Episode 197: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997)

I do declare, this series “Focus On: John Cusack” is giving me the vapors! Someone fetch me a mint julep and an invisible dog! Lord, these flies on their leashes are just everywhere. I do so love those Georgia Bulldogs. And peaches. And, um, sweet iced tea . . . ok, I’m running out of things I know about Georgia, specifically about Savannah, so it’s a darn good thing that this week’s movie, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” is set there, in the early 80’s, based on a novel that is more or less based on a true story. Allegedly. Along with our boy John Cusack, we’ve got an almost unrecognizable Jude Law and (oh boy . . .) Kevin Spacey. Uhhhh . . . but at least the director is . . . oh dear, Clint Eastwood. Hoo boy. Not the most comfortable movie we’ve done. And the story is certainly not the most comfortable but pretty gol durn interesting. Give a listen and see what we think or if we spend the whole time tugging at our shirt collars and making inarticulate sounds of discomfort. Either way, it’s gonna be exciting . . . right?

Poll question: “Based on a true story”: what does that mean to you when you see it before a movie starts? Do you trust a movie more? Less? Hold the film up to a higher standard? Or does it matter at all?

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Episode 196: Say Anything (1989)

Leapin’ Lizards! It’s a brand-spanking-new series! (A spanking! A spanking!) Can your heart stand it? If not, please consult your physician, because we’re worried about you. This time we’re focusing on a selection from the body of work of a specific actor in three separate econo-series; Mike has chosen the first one, I’ll choose the second one, and we’d like YOU, yes YOU, to help us choose the third one! Write in, let us know what film person you think deserves a deep-dive, and maybe even suggest some examples of that person’s work. Please help us! You want me to say it? Ok, I’ll say it: we need you! We’ve always needed you! Please don’t leave us! Don’t marry Ethelbert! Or do marry Ethelbert, but please write in with suggestions!

We’re starting out with Mike’s choice “Focus On: John Cusack” because of all the Cusack’s he is, we think you’ll agree, the John-est. Mike’s leading off with an early film of Mr. C’s: 1989’s “Say Anything” starring many people, as well as a very 80’s soundtrack. Is this just another goofy teen romance or does Herr Cusack bring his A-game and level this baby up a bit? Give a listen and find out. Maybe we’ll even have Don “The Dragon” Wilson break Bumpy’s nose . . . if you’re extra good!

Poll question: what couple from a romantic movie would you most like to check in on twenty or thirty years later to see how they’re doing?

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Episode 195: Head (1968)

Hey, hey, we’re Max, Mike; Movies!/ and people say we Max, Mike; Movies around/But we’re too busy talking about movies/to put anybody down! Hmm . . . ok, maybe that would work better for some other endeavor . . . I dunno, maybe something in the music industry? I should check with Don Kirchner…

Yes, we’ve come to the end of our series “Ladies and Gentlemen…the Beatles!” and what better way to close this out than with an attempt to answer the question “What Hath the Beatles Wrought?” For while their contributions to the music world were legion, the Fab Four did have many, many imitators, including a group so carefully manufactured that they were known as the Pre-Fab Four (even before the Rutles were): the Monkees.  Davy, Mickey, Mike, and Peter, four lads from all over who were not even allowed to play their own instruments on their first two albums (not that they couldn’t play; Don Kirchner just didn’t think they were good enough) were brought together for a sitcom, several albums and, to few people’s recollection, a movie called “Head.” Co-written by Jack Nicholson and featuring cameos by said Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, Sonny Liston and (no, this isn’t a typo) Frank Zappa, this psychedelic late-sixties romp was . . . well, it was definitely a movie. Released on film and everything. Is this a Monkee-filled delight, replete with your favorite Monkee hits or is it something else entirely? Give a listen and find out!

Poll question: who is your favorite star who successfully made the jump from tv to movies?

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Episode 194: A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

You know, it’s been a hard podcast series, this “Ladies and Gentlemen… the Beatles!” and Mike and I have working like a pair of canids. We really should be sleeping like a couple of solid chunks of firewood but instead, we find that when we get home, well, we feel all right. Yeah, yeah, yeah! Wait, dang, wrong song. Regardless, this week’s penultimate series entry is the Beatles’ self-made mockumentary about a day in the life of this quartet of Liverpudlians (yes, that’s a real word; don’t dispute me) as the Four Moptops gad about, preparing for a Big Time Live Broadcast, with Paul’s trouble-magnet grandfather in tow. He may be a mixer, but he’s a very clean old man, as is remarked upon many times. Along with the boys tweaking the noses of the Establishment, are, oh, maybe one or two of their songs. Very few. Hardly noticeable, really. How does this first Beatles film outing hold up, almost sixty years later? Well, have yourself a cuppa, get your neb out of that book, and twilk a squeaky at our podcast [warning: that last bit of British slang may be entirely made-up by Max]

Poll question: what is your favorite movie quote? The one you find yourself thinking about or saying out loud the most?

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Episode 193: The Rutles: All You Need is Cash (1978)

Well, we’ve been mucking about with some obscure band named after a mis-spelled bug in our series “Ladies and Gentlemen . . . the Beatles!” but now we’re getting to the real deal, a documentary that covers perhaps the greatest, most famous band in all the universe: the Rutles. Who can forget how merely the mention of those four names Dirk, Stig, Barry, and Nasty could set mobs of teenagers screaming incoherently until the riot police had to be called in.  Directed and starring that award-watching documentarian Eric Idle, this movie tells us of the unfathomable impact the Rutles had on the music world. And it is no way, shape, or form a parody mockumentary of the Beatles, documentaries in general, or anything else that could be milked for a cheap laugh.  Absolutely not. I’m surprised you’d even suggest such a thing. Go sit over there and think about what you’ve done. Go on, now. And while you’re thinking, give a listen and join Max and Mike: far from home and far from talented.

Seriously, it’s the trousers.

Poll question: what obscure or at least lesser-known comic book character absolutely NEEDS their own movie?

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Episode 192: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)

For this week’s entry in our “Ladies and Gentlemen … the Beatles!” series we have yet another Beatles jukebox movie, similar in some sense to last week’s “Across the Universe,” in that it has a number of characters whose names are taken from Beatles songs (Billy Sheers, Mr. Kite, the Hendersons, Strawberry Fields and many, many . . . MANY more) singing many, many Beatles songs. Be warned: this movie was nominated by the Golden Turkey Awards as “Worst Musical Film Of All Time” BUT I should point out that this movie does include Donald Pleasance, Steve Martin, and Alice Cooper and a genuine plethora of baffling guest stars in its final shot. Most importantly, I think it is safe to say this movie offers you the only opportunity you will probably get in your entire life to watch Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler attempt to strangle Peter Frampton.  Surely that alone is worth the price of admission. So does this movie offer a lot of goofy fun, or does it make us cry out “Come home, ‘Across the Universe’! All is forgiven!” Give a listen and find out.

Poll question: what musician or band’s music would you make a jukebox musical out of? Can it be done well? Is this even a good idea?

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Episode 191: Across the Universe (2007)

Well, now I’m sorry I used up all the dopey Beatles song references in the entry for “Help!” because if any movie invites them, it’s “Across the Universe.” This Beatles jukebox movie is from director Julie Taymor, perhaps best known as the director of the Broadway version of “The Lion King”.  Filled with some . . . interesting visual choices and musical interpretation, this movie is at its heart a love story set in the exciting and disturbing location of late 1960’s Greenwich Village, where the counter-culture is in full swing. Jude (as in “hey”) and Lucy (as in “the sky with diamonds”) meet and fall in love, surrounded by what are presumed to be colorful characters like Max (as in silver hammer), Prudence (as in dear), Sadie (as in . . . you know what? Look up the damn songs). They meet strange and wild characters like Dr. Robert and Mr. Kite (get it? Get it?! GET IT??!!!!) and often break into apparently apropos Beatles songs when the occasion calls for it. Spoiler alert: whatever else this movie is, it is not subtle. Come listen and find out if it’s anything else!

Poll question: what is your favorite parody movie? Not just a comedy but a parody of a specific movie or type of movie?

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Episode 190: Yesterday (2019)

Now we come to a rather disturbing entry in our “Ladies and Gentlemen . . . the Beatles!” series. “Yesterday” asks the question: what if nearly everyone on Earth forgot that Herman’s Hermits ever existed? It’s ok, it’s ok, it’s just a movie, please don’t panic. We really didn’t mean to trigger anyone . . . but what were we expecting? What sort of nightmarish hellscape would we be stuck with without the loving, beatific guidance of Herman’s Hermit’s? How would we know how lovely a daughter Mrs. Brown had? What cataclysmic effects on society would this have? Well, fortunately this sort of speculation can remain confined to nightmares, as this romantic comedy actually asks the question “What if suddenly you were the only person in the world who had ever heard of the Beatles?” Yes, what if no one else had ever heard the songs “Bungalow Bill,” “Mean Mr. Mustard” or “Her Majesty’s A Very Nice Girl”? Oh, and probably some others as well. Well, tune in and find out what this, the first indie movie to actually license Beatles’ songs, has to say about it.

Poll question: if you could strike one movie or franchise from the memories of everyone and be sure it’d never show up ever, which would it be?

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Episode 189: Good Ol’ Freda (2013)

And here we are with the second episode in our series “Ladies and Gentlemen . . . the Beatles!” and I’m guessing most of you are asking yourselves: was Freda the quiet Beatle or the cute Beatle? Well, you’re both wrong (both of our listeners!) because (brace yourself for a shock) none of the Beatles were named Freda! I know, right? I was stunned too! The titular Freda refers to Freda Kelly who served as the official President of the Beatles Fan club in Liverpool for the entirety of the band’s existence.  This documentary presents her story and her unique perspective on the Lads Liverpudlian, a story that she didn’t tell for almost fifty years. Working directly for Brian Epstein, Freda saw John, Paul, George and Ringo (and Pete) when they were just local boys playing at the Cavern and was with them through their astounding rise to fame and to the sad dissolution of the band.  She answered their fan mail, brought them their paychecks, got them to sign all sorts of things, and kept their secrets. Give a listen and find out if this is just another tired old tale or a genuinely interesting story.

Poll question: what action movie cliché punches the biggest hole in your suspension of disbelief? People walking away from explosions? People diving unharmed through a plate glass window?

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Episode 188: Help! (1965)

Welcome, our most groovy listeners! Let us take you down to Strawberry Fields, via Penny Lane; hey, Jude, you’re falling behind! Are you not feeling well? Do you need a little help from your friends? Should we call Dr. Robert? Do you want to hold my hand as we go? As you may have guessed from this so-subtle introduction, we’re starting a swinging, woodly-poodly new series featuring movies by, about, and inspired by that famous musical combo . . . Herman’s Hermits! That’s right . . . no, no, that’s entirely wrong. Sadly, I don’t believe Herman or the Hermits ever made it to the silver screen, more’s the pity.  No, the name of the series sums it up: “Ladies and Gentlemen . . . the Beatles!” We’ll be checking out some of the films of the Lads from Liverpool, as well as documentaries about them, fictionalized versions of them, and movies that I assume are supposed to be tributes to them, but . . . well, wait and see.  We’re starting off with the second movie the Four Mop Tops made themselves, the zany farce “Help!” Is it zany? Is it farcical? Are the Beatles in it? I can assure you that the answer to at least one of those questions is “yes.” Give a listen and find out which one!

Poll question: what subject matter do you think is most lacking in movie theaters? What area has Hollywood not explored enough?

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