Sunday, June 25, 2017

Gee, but I'd give the world to see that old 'Gong' of Chuck's

By Steve Crum

The new and unimproved The Gong Show premiered last week, starring British comic Tommy Maitland. The joke is he is really Mike Myers in disguise. Now that's funny. He's nowhere near a Chuck Barris, but that's OK. (It has to be since Chuck is no longer with us.) The original Gong Show featured outrageous but entertaining acts like The Unknown Comic and Gene, Gene the Dancing Machine. And last week's episode had some eccentric acts of the same caliber.

HOWEVER, the winning act was a married couple who repeatedly spit bananas from mouth to mouth. Their finale was literally spitting (appearing to be puking) mushed up bananas into each other's mouths. Gross is not quite the word. Disgusting is closer. So naturally these two took First Place. 

If this is a hint of things to come, please rename this program The Gag/Vomit Show.
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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Name That Great Tommy Tune

By Steve Crum

It was great seeing (and hearing) Tommy Tune on stage during Sunday's Tony Awards show. I was reminded of a story a late friend, Janet Laird, told me about her experience with the tall, talented dancer years ago when he was performing in Kansas City. Janet and her family ventured backstage after Tune's show to congratulate him.

But they were stopped outside his dressing room by a security guard who went way past his duty, proceeding to berate Janet about daring to bother a star like Tommy Tune. The guard screamed loud enough that Tommy Tune himself opened his dressing room door, and ran out to confront the scene. Tommy then yelled at the security guy for being rude to his fans, and asked Janet and her family to return with him to his dressing room. They did, and stayed about 30 minutes, visiting and laughing with Mr. Tune. 


That speaks volumes for this Broadway icon.

Friday, June 2, 2017

By Zeus! ‘Wonder Woman’ succeeds as very good, but not quite super

By Steve Crum
Believe me, I really wanted Wonder Woman to be better than it is…and a great deal of it is very good. But the pluses are offset by stretches of mundane dialogue and overused slow motion effects. Overwrought is the key word. When Wonder Woman is good, it is compellingly fun. But when the Amazonian warrior is shown for the 37th time in mid-air, slo-mo battle pose, it is a yawner. 
Thank goodness most of the DC Comic-based film is laced with a savvy script full of witticisms that make light of “civilized” world mores. Gal Gadot is well cast as Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman, and Star Trek’s Chris Pine is fine as her would be sidekick and (ultimately) boyfriend, Steve Trevor. As directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster), Allan Heinberg’s screenplay encompasses a backstory set during WWI. In fact, Diana Prince opens the film narrating a flashback of her growing up on the hidden island of Themyscira. Inhabitants are female descendants of Greek gods with Diana herself the daughter of Hippolyta and Zeus, and fashioned of clay. 
Diana’s island background forms the first third of the film, and it is a first rate telling. We see her as a child yearning to be like the Amazonian warriors she admires. When Diana eventually grows to adulthood, she begs her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), to train as a warrior—from sword fighting to hand to hand combat. Despite her mother’s refusal, Diana is encouraged by her aunt and mother’s sister, General Antiope (Robin Wright), to learn military techniques. 
Her training pays off when US Army Captain Steve Trevor (Pine) crash lands off shore, pursued by German troops. Then we get the Amazonian army on horseback defending their homeland against foreign invaders. In the process, Diana saves Steve’s life. He’s the first man she has ever seen, which leads to some awkward, funny moments…which leads to a friendship…which leads to boat travel to Great Britain (Steve’s a double agent) together. Wonder Woman’s incentive is to end WWI by defeating the entity she believes to be causing the war, the evil god Ares.  
After this point, the Wonder Woman saga bogs down a bit with pacing at fault. In England she experiences women’s rights as well as clothing issues. When she is in the trenches at "No Man’s Land," she disrobes to her colorful (and brief) Wonder Woman costume to heroically lead the charge versus the Huns. These are choice cinematic moments indeed. 
However, by the time Wonder Woman confronts Ares, and an epic battle ensues, the film loses its pace. Slow motion and explosions dominate. It is the same criticism I had with last year’s Superman v Batman battle finale. It is overkill, literally and figuratively. 
I do have to recognize some effective villainous work by David Thewlis as Sir Patrick Morgan. Evilness is also personified by both Danny Huston's German General Ludendorff as well as Elena Anaya’s Doctor Maru aka Doctor Poison. [Pictured here.] On the flip side, welcome comic relief is supplied by Lucy Davis as Steve Trevor's affable, loyal secretary.
With all the hype about Wonder Woman heralding the age—finally—of a female superhero headlining a major Hollywood production, expectations of A+ quality were abundant. Despite its shortcomings, Wonder Woman will undoubtedly make the box office gods ecstatic. 
Trimming 10 minutes from its 141 minutes running time might have helped. 
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GRADE on an A-F Scale: B