God of Death, who offered her extra irises for her eyes, a bunch of squiggly tattoos that look like that code from The Matrix, and a ruby-tipped dagger. She stabs her dad, then tries to bring Set into the world of the living by having sex with a guy and killing him, but she gets brought down with tranquilizer darts by Animal Control. They wrap her in bandages, seal her up in a casket, and bury her in the desert, which frankly seems like a much more efficient way of replacing an evil and incompetent leader than the Electoral College.

Present Day Iraq: U.S. Army Sergeant Tom Cruise is watching ISIS fighters shoot up Mesopotamian statues. Tom’s a looter (although he calls himself a “liberator” after receiving focus group feedback), and he’s heard that Russell is willing to pay handsomely for “Haram”, which means either treasure, or curse, because what's the difference? Jake Johnson, who’s been hired at Tom’s comic relief, spews some pissy exposition and bad jokes until Tom slices open his water bag so he’ll die a slow, agonizing death by exposure and dehydration. Both Jake and I are astonished by this; Jake, because he thought Tom was his friend, and I because I’ve never found a Tom Cruise character this likeable before.

Tom and Jake go down to the village, get shot at, lose their weapons, lose their shit, and call in an air strike on their own position, which breaks open “Haram. And since we just watched Russell’s Discovery Channel show earlier in the movie, we know this is Ahmanet’s tomb.

Then Dr. Jenny Halsey shows up to slap Tom and demand he return the map of Haram. It seems Tom seduced her, then burgled her belongings and stole the map while she slept. Already I like her, because if the script requires you to spend the night with Tom Cruise, sleeping through the whole ordeal seems like a smart way to handle it.

But Jenny gets her revenge when Tom’s commanding officer orders Tom and Jake to “get in the hole” with her. They discover a lake of mercury inside, which seems to scare the hell out of the musical score, and it spends the rest of the scene loudly fretting about our heroes suffering thyroid damage.

Jake robs the grave while Jenny drones on about how “It’s not a tomb. It’s a prison”, which Tom takes as his cue to shoot the chains away and free the monster. The ancient mechanism groans and hoists a huge sarcophagus out of the mercury, its lid carved with the image of a woman caught in mid-menstrual cramp. Tom has a vision of Ahmanet, clad in a filmy white dress, walking barefoot over rippling sand dunes until she suddenly appears before him and plants a grateful kiss on his lips for buying her tampons without bitching about it like most guys.

Jake gets bit on the neck by a camel spider so everybody gets in a cargo plane with the sarcophagus and takes off. Tom and Jenny have a lovers spat while Jake writhes in his seat, turns purple, and goes into respiratory arrest. Having witnessed his earlier attempts at comic relief, everyone else seems fine with this and just looks at their phones.

Jake’s feelings are hurt, so he stabs their C.O. Tom grabs a gun, and Jenny sensibly yells, “Don’t shoot in the pressurized aircraft!”, but Tom’s feelings were also hurt earlier when she implied he suffers from premature ejaculation, so he shoots Jake and the plane starts crashing. Into England. Even though they're in Iraq. Birds crash into the engines and the cockpit, but with no Captain Sully onboard, it looks like everybody’s about to die.

Again, don’t get your hopes up.

Tom wakes up naked in a Shake ‘N’ Bake bag, and looks confused. This will be a leitmotif for Tom throughout the film (not the nudity, the confusion). Then Jake appears and takes on the Griffin Dunne in An American Werewolf in London role of the decaying best friend who says helpful stuff like “You’re not dead…But you’re gonna wish you were.”

We’re way ahead of you, Jake.

They have one of those old married couple arguments about who shot who, then he tells Tom he’s cursed, and has no choice but to do everything the monster tells him to, and Tom looks more confused than ever because that’s usually his line when he’s recruiting for Scientology.

Jenny tells Tom the Mummy is looking for the dagger that can bring the God of Death to life, but the ruby (which I guess is like the battery?) was broken off and buried centuries ago with a Crusader. Which is good. But they just dug up a bunch of Crusaders, which is bad. Tom just stands there testing the limits of the human face’s capacity to look confused, so Jenny calls Russ, who tells her to bring Tom to London and he’ll show her how you really confuse some poor dope with exposition.

Tom storms out into the alley and meets the Mummy and her army of rats, who swarm Tom and basically do to him what the rats in Willard did to Ernest Borgnine. Fortunately for Tom, good actors apparently taste better, because the rats discreetly spit parts of him into their napkin and ask to be excused from the table.

Back at the airplane wreckage, Ahmanet is doing to the crash investigators what the naked vampire chick did to the astronauts in Lifeforce: kissing them and sucking out their essence, which gives her moldy, decayed flesh a Covergirl glow.

Tom’s curse starts to produce strange effects; as well as making him taste like shit to rats, he’s now endowed with a Mummy-finding GPS, and leads Jenny to Carfax Abbey, where Ahmanet is playing Spin-the-Bottle-and-Suck-the-Lifeforce. But she gets bored with that and entices Tom to play Horsey by sticking her butt in the air and scampering around the Abbey on all fours in a scene I really hope they don’t play when Sofia eventually winds up in the Academy Awards “In Memorium” reel.

Ahmanet mounts Tom cowgirl style and is about to pierce his heart and welcome the God of Death into his body, but she notices the ruby is missing from the haft of the dagger and you know how some girls are; if every little thing isn’t just perfect, suddenly they’re not in the mood anymore.

Russell’s troops drug Tom and take him to Prodigium, the monster-hunting service Russell runs, where Ahmanet is chained up and being embalmed with mercury because I guess this movie was sponsored by the Mercury Council? Mercury: It's Not Just for Thermometers Anymore! Anyway, like Handi-Wipes that runny silver snot has a Hundred and One uses.

Tom has another vision: Ahmanet is lying on top of him and they’re about to consummate their unholy love, but then she whispers in his ear “It burns!”, which ruins the mood because he’s already been slapped, died in a plane crash, and been eaten by rats; the last thing he needs is ancient Egyptian gonorrhea.

Fortunately, she can’t unleash the god of Death without the ruby. So naturally Russell’s men go dig it up so he can repair the dagger and stab Tom because it’s the only way to stop those Mission: Impossible sequels.

Instead, Russell accidentally transforms into Mr. Hyde and savagely, repeatedly, beats the living crap out of Tom. The scene is a pointless detour full of confused, flabby action that doesn’t advance the story in the slightest, but I know what I like.

Tom grabs Jenny and does wind sprints around town because while he may not be a good actor, you’re in no position to sneer at his resting heart rate. Ahmanet calls upon “the sands of Egypt” to blow through London, breaking windows and making the waistbands of everyone’s swimsuit feel gritty.

Meanwhile, down in the crypt, Russell’s men grab guns and prepare to defend the ruby, but Ahmanet commands the dead knights to fight for her. Weren’t these guys Crusaders who dedicated their lives to Christ and embarked on a holy quest? Why are they suddenly rolling over for this evil heathen bitch? I guess for the same reason the Moral Majority supports Donald Trump.

Jenny follows Tom into the subway and promptly drowns, but even though she’s dead, the long, lingering shots of her corpse suggest she still does quite well in the local wet t-shirt contest.

Ahmanet catches up with him and also beats the living crap out of Tom, and I mean really lays into him, throwing him around the crypt, breaking his ribs, punching him silly--it’s a dream come true. I mean, I don’t want to seem creepy or anything, but if there were a fetish site with this kind of premium content, they’d already have my credit card number.

Tom filches the dagger from Ahmanet, stabs himself, gets multiple irises in his eyes, and becomes a LIVING GOD!, just like Scientology promised. But then he remembers Jenny saying that deep down he’s a good man, so he beats the crap out of Ahmanet and sucks her lifeforce out of her mouth, then tosses her away like a used Kleenex.

Tom screams at Jenny, which allows her to shake off that whole death thing, and runs away as Russell intones, “Well, he’s a monster now. But sometimes it takes a monster to fight a monster.” Which is a stupid coda for a movie, but a great slogan for this fall’s Presidential debates.

Cut to the desert, where Jake tells Tom, “Hey, thanks for bringing me back to life.” Then he and Tom go for a horseback ride, like they’re at some sort of undead dude ranch, as we slowly fade to blech.

The End.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Iron Fist in an Astroglide Glove

From the ol' mailbag:
SCOTT! Why is "fisting" seen as taboo?
I'm glad you asked. At its best, the hand -- along with its handmaidens, the fingers -- is capable of great beauty and subtlety, realizing the mind's loftiest ambitions and producing art, music, and the vast, enduring monuments of industrial and scientific progress, while the fist is regarded as the hand's dumber, drunker, more violent brother. Think of it as the Billy Carter, or Randy Quaid of the body.  You may love the fist -- and in turn be loved by it, forcefully and greasily -- but you'd just as soon it not put in an appearance at Thanksgiving.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Slumgullion 73: Harley Quinn Vs The Court Jester

CLOWNS GET DOWN in this UFC-style cage match fight between Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, and Danny Kaye as The Court Jester.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Slumgullion 72: Picard Meets The Mandalorian (and Cthulu)

NEW EPISODE! We discuss if Kristen Stewart is, as advertised, "a flat-chested elfin goddess"; if Cthulu should dress up in black leather and do an Elvis-style comeback special; the crazy climax of The Mandalorian; and our love/hate relationship with Picard.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

The 8th Annual SKELLY Awards

By Bill S.

The Academy Awards are airing this Sunday, but before we see who'll win the top prizes, it's time for the annual presentation of the SKELLY, awarded to the actor among the year's Oscars nominees has the most embarrassing prior role. The competition was pretty close--this year's candidates include stars who appeared in films that were nominated for Worst Picture of the Year in the very first Golden Raspberry Awards. It's hard to say whether the fact that they didn't win is a compliment or an insult.

7th Place: Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett's had a good year--she has two Oscar nominations, one for her lead role in Marriage Story and another for her supporting role in Jojo Rabbit. She began acting as a child performer in the 90's, which is also when she made most of her worst movies. In fact, it's hard to think of a child actor from that period with a more dismaying resume--while Anna Paquin was winning an Oscar, Christina Ricci and Kirsten Dunst were competing for the title of Cult Movie Queen, Scarlett was getting stuck in junk like...

Home Alone 3 (1997)
I'll bet you didn't know there even was a third Home Alone movie. (By that time, the franchise should have been called, "My God, We're Crappy Parents!") This one featured nobody from the first two films, which makes it less a sequel and more of a crappy ripoff. But at least there's no cameo by Donald Trump.

6th Place: Joe Pesci
Joe made his movie debut as "dancer at the Peppermint Lounge" in the 1961 film Hey, Let's Twist. He wouldn't make another film for 15 years, although he did release an album in 1968, "Little Joe Sure Can Sing"(under the name Joe Ritchie). Raging Bull finally brought him name recognition, and along with it steady acting gigs, and an Oscar for his role in Goodfellas. While I'm tempted to name 8 Heads In a Duffle Bag as his most embarrassing role (the title would be reason enough), I'll instead pick the other unnecessary sequel to Home Alone...

Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (1992)
In which Pesci, Daniel Stern and Macaulay Culkin reprised their roles from the first film, and Brenda Fricker played Jane Darwell playing the Bird Lady in Mary Poppins, for some reason. This was the one where Donald Trump made a cameo. When the movie aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Company in 2014, Trump's scene was cut. Five years later, he took this as a political swipe. He then went on to praise Clark Gable for all the great roles he's been getting.

5th Place: Charlize Theron
Charlize made her film debut as an uncredited extra in Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (I didn't even know there was a second one.) Her first credited role was in Two Days In the Valley (1996). She always seemed on the verge of landing a "breakthrough" role before her decidedly un-glamorous role in Monster finally proved she was more than just a pretty face. Before that, the quality of her films was erratic, some good, some bad, and some...just a waste of her time and ours, like...

Sweet November (2001)
The movie tells the story of a man (Keanu Reeves) who begins a month-long romance with a woman (Theron) who's revealed to be terminally ill. It's a remake of a 1968 movie that starred Anthony Newley and Sandy Dennis. That version was pretty bad, so I'm not sure why anyone would remake it. Perhaps in the hopes of improving it? Well, they failed on that score. I'd still recommend the bad original, if only because the supporting cast included beloved soap star Marj Dusay, who passed away last month.

Incidentally, in addition to Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie receiving Oscar nominations for their roles in Bombshell, the movie is also nominated for Best Makeup & Hairstyling. I think it deserves to win, not for turning three beautiful blonde women into three other beautiful blonde women, but for turning John Lithgow into Jabba the Hut's uglier, more repulsive cousin.

4th Place: Brad Pitt
Brad got his start acting on television, with his first credited role being on the daytime soap "Another World". He also appeared on "Growing Pains" twice, first as a love interest for daughter Carol, then as a rock star idolized by younger son Ben. (I mention the characters to underscore the fact that he had minimal interaction with Kirk Cameron, and so maintained his will to live.) Just about every actor who began working in the 80's has appeared in at least one dumb teen comedy, one dumb slasher flick, or one of each. Or, in Brad's case, a movie that was both:

Cutting Class (1989)
In this movie, a bunch of characters are getting killed at a high school, and Brad becomes a prime suspect before it turns out to be exactly who we expected it to be in the first place. Also, Martin Mull stumbles around the woods aimlessly, and his connection to the story remains a mystery to us until the very end. Every adult character in this thing is completely obnoxious--they'd make the ones in a John Hughes movie cringe. When I watched this movie (which you can find in its entirety on YouTube) I honestly couldn't tell whether it was supposed to be a horror movie or a spoof of one. I could, however, tell it was really stupid.

3rd Place: Anthony Hopkins
Anthony's first movie role was in The White Bus (1967). He'd done some television work prior to that. As you might expect with any actor who's been working for over 50 years, he's had his share of career ups and downs, and the biggest drop would be...

A Change of Seasons (1980)
In this movie, Hopkins plays a married college professor who begins an affair with a student, played by Bo Derek. When his wife of 20 years (Shirley MacLaine) finds out, she begins having an affair with a younger man (Michael Brandon). They all wind up in a vacation cabin and...oh, just watch the trailer.

I suppose they were aiming for a sophisticated bedroom farce. All they needed was, you know, wit and sophistication. And characters who talked and acted like normal human beings. The screenplay for this thing was written by Erich Segal, of all people, and he did have to say he was sorry this time.

2nd Place: Kathy Bates
Kathy made her movie debut as an unnamed "audition singer" in the 1971 film Taking Off, in which she was billed as "Bobo Bates". She played supporting roles throughout the 70's and 80's, in both film and television, but was making a name for herself on Broadway with lead roles in "Night, Mother" and "Frankie and Johnny in the Clare De Lune".  Her role in Misery finally made her a movie star, and that of course led to her getting better roles. It also led to a friendship with director Rob Reiner, which may explain why she took a small part in his worst film (and hers):

North (1994)
This movie tells the story of a young boy (Elijah Wood) who, fed up with his parents, decides to divorce them and set off to find new ones, encountering, each time, one dumb ethnic caricature after another. Kathy Bates plays an Eskimo lady who sends her father (or father-in-law, it's not quite clear) to drift off on an icy raft to his death because he's outlived his usefullness. This is supposed to be...funny? The movie is full of scenes like that.

How bad is it? Well, it inspired the following review from Roger Ebert:

"I hated this move. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it."

Gene Siskel didn't like it either, and Richard Roeper called it one of the 40 worst films he'd ever seen, saying it was "the most difficult to watch from start to finish. I have tried twice and failed." Five minutes would be enough of a challenge.

This movie also marked the feature film debut of then nine year old Scarlett Johansson, so I guess she's not only a dual Oscar nominee, but a dual SKELLY nominee. (She said that when she was on the film set, she knew intuitively what to do. But I guess she resisted that urge to flee.)

Which leads us to this year's winner and...


For this first time in the history of the SKELLY Awards (all eight years of it) I couldn't declare one winner. It was simply too close to call, so our TWO lucky recipients are...


Pacino made his film debut in Me, Natalie (1969), and became one of the most acclaimed actors of 1970s. But  in the 80's he seemed to suddenly hit some career slump, only to rebound in the 90's. I'm not exactly sure what happened--why he spent the entire 80's in one disappointing film after another--but it began with his first 80's film, which was also his worst:

Cruising (1980)
In this grisly whodunit/character study, Pacino plays an undercover cop investigating a series of murders. The killer has been targeting gay men, all of whom are part of an underground "leather" scene. As a movie, the picture was a confused, gruesome mess, and it was impossible to figure out whether his character was being drawn into the world of sex clubs, was repelled by it, or if he might, in fact, be the killer.

But the movie's actual badness wasn't the only reason to award it the SKELLY. Crusing was inspired by a real-life series of murders, and when the movie went into production, a lot of LGBT activists, including the reporter whose coverage of the murders led to the movie being greenlit, were outraged, and began protesting the film while it was still in production. They felt, with good reason, that it presented the gay community as sick, twisted, deserving of violence. They also feared it might lead to violence against them.

It's easy to forget today, but until very recently, there were very few movie depictions of LGBT people, and positive portrayals were even fewer and far between. So when pictures like The Detective, Freebie & the Bean and Cruising come along, they add insult to injury. In addition to being an insult to audience intelligence.

Tying with Pacino for this year's SKELLY award is Tom Hanks, who made his movie debut in He Knows You're Alone (1980). Before becoming a movie star, he did a lot of TV, including the sitcom "Bosom Buddies", which was funnier than it had a right to be, thanks to the chemistry between Hanks and Peter Scolari, and a fabulous all-female supporting cast. He also did guest spots on "Family Ties" and "Taxi". And then he made what may be the single goofiest film of his career:

Mazes and Monsters (1982)
This made-for-TV movie centered around a group of college kids involved in a role-playing game called "Mazes and Monsters", similar to "Dungeons and Dragons". It seems hard to believe (to the point of being ridiculous) but back in the 80's, there was a growing fear that role-playing games could be dangerous. When the kids grow bored with playing the regular game, one of them suggests acting it out, turning it into a live action role-playing game. And that's when the movie goes from dumb to straight-up, bugfuck insane, because Tom Hanks' Robbie begins to lose touch with reality, and starts to believe he is  his game character. I guess we can look forward to another story about the dangers of being in an acting class, a danger his co-stars have clearly avoided. (Chris Makepeace, as a kid with an I.Q. of 190 and a hat collection that exceeds that, seems to be acting as badly as he can on purpose--nobody could be that bad by accident). The ending of this thing is one big WTF?

You can find the entire movie on Youtube, if you're starved for unintentional laughs. You may wind up overdosing.

Congratulations and condolences to all the winners.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Moondoggie on the Movies: 1917

1917 (2019)

It's the plot of Gallipoli, plus the told-in-real-time gimmick of High Noon (minus time out for a cheatin' blackout) and the cut-hiding chicanery of Rope, with a Whack-A-Mole rate of celebrity cameos reminiscent of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Note: the movie Walkabout had less walking; your Fitbit will award you 10,000 steps just for sitting through this thing.

In theaters now.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Rise of the Slumwalker

It's been over 40 years since we first saw Star Wars unspool on the big screen, but fortunately our minds remain as sharp as ever. So join us as we watch Ray and Kylie Minogue face off against Emperor Creatine in Skywalker, Texas Ranger!

Okay, I'm a little late in posting this, but there's still time to listen in and hear Rey's 23andMe results. Is she a Skywalker? By birth? By marriage? By Deus ex machina? The answer to that is complicated, and by complicated I mean stupid, but check out the episode anyway. It's brief, considering the source material, because we didn't want to spend more time thinking about the movie than J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio spent writing it.

And here's the link to Javier Grillo-Marxuach's piece on Return of the Jedi. As Jeff said: 
Everyone who enjoys Star Wars needs to read this. I have been having this exact internal mono(dia)logue since I saw Rise of Skywalker. I have been trying to find the words. Javi found them a few years ago. I am at peace now.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Moondoggie On The Movies

MOONDOGGIE: Watching the film adaptation of Cats is like being neutered all over again. Now and Forever.