Saturday, August 19, 2006

New post here today and the introduction to my Fleischer book is on the Made of Pen and Ink blog.

Can Robin Williams find a good script? The answer is in this edition of the DVD review column.

I like Robin Williams as both a comic and actor. He's quite capable of turning in great performances with the right script and director. He is also capable of selecting projects that do his career no good.

"RV" is one of those selections. This tired family comedy succumbs to almost every cliché of the genre. Williams is the busy exec dad who had lost touch with his family. His psycho boss demands that he cancels a family vacation to Hawaii so that he can make a presentation in Colorado. Williams lies to his family, rents a RV and tells them a road trip will be more fun. Along the way, Williams and his brood find the true meaning of life.


I like the idea that the best way to unite your family is by deceiving them. Lies are a great basis for communication with children. And it's hilarious!

A note to Robin: I think you're great. Let me read the script before your agent and I'll steer you clear of such flops. And I'll charge less.

My Summer Story

My favorite Christmas movie is "A Christmas Story" and I think the late writer and broadcaster Jean Shepherd is one of this country's great under-appreciated personalities. Receiving a copy of the 1994 sequel of "A Christmas Story" created some conflicted feelings: I love Shepherd's work, but I was dreading watching a film that received little release or attention over a decade ago.

The news is that while it's not as successful a film as "A Christmas Story," it is certainly worth watching. The film was directed by Bob Clark (who directed the previous film) and co-written by Shepherd based on his stories.

Essentially the film picks up the Parker clan the summer that followed the time of the previous film. Ralphie (Kieran Culkin) is still negotiating the hazards of the playground, the Old Man (Charles Grodin) is engaged in a new fruitless endeavor and mom (Mary Steenburgen) is hold them all together.

This film's story structure is different and is more fragmented than the first in which all of the action culminates in the Christmas celebration. Mom has her own sub-plot, which is quite funny, while Ralphie has his over finding the perfect battling toy top. The Old Man wages an unfunny and stupid conflict with the hillbilly neighbors and he and Ralphie share a story about fishing for crappies.

This looser structure makes the film seem less a cohesive film and more of a series of short stories. The problem is that Grodin is mis-cast as the Old Man. The late Darren McGavin understood not to over-play the role. Grodin is constantly gritting his teeth and growling.

Although not as good as the first, this film is well-wroth discovering.

For more for information, go to

Queer Duck: The Movie

I was unaware that a series of Internet cartoon featuring gay animals was a big hit. Sorry, I didn't get the memo.

Apparently these short have been such a hit that Paramount decided it needed to bankroll a full-length movie.

This is perfect example that everything animated is not for children. This low-budget film features simple and unappealing animation coupled with every gay stereotype one can imagine. Although the film's voice actors are its only saving grace even having such performers as Billy West ("Futurama" and "Ren & Stimpy") and Maurice LaMarche ("Pinky and the Brain") can't save it from being an embarrassment.

There's not a laugh in its 72 minutes and I'm not sure who would find the tired sex and scatological humor appealing.

I do know the folks at the Best Buy in Holyoke had this title in its children's section. Please, allow me to repeat: not all animation is for children.

For more information, go to

The Last Mogul: The Life and Times of Lew Wasserman

Lew who? That's the point. In show business where image is everything, the late Lew Wasserman could have cared less. Unlike any other studio head who courted personal publicity, Wasserman was dedicated to the gathering and exercise of power behind the scenes.

This documentary shows the rise and decline of the man who built the MCA/Universal Studios empire in Hollywood. For any film buff, this is essential viewing.

Director and writer Barry Avrich accomplished the near impossible: he creates a satisfying picture of a man who never gave an interview and who didn't keep any notes or papers. Avrich does this by interviewing both the friends and critics of the businessman who is credited by creating the business plan for modern Hollywood.

Wasserman was an agent who understood that by controlling the talent needed to make movies, he would be the industry's power player. Later, he showed insight into television and film production.

This fascinating film fills a gap in contemporary film history.

For more information, log onto

© 2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs. Standard disclaimer apples. What is the standard disclaimer? This blog is my publication alone.


Mark Martin said...

Oh well.
The Queer Duck shorts were good.
Shorter is always Better!

I'm surprised you did not take advantage of the opportunity to lament how dreadful "The Night Listener" is!?!

SRBissette said...

Any use of the phrase "The Black Tower" in THE LAST MOGUL? Wasserman's story is a compelling one - he is indeed the LAST of the classic studio moguls -- in part due to the fact Wasserman's production lineup included a huge majority of the TV movies Americans ate up like candy throughout the '70s. Is that covered in the doc, Mike (must see it! Must!).

I am perversely drawn to catch a matinee of NIGHT LISTENER, like, today, just cuz you and Mark hated it so. It's that or WORLD TRADE CTR, such is the paucity of onscreen fare in driving distance for moi...