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Ask 411 Movies for 01.21.13: Told You I'd Be Back!
Posted by Leonard Hayhurst on 01.21.2013

Last week I talked about how I was in a car wreck. Everyone was okay, but my ride was totaled. I got a 2005 Toyota Camry from a friend's dad who has a car lot. I like it a lot better than my old Taurus and haven't had any trouble with it so far. Let's see if I can hang onto this one.

What Leonard Recently Watched

The Last Stand probably would have went straight to DVD if it wasn't for Arnold Schwarzenegger starring. Why it wasn't like his 1980s classics, it did feel like any number of knock-off action flicks from the 1990s. I like that it didn't use straight exposition and tried to relay information through natural conversation. However, that did mean some elements didn't get explained properly. There's only a toss away line at the end about Arnie being an immigrant, even though he sticks out like a sore thumb in a rural Arizona town filled with rednecks and Hispanics. Johnny Knoxville and Luis Guzman did their usual shtick in comedy relief. Jaimie Alexander, probably best known as Sif in Thor, had a really undeveloped character, but came off well. I liked the nicely staged car chase through a corn field and the final fight was well choreographed. It might be okay to check out on DVD if you're a big Schwarzenegger fan. I'd say six out of 10.

Obscure Television Series of the Week
Title: Dirty Dancing
Air Dates: Oct. 29, 1988, to Jan. 14, 1989
Network: CBS
Cast: Patrick Cassidy as Johnny Castle, Melora Hardin as Frances "Baby" Kellerman, Constance Marie as Penny Rivera, Paul Feig as Norman Bryant, John Wesley as Sweets Walker, Mandy Ingher as Robin Kellerman, Charles Stratton as Neil Mumford and McLean Stevenson as Max Kellerman

Premise: We wrap our look at the terrible sitcoms of McLean Stevenson. MASH was the rare exception of a feature film being adapted into a successful television series. Stevenson started on the program and freely admitted leaving was his worst career decision. He proved lightning doesn't strike twice as the TV adaptation of Dirty Dancing was a big flop.

Stevenson was the owner of Kellerman's resort in the Catskills and father of Baby, different from the movie. She falls for Johnny, the resort's sexy dance instructor, while serving as talent coordinator. Penny, Johnny's dance partner, wasn't keen on that.

Ask 411 Movies Remembers
Robert Chew, 52, died Jan. 17 of heart failure. He was best known for playing drug lord Proposition Joe on all five seasons of The Wire. He also appeared on the David Simon shows Homicide: Life on the Streets and The Corner.

Conrad Bain, 89, died of natural causes on Jan. 14. He played Philip Drummond on Diff'rent Strokes and Dr. Arthur Harmon on Maude along with other supporting roles.

On our last episode...
Last week we had a question on the biggest bombs of 2012. Some people debated in the comments how Hollywood factors its budgets and when a movie would turn a profit based on estimated budgets.

In general, industry experts say a movie needs to make back at least twice its budget globally to turn a profit. Additional revenue can come from home release, television and merchandising, but that's just gravy and can be heavily affected by the theatrical run.

Studios usually don't release exact budgets and what you see listed on IMDB and such are estimates based on either the studio releasing some general figures or industry experts crunching from rough numbers. These estimates usually don't include promotion and marketing fees. On average, these will be about half of the budget, but can go up with larger movies. For some very modestly budgeted movies, the promotional budget can be even more than what it took to make the picture.

Distributors also don't get all the money the movie makes as some goes to theaters. This can vary by film, distributor and theater chain. This can be anywhere from 45 percent to 60 percent.

This article I found provided most of the information above and really explains how the system works in detail.

Kid in the comments asked who I thought the greatest actor of all time was and I basically covered this topic in the Dec. 17 column. In short, my personal list of the best film actors of all time in order would be Paul Newman, Orson Welles, Spencer Tracy, Jack Nicholson, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and George Clooney. I'm sure there's several of your personal favorites I didn't mention and that's fine, those are just my favorites who I think have also exhibited superior acting talent in a majority of performances. As I said in the previous column, John Wayne is probably my all time favorite actor, but I realize that he's not in the to 10 best. However, I do think people underrate him, because he was often lazy and reverted to playing the John Wayne character when not pushed by a director like John Ford or Howard Hawks.

Q: Good day to you, sir! Hope you had a happy birthday! As always, I owe you a HUGE debt of gratitude as it was sending you questions that first got my name and thoughts on the pages of 411mania.com, and look at me now; who would have thought 80 Steps to Jonah and some good Glen Campbell talk (where is that bio pic?!?!) would have led me to 7+ years of columns and conversations with Oscar, Golden Globe, Emmy, and Tony winners?

My question for you today is about kids on TV; we all know Frankie and Annette became stars after the Mickey Mouse Club, and years later Justin, Christina, and Britney did the same, but what about other shows? Did Kids Incorporated produce any stars? What about all the kids who have appeared on Barney over the years? Thanks in advance for your research! 
-Al Norton

A: Thanks for the kind words Al. I'm glad I could be your doorway to such a lucrative, long term career path of being a 411 writer. (For the dense of you out there, that's total sarcasm.)

First off, Frankie Avalon was never on The Mickey Mouse Club. He was a trumpet player and singer in the Philadelphia area. He was in a group with Bobby Rydell, who would also go onto a successful singing career. A performance at Al Martino's house got Avalon notice and some TV gigs, that led to a recording contract with RCA.

Kids Incorporated ran from 1983 to 1994 and was about a kids musical group that worked at a popular youth club. The star for the first few seasons was Marta Marrero, known as Martika, who had a few hit solo singles. The biggest was "Toy Soldiers" in 1989.

However, the two biggest stars to come from the series were Stacy Ferguson and Jennifer Love Hewitt. Billed as Love Hewitt, she was on the show from 1989 to 1992. Ferguson, known today as Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas, was on the program the longest, from 1983 to 1990.

Barney and Friends actually produced several kids who went onto Disney Channel fame. This includes Selena Gomez of Wizards of Waverly Place, Demi Lovato of Sonny with a Chance, Debby Ryan of Jessie and Kyla Pratt of The Proud Family.

Alanis Morissette spent a year in 1986 on the Canadian sketch comedy series You Can't Do That on Television.

Q: Damn, Lenny, pay attention. You're the best thing about the movie zone, so don't be fucking up what I have to read.
Since you were in a car accident, maybe you can list some of your favorite car crashes from films. Will Death Race 2000 have your top pick?

A: I think it's easy to let the below scenes speak for themselves. All are car crashes that are visually stunning and devastating, but also key to the movie.

No Country For Old Men (2007)

Death Proof (2007)

The Fugitive (1993)

Smokey and the Bandit (1977) (I couldn't find an unedited clip, but the desert scene in part two is an awesome orgy of car crashes.)

Dirty Marry, Crazy Larry (1974)

The Seven-Ups (1973) (That's right, a 10 minute car chase.)

Vanishing Point (1971)

Q: I wonder why some shows have long intros, Like Dexter, Merlin & Game of Thrones while others are fairly short and go right into show, Spartacus and Being Human (US) for example. Is there a reason for it? Is it due to maybe where the show is filmed Canida/USA/New Zealand and they have to follow strict union guidelines of when credits should appear (the opening as opposed to the end)? Or is it due to artistic style.
-Woo in my Woooo

A: I pretty much covered this in the Oct. 1 column in relation to television theme songs going away. The answer was concise and is below.

Television opening and closing credits getting reduced in importance is because of the change in audience viewing habits. Networks don't want any dead space and want to get from one series to the next quickly. You might notice that closing credits will sometimes play over a final scene or even over the opening of the next show coming on. Opening credits might also play over a scene or any official intro might just be a few seconds long. Networks don't want to give viewers any excuse to change the channel and saving a few seconds here and there allows them to jam in another commercial, which draws more revenue.

Seinfeld was probably the series that started the trend as it just had a couple notes and the show's title over Jerry's standup act to open most episodes. All the CSI programs using a song from The Who for an intro might have been the beginning of bringing the intro back. I would also probably give credit to House, MD.

Additionally, as a couple readers noted last week in the comments, it can also be that producers are trying to squeeze in a few extra seconds of show while still fitting in the time they've been allotted.

Q: Î have decided to make a movie with the express and shameless goal of winning an Oscar. What should the film be about and what elements should it include?
-Anrew B

A: A quick check list.
1) You want to cast former Oscar winning actors. My two best suggestions for the leads would be Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. Throw some British actors in there too, double bonus if they're acting American. And then make the Americans act British.
2) The subject matter should be a historical drama; primarily from the Civil War era on up through the mid-20th Century. Based on a true story is always money.
3) Your lead character needs to have some sort of handicap or challenge to overcome. Good ones would be drug abuse, alcoholism, cancer, mentally challenged or a physical deformity.
4) It needs to be at least two hours long. The longer the better.
5) Release it between Halloween and the end of the year. Don't go wide release until after the first of the year when you've already racked up tons of nominations.
Just do what this guy says below. I actually had my above list put together before I found this video, but you'll see we agree on just about everything.

Q: Hey Mr H.
Hope you are feeling better.  When you search for a new car use Truecar.com.  Great tool.  I just caught the Three Stooges on HBO.  I wish I hadn't.  I can't express how God awful it was and shocked that Larry David was in it and even he was not funny!  So, early on the rumors were Sean Penn & Jim Carrey were attached to this.  Do you think they realized how horribly unfunny the script was and opted out?

Regarding broadcast tv ,HD has now fully become the norm for the Boston area (local national affiliates and independently owned stations) so my question is why are many national stations still only boadcasting an SD signal? Sprout (owned by Comcast and my daughter is that age is SD only and annoying to watch).

A: I actually know several big Three Stooges fans who liked the movie, because it did stay true to the spirit and physical comedy of the original in their eyes and they thought the cast did good impressions. I was a little less warm to it, thinking it was merely window dressing without the timing and chemistry that made the combination of Moe, Larry, Curly and, even later, Shemp, work. This might be sacrilege, but Shemp is actually my favorite Stooge.

A Three Stooges film was actually in development since 2000, with the Farrelly Brothers coming on in 2001. They always said they wanted to cast big name actors in the lead roles and were in talks with several. Benecio Del Toro was to play Moe, but dropped out for undisclosed reasons. Sean Penn was to be Larry at one point, but wanted to cut back on acting and focus on his charity work, according to Wikipedia. Wikipedia also says Jim Carrey gained 40 pounds to play Curly, but began experiencing health problems and didn't want to add more weight for the role. That could all be smoke as I would think those guys would be smart enough that, even with a good script, such a movie could damage their reputations.

After the A-list dropped out, it went to the B-list of Johnny Knoxville as Moe, Andy Samberg as Larry and either Shane Jacobson or Bill Chott as Curly as contenders. The Farrellys eventually went with Chris Diamantopoulous, Sean Hayes and Will Sasso.

In the case of Sprout, a PBS children's network, the reason it still broadcasts in standard definition could be a couple main reasons I can think of. One, most of the programs it shows are not made in high definition and broadcasting in high definition wouldn't do much for them. Two, is the cost of converting to high definition broadcasting, which for a PBS based station could be very cost prohibitive to do. High Definition is becoming the standard, but it isn't yet and many people still own standard television sets. For a children's network, I would guess it doesn't make sense to take the time and money to switch over when it's not going to give you that big of a return or make that much a of difference in your programming presentation.

Here's my take on Lazy Town. Robbie Rotten wants everyone to be lazy, eat junk food and be mellow. He's a weed dealer. Then this girl with pink hair who is always dancing around and hugging everyone arrives. She's on Ecstasy. Naturally, Robbie wants her gone. Sportacus pretty much lives in a blimp in the sky until Stephanie shows up, then he's all over her. Why? He's a pedophile. Look at that mustache. Case closed.

Next week we'll cover fake movie colleges, actors who use their real first names on TV shows, The Kevin Clash controversy, Community and more. But, as always, be sure to keep the questions rolling in by comment section or email.

Don't die.
"Just because it says genius on her hat doesn't mean she is one."


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