21 May 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Friday Minute
No. 101 | May 21, 2010

Six Packs

Our theme this week

Rat Packs, and other “Packs” that made movies

Featured this week (theme introduction)
Monday         —   Holmby Hills Rat Pack
Tuesday         —   Rat Pack
Wednesday    —   New Rat Pack
Thursday        —   Brat Pack

Four “Packs” down, two to go, according to our theme title, so let’s double up today as we close out the week of Six Packs.

Frat Pack

 the royal tenenbaumsold school

We’ve come a long way since the days of Bogart and Sinatra.  Just about anybody can be in the Pack these days.

The Frat Pack should have been the collective name for John Belushi, Tim Matheson, Peter Riegert, and the guys from Animal House in 1978.  They must not have been thinking at the time.  After the Brat Pack hit it big in the ’80s, the Frat Pack seemed too good a label not to use for someone.  At the time of the 2003 comedy Old School, featuring a group of thirty-somethings, played by Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn, and Will Ferrell, who start a fraternity, the entertainment media had found their guys.

The actors usually identified as the Frat Pack may be a shade on the old side, but they do have the virtue of never having grown up.  Other members of the Pack include Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and the second Wilson brother, Owen.  Steve Carell may have gotten a late start, but he’s now one of the brothers too.

The Frat Pack filmography includes some of the more popular comedies of the decade or so.  Not many (or any) have to do with college life, but on the other hand, no one can deny that they are often sophomoric.

They can be pretty funny too.  Here are a few of the films:

Meet the Parents (2000):  Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson.

Zoolander (2001):  Ben Stiller (director too), Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn.

Starsky & Hutch (2004):  Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell.

Anchorman:  The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004):  Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Vince Vaughn, Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson.

Tropic Thunder (2008):  Ben Stiller (director too), Jack Black.

Splat Pack

hostelsaw v

It’s no mystery how these guys earned their name.  Horror.  This gang is into the gory and the gruesome, and in the past decade they have taken a not-so-respectable genre and pushed it to new levels of outrage.  This Pack is not a group of actors, but directors.  They don’t get big budgets to make movies—usually $10 million or less—but they spend it to maximum effect.  They know how to push the audience’s buttons, and they have earned a loyal following of fans, mostly young ones, for their films.

The Splat Pack includes directors who are among the big names in horror working today:  Alexandre Aja, Darren Lynn Bousman, Neil Marshall, Eli Roth, James Wan, and the aptly dubbed Rob Zombie (not his birth name).  This group aims to push limits, and it’s no surprise they’ve been criticized for going too far.  When Darren Lynn Bousman, twenty-something director of Saw III, was in a dispute with the Motion Picture Association of America, which claimed his 2006 film was too dark, here’s what Bousman had to say:  “That’s what I set out to do!  It’s a horror movie.”

A short list from the Splat Pack filmography, among them some of the sickest, scariest, most over-the-line, and most violent movies ever made:  Cabin Fever (2003, Eli Roth), Saw (2004, James Wan), Hostel (2005, Eli Roth), Saw II (2005, Darren Lynn Bousman), The Hills Have Eyes (2006, Alexander Aja), Halloween (2007, Rob Zombie), and Scanners (2009, Darren Lynn Bousman).

In the past decade we have witnessed unspeakable violence, in this country and around the world.  We have been engaged in bloodier wars than we’ve seen in many years.  We have seen debates about the use of torture as a matter of national policy.  It’s no surprise to me that we’ve seen a rise in ultraviolence at the cineplex.  There’s something going on, and like it or not, these filmmakers, and their audience, seem to be in touch with it.

Tropic Thunder (2008)
Ben Stiller, director
Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black


Hostel (2005)
Eli Roth, director

Quote of Note
Pam:  I had no idea you could milk a cat!
Greg:  Oh, you can milk just about anything with nipples.
Jack:  I have nipples, Greg.  Could you milk me?
—Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo), Greg Focker (Ben Stiller), Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro), Meet the Parents (2000)


Posted By: John Farmer
Last Edit: 21 May 2010 @ 12:00 AM

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 20 May 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Thursday Minute
No. 100 | May 20, 2010

Six Packs

Our theme this week

Rat Packs, and other “Packs” that made movies

Featured this week (theme introduction)
Monday         —   Holmby Hills Rat Pack
Tuesday         —   Rat Pack
Wednesday    —   New Rat Pack

Brat Pack

the breakfast clubst elmo's fireless than zero

All the “Packs” featured in this week’s theme are generational to one degree or another.  So it is for today’s, only more so. 

The actors collectively known as the Brat Pack are roughly the same age, born mostly between the beginning and middle of the 1960s.  They were in their young twenties, often playing teens, in a series of movies during the mid- to late-’80s.  The Brat Pack films were coming-of-age stories, personal tales of a new generation, one that was creating its own identity, something clearly distinct from the boomers’ before them.  The sixties were long over.  It was time for something new.  For anyone of a certain age, too young to identify with the politics and rebellion of earlier times, Brat Pack movies provided an outlet, and a direction.  The culture had come to a fork in the road.  The Brat Pack pointed the way.  For better or worse, that direction has led in large part to where we are today.

The typical Brat Packer was white, middle-class (or better), suburban, and cynical.  Obsessions with sex, drugs, money, teen culture, and social status didn’t start with the Brat Pack, but they had a frankness and an attitude about their obsessions that hadn’t been seen before.  Often it was not a happy group.  Many of their lives, at least onscreen, were empty and troubled.  Yet they could be funny and smart.  You probably didn’t aspire to be part of the Brat Pack.  But if you were coming of age during the ’80s, that didn’t matter.  You could identify with them, and that was enough.

There no doubt have been a few arguments over the years about who’s in the Brat Pack, and who’s not.  No official rules for membership exist, as far as I know.  Nothing I have to say will settle anything, but as I see it, here are a few films in the Brat Pack oeuvre with some of the actors who made them.

Sixteen Candles (1984, d. John Hughes):  Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, John Cusack.

The Breakfast Club (1985, d. John Hughes):  Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall, Emilio Estevez.

Weird Science (1985, d. John Hughes):  Anthony Michael Hall, Kelly LeBrock, Robert Downey Jr.

St. Elmo’s Fire (1985, d. Joel Schumacher):  Emilio Estevez, Andrew McCarthy, Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986, d. John Hughes):  Matthew Broderick, Mia Sara, Jennifer Grey, Charlie Sheen.

Pretty in Pink (1986, d. Howard Deutch):  Molly Ringwald, Jon Cryer, Andrew McCarthy, James Spader.

Less Than Zero (1987, d. Marek Kanievska):  Andrew McCarthy, Jamie Gertz, Robert Downey Jr., James Spader.

The name popping up in that list most often is not one of the actors, but director John Hughes, a man who got his start with Brat Pack films and who is most responsble for their existence.  Hughes seemed especially tuned in to the trials of teen life in the ’80s, though he was born in 1950 and older than the Brat Pack actors.  Huges died last August and was given a fine tribute during the Oscar ceremony in March.

The Breakfast Club (1985)


St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)
Andrew McCarthy, Emilio Estevez

Less Than Zero (1987)

Quote of Note
Allison:  I’ll do anything sexual.  I don’t need a million dollars to do it either.
Claire:  You’re lying.
Allison:  I already have.  I’ve done just about everything there is except a few things that are illegal.  I’m a nymphomaniac.
Claire:  Lie.
Brian:  Are your parents aware of this?
Allison:  The only person I told was my shrink.
Andrew:  And what did he do when you told him?
Allison:  He nailed me.
Claire:  Very nice.
—Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy), Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald), Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall), Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez), The Breakfast Club (1985)


 19 May 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Wednesday Minute
No. 99 | May 19, 2010

Six Packs

Our theme this week

Rat Packs, and other “Packs” that made movies

Featured this week (theme introduction)
Monday         —   Holmby Hills Rat Pack
Tuesday         —   Rat Pack

New Rat Pack

ocean's eleven_2001 

George Clooney said a wise thing in 2001 when the remake of Ocean’s Eleven was coming out.  “We’re never going to be as cool as those guys.”  On that he was right.  But on the other hand, Clooney and his pack of thieves made a better movie.

Clooney was careful to downplay the parallels between the “eleven” in the remake and the Rat Pack of the original.  But when you make a movie called Ocean’s Eleven, you invite people to make comparisons anyway.  In media shorthand they were the “new” Rat Pack, even if they steered clear of the label themselves.

The remake was another heist movie, also set in Vegas, with a slick cast featuring some of the hottest names in Hollywood, including Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac and Andy Garcia.  Carl Reiner and Eliott Gould lent the production their veteran touch, and Julia Roberts, as Danny Ocean’s ex, added her million-dollar smile.  Steven Soderbergh, in one of his lighter turns, directed the action with finesse.  In short, the film is about movie stars having fun, and as a piece of juiced-up, pure entertainment, it was one of the decade’s more enjoyable pleasures.

Ocean’s Eleven was a hit with audiences, and Soderbergh, Clooney, and the pack made a couple of sequels, Ocean’s Twelve, in 2004, and Ocean’s Thirteen, in 2007.

Among the core team—Clooney, Pitt, Damon, Roberts, and Soderbergh—none is known for his or her singing prowess.  But like the earlier Rat Pack, they are frequent collaborators in the moviemaking business, both onscreen and behind the scenes.  Their work includes many popular and entertaining films from the past decade or more.  Here, some in which at least two were associated:  Out of Sight (1998), Erin Brockovich (2000), Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), Syriana (2005), The Good German (2006), The Departed (2006), Michael Clayton (2007),  Burn After Reading (2008), and The Informant! (2009).

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Steven Soderbergh, director

Ocean’s Twelve (2004)
Steven Soderbergh, director
Vincent Cassell


“How did you get by the laser fields in the Great Hall?”
A scene that works in any language.

Quote of Note
Rusty:  Why do this?
Danny:  Why not do it?  Cause yesterday I walked out of the joint after losing four years of my life and you’re cold-decking Teen Beat cover boys.  Cause the house always wins.  Play long enough, you never change the stakes.  The house takes you.  Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet and you bet big, then you take the house.
Rusty:  Been practicing this speech, haven’t you?
Danny:  Little bit.  Did I rush it?  Felt I rushed it.
Rusty:  No, it was good, I liked it.  The Teen Beat thing was harsh.
—Rusty Ryan (Brit Pitt), Danny Ocean (George Clooney), Ocean’s Eleven (2001)


 18 May 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Tuesday Minute
No. 98 | May 18, 2010

Six Packs

Our theme this week
Rat Packs, and other “Packs” that made movies

Featured this week (theme introduction)
Monday         —   Holmby Hills Rat Pack

Rat Pack

 rat pack_tue_signedocean's eleven_1960

The Holmby Hills Rat Pack was a private group, a mix of friends who spent evenings together mostly out of the spotlight.  The Rat Pack of the 1960s, in contrast, went public.  They dropped in on one another’s shows, performed together on stage, and made movies.  They sang and they joked and they drank, and by all appearances, they enjoyed their time immensely.  They were famously cool, and the standard they set still hasn’t been touched.  

The core members of the group were Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr.  Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop were in or out at different times, depending on the whim of Sinatra.  It was an all-guys group, but there were always women around for the womanizing; Shirley MacLaine and Angie Dickinson were often on hand.

Sinatra had been in movies with Martin (Some Came Running, 1958) and Lawford (Never So Few, 1959), but the one that brought them all together was Ocean’s Eleven in 1960.  Set in Las Vegas, Sinatra stars as Danny Ocean, ringleader of a band of World War II vets who set out to rob five casinos on New Year’s Eve.  As you might expect with eleven crooks in on the action, the story is hardly a model of concision.  It didn’t (and wasn’t apparently trying to) win any awards.  Yet the film has its pleasures.  It’s an icon of sorts, an enduring work that hasn’t been forgotten, and an influence on directors Steven Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino, among others.

There would be a few Rat Pack movies to follow, typically with a non-sequential number in the title, including Sergeants 3 (1962), 4 for Texas (1963), Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964), and Marriage on the Rocks (1965).

Not to mention, a generation or two later, there was a remake.  Only Joey Bishop survived to see it.

Ocean’s Eleven (1960)
Lewis Milestone, director


Ocean’s Eleven
Shirley MacLaine (uncredited cameo), Dean Martin, Richard Conte

Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964)
Sammy Davis Jr.
“Bang!  Bang!” (Sammy Cahn & Jimmy Van Heusen)

St. Louis Concert (Kiel Opera House, 1965)
Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Johnny Carson (subbing for Joey Bishop)
“The Birth of the Blues” (Ray Henderson, Buddy DeSylva, Lew Brown)

Quote of Note
Zack Thomas:  Tell me something, Mr. Jarrett.  How many states would you say you’re wanted in?
Joe Jarrett:  How many states are there, Mr. Thomas?
—Zack Thomas (Frank Sinatra), Joe Jarrett (Dean Martin), 4 for Texas (1963)


Posted By: John Farmer
Last Edit: 18 May 2010 @ 02:29 AM

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 17 May 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Monday Minute
No. 97 | May 17, 2010

Six Packs

Summer’s on the way, the temperature’s rising, and MAD About Movies is here to help.  This week a theme I think we can all enjoy—beer!  We’ll be serving up some ice cold cinematic brewskis so you can beat the heat and—

Hey, Farmer!

Yeah, what?

The theme of the week is not beer.



You see that title up there.  It says Six Packs, right?

Yeah, but not that kind of six pack.

Oh, really.  Well, okay then, bear with me, folks.  It’s no problem—yes, you can still get “ripped,” if you know what I mean.  This week we’ll be featuring a theme about muscles, those well-defined features you might not see when you look in the mirror but you can surely find at the local gym.  Also known as washboard abs—

No, no, not that kind of six pack either.

No?  Well, then what—oh, I got it!  Here you go, everyone.  This week’s theme is all about Joe Six Pack, that all-American guy, the subject of countless movies over the years—or one or two, anyway—and that wonderful family of his.




Hmm…then…then…then I give up!  You’re so smart, why don’t you do it?

Okay.  Here.

Our theme this week
Rat Packs, and other “Packs” that made movies [Really!]

Holmby Hills Rat Pack

rat pack_bogart_bacall_to have and have notrat pack_bacall sinatra_mon

We probably should start at the beginning, with the original Rat Pack.  I know what you’re thinking, but those guys can wait till tomorrow.

Humphrey Bogart was in his forties.  Lauren Bacall was nineteen.  In 1944 they co-starred in the Howard Hawks film To Have and Have Not, they fell in love, and they were married a year later.  For the next decade, until Bogart’s death in 1957, they were the reigning couple in all of filmdom.

Bogie and Bacall preferred entertaining at home over the Hollywood party circuit.  Their circle of close friends included some of the biggest names of the day:  Judy Garland, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, David Niven, Cary Grant, and notably, Frank Sinatra.  Other regulars included Garland’s husband, Sid Luft, director George Cukor, agent Swifty Lazar, humorist Nathaniel Benchley, composer Jimmy Van Heusen, and Mike and Gloria Romanoff, owners of Romanoff’s resaurant.

In her 1978 autobiography, By Myself, Bacall explained how one qualified for membership:

One had to be addicted to nonconformity, staying up late, drinking, laughing, and not caring what anyone thought or said about us….  We held a dinner in a private room at Romanoff’s to elect officials and draw up rules….  I was voted Den Mother, Bogie was in charge of public relations.  No one could join without unanimous approval of the charter members….  What fun we had with it all!

Holmby Hills is the exclusive neighborhood on the Westside of Los Angeles where several members of the original Rat Pack lived.  When it came to evenings at the Bogart’s, here’s how Bacall described it:  “If the light over the front door was on, we were home and awake; a chosen very few could ring the bell; if not, we were not receiving.”

Bacall coined the nickname for the group.  Once, when Bogart and a few of his drinking buddies returned from a trip to Las Vegas, she told them:  “You look like a goddamn rat pack.”  The name stuck.

Bogart’s death was the end of an era, and the end of the Holmby Hills Rat Pack.  Sinatra and Bacall began to see a lot of each other (“Frank was the only unattached man I knew,” she said).  They had an affair and were briefly engaged, but when news of their relationship hit the papers, Sinatra called it off.

Soon, a new Rat Pack was launched, with Sinatra at the helm.

To Have and Have Not (1944)
Howard Hawks, director
Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Hoagy Carmichael
“How Little We Know”


Dark Passage (1947)
Delmer Daves, director
Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall

Long Beach, Calif., Concert (1955)
Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart
Part 1

Long Beach, Calif., Concert (1955)
Humphrey Bogart, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Judy Garland
Part 2

Quote of Note
You know you don’t have to act with me, Steve.  You don’t have to say anything, and you don’t have to do anything.  Not a thing.  Oh, maybe just whistle.  You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve?  You just put your lips together, and blow.”
—Slim (Lauren Bacall), To Have and Have Not (1944)


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