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Flick Clique: January 7-14

Since my server has been having connecting issues, I’m publishing the Flick Clique today. It’s been a crazy week — Two Bunnies & A Duck has published its 100th, and final comic. I enjoyed drawing the bunnies and coming up with gags, but I’ve also realized that I’m not a gag cartoonist and never will be. It was too much work, and there wasn’t much incentive to keep going on (but I am thankful for Christopher’s cheerleading). With Bunnies, there were times when I was disappointed with the drawing but had a good gag, and other times when the drawing/coloring went well on a cartoon where the gag didn’t work. The entire run of Bunnies will be collected in a book, and that will be the end of that.
East Side of Heaven (1939). Fluffy Bing Crosby musical teams him up with pert Joan Blondell as a pair of romantically involved city dwellers who wind up involved in a wealthy family’s spat when he becomes the unwilling guardian of a kidnapped baby. Crosby is a singing taxi driver, Blondell his switchboard operator girlfriend, and Mischa Auer plays the goofy amateur astronomer who rooms with Crosby. The film has a bit of jazzy verve with some tasty production design (dig the Deco café below!) and tuneful if slight songs. The plot swings into action when C. Aubrey Smith’s millionaire wants to take possession of the baby grandchild belonging to his irresponsible son Robert Kent and his daughter-in-law Irene Hervey. Hervey, not wanting to lose her son, decides to abduct the baby and place him in the care of the most trustworthy person she knows, Crosby (who had just been fired for speaking out of turn on her behalf). Quite a cute film, but be warned that it ends up being All About The Baby in the second half! Personally, I have a strong aversion to babies in movies. The baby in question here is quite a happy ‘lil guy, but the filmmakers milk his cuteness to an annoying degree. Universal loved this one enough to star it in several “Baby Sandy” comedies, apparently. Go figure.

Harvest (2011). This understated German indie drama was a film I selected from the reviewers’ pool at DVD Talk. My review was just completed and can be seen here.
In Time (2011). Another disc that arrived from DVD Talk, surprisingly enough (I’ve requested a few mainstream films with them, but haven’t gotten too many as yet). You may recall that In Time was the Justin Timberlake “people with stopwatches on their forearms” sci-fi opus that came and went in theaters last Fall. We kept our expectations dialed a bit low for this one, but actually it’s a thoughtful and well-made film whose interesting premise only gets derailed a few times. In near-future L.A., time is a commodity. Upon their 25th birthday, people are given a certain amount of time for the remainder of their lives until the green stopwatch implanted in their wrists runs out. These stopwatches also have the ability to stop physical aging, so most of the population looks 25. These advances have created a quasi-police state in which the rich are sequestered in safe zones where they live out lives of leisure, while the less fortunate are forced into hard labor, crime and desperation to cling on to their remaining time. Timberlake’s character is part of the latter scene, eking out a living with his mom in a dingy apartment. When he comes across a suicidal rich man who gives him 100 years before offing himself, however, he winds up getting into the forbidden wealthy district with the cops in hot pursuit. He eventually meets bored rich girl Amanda Seyfried and the two go on a crime spree, hoping to unleash the time banks that are controlled by Seyfried’s powerful father (Vincent Kartheiser of Mad Men). Will they bring equilibrium back to society? This was an interesting film, casting-wise, with similarly aged Timberlake (b.1979) and actress Olivia Wilde (b.1981) playing a child and parent, for instance. It doesn’t have a lot of showy CGI like other sci-fi outings, but I think the central concept is strong enough to stand on its own. The only weak link I found was Timberlake, who doesn’t bring a lot of depth to his character. This was written and directed by the un-prolific Andrew Niccol, whose earlier Gattaca shares a lot of similarities with In Time. There are a few flaws with the execution (like, why isn’t there more murder in this place where time is so easily exchanged?), but overall I found it intriguing and not nearly as bad as the reviews suggested.
Stonewall (1996). One of those ’90s gay films that has its adherents, I put this on my Netflix queue mainly because Guillermo Diaz (whom I enjoyed in Weeds) is in it. Diaz plays La Miranda, a fiery drag queen in 1969 New York. He meets Matty Dean (Frederick Weller), an out-and-proud midwesterner on his first foray in the city. The two become boyfriends amidst the turmoil of the emerging gay rights movement. Despite the title, the Stonewall Inn figures primarily as the setting for La Miranda and his drag friends to put on lip-synch shows set to campy girl group records by The Shangri-Las (these scenes, although pretty fun, aren’t too relevant to the story). The riot itself is confined to the final 10 minutes or so, which is disappointing. The film, on the whole, is an okay if disjointed effort with a distinct British feel (it kinda reminded me of gritty UK films from that period like Let Him Have It or Prick Up Your Ears). Most of the cast was all right. For a historical recreation of the Stonewall riots and what led up to them, I’d go for the recent PBS American Experience program on the subject. It’s much more illuminating and a whole lot less drag queeny.

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