Joseph Brooks, composer and filmmaker, was arrested this weeks on charges that he raped or sexually assaulted at least 11 women after advertising film roles on Craigslist. Brooks, 71, is best known for giving the world "You Light Up My Life," both the song and the film. He also wrote and directed "If Ever I See You Again" and the 1980 Rex Smith film, "Headin' for Broadway," which to my recollection, was never released in theatres. Mr. Brooks, 71, was aided by his longtime female assistant in these crimes, according to police reports. She faces charges of helping to facilitate a crime.
Several well known actors have signed to add their voices to the upcoming live action comedy "The Zookeeper." The film stars Kevin James as a zookeeper whose love life is less then perfect. Only when his animal charges begin to give him tips do things get better. Among the "animals": Adam Sandler, Cher, Jon Favreau, Sylvester Stallone and Judd Apatow. Rosario Dawson co-stars as Favreau's love interest.
Josh Peck, Chris Hemsworth and Adriane Palicki have joined the cast of the upcoming remake of 1984's "Red Dawn."
Hemsworth and Peck will play Jed and Matt Eckert, brothers in roles first originated by Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen. Palicki takes over the role of Toni, first played by Jennifer Grey. One major switch in the film that I can see is that Jed is now a returning Marine home on leave. Also, according to the release, Toni will begin to have romantic feelings towards him, which makes me think Jed is now a combination of Swayzes' original character and that of the fighter pilot played by Powers Boothe. Trivia buffs may like to know that the original "Red Dawn" was the first film to be rated PG 13.
Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou began filming his next project last week, a remake of the Coen Brothers classic "Blood Simple."
THE DARK KNIGHT'S REVENGE
This week the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Oscar people) announced that from now on, a total of (10) films will be nominated each year for the prestigious Best Picture award. Academy president Sid Ganis says the decision will widen the filed to include more genres usually left out, which I take to mean animated and fantasy films. Last year, such deserving films as "WALL-E" and "The Dark Knight" were shut out of the big prize, while a midling film like "The Reader" snuck in. Not sure if this will help or not. Animated films already have their own Best Picture award as do foreign films, which occasionally sneak a pic onto the Best Picture list. And what happens if, say, "UP" gets nominations for both Best Picture AND Best Animated film, and then wins the first and loses the latter? Of course, this also means good news for "Star Trek," which is currently on my list of the 10 best films of the year. Tune in February 2, 2010 to see the nominees.
JUST A LITTLE SPORT TALK
Jose Canseco, he of the large body and coconut shaped head, plans to file a lawsuit against Major League Baseball claiming the game has ostracized him for going public about his, and other players, steroid use. Canseco says he also plans to enlist the help of former players Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa in the suit, the basis of which he says is lost wages and defamation of character. "Because I used steroids and I came out with a book, I was kicked out of the game and I have not been inducted into the Hall of Fame," says Madonna's one time boy toy. Canseco says he's losing money because players inducted into the Hall of Fame "get asked to do certain, you know, appearances and shows and so forth, which incorporates income." Canseco is currently 32nd all time on the major league list of home runs with 462. Of course, by his own admission, the majority of those were steroid aided. Of the 31 players ahead of him, the only one who is currently eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame, Mark McGwire, has not been elected yet, only drawing about 25% of the vote each year. McGwire was outed in Canseco's book, as was Palmeiro and Sosa, so I don't think they're going to come to his rescue anytime soon. There are several active players ahead of Canseco's total. The three other retired players who aren't in the Hall (Palmeiro, Sosa and BAR-ROID Bonds) are not yet eligible for induction.
And an FYI to Mr. Canseco: Major League Baseball has NOTHING to do with you getting into the Hall of Fame. That task is left up to the members of the Baseball Writers of America. But don't dispair, maybe some day a brilliant promoter will hold a "CHEATERCon," and you, Bonds, Pete Rose and the rest that spit in the eye of the greatest game ever admitted can sign syringes or betting slips.
Don't you love sports justice?
Last week Donte' Stallworth was sentenced to 30-days in jail for killing a man while driving drunk. I do have some sympathy for Stallworth because the accident was clearly not his fault. The man he hit dashed out in front of his car and though Stallworth flashed his lights and tried to avoid him, he couldn't. If Stallworth had not been drinking that night this would have been a tragedy that could not be averted. Kind of like the man living in a high rise who decides to fire a gun out the window. Unbeknownst to him, a depressed woman has decided to leap to her death from the top of the building. He fires as she passes his window, the bullet striking her in the head. Guess who gets arrested for murder?
In other sport legal troubles, Michael Vick got 23 months for torturing and killing at least (8) dogs, not to mention running a dog fighting syndicate. In New York City, Plaxico Burress is about to plea bargain himself out of a charge that carries a MANDATORY THREE AND A HALF YEAR PRISON SENTENCE...NO EXCEPTIONS!. And that last highlighted part were the words of New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg I mention this because this week a California judge sentenced 40 year old Lee Monroe Crider to three years in prison. His crime: he stole Lance Armstrongs' bicycle. HE STOLE A BICYCLE! I would suggest that in the future would be criminals get drunk, run over a dog and then shoot a passerby. This way they won't miss any major holidays away from home.
Cal Ripken Jr. played in 2632 CONSECUTIVE GAMES. That is more than 16 straight seasons without a day off. No matter what; sprained ankles, twisted knees, hurting his hands on Kevin Costner's face after he caught him in bed with his wife, Cal toughed it out. I mention this because last week Philadelphia Phillies first baseman had a bout of the flu and took a day off. At the time, Howard had played in a whopping 343 consecutive games. Just mentioning.
ASK FOR MARTY
If you plan to be in Baltimore soon, stop by the Maryland Science Center, which is featuring the country's first all-electric car sharing program. Made by Electrovaya, the cars can go up to 120 miles on one charge of it's battery system and can be recharged from a standard 110-volt outlet. A two hour rental costs $29.00 (less if you're a science center member....or if you mention "I know Marty.")
THE WEEK THAT WAS
It's always sad when a celebrity you enjoyed or admired passes away. This week we lost three that had great memories for me:
Ed McMahon, sidekick extrordinaire, left us this week at the age of 86. He had been ill for several months. Television's ultimate pitchman, McMahon was as well known for commericals as he was for being Tonto to Johnny Carson's Lone Ranger. McMahon put himself through college by shilling on the famed Boardwalk in Atlantic City. It was said McMahon could sell anything, and it's a fact. He sold Carson to us every night at 11:30. His "Here's Johnny" was like a musician in Medevel days, announcing the arrival of the king. His on air commericals during the "Tonight Show" and his later hawking of insurance and the ever popular Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes are prime examples of simple salesmanship. When Ed said it, you believed it. Edward Peter Leo McMahon, Jr was born in Detroit, Michigan. His family migrated east and by the age of 15 he was calling bingo games and working as a carnival barker. In WWII (and later, Korea) he served as a fighter pilot in the US Marine, reaching the rank of colonel. McMahon was proud of his service and when asked how he'd want to be remembered, would reply "As a good man and a great Marine." In the 1950s he hosted a late night interview show in Philadelphia and played the role of a clown on the series "Big Top," a show he also wrote for. Following his return from Korea, he was signed to be Johnny Carson's straight man on the game show "Do You Trust Your Wife?" (also known as "Who Do You Trust?"). This gig lasted five years and in 1962 he moved with Carson, who had been hired to replace Jack Paar, to "The Tonight Show," where he stayed until Carson retired in 1992. He also created and hosted the very popular "Star Search" program, which helped start the careers of such tatlens as Sam Harris, the band Sawyer Brown and....regretably, Sinbad. He also co-hosted with Dick Clark a series of popular "Bloopers and Practical Jokes" programs. Through the 60s and 70s he appeared on various game shows and in the early 70s began a second career as an actor. He was hilarious in "Fun With Dick and Jane," and had a recurring role on Tom Arnold's short lived "Tom Show" in 1992. Older fanboys will remember him as the host of "Legends of the Superheroes," which teamed up a galaxy of DC Comic stars. I remember the show as the first program I watched on that new fangled contraption called a Betamax Home Video Recorder, courtesy of John Hooper. In later years McMahon was in the news more often due to his illnesses and financial difficulties, the latter which he parodied during a commerical during this year's Super Bowl. I will choose to remember him as the first voice of late night, whose hearty "Hi-yo" would rock me to sleep.
In an early routine, Steve Martin would complain about how angry he was that Farrah Fawcett never called him. "And after all the times I spent holding up her poster with one hand!" If ever there was a woman whose poster deserved that honor, it was Farrah Fawcett. I first became aware of the blonde Texas beauty through her commericals for Ultrabrite toothpaste and Noxema Shaving Cream, where she'd stather the product on Joe Namath while the voice over intoned, "Take it off...take it ALL off." Though I hated brushing my teeth and was far too young to shave, I had to have these items. As an actress, I recall seeing her in an early episode of "The Partridge Family," where Reuben and Danny hire her to try to distract an old man (Harry Morgan) to the point of bending his neck in an attempt to avoid losing a law suit as well as a small supporting role in "Logan's Run." Of course, EVERYONE remembers Farrah as one of "Charlie's Angels," the television show that, along with "Three's Company," introduced America to "jiggle TV." Farrah played Jill Munroe, one of a trio of policewomen who found it much easier to solve crimes when wearing clingy blouses without a cumbersome bra! For her work on "Charlie's Angels," Fawcett earned an Emmy nomination for Best Actress in a Drama series. At the advise of her agent, Farrah chose to break her contract and left the show after the first season, hoping to embark on a movie career. Of course a lawsuit followed, resulting in her agreeing to make a few appearances in season two and three to introduce and mingle with Cheryl Ladd as her crimefighting sister, Kris, before heading off to a new career of auto racing! Farrah did three pretty lousy films in a row: "Somebody Killed Her Husband," (referred to by some critics as "Somebody Killed Her Career") "Sunburn" and "Saturn 3." Luckily for us 16 year old boys, she also did one pretty incredible poster, featuring her blonde hair, gleeming teeth and a red bathing suit that fit j u s t right! In 1981 she began finding tougher roles in television, culminating in her role of an abused wife who sets her husband on fire while he sleeps in "The Burning Bed." This role resulted in her second Emmy nomination and critically acclaimed work in such other tele-films as "Nazi Hunter: The Beate Klarsfeld Story," "Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story" and "Small Sacrifices." In 1985 she earned raves in the off-Broadway drama "Extremities" and repeated her role in the 1986 film. As the victim of rape who turns the tables on her attacker, audiences were stunned by a Farrah they didn't recognize. She earned a Golden Globe nomination for the film but was sadly left off Oscar's short list that year. Other film work followed but it wasn't until Robert Duvall's 1997 film, "The Apostle," that she once again earned favorable notices. Fawcett met actor Lee Majors in 1968 and the couple married in 1972. Startled by her success on "Charlie's Angels" (and probably a little bit jealous) Majors would insist that she be done filming and home by 6:30 every night so she could have his dinner on the table. Yeah, right. They divorced in 1979 and Farrah began a long relationship with Major's best friend, Ryan O'Neal. They dated for almost 20 years and had a son together, Redmond. They split up for several years but reunited after Fawcett was diagnosed with anal cancer. She was eventually pronounced cancer free but the disease returned and took her from us all too soon at the age of 62.
Say what you want about his non-musical adventures, there is no denying that Michael Jackson deserves a place on the plaque of musical influence right next to Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and the Beatles. Jackson passed away suddenly this week at the age of 50, supposedly from cardiac arrest. At press time, no definitive cause of death had been noted and the autopsy results are still being investigated.
Born on August 29, 1958 the third youngest of nine children to Joe and Kathleen Jackson in Gary, Indiana, Michael Jackson was always surrounded by music. Father Joe had been an accomplished guitarist and soon his oldest sons, Jackie, Tito and Jermaine, began performing around town, to be joined later by brothers Marlon and 6-year old Michael. Soon the group, calling themselves the Jackson 5, were opening for soul acts visiting the city. Gladys Knight brought the boys to the attention of Motown Records chairman Berry Gordy and soon the boys were in the studio. In December 1969, Motown released "Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5," which featured the hit single "I Want You Back." Though Berry does credit Knight for discovering the group, he felt at the time that Ross was a bigger star and her name on the album would guarantee sales. Other albums came, producing hits like "ABC," "I'll Be There" and "Stop! The Love You Save." In 1973, Jermaine married Gordy's daughter, Hazel." The group let Motown for Epic in the mid 1970s, with Randy replacing Jermaine, who stayed behind. Meanwhile, Michael had begun working on his solo career. He scored a number one hit with the Golden Globe winning and Oscar nominated title tune, "Ben." In 1978 he starred as the Scarecrow in the film version of "The Wiz," earning excellent reviews. The next year he teamed up with producer Quincy Jones for the album "Off The Wall," which earned him a Grammy award (his second of a total 19, having won one with the J5) for Best Male Vocal Performance ("The Way You Make Me Feel." In 1983 the two collaborated on the biggest selling album in history, "Thriller." The album earned Jackson 7 more Grammys (he also won another that year for his children's album narration on "E.T.") The next year the video for the title tune won the Grammy award for Long Form Video. In 1986, Jackson received four more Grammy awards for the USA For Africa song, "We Are The World." He followed up "Thriller" with "Bad," another record selling success, in 1987 and released his last big album, "Dangerous," in 1991. As of this writing, "Thriller," "Dangerous" and "Bad" are the three biggest selling solo albums in history, with combined sales of over 70 million in the United States. Worldwide Jackson sold over 750 million albums.
As his fame grew, so sadly did his notariety. Always shy and withdrawn, Jackson was the family breadwinner at the age of 10. He never knew a life that wasn't in front of an audience or captured by cameras. He was a champion of little children and formed many worldwide alliances with groups that provided for them. If there ever was a real life Peter Pan, the young boy who never grew up, it was Jackson. Even when questioned about his intense associations with young celebrities (Macaully Caulkin, Emmanual Lewis, Corey Feldman) he saw nothing wrong in his actions. Feldman has praised Jackson for spending time and listening to him as a child, helping to guide him as a former child star. His only regret is that, as Feldman grew younger, Jackson began losing interest in him as a friend. Perhaps it was because, like Peter Pan, he had no trust of adults.
In the 1990s he married Lisa Marie Presley while at the same time paying $20 million to settle a lawsuit alledging an inappropriate relationship with a child. The two divorced after two years and Jackson then married his dermatologists assistant, Debbie Rowe, who gave Jackson two children, son Prince and daugher Paris. They divorced in 1999. In 2005 he was tried on 10 charges of child sexual abuse after a former visitor to his home claimed that he and Jackson had been intimate. He was acquitted on all charges but his reputation, at least in America, had been destroyed. Early this year he announced a final music tour that was to last three years beginning with 50 shows in England. The tour sold out immediately and was scheduled to begin July 13. Sadly, the world will never know what musical surprises Michael Jackson held for them. And we are the worse for that.
MY FAVORITE FILMS, PART II. THE YEAR WAS 1985...
BRAZIL / THIS IS SPINAL TAP|
Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Robert DeNiro / Christopher Guest, Michael McKean
Directed by: Terry Gilliam / Rob Reiner
THIS IS SPINAL TAP WAS RELEASED IN 1984.
FIRST SEEN: TOWSON ART CINEMA, TOWSON, MD (Both Films)
BRAZIL: After spending his life avoiding paperwork, Harry Tuttle
is consumed my paper.
TAP: The entire "Stonehenge" concert experience!
BRAZIL: "Confess quickly! If you hold out too long you could jeopardize your credit rating."
TAP: "It's such a fine line between stupid and clever."
BRAZIL: 1986 Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction/
1986 Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay
Written Directly for the Screen (Terry Gilliam, Tom
Stoppard and Charles McKeown)
1986 BAFTA Awards for Best Production Design and Best
Nothing speaks to the power of perseverence then the story of the film "Brazil." Having directed the very successful "Time Bandits" as well as co-directing the Monty Python films "Holy Grail" and "Meaning of Life" with Terry Jones (who directed "Life of Brian" on his own), Gilliam's work in fantasy and comedy was well known. But with "Brazil" he baffled even the suits at the studio that backed him, Universal. The powers that be insisted the film never be released. But then something happened...more on that in a moment.
"Brazil" is basically an Owellian tale of what happens to a man when a simple mistake (a fly errantly lands on his sheet of figures, causing the computer to read it as a mistake, and hijinx ensues. The film is rather bleak throughout and Gilliam was shocked that, when it came time to release it, the studio wanted to make changes. They had obviously seen the finished script. Universal head Sid Sheinberg, most known in film circles as the man who championed Steven Spielberg, ordered the film re-cut, with a happy ending referred to as the "Love Conquers All" version. Sheinberg had done this before, altering the ending to Ridley Scott's "Legend" earlier that year. Scott was not happy but allowed the editing. Gilliam, however, was furious and threatened to pull his name off the film. But then fate...and perseverence...showed up.
Gilliam was teaching a class at USC and, as an "audio visual aid" received permission from Universal to show "his" version of "Brazil" to the students. However, a few days before the screening word went out about a free screening, which upset Universal as the studio thought Gilliam was only showing it to one class. They told him he could only show a "clip," which he did....a two hour and twenty two minute clip...basically his version. A member of the Los Angeles Film Critics group caught wind of the screening and arranged for his group to sit in on the screening. The result? A few days later the group held their annual awards voting, naming "Brazil" the Best Picture of the Year and Gilliam Best Director. At the same time, Gilliam ran a full page ad in "Variety" magazine, asking "Universal: When Are You Going To Release My Movie "Brazil?" This double shot of gumption forced the studio to release the film the way Gilliam intended...a rare victory for filmmakers who don't have "final cut" approval in their contract.
The two principals in the battle of "Brazil" have both had their ups and downs since. Gilliam went on to write and/or direct such critically acclaimed films as "The Fisher King," "12 Monkeys" and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." As a HUGE Python fan it was my extreme pleasure to meet Mr. Gilliam while working on the set of "12 Monkeys." He took the time to draw his version of the "Trojan Rabbit" on my copy of the "Holy Grail" soundtrack album, a piece of art I will always treasure. He's also had some major setbacks, biggest among them the death of actor Heath Ledger during the filming of "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassas," which recently premiered at the Cannes Film Festival with little positive response. On the plus side, he did become the first member of Monty Python to earn an Academy Award nomination (to be followed later by John Cleese, who also got a writing nod for "A Fish Called Wanda"). On the other side of the coin was studio head Sheinberg. He left Universal in 1997 to form his own production company with his sons, called The Bubble Factory. The films he has produced, including "The Pest," "For Richer or Poorer" and "Slappy and the Stinkers" have all been poorly received by critics and the paying public. Makes you wonder who was really greenlighting the movies at Universal, doesn't it?
THIS IS SPINAL TAP
The first "Mockumentary" (or "Rockumentary"), "This Is Spinal Tap is the perfect example of what happens when different talents come together on one project.
Rob Reiner was best known in Hollywood as an actor, having spent seven years as put upon son in law Mike Stivic in "All In the Family." Reiner earned two Emmy awards during his run on the show and was hoping to pursue brighter pastures when he left the show. But aside from a hilarious performance in the movie "Fire Sale," he was only getting episodic television and tv movie offers. So, like most actors, he decided that what he really wanted to do was direct. He teamed up with three friends (Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer) and, with a $10,000 grant, they made a short 20 minute version of what would later become "This Is Spinal Tap." McKean and Shearer had met in the early 1970s and, along with David Landers, formed the comedy group "The Credibility Gap." Their comedy album was a staple to listen to at Scott Gilbert's house. I found a copy of it in New York City many years ago and I still chuckle at the antics of "Kingpin" and others. Guest was a member of the traveling live National Lampoon review and had appeared in their film "Lemmings." He met Reiner while appearing on "All In the Family" and all four principals later teamed up in 1979 for the skit oriented "The TV Show." The die had been cast....now came the time to see if it worked.
The film covers the most recent US tour of the British heavy metal band "Spinal Tap," whose most recent album, "Smell the Glove" has just been released. The band, consisting of David St. Hubbins (McKean), Nigel Tuffnel (Guest) and Derrick Smalls (Shearer) will be covered by the film crew directed by Marty DiBergi (Reiner says the name is a homage to Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Steven Spielberg and Michaelangelo Antonioni). As the cameras role, it's obvious that the story of the band is not what happens on stage but off. Fights about costumes, set designs and venues keep the film flowing. The film is 95% improvised and the language feels fresh. One of my favorite lines comes when the band finds they've been cancelled in Boston. "Don't worry," their told, "it's not a big college town." The actors dig into their characters, with Guest and McKean pulling off very subtle English accents. All three stars are accomplished musicians and the fact that they play and sing all of the music is a plus to the feel of the film. In fact, the film was so well received that people would come up to Reiner later and tell him that he should have concentrated his efforts on a more popular band. When the film was first released to home video it came with a disclaimer that "Spinal Tap" was not a real band. Or is it?
Since then, many "mockumentary" films have gone on great success, most notably the films of Christopher Guest ("Waiting for Guffman," "Best in Show") and "The Blair Witch Project. Director Reiner has gone on to a very impressive Hollywood career and, now that Ron Howard has finally won one, is next on my list of being overdue for an Oscar. McKean has continued to appear in films and television and is lucky enough to be married to one of my teenage crushes, Annette O' Toole. The couple was nominated for a Best Song Academy Award in 2004 for "A Kiss At The End Of The Rainbow," from another Guest film, "A Mighty Wind." Shearer, who has been in show business for so long that he worked with Abbott and Costello, has been a long standing member of the cast of "The Simpsons" and continues to do voice over work. This year Spinal Tap reunited and are currently embarked on a national accoustic tour.
Next week I'll see if you're going to bite, little doggy, or just going to bark when I take a look at Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs."
Well, that's all for now. Hopefully I'm back on schedule. Have a great week. See ya!
"Mike's Rant" is ©2009 by Michael A. Smith. Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.