Monthly Archives: April 2017

April 30: Happy Birthday Kirsten Dunst and Gal Gadot


Our two headliners each appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live on the same day a little over a year ago, but sadly no one got them both in front of a camera at the same time.

Kirsten Dunst is celebrating her 35th birthday.  She made her first appearance on the big screen at just six, in New York Stories, and at twelve was nominated for a Golden Globe as the child vampire Claudia in Interview with the Vampire.  She appeared in several films over the rest of the decade, and as the 1990s transitioned to the 2000s, she was doing some of the teen-oriented films you’d have expected of an actress of her age (Bring it On, Get Over It), but also some “teen” films that were very atypical, such as The Virgin Suicides, along with this:

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April 29: Happy Birthday Willie Nelson and Michelle Pfeiffer


Willie Nelson is turning 84 today.  He dropped out of college in the mid-fifties to pursue a career in country music, and had his first success when he wrote the song “Family Bible,” which became a Top 10 Country hit for Claude Gray in 1960.  He was moderately successful as a recording artist in the sixties but more known as a songwriter for other performers, writing hits like Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.”  By the end of the sixties he had become dissatisfied with the traditional “Nashville sound” of country and in the early seventies he became one of the faces of the “outlaw country” movement, along with Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson, among others.

After a couple of switches of recording label, Nelson ended up with Columbia in the mid seventies, and entered a period of enormous critical and commercial success.  From 1975-78, he released five solo albums, beginning with the legendary Red Headed Stranger, four of which reached #1 on the US Country chart, the fifth “only” making #2.  In addition he contributed to two collaborative albums that also reached #1, Wanted! The Outlaws (with Jennings, Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser) and Waylon & Willie (with, well, just guess).

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Out of the Past and Into the Fire

Cinefiles love film noir when it’s done right.  But the genre has had a spotty track record since its glory days in Old Hollywood.  In the April 1992 issue of Movieline magazine, Stephen Rebello examined some of the reasons neo-noir usually doesn’t work.

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Spring Break at Walt Disney World: Hopping to the Magic Kingdom! – Daffy Does Disney

In today’s video I use the new express park hopping bus service for the first time and report in on it. Then I get busy having some fun in the Magic Kingdom prior to my dinner at the Polynesian resort.

April 28: Happy Birthday Penelope Cruz and Jessica Alba


The pictures above were both taken at the 2009 Independent Spirit Awards, where Penelope Cruz won Best Supporting Actress and Jessica Alba was one of the presenters who gave her the award.  I actually found a photo of the two of them together, but it wasn’t very usable as Penelope’s back was to the camera. 🙂

Oscar winner Penelope Cruz celebrates her 43rd today.  Her first appearance was in a 1989 music video for the Spanish pop band Mecano, and in the early 1990s she hosted a teen-oriented Spanish television show, La Quinta Marcha.  She made an impressive feature film debut in 1992, starring in two films.  She won the Goya Award for Best Actress for Jamón Jamón, which was her first time appearing with her future husband, Javier Bardem.  She also starred in Belle Époque, which won the Goya for Best Picture and the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Cruz emerged as a major star in Spanish film over the 1990s.  In 1997, she began a regular working relationship with director Pedro Almodóvar, appearing in his Life Flesh, while also starring in Alejandro Amenábar’s Open Your Eyes.  A year later she made her American film debut in The Hi-Lo Country, and won a second Goya for Best Actress for starring in The Girl of Your Dreams.  As her Hollywood career expanded, she briefly became a Razzie target, for films such as Vanilla Sky, Cameron Crowe’s remake of Open Your Eyes.  But in 2006 she starred in Almodóvar’s Volver, winning her third Goya Award and receiving her first Oscar nomination, for Best Actress.

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Under-rated Orlando: Universal

There may be no easier way to start a fight than to bring up Universal Orlando in a crowd of Disney World fans.  Ever since Universal set up shop in Disney’s backyard, fans of the central Florida theme parks have been debating which is the better resort.  I’m going to side-step that third rail by stating up front that both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando are terrific vacation destinations.  I’m not here to argue that one is better than the other.  But I will make a case that Universal is under-rated.

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April 27: Happy Birthday Sally Hawkins and Jenna Coleman


Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins is turning 41 today.  A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, she began working in English theater and television in the late nineties.  On the small screen, she appeared in adaptations of two Sarah Waters novels, Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith, and gave an acclaimed performance in an ITV adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.  Her stage roles include Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and Hero in Much Ado About Nothing.

Her film roles have included a small part in Matthew Vaughn’s Layer Cake, supporting roles in adaptations of Jane Eyre and Great Expectations, and a rare venture into big-budget action cinema in 2014’s Godzilla.  However, her most important film work has been with Mike Leigh and Woody Allen.  Leigh gave her her first credited film role in All or Nothing, a supporting part in Vera Drake, and then cast her in the starring role of Poppy Cross in Happy-Go-Lucky, for which she won a Golden Globe and a long list of additional awards.  She appeared in a supporting part in Allen’s Cassandra’s Dream, and then received a long list of Best Supporting Actress accolades, including Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, as Ginger in Blue Jasmine.

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Jared Leto: Thriving in the Dark

Everyone talks about Matthew McConaughey’s comeback.  Admittedly, the “McConaissance” was impressive, but Dallas Buyers Club also represented a massive comeback for Jared Leto.  Leto had been best-known as the teen heartthrob on the short-lived TV show “My So-Called Life”.  When that show was cancelled, he spent years trying to change his image.  Rather than taking lead roles in light-weight romantic comedies (as McConaughey did), Leto took supporting parts in movies like Fight Club, The Thin Red Line  and Panic Room.  Over a decade before those efforts paid off in the form of an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, Leto talked to Movieline magazine about his so-called career.

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Spring Break at Walt Disney World: Great Movies and Brown Derbies – Daffy Does Disney

Join me as I board a classic ride, eat a classic meal, and track down the citizens of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The fun is just getting started!

April 26: Happy Birthday Jet Li and Carol Burnett


Jet Li, one of the leading action stars of Asian cinema for the last 35 years, turns 54 today.  After a career in martial arts, winning several wushu championships, he went into acting at the age of 19, starring in Shaolin Temple, the first of a number of films that any aficionado of the martial arts cinema of Hong Kong would doubtless be familiar with.  Some of the others have included the Once Upon a Time in China series, about a Chinese folk hero named Wong Fei-hung, and Fist of Legend, a remake of a Bruce Lee classic.  He has also starred in Zhang Yimou’s Oscar-nominated Hero, and made his first appearance with Jackie Chan in The Forbidden Kingdom.

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Review: Anomalisa (2015) and Don’t Think Twice (2016)

If you remember, I did retrospectives on either all the movies I saw in theaters last year or all the movies that came out last year that I didn’t get the chance to see. However, there were two movies I forgot to mention. It’s not that they were forgettable (they were both pretty good) but because, in trying to remember all the movies I saw last year, it was hard not to skip a couple by accident.

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Happy Birthday Al Pacino and Renee Zellweger


Al Pacino, who turns 77, is one of the winners of the unofficial Triple Crown of Acting, having won at least one competitive Oscar, Emmy and Tony in an acting category.  A former student of Lee Strasberg’s at the Actor’s Studio, he is now one of the Studio’s co-presidents along with Ellen Burstyn and Harvey Keitel.  He first became known for his stage work, winning a Tony in his Broadway debut in the play Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?  He has remained committed to the stage throughout his career, winning a second Tony for David Rabe’s The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel, and appearing over the years in multiple plays by Shakespeare and David Mamet.

In the film world, Pacino was a relative unknown when director Francis Ford Coppola cast him in what may still be his most famous screen role:

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Kelly Preston: One, Two, Three

In the late 90’s, John Travolta was enjoying his post Pulp Fiction comeback.  His career was firing on all cylinders.  His wife, Kelly Preston, was getting back to work after having given birth to the couple’s first child.  Preston had been working as an actress for over a decade without attracting much attention.  But after a couple of supporting roles in buzzworthy movies, Preston’s career started heating up.

It was during this period of increased relevancy that Martha Frankel interviewed Preston for a profile in Movieline magazine.  Frankel’s questions are mostly about Preston’s famous husband, but Preston doesn’t seem to mind.  The piece ran in the April 1997 issue of Movieline magazine.  From a modern day point of view, the article takes on a different tone in light of Preston’s son’s tragic death in 2009.

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