Ask 411 Movies for 07.30.12: The Time of Your Life!
Posted by Leonard Hayhurst on 07.30.2012
Did Speed reinvent the time bomb plot cliché? Did The Cosby Show theme ripoff an R&B classic? Did Robin Williams use Mork and Mindy to reflect on John Belushi's death? All this and more covered this week in Ask 411 Movies!
What Leonard Recently Watched
I caught a couple episodes of Charlie Sheen's new FX series Anger Management. It's like a watered down version of Two and a Half Men. The humor is similar and Sheen plays a similar character, again named Charlie. I think he's competing with Tony Danza to see how many television characters he can play with the same first name as his own. Where it differs from Two and a Half Men is having a very traditional sitcom feel in the plot layouts and progression. So, it's this mix of trying to be edgy while having an old feel to it and it just comes off as uneven while also be very C-grade in the writing.
The only laughs came from Barry Corbin as a bigoted curmudgeon part of Sheen's therapy group. Sheen is a therapist who is sleeping with his own therapist, played by Selma Blair, while trying to raise his teenage daughter and getting along with his ex-wife.
With nothing else to do as a I waited to get a new starter in my car Saturday morning, I watched Mystery Men from 1999 on Comedy Central. I like the cast and character concepts, but found the pace to be slow and the plot too thin even for a super hero parody movie. William H. Macy was my favorite as the Shoveler. His power is that he shovels well. He doesn't shovel really fast, he can't lift really heavy things with his shovel, he's just a really good shoveler. Janeane Garofalo, who I can often find to be grating, properly underplayed her role as the Bowler and I think she had the most interesting back story and powers. Her father was a hero known for his bowling prowess. After being murdered, his daughter puts his skull in a ball. The ball is possessed with his spirit and acts as a wrecking ball.
In the movie, a group of C-level superheroes come together to save Champion City from Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush) after real hero Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear) is taken hostage. Paul Reubens plays the Spleen, with fart powers, Hank Azaria is the Blue Raja, who can throw silverware, and Ben Stiller is Mr. Furious, who gains super strength and fighting prowess when mad.
Obscure Television Show of the Week
Title: The Master
Air Dates: Jan. 20 to Aug. 31, 1984
Cast: Lee Van Cleef as John Peter McAllister, Timothy Van Patton as Max Keller and Sho Kosugi as Okasa
Premise: John Peter McAllister was stationed in Japan after World War II and became fascinated by the ways of the ninja. He eventually joined a sect and became the only westerner to achieve the rank of master. When younger members of the group began using their skills for evil, McAllister broke his oath and left the sect. He returned to the United States to find his daughter and team up with young adventurer Max Keller. Okasa led a group of ninjas pursuing McAllister for his betrayal.
Ask 411 Remembers
Actor Sherman Hemsley died July 24 of natural causes. He was 74. He starred on The Jeffersons and Amen and appeared in movies such as Love at First Bite, Ghost Fever, Club Fed, Mr. Nanny, Jane Austen's Mafia and American Pie Presents: The Book of Love. Few probably know that Hemsley recorded as a jazz keyboardist. Below his is performance of "Eyes in the Dark" from Soul Train in 1992. The lip synching is awful, but the dancing is awesome.
Actor Chad Everett also died July 24 of lung cancer. He was 76. He starred on the series Medical Center and also appeared in such movies as Airplane II: The Sequel, Mullholland Drive, Johnny Tiger, Get Yourself a College Girl, The Last Challenge, The Impossible Years and the Psycho remake. He also served as co-host of the MDA Labor Day Telethon for several years. Below, Everett gives a heartfelt response to Jerry Lewis' performance of a rewritten version of the song "Could it be Magic."
Q: I was watching Malcolm X and in the scene before his assasinaton when he and his wife are being harassed over the phone there is a song playing that sounds just like the Cosby Show theme (6th/7th season I think). Did Malcolm X rip off The Cosby Show song?
A: The song from Malcolm X you're referring to is "Shotgun" by Junior Walker and the All Stars. It peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1965. It has been used in such movies as How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Misery and Martin Scorsese's first feature Who's That Knocking at My Door.
The main theme for The Cosby Show is called "Kiss Me" and was composed by Bill Cosby and Stu Gardner. Different versions of the theme appeared over the years, including one that sounded very similar to "Shotgun" in seasons six and seven.
Originally, the season seven opening credits had the cast dancing in front a mural with a sort of hip-hop version of the theme. The producers wanted to use the "Street of Dreams" mural painted by inner city youth from the Creative Arts Workshop in Harlem, but discovered they would need permission from all 63 kids who worked on it. So, they commissioned their own similar work instead. It was too much alike and the workshop threatened to sue the series. Cosby consented to go back to the season six opening and the original opening was only scene on a few episodes in a few markets. The opening was used for season eight with all of the kids who worked on the original mural getting recognition in the closing credits.
Q: How many films have had their climax center around a literal ticking time bomb? A couple of summer blockbusters have involved them, and I'm wondering what the most notable examples are.
Many movies and television shows have had its finale or centered around the protagonist trying to find and disarm a ticking time bomb before it's too late. To put together a definitive list would be hard, but I'll give some notable examples below. I'm guessing this questions was prompted from a current movie that uses the plot device. I won't name it as not to incite the ire of the spoiler police.
The most textbook version of the time bomb plot is probably 1974's Juggernaut starring Richard Harris, Anthony Hopkins and Omar Sharif. A luxury liner owned by Ian Holm is rigged with seven explosives while in choppy waters on the Atlantic. A bomb team led by Harris parachute onto the boat, have to find the bombs and disarm them before dawn. Meanwhile, on land Hopkins leads the hunt for the bomber, known was Juggernaut. The final scene has Harris debating whether to cut the white or blue wire to stop the bomb he's working on so his team knows what to do.
Speed from 1994 pretty much redefined the gimmick, even though a lot of critics called it 'Die Hard on a Bus.' It goes from being a matter of time to a matter speed, but the basic concept is the same. A bomb is on a bus and is armed when it goes over 50 mph. If it drops below 50 mph it explodes. Keanu Reeves plays the cop trying to save the passengers with Sandra Bullock in her star making role as the passenger who takes over as driver. Even after the bus is taken out of the equation, bomber Dennis Hopper rigs Bullock herself to explode unless Reeves can stop him.
Other films I can readily come up with that have significant time bomb scenes include Die Hard with a Vengeance, Octopussy, Goldfinger, Blown Away, Swordfish, Live Wire and Broken Arrow, even though that's a nuclear missile. Also at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Khan pretty much turns the Genesis device into a time bomb that the Enterprise has to escape from.
Q: Hey Mr H.,
Thanks once again for answering our questions. So I would say until this week the HUB was running Mork and Mindy. It appears to have suddenly been pulled. Anyway, I was DVRing some of it and caught one called Mork meets Robin Williams. If you are not familiar people in town mistake Mork for Robin Williams, hilarity ensues and they meet in the dressing room before his show and Mindy interviews him. Now, it was all laughs and then the interview and especially ending with Mork talking to Orson got serious. In character he speaks to Orson about the sudden death of stars such as Jimmy Hendrix and a few others I fail to recall. It just seemed almost like it was autobiographical as of he was reflecting on the Robin Williams the person. Was he in the midst of his cocaine abuse and reflecting on his mortality or did someone die that caused such a really odd ending to the episode but they couldn't address them by name (Belushi)?
A: "Mork Meets Robin Williams" is the 65th episode of the series Mork and Mindy airing Feb. 19, 1981, during the program's third season. John Belushi died March 5, 1982, more than a year after the episode aired. So, your theory there is wrong and I couldn't find anything online directly stating the episode was some sort of reflection by Robin Williams on his own life. By Williams' own admission he was heavily addicted to cocaine during the period of Mork and Mindy and only came around when the death of Belushi and the birth of his son in April 1983 served as wake-up calls. The episode was written by Dale McRaven and Bruce Johnson, both producers on the series. Whether this was them commenting on Williams and his life from their observations would seem possible, but hard to say.
Q: You mentioned Andy Griffith's passing in your 7/16 column and noted his role in "A Face in the Crowd". TCM played the movie during a night of tribute to Andy the next day.
I had never seen the movie and have to say it was a remarkable film. There were so many things that hit me. Kazan and Schulberg's obvious contempt for the rise of television was evident. A fantastic performance by Patricia O'Neal, who was repulsed by Griffith but was too caught up in his ride to fame to do anything about it.
The film seemed to predict our current decade when it seems any yahoo can get a reality TV show and have people watch it.
I also wonder if the Lonesome character is based on Arthur Godfrey. Godfrey wasn't over the top and in your face, but his true persona was probably just as nasty as Lonesome when the camera was off.
I didn't completely buy into the story because Lonesome Rhodes was so over the top and in your face that I wouldn't think the 50's TV viewing office would like him. Still, this is a film everyone should try to catch,
A: I'm glad you enjoyed the movie. As you note, Lonesome Rhodes might seem a bit over the top for television in the 1950s, but he certainly seems at home in this day and age of in your face political talking heads and reality show hangers on.
For those who haven't seen the movie, Marcia (Patricia Neal) is a small time radio show producer who plucks Lonesome Rhodes (Andy Griffith) out of an Arkansas jail to sing on her show. His folksy humor and charm eventually leads to him getting a national radio show and then onto television. Rhodes' manipulative personality comes out as he emotionally toys with Marcia and looks to be the power behind the throne of a potential presidential candidate. Marcia sabotages Rhodes by leaving the microphones on over the credits of his show and the viewers get to hear what he really thinks of them.
The movie is based on the short story "Your Arkansas Traveler" by Budd Schulberg. Schulberg has been quoted as saying that social commentator and humorist Will Rogers was a main inspiration for his story. Some have also seen parallels between Rhodes and radio host John Henry Faulk, who was blacklisted during the communist witch hunts of Joseph McCarthy, and Arthur Godfrey.
Godfrey was a radio and television show host of the 1950s. He was known for making fun of sponsors on the air, which actually drove sales up, something seen in A Face in the Crowd. Godfrey was a sought after pitchman who fronted such huge national brands as Chesterfield cigarettes, Frigidaire, Pillsbury and Lipton Tea. Godrey hosted several morning and evening variety shows on CBS.
Those who worked with Godfrey behind the scenes noted him as being volatile and controlling. CBS historian Robert Metz in his book CBS: Reflections in a Bloodshot Eye quoted Godfrey as having once told cast and staffers, "Remember that many of you are here over the bodies I have personally slain. I have done it before and I can do it again." Godfrey's popularity waned after the on-air radio firing of regular cast member singer Julius LeRosa in Oct. 1953.
LeRosa missed a dance lesson due to a family emergency and Godfrey banned him from the show for a day. Godfrey allegedly was threatened by LeRosa's growing popularit and tensions rose from there. After singing "Manhattan," on the broadcast in question, Godfrey said it was LeRosa's "swan song" with the program and he knew LeRosa would go onto be a big star with his own shows. LeRosa had no idea he was being fired and this was a huge personal blow to him. Word on what was happening behind the scenes leaked and fans were in an uproar. LeRosa and his agent held a press conference on the firing. Godfrey did the same, where he said LeRosa had lost his humility, drawing an even further backlash. Godfrey also said he was granting LeRosa a release from his contract as he asked for, but could not prove LeRosa ever asked to be let go.
Godfrey then fired many other regulars as a message to others who worked for him, but the strategy backfired as they went onto other shows and Godfrey's folksy image in the public was ruined. His airtime was cutback to the point that he was only hosting the occasional special by 1960. This coincided with Godfrey cutting back his own schedule anyway due to lung cancer. He died of emphysema in March 1983.
"We struck down evil with the mighty sword of teamwork and the hammer of not bickering."