Elementary, My Dear Reader

I believe I have blogged in the past about Sherlock Holmes. I guess it is interesting that while I have never read a Sherlock Holmes book by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I have read books loosely based on the character. There was a series out not too long ago called The Baker Street Mysteries, that focused on a lawyer who resided at the famous address of Mr. Holmes. It seems they would get letters addressed to the famous detective all the time. I read a few of them, but the last one was quite boring to me, so I stopped.

I always enjoy when the Radio Classics channel on Sirius XM plays old Sherlock Holmes shows. Some of them even featured the Sherlock Holmes I was most familiar with as a kid – Basil Rathbone. He and Nigel Bruce did many Sherlock Holmes films, too.

Over the years, many actors have played the great detective. In the theater recently, Robert Downey Jr. teamed up with Jude Law to play Holmes and Dr. Watson. The first movie was in 2009 and followed by the sequel (Game of Shadows) in 2011. In May of this year, it was announced that Downey and Law will reprise their roles in another sequel.

In 2015, Sir Ian McKellen played a retired Sherlock Holmes in the very touching film, Mr. Holmes. This was very well done and I recommend it if you haven’t seen it.

Without a doubt, my favorite incarnation of the character was in the British series Sherlock. Set in modern times, Benedict Cumberbatch takes on the role of Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman is Dr. Watson. I loved everything about this show! I really wish they’d make more episodes.

This brings me to the main reason for this blog. Over the weekend, my wife said she had seen something while surfing Netflix that she thought I’d be interested in watching. We watched Sherlock together and so when she saw the post about Elona Holmes, she saved it on her “to watch” list.

When she mentioned it, she thought it was a series, but it was actually a movie. It is based on a novel by Nancy Springer. It seems that there are actually 6 books in the Enola Holmes series. I’d never heard of these books, and it seems the reason is that they are written for young adults.

The movie is based on the first book in the series, The Case of the Missing Marquess, which was first published in 2006.

The movie focuses on the teenage sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, Enola. Her mother turns up missing and she’s on a mission to find her. I found the movie to be quite enjoyable. Enola is played by Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown. Her mother Eudoria is played by Harry Potter’s Helena Bonham Carter. Mycroft and Sherlock are played by Sam Claflin and Henry Cavill. The basic plot: when Eudoria mysteriously disappears, Enola undertakes her first missing persons case and reconnects with her estranged detective brother along the way.

It is currently on Netflix and has been well received. There is talk of further sequels based on the other books.

As far as Sherlock’s go, Cavill is ok……but he’s no Benedict Cumberbatch.

Check it out on Netflix.

My Mind Overflows With Random Thought

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Life used to have a routine.  I could plan my day.  Phrases like: Business as usual, status quo, day to day affairs, normal activities, daily grind, staying the course, standard practice, and as per usual – don’t mean anything anymore.  Nothing is normal anymore.  As a midnight shift worker, it’s hard to know what day it is, but when the routine is thrown off, it becomes more difficult.

Give Me Just A Little More Time

I have been seriously trying to make time to sort through thoughts.  Believe it or not, it’s been a little easier to do since I have been at home a bit more.  Last week I only worked about half of my 40 hours because of low census and the eventual closing down of our lab.  I was able to get some hours helping out in the Labor Pool at the hospital.

Our techs were reassigned.  Some had jobs in the hospital, but I was reassigned on Wednesday night to go to the hospital to help direct traffic.  We were given one of those orange vests and we were sent out to the main parking lot.  Our job was to make sure the cars that were lined up to be screened for the Covid-19 virus had first been checked in at the ER.

Basically, a check in at the ER determined whether or not your situation or symptoms warranted actually getting the test.  You probably know that there are a limited amount of tests, so the ones who would benefit from a self quarantine were sent home, while others drove to where I was and got in line to be screened.  Screenings were done in their cars.

I reported to work at 6:45 pm.  Seeing the line of cars made this whole thing much more of a reality for me.  There were plenty of cars in line.  Some of them had not been screened at ER, so we had to instruct them to go there first.  As you can imagine, there was a lot of stress, worry, and anger going on.  I saw a road rage incident while we were out there.  Apparently, a car in front of another was not pulling up far enough and the rear car kept beeping at him to move forward.  A few beeps and the driver was out yelling at the other.  Security had to be called. It was nuts!

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As the evening progressed, the line became shorter.  Testing ended at about 2 am, and that was when we left.  I had to go inside to use the restroom at one point and I can tell you that the doctors, nurses, and staff in the hospital were busy!  They were frazzled, but it was a picture of controlled chaos.  Kudos to these men and women, who are doing everything they can to help stop this thing!

My Anniversary

I was standing in the parking lot directing traffic at midnight yesterday.  I set an alarm so I would not forget to wish my wife Happy Anniversary.  I posted this on my Facebook page:

“Two years ago today, I married my best friend. Two years ago today, I married my one true love. Two years ago today, I married the woman who completes me, brings me joy, companionship, encouragement, support, and love. I swore two years ago that I could never love another female like I loved her … then she gave birth to our daughter. I am blessed beyond measure having these two in my life!

Happy anniversary, Sam, I cannot wait for the years ahead.

Thank you for two amazing years – our adventure continues….”

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People Unite

Covid-19 is a worldwide issue!  It is everywhere and it is effecting everyone.  In my many years on the radio, I have had the chance to meet and become friends with some musical artists.  Working in country radio, I can tell you that the country artists are just amazing.  I could sit and chat with them about songwriting, their tour, their families, etc…  I always enjoyed having the chance to interview them on the radio.

With all of the social distancing and people being told to stay home, the musical artists are taking a hit.  You may be upset that the concert you planned to attend has been postponed, but I can tell you that the artists are just as upset.  Going out on tour, talking to radio stations, meeting fans, and performing for you is what they love to do!  Covid-19 has forced them to stay home, too!

You probably read where Garth Brooks is going to do a live concert on the internet this week.  There are many other artists who are doing the same!  Brad Paisley did an acoustic session on Facebook, so did Jewel.

My buddy, James Otto, was the first one I heard mention that he was going to do it.  I was at work when it was live, but I did catch it afterward on Facebook.  It was great!  It was so simple and awesome.  It reminded me of the time he had come through town before his hit Just Got Started Lovin’ You hit the air. He came in, we interviewed him on the air, and then he did a little acoustic set for the staff in the conference room.  God, do I miss those!  My apologies to James for this incredibly terrible screen shot of his live stream.

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He sounded great!  Thanks for the much needed “pick me up”!

It’s also been great to see video messages from Simon Pegg, Matthew McConaughey, Michael Buble’ and other celebrities!  These messages have brought music, hope, laughs, and entertainment to folks cooped up in the homes.  I have read about celebrities offering dance instruction, comedians doing comedy sets, celebrities reading books to kids, chefs doing cooking lessons, and more!  It’s great to see so much good amidst the craziness in the world.

Staying Connected

The WiFi is working at my house, and I use it not only to surf the internet, check e-mail, and to write this blog, I also use it to make video calls.  I have an Android phone and just can’t convince myself to switch to an iPhone.  My wife tried to get me to switch so we could use FaceTime.  Well, I found Google Duo does the same thing.  So I am able to video chat with her and see the baby while at work at night.  I can also video chat with my dad and my brother so they can see the baby, too!

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My buddy Johnny Molson (more on him in a minute) has been taking part in Zoom meetings.  Basically group chats with friends, so they can all keep in touch.  Restaurants, bars, and places to gather have been closed, so these video group chats can allow folks to gather while social distancing themselves from others.

My new doctor has tele-medicine available.  We can video chat with her if we need to.  My therapist is actually going to be doing my session via video today. It should be interesting.  I will keep the phone above the waist….I am wearing my Minion pajama bottoms!  LOL

Already bored with TV

I don’t have a whole lot of stuff I watch on TV.  Lately, it’s been The First 48, Forensic Files, Live PD, and a few others.  Some of these cable channels are doing these all day marathons, and I wish they wouldn’t.  I love a good rerun, but I I don’t think I like them with these types of shows.  Maybe I am just picky.  Hell, I will watch reruns of old shows like Sanford and Son, Columbo, Perry Mason, and Mission: Impossible all day – it doesn’t bug me at all.  I just can’t sit and watch these over and over.

This is where the internet is helpful again.  Does your imagination need a workout?  Books can help, but if you want to “watch a show”, may I recommend Old Time Radio Shows? They are like watching TV shows, only without the video.  Families would gather in front of the radio at night and listen to their favorites – remember the scene in A Christmas Story when Ralphie is listening to Little Orphan Annie?

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I have Sirius XM in my car, and I love the Old Radio Show Channel.  I’m not sure if the copyright on some shows are a factor or what, but I have heard the channel host say that “certain shows are no longer available” for them to play.  I end up hearing a lot of shows that I was never really interested in.

I realize that these shows are dated, but they are still very entertaining.  Many are available on YouTube.  If you like crime shows – check out Dragnet, Broadway is My Beat, Sherlock Holmes, or Gangbusters.  If you like mystery and suspense – try The Mysterious Traveler, Suspense, The Whistler, or Nightbeat.  For Movie adaptations – try Lux Radio Theater, Screen Directors PlayHouse, or CBS Radio Mystery Theater.  If you want to laugh – try The Jack Benny Program, Fibber McGee and Molly, Amos and Andy, Our Miss Brooks, The Fred Allen Show, Burns and Allen, The Life of Riley, or Abbott and Costello.  Sometimes I do a google search for an actor and find shows they were on (“Edward G. Robinson on radio” will bring up a few). Let your imagination get a workout while stuck at home!

New Sleep Habit

As a sleep technologist, we tell patients all the time of the importance of having a bedtime routine.  That can really help assure that you fall asleep and keep you in a regular sleep pattern.  With a 6 week old baby, you can imagine how the bedtime routine has changed!  Sam has a routine with the baby ever night.  When I am home – I basically throw that routine off.

The baby has a sound machine that plays music.  The bassinet has a button that makes it vibrate.  Then she has a stuffed animal that lights up and puts lights on the ceiling.

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Hers is an elephant, but the dog above shows how it works.  At any rate, all of these things are on as Ella goes to bed.  It’s been a routine now for 6 weeks.

I noticed this week after coming home after my shift and trying to sleep during the day, that I was having an issue falling asleep.  You know what it is?  I have found that I actually find it hard to fall asleep now without that silly music on!  I thought it was crazy, until Sam told me that she felt like she had to turn the stars on so she could see them on the ceiling to fall asleep.  If you are a parent, has something like this happened to you?

“Buy me a coffee”

I noticed this recently on some of the blogs I follow.  At the end of their blog, there is an icon that says “Buy Me a Coffee.”

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So, is this like a “tip?”  “Hey, buddy.  Nice blog – have a coffee.”  I hadn’t noticed this before, but I am seeing it more and more.  Don’t get my wrong – I LOVE coffee, but I am not going to beg my readers for one.  I’m all for getting together and having coffee together, I would love that!  I just think it’s odd.  I mean, if you really want to buy me something, I’m not going to turn away diapers or formula!  LOL

Parting thoughts ( that I wish I had written )

I mentioned Johnny Molson, above.  He wrote a very cool piece that I shared on Facebook and I wanted to share it here as well.  I could have copied and pasted it, but I didn’t want to be accused of plagiarism.  So surf over here and check out this piece that really speaks to our current situation.

I’m Proud of You (Us)

Take care of yourself!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favorite Films – The 2000’s

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It’s been a couple of weeks since I picked back up on this series of blogs, so I thought I had better.  A while ago, I saw a post that suggested you pick one favorite film from every year of your life.  So far, I have covered 3 decades.  Some years were easier than others.  Some years were very difficult, because there were many “favorites”.  One quick reminder – the movies are movies that I have seen.  There may be a monster hit movie from a certain year that I wasn’t inclined to see, or just didn’t see it.

As I move into the fourth decade of my life, I noticed something that I want you to keep in mind.  In 2002, my oldest son was born.  As I began to look through the movies of the 2000’s and even in the 2010’s, I noticed the amount of animated and kid films increased.  What I also noticed is that in many cases, those movies ended up being better than some of the adult films of those years.  Agree with me or not, remember this is MY list. While many of my readers are from Facebook and do not have blogs, many of my readers DO have blogs.  It has been fun to revisit each year, and I would love to see the list of some of my blogger friends (hint hint).

That being said, let’s dive into the 2000’s!

2000

Ashton Kutcher became a household name in 1998 as Kelso on That 70’s Show, so it was only a short time before they had him star in a feature film, and naturally it was a comedy – Dude, Where’s My Car?  While I found it mostly stale, there were a few laughs.  2000 brought us the funny sequel to Eddie Murphy’s Nutty Professor in Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis were both very good in Unbreakable, Harrison Ford wound up being the bad guy in What Lies Beneath, and Russell Crowe starred in the visually brilliant Gladiator (although at times I was bored with it).

A runner up for my pick for this year was the very funny Emperor’s New Groove, the animated feature that starred David Space, Patrick Warburton, John Goodman, and the amazing Eartha Kitt.  I loved this movie and Kitt’s voice work is just amazing.  However, music is what made me pick my favorite for 2000 – O Brother, Where Art Thou?

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George Clooney plays a convict who escapes from a chain gang and ends up recording a hit record.  I loved the story, and loved the soundtrack.  I was working in country radio when the movie came out.  The phones were constantly ringing for Man of Constant Sorrow!  The sound sounded so out of place among the current country hits of the time, but maybe that’s why it did so well.  It reminds me of when the Dixie Chicks first hit radio – their sound was so unlike anything on the air at the time that it stood out and sounded great!  I still have the entire soundtrack of this movie on my iPod!

2001

In 2001, Morgan Freeman reprised his role as Alex Cross in the movie adaptation of Along Came a Spider.  David Spade introduced us to Joe Dirt.  Amanda Pete, Jason Biggs, Steve Zahn, Jack Black and singer Neil Diamond all starred in Saving Silverman.  Much like Titanic, they tossed a love story into a real life historic event for Pearl Harbor with Ben Affleck.  We also got the first installments of some BIG franchises – Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.  Wes Anderson offered up a gem with The Royal Tenenbaums with Gene Hackman, the Wilson Brothers, and Ben Stiller.  Wes Anderson’s films always have a very unique look to them and I almost chose this one as my pick, but instead, I chose Shrek.

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The film is based on the 1990 book by William Steig.  Chris Farley was supposed to be the voice of Shrek, but his death led them to re-cast the role.  Word is that Mike Myers did the voice straight, and was unhappy with it.  He recut the voice with his Scottish accent and the rest is history.  Now add the talents of Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and John Lithgow and it’s magic!  It was a fun movie to watch and remains a favorite that I still watch with my kids.

2002

There were a few animated and kids films in 2002:  Ray Romano starred in Ice Age, Disney brought us Lilo & Stitch, and there was a live action Scooby Doo movie.  The second (or fifth) installment of Star Wars hit the screen with Attack of the Clones, while other sequels included Men in Black II, Analyze That, and Austin Powers 3 – Goldmember.  Two big sequels were Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.  Sitting here in 2019, who could have known that there would be a gazillion more super hero movies to come … but my pick for 2002 is Tobey Maguire as Spiderman.

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As a fan of Spiderman since I was a kid, I was excited to see this one.  I thought Tobey was a good Peter Parker.  The rest of the cast was great, too (James Franco, Willem Dafoe, JK Simmons)!  I always thought Kirsten Dunst was pretty, and thought she was great as Mary Jane.  It was a fun movie to watch with good special effects and a good story.

2003

The Lord of the Rings saga continued with the Return of the King in 2003.  Will Ferrell appeared in Old School, which I felt was “Animal House crossing the line”.  Uma Thurman starred in the first Kill Bill, and Johnny Depp appeared for the first time as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.  A clown fish named Nemo stole the hearts of many in Finding Nemo, while Disney offered up the action adventure film Holes.  Again, music played a factor in my favorite – School of Rock.

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Jack Black is a rocker who gets tossed out of his band.  He fills in as a substitute teacher and teaches his class all about Rock and Roll.  He also uses the kids to form a band in hopes of winning a Battle of the Bands contest. The soundtrack includes cuts from the Ramones, The Darkness, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Nicks, and the song they play at the end is the classic AC/DC song, It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll).

2004

Damn you, 2004!  There were so many great movies that came out this year!!  7 of them easily could be my top pick!  Adam Sadler brought us 50 First Dates with Drew Barrymore.  Mel Gibson brought us the controversial Passion of the Christ.  Uma Thurman returned to Kill Bill again in part 2.  Harry Potter was back with the Prisoner of Azkaban.  Tina Fey and Lindsay Lohan gave us a look at public school in Mean Girls. We enjoyed some high school football with Friday Night Lights.  Shrek and Donkey were back with a new friend (Puss in Boots) in Shrek 2.  Will Ferrell donned a mustache as he told the Legend of Ron Burgandy in Anchorman.  Harold and Kumar went to White Castle for some sliders.  Zombies were all over the place in Simon Pegg’s Shaun of the Dead (which I loved!). A very funny cast (Vince Vaughn, Rip Torn, Justin Long, Ben Stiller, Christine Taylor) told us an underdog story in Dodgeball (Chuck Norris has a funny cameo). Nick Cage stars in a great film that makes you rethink history in National Treasure. Jamie Foxx was just brilliant as Ray Charles in the biopic Ray.

A word about a film from 2004 before I announce my pick.  I saw the DVD cover for Napoleon Dynamite in the video store.  I am not sure what made me get it.  Someone may have mentioned it to me, whatever the case, I rented it. We popped it in.  I watched it all the way through.  When it was done I remember saying “What the hell did we just watch?!”  I literally sat there scratching my head.  I just couldn’t figure it out!  It was so dumb!  But here is the weird part – after it ended and after I sat there for a minute – I started the movie over!!!  I watched it all over again.  The second time I watched it – I laughed like hell!!  All of a sudden, it was a funny friggin movie!  When I would recommend it to people, I would tell them “you may have to watch it twice”!  LOL

Ok, so my movie picking credibility may forever be tarnished because of that last paragraph….but here is my pick for 2004 – The Incredibles.

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Brad Bird (who does the voice of Edna) wrote this masterpiece.  Craig T. Nelson is Mr. Incredible and Holly Hunter is Elastigirl (also Mrs. Incredible).  Samuel L. Jackson is super cool as Frozone.  After getting sued for injuring a citizen, Super heroes are banned from performing their duties.  They go into the Super Hero Relocation Program and live as ordinary citizens.  Syndrome is a super villain (voiced by Jason Lee) and his antics bring the “Supers” back out into the public eye.  The music soundtrack is just amazing.  I was SO excited when the sequel was announced.   Just LOVE this movie!! No Capes!

2005

There weren’t many films I liked from 2005.  Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith was good, as we see the “birth” of Darth Vader.  DreamWorks had fun with the animated film Madagascar.  Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson were Wedding Crashers.  Goblet of Fire was the next installment of the Harry Potter series.  My pick for favorite of 2005 is a remake – I know, I know!  I have dissed many remakes, but I found Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to be different enough that I liked it.

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Johnny Depp is one of those actors who amazes me.  When I look at the various roles he has played, each one of them is very unique.  His take on Willy Wonka is so vastly different from Gene Wilder’s in the original.  It is almost creepy – ok, it is creepy! The whole movie is a bit darker than the original, too.  While the story is basically the same, it is different enough that it stands alone as being worthy of my pick.

2006

The success of animated films becomes apparent by 2006.  DreamWorks put out two animated movies this year – Flushed Away and Over The Hedge, while Pixar released Cars.  Ben Stiller interacts with history in A Night at the Museum.  Johnny Depp is back as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men’s Chest.  Little Miss Sunshine is a delightful film with Steve Carell, Greg Kinnear, and Alan Arkin.  My pick for favorite stars Jack Black as Nacho Libre.

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While it is a comedy, it also has heart.  Jack Black is a cook at a monastery.  He grew up there.  There are many orphans that live there, and there is little money to feed them properly.  He decides to wrestle after hours in an effort to raise money for the orphans.  I love this movie, because while there are moments you laugh at loud, there are also heartwarming moments.

2007

Animation movies continued to be big in 2007 – Jerry Seinfeld had Bee Movie, Shrek was back for a third (and probably weakest of the series) movie, and Pixar had the marvelous Ratatouille.  Jack Sparrow returned in At World’s End, and Simon Pegg offered up the comedy Hot Fuzz.  Harry Potter returned in the Order of the Phoenix, and Nick Cage was back for the sequel to National Treasure: Book of Secrets. Jon Heder, coming off the success of Napoleon Dynamite, teamed up with Will Ferrell for Blades of Glory.  The gang from TV’s Reno 911 got their own film Reno 911:Miami.  My pick for favorite – The Bucket List.

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Admittedly, I did not see the movie until recently, I am glad I did.  This movie made “the bucket list” a phrase everyone now uses.  We all have items on a list that we want to do before we die.  Going to Italy is on mine.  Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman are just wonderful in this film.  If you haven’t seen it – you have to!

2008

Comedies from 2008 included Simon Pegg’s Run Fatboy, Run, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. starred in Tropic Thunder, Rainn Wilson was The Rocker, and Will Ferrell and John C. Riley were Step Brothers (Boats and Hoes!!)  Animated films from 2008 included WALL-E, and Kung Fu Panda. Tom Cruise starred in a great story about the plot to kill Hitler in Valkyrie.  Harrison Ford reprised his role as Indiana Jones in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (I didn’t care for it).  Will Smith was a guy with super powers in Hancock.

Vantage Point was almost my pick for favorite.  Dennis Quaid stars in the film about an assassination attempt of the President.  The movie shows all the different views of the event – all the different vantage points.  It was a very cool film to watch.  I hate to say it, because it is kind of a remake, but my pick for favorite is Get Smart.

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TECHNICALLY, it is NOT a remake.  It is just based on the TV show.  At first I was angry to hear they were making this movie, because of my love for the TV show.  Then I heard that Steve Carell would be playing Maxwell Smart.  I thought he was perfect for the role.  Alan Arkin is great as the chief (I like him in almost everything he does).  Anne Hathaway is 99.  James Caan is the President.  The Rock is also an agent.  Great cameos from Bill Murray and Bernie Kopell, the orginal Seigfried (although I wish Bernie’s cameo had been longer).  Over all, it was a good story.  I loved the nods to the TV show, that earned bonus points for me.

2009

As we enter the final year of this decade, three films all stand out as ones that could easily be my pick.  Two of the dumbest films I saw were Paul Blart Mall Cop (which even got a sequel!!) and Year One.  I am stupider for watching both of those films!  Animation and kid films included The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and the Monsters VS Aliens.  Harry Potter was back with the Half Blood Prince.  Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw starred in The Blind Side.  Woody Harrelson kills the undead in Zombieland. I’m gonna be honest – I NEVER saw Avatar, it just didn’t look interesting to me.  I was impressed with the new Star Trek movie – I felt the characters stayed very close to the original star’s portrayals.  I really enjoyed Inglorious Basterds (always been a fan of WWII movies).

That leaves me with four films – one that I disliked and three I loved.  I know that I am in the minority here, so I apologize in advance.  I didn’t care for the Hangover.  It obviously was major hit which spawned quite a few sequels.  Everyone kept saying, “You’ve got to see this movie”, so I did.  I really didn’t find it as funny as everyone else did.  I don’t know what it is, I just didn’t find it to be the great film everyone else did.

Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law was VERY well done!  I enjoyed it very much.  I really felt that it captured the Sherlock Holmes from the stories.  I found it funny, exciting, and thought it had a great story.  When I discovered Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch, I felt that it was done in almost the same vain as this film.

I almost picked A Christmas Carol starring Jim Carrey as my favorite.  First of all, it is one of my favorite Christmas stories.  I am sure that I have blogged about it in the past.  Second, Jim Carrey does the majority of the voices in it and it just amazing.  I loved the animation and it has been one that I watch each and every Christmas season.  My pick for 2009, however, is another animated film … Up.

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Pixar continues to bring out amazing movies for the whole family.  Up is the story of Carl Frederickson(voiced by Ed Asner), and his quest to go to Paradise Falls to fulfill a promise to his wife.  The montage that shows the love story of Carl and Ellie is done with no voices – just action and music.  It is the most moving thing I have ever seen.  Yes, I cried.  It is beautiful.

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The adventure that Carl ends up going on with his newfound friends Russell, Doug, and Kevin is exciting and heartwarming.  I truly wish that Pixar would give us a sequel to this film, just to see more of this wonderful friendship that Carl and Russell have.  I LOVE this movie!

9 more years to go and I will pick up the series next in 2010.  I hope you enjoyed reading this!

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Mystery Mania 2019

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As someone who loves a good mystery, I jumped at the chance to take part in the “Mystery Mania Blogathon” being hosted by Robin and her site, Pop Culture Reverie.  For this event, the topics could include movies, novels, video games, and TV shows.  While there are plenty of books and TV shows that I would have loved to write about, two movies immediately came to mind and I have chosen to write about them.  You can read what other bloggers have chosen for this event here:

https://popculturereverie.wordpress.com/

The Old Dark House Genre

Both of the films I am writing about would fall into what movie critics would call “The Old Dark House” genre.  This would be a sub-genre of the suspense/thriller/mystery film.  The genre tends to lean toward comedy, farce, parody, or whodunit mysteries. I wouldn’t call them “Haunted House” movies, as those tend to involve ghosts or the supernatural. Some common themes you may find in an Old Dark House movie include: (1) a group of people or strangers having to spend the night in some sort of castle, house, or mansion, (2) a murderer, creature, or some sort of madman on the loose, (3) usually the setting is a dark, foggy, or stormy night, (4) the house has hidden rooms or some sort of secret passageway (5) a butler, maid, or servants (6) a mysterious host, (7) pictures with removable eyes for spying on guests, and (8) possibly, a murder.

These movies are referred to as “Old Dark House” movies because they are similar to the plot of the 1932 film “Old Dark House” which starred Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton, and Gloria Stuart.  Other famous films of this genre include 1945’s And Then There Were None and The House of Fear, 1948’s Who Killed Doc Robbin?, 1941’s Murder By Invitation, 1975’s The Spiral Staircase, 1978’s The Cat and the Canary, 1985’s Clue, and 1980’s Private Eyes, which will be the second film I am writing about.  Oh, and of course, the first film I am writing about ….

Murder By Death (1976)

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There are a few reasons I chose to write about this film.  First, it is a very funny film written by Neil Simon.  The film is a comedy/parody that is loaded with quick and funny lines.  Second, it is a send up of some of the greatest literary sleuths and detectives.  The film parodies Charlie Chan, Nick and Nora Charles, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, and Sam Spade.  Finally, it has a simply wonderful and amazing cast.  Peter Sellers is Sidney Wang (Charlie Chan), David Niven and Maggie Smith are Dick and Dora Charleston (Nick and Nora Charles), Elsa Lanchester is Jessica Marbles (Miss Marple), James Coco is Milo Perrier (Hercule Poirot), and Peter Falk is Sam Diamond (Sam Spade).  Other greats in the cast include Eileen Brennan, Nancy Walker, Truman Capote, James Cromwell, Estelle Winwood, and Alec Guinness.

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A keen observer will notice that the opening credits are drawn by Charles Addams, who created the comic strip The Addams Family.  We see a body with 11 knives lodged in the back, followed by the 11 “suspects”.

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Whether it is deliberate or not, the plot to the film is fairly ridiculous.  Millionaire Lionel Twain (Capote) invites five of the world’s greatest detectives to his home to solve a murder that hadn’t been committed yet (it will happen at midnight that evening).  He offers a million dollar prize to the one who can solve the murder.  The cast avoid numerous attempts on their own lives, while stumbling on more than one apparent murder throughout the film.

One of the true joys of this film is the performance of Alec Guinness as the blind butler, Jamesir Bensonmumm.  The dialogue between Guinness, David Niven and Maggie Smith regarding his name plays out like an Abbott and Costello bit.  He has some very funny lines and he delivers them perfectly.  When asked about Mrs. Twain, Bensonmum says, “She murdered herself in her sleep, sir.”  When asked if it was suicide, he replies, “Oh no.  It was murder alright.  Mrs. Twain hated herself!”  Sidney Wang asks about loud growling and barking from a cage.  He is told by the butler that it is the cat.  When he is questioned again in disbelief, Bensonmum replies, “I’m afraid he is a very angry cat. Mr. Twain had him fixed … and he didn’t want to be.”

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It was while filming Murder By Death, that Guinness received his copy of a script for Star Wars.  He read the script between takes while in his dressing room. Guinness was not one to spend a lot of time in Hollywood, but he liked the script so much that he made the trip to play the part of Bensonmum.  He is also on record as saying, “The script made me laugh, and not many things in recent times have done that.”

Peter Sellers plays Mr. Wang as stereotypical as Charlie Chan was.  One of my favorite lines from him is: “Conversation like television set on honeymoon: unnecessary.”  James Coco plays his role very self centered and prissy.  He has some funny scenes with James Cromwell and some good lines.  He finds a bill in the butler’s pocket and notes “Everything here has been rented for tonight. The butler, the cook, the food, the dining room chairs, everything!”  When Jessica Marbles begins to question, “You mean …”, he interrupts and states, “Yes. This entire murder has been… catered.”  After he drinks wine and begins to choke, the guests gasp and react, but he puts them at ease by saying, “No, no, it’s all right. My wine is not poisoned. It was just a bad year.”

Not to take away from fine performances by Peter Sellers, David Niven, or James Coco (they are all wonderful!), but a highlight for me is Peter Falk’s performance as Sam Diamond.  He plays it almost in a Humphrey Bogart sort of way.  Throughout the film, the detectives are often scurrying and unorganized.  Falk does such a great job with this.  He has some very funny lines in the film.  One of my favorites follows a bit of a monologue from Sam:  “Now, if one of you gentlemen would be so kind as to give my lady friend here a glass of cheap white wine, I’m going down the hall to find the can. I talk so much sometimes, I forget to go.”  When the issue of trust comes up, he proclaims, “The last time that I trusted a dame was in Paris in 1940. She said she was going out to get a bottle of wine. Two hours later, the Germans marched into France.”

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As hard as it is, I won’t spoil the ending.  I will tell you that the climax of the film has many revelations that are just ludacris, more theories and unmaskings than every episode of Perry Mason, Scooby Doo, and Agatha Christie novel put together!  By the time it is over, you wonder what happened, in a good way.  Wang has a great line as he and his adopted son are leaving the Twain mansion in the morning.  His son says, “I don’t get something, Pop. WAS there a murder, or WASN’T there?”  His reply:  “Yes: Killed good weekend.”

Despite the wonderful script and all-star cast, there were some who had their doubts about the film.  David Niven’s son worked for a company that invested in the film and thought that it would be a flop and expected it to be a tax loss.  Peter Sellers wasn’t happy with his performance and the film in general, so he sold back his percentage of the film for a little over a million dollars.  To everyone’s surprise, the film was the eight biggest money maker of 1976.  The film is included among the American Film Institute’s 2000 list of the 500 movies nominated for the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.

The Private Eyes (1980)

The next film I chose to write about stars two comedy legends who are just as funny separately as they are when paired together – Tim Conway and Don Knotts.  Tim is best remembered for his work on McHale’s Navy and the Carol Burnett show and Don is remembered for his work on the Andy Griffith Show and Three’s Company.  The Private Eyes is not the first film where they starred together, but it is their last.  They were in Disney’s The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975) and the sequel The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, (1979) and The Prize Fighter (1979).  They did do a brief cameo together in Cannonball Run II in 1984, a film that was pretty much a flop.

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The Private Eyes is, again, an Old Dark House film.  Don Knott’s character Inspector Winship is an obvious parody of Sherlock Holmes and Tim Conway’s character, Dr. Tart, is a parody of Dr. Watson.  The film opens with Lady and Lord Morley being murdered in their car by a cloaked shadowy figure.  Winship and Tart are two American detectives who are transferred to Scotland Yard.  They travel to the Morley Mansion with a letter from Lord Morley, asking them to investigate his own murder.

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When they arrive at the Morley Mansion, they meet the Morley’s adopted daughter (and heiress), Phyllis.  They also meet the odd array of staff members who work for the Morley’s.  They include a samurai, a busty blonde maid, a hunchback, a gypsy, an insane butler, and a Nazi Nanny.

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As Winship and Tart begin their investigation of the Morley murders, the members of the staff begin to show up apparently murdered one by one.  A message is left with each body (more on that in a second) and each time they bring Phyllis back to where they body had previously been, it has disappeared.

The first of two running gags in the film is Dr. Tart’s pigeons.  He insists on sending messages back to “the Yard” via homing pigeons.  They never seem to make it, however, as each time he tries to send the message the pigeon usually ends up dying.  The other is the messages that are left on the dead bodies.

Outside of Tim Conway’s performance, the reason to watch this film is for the messages.  The messages are written as poems.  They follow a similar pattern each time and rhyme consistently right up until the last line, where all of a sudden, they don’t!  Each time the last line is read, you can see Tim Conway’s Tart, trying to make sense of it.  He knows there is another word that would rhyme – and actually make more sense – but the author doesn’t use it.  Once it happens in the first poem, you know it’s coming with each future poem, and it is a consistently funny gag throughout the film.

A few worth mentioning:

In this house it’s hard to survive
Some will be dead who are now alive
Mr. Uwatsum is gona cuz he knew too much
Bye for now but rest assured, we will keep in constant contact with each other
(Instead of keep in touch)

If Jock could talk, he’d give you a clue
But now that he’s dead, what can you do?
He deserved what he got, I don’t regret it a bit
By the way, you’re standing in bull caca
(instead of Bullsh*t)

And my favorite:

I said when I died that I’d come back
If you believe in ghosts then you’re on the right track
I’m out of the grove and roaming the moors
If you wanna be safe you’d better lock all the windows and screens
(instead of doors)

What is disappointing about the movie is there is so much potential for it to be a very good film, but it winds up being just mediocre.  We are introduced to these crazy house servants in the beginning and yet nothing really comes from any of it.  If the movie had been handled as more of an ensemble comedy (as with Murder By Death and Clue), it would have been a much better film.

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Tim Conway does not disappoint, but Don Knotts seems slow and tired.  I recently read where he had contracted mononucleosis during filming, so I am guessing his performance is lackluster because of this.   Outside of our stars, I should note that the relationship between Nanny & Justin (seen above) are fun to watch.    Justin has a very funny line when introducing Winship and Tart to Nanny.  Upon learning that they are from Scotland Yard, he says, “This is Inspector Winship and Dr. Tart. They were in the yard.”  To which Winship corrects him, “That’s FROM the Yard!” Sadly, again, there is so much that the film makers could have done with their characters.  They are very funny together, but their time on screen is limited.

I should also mention that Trisha Noble does a wonderful job as the very stunning daughter, Phyllis.  If she looks familiar, its because she went on to appear in the TV Series Strike Force as Sergeant Rosie Johnson, various TV series, and in Star Wars Episode III as Jobal Naberrie. In 1967, she changed her stage name from Patsy Ann Noble to Trisha Noble in order to distance herself from her years as a teenage popular singer.

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The film is more of a “who is left to have done it”, rather than a “whodunit” because of how fast the members of the staff are being bumped off.  There is a bit of a twist at the end, and I won’t spoil it for you – after all, this blog is all about mystery.  While there are some funny moments, it is one of those movies you want to sit around on a weekend and watch with the kids, they will probably find it funnier than you.

Thanks!

Thanks to Robin for allowing me to participate in the Mystery Mania Blogathon.  I hope you enjoyed reading this and I encourage you to read the other entries at the link provided earlier in this blog.