Ask 411 Movies for 11.26.12: Four Score and Seven Columns Ago!
Posted by Leonard Hayhurst on 11.26.2012
Why did the Alien franchise go downhill? Is Lincoln worth seeing? Is Arnold Schwarzenegger the actor to get the farthest on the least talent? All this and more covered this week in Ask 411 Movies!
What Leonard Recently Watched Lincoln should be fascinating to history buffs, but might be a bit dry and dull for average film viewers. The movie focuses on Lincoln's political battle to pass the 13th amendment, abolishing slavery, through the House of Representatives. Daniel Day Lewis supposedly studied every known document about how Lincoln moved, acted and spoke to give the most accurate portrayal of a man no one alive knows what was like. Sally Field as Mary Todd and Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens are great in support. The whole cast is studded with familiar faces, so it makes a fun game of who's that guy. As always with Stephen Spielberg you get stellar direction and production values. So it's a really solid film from top to bottom, but not really compelling entertainment.
Obscure Television Series of the Week
Title: The New Monkees
Air Dates: Fall 1987
Cast: Larry Saltis, Dino Kovas, Jared Chandler and Marty Ross as themselves with Gordon Oas-Heim as Manford, Bess Motta as Rita and Lynne Godfrey as Helen
Premise: The Monkees became hot again in 1986 thanks to a reunion tour and MTV rerunning their programs. This led to a new series with a fresh quartet of young dudes for the 1980s. They lived in a massive mansion with crazy rooms and gadgets. They had a butler named Manford and hung out in a diner connected to the house, featuring Rita the waitress. Helen was a pair of bodiless lips that commented on the action by appearing on television screens, of which the house was full of.
Ask 411 Remembers
Larry Hagman, 81, died Nov. 23 of throat cancer. He was the star of Dallas and I Dream of Jeannie along with appearing in movies such as Ensign Pulver, Fail-Safe, In Harm's Way, Mother Jugs and Speed, Superman, S.O.B., Nixon, Primary Colors and Beware! The Blob, the only feature he ever directed. I was a big fan. I never got to meet him, but my friend Dan got me an autographed photo of him at a convention once I couldn't go to. Below an interview with Hagman promoting the new Dallas back in August.
Actress Deborah Raffin, 59, died of leukemia Nov. 21. Her work includes Death Wish 3, Dance of the Dwarfs, Noble House, Grizzly II: The Concert, Scanners II: The New Order, The Sentinel, God Told Me Too, They Dove, Once is Not Enough and recurring roles on 7th Heavens and Secret Life of the American Teenager. She was also the founder of an audio book company. Below a brief clip from her film Killing at Hell's Gate with Joel Higgins and Robert Urich.
On Our Last Episode
Vince asked about a television series on Fox featuring a suburban family that had an episode with a softball team filled with girls named Kaitlyn. Orange Chapeu in the comments said it was Hidden Hills. This was an NBC series and the daughter's name was Emily, not Kaitlyn, but the "Coach Doug" episode sounds like the one Vince was thinking of. The series aired 13 episodes of 18 made from 2002-2003. It was based on the book Surviving Suburbia. I couldn't find the intro, but the theme was Pleasant Valley Sunday by the Monkees. The real Monkees, damn it!!! Good lord, Davy has no idea how to play that bass.
Oy asked about another Fox series in the comments last week.
Q: Have you ever seen any of The War at Home? It was a Fox sitcom with Michael Rapaport and the kid who played Logan Lerman's best friend on Jack & Bobby. I think it only lasted a couple seasons, but I have fond memories of it.
A: The War at Home ran two seasons of 44 episodes on Fox from 2005 to 2007. Dave Gold (Michael Rapaport) is an insurance salesman Jew on Long Island who is a hypocritical, paranoid bigot often overly tough on his wife (Anita Barone) and children. Particularly Mike is hard on middle child Larry (Kyle Sullivan) who he thinks is gay. It turns out that Larry isn't gay, but his best friend Kenny (Rami Malek) is and he has a crush on Larry. The series was actually praised by critics and gay rights groups for their handling of the storyline. The series was known for constant fourth wall breaking, mostly from Dave, as characters would comment on what was going on directly to the audience. Here's an opening...in Spanish. Sometimes it's the best I can do.
Adam asked if The War at Home featured "the chick that's married to Tony Hawk." Negatory. None of Hawk's three wives have ever done acting, although his last wife, Lhotse Merriam, has appeared in skate videos and done appearances with Hawk on shows. They married in 2006 and divorced in 2011. They have a daughter, Kadence.
Previously, Hawk was married to Cindy Dunbar from 1990 to 1993. They have a son Riley. Then he was married to Erin Lee from 1996 to 2004. They have two children, Spencer and Keegan.
Q: Hey I saw that you didn't have any questions this week. The new comment system is hit or miss, a lot of times it doesn't work for me.
Anyway, when did infomercials start? When did tv channels start setting aside time just for paid programming? When did they end midnite movies in favor of only infomercials?
Also have you ever seen the Santo movies? I have never seen a complete list and want to watch them all. I have heard there is up to 150+, at a rate of one a week, that would take me 3 years. Since I don't speak Spanish, I may be missing information on exactly how many movies and what order they came out in.
Finally I just saw Prometheus and realized I never saw any of the Alien movies. I watched the first 4 in one sitting and by the time I got to Alien Resurrection, what the Hell happened. They had a wonderful franchise and it felt like they had to put the 90s extreme spin on it. Have not seen the Alien vs Predator movies but I hear they are even worse.
Love the column and look forward to it every week.
A: The term 'informercial' for a half hour long commercial presented as if it was a 'real' television program was coined by ad man Paul Ruffino in 1982. His CineStar was a pioneer in the format and the first informercial, according to Wikipedia, was for a hair growth treatment the same year. Infomercials exploded after 1984 when the Federal Communications Commission eliminated regulations governing the amount of commercial content per broadcast hour. The reason they became so popular and replaced programming like late night movies is because companies would purchase time from the channel. The channel didn't have to shell out money for movie rights, hosts, sets, etc. It was a bigger money making opportunity than selling traditional commercial time for traditional programming. One of my favorite, cheesy informercials of all time is below. It's for the Magic Bullet, the blender that killed JFK. You know these people are waking up from a swingers party the night before.
For all your Santo needs, head over to www.creepyclassics.com and buy them from my friend Ron Adams. The Mexican wrestler El Santo starred in 52 films between 1958 and 1982. Several of the more popular ones have been dubbed into English including Santo vs. the Zombies, Santo vs. the Vampire Women, Santo in the Wax Museum and Santo vs. Dr. Death. Several films feature him teaming up with other popular masked wrestlers like Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras. Both are featured in Santo in the Bermuda Mystery. Most of the films featured Santo battling monsters like the Wolf Man and Dracula. Some were sci-fi and a few of the later ones tied into the kung fu craze of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The below clip is from Santo vs. Blue Demon in Atlantis from 1969.
Alien (1979): The Nostromo comes upon a derelict alien spacecraft on a planet. They find strange eggs on the ship. One bursts and a parasite attacks a crew member. He seems fine until a strange creature bursts out of his chest and quickly grows into a giant black monster that eats the rest of the crew, save for Sigourney Weaver's Ripley.
After finishing Dark Star, producer Dan O'Bannon wanted to develop some themes of that film further, such as the basic idea of a spaceship crew searching for an unseen alien threat. O'Bannon joined with screenwriter Ronald Shusett, who brought in some ideas from his script for Gremlins about a World War II plane crew dealing with gremlins. The movie was going to be called Star Beast, until O'Bannon realized how much the word alien was said in the script. Originally the movie was going to be low budget with Tom Skerritt as Ripley. However, the success of Star Wars and recent horror films with strong female leads led to Ripley being turned into a woman and Fox pumping a lot more cash into the project.
Aliens (1986): Ripley is awakened aboard a space station from hypersleep 57 years after the first film. The planet from the first movie has now been terraformed to support human life. When contact with the colony is lost, Ripley has a good idea what happens and goes with the space station crew to check it out.
The original film was a success, but Fox didn't consider doing a sequel until James Cameron expressed interest in doing one in 1983. They gave him the nod after The Terminator proved a surprise hit in 1985.
Alien 3 (1992): Ripley survives the last movie by being shot out in an escape pod. It lands on a prison planet with an alien egg. Ripley discovers she has an alien queen inside her and decides to sacrifice herself to hopefully end the alien threat for good.
This was envisioned to close the film series, but it didn't happen. Originally, Weaver didn't want to come back at all, so producers moved forward without her. Fox president Joe Roth demanded Weaver be in the movie, so they waived enough money at her until she decided to join up. The film was a mess from the start, entering production without a finished script and with about a $1 million already blown. Third choice David Fincher was given the director's chair, but the studio took the final edit away from him.
Alien Resurrection (1997): After 200 years from the last movie, Ripley is cloned and the alien inside her removed. The idea is to use human hosts to breed aliens for study. Of course, that plan doesn't go well and it's up to Ripley again to save the universe.
Once again, the idea was to do a movie without Weaver, but the powers that be wanted her in. She was paid $1 million, crazy for an actress at the time, and certain creative control, such as approval of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Again, pre-production was a mess, the film ran over deadline and over budget. Even so, budget constraints wound up to a slash and burn of Joss Whedon's original script. The final version bared little resemblance to his draft and Whedon has said he felt the movie did everything wrong with his basic ideas.
A few questions about talent:
Who do you think are some of the actors who have gotten the furthest on the least amount of talent? I'm talking ones who've had either major film careers, or were television leads in successful series (I think Alan Thicke is usually a token answer here).
On the flip side, who do you think were the most talented actors who, for whatever reason, were tried at the top but just never worked?
Your recent obscure sitcoms brought up another interesting question in my head: what actors who have been the lead in more than one successful sitcom? It seems that networks are often trying to plug big stars into new sitcoms (both Tim Allen and Patricia Heaton within the last couple of years; heck, even William Shatner would kind of fit in here), but it rarely works out. Off the top of my head, there's Bob Newhart, Tony Danza, and Bea Arthur.
A: William Shatner has had a few successful series, but none of them sitcoms. His biggest series were Star Trek, T.J. Hooker, Rescue 911and Boston Legal. Bob Newart has been in The Bob Newhart Show and Newhart with Bob and George and Leo not fairing as well. Tony Danza had hits with Taxi and Who's the Boss? with Hudson Street, The Tony Danza Show, Family Law and Baby Talk, where he voiced the infant in the Look Who's Talking TV knock off, also not doing well. Bea Arthur had The Golden Girls and Maude. Her Golden Girls costar Betty White has been on a bunch of shows as a supporting character or recurring character. She's currently on Hot in Cleveland and her other most successful stint was on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
There's a lot of people who had two successful shows. If you want to stretch things a little bit, the most successful sitcom wise as a lead would be Bill Cosby. Most remember The Cosby Show and Cosby, but the stretch comes if you count his involvement with Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and The Electric Company. He also had The Bill Cosby Show that ran two seasons where he played a gym teacher and one season of The Cosby Mysteries. I Spy was successful, but was a spy drama, not a comedy despite comedic touches.
If you really think about, Arnold Schwarzenegger has probably gotten the farthest on the least acting talent. Sure he has a great look and physical presence, but his accent is thicker than molasses and he was wooden as a board, especially starting out. Notice that most of his iconic roles like Conan, the Terminator and Dutch in Predator involves little dialogue and mostly him just killing stuff.
On the female side, you have to go with Pamela Anderson who is pretty much just a great pair of fake tits. Outside of Baywatch and her brief stint on Home Improvement starting out, none of her movies or television shows were successful, but yet she was a pop culture staple throughout the 1990s. At least Jenny McCarthy has shown a certain degree of comedic talent.
For someone tried at the top that didn't catch on with talent, I'll give you Carl Weathers, who costarred with Arnie in Predator and Sylvester Stallone in the first four Rocky films. Weathers had the look and physical presence of those guys, plus you could understand what he was saying and he actually displayed some solid acting chops. Plus, there were no black action stars in the 1980s, so there was a hole to be filled. Action Jackson in 1988 was supposed to be his coming out party as a lead, but it flopped sending him back to low budget leads and supporting parts in bigger films.
Amanda Peet became one of the most talked about performers in The Whole Nine Yards in 2000 even though she shared the screen with bigger names like Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry. Maybe the fact that she was naked helped. Due to this, the indy comedy Whipped was quickly sold as a Peet vehicle, when it really wasn't, and was supposed to feature her being super raunchy, again, not so much. The movie is about three womanizers who scam women until all three fall for the same gal, Peet. Peet continues to work strong, but didn't become the next Cameron Diaz after There's Something About Mary that some were banking on her to be.
Movie executives will always try to capitalize on a big hit. After Tropic Thunder was huge it was like what else do we have that is a lewd, controversial comedy that takes a lot of swipes at Hollywood and pop culture. If someone from Tropic Thunder is in it, even better. Steve Coogan only had a small role in Tropic Thunder and also had good notice for his smaller role, physical size wise, as Octavius in Night at the Museum. Hamlet 2 was basically sold as a cross between South Park and Tropic Thunder with a tour de force comedic performance from Coogan. Again it was this indy comedy that got picked up and pushed because the star had a recent strong supporting role. When you bill a film as the breakout comedy of the year, that's probably not going to happen. Coogan in the movie plays a failed actor turned high school drama teacher. He attempts to stage a controversial play that sees Hamlet and Jesus Christ traveling to the modern day in a time machine. The show features songs like "Raped in the Face" and "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus." I'm not saying the movie isn't funny and cool, I like it, it just wasn't a big hit and broke Coogan out the way it was advertised.
Okay, need more questions. Everybody get on that.
"It's not important how many people I've killed. What's important is how I get along with the people who are still alive."