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After swearing off comedies, Cuba Gooding is back

Roger Moore
The Orlando Sentinel (MCT)

Daddy Day Camp

Director: Fred Savage
Cast: Cuba Gooding, Jr., Paul Rae, Lochlyn Munroe, Tamala Jones, Spencer Bridges
MPAA rating: PG
Studio: Revolutions Studios
First date: 2007
US Release Date: 2007-08-10 (General release)

"The last thing I want to do is a sequel, following in Eddie Murphy's footsteps," says Cuba Gooding of taking on the Eddie Murphy role in "Daddy Day Camp," the sequel to Murphy's sleeper smash, "Daddy Day Care." "But I looked at the script, which is about trying to be a better father than your father was, and it has 10 times the heart of the first film, which was a fun movie."

Gooding, 39, has been in two comedies this year - a supporting role in Murphy's February hit, "Norbit," and now "Daddy Day Camp." He had sworn off comedies a few years ago.

"I know my stock is low," he admitted to Stapulse.com back in 2006. "I thought people wanted me to make them laugh, but I was wrong on so many levels."

The father thing was a tipping point. Comedy or no, sequel or no, Gooding was in for "Daddy Day Camp," a kid-friendly laugher that has his character taking over the camp where he had both fond memories and major disappointments as a child.

"I didn't do camp, when I was growing up," he says. "But both my older kids do camps every summer. I've been the father-chaperone, the guy sleeping on the floor of a museum in a tent with the kids. There's comedy in there. When Charlie (his character) says that he's not into camping, the outdoors and all, that's me. I am not a real big wilderness guy. Sleeping in the woods, just to do it? Makes no (darned) sense to me."

Gooding was born in the Bronx and raised in LA by a single mom. His father, the rhythm and blues singer Cuba Gooding, walked out on them when Jr. was just 6. The son wanted to play a dad, a dad having issues about bonding with his son and measuring up to his own father, even if it was in a comedy.

"I did `Boat Trip' (2002), `Rat Race' (2001) and something else. Look, even I can't remember the title. (It was 2002's "Snow Dogs"). None of them were hits. I sat through the screenings, hyper-critical of myself, and just said `I need to back off the comedy thing, go back to what I know.'"

He learned his lesson. He doesn't sit through his movies anymore.

"I listen to the audience, outside. That way I don't sit there and wonder why I made a certain face, or tried too hard."

Gooding won an Oscar, remember, for his heartfelt, emotional and over-the-top hilarious turn in 1996's Jerry Maguire. He followed that with "As Good as It Gets." He was in "Pearl Harbor" and held his own with DeNiro in "Men of Honor" (2000).

He kept working, but the movies turned worse. He did the bad comedies. He did "Radio," a modest 2003 success that landed him an NAACP image award for playing a mentally challenged young man who becomes the motivational mascot for a South Carolina high school football team. The movie also became a bit of a punchline and landed him a Razzie nomination for his part in the film's sentimentalism.

You either went with Gooding's performance, "hunched into the cowering posture of a gentle, abused animal ... a mercurial blend of terror and childish glee," as Stephen Holden wrote in The New York Times. Or you didn't.

"I work," Gooding says, by way of explanation. "I have four films in the can. I do independent films. The good roles? They come in due time. It's been a long 10 years since the Academy Award, but I've learned a little something since then.

"I'm in `American Gangster,' with Ridley Scott, Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. That's a big break. Because even though Denzel plays Frank Lucas, the guy who masterminded smuggling heroin over in body bags from Vietnam, the real flashy gangster and drug dealer of that era, the guy Superfly is based on, is Nicky Barnes. I play Nicky Barnes. Now that's a cool part."

Music

The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

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Beware the seemingly merry shades of green and red that spread so slowly and thickly across the holiday season, for something dark and uncertain, something that takes many forms, stirs beneath the joyful facade.

Let's be honest -- not everyone feels merry at this time of year. Psychologists say depression looms large around the holidays and one way to deal with it is cathartically. Thus, we submit that scary movies can be even more salutary at Christmas than at Halloween. So, Merry Christmas. Ho ho ho wa ha ha!

1. The Old Dark House (James Whale, 1932)

Between Frankenstein (1931) and The Invisible Man (1933), director James Whale made this over-the-top lark of a dark and stormy night with stranded travelers and a crazy family. In a wordless performance, Boris Karloff headlines as the deformed butler who inspired The Addams Family's Lurch. Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, Melvyn Douglas and Ernest Thesiger are among those so vividly present, and Whale has a ball directing them through a series of funny, stylish scenes. This new Cohen edition provides the extras from Kino's old disc, including commentaries by Stuart and Whale biographer James Curtis. The astounding 4K restoration of sound and image blows previous editions away. There's now zero hiss on the soundtrack, all the better to hear Massey starting things off with the first line of dialogue: "Hell!"

(Available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

2. The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2015)

Two mermaid sisters (Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska) can summon legs at will to mingle on shore with the band at a Polish disco, where their siren act is a hit. In this dark reinvention of Hans Christian Andersen's already dark The Little Mermaid, one love-struck sister is tempted to sacrifice her fishy nature for human mortality while her sister indulges moments of bloodlust. Abetted by writer Robert Bolesto and twin sister-musicians Barbara and Zuzanna Wronska, director Agnieszka Smoczynska offers a woman's POV on the fairy tale crossed with her glittery childhood memories of '80s Poland. The result: a bizarre, funy, intuitive genre mash-up with plenty of songs. This Criterion disc offers a making-of and two short films by Smoczynska, also on musical subjects.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Read PopMatters review here.)

3. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016)

In the category of movies that don't explain themselves in favor of leaving some of their mysteries intact, here's Olivier Assayas' follow-up to the luminous Clouds of Sils Maria. Kristen Stewart again plays a celebrity's lackey with a nominally glamorous, actually stupid job, and she's waiting for a sign from her dead twin brother. What about the ghostly presence of a stalker who sends provocative text messages to her phone? The story flows into passages of outright horror complete with ectoplasm, blood, and ooga-booga soundscapes, and finally settles for asking the questions of whether the "other world" is outside or inside us. Assayas has fashioned a slinky, sexy, perplexing ghost story wrapped around a young woman's desire for something more in her life. There's a Cannes press conference and a brief talk from Assayas on his influences and impulses.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Reader PopMatters review here.

4. The Ghoul (Gareth Tunley, 2016)

The hero (Tom Meeten) tells his therapist that in his dreams, some things are very detailed and others are vague. This movie tells you bluntly what it's up to: a Möbius strip narrative that loops back on itself , as attributed to the diabolical therapists for their cosmic purposes. Then we just wait for the hero to come full circle and commit the crime that, as a cop, he's supposedly investigating. But this doesn't tell us whether he's really an undercover cop pretending to be depressed, or really a depressive imagining he's a cop, so some existential mysteries will never be answered. It's that kind of movie, indebted to David Lynch and other purveyors of nightmarish unreality. Arrow's disc offers a making-of, a commentary from writer-director Gareth Tunley and Meeten along with a producer, and a short film from Tunley and Meeten.

(Available from Arrow Video)

​5. The Illustrated Man (Jack Smight, 1969)

When a young man goes skinny-dipping with a mysterious stranger (Rod Steiger) who's covered with tattoos, the pictures comes to life in a series of odd stories, all created by Ray Bradbury and featuring Steiger and Claire Bloom in multiple roles. Nobody was satisfied with this failure, and it remains condemned to not having reached its potential. So why does Warner Archive grace it with a Blu-ray? Because even its failure has workable elements, including Jerry Goldsmith's score and the cold neatness of the one scene people remember: "The Veldt", which combines primal child/parent hostilities (a common Bradbury theme) with early virtual reality. It answers the question of why the kids spend so much time in their room, and why they're hostile at being pulled away.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

6. The Hidden (Jack Sholder, 1987)


In one of my favorite action movies of the '80s, a post-Blue Velvet and pre-Twin Peaks Kyle MacLachlan plays an FBI agent who forms a buddy-cop bond with Michael Nouri while pursuing a perp -- a bodiless entity that plugs into the human id. In the midst of slam-bang action comes a pivotal moment when a startling question is asked: "How do you like being human?" The heart of the movie, rich in subtext, finds two men learning to embrace what's alien to them. In pop-culture evolution, this movie falls between Hal Clement's novel Needle and the TV series Alien Nation. On this Warner Archive Blu-ray, Sholder offers a commentary with colleague Tim Hunter.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

7. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 1992)

Speaking of Twin Peaks, here we have a textbook example of a movie that pleased almost nobody upon its release but has now generated such interest, thanks in large part to this year's Twin Peaks revival, that it arrives on Criterion. A feature-film prequel to David Lynch and Mark Frost's original TV serial that answered none of its questions and tossed in a raft of new ones, the film functions as one of cinema's most downbeat, disruptive and harsh depictions of a middle-class American teenage girl's social context. Sheryl Lee delivers a virtuoso performance that deserved the Oscar there was no way she'd be nominated for, and she wasn't. The extras, including a 90-minute film of deleted and alternate takes assembled by Lynch, have been available on previous sets.

(Available from Criterion Collection)

8. The Green Slime (Kinji Fukasaku, 1968)

Incredibly, Warner Archive upgrades its on-demand DVD of a groovy, brightly colored creature feature with this Blu-ray. As a clever reviewer indicated in this PopMatters review, what director Kinji Fukasaku saw as a Vietnam allegory functions more obviously as a manifestation of sexual tension between alpha-jock spacemen competing for the attention of a foxy female scientist, and this subconsciously creates an explosion of big green tentacled critters who overrun the space station. While we don't believe in "so bad it's good," this falls squarely into the category of things so unfacetiously absurd, they come out cool. There's a sublimely idiotic theme song.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

If the idea is that earth, water, fire, air and space constitute the core elements of life, then these five songs might seem as their equivalents to surviving the complications that come from embracing the good and enduring the ugly of the Christmas season.

Memory will never serve us well when it comes to Christmas and all its surrounding complications. Perhaps worse than the financial and familial pressures, the weather and the mad rush to consume and meet expectations, to exceed what happened the year before, are the floods of lists and pithy observations about Christmas music. We know our favorite carols and guilty pleasures ("O Come All Ye Faithful", "Silent Night"), the Vince Guaraldi Trio's music for 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas that was transcendent then and (for some, anyway) has lost none of its power through the years, and we embrace the rock songs (The Kink's "Father Christmas", Greg Lake's "I Believe In Father Christmas", and The Pretenders' "2000 Miles".) We dismiss the creepy sexual predator nature in any rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside", the inanity of Alvin and the Chipmunks, and pop confections like "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus".

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