Category Archives: fox 29

The Three Stooges 2012

The Three Stooges ~ I love the Three Stooges. I grew up on the Three Stooges. Everybody loved the Stooges when I was a kid. We would all race home from school to see the shorts on local channel 29. We all loved them, and being a guy (it does seem to be a gender thing), I loved them a lot. And unfortunately I was also a casualty when parents groups shut them down in the early 1970s.

Like most kids, I was aware of the difference between fantasy and reality, and knew you didn’t try any of that stuff the Stooges do on TV. Unfortunately those nosy parents who always seem to have too much time on their hands first had the wonderful shorts of the Stooges edited down to almost nothing by taking out the perceived violence (and essentially the humor too), and then by removing them from the air completely. You bastards, you took my Stooges away.

Let’s face it, the 1970s was a very bad time for kids television. Parents had a lot of time apparently to ruin it for kids. They took our superheroes away, our Warner Bros. cartoons, our Little Rascals, and our Three Stooges. These were all too ‘violent.’ Heck, we knew the difference. And from then on, children’s television had to watered down, have a message at the end, be educational, and conflict had to be solved through thoughtful discussion rather than Batman punching the Joker, or Moe poking Larry. I’m still not sure about Larry, but trust me, the Joker needed a punch.

Fortunately the video age saved us all, or at least the Three Stooges from this terrible time. On video, we could see the shorts in their original form, uncut and unedited, and we could see what geniuses the Stooges truly were. Today, several cable networks show the shorts on a regular basis, and the Stooges are enjoying somewhat of a renaissance. And perhaps that is what has spawned this new movie, The Three Stooges.

When I first heard of the Farrelly brothers making a new Three Stooges movie I have to admit I cringed. These are the guys responsible for such masterpieces as Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary among others. Not that their work is bad, but even when it’s good, there is always some quantity of potty humor and slob comedy. Humor for ten year olds is what it is, and although I don’t want to think it – it’s the perfect team to return the Stooges to the big screen.

When I first saw the trailer, I was iffy, and as a Stooge fan, I was extremely wary. I am here today to say I have seen the film, and wow, I had no reason to worry, as a matter of fact, it was one of the funniest movies I have seen in a long time. I laughed until there were tears in my eyes. Yeah, baby, it’s that good.

The movie follows the boys from childhood into a Blues Brothers like plot of trying to raise money for their orphanage, and it’s done in three episodic segments stylized like the shorts of old. The new Stooges do wonderful jobs of imitation and homage. Many of the stunts, the effects, and even the gags are directly from the old shorts and done with respect and humor. The first two segments are flawless Stooges extended shorts. The third segment does move into French farce as well as slapstick, but that’s okay, I still dug it.

The nearly unrecognizable Sean Hayes as Larry, television veteran Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe (I’ll never be able to watch “24” with a straight face again, and Will Sasso from “Mad TV” as Curly are all stellar morons in the best sense possible. Jane Lynch, Jennifer Hudson and the cast of “Jersey Shore” are all terrific but for me, the movie is stolen by Larry David every time he appears on screen as Sister Mary-Mengele.

Yeah, I loved this, more than I should have, and more than I ever would have believed either. The only thing that brought it done was during the end credits when the Farrelly brothers appear on screen to show how stunts were done and to tell kids not to try this at home. It may have been done tongue in cheek, but it brought that original 1970s bad taste back into my mouth. Stupid parents groups. Leave the Stooges, any Stooges alone. Still, this newest edition of the Three Stooges is highly recommended, bring the kids, be prepared for a little potty humor, but mostly Stooges goodness.

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Lost Hits of the New Wave #14

“Can’t Stand Losing You” by The Police

Back in the days before MTV, or before everyone except me had cable television and MTV, I would seek out every possible avenue to see music videos. Long about 1980, 1981, those avenues were few.

There was a program called “Rockworld” that aired on the pre-Fox channel 29, on the UHF dial for all the old folks reading, and that was one outlet for pre-MTV music videos. It was an hour long and would feature one or two artists or bands per episode, and there really weren’t that many episodes, and they repeated them often. This was where I saw many of the early videos by Adam and the Ants, DEVO, Van Halen, the Pretenders, and The Police.

The Police videos all looked they had been filmed on the same day, and quite possibly with a single budget. Besides “Can’t Stand Losing You,” one of my all-time favorites, there was also “Walking on the Moon,” “Message in a Bottle,” and of course, “Roxanne.”

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Clash of the Titans – Old School

I love Ray Harryhausen, and I love mythology. This springs from an early exposure to the Harryhausen films, especially 1963’s Jason and the Argonauts. In the days before home video local Philadelphia UHF channel 29 had the practice of showing the same movie every weeknight for a week – one of these was Jason, and I loved it.

Later when I saw Harryhausen’s other work, like the Sinbad films, and especially the non-mythic It Came from Beneath the Sea and 20 Million Miles to Earth. His stop-motion work was unparalleled, and even his frequent ridiculous tirades about how Godzilla ripped off his The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (it wasn’t even his) didn’t spoil my love and respect for him. Previews for 1981’s Clash of the Titans however, did.

The effects I saw in the previews were stiff and very unimaginative. They were very unlike Ray Harryhausen’s work of the past in my opinion. And shouldn’t the previews spotlight the best a movie has to offer? It was a known fact that the stop-motion process was painstakingly slow, and an equally known fact that sometimes Harryhausen took drastic shortcuts (case in point – the six-tentacled octopus in It Came from Beneath the Sea), but nothing to my mind could excuse what I saw. I was to learn years later that this was the first film for which he had assistants, and that they had done much of the work. Still, the previews were enough to turn me away from seeing Clash, until now.

I have to say I think my initial reaction was dead on. The Kraken’s first appearance shows little movement and a lot of bad matte screen effects. The acting is horrendous. Harry Hamlin is barely passable, and folks like Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith should just be ashamed of themselves. Even Sian Phillips, the brilliantly evil Livia of “I Claudius,” is only adequate as Cassiopeia. Only Burgess Meredith turns in a decent performance, and he has to share it with a horrid metal owl.

That bedamned owl. What were they thinking? That a movie about mythology, even fractured mythology, needed an R2D2? Wow, and that’s a bad wow, not a good one. I was just about getting used to the bad seventies hair and the bedazzled armor and then this owl shows up. Oh man. And then there’s the two-headed dog – because a three-headed dog would have been harder to animate.

The Kraken in the climax is slightly more mobile but still unimpressive. For a final big bad, it pales in comparison to Harryhausen’s earlier work. Talos and the Ymir (which it kind of resembles) are vastly superior. The seemingly boneless arms are the most ridiculous in my opinion. There is very little menace to the Kraken as far as I’m concerned. What boggles my mind most is how much more superior Jason and the Argonauts is, and it was made in 1963, nearly decades previous, and the special effects are stunning comparatively.

I really didn’t like this much at all, standing by my initial opinion some three decades previous. Here’s hoping the remake is better.

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Split-Screen, Credit-Squeezing, News MF-ers

And yeah, Fox 29 in Philadelphia, I’m lookin’ directly at you.

The idea of ‘squeezing credits’ that has been done by networks for the last decade or so has really started to bug the hell out of me, and the primary offender is Fox 29. Here is an example of ‘good’ squeezing credits:

As you can see, you can still read the credits, and there is nothing further going on with the actors or the story during this squeezing. Some networks are extremely responsible when enacting this practice. Here is how the BBC does it, and they do it well.

When Fox first began broadcasting their five o’clock news at 4:59 PM, by squeezing out the ending of “Judge Judy” to a third of the screen and turning off the sound for that third I was enraged and contacted them via email which was unanswered. For those who don’t know, the last minute of “Judge Judy” features the credits but also the participants of the last case reacting to the verdict – thus if we watched the program on Fox 29 we would never hear what was said. The other two-thirds of the screen was taken up by the newscaster telling us what would be on in less than a minute on the news. If the news were about a fire affecting folks in our area, or another police officer murder (which we have far too many of in the Philly area) or maybe some other vital and immediate news story I could understand, but more often than not it was about some rain coming or how to lower gas prices – you know, something that just required that extra minute before the news actually started.

This problem was easily solved, even though Fox 29 never bothered to answer my email, as another local station broadcast “Judge Judy” every day. We now watch the show on WFMZ 69 out of Allentown, PA. I urge everyone to not only check out their programming, but also to buy items and services advertised during the “Judge Judy” show which is aired uncut and unaltered on that station every weeknight.

More recently I’ve noticed that “Seinfeld” in Fox 29’s 11:30 PM slot has been suffering from a similar problem, and there also the last scene is chopped out and muted for a news teaser. This is a unique news teaser as it promotes the 5 AM airing of “Good Day Philadelphia.” Excuse me? Please tell me who’s up at midnight with plans to be watching TV at five that morning? What are they thinking?

Again, easily solved as TBS broadcasts “Seinfeld” as well, and just as often. But it gets me thinking. Maybe Fox 29 doesn’t want me as a viewer? Maybe they don’t want a lot of folks to be viewers. Fox 29 better start watching themselves if they want us to watch them.