Review: Scandal (1950)

Yes, it’s a Christmas movie.

All Ichiro Aoye (Toshirō Mifune) wanted was to get his latest painting done while up in the mountains. But a chance encounter with famous singer Miyako Saijo (Shirley Yamaguchi) leads to an innocent motorbike ride past a bus with a pair of nosy magazine photographers looking for an exclusive interview with her. They don’t get it, but manage to snap the two seemingly sharing a room (they’re not). Once the photo arrives back at Amour Magazine, a salacious story gets written and both Ichiro and Miyako deal with the resulting fallout, even though they both temporarily benefit from career boosts due to the resulting gossip.

Thus begins Akira Kurosawa’s Scandal, which manages to poke a finger in the eye of celebrity worship and the often lousy and slanderous “journalism” that comes with it. The film is also has bits of comedy, does double jury duty as a decent courtroom drama and you’ll also find the old heart string tugboat towing the SS Kleenex for good measure. There’s a big slice of mundane, but honest sentimentality here that still resonates more with age and for me, it’s Kurosawa’s most “American” film, despite the Japanese setting.

in Japan, extreme painting is a spectator sport.

Ayoe goes to the magazine’s office, slugs the article’s writer and tells them he plans to sue. Later, he’s approached at his home by a somewhat disheveled lawyer, Hiruta (Takashi Shimura) who gives him his business card and asks to represent him at the upcoming trial. Ayoe says he’ll give it some thought, but his friend Sumie (Noiriko Sengoku) comments on Hirata’s smelly feet and warns Ichiro about his choice. The next day, Ichiro visits Hirata’s rundown home to accept but meets his bedridden young daughter, Masako (Yōko Katsuragi), who’s had tuberculosis for five years, but still greets him with a joyful smile and shows Ichiro what’s currently keeping her happy: an intricate wedding outfit her mother has made that’s to be delivered the next day to a future bride. That old tugboat is puffing out gently scented tissue smoke right about now.

I am the law?

Inoue also stops by Hinata’s cluttered “office”, a tiny shack on the roof of a building that looks as it it was built by the lawyer himself where he finds some bike racing forms and a photo of Hinata’s daughter tacked up near the door where she’s standing up and still bearing that warm smile. Ichiro leaves a chalkboard note saying he wants to retain the lawyer and leaves. The film gets busy touching on that period between Christmas and New Year’s Day where there are some laughs to be found and you realize that drunken revelers are the same almost everywhere. Hinata’s plans to one-up the magazine by secretly revealing his trial plans to its shady publisher backfires badly and he eventually takes money to gamble on the races, where he seems to keep losing.

See, I told you this was a Christmas movie!

Everything culminates in quite the ending that’s guaranteed to get that tugboat huffing out more tissue smoke of course, but with Kurosawa, it’s in for a penny, in for a few pounds. there are a few ways to watch this from poorly subtitled versions posted online to the far superior Criterion Collection box set you can get here that gets you five of the director’s post World War II films. Whichever way you choose, you’re in for quite a holiday.

-GW

Smoking Wallet Alert: A Few Black Friday Deals

Yes, it’s going to be total shopping frenzy for some of you out there in internet land and sure, you can go nuts looking for deals and getting elbows to the forehead at the local mall if you like. Me, I’m going to just sit comfortably at home and silently drop a few fine deals in your laps and let you deal with them as you see fit. Feel free to supplement those with other deals you find while poking around and you can pretty much sleepwalk through Black Friday, Cyber Monday, International Empty Wallet Day or whatever other day you want to whip out that credit, debit or gift card. If you’re into constant deals any time of the year, a handy app such as RetailMeNot will help out in tracking all sorts of deals whenever you’ve the urge.

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Does whatever a spider can? Hah! Spiders don’t make anywhere as much moolah as this game has this year, that’s for sure.

PlayStation Deals! Sony’s got a fantastic set of sales happening from now until November 26. Start here for some great deals on a new PS4 Spider-Man bundle, two different PSVR bundles (I’d go with the PSVR+ Moss/Astro Bot deal, but if you prefer Creed: Rise to Glory and Superhot VR, it’s your call) and Dual Shock 4 deals (get a few of those at that price). There’s also a Black Friday Sale on digital games and other downloadable content that should have some of you stocking up on a few titles at temporary bargain prices. Oh, and for those of you with PS Plus or those interested in renewing the service at $20 off the standard price, that $40 deal for a yearly sub is not to be missed.

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If you’re going to go all in with PSVR, go with two of the best titles VR titles on the system.

There are also Black Friday-related game deals on individual digital titles on PSN as well as plenty of in-store retail deals to check out, so feel free to poke around online or even pop into that nearby retailer if you’re so inclined.

Continue reading

Many Happy Returns? Yeah, Right

Pandora's_Box_(film)I don’t think I’ve ever returned a holiday gift as an adult. I do recall as a kid getting scooped up by one or both parental units and being taken to a big store (was it Alexander’s or Korvettes? Maybe both?) the day after Christmas to return stuff that didn’t fit or exchange that extra pair of jammies for something more useful.

As I got older and wiser (although that’s debatable according to many people), something smart in the squishy computer kicked in and I started asking people for EXACTLY what I wanted provided they were open to buying me a present. I haven’t looked back since. Hey, I’m getting old and life is too damn short to be running around like a happy headless chicken with a plastic smile glued on for all occasions.

Yeah, yeah. To some of you (and probably too many of you), Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus or whatever (else) you celebrate is supposed to be chock full of surprises on the gift front. Me, I prefer the predictability of not needing to drag my lazy behind out of bed on a bleary day and huff-hoof it to the malloverse in order to stand in a long line just to swap a bad tie for another one or some stop ’em in their tracks cologne for a discounted set of equally smelly gift-boxed soap I’ll only use in a really dire emergency. That’s just not fun. “What do YOU consider fun?” you ask? “Fun, natural fun!”, I would answer (followed by “shut up and dance”). My suggestion is you who hate the grind of shopping and shipping only to have to lift and shift unwanted goods around the until you get what you want is to try being a little more forward when you need to ask for something. You’d be surprised at how efficient your life just became.

You’re welcome.

melon baller

Oh, and if someone gives you an unasked for melon baller as a gift, keep it and use that $#!+ as a coffee scoop. What you want and what you need are sometimes interchangeable, but in some cases re-purposing makes even the worst present a good deal more useful.

#TBT – Giant Cabbage Patch Sighting @ Toys “R” Us

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They’re baaaaaaack! In case you didn’t know it, Cabbage Patch Kids are back in stores and getting doll collectors spending a few chunks of their cabbage this holiday season. If you were passing by or through a Toys “R” Us recently and almost got stampeded by a bunch of mom-looking moms, it’s because of the limited edition Cabbage Patch Kids 18 inch Big Kid – Sofia Lorraine Performer and Cabbage Patch Kids 18 inch Big Kid – Violet Anne Class President, both exclusive to the retailer.

These two big babies retail for $99.99 each and come with enough stuff in their respective boxes to earn their own room in your home. Granted, unlike actual kids, this pair isn’t going to grow older, leave for college, get great careers and support you in your golden years. But as both dolls are limited to 1000 pieces each, one day they maybe helping you fund a little vacation. Get yours NOW in time for Christmas at a Toys “R” Us and make sure to follow the Kids below on facebook if you’re a fan and aren’t already:

https://www.facebook.com/Cabbage-Patch-Kids-347051282049527/timeline/

READS: Cooking for Geeks Will Make You Hungry For Science

Cooking For Geeks 2nd Edition

Yeah, I cook and you should as well. No matter haw daunted you are by the prospect of entering the kitchen to whip up something as simple as a boiled egg, the ability to prepare a meal is not only a necessary survival skill, it’s a series of victories as one overcomes fears and produces some very tasty results. Jeff Potter’s Cooking for Geeks ($24.99) is not only a fantastic read, it’s one of the best cookbooks I’ve ever read. A cornucopia of recipes, food and other science lessons, excellent interviews with far too many chefs and other food experts to list, the book is both a page-turning revelation and a go-to master class in all sorts of kitchen knowledge. Continue reading

Holiday Greetings From Some Not So Angry Birds


 

Even the grumpiest Grinchy McScrooge, Esq. would get a chuckle or hoot out of this short promotional video cooked up to promote The Angry Birds Movie, headed to theaters in May 2016. It’s also the proper thing to do with an audio recording of kids who don’t know all the words to “Deck The Halls” trying their best to make it to the end of the song and failing miserably merrily at it. Of course, watch some overly enthusiastic Xmas supporters whine about this video not being in the proper spirit of the season or whatever when they should be chuckling at this while wearing a hideous holiday sweater and sipping a BIG cup of cocoa laced with something adult beverage-like. That bottle of peppermint schnapps Uncle Hugo game you two years back should come in handy right about now, I’d say.

READS: Contemporary Krampus Will Put You In The Proper Holiday Spirit (OR ELSE)…

Contemporary Krampus

Mike Drake (photo: Peter Keehn)

Mike Drake (photo: Peter Keehn)

Just in time for Halloween and definitely an excellent Christmas gift that’s actually a reminder to watch your back and be good (or else!), Contemporary Krampus: A Modern Look At An Ancient Legend ($24.00) offers up a collection of professional and fan art that makes for quite a memorable chunk of nightmare fuel. Curated by Mike Drake (who did that stupendous cover above), you’ll get almost 70 striking images from traditional drawing and painting, to sculpture and even a few takes on the ugly Christmas sweater (but you’ll probably want one of the ones in the book).

Drake also contributes a nifty into to Contemporary Krampus and how this Anti-Claus has slowly but surely seeped into American culture over the years to the point that we’ll be seeing a Krampus horror flick hit theaters in time for Christmas. Nicely naughty AND not a low budget schlocker judging by the cast.

Be Good CK

You should run out and buy this book just because it’ll make you grin and cringe simultaneously. But if you’ve read this far, live in one of the 50 states of the U.S. of A. (Yes, you need to have a US shipping address!) and want to WIN a copy of the book, just respond below with I WANT KRAMPUS! and I’ll pick ONE lucky winner tomorrow from those who’ve entered.

Want more fun? Well, if you’re a card-carrying adult and just so happen to be in the New York City area for Halloween, you should attend the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Times Square Halloween Party.

This adults only event will feature not only Drake signing copies of Contemporary Krampus, but also giving away a life-size Krampus (!) to one lucky attendee. Additionally, over 45 “special” exhibits will be pulled from the Ripley vaults and displayed exclusively to those brave enough to attend. The event will also feature:

A twisted game show
Psychic readings
Hypnotism shows with audience participation
Close-up magic
Day of the Dead candy celebration (at midnight)

To purchase tickets for this exclusive event (and they’re selling out quickly!), fans of the macabre need just click HERE (Boooo!)

Bundle Stars Reminds You That You Don’t Know (And Should Buy) Jack!

BS YDKJCoverI should write a snappy holiday-themed poem here for you to chuckle at. However, as I’ve been up since just before 6am and it’s an icky rainy day that’s not getting any better, I’ll have to save my brainpower for this latest Bundle Stars deal. $3.99 for NINE You Don’t Know Jack games and expansions is more than a steal, it’s a trivial trivia fanatic’s dream plus tax!

In case you’ve been living under a rock, are that antisocial guy or gal with zero friends, or heck, just don’t play PC or board games but happen to love trivia, here’s what’s up, Jack!

 

Get it? Got it? GOOD. Now go get it so you slap it on a laptop and distract the family during that usually disastrous holiday dinner. Uncle Charlie won’t be getting gassed to the gills if he’s busy answering trivia questions only he knows the answer to because he’s been watching too many reruns on TV Land, correct?

BUY IT! Monday Bundles Will Keep You Warm and NOT Broke!

Let’s see now:

A few days before Xmas and you need a fix.
Some cheap games to gift yourself for some kicks…

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Okay, this week’s IndieGala Every Monday Bundle, go! Six indie games for $1.89? Sure, why not? Well, you do get a gory and hilarious holiday-themed game (not for the kiddies at ALL!) called Viscera Cleanup Detail: Santa’s Rampage (yuk!) that’s bound to tick off the believers in the fat man with the red suit and reindeer. Heck, the description is bound to get your eyeballs floating in boiling brain soup if you hold the myth sacred and dear:

Tragedy! Santa; the toy giving folk-hero, and purveyor of fine Christmas goods, has had enough. Endless requests from greedy children wanting more and more every year, tax increases, pressure from elf unions, bills, reindeer!

It is your duty, as an employee of Polar Sanitation Inc, to clean up the grisly aftermath of Santa’s bloody rampage. Elves, reindeer and ruined masonry from Santa’s brief breakdown are all strewn across his famous workshop.

So don your cap, grab your mop, and get this place sorted out so the company can get a replacement in here ASAP, and restore Christmas for another generation!

Well, I’m not shocked at all at this kooky indie game. It’s a good thing I realized at about age ten or so that “Santa” was mom or dad and other relatives with that holiday cash or credit cards going into debt for us kids. Hey, I’m not sitting on a stranger’s lap in public just to hope I get a present! Ewwwwwww. Fun financial fact: If you take out a loan for $5000 and repay it only with minimum payments at about 21% interest, you’ll end up paying $8000 extra over 20 years. YIKES. Hell, that would get me on a nifty little rampage to the nearest credit card company that buries that crap in the fine print, that’s for sure. Remember, cash is king, kids! if you don’t have it, don’t borrow it unless you don’t have to pay it back!

Meanwhile, back at the bargain ranch:

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Nice but what about Bundle Stars? Funny you should ask. The want you to become KING for a While thanks to the $4.99 King Arthur Complete Bundle that gets you King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame, its sequel, King Arthur II and six DLC expansions. That’s a huge hunk of fantasy gaming to get in, folks!

Christmas Comes Early. Or Is It Valentine’s Day?

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So, yeah. Christmas came a bit early. My older brother and his kids popped by with a bunch of gifts including this big ass box of chocolates that was fodder for a ton of jokes. Damn thing is big enough to be an end table or a pet coffin (if one had a pet that ate some of that chocolate accidentally) and can probably be re-purposed as a nice hobo suitcase or over-sized book with a bit of DIY ingenuity. As it’s hot as heck in here because of the winter heating, that candy went into storage bags and into the fridge (it’s going to take months to finish it and anyone coming by is getting some whether they like it or not). Um, anyone want a big ass empty candy box? Anyway, I also got some more useful stuff, so it’s all good.

Back in a bit. Or tomorrow, as I’m working on a ton of stuff and need to finish at least half of it before Wednesday…