Friday, August 8, 2014

Weekend Entertainment Recs for Seniors & Others

Film: High Anxiety by Mel Brooks

This film is a comic but loving homage to Hitchcock starring, written and directed by Mel Brooks. It is one of my all time favorite Mel Brooks movies. What I love about this film is that Brooks is not only having the time of his life being the star of it but he also gleefully sends up ever single film scene of Hitchcock's that was memorable. We open with his arriving at a psychiatric hospital where he is to start work as the new head shrink. That was Gregory Peck's role in "Spellbound". He is in a Hyatt hotel with the glass elevators high up for his "Vertigo" sequence and of course gets into it with birds from "The Birds". He just keeps doing one film after another. The absolute best thing he does though, and you can tell he just LOVES doing it, is that he performs a musical number in that hotel as if he were Frank Sinatra. It is just fabulous.

He also brings aboard the late Madeline Kahn and Harvey Korman whom he'd used so well in BLAZING SADDLES and Cloris Leachman as his nurse at the hospital. He made this in 1977. It was not very well received at the time as he'd made the public too used to his using other actors in his lead roles. I think people were expecting to see Gene Wilder instead as the lead. But I can't imagine anyone playing all of these zany roles but Brooks. Jim and I have a bit of a split here. I flat out adore this film and have seen it many times. I laugh like crazy during it and just love it. Jim likes it but has only seen it once and that was enough for him. He thinks it is a bit over the top. I love it for precisely that reason. If you are having a bad day, watch this film. You will shortly forget all of your troubles.

TV: The Thick of It 
This show has all the British deftness, with understated humor coupled with a rightness about it, that really made me think. It is a behind the scenes look at UK politics. The aspect which stands out for me is how much of their time is spent as politicians and their aides on how they will be perceived by the media and the public. I would estimate over ninety percent of their time. The time spent on actual legislation is less than ten percent. I suspect way less. When I think about it though, doesn't a democracy virtually guarantee this? That most of one's time will be spent keeping the majority of people who vote content, if not happy?

This is one of two political satires of democracies on tv, This one was on UK tv for four seasons plus spawned a movie, In The Loop. The other, Veep, is on American tv. They were created by a Scot of Italian descent, Armando Iannucci. 

In the first season I never could even quite figure out what the Minister for Social Affairs, the first politician under the microscope did. He seemed equally at sea as to his purpose. He does have to answer to Malcolm, played by the wonderful Peter Capaldi, the PM's head communications' honcho. Malcolm is brilliant and he is the front and center character for all four seasons. His entire job is putting out brush fires with ministers and there seems to be a continual onslaught of those.

One of the funniest segments of all four seasons is when Malcolm is temporarily shunted out of government and is about to start work for the tv industry instead. Much to their horror, all of these government politicians discover that their hatred of Malcolm had disguised the fact that he was doing all of their thinking and decision making. Without him, they are lost. Even though they hate his guts, suddenly they are desperate to get him back.

This is also shot as if it is a semi documentary and not a sit com. This makes it all the more effective. Give it a try.

Novel: An Evil Mind by Chris Carter
I've read all of UK author Chris Carter's books and this one is his masterpiece. I could not put it down. It is unlike his prior books, all set in a brutal, ultra violent LAPD crime scene. This time homicide detective Robert Hunter is brought into a crime scene that has nothing to do with LA, the LAPD or his partner with that force. Instead, the FBI need to take him back to Quantico, to an alleged killer whose identity was uncovered in a freak accident. They have him in custody and he demands that he speak to Robert Hunter, our hero, or no one. Robert goes with the FBI and the book simply never lets up as the two come together. The villain here is the best Carter has ever written about in one of his books. I don't want to say anymore as it might ruin this for someone as this is a thriller in every sense of the word. I could not put it down until I finished it.

Chris Carter did something very clever with this book as well. There was a contest in the UK and the winner of the contest got to be made into a character in this book. A woman in Wales won and she indeed does appear as a very interesting victim. She is very well described and fleshed out as a character which I am sure delighted her. Personally I would prefer having the villain created from me. But I think it is great fun to involve the readers in this way.

Woody Allen Soundtracks

Woody Allen releases the soundtrack albums from each of his films. He puts a great deal of thought into personally selecting each piece of music which goes into his films. The Gershwin pieces he put onto his Manhattan soundtrack remains one of his favorite soundtracks with audiences. However, virtually every one of his films has a soundtrack worth collecting. He also has albums which are compilations of "the best from those albums." It is hard to go wrong with any of these. None of these selections are of him playing his clarinet although one of the pictures above shows him with his clarinet. I just checked Amazon and iTunes. Both of them have very full collections of music from Woody Allen's films. iTunes alone had 500 items in the category of Woody Allen Albums. Many of those are individual song downloads. 

Everything reviewed above is carried by Amazon, iTunes, Audible, the Overdrive app for your public library and most other outlets both online and in the real world. These are taken from my five star reviews at Amazon where I am a Top Reviewer.

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