"The Comeback" was Lisa Kudrow's 2005 cable series which did not get renewed for a second season. It comes to DVD tomorrow. You will find nudity in episodes 1, 8, and 10. Thanks to LC, man from the future, for the preview.

Episode 1, Malin Akerman (zipped .mpg)
Episode 8, DeeDee Rescher (zipped .mpg)
Episode 10, Malin Akerman (zipped .mpg)



Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (2005)

In the mid 18th century, over a span of some ten years, Laurence Sterne wrote a massive, discursive book in the form of a mock autobiography called The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. It was sort of the This is Spinal Tap of its own day, an autobiography designed to demonstrate the inherent hubris and self-absorption involved in trying to write an autobiography. Tristram tries to narrate everything important to his life, starting with events that happened before and during his conception. There are so many time-shifts and prolix digressions that poor Tristram barely makes it to his own birth!

Sterne himself was a learned man, knowledgeable about everything from classical antiquity to then-modern science, and he was proud to strut his erudition about any and every subject whenever the mood suited him. The opaque and rambling Tristram Shandy might have earned him a permanent place as the world's most famous bore, except for one thing: he had a sense of humor, and a bawdy one at that. Because Sterne took lots of pot-shots at the sacred cows of his own era, and because he loved a ribald laugh, his work was read by a far larger audience than those who might have been interested in his thoughts about Cervantes or Rabelais or modern medicine. That audience does not include me. I was a lit major as an undergrad, but this one joins Finnegans Wake on the list of masterpieces that I've never read all the way through, so I can't offer much more insight. It's in the public domain, so you can read it for free, if you care to. If you read a few paragraphs, you'll get enough of the general flavor to see that its verbosity and introspection are very clever and literary, and you might enjoy it if you had the time and patience for such things, but it's not exactly juicy screenplay material.

As Slate Magazine wrote:

"Tristram Shandy is of those rare works of literature that seem to have been written in the wrong century. Even as the modern form of the novel was being born, Sterne was already messing with it: stepping outside the narrative to address the reader, apologizing for "losing" chapters that later showed up in their entirety, even including an all-black page to mourn the passing of one character and a blank page for the reader to fill in his own description of another. Filming a book that's so insistent on its own book-ness would seem the very definition of folly on a director's part."

So, is there a way to make a film of an unfilmable book?

Apparently so. Think about how successfully Charlie Kaufman did it in Adaptation. Same general idea worked here as well.

Director Michael Winterbottom and writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce thought that the best way to show the genius of the novel was to show precisely why it is unfilmable, so this movie is not actually a film adaptation of Tristram Shandy, but a mockumentary about a group of people trying to make a film adaptation of Tristram Shandy. "Oh, God," you must be thinking, "not another damned self-referential film about the filmmaking process. Hasn't that been done to death? And isn't it a subject that nobody gives two shits about anyway, unless they actually make movies?"  I thought about that, but I think it worked here, just as it worked in Adaptation, because it was not done to philosophize about illusion and reality in the moviemaking process, or any similar sophomoric and hackneyed cracker-barrel ruminating, but to address the inherent difficulty in translating the book into cinema. By doing it this way, the screenwriter was able to use the filmmaking characters to discuss and debate which elements of the novel have been discarded or retained, and why. Of course, the beauty of it is that some of the book does translate well to film (Shandy's comical birth, for example), so the writer of this film was able to use those scenes from the film-within-a-film.

The chit-chat about the novel and the film business was interesting enough, but the parts I liked best were the exchanges between actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon when they were playing themselves. I don't know if these scenes were tightly scripted, improvised, or a combination of the two, but the two men proved very able at spoofing themselves and especially at roasting each other. One must give an especially sharp-angled tilt of the hat to Coogan for taking every nasty salvo fired by Brydon, returning fire, and even spoofing his own tabloid-friendly hijinks with Courtney Love by having the fictional Steve Coogan caught in an uncomfortably similar scenario. Nobody can say that Steve Coogan isn't willing to do anything for a laugh. Particularly after they've seen him naked and upside-down in the womb of Tristram's mother. If you're thinking of hiring this guy, rest assured that he'll give you everything he's got.

If you are wondering whether this film is for you, a very telling fact is that there was an extremely wide gap between the near-unanimous critical approbation and the less enthusiastic perceptions of average moviegoers. Rotten Tomatoes says Tristram is off the top of the critical scale, with 90% of critics recommending it, but Yahoo voters only vote it a C+, even though Yahoo has a softball system in which C+ is quite a low score. (Deuce Bigelow is rated a B-!) You may conclude that it can be considered a highbrow movie. You may also conclude that many of the inside jokes will be lost on you if you are American (lots of British media references), or not very fond of the deadpan English style of dry wit, or just not interested in vintage English literature.

As for you culture vultures, I have only one real reservation about offering a totally unreserved recommendation for those of you who do enjoy highbrow literary adaptations and English comedy. The film seems repetitive. As I watched it, there were moments when I thought this film was a complete delight, but then there were other times when I found my mind wandering because the script seemed to return to the same ideas again and again. When the cycle returned to Coogan and Brydon insulting one another, it was fun, but there were other times when it just seemed to be moving in a maddening circle.

But when it's good - it's genius!


Keeley Hawes



Another fun list to debate: The 20 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time. I notice they didn't mention Sam Hell from Hell comes to Frogtown.

From our "explaining the last reference" department: Tom Lehrer's page in the Wikipedia. "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" was one of his merry tunes.

From our department of "People who take Tom Lehrer seriously" ... Poisoned Pigeons Fall Like 'Dive Bombers'

This is quite a good article from The New Yorker ... "Can Wikipedia conquer expertise?"

"Lindsay Defies Warnings, Parties In Las Vegas"

A Movie Juice satirical review of Miami Vice, which it calls "Colin-oscopy."

Scientists find "biggest thing in the universe."

  • It is 200 million light-years wide, narrowly eclipsing the old record held by Keith Olberman's ego.

The thirty-eight great states of the USA - an idea with some merit and no practical application.

  • How weird is this statement? "I live in the state of Alamo, but come originally from Mohawk. I have also lived in Biscayne, Hudson, and Superior."

AXIS OF EVIL FLOODED WITH MEMBERSHIP APPLICATIONS ... Kim Jong-Il 'Very Picky' About Filling Open Third Slot.

  • Right now it is pretty close between Venezuela and Mel Gibson

Lindsay Lohan's mom demonstrates the fine parenting that made Lindsay what she is, and will undoubtedly keep her from changing!

Jay Leno's thoughts on Bill Clinton being gay

Weekend Box Office Results for July 28-30, 2006

  • With no real champion, no must-see event movie in any category, the box office fell to $114 million for the top twelve. It had been in the 140s the previous two weeks. It did manage to eke out a narrow edge over last year, but that was only because it happened to match up with a slump week last year as well! (Last year's three new releases, featuring the megabomb Stealth, all finished below $15 million!)
  • There isn't much chance it will fall below last year in the uopcoming weeks. Virtually every new release bombed last August, and this year still has a few that may click.
  • The worst news of the week was that The Ant Bully tanked. The biggest positive surprise came from an unlikely source, John Tucker Must Die, which was dismissed by the critics, and given a lukewarm marketing effort, but exceeded all expectations and almost matched its budget on opening weekend.

Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story

  • With Barbie dolls as the actors, this cult flick portrays the life of the singer and her battle with anorexia. IMDB says it has been banned in the USA.

Two clips from 13 Tzameti, the intense Russian Roulette thriller

The trailer for Material Girls - the new comedy featuring the Duff sisters

Another spectacular NASA photo of the Martian surface

Gibson sorry for conduct during DUI arrest

  • Apparently he is apologizing for a drunken "barrage of anti-Semitic remarks."
  • Apparently he is going head-to-head against Tom Cruise for the "most hated celebrity who used to be loved" award

Stephanie Seymour - 38 years old and the mother of four children - still looks great in a bikini


Movie Reviews:

Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe). White asterisk: expanded format. Blue asterisk: not mine. No asterisk: it probably sucks.


Return to Paradise (1998)

Return to Paradise is a top-notch thriller based on the French film Force Majeure.

Three guys on vacation in Malaysia team up for the usual young man's pursuits: women, fun, beer and cheap hash. They have a bicycle accident with a rented bicycle and throw it into the jungle, and this seemingly minor incident starts an incredible sequence of events. Two of the guys, Sheriff (Vince Vaughn) and Tony (David Croft) return to New York, but Lewis (Joaquin Phoenix) remains to work in a wildlife refuge. When leaving, Sheriff throws a surplus brick of hash in the trash.

Cut to two years later. Sheriff is a limo driver, and picks up Anne Heche, who has an agenda. It seems Lewis had been visited by the owner of the bike and the police, who found his hash and the brick in the trash. He has been in prison for two years for trafficking, and is due to be hanged in two weeks, unless Sheriff and Tony agree to come back and share the responsibility, in which case everyone will do three years. If only one goes back, it will be six years each. The film is basically about this choice of saving a friend's life by putting yourself in harm's way, or turning your back on him. The story becomes more complicated when Sheriff and Heche become an item, and there is a serious sub-plot with an over-zealous newspaper reporter hungry to cover the story.

Rotten Tomatoes says 88% of the reviews were positive, including all the top critics. Ebert rates it 3.5 stars, and Berardinelli 3 stars. I agree. I found it a well-made, engrossing film that made its points without being heavy-handed. The story is excellent, the performances top-notch, and it is a nail-biter start to finish. The only question is, why haven't I heard of it before now? The box office was only $8.29m, despite the sterling reviews. I don't understand why this film didn't find more of an audience. Perhaps it was the lack of a feel-good Hollywood ending that turned the popcorn crowd off, but I found that a major strength of the film.

This is a strong C+, but evidently not for everyone.

IMDb readers say 6.7.

Anne Heche shows her breasts from the side in three scenes, however, one of them was cut clearly to remove some nipple exposure, so I am guessing they had some MPAA trouble on this one.





Monique Parent in "Love Street"

Monique Parent in The Witches of Breastwick







Kaylee DeFer, of The War at Home, falling from her top last November

Here's a rare treat. The first caps I've ever seen of Nastassia Kinski's nude debut in Falsche Bewegung
Another good one. Torri Higginson, now of Stargate Atlantis, in a scene from a Canadian TV series called Bliss
Valentina Vargas getting it on with Christian Slater in The Name of the Rose. Reflecting upon this scene may cause you to become acutely aware of the very short time we are given on this planet. This film is only 20 years old. At the time it was made, Christian Slater had virtually no career, but was a promising newcomer. Since then, he has risen to the A-list or at least very close to it, and has fallen back to about where he was.

 Sort of like the white version of Philip Michael Thomas.