December 9: Happy Birthday Judi Dench and Kirk Douglas


Dame Judi Dench is turning 82 today.  She is one of the most distinguished screen actresses of our time, with, for starters, seven Oscar nominations to her name—she won Best Supporting Actress for playing Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love.  She has also had a long and successful career in British television; she has won a total of ten BAFTA Awards in her career, six for film and four for television.

Besides her Oscar-winning part, a few of her most well-regarded film performances include playing Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown (opposite Billy Connolly), novelist Iris Murdoch in Iris, and the title character in Mrs. Henderson Presents; she received Best Actress nominations for all three.  Next year she will appear as the Princess Dragomiroff in Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express and return to the role of Queen Victoria in Victoria and Abdul.  But the role that really kicked off her international film career, the one that mainstream audiences know her best for, was in a supporting role in a series of action movies:

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Steven Spielberg On the Couch


In the early nineties, Steven Spielberg was floundering.  He had enough success in the previous decade to establish himself as a movie mogul.  But his attempts to “grow up” as a filmmaker did not yield the desired results.  Following the critical and commercial failure of Always, Spielberg returned to the childlike wonder of Peter Pan.  But Hook was an odd take on the fairy tale in that it envisioned its protagonist as a middle aged man grappling with his own childhood and his role as a parent.  The parallels to Spielberg himself are painfully obvious.

Dr. Harvey R. Greenberg put the director on the metaphorical couch for a little psychoanalysis in this article from the Dec 1991 issue of Movieline Magazine.

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December 8: Happy Birthday Nicki Minaj and Jim Morrison


Hip-hop artist Nicki Minaj turns 34 today.  In a musical genre that tends to be male-dominated, Minaj has been one of the most successful women.  Born in Trinidad, she moved to the US at a young age, and after graduating from high school, she began working as a musician.  Truly a 21st Century musician, she was initially “discovered” through recordings she posted to her Myspace page.  She then released a series of mixtapes that earned increasing attention, and by the end of the 2000s she had a recording contract, releasing several singles and her first album in 2010.

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Starlog Archives: Star Trek: First Contact

The original cast of Star Trek couldn’t make movies forever.  In 1991, the original crew went into retirement with their sixth feature film.  Three years later, the torch was passed to the crew of The Next Generation with the lackluster Star Trek: Generations.  That movie was a big enough hit to warrant a sequel, but as was the case with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Generations was not highly regarded by fans.

Going into the 1996 sequel, First Contact, hopes were high that the franchise could bounce back with a worthy entry.  While not on the same level as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, First Contact did mark a high point in the Next Gen Trek movies.  Starlog offered a sneak peak in the December issue.

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December 7: Happy Birthday Ellen Burstyn and Sara Bareilles


Ellen Burstyn turns 84 today.  She made her Broadway debut in 1957 and then spent over a decade paying her dues in television guest roles.  In the early 1970s, she made a big breakthrough, receiving three Oscar nominations in four years.  After a Best Supporting Actress nomination for playing Lois Farrow in The Last Picture Show, she was nominated for Best Actress in consecutive years, for The Exorcist and as the title character of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore:

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Whatever Happened to Nikki Blonsky?


NBC’s Hairspray Live premieres tonight. I have to be honest I’m surprised they decided to remake Hairspray again (technically) considering the 2007 version is barely 10 years old but I guess they needed a version for the youngsters who don’t even know that John Travolta and Amanda Bynes exist.

Actually, is it me or have most of Hairspray 2007’s cast members careers cooled down A LOT since then? Not only have Amanda Bynes and John Travolta’s personal lives become more publicized than their actual film choices lately (though, in Amanda’s case, that’s because she’s no longer acting anymore) but Christopher Walken and Queen Latifah, who seemed to pop up all the time in theaters back in the 2000’s, seem to have to stuck to doing independent films for the most part and rarely pop up in something that goes to theaters nowadays. Then there’s the star of the movie, Nikki Blonsky. It seemed like she was the next big thing (no pun unintended) but she’s rarely acted since and, when she has, she’s stuck to independent films and TV work. She also started working in a salon. But why didn’t she become more famous?

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December 6: Happy Birthday Judd Apatow and Agnes Moorehead


Judd Apatow turns 49 today.  The producer, writer and director began working as a stand-up comedian while still in high school.  In the 1990s he began working in television, serving as a producer and writer on The Ben Stiller Show and The Larry Sanders Show, and later as executive producer, as well as sometimes writer and director, for Freaks and Geeks.  He also did some script doctoring during this period.

It was in the 2000s, and in feature films, that Apatow found his greatest success.  In 2004 he produced the first Anchorman film, and a year later directed his first feature, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, also co-writing the script with Steve Carell.  In 2007, he directed, wrote and produced what is probably his most successful film:

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Tony Scott: Where the Boys Are


Tony Scott, brother of Ridley, was known for making splashy action movies.  In the mid-eighties, he had back-to-back hits with Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop II.  Then in 1990, Scott helmed back-to-back disappointments, Revenge and Days of Thunder.  Writer Michael Angeli visited the director on the set of his next feature, The Last Boy Scout, for an interview that was included in the December 1991 issue of Movieline magazine.

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The Walking Dead: Sing Me A Song


“Sing Me a Song” is the penultimate episode of the “A” half of the seventh season of The Walking Dead.  It’s an extra-sized 90-minute episode which I think we all know has more to do with ad revenue than it does story-telling.  This episode doesn’t tell us much that we didn’t already know from the last over-sized episode.  Negan is a bad dude.  He puts on a smile and he never shuts up.  So far this season, we have probably spent more time listening to Negan prattle on than we have spent with any other character including Rick – the show’s de facto protagonist.  In “The Cell”, viewers got an extended look inside the Savior’s compound from the points of view of Dwight and Daryl.  This episode is more of the same as seen by a recently captured Carl.

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December 5: Happy Birthday Little Richard and Walt Disney


Richard Penniman, universally known as Little Richard, turns 84 today. Initially a gospel and R&B performer, he became one of the first, and one of the most durable, of the big stars of rock and roll.  From about 1955-58 he turned out hit after hit, some of which have been awarded “Hall of Fame” designation by the Grammys, and one of which is in the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry.

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December 4: Happy Birthday Jeff Bridges and Marisa Tomei


Oscar winner (and six-time nominee) Jeff Bridges is turning 67 today.  The son of actor Lloyd Bridges, his first major film role, and first Oscar nomination, was in the role of Duane Jackson in The Last Picture Show in 1971.  Bridges has been working consistently in film ever since then.  While his career has had the ebbs and flows you’d expect, every few years he seems to have one or more films that are commercial and/or critical successes.

After his debut, he went on to win another Oscar nomination for Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and star in films like John Huston’s Fat City, the 1976 remake of King Kong, the contemporary noir Cutter’s Way, and the pioneering sci-fi film Tron.  He received his third Oscar nomination, and his first for Best Actor, for the 1984 sci-fi romance Starman.

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Review: Rules Don’t Apply (2016)


Poor Warren Beatty. The man hasn’t made a movie since Town & Country all the way back in 2001 and now he’s come back 15 years later for a passion project he’s wanted to do ever since the 70’s and…no one saw it. When I went to see it in the theater, I was literally the only person there and it was the pre-show. I also work at a movie theater and, when I took tickets one time, only three people went to see it. It seems that, unfortunately, the world has forgotten about Warren.

That being said, I wish I could say this is an underrated movie, an instant classic, and it’s a shame more people aren’t going to see it. I want to see the guy, after having hid out for all these years, come back with a great movie, maybe even a masterpiece. Unfortunately, however, his new movie isn’t that great. To be fair, though, it’s not awful, it’s just…uneven.

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December 3: Happy Birthday Julianne Moore and Brendan Fraser


Oscar-winner Julianne Moore is celebrating her 56th birthday today.  After graduating from Boston University, she was active in the 1980s both in off-Broadway theater and on television, winning a Daytime Emmy for her role on As the World Turns.  She began to get supporting roles in films, most notably as part of the ensemble cast in Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, and then moved to lead roles, starring opposite Hugh Grant in Nine Months.

From about 1997 to 2002 Moore had a lot of success.  It began with starring in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, the biggest commercial success of her career.  She followed that up with Boogie Nights, for which she received a Best Supporting Actress nomination, and in 2000 she was nominated for Best Actress for The End of the Affair.  In 2002 she was nominated for two Oscars in the same year, for Far From Heaven (Best Actress) and The Hours (Best Supporting Actress).  She also had roles in The Big Lebowski and Magnolia during this period.

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