June 27: Happy Birthday J. J. Abrams and Isabelle Adjani


J. J. Abrams (the initials stand for Jeffrey Jacob) is turning 51.  He began working in film as a writer and producer in the early 1990s.  His film credits, in one role or the other, included Regarding Henry, The Pallbearer, Gone Fishin’ and Armageddon.  He also had a handful of acting cameos, one of which I will get back to later in this article.  People first started to pay attention to Abrams, however, when his first TV series premiered in 1998.  From the beginning of Felicity’s run, there was not one season in the next fifteen when at least one show created by Abrams was not on the prime time schedule (that covers the runs of Alias, Lost, and Fringe).

In 2006 Abrams directed his first feature film, Mission: Impossible III.  Since then he has gone on to direct two Star Trek reboots, one Spielberg homage (Super 8), and one other film that, whatever else might be said about it, certainly gave a lot of moviegoers the kind of things they wanted to see.

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Hayden Christensen: Darth Victory

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… a promising young actor was cast in one of the most coveted roles in Hollywood.  The actor was then-unknown Hayden Christensen and the part was future Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker.  Christensen beat out well-known actors for the lead role in Star Wars: Episode II–Attack of the Clones and at the time it seemed like that might make him a star.  In this cover story from the June 2002 issue of Movieline magazine, Christensen talks about what it was liked to be plucked from obscurity by George Lucas.

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June 26: Happy Birthday Ariana Grande and Paul Thomas Anderson


Pop star and actress Ariana Grande turns 24 today.  She made her professional performing debut as part of the original Broadway cast of the musical 13.  She then did some television work; she was cast in the supporting role of Cat Valentine on Nickelodeon’s Victorious, and when that series ended its run at shortly after iCarly did, Nickelodeon decided to pair supporting characters from the two series in a new hybrid spinoff titled Sam & Cat.  For a variety of reasons this one ended after one season; one reason was Grande’s desire to focus more on her singing career.

Grande began her music career by contributing to the soundtrack albums for Victorious.  Her first album, Yours Truly, came out at about the time Sam & Cat started airing.  She has followed up with two further studio albums, each of which has reached at least #2 on the Billboard 200.  In a singing career of only about five years so far, she has already had eight Top Ten singles, and received four Grammy nominations, one of them for this:

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Twin Peaks: The Return – Part 8

Halfway through this week’s episode of Twin Peaks: The Return, I started to panic.  I realized that the episode was half over and almost nothing had happened in the conventional sense.  How the hell was I supposed o write a recap in the morning?  After nearly thirty minutes that resembled an experimental film with almost no dialogue, I figured it was very likely the back half of the episode was going to follow suit.  While I couldn’t imagine what images would flash across my television screen next, I was correct that the entire hour would be devoted to surrealism.  This was the strangest, most disturbing, most ambitious hour of television I have ever watched.

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Weekly Recap: Big Women Attack, All Eyes on Tupac and Rob Schneider Drops a Deuce

We’re in the final days of June, roughly halfway through the year.  It’s officially summertime and I am told the time is right for dancing in the street.  We frown on that sort of behavior around here.  Safety first, people.  There are safer places to dance.  And I’m dangerously close to a Men Without Hats reference, so I’m going to switch gears.  You can dance if you want to.  Just leave your friends behind while I recap this week’s activity here at Le Blog.

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June 25: Happy Birthday Ricky Gervais and George Michael


Our two headliners today were captured on film together when George Michael made a guest appearance on the “Christmas special” episode of Extras (which was co-created by and starred Ricky Gervais).  If you don’t know them by sight, it’s Michael on the left and Gervais on the right in the photo.

Ricky Gervais is celebrating his 56th today.  His entertainment career began in the music industry, as part of a new wave duo called Seona Dancing.  He also worked in radio management, where he first made the acquaintance of Stephen Merchant.  He began working in British television in the late nineties, as both a writer and performer for programs such as The Jim Tavaré Show and The 11 O’Clock Show.

Meanwhile Stephen Merchant was taking a production course with the BBC, for which he had to create a short film.  He recruited Gervais to work with him and play a central role in the short, which eventually led to the two being commissioned to write a pilot script for a series about the day-to-day experiences of office employees.  Gervais and Merchant created The Office and wrote all the episodes, while Gervais starred as David Brent.

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June 24: Happy Birthday Jeff Beck and Mindy Kaling

Isle Of Wight Festival 2011 - Day 3

Eight-time Grammy winner Jeff Beck, one of the greatest guitarists in the history of rock, is turning 73 today.  He played with a variety of groups around London in the early sixties; his first big break came when a band called the Yardbirds had a sudden need for a guitarist, as their current one, someone named Eric Clapton, had just quit.

Beck was with the Yardbirds for only about a year and a half, following which he pursued a variety of solo projects or groups built around him.  The Jeff Beck Group was together from about 1967-72, and for a time included Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood.  He has never had a particularly commercial orientation; his most successful album in the US was the mid-seventies, all-instrumental Blow by Blow.

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Why’d it Bomb? Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo (2005)

This movie was basically the beginning of the end for Rob Schneider. The former Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time-Player has never been beloved by critics…or audiences…or anybody except maybe his friends and family. But Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo was a huge hit, making $92 million on a $17 million dollar budget! His next two films, The Animal and The Hot Chick, however, weren’t quite as successful. So, in a last-ditch attempt to save his career, Schneider made a sequel to Deuce Bigalow and it bombed at the box office and got terrible reviews. But why didn’t the gigolo’s second attempt go down smoothly?

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June 23: Happy Birthday Frances McDormand and Joss Whedon


Oscar winner Frances McDormand celebrates her 60th birthday today.  She earned an MFA from Yale’s School of Drama (making this three days in a row we have a Yale MFA in the headline).  After graduation she moved to New York, rooming with Holly Hunter for a time.  In 1984 two very important events in her life took place: she made her film debut in Blood Simple, and she married Joel Coen, the director of the film.

In 1984 McDormand also made her Broadway debut; four years later she was a Tony nominee as Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire.  In the late eighties and early nineties, she appeared in the Coens’s Raising Arizona, Ken Loach’s Hidden Agenda, and Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, and received her first Oscar nomination for Mississippi Burning.  1996 was another good year for her, as she won Best Actress for starring as Marge Gunderson in Fargo.

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Lebeau Family Trip Report 2017: Universal Orlando Resort Day Two

Today was the first full day of our vacation at Universal Orlando (Read about Day One here.).  One of my goals for this trip was to slow down and take it easy.  Usually on a Disney World vacation, we are racing around in an effort to get the most out of our time there.  But Universal is small enough that we should be able to get our fill in six days without driving ourselves crazy.  Especially since we were staying on property at Loews Royal Pacific which is both conveniently located and includes free Express Pass.  There was no reason for us to rush.  The question was, could I slow myself down?

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June 22: Happy Birthday Meryl Streep and Kris Kristofferson


It is Meryl Streep’s 68th birthday today.  It has become almost a cliche to describe her as “the best actress of her generation,” but it is also very hard to dispute such a characterization when it is applied to someone with twenty (!) Oscar nominations in acting categories (no one else has ever had more than twelve).  A graduate of Vassar and Yale, Streep made her acting debut in a production of Trelawny of the “Wells,” produced by Joseph Papp (see below) for The Public Theater.

Streep received her first Oscar nomination for only her second feature film, The Deer Hunter, and that same year (1978) gave an Emmy-winning performance in the miniseries Holocaust.  A year later came her first Oscar win, for Best Supporting Actress in Kramer vs. Kramer.  Her first nomination for Best Actress was for The French Lieutenant’s Woman in 1981, and was followed by her first win in that category, a year later, in Sophie’s Choice.

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Robert Evans: Staying in the Picture

Robert Evans is the legendary movie producer whose credits include Chinatown and The Godfather.  If you follow this site, I am guessing you know his story.  If not, you should pick up Evans’ autobiography, The Kid Stays in The Picture.  Or if you prefer, check out the film adaptation which Evans discussed with Movieline magazine at the time of this profile from the June 2002 issue.  Evans always has an interesting story to tell.  In the profile, Evans talks about how Jack Nicholson scammed him out of valuable furniture and the time he and Cary Grant took LSD together.

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Readers Rank the Alien Movies

Last week, Jeffthewildman ranked the movies in the Alien franchise from worst to first.  So of course we asked readers for their rankings.  The votes have been tallied.  Let’s review the reader rankings.

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