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Monthly Archives: October 2016
The Walking Dead can be a divisive show, but I think just about everyone can agree on one thing: Last week’s season premiere was hard to watch. That episode was intended to break down the characters and the audience with an hour-long barrage of graphic violence, gore and hopelessness. Whether or not that is something of merit is up for debate. But I think most viewers would agree that you couldn’t follow up the season premiere with more of the same. So it comes as something of a relief that the second episode of the season switches characters, location and tone.
Sir Peter Jackson is 55 years old today. He was interested in making movies since he was a boy, and for many years he lived with his parents to save money so he could spend on film equipment. He made his first film, a horror comedy called Bad Taste, on a minute budget, with many of the cast being friends of his who worked for free. A reasonably positive reception to that led to him gradually getting bigger budgets for subsequent films: Meet the Feebles, a musical black comedy with Muppet style puppets; Heavenly Creatures, a psychological thriller starring a pair of talented young actresses named Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey; and the horror comedy The Frighteners, his first film on a Hollywood-sized budget.
And then, after prolonged negotiations to secure the rights to the books and then to get backing from a studio, he began filming J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings:
In celebration of Halloween, we’re looking at Starlog magazine’s feature story on the Witch’s Dungeon. Billed as “the longest-running Halloween attraction in the country”, Witch’s Dungeon is a horror-themed wax museum in Bristol, Connecticut. Founded in 1966, the museum is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year.
Aayyyy!, the Fonz is 71 today—or at least Henry Winkler is. After graduating from college, Winkler worked for several years doing commercials. He was cast in the 1974 film The Lords of Flatbush alongside another then-unknown, Sylvester Stallone, and at about the same time was cast in a supporting part in a TV series set in Milwaukee in the 1950s:
Richard Dreyfuss celebrates his 69th birthday today. He began acting in his late teens and his first major roles were in 1973, as Baby Face Nelson in Dillinger and Curt Henderson in American Graffiti, a role that brought him a Golden Globe nomination. He then worked on two films with Steven Spielberg, as a shark expert in Jaws and an ordinary guy who experienced Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The same year as Close Encounters, he also starred in a romance written by Neil Simon:
The remake of Ghostbusters brought out some very strong opinions from fans who felt that their favorite franchise was being tarnished. If you’re idea of the Ghostbusters franchise is limited to the original 1984 movie and its lackluster 1989 sequel, the fervent passion of these fans is hard to understand. One good movie does not a franchise make and the sequel tarnished the original as much as any remake possibly could.
But most of these fans weren’t introduced to Ghostbusters on the big screen. Their point of entry was the 1986 cartoon, The Real Ghostbusters, and the toy line that tied into it. To fans of the animated series, Ghostbusters is bigger than a Bill Murray movie. As the series was starting, Starlog talked to story editor and future Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski about animated ghost busting.
Julia Roberts is 49 today. She had a rapid rise to stardom. Although her first feature film appearance was the poorly-received Satisfaction, she then attracted favorable notices for her role in Mystic Pizza. A year later, in 1989, she received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for Steel Magnolias and won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Supporting Actress for the same film. And then came Pretty Woman:
Back in 2004, Napoleon Dynamite became a phenomenon. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing stuff like “Gosh” and “Vote for Pedro”. After the movie became a hit, it seemed like its star, Jon Heder, and it’s director, Jared Hess, would go on to better things. But they were never really able to capitalize on Napoleon’s success and both of them have kind of faded into obscurity.
Whatever happened to them?
John Cleese celebrates his 77th birthday today. His screen career began with a short-lived British television comedy series called The Frost Report; Cleese was one of the performers, while some others involved in various aspects of the show included Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. In 1969, that quintet were joined by an American friend of Cleese’s, Terry Gilliam, in creating a sketch comedy series known as Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
In 1971, Monty Python released a movie that incorporated sketches from the first two seasons of their show, And Now for Something Completely Different. It was sufficiently successful that they made a second feature, a sweeping historical epic centered around Britain’s legendary hero, King Arthur, and featuring a major role for the brave Sir Lancelot:
For readers of a certain age, this article from the Starlog archives is likely to be a heck of a nostalgia trip. In October and November of 1996, the sci-fi magazine ran a two-part retrospective about the TV show Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Buck Rogers aired on NBC for two seasons from 1979-1981. Producer Glen A. Larson duplicated the formula of his other successful Star Wars rip-off, Battlestar Galacta. The two shows even cut costs by sharing props.
At the time, Buck Rogers was panned as a cheap knock-off which it probably was. I haven’t watched the show since I was ten years old and I don’t want to. All I know is that back in the days when I was obsessed with all things Star Wars, shows like Battlestar and Buck Rogers were the closest thing my friends and I could get to a sci-fi/adventure fix.
Seth MacFarlane turns 43 today. While a senior at the Rhode Island School of Design, he created an animated short film called The Life of Larry, which led to his being hired by Hanna-Barbera after his graduation. At Hanna-Barbera he worked on several series, including Johnny Bravo and Dexter’s Laboratory. He also began developing an idea for an animated sitcom, which he was eventually able to sell to Fox. Its name—Family Guy:
A couple of months back I dove into the world of Lego Dimensions with my kids. We all enjoyed the game itself and the element of building and collecting Lego figures appealed to us as well. Since then, I have been taking advantage of sales when I can find them and storing Lego packs away for Christmas presents for the kids.
But frankly, I like Lego Dimensions too and some of the packs don’t appeal to my kids at all. Case in point: The Mission Impossible Level Pack. While franchises like Harry Potter, The Simpsons and Ghostbusters are popular with my girls, they don’t know who the heck Ethan Hunt is nor do they have any interest in finding out. I picked up the new level pack anyway because Target had all their Lego Dimensions product on sale 40%. Since the kids aren’t interested, I figured I’d break this one out of the box and play it now rather than wrap it up and put it under the tree in December.