In late June I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.
This is one of the movies I have looked forward to seeing since setting this task for myself. For Whom the Bell Tolls is a toweringly famous novel, but the film version has faded from the public mind over the intervening decades. Come with me as I discuss my viewing of this forgotten curiosity.
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I could try to do some kind of Harry Potter reference, but I’m not well-versed in the lore. I don’t want to come across like a Muggle, so I’ll just say that the boy who played The Boy Who Lived has made it all the way to 27. Daniel Radcliffe played the boy wizard in eight hit movies from 2001-2011. (Daffy Stardust ranked them all in a Harry Potter Worst to First.) Since the series ended, he has defied the long odds that face child actors and continues to work on stage and screen.
Here’s a forgotten piece of pop culture for you. I was going through the Starlog archives looking for stories to run and I stumbled across these promotional photos for a TV pilot based on Will Eisner’s pulp hero, The Spirit. The pilot was filmed in 1986, but the proposed series wasn’t picked up. So it eventually aired as a stand-alone movie the following year. The lead is none other than Flash Gordon star Sam Jones and that’s Nana Visitor of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine clutching his shoulder. The pilot was written by Steven E. de Souza prior to hitting it big with Die Hard.
The kids are going to be excited about this one. It’s Willem Dafoe’s birthday! Actually, it’s possible my kids may not be familiar with the 61-year-old actor. But they sure do know birthday girl Selena Gomez! The former Disney Channel star did her time on the popular kiddie show, Wizards of Waverly Place, which still plays in reruns in our living room. Since leaving the show, Gomez has successfully navigated the tricky transition from Disney star to pop star. The actress/singer is celebrating her 24th birthday.
If you don’t mind reading subtitles, Movieline magazine compiled a list of what they considered to be the 100 Greatest Foreign Films at that time for the July 1996 issue. Obviously, nothing released in the last twenty years qualifies. If you’re not well-versed in world cinema, you can take this as a list of suggestions. If you are, see how Movieline’s list compares with the one you might have made two decades ago.
Circa the start of the 21st century, Josh Hartnett was thought to be the Next Big Thing. Michael Bay’s big budget historical drama, Pearl Harbor, was supposed to establish the teen heartthrob as a bonafide movie star. It didn’t quite work out that way. Hartnett’s career floundered to the point where he essentially walked away from it all and became a What the Hell Happened subject. Since then, the birthday boy has enjoyed a nice little comeback on Showtime’s Penny Dreadful.
Prior to the release of Independence Day, Martha Frankel asks Bill Pullman why none of her friends know who he is. Up to that point, Pullman had appeared in memorable movies like Ruthless People, Spaceballs and While You Were Sleeping. But somehow, he always seemed to get lost in the shuffle. Pullman seems genuinely worried when Frankel suggests his time as a leading man might be limited. He also worries that his family guy image makes him seem boring. In this article from the July 1996 issue of Movieline magazine, Pullman gamely endures Frankel’s antics.
Today’s birthday boys and girls include a super model, a legendary musician and a former Bond girl. Diana Rigg was the hottest thing in leather when she starred in the sixties TV show, The Avengers. On the big screen, she is best known for portraying the late Mrs. James Bond opposite George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. These days, she can be seen as the sole survivor of the Tyrell family on the HBO fantasy series, Game of Thrones. Today is Rigg’s 78th birthday.
What a difference a decade makes! Ten years ago, audiences were eagerly anticipating the second installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. Three years earlier, the first movie was a pleasant surprise and Johnny Depp was a revelation. Audiences couldn’t get enough of his eccentric performance as Captain Jack Sparrow. Three disappointing sequels later, the Pirates series has carried on longer than it should have and Depp has squandered his box office appeal. The July 2006 issue of Starlog devoted a cover story to the second Pirates movie back when people really cared about such things.
Welcome to the next matchup in our continuing search for the most satisfyingly cheesy pop songs of all time! A LeBlog Cheestastic Classic should be both undeniably corny or over-the-top while also possessing some quality that makes some of us grin and pump our fists in gleeful irony. Some people might also use the term “guilty pleasure.” But I’m not going to. For our purposes here, these are “LeBlog’s Cheesetastic Classics.” The skill and talent involved in producing some of these songs may, in fact, be quite impressive and at their core these songs might actually be rather superior to some which are considered cool. But somewhere along the way the songwriter or performer took that wrong turn at Albuquerque and landed themselves in the land of cheese.
Today’s pairing features an over-the-top ballad from the 1970s and a comeback hit by a fellow ’70s artist who specialized in dramatic pop. Come help us decide which of these songs belongs on our list!
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Today, we’re celebrating the births of a future Marvel superhero and a former Top Gun. Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch turns forty today. Cumberbatch was nominated for the 2014 film The Imitation Game. He also plays the titular detective on the British television series, Sherlock; voiced the dragon Smaug in the Hobbit movies; and played a villain who may or may not be Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness. Later this year, Cumberbatch will play Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme in Doctor Strange.
Randa Haines is the first woman ever to be nominated by the Director’s Guild of America for Best Director. She was nominated for Children of a Lesser God which received five Oscar nominations in 1986. But Haines was not nominated for an Oscar. It was five years between Children and Haines’ next feature film, The Doctor. In the July 1991 issue of Movieline, Lawrence Grobel talked with Haines about the obstacles she had to overcome as one of the few female directors in Hollywood.
Our birthday headliners have both voiced famous characters. Vin Diesel provided the voices for both the Iron Giant and more recently Groot in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. And Kristen Bell is best-known to little girls everywhere as the voice of Anna in Frozen.