Cinema Varitek: June 2009 Archives

The.Pen.Logo.jpg Each week (or not), Dan McQuade reviews a baseball movie. He's also reviewing MLB Network's six-episode reality show The Pen, featuring the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen, airing Sundays at 8 p.m. on MLB Network. Previous installments: Episode 1, Episode 2.

We didn't even get three episodes into The Pen and already people are claiming curse. Last week, the Philadelphia Daily News implied the three Phils relievers on the DL could be the result of a curse. I'm not quite sure how going on a reality show could curse a team; maybe reality shows can only be broadcast on television if producers desecrate an Indian burial ground first.

But there's more exciting Phillies bullpen news, and I'll cover this one here since I think there's a 0% chance a show on a network owned by Major League Baseball will: A fan at a Tampa Rays game says J.C. Romero attacked him for making a steroids comment; Romero could face battery charges in St. Petersburg.

It is a minor incident, of course. St. Petersburg police spokesman George Kajtsa: "Remember, this is a simple battery. No weapon was used. There were no injuries to the victim whatsoever, except as he says in the report he was embarrassed because it happened in front of other fans and his family." Perhaps the DA will charge Romero with intentional infliction of embarrassment.

All of this brings us to Episode No. 3 of The Pen, which basically follows the bullpen during the Phillies horrid 1-9 homestand earlier this month, as well as Brad Lidge's rehab assignment in Reading, Pa.

So: Yes, it's another ridiculously boring episode of The Pen. That makes three straight! It's weird: The only people likely to watch this show are Phillies fans and hardcore baseball fans, who probably already know (or at least have a general idea of) how the Phillies are doing this season. Yet the show is full of baseball highlights, which those people would have already seen.

The best parts of the show are the interactions between bullpen members, and the little things you learn about the players. For example, Scott Eyre is apparently an undercover FBI agent, probably going not-so-deep cover on J.C. Romero:

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Or maybe it means Full Blooded Italian. I'd suggest it's best to not leave your FBI hat around when you're an undercover agent, but -- as both Eyre and I can attest -- it's hard to concentrate with ADD. I'm always leaving my towel on the bed and getting yelled at by my girlfriend.

the.winning.team.poster.jpg Each week (or not), Dan McQuade reviews a baseball movie. This week in Cinema Varitek: The 1952 biopic The Winning Team, starring Ronald Reagan, Doris Day and Frank Lovejoy, written by Ted Sherdeman and Seeleg Lester & Merwin Gerard, directed by Lewis Seiler. These reviews usually contain spoilers.

History hasn't been kind to Ronald Reagan. Not as a president, mind you, but as an actor. He's not exactly looked upon by film buffs as a good actor; things like that happen when one of your most famous films is one where you raise a chimp in an attempt to solve the "nature versus nurture" debate.

So who better than a sub-par actor to star in The Winning Team, a 1952 biography of Grover Cleveland Alexander, one of the greatest Phillies pitchers of all time. The movie isn't perfectly true to life, but does follow the basic storyline of Alexander's life up to 1926. It, unfortunately, ends before this happens:

Roy H. Masonnof of St. Paul filed a $25,000 lawsuit against him in January 1930, charging him with being a "love pirate."

But no matter; the end of Alexander's life was troubled and probably not really fit for a Hollywood movie in 1952. The Winning Team, incidentally, gets my thumbs-up simply for making up a Hall of Fame plaque for Reagan as Alexander.

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Cute, eh?

The Winning Team loosely follows the life of Grover Cleveland Alexander -- aka Old Pete, Alex the Great, etc. -- from his days as a youngster working on a farm to his triumphant victory in the 1926 World Series. As we see early in the film, Alex was destined to be a ballplayer. When he worked for the phone company, he was already wearing one of those 1970s Pittsburgh Pirates painters' caps.

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Alex works for the phone company, but keeps blowing off work (and other commitments, including ones with his fiance) in order to play baseball, his true passion. He ends up pitching against a minor league club -- filling in for a man who's injured because he was kicked by a horse (really) -- tossing a complete game shutout against the professionals in a 1-0 victory. This, of course, causes the manager of the professional Galesburg club to take off his hat and swing at it with a bat.

Michael Jackson and baseball go together about as well as Rob Dibble and R&B music, but that doesn't mean the late King of Pop didn't have a connection to the national pastime. Therefore and hencewith, today's Classic TV bit is MJ performing "Billie Jean" on the opening night of his Victory Tour at Dodger Stadium back in December of 1984 in front of SCREAMING fans with huge hair.


Look! Andy Warhol! Kermit the Frog! Yoko Ono! Freakin' WEBSTER! Pedro Guerrero snorting lines backstage! Burt Hooton dancing with Bubbles the Chimp! It's a veritable who's who of the L.A. scene in the mid-1980s.

The.Pen.Logo.jpg Each week (or not), Dan McQuade reviews a baseball movie. He's also reviewing MLB Network's six-episode reality show The Pen, featuring the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen, airing Sundays at 8 p.m. on MLB Network. Previous installment: Episode 1.

Congratulations, ADD-riddled baseball fans! The Pen, which debuted with an hour-long episode last week, was shortened to a half-hour for its second episode. You can save your 6-OXO Extreme on Sunday nights now. The second episode also apparently included a separated at birth segment.

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The.Pen.Logo.jpg Each week (or not), Dan McQuade reviews a baseball movie. Since he hasn't turned in one of those in a while, Dan will also be reviewing MLB Network's six-episode reality show The Pen, featuring the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen, airing Sundays at 8 p.m. on MLB Network.

I watch a lot of bad television. I watch Family Feud for an hour most nights, enjoy scanning the channels I'm not even sure really exist (ION Television? Totally fake.) for hilarious new infomercials after midnight and have sat through several different episodes of Peter Popoff Miracle Manna. I have a clip saved on my computer of Kevin Federline defeating John Cena in a wrestling match. I will watch ESPN Classic skateboarding just to see the old espn2 graphics. I've seen every episode of Pitchmen.

Point being: I like TV. I might like bad TV even more. As such, it is with no hesitation that I jump into the pool for MLB Network's first-ever reality series, The Pen. The things I do for you, the fans, I know. The show will follow around the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen from spring training to the All-Star Break, presumably teaching us what to do if you have, say, 50 games to sit out at work because you took a banned work drug. Ooh, and Mitch Williams narrates.