Monthly Archives: March 2017

The First-Timer’s Cut is the Cheapest

First-time movie directors are relatively cheap and eager to collaborate with their studio bosses.  Hey, they are just happy to sit in the chair!  They aren’t as likely to fight over studio notes or ask for a percentage of the grosses.  Plus, they are available whenever you need them.  No wonder the big Hollywood studios were eager to sign untested talent.  In the March 1992 issue of Movieline magazine, Stephen Farber examined the recent uptick in novice directors.

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March 31: Happy Birthday Richard Chamberlain and William Daniels


Our two headliners today have done notable film and stage work, but are best known for their television roles.

Richard Chamberlain turns 83 today.  He began acting in the late fifties in Southern California theater and TV guest roles.  In 1961 he landed a plum lead role, as the title character on NBC’s Dr. Kildare.  He won a Golden Globe during the series’ five year run.  In 1966 he was to make his Broadway debut in a musical adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but it closed before its formal opening (i.e., during previews).

In the seventies Chamberlain seemed to have the market cornered when it came to Alexandre Dumas adaptations, as he appeared in Richard Lester’s feature films The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers (as Aramis), and in TV movie adaptations of The Count of Monte Cristo (as the title character) and The Man in the Iron Mask (again in the title role).  Starting in the late seventies he became known as the “King of the Miniseries” for starring in productions like an NBC adaptation of a James Clavell novel:

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Lego Dimensions: Sonic the Hedgehog Level Pack

Regular readers know that I am not much of a gamer.  My video game coverage is limited to Lego games largely because their skill requirements closely align with my limited hand-eye coordination.  But that was not true of the video games of my youth.  When I was a kid, arcade games were unforgiving and most of the home console games weren’t much better.  Even then, I gravitated towards games like Atari’s Adventure which didn’t require split-second timing.  But those games were few and far between.

In the early 90’s, I had a Sega Genesis in my dorm room.  Side-scrollers were the popular game style of the day.  Sonic the Hedgehog innovated by making its spiky blue protagonist was really, really fast.  Playing Sonic was frequently a dizzying, exhilarating blur.  Even though I frequently ended up losing all of the rings I had collected, I couldn’t help getting caught up in the fun as Sonic rocketed from platform to platform spinning and bouncing like a hyper-kinetic pinball.

I didn’t stick with the Sonic series for very long.  I think I may have owned the first couple of games.  After that, my pathetic gameplay steered me to games that were more my speed.  In other words, slower games.  Thanks to Lego Dimensions Sonic the Hedgehog Level Pack, I can revisit the old high speed side-scrolling gameplay married with the much less challenging Lego video game format.

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March 30: Happy Birthday Warren Beatty and Eric Clapton

Matt Lauer interviews Warren Beatty

Warren Beatty, who is a fourteen-time Oscar nominee, is turning 80 today.  Inspired by the success of his older sister, Oscar-winning actress Shirley MacLaine, he dropped out of Northwestern University to study acting with Stella Adler.  In 1960 he was a Tony nominee for William Inge’s A Loss of Roses, and a year later he made his film debut in Splendor in the Grass, winning a Golden Globe for Best Newcomer and receiving a second Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor (they were the first of eighteen Golden Globe nominations and six wins.

His first Oscar nominations came in 1967, when he produced and starred in a film about a 1930s outlaw couple.  Beatty was nominated for Best Picture as the producer of Bonnie and Clyde and Best Actor for playing Clyde Barrow.

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Out of Nowhere: Vince Vaughn in Swingers

It may be hard to remember, but there was a time when Vince Vaughn was a hungry actor.  Back when he made a star-turn in the indie comedy, Swinger, Vaughn was physically lean and his performance was energetic.  Since then, Vaughn appears to have grown increasingly complacent on screen.  In this interview from the March 1997 issue of Movieline, Vaughn was still an up-and-comer with the world at his feet.

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March 29: Happy Birthday Eric Idle and Brendan Gleeson


Eric Idle is turning 74 today.  While a student at Cambridge in the late sixties, he was invited to join Cambridge’s famed Footlights Club; the club’s former members include Douglas Adams, Peter Cook, Stephen Fry, Germain Greer, Tom Hollander, Hugh Laurie, Trevor Nunn, Emma Thompson, along with a couple of gentlemen named Graham Chapman and John Cleese.  In 1967 Idle began appearing in a British children’s series called Do Not Adjust Your Set, which also featured Terry Jones and Michael Palin.

And then, in 1969, Idle along with Chapman, Cleese, Jones, Palin and Terry Gilliam formed Monty Python.  As part of the Pythons, Idle was known for sketches like “Nudge Nudge,” for writing the song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Life of Brian, and for playing many characters, including one of King Arthur’s most famous knights:

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Eric Bana: Star-Spangled Bana

Remember Eric Bana?  He was the guy who played the Hulk in the first movie.  The one no one liked.  A year before that movie was released, Eric Bana seemed like the luckiest guy on the planet.  After a decade or so of doing stand-up comedy and Australian television, Bana made a splash stateside in the indie movie, Chopper.  That lead to a meaty role in Ridley Scott’s war drama, Black Hawk Down and the lead in Ang Lee’s Hulk.  Following the news of Bana’s casting coups, Movieline magazine interviewed the actor for the March 2002 issue.

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March 28: Happy Birthday Reba McEntire and Lady Gaga


Our recent abundance of musical birthdays continues today.  Our headliners today are known, respectively, as the Queen of Country and the Princess of Pop (although neither is the sole claimant to her title).

Reba McEntire celebrates her 62nd birthday today.  She was studying to be a teacher at Southeastern Oklahoma State University when country singer Rod Steagall heard her sing the national anthem at a rodeo competition, and helped her land a recording contract with Mercury.  Her first album came out in 1977, but she didn’t begin to be a major success until the early 1980s.  Her fifth album, Unlimited, resulted in her first two #1 Country singles, but she soon moved to MCA in order to have more creative control over her recordings.  In 1986 Whoever’s in New England became her first #1 Country album, while the title song won her her first Grammy.

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Ethan Hawke: Rich or Famous?

These days, Ethan Hawke is a respected actor with a long filmography filled with interesting choices.  Sometimes a leading man and sometimes a supporting player, Hawke has outlived most of his contemporaries.  Twenty-five years ago, Hawke was just a snot-nosed kid getting hand-me-down scripts from his famous former costar, River Phoenix.  Looking towards his future, a 21-year-old Hawke was nervous, fidgety and indecisive.  When Martha Frankel interviewed Hawke for the March 1992 issue of Movieline magazine, his insecurities seemed to drive her crazy.

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The Walking Dead: Something They Need

When the Oceanside community was introduced, it was obvious that sooner or later Rick was going to show up and take their guns.  It was the only reason for them to exist.  Episode after episode, we were reminded that Rick needed guns.  Conveniently, here was a community with guns to spare but without the will to use them.  Sure, Tara promised not to reveal their location.  But that promise was never anything more than a stalling tactic.  She may as well have promised to keep their location a secret until the penultimate episode of the season.

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March 27: Happy Birthday Quentin Tarantino and Mariah Carey


Quentin Tarantino is celebrating his 54th birthday today.  A film buff from an early age, he worked at a variety of jobs around Southern California, including, famously, in a video store.  He wrote a script for a heist movie and a friend showed it to Harvey Keitel, who liked it and signed onto the movie as a co-producer, as well as becoming one of the stars, enabling Tarantino to raise a budget of somewhat over $1 million for Reservoir Dogs, which came out in 1992 to favorable reviews.

Tarantino did a number of screenplays for other filmmakers in the early nineties, including True Romance and From Dusk Till Dawn.  However, he was more focused on the film that would really establish his reputation, one that even more than Reservoir Dogs was full of the traits we now consider “Tarantino style filmmaking”—nonlinear storytelling, clever dialogue full of pop culture references, stylized violence, etc.  It was named Pulp Fiction:

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Weekly Recap: Princesses Kissed Frogs and Danced With Beasts

For a blog with contributors who are largely middle-aged men, we spend a lot of time talking about Disney.  This week, a sizable portion of the conversations centered on Disney princesses.  After viewing the live-action remake of the animated classic, Beauty and the Beast, Daffy reached out to me to ask if I had seen it.  I hadn’t, but when Daffy calls I go into action.  Once we had both seen the movie, we exchanged a few emails which became the basis for one of this week’s articles.  Daffy pulled everything together and added pictures like the one above which served as an illustration to a joke I made about how my date for the original movie likely viewed me.  But he didn’t stop there.  To cap things off, Daffy also arranged for LeFou to handle recapping duties this week.  So without further ado, here is LeFou.

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March 26: Happy Birthday Diana Ross and Keira Knightley


Diana Ross is turning 73 today.  As a child, she lived in the same Detroit neighborhood as Smokey Robinson for a few years.  At the age of 15 she joined an all-female singing group called the Primettes; within a little over a year they had won a talent competition, auditioned successfully for Motown, and changed the group’s name to The Supremes.  Initially a quartet, they soon were a trio when one member left to get married.

The Supremes were Motown’s most successful act during the sixties.  Initially all three members—Ross, Florence Ballard, and Mary Wilson—shared lead vocals, but in late 1963 Berry Gordy of Motown designated Ross as the group’s lead singer.  It was shortly after that that they had the first of their twelve #1 singles during the decade.  Any of those twelve is a good representation of the group’s style; this was one of them:

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