Category Archives: Movies

Classic films and storylines left open: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Some movies end with what you see as a clean ending. Some movies end with aspects of the story still open for speculation when you care about the characters involved. I usually end up thinking of 1993’s The Fugitive and wondering what happens next with Dr. Richard Kimble and Deputy Sam Gerard. Yeah, they drive off and it looks like Kimble will be freed, but that’s a story unto itself (due process) as well as the story of Kimble vs. Gerard playing out directly in a non-hunt fashion.

But a 24 year old movie isn’t the focus of this post… No, no, I’m going back further into film history with a teen classic. It’s comedy goodness and teen angst mixed into one utopian ball of Chicagoland adventure and hilarity.

You ever seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? Of course you have… or at least you damned well better consider it in the immediate future. The 1986 film is dated but the basic point is teens skipping school.

While Ferris is the focus, there is another storyline that is not resolved on screen with the movie’s end (“Life moves pretty, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.” Repeated by Bueller to end the flick… Well, at least the main movie. It’s actually Ferris telling you, post credits, the film is over and you should go home now). Ferris’ best friend, Cameron Frye, has a mess to deal with: A 1961 Ferrari GT, the love and passion of his father Morris Frye.

It’s Cameron who epitomizes teen angst mostly in the film. He holds strong contempt toward his father to say the least. In fact, it’s the climax of the film where Cameron explodes and it results in the demolition of the Ferrari:

And while Ferris vows to take the blame (and the disaster that would come with it for his personal life), Cameron accepts responsibility himself. It’s his confrontation to have and he’ll deal with the consequences. (Side note: Sloan, Ferris’ girlfriend, thinks this was part of Ferris’ scheme for the day off from start to finish. I’ll leave it to you to judge if that’s what the deal was or not).

So, Ferris and Sloan leave, everyone’s returning home… And what happens with Cameron Frye in his confrontation with his father???

The first conclusion someone could draw from this is, “whatever it was, it wasn’t film worthy or John Hughes would have put it in the flick.” That is a good way to dismiss the confrontation but it doesn’t tell you the story of that evening for Cameron. It’s too loaded and too baited in the climax to truly be something to just brush off.

Yet, I think about the confrontation of Cameron and his father (I picture Morris Frye as actor Terry Kiser who you may know better as Bernie Lomax among other roles – no, I don’t imagine he’s dead) and what I see is an unexpected reaction. Cameron is in the garage, stern, strong willed, ready for war, and a suited Morris Frye, fresh home from work, has walked in on the open garage.

“What are you doing in here? I thought you were sick?” He’s walking in and doesn’t see the car… but sees the smashed rear window. He slows down and approaches without saying a word. He looks down and sees his beloved, classic automobile smoldering in the hilly ravine behind the garage and starts a mix of crying and laughing.

I can see Cameron stepping up immediately and taking responsibility in one way or another – perhaps by attacking over love for the car by dad; loving the car and generally hating the family… And yet, Morris’ reaction isn’t out of heartbreak, anger and disgust, it’s that cracking up aspect. He stops Cameron not by yelling, but by putting his arm around him while keeping up his hysterics. The incident rings Morris Frye just as much as it scares and stings Cameron… But I see it as a message that Cameron has grown up. I see it as a message for Morris that his material dream is done and it’s back to reality.

Does Cameron get in trouble? Oh, yeah, yeah, but it’s a whole different situation than what you’d expect. It’s not a war between the Frye family members. I just can’t picture how that goes. I can’t picture how Cameron’s mom (who is in Decatur, Illinois during the movie) plays into things.

Maybe I’m dead wrong, but I just see everything twisting at this critical non-film climactic moment. What’s built up as hate and angst in the movie deflates with Morris’ reaction to the end of his love affair. Cameron’s not the sickly boy any more, and my car isn’t where I can invest myself in full.

That’s drawing conclusions on my part, and the point is that there are times in cinema where things are left to have that happen. What happens with Cameron Frye is a big angle as he is a big angle.

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Film questions and opinionated answers that are one in Filmillion

A month ago, a little further back perhaps, I saw a post on Reddit pointing to a new web site that vowed it would predict the movie you were thinking of in 30 questions or so. Filmillion piqued my curiosity, so I gave it a whirl (more than once) and was left frustrated and disappointed. That’s not because of how well the site performed but by how flawed its questions (and movie guesses tend to be.

If there have been any database improvement or other site modifications to combat flaws isn’t something known by me. What is known is that I gave the site another run for the sake of writing this article. If it leads you to wanting to try it yourself remains to be seen, but here’s what I dealt with and the outcome.

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The Beatles video, “You’re Going to Lose That Girl”, missing in action no more

It’s arguable to write that the greatest song the Beatles ever recorded and didn’t release as a single was “You’re Going to Lose That Girl”, which was released in 1965 on the album “Help!”. It’s a standard Lennon/McCartney scribed ode that has ties to “She Loves You” as if it were a sequel. I write that point here but I don’t link because trying to find the source I read has been fruitless (this line will be deleted if I do find the link). There are only two words on record for any member of the Fab Four speaking about the song: John Lennon told Playboy in 1980, “That’s me.” You can find more in-depth coverage of the song here. There are touches on other facts about Lennon / McCartney and history that may pique your interest.

I was introduced to the Fab Four in 1985 when my father won a VHS tape of “Help!” from 101 WCBS FM in New York. I was skittish and disinterested at first in watching as the tape opened up with the black-and-white trailer to “A Hard Day’s Night”, the film the Beatles made in 1964. Black-and-white film and disjointed snippets of Beatle songs from the movie just didn’t win me over (and what would you expect? I was 5 or 6 years old at the time). I fidgeted, I tried getting up, but my father put his hands on my shoulders and sat me down.

Then “Help!” started, with actor Leo McKern reciting cult tidings in what amounted to an execution ceremony. Though it was a dark setting, the color blazed (in comparison to that “A Hard Day’s Night” trailer and my interest ticked up. One thing led to another in the film and McKern’s character of Clang bellowed to his cult sect that surrounded him, “Where is the ring?! Search her! What has she done with the ring?!” The cult cried repeatedly “The ring?!” in response and then… then…

Then you see the fabled ring, a large red gemstone on a standard gold band. It just so happens to be on the hand of drummer Ringo Starr as a performance of the song “Help!” gets underway (in black-and-white… which meant nothing to me at this point) and truly the movie began as the Beatles performed “Help!”.

There were seven songs performed in the movie, with “You’re Going to Lose That Girl” being my favorite. Heck, viewing the film a second time, I remember my brothers and I rewinding the video to replay the song and sing along with it. We were won over. That’s not to say “Help!” didn’t win us over, or “Ticket to Ride”, “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”, “I Need You” (George Harrison’s first composed song), “The Night Before, or “Another Girl”. It’s just the memory of this song in particular.

Director Richard Lester played with lighting but did a simple in-studio scene with John, Paul, George and Ringo. The hues and colors vary and smoke plays into scenes (hey, smoking was hip back then Ringo is doing it in some scenes of the song). I’d put this song, as a video; well ahead of the majority of music videos that also play the studio scene. And seeing it’s been 52 years since the damn thing was recorded, that should tell the music video director sect out there to raise their game.

You can’t find the song on YouTube though, and the simple Google search (which now produces extensive info results for most songs) only shows you amateurs playing.

Is there a business contrast playing out between Apple Corps LTD (the Beatles company) and Google? I don’t know. What I do know is that I started this write up fixated on not being able to find the videos from “Help!” on YouTube. Only a fraction of the movie performance of “You’re going to Lose That Girl” can be found.

A re-worded my web search just a tad (with quotation marks: “You’re Going to Lose That Girl” video, Help!) and lo and behold I found what has been missing via Vimeo.

“You’re Going To Lose That Girl” from Merritt Mullen on Vimeo.

Will it remain on the site? Dunno, though it’s 4 year lifespan tells me that it’s going to stay. You can find a low quality version of “Ticket to Ride” on there, as well as “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” (standard quality). The other songs are missing / have mixed in content.

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by | March 8, 2017 · 12:33 PM

The day when the Jose Gaspar is overseen by Cap’n Jack Sparrow

The Gasparilla season in Tampa, Florida is forthcoming. That’s weeks (if not a month) of civic events around Tampa tied to the grandiose kick-off celebration event: the invasion flotilla of locals, politicians and civic leaders and the “invasion” of Tampa, with the city being claimed by the pirates to officially start the whole season off.

And, yet, it’s just local. It’s not a recognized event nationally. This seems contradictory because there’s an odd timing coincidence: The invasion can also be deemed as a physical representation of the tourist season. From February through April, much of the state of FLA is invaded by that dubious, pirating lot of vacationers and spring training nuts who spend money and relax while also crowding up roadways and areas of commerce.  A pirate invasion? How about snowbird invasion?

(Note: If you couldn’t tell, I’m playing around here with negatives; tourism is a grand part of Florida)

The NFL’s annual championship rite, the Super Bowl, has been played in Tampa more than a few times, and while the game has begun being played later in January and now February, there was never a schedule shift of Gasparilla and the pirates to coincide the hype of Super Bowl Weekend… While that’s a grand marketing failure, it also makes sense: Tampa Bay is represented by the Buccaneer franchise in the NFL after all. Forcing a pirate image / entity down the league’s throat when it’s a celebration of two teams playing for the Lombardi Trophy… Well, it seems like a bad move that will be hit with criticism nationally.

That doesn’t mean always keep the damn thing hoaye, local and low key though.

I’m not here to lobby for much, but there is a point I do want to make that could raise local leaders’ thoughts on the invasion event that earns it a spot in national attention in a positive, tourism-inviting sense. Since the release of “Pirates of the Caribbean” by Disney Films, and with actor Johnny Depp’s has embraced his Captain Jack Sparrow. I’ve wondered why we haven’t heard of Depp being in town for this Gasparilla invasion. Not necessarily in-costume (which he seldom dawns for more intimate events) but just out of his personal “connection” to piracy (in show, not in plundering and looting) by way of Sparrow.

The fact Disney is so invested 90 miles away adds a little touch to the idea. It’s not like Depp has to stick around longer than he wants to (unless he’s in-character). I also want to say Tampa residents/politicians or civic strong-guys shouldn’t actively push to make this happen, or if they do to not make a public marketing push (“See Johnny Depp at Gasparilla!!”). That turns down and ruins the surprise of something like this happening.

Gasparilla is this Saturday, January 28. I don’t expect the presence of Cap’n Jack Sparrow this year… It would be grand if some other star (who is not a local resident) would make their presence known.

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The missing hit: “You’re Going to Lose That Girl”

My first exposure to the Beatles, the most influential pop/rock group of the 20th century, came by way of a VHS tape. As a younger child before that, I’d probably already heard the group countless times on the radio; my father listened to oldies all the time on 101 WCBS FM in New York and I was exposed to a plethora of oldies through the first 6 years of my life while being driven around in the car. Dad also had a knack participating in call-in contests on WCBS and winning himself DJ autographs and other things from the station.

I don’t remember details of when and how, but I do recall my father sitting me and my brothers down to watch a VHS tape that he won from the radio. I also remember the fact it started with a black-and-white trailer for another movie and how it turned me off at the time… I mean, I was a kid! We had cable TV! I don’t remember what I wanted instead but I do think it was just expectations and that trailer didn’t catch my interest. That music-driven, black-and-white trailer was “A Hard Day’s Night”, the Beatles previous film.

Then the main picture started and my attention and interest was drawn in. I won’t go through the lead-in scene to Help! But between me and my two brothers who were watching, we got locked in with curiosity….and became enthused with the musical performances within the movie.

I could talk about Help! in-depth here as a film, but my focus isn’t on the entirety of the flick but a 2:23 performance that is, in my humble opinion, the greatest song not released as a single by the Fab Four in the group’s history (as an active band and after the breakup): “You’re Going to Lose That Girl.”

My brothers and I would rewind the movie and watch the performance of the band over and over again. John Lennon was on lead vocals, Paul McCartney and George Harrison backed him vocally in a harmonious fashion, repeating him and singing with him. Heck, the performance in the film itself was the band recording the song with the scene framing in-studio mystique (and before you ask: No, this was not filmed at Abbey Road).

I’d simply post the movie clip here but the powers-that-be (be it film industry or Apple Corps LTD) has removed the video from YouTube. In protecting copyrights and ownership, irrelevance is hoisted. It’s an ironic truth. Of course, if you know of the song and like the song, then that statement is not an attempted dressing-down of its value as-so-much an admission of where it has gone by being profit driven and thus hidden from the masses.

I don’t know how long covers of the song are going to be allowed to exist on YouTube (blame that on the powers-that-be if it isn’t long) but I post one of the covers of the song below. The biggest audio-difference between this and the original version is the depth of the sound and its richness.

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My foray into Pinterest

The truth is that while I’ve been on Pinterest (actively) for six months now, I still haven’t picked up a legit follower yet. I also don’t know anyone to follow on there. I’ve been aware of the platform for years, but I don’t socialize much on it (exploring, interacting, etc).

But I am active on there in my own little neck of the wood. I’m just not posting photos I’ve taken or recipes or clothing (sans some custom shirt designs). I’ve stuck with the entertainment field in what I’ve posted. Maybe in time I’ll evolve to something of more significance and extravagance but for now in my lonely life, it’s this.

That brings us to the whole reason I write a blog post on the subject… My most active board on Pinterest is a little project in film reflection… it’s simply looking at some of my favorite movie bad guys/antagonists. I can’t say I break any ground on descriptions / why I list certain characters. I can say I’m entertained by trying to remember villians/challengers that I like from cinema.

So! For the sake of exposing my account on Pinterest and what not… I give you “Favorite Movie Villains”:

Follow John’s board Favorite movie villains on Pinterest.

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Film memories, lasting legacies, and songs from forgotten films

John Travolta is not the subject of this entry, but he is the starting point to get to what I want to speak about. It’s the way I tend to write – to segue into the point/subject. The subject is tied to Travolta and his work but Travolta isn’t supposed to be the main topic.

I got introduced to Travolta with “Look Who’s Talking” in 1990. I was a kid and the film got a lot of exposure in pop culture by way of the cutesy aspect and the fact stars Kristy Alley (Cheers among other things) and Bruce Willis had their hands in the film (among others). John Travolta was considered an also-ran at that point, or at least that’s how things seem to reflect now. It was a long way from Saturday Night Fever as well as his TV role in Welcome Back, Kotter. If there’s other stuff that was a large success for Travolta between those 70’s entries and his late 80’s/early 90’s stuff… well, I fail there (Urban Cowboy is an exception, I think). I just know Staying Alive was forgettable and we’ll leave it at that.

Between Look Who’s Talking and its sequels, Travolta found himself back in film culture. This ruffled feathers, which is actually my second memory of Travolta that stands out: Quentin Tarantino talking down about Travolta being in “a baby movie” either after his casting for Pulp Fiction or after the film aired at one film festival or another. It was repeated a few times, Tarantino couldn’t believe someone like Travolta had been in a baby movie! How could this happen?! It’s a quirk of cinema in general, for actors to be brushed off or working in roles that seem beneath them because of a lack of offers form the high. Heck, actor Dom Ameche was working dinner-acting jobs because no one would call him and offer work opportunities. It was what he’d already achieved professionally that got him cast as one of the Duke Bros. in Trading Places without even having to read for the role… But it was the first role in a feature film in 13 years.

Travolta had roles though. One of them, his pre-Look Who’s Talking film, is what I’m trying to segue to. I don’t recall exactly when I got exposed to The Experts, but I did catch it on HBO and it’s a quirky spy-comedy that has one immense quirk driving me nuts lately: an intangible soundtrack.

To summarize the movie: Two (Travolta and Arye Gross as Travis and Wendell) unlucky hipsters who keep failing at starting a club in New York agree to trying to launch a club in a small town. They find themselves in a reclusive, socially stunted (read: 1950’s down-home style) place without a lot of normal, modern aspects of society. They don’t find out until much, much later it’s actually a spy town within the Soviet Union. It’s a play on the Cold War and a contrast of culture. The flick didn’t exactly set any precedence but it’s not bad either. Maybe now it seems extra dated – Travolta had a mullet, which should tell you enough – because the Cold War isn’t a driving factor in society.

All of this leads to that aspect about the soundtrack that is driving me nuts: how you can’t find it. While I say the movie comes off dated now, one song promoting Americana can stand the test of time as it’s a nationalism/pop culture ditty called “Hometown U.S.A.”. The song was part of the closing of the film, I’m not going to give spoilers on that… It was quite fitting for when it was played, I’ll just say that.

Yet you can’t find the song in digital music stores. The lyrics aren’t posted anywhere that can be found on a Google search. The song itself is posted on YouTube but the quality of the copy is suspect (at least from my hearing). The artist, for the curious, is credited as David Morgan, with writing credits going to Harold Payne, Pete Luboff, and Pat Luboff. It got posted on July 4th, 2011 – 22 years after the film’s release and yet again fitting as it was the 4th of July.

How common is this in film, where songs just disappear? Ones that stand out to you and yet you can’t find them anywhere besides in the film itself?  I’m not talking about Matthew Broderick’s clarinet playing during Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; I mean specifically songs crafted for films that just slip away. Another 1980’s film song that I was searching for in the last year (just to find the full performance of it) was “Paradise” by Kaylee Adams, which you can hear a snippet of in the movie White Water Summer. The only thing I had luck in finding was the movie clip itself and some employ pages / other Kaylee Adams songs.

A song is something that lasts in your mind if you connect to it or what images it’s tied to, or what feelings are around when you hear it. Songs tied to movies are especially going to leave a mark with you if you like the scene they’re part of… And that’s a fact even if the film is a bomb in cinema – the music can still leave a mark and a memory, which can still draw interest (and make the entertainment industry a dime) years and years later.

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Cast A-"What-if"

It’s been a long while, but I’ve got me a What-If…

One of my favorite movies is Cast Away. an early Aughts tale of an executive who survives a jetliner crash and has to live on a desert island for four years. Some people hate the movie because of its FedEx advertisement nature — FedEx is everywhere in this film and it gets to the point where the product placement is unbearable. Even though it’s not true product-placement as-so-much brand name use on props. It gives a little more reality than if Chuck Noland had been an employee of the fictional Pacific Courier shipping company.

At any rate, I enjoy the film. the emotional stuff and the open “Where do I go from here?” end to the film.
I got bored the other day and started tooling around IMDB. I’ve looked at their “Trivia” section for Cast Away in years previous and just wanted to see things again. Some of the facts seemed to have been changed, some of them seemed to be deleted (I do recall hearing that there was a different ending, originally, to the film that did not test well and as replaced. Hearsay and speculation on my part because I cannot find reference to this on the web).

One piece of cynical trivia that was on that page, however, caught my eye, and spoilers are ahead for those who have not seen the movie. Continue reading

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"The Stand" and the hyper-sensationalism of Swine Flu

I’ve had “Don’t Fear the Reaper” in my mind lately, with the song wailing and images of the corpses throughout that military installation where the made-for-TV version of Stephen King’s epic, the Stand, starts.

That had nothing to do with the news that has been buzzing around lately. Odd coincidence, though…

I guess it was when a friend on Facebook posted this status that I really woke up to it:

looks like captain tripps does exist!!! awesome!!!

Ah yes, “Captain Tripps” — the nickname for King’s super-flu from The Stand. What’s next? Corin Nemic joining Fox News coverage, staking out the Center for Disease control and trying to insinuate this is all the Democratic Party’s fault? (Corin Nemic, for those who don’t understand the reference, played Harold Lauder: outcast-nerd-turned-turncoat; in the miniseries. He also used to be Parker Lewis. “Not a problem.”)

Anyway, forget The Stand for a minute and lets just go back to the sensationalism of the coverage of the Flu. From what reports would have you believe, death-rates are high (like 10%+) and we’re all screwed. Joe Biden didn’t help things this morning by stating public caution.

But really, I wish people would just stop watching TV coverage of this and just become aware of the facts and just go about their lives. The flu sucks and is known to be deadly… But unless people start showing severe symptoms and start dropping dead in mass in New York instead of showing only mild symptoms… Well, it’s a panic that seems straight out of a work of fiction.

…And to be honest, King’s work of fiction was a lot better than the news coverage we are seeing in reality.

Let me point to it again — read the articles here. If you only want to spend time reading a single article, read the fourth in that series. And calm the hell down!

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I got me a "What If…?"

Did you ever browse around in a comic book store as a kid adn find the Marvel “What If…?” comic books? Books that were about reknown comicbook characters but “What if…?” something abotu them was different… Pat of their backstory, part of their powers, or results of one thing or another that has happened in their comic books…

I won’t go into the geekdom of the what if concept and the different stories that were based on this. Lets just say it as a venerable butterfly effect — the flapping of wings on a different continent were part of the reason why a typhoon formed in the Pacific Ocean.

One small happening causes a huge domino effect and results in something seemingly indirect and different to happen. That kind of thing.

Today I came across (by way of Dave Lowe) a joke observation from the Back To The Future saga and the original movie. It was composed as a (profane) letter from Doc Brown to Marty McFly regarding one of Marty’s choices on the eve of November 12th, 1955. It’s funny as hell but it leaves you wondering just how different the story would have turned out if Marty McFly had done things differently.

So I got me a “What if…?” like this regarding a movie that I love. It’s (the film’s) basis is pretty simple and was the framework for plenty of different action movies from the late 1980’s through the 1990’s.

The movie in this case is Die Hard.

What if…? What if…?

What if Lt. John McClane of the New York Police Department… had shoes on while dealing with the terrorists at Nakatomi Plaza?

Of course there is no definite answer to this with the HOW or WHY. I thought that is part of the magic of the “What If…?” Does John make sure to slip his shoes on instead of doing the stupid fists-with-your-toes thing? Does he grab his shoes when he hears gunshots and ducks out of the room? Shit, does John slip back onto the 30th floor, grab his shoes and socks and slip back out?

How does this change things? Does he employ different tactics, or is the only notable difference in the scene where John is pinned down on the computer floor and the henchman Karl shoots the glass around the office to smithereens?

What if…?

It’s so simple, it’s so stupid but it opens up a huge can of worms. Nothing might change and everything might change in just one minor action. Maybe McClane gets blown away because he has more confidence and takes on the terrorists head on? That’s the most cynical thought I have regarding this every time I think about it — we don’t get John-McClane from the first three Die Hard films, we get the Ah-nuld wanna Be from Die Hard 4 and see him suffer (and die) in the fashion that we saw John proved mortal in the first Die Hard film.

Maybe events fall a certain way so that Ellis doesn’t die — all because John McClane was wearing his stupid shoes instead of making fists with his toes! Maybe Al Powell doesn’t buy Twinkies at the gas station but opts for Ho-Hos instead? Holly doesn’t opt to restrain Joseph Takagi during Hans Gruber’s monologue — resulting in… Takagi giving up the password for the vault and living for another hour or more?

Humor me. What if John McClane tried to save the Nakatomi Hostages while he had shoes on? And would it have been worthy of a feature film?

Happy trails, Hans.

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