Monthly Archives: September 2017
Italian actress and model Monica Bellucci is turning 53 today. She began modeling in her teens and has continued working in the field alongside her career as an actress. She made her feature film debut in 1991 in an Italian film titled The Raffle, and a year later had a small part as one of Dracula’s brides in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Fluent in several languages, Bellucci has worked in Italian, French and English-language cinema through the years. She was nominated for a Cesar Award for the 1996 French film The Apartment, in which she costarred with her husband-to-be, Vincent Cassel. The two worked together again on the horror film Irréversible. She has also been a Donatello Award nominee, for the Italian film Remember Me, My Love, and a European Film Award nominee, for Malèna.
American audiences would know Bellucci from several films. She played Persephone in the two sequels to The Matrix, and a medical missionary in Tears of the Sun. She starred opposite Clive Owen in the action comedy Shoot ‘Em Up, and recently has appeared on Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle and as herself on the Twin Peaks limited series. And of course, as regular readers of this sight are aware, she was a Bond Girl in Spectre.
Today our headliners are two actresses who were both at their most popular in the 1940s, one for what today we would call prestige pictures, the other for genre films.
Greer Garson (1904-1996) was born in London, studied French and literature at King’s College London, and began working in English theater in the early 1930s. Louis Mayer signed her to a contract with MGM in 1937, and she made her film debut, and received her first Best Actress nomination (of seven), as the wife of the title character in 1939’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips. She went on to play Elizabeth Bennett in a 1940 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, and receive a second Oscar nomination for the 1941 film Blossoms in the Dust, before winning Best Actress for what is probably the best known role in her career.
Tom Kalin is an indie filmmaker. I’ll admit, I had never heard of him before. He made his directorial debut with the 1992 drama, Swoon. The movie retold the story of infamous child killers Leopold and Loeb with an emphasis on their homosexuality. Kalin’s film was part of a movement in the early nineties that was called New Queer Cinema. In the September 1992 issue of Movieline magazine, Hollywood writer Christopher Hunt met with the New York director to discuss the differences between his movie and two previous adaptations of the same story.
With Pandora in our rear view mirror, we spend a few more hours taking in some of the highlights of Animal Kingdom. While we do give Kilimanjaro Safaris a miss, top attractions like the Finding Nemo musical, Dinosaur!, and Expedition Everest wind up as priorities and we indulge in a wonderful meal at the still excellent signature dining restaurant Tiffins. Hmmm…I’ve just basically told you almost everything about this video. Watch it anyway, okay?
Independent filmmaker John Sayles celebrates his 67th birthday today. After attending Williams College, Sayles wrote a couple of novels in the mid-1970s, and then began writing scripts for some of Roger Corman’s films, such as Piranha and Battle Beyond the Stars. He took some of his early earnings as a screenwriter and used them to make his first feature, Return of the Secaucus 7, which is sometimes thought to have inspired a cycle of “reunion” films and TV Series (e.g., The Big Chill). It made about $2 million at the box office on a $60,000 budget and received very positive reviews.
Sayles has made close to 20 features since then. A few representative titles would include Matewan, Eight Men Out, Limbo, Casa de los Babys, and Silver City. He has also directed a few videos of Bruce Springsteen songs, worked as a script doctor for films like Apollo 13, and wrote an early draft of a screenplay for the film that became E.T. His most successful film in mainstream terms has probably been Lone Star, which brought Sayles his only Oscar nomination, for Best Original Screenplay.
Prior to Spider-Man, James Franco was a relative unknown. He was familiar to fans of the short-live sitcom, Freaks and Geeks, but Franco was hardly a household name. Playing Harry Osborne didn’t make Franco a star, but it opened doors. In this interview from the September 2002 issue of Movieline magazine, Franco was figuring out how to deal with his newfound fame.
Hip hop artist Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr., known by his performing name of Lil Wayne, turns 35 today. He wrote his first rap song at the age of eight, and began performing and recording when he was 14, as a member of Hot Boys. His debut solo album, The Block is Hot, came out when he was 17.
Lil Wayne released eleven studio albums between 1999 and 2013, had over thirty singles on which he was lead artist chart on Billboard’s Hot 100, and been a featured artist on another seventy or so charted singles. His most successful album was the 2008 release Tha Carter III, which became his biggest selling album, won a Grammy for Best Rap Album, and included two singles which won Grammys as well.
The Lego company is big. They don’t just make the little plastic bricks kids like to play with. Obviously, they also sell video games like Lego Dimensions. But Lego also operates a chain of retail stores and multiple theme parks. Lego have branched out into television and movies as well. In addition to the licensed properties that make up the majority of Lego Dimensions product, they have included a few of their own brands like Lego City and the Legend of Chima. Today, I will be looking at a couple of Fun Packs from these properties.
In case you didn’t know, Walt Disney World is in the process of a complex-wide rejuvenation that will see scads of new attractions over the next few years as the biggest tourist destination in the country looks to rebound from years of inaction and make themselves ready for their 50th anniversary on October 1st of 2021. That might seem like a long time off, but in construction time, it’s not that much.
Their big project opening this year, prior to next year’s Toy Story Land and the following year’s Star Wars themed Galaxy’s Edge, has been a full land in the Animal Kingdom devoted to James Cameron’s huge blockbuster Avatar. Believe it or not, Cameron is in the process of planning four more Avatar movies and Disney parks have bet big on the series and their new land devoted to it, Pandora, keeping visitor interest high. So far, so good, as Pandora has been a huge hit with Walt Disney World’s park guests, seeing big crowds and long lines in the new land since its Memorial Day opening. There are some reports that overall park attendance has not actually been helped by Pandora, just Animal Kingdom, but my guess is that this is looked at as just one step in their overall move to re-invigorate the profile of the parks complex, making it not just the favorite amongst families and nostalgics, but also with more modern audiences.
The still crowded Pandora would be the big target for us on the third day of our Labor Day weekend trip, and if you know me you know that means three words: Rope Drop, Baby. In fact, we took the prudent approach of getting to the park close to an hour prior to opening time. Although you will see us in the middle of a huge crowd anyway, what this will ultimately mean will be boarding the big buzz ride Flights of Passage just twenty minutes after the scheduled park opening. This means we ended up waiting roughly 80 minutes for the attraction, as opposed to people who showed up at the actual opening time who appear to have been facing a full three hour wait. The early nerds clear the berm.
follow us as we take you into the amazing world of Pandora, into the queue for Flights of Passage, for a bite at the Satu’li Canteen, and for a beautiful Navi River Journey.
Two-time Emmy winner Jill Soloway, known as a television producer, director and writer, and also as a playwright, novelist and comedian, is turning 52 today. After studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Soloway began a television career as writer for series like Baby Blues and Nikki. They then moved on to work as a writer and executive producer for HBO’s Six Feet Under (Soloway is on record as preferring to be referred to by the “singular they” pronoun).
Soloway has written and directed two films, the short Una Hora Por Favora and the feature Afternoon Delight, winning the Directing Award at Sundance for the latter. They also wrote the novella Jodi K and co-created the Amazon series I Love Dick. However, Soloway is best known as the creator of another Amazon web series, Transparent, which just had its fourth season premiere. They have won two Emmys for directing on Transparent, which has received eight Emmys total in its first three seasons and is the first Amazon series to win a major award.
Usually when I dig into the Movieline archives, I will omit some of the blurbs that the magazine published because they just aren’t meaty enough to stand alone. This time, however, I took two short pieces about Australian imports Russel Crowe and Guy Pearce who were being discovered by American audiences in L.A. Confidential when the September 1997 issue hit the shelves.
Actor and rapper Will Smith turns 49 today. He began his career as a rapper, performing as The Fresh Prince, almost immediately after his graduation from high school. He and Jeff Townes (aka DJ Jazzy Jeff) won the inaugural Grammy for Best Rap Performance in 1989. He also got himself into difficulty with the IRS, but escaped potential bankruptcy when he landed the starring role on NBC’s The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Success in films soon followed. In the early 1990s, he appeared in films like Made in America and Six Degrees of Separation, and he then starred in Bad Boys in 1995. In the next two years, he starred in the two biggest box office successes of his career (after adjusting for inflation), both sci-fi films, one a large-scale action thriller with an ensemble cast, the second an action comedy pairing him with Tommy Lee Jones.
Thanks to my brother’s family who are Disney Vacation Club members, i got the chance to spend a couple of nights at the Polynesian resort at Walt Disney World this past Labor Day weekend. This video is mostly what it says it is: a tour of the very nice DVC room we stayed in in the Pago Pago building. But if you take a look you’ll also catch a few glimpses of other parts of the resort, including our dinner at ‘Ohana on Saturday night. This really is a true vacation spot all on its own.