Rod Rosse, The One Man Posse

Like most Americans, I watch way too much TV. It’s not all I do, but the pandemic has provided a convenient excuse. I could tell you about the number of push ups I did this week to make myself feel better, but that’s not what this blog entry is about. The question is….do we watch TV as a time filler or to be truly entertained? Maybe after we’ve watched X number of shows, movies, etc. your entertainment threshold gets higher…or is really great entertainment hard to find?

I’ve been trying to think of a way to gauge this, but I will just say the animated film “Reveangance” is probably the funniest thing I’ve seen in years. (Just to clarify, it is not a Disney production aimed at kids. ) I have to credit the free streaming network Tubi for carrying this one. As the title of this blog entry implies, the story’s protagonist is a bounty hunter named Rod Rosse, The One Man Posse. Rosse looks more like an accountant than Dog the Bounty Hunter, but the dude who hires him actually looks a little like Dog now that I think about it. Without getting too much into the plot, I will just say it involves a biker gang, a rock concert, several other colorful bounty hunters, a young lady with a bow and arrow, a senator, professional wrestling, and a weird cult in the desert. Directions, storyboards, animation are credited to Bill Plympton while Jim Lujan is credited with story, design, voices, and music.

You’ll know in the first five minutes if you’ll get into this film. What’s interesting to me about animated satire is the ability to exaggerate characters’ looks, voices, mannerisms while letting viewers say, “I’ve seen that guy or girl.” Not only that, but there is definitely a clever, dry humor about the film. Rod, for example, runs his bounty hunter business with the help of his mother and her cat, Mr. Butterkisses. Here’s another paraphrased example of dialogue from the film:

Rod Rosse: What do you want?

Lana: Reveangance.

Rod Rosse: I’m pretty sure that’s not a word.

By the way, “Reveangance” has won a couple of awards if you care about those types of things. Personally, I don’t, but I will give it my inaugural Pandemic Couch Potato Award for being the funniest film I’ve seen in a long time.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon.

THE ÜBER REDNECK?

There is something about redneck humor that just absolutely kills me. While there are many choices and examples, I want to mention two of them you might not have encountered. The first is an early 2000s film called “Run Ronnie Run.” I’ll never forget the first time I watched it. I came home from work on a Friday afternoon, dozed off on the couch, woke up around midnight, and this film was on TV. It stars David Cross as Super-Redneck Ronnie Dobbs. He’s a mullet wearing troublemaker from Doraville, Georgia. In one of the first scenes, he walks down the sidewalk — as he strolls past another Doraville resident, he says, “I’m sorry about doing that to your sister. I forgot.” This pretty much sets the tone for the film.

Ronnie Dobbs hangs out with his buddies and drinks beer at the local gas station, deals with his on-again-off-again wife Tammy, and his kids who are all named “Little Ronnie.” In addition, he spends a good deal of his time running from the police for his various mischievous activities around town. One thing leads to another and a leaked videotape of Ronnie’s exploits fall into the hands of the nearly washed up infomercial producer Terry Twillstein, played by Bob Odenkirk (Saul from “Breaking Bad”/”Better Call Saul”). Twillstein decides to hop on the reality-TV-bandwagon and give Ronnie his own show where he runs from the cops to entertain viewers. When Redneck Ronnie lands in Hollywood, hilarity ensues. There is some great satire in this film including a ludicrous meeting of network TV executives and a party scene with numerous celebrities.

There’s also a “Survivor” TV show parody, a music video by an R & B duo called “3 times 1, minus 1”, and a scene with “freaky new age hippies.” According to imdb.com, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross have disowned the final cut of this movie, but I still enjoy it. There’s also some great Southern Rock to go along with the whole thing.

Another one of my favorite redneck characters was introduced to me via The Bob & Tom Radio Show. This dude sports not only a mullet, but a “Kentuckiana” accent. His name is Donnie Baker.

His voice reminds me of one of my college buddy’s. Donnie Baker is the creation of comedian Ron Sexton. You’ll often hear his catchphrases “I swear to God” and “It’s state law.”

There are other redneck-themed comedies I enjoy like “Trailer Park Boys: The Movie” and the NBC series “My Name is Earl.” I’m proud to say I’ve watched every episode of Earl, and the soundtrack is awesome. “I swear to God it is!”

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Dick, Dunst, & Williams

Ahhh, the glories of streaming TV. I can’t remember exactly where or when I become aware of the Nixon administration-themed comedy “Dick”, but I was pleasantly surprised by it. Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams star as two teenage girls who bake some delicious (albeit pot infused) cookies called “Hello Dollies” and, somehow stumble their way into the White House. They not only become the official White House dog walkers for President Nixon’s dog “Checkers”, but start rubbing elbows with staffers like Henry Kissinger, Bob Haldeman, John Dean, and G. Gordon Liddy.

As you might imagine, the Watergate scandal is also a big part of the film and its punchlines. Kirsten Dunst plays a giddy high schooler extremely well and her partner in crime Michelle Williams is hilarious, too. For example, there’s a scene where Williams’ character develops a crush on Nixon and decides to sing “I Honestly Love You” (made famous by Olivia Newton-John) onto his infamous reel to reel tape recorder in the oval office. There are a couple of songs I associate with the film. One is Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love.”

Other musicians/bands featured in the film include David Essex, Yes, Bread, and more. As for the film itself, reporters Woodward and Bernstein are played by the likes of Will Ferrell and Bruce McCulloch. Other comedic actors involved are Dave Foley, Jim Breuer, and Harry Shearer. Teri Garr sneaks into the cast as a housewife and mother. Even Ryan Reynolds makes an appearance. Nixon is played by Dan Hedaya (Nick Tortelli on Cheers). If the cast and the music aren’t reason enough to check it out, the 70s outfits are pretty damn groovy. “Dick” was directed by Andrew Fleming.

Till next time keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

“My Dinner with Jimi”

I stumbled across this Rhino Films effort in the public library a few years ago and was fortunate enough to find it again on some free streaming channel recently. If you are a fan of Sixties Rock, it is a must see! The story was written by Howard Kaylan of Turtles fame and takes viewers on a point of view ride through a swingin’ scene. It’s a fun film. It starts on the Sunset Strip where The Doors are opening for The Turtles. Before they leave America, though, Kaylan deals with his draft card and rubs elbows with other musicians like Frank Zappa, Mama Cass, and more.

The film centers around The Turtles’ trip to London, England. (I’ve never really explored that band, but they had some hits like “Happy Together.” I mean you have to give them some credit — especially when you think about who else was in the charts. ) When they finally get to London Town they start by hanging out with Graham Nash and Donovan, then bump into none other than The Beatles in a local hot spot. This was the day before the release of the epic Sgt. Pepper album.

As the evening progresses, the band mingles with a couple of The Moody Blues and Kaylan meets Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones. Jones introduces him to Jimi Hendrix and, as the title implies, they have dinner and wrap about playing music, enlightenment, and beautiful women. What’s interesting to me about this film is it sucks you in and puts you right in the middle of all that groovy-ness. Not only that, but the conversations just feel real to me. A couple of familiar actors appear in this film including George Wendt and John Corbett. An actor named Royale Watkins plays Jimi Hendrix and I think he does a good of capturing Hendrix’s speech patterns. I’ve seen a lot of films about different bands and documentaries about Sixties rock, but this is the only film I can recall about that is anecdotal. Basically, it’s not the same ole news footage and clips of Monterey Pop.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Cops and Robbers

Where were you February 28, 1997? Hopefully, you weren’t near the Bank of America branch in North Hollywood, CA. That was the scene of what can only be described as a freak incident involving two masked gunmen.

The story is re-told in an interesting film called “44 Minutes: The North Hollywood Shootout”, which I’ve watched a couple of times on YouTube. The cast is an interesting mix:

-Ron Livingston (known for his roles in Office Space and Band of Brothers) as a SWAT officer

-Mario Van Peebles as a spiritual-but-tough patrol officer

-Michael Madsen as a gravelly-voiced, decisive veteran with the LAPD.

Unfortunately, mass shootings in America don’t seem to be going away, but this one was a definite case of truth is stranger than fiction. The two bank robbers not only donned commercial and homemade body armor, but brought along a literal arsenal of weapons with them. I won’t go through the whole list, but AK-47 assault rifles, handguns, and armor-piercing rounds were just a small part of their arsenal. Picture two guys dressed in black ski masks, black clothing, and body armor, and you get the idea.

I can remember seeing the freakish footage on the news when this happened. There were TV news crews, police officers, and helicopters all over the place. It was surreal. At one point, the gunmen were walking into the nearby neighborhood and trying to commandeer vehicles while simultaneously keeping up the shootout. According to Wikipedia, the two bank robbers fired over one thousand rounds during the incident and police fired over six hundred. The gunmen were supposedly hit over 10 times apiece, but were able to keep going. It’s hard to believe, but no civilians or police officers died during the real life incident. The two bank robbers, on the other hand, both died. One was actually handcuffed and taken into custody, but died a short time later.

I don’t think you could call it it a silver lining, but what’s interesting about the incident is it caused police to re-examine the caliber of weapons used by officers. Despite heavily outnumbering the bank robbers, they were still over matched in terms of firepower. They changed their policies following that day in 1997. Several LAPD officers were awarded medals of valor.

I’m not including the names of the gunmen. Supposedly, they were publicity hounds and had committed high profile bank robberies prior to this one. This film originally aired on the FX Network and was directed by Yves Simoneau.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Circle of Iron: 100% Weird Zen

I can thank some cable TV network for turning me onto this 1978 film. I don’t think it was the first time I saw it, but it was also featured on TNT’s”100% Weird” late night movie series. Calling “Circle of Iron” a gem might be a stretch, but I think calling it an oddity might be more accurate. One of the most interesting things about it is Bruce Lee’s involvement. Apparently, Lee and James Coburn were involved in the initial story development. When I watched “Circle of Iron” (also known as “The Silent Flute”) again recently, it featured a blurb at the beginning about Lee’s concept for the setting of the film — “a land that never was and always is.” Very Zen.

It’s a unique film. The main character Cord is a rogue seeker who goes on a quest for a book of enlightenment. A guy named Jeff Cooper stars as Cord – he’s sort of like a middleweight version of Conan the Barbarian meets the Swiss Miss Cocoa chick. After being DQ’d from a martial arts tournament, he sets out on his quest and encounters a big, freaky world out in the desert. Most of the freakishness is covered by David Carradine. Carradine played Lee’s multiple would-be roles in the film including a barefoot, flute-playing, blind dude. Very, very Zen.

There are also supporting roles/ bit parts played by the likes of Eli Wallach, Christopher Lee, Anthony De Longis, and even Roddy McDowall. (There are fighting monkeys in the film so McDowall’s casting was obligatory.) This film is hard to categorize. I wouldn’t call it a Kung Fu film, but martial arts is a big part of it. It’s more of an off the wall quest film.

I’m glad this film was made, but it makes me wonder what could have been. Parts of the film are visually interesting…there’s martial arts action, a carnival scene with strongmen and harem girls, the various characters wandering across the sand dunes. Take the film’s poster for example. There are plenty of cool elements but I don’t really like it as a whole. It seems like a missed opportunity. A re-make of it might be interesting. I mean there’s plenty of Zen philosophy to go round. Plus, where do I find the crazy flute soundtrack? “Circle of Iron” was dedicated to the late Bruce Lee.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Nightcrawls & Gyllenhaals

First thing’s first. The movie “Nightcrawler” is creepy. I’d even call it “C-R-eepy” for emphasis. It’s not a horror movie per se, but Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance could very well make your skin crawl.

Gyllenhaal plays a weird L.A. dude named Lou Bloom. From the get-go, viewers can tell this dude is a little different and not in a good way. Bloom is a petty thief with some serious negotiating skills and boundary issues. After stumbling across an accident in progress, Bloom runs into a a freelance TV reporter (played by Bill Paxton) and decides to explore the same career path of “nightcrawling” (selling footage to the highest TV morning news bidder.) Before long, Bloom risks life and limb in hot pursuit of stories ranging from shootings to accidents, and meets aging news director Nina Romina (Rene Russo) in the process. She wants “graphic” news footage (preferably effecting suburban viewers) and Bloom is the guy who can deliver it.

What makes Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom character soooo creepy?? Wow, there are lots of things, but, for my money, the way he speaks is number one. He sounds like a monotone robot — like some weird mix of a textbook and and a pop psychology paperback. “I think being clear with your objectives is more important than trying to present your ideas in a non-confrontational manner.” (This is from the same guy who assaults a security guard and steals his watch in the first five minutes of the movie.)

Nightcrawler is an interesting reflection of sorts — it holds a mirror up to not only the news business, but capitalist society as a whole. On the one hand, Lou Bloom and the news outlets serve the viewing public’s needs. He beats his competitors to stories and provides information. On the other hand, Lou and the news stations are exploitative and will seemingly stop at nothing to get the stories. Ultimately, it asks how far is “too far” to get the story or just to survive in the news business? It’s a theme that has been explored in plenty of other films, but “Nightcrawler” does it in an original albeit white knuckle way. The 2014 film was written and directed by Dan Gilroy. I highly recommend it.

Till next time, keep our Mojo on the Horizon!

Dahl’s Dynamic Duo: Rounders

It isn’t exactly a Batman & Robin situation, but Ed Norton & Matt Damon are absolutely a dynamic duo in the 1998 film “Rounders.” This is a film I absolutely loved the first time I saw it and I still think it’s fantastic. However, Rounders is more than just an intense drama. It’s a story about friendship, loyalty, and following your gut. The ironic part is poker playing provides the backdrop for this film and I know virtually nothing about it. John Dahl directed this film. If I had to pick the best reason to see this film, it’s the cast — and I don’t mean just Norton and Damon. Supporting roles are played by the likes of John Turturro, Gretchen Mol, John Malkovich, and Famke Janssen. For my money, Martin Landau gives an amazing performance as a law professor/mentor in this one.

“Rounders” follows protagonist Mike McDermott (Damon) as he tries to balance life with his girlfriend (Mol) with attending law school, and his passion for playing poker. Things definitely get out of balance when is old friend and gambling partner Lester “Worm” Murphy (Norton) is released from prison. Viewers can tell from the get-go that Worm is a bit of a loudmouth and also has a penchant for playing cards….let’s just say “less than straight up.” However, the two guys have a history together. Despite his flaws, in my opinion, Worm is like that likable friend of yours who has a tendency to lead you astray. The real question for Damon’s character is “How far does your loyalty go?”

“Rounders” takes you into a world of smoky underground card games and the various characters who play in them. Villains in the film include Russian mobster “Teddy KGB” (Malkovich) and his thuggish muscle guy named “Grama.” (I’ve never really heard the origin of that nickname.) There is plenty of poker lingo in it, but you can get their meanings through context. (Some DVD versions include a poker lingo glossary in the special features.) The film really does give you a glimpse into another world. The vibe to me is very “East Coast.” It’s edgy.

I didn’t include any trailers for this film — I don’t think I saw any before seeing it. Also, from what I remember, there was at least one character in the trailer who really didn’t make the final cut of the film. A little confusing.

I think this film has a fairly wide appeal, but I think it’s seriously underrated.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Funniest True Crime Show EVER!

It’s been another week chocked full of shootings in America — and, no, that has nothing to do with the title. I wonder if actuaries have statistics on how likely an individual is to be killed during a mass shooting in America at any given time. I mean where AREN’T you in danger these days — You can rule out schools, movie theaters, colleges/universities, department stores. What have I left out?

Awhile ago I watched a couple of episodes of a show called True Crime on Netflix. It’s not some serial killer thing or anything like it. I don’t remember the first episode, but the second one was about some dude who grew marijuana in his house and also managed to stockpile an enormous amount of military grade weapons there, too. When the authorities came to take him down, there was quite a standoff – but I digress.

“True Crime: How to Murder Your Wife” is not only a truly unique black comedy, but it’s also one of the best comedic performances I’ve ever seen. Despite the grisly title, and the fact that it’s based on a true story, this show is GUARANTEED to crack you up. The biggest reason is the performance of Simon O’Connor. He plays an elderly, affable New Zealander named Alf Benning. O’Connor’s high pitched voice and freakish grin are the first thing you’ll notice when you start watching. His wife Betty Benning is portrayed as an overbearing, unreasonable, vindictive woman by actress Geraldine Brophy. The elderly Alf retires from his job as a gravedigger and starts volunteering at the SPCA where he saves his new dog friend Shep. He also befriends some prostitutes along the way and ruffles the feathers of his nosy neighbors. In addition, Alf does plenty of research on murder and conducts some odd experiments in his basement. After he’s had enough of Betty, he gets representation from a “swinging 70s” lawyer named Mike Bungay (played by Mark Mitchinson). In case you haven’t deduced it for yourself, this film is not a mainstream pick and is definitely a dark comedy. Were the real-life people anything like they seem in the film? Probably not, but it’s entertaining.

Simon O’Connor does a great job of portraying Alf Benning as someone who is likable on the surface, but unstable underneath. You really have to watch it to see his hilarious outbursts for yourself. The easiest way to find this program is to search Netflix for “True Crime”, then go to Episode 3: How to Murder Your Wife.

In the meantime, I should get some exercise. You never know when you’ll have to flee from the next trigger-happy gun nut and I’m not as fast as I used to be.

Till next time keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Manson Family Vacation

Isn’t the title alone a great reason to watch this film? My curiosity was certainly piqued when I stumbled across it on Netflix. “Manson Family Vacation” is a film highly recommend watching. It was written and directed by J. Davis. Charles Manson, his infamous 1969 murders, and the Manson “family” provide the backdrop to this unique character study. It’s really a story about two brothers. Straight-laced Nick (played by Jay Duplass) is a Los Angeles attorney who’s married with a house and a son. His brother Conrad (Linas Phillips steals the show as Conrad), on the other hand, has wild eyes, long hair/beard, and an obsession with Charles Manson. (Think “Dude with a backpack hitchhiking on the side of highway.”) Viewers can tell from the get-go, Conrad is a little different. Conrad comes to L.A. and drags his brother along a sort of Manson murder tourist ride.

One of the themes explored in this film is the sort of morbid curiosity or fascination many people have with true crime, especially murder. To take it a step further, it can become an obsession for some. I think the attention-grabber with Charles Manson is it’s not every day your hear a story about people being murdered and stuff being written on the walls in the victims’ blood. That alone grabs your attention. Then there are the other logical questions….Who would do such a thing? And, ultimately, why? If you know anything about the Manson “family”, you know it’s a pretty wild tale. The flip side to the story asks the question — What about the victims? Nobody wants to talk about them. Why do people get obsessed with a lifelong murderous criminal like Manson? I think one thing is when a person sees/hears/reads a new story, chances are, the reader doesn’t personally know the victim(s). There’s no direct connection or feeling to it, it’s just a story. Does that justify the interest? Who’s to say?

This film actually made me think about my interest in The Beatles. As a teen, my room was basically a shrine to them. I had posters on the wall, read books about them, and, obviously, loved listening to their music. Not everyone “gets into them” on that level. Fill in the blank with whatever thing a person IS into: sports, music, cooking, real estate. One person’s healthy obsession is another person’s “weird to them.” Is it weird to want to walk across Abbey Road like the shot on the album cover? To some it is. Others totally get it.

I should mention Manson was into The Beatles’ White Album. Are they to blame for the Tate-LaBianca murders? No. The book “Helter Skelter” by Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi is the way to learn more about it. That is, if you don’t mind people thinking “it’s weird.”

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!