As I write this comes word that Jett Travolta, 16-year-old son of John Travolta and his wife, Kelly Preston, passed away after suffering a seizure while on vacation with his parents. As a long time (more than 30 years) fan of the actor (sure, lots of people have John Travolta's autograph but how many have his sister, Ann's?), I was quite saddened to hear this news. My sincere condolences go out to the Travolta family.
Actor Sam Bottoms, probably best remembered as surfer Lance Johnson in "Apocalypse Now," passed away at the age of 53 due to a brain tumor. He made his film debut in 1971 with a small role in "The Last Picture Show," which starred his older brother, Timothy. Other films include "The Outlaw Josey Wales," "Bronco Billy" and "Gardens of Stone."
Bernie Hamilton, probably best remembered as the blustery Captain Doby on television's "Starsky and Hutch," died this week from cardiac arrest. He was 80. After early roles as athletes in films like "The Jackie Robinson Story" and "The Harlem Globetrotters," Hamilton worked his way through episodic television through the late 1950s and early 1960s. He had a continuing role as Chaka in the "Tarzan" television series. But it was as Captain Doby that he made his presence known. Not only that, he created what now is the standard police superior: loud, boisterous but with a heart of gold for those whose balls he busts.
Delaney Bramlett, musician and songwriter who worked with Leon Russell, Eric Clapton, George Harrison and others passed away at the age of 69 following complications from gallbladder surgery. As a song writer he was responsible for such classics as "Let It Rain," "Superstar" (which he co-wrote with Russell) and "Never Ending Song of Love," a song which has been recorded by more then 100 artists. As a musician he made his debut on the television show "Shindig" as a Shindog, a member of the house band. He wrote several songs for and produced Clapton's first solo LP and Clapton has credited him with encouraging him to sing and teaching him the "art" of being a vocalist. At one session George Harrison was visiting and was intrigued by Bramletts use of a slide bottle. Bramlett quickly showed Harrison how to play side guitar and the two began working on a gospel song which would eventually become "My Sweet Lord." In the early 70s he played guitar for John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band. He also had several successful albums with his first wife, Bonnie, the duo recording as Delaney and Bonnie.
The new year is only a couple of days old and already theatres are beginning to promote their upcoming product. Though the number of films released will drop from last year's total due to the long writer's strike, here is a list of films (and projected opening dates) to put on your calendar:
My Bloody Valentine in 3D. I wasn't really that interested in seeing this until I saw the television commercials. If they can really blast fire out of the screen realistically I'll pay my money and takes my chances.
Watchmen Alan Moore's graphic novel in the hands of "300" director Zack Snyder should be a fanboys wet dream.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine Sniktity snikt. I'm already in line.
Star Trek I'm sorry, Andrew, but I've got to see this. If you'd like I'll come to Wichita and sit with you. They've added a scene with Nimoy as the older Spock to the now familiar trailer just in case you hadn't heard about it.
Angels and Demons Tom Hanks (and a nicer haircut) return in this prequel to "The Da Vinci Code.
Terminator Salvation Christian Bale takes off the cowl and takes the reigns of the revolution against the machines as John Connor. If Arnie's in it then it's the best kept secret in Hollywood.
The Taking of Pelham 123 Director Tony Scott leads Denzel Washington and John Travolta in this remake of the subway drama that originally starred Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Shia LaBeouf and Optimus Prime return. What else do you need to know?
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Finally. Quit your whining.
The Wolfman Benecio Del Toro...meet Larry Talbot. Can't wait.
MY FAVORITE FILMS, PART II. THE YEAR WAS 1989...
Best of the Best|
Starring: Eric Roberts, Phillip Rhee, Christopher Penn and James Earl Jones.
Directed by: Robert Radler
FIRST SEEN: On cable television
FAVORITE LINE: "To save a life in defeat is to earn victory and honour within."
FAVORITE SCENE: As the final seconds of their match tick away Tommy refuses to strike a helpless Dae Han, allowing his opponent to win.
Every now and then you discover a film that you somehow missed when it was in theatres. Maybe a friend had you rent the film at the local video shop or you caught it on cable. Such was the case for me with "Best of the Best." The story of a US Tae Kwan Do team that travels to, and matches up against, the Korean championship team, "Best of the Best" is that rare little film that catches your attention and holds on.
Though the film is about fighting it's not the battles that hook you but the camraderie of the principal players....from fighters to coaches to opponents. Even a back story, where one of the Korean fighters killed the older brother of one of the American fighters years ago, feels genuine and not tacked on just for a little drama. Director Radler had only a few episodes of "The New Monkees" under his belt when he was chosen to direct a script that was the brainchild of co-star Rhee. A black belt in several martial art disciplines, Rhee got his first taste of Hollywood as one of Dr. Klahns' guards in the "Fist Full of Yen" segment of "Kentucky Fried Movie." After appearing in a few more films he conceived the idea of a brother seeking revenge on an opponent. However, as the film came together the story shifted more towards the team and less on revenge.
"Best of the Best" also boasts an outstanding cast, including former Oscar nominees Roberts, Jones and Sally Kirkland as well as past winner Louise Fletcher. While Roberts, Rhee and Penn form part of the team it is up to Jones, Kirkland and company to not only train them for the physical aspects of battle but the mental as well. In fighting between the team builds to a boil until a brawl at a local bar helps the different personalities mesh. All of the actors do top rate work here, especially Roberts, one of the most intense and talented actors of his generation. Jones' imposing presence and booming voice are perfect for the role of the team's head coach while Penn and Rhee make their characters just as believable. To highten the excitement of the final bout between Rhee's Tommy and the Korean champion, Dae Han, Rhee cast his brother Simon in the role. A fellow "KFM" guard, Simon Rhee is now a much sought after stunt coordinator, represented on screen this year with work in films like "Tropic Thunder," "Get Smart" and "Pineapple Express."
After the film found new life on video and on cable, a hasty sequel concerning fighting for money was put together. While the fight scenes were well done, the film lacked the heart of the original, which has actually spawned three follow ups, the last one, subtitled "Without Warning" was written and directed by Phillip Rhee, who also starred. But by then, however, the magic that fueled the first film was gone, replaced only with ass kicking bad boys.
However the original still stands out as a true classic in my mind and a fine example of a little film that found, and deserved, an audience.
NEXT WEEK: Sylvester Stallone goes country with the help of Dolly Parton in "Rhinestone"
Well, that's all for now. Have a great week. And a safe and happy New Year. 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.