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PCR #474 (Vol. 10, No. 17). This edition is for the week of April 20--26, 2009.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello gang. Sorry for the delay. Played baseball with the boy last night - 0-4. Oh well, that's not what they pay me for. Shall we begin?

"The Soloist"  by Mike Smith
FX 2009  by ED Tucker
FANGRRL Goes to FX 2009  by Lisa Scherer Ciurro
B Low Me .... Torture? At Least They Still Have Their Heads .... Passing On .... Just A Heads Up .... Happy Anniversary - To Me .... .... .... .... My Favorite Films, Part 2...  by Mike Smith
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The above is a vanity license I know I'll never have a chance in hell of getting. Though I would maintain, through my superior attitude, that I was saying everyone was Below Me, I'm sure the lady behind the DMV counter would have other ideas. And she'd be right.

I mention this because of a story this week from Colorado where vegetarian Kelly Coffman tried to show her love for a certain dietary treat with the vanity tag ILVTOFU. Apparently the DMV doesn't because they put the kibosh on her request. Which reminds me of a funny tale....(nice segue', don't you think)....back in 1989 I was hanging out at old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore trying to catch some of the Red Sox before a game for autographs when a car pulled into the parking lot with the California issue vanity tag SCHMUCK. It was newly hired Baltimore Sun sports writer Peter Schmuck. When he walked up to where I was I said, "I'll bet it was a hell of a time getting that license plate." He told me that, in fact, he had to pursue the plate through court, as the DMV thought the plate offensive. To most people, the word "schmuck" is a derogatory term for a fool or idiot, i.e. "George W. Bush is a schmuck." In reality, it's a hebrew word that refers to the excess foreskin removed from the penis during a circumsition, i.e. "George W. Bush is a schmuck." Only after Peter fought for the plate on the basis of his last name did the DMV relent.

I'm starting to get really pissed at all of these revelations about the "torture" we subjected suspected terror suspects of. To me, and to anyone who has watched a war film, torture is electric shocks and leeches and bamboo shoots under the finger nails. If President Obama wants to know what torture is, he needs to talk to John McCain. Does anyone with a rational mind really think that making someone sit for two hours in a confined space torture? Oh no, I'm afraid of insects and they just put a box on my head with a catepillar in it. Help! Oh help me, they're pouring water on my face making me think I'm drowning but really doing nothing but cleaning out my sinuses. Help me! Dude, if you walk out of the room with your head on top of your neck consider yourself lucky. Though perhaps I write to hastily. Maybe they put the catepillar in the box and it brushes up against the terrorists lip, making him think of the wife he left behind and her soft, fuzzy mustache. How cruel.

Actor Jody McCrea, son of western film star Joel McCrea and actress Frances Dee, died this week at the age of 74. He appeared in small parts in many of his father's films but found fame in a series of 1960s "beach party" films. Starting with 1963s "Operation Bikini," he became a staple of the genre', often reprising the same character. He was 'Deadhead' in a trio of films (Beach Party, Muscle Beach Party and Bikini Beach) and graduated to 'Bonehead' for "Beach Blanket Bingo" and "How To Stuff A Wild Bikini." For a stretch, he took on the role of 'Big Lunk' in "Pajama Party."

J.G. Ballard, author of "Empire of the Sun," died after a bout with prostate cancer. He was 78. The partly autobigraphical novel about a young boy's adventures while in a Japanese prisoner of war cmap.

Due to studio restrictions, the upcoming reviews of "Wolverine" and "Star Trek" will not be on line until sometime on the Thursday before opening.

One year ago today the beautiful Juanita became my wife. Thank you, honey. I love you.


Grease 2
Starring: Michelle Pfeiffer, Maxwell Caulfield and Adrian Zmed
Directed by: Patricia Birch

FIRST SEEN: Home video. I was in Germany when it was released.

FAVORITE SCENE: The "Prowling" production number.

FAVORITE LINE: "I got a rep to protect."

AWARDS: None :-(

It may be hard for younger generations to understand that, before the late 1970s, there were very few sequels produced. I mean some films, like the James Bond series, continued on with different stories but with the exception of the occasional family comedy (Father of the Bride/Father's Little Dividend) once the film ended, the story did as well. In 1975 20th Century Fox took Popeye Doyle to France in "French Connection II." Linda Blair and Richard Burton showed up in "Exorcist II: The Heretic." And Roy Scheider took big money and a great sun tan to reappear in "Jaws 2." Ironically, on the same day "Jaws 2" openend (June 16, 1978) another highly anticipated film hit theatres as well: "Grease." Based on the highly successful Broadway musical and starring the biggest star on the planet at the time, John Travolta, the film went on to become the highest grossing musical of all time (an additional $28 million during it's 1998 reissue keeps it there). Paramount had talked to the stars (Travolta and Olivia Newton John) about a sequel but nothing came of the discussions. Then someone launched the brilliant idea of having a new set of boys and girls attend Rydell High School, with only a few familiar faces around to connect to the first film.

When the film went into preproduction, the hardest task was finding a director. Eventually the studio gave the job to Pat Birch, who had not only choreographed the original musical but the film as well. The suits figured since she was going to be in charge of all the musical numbers already, why not let her oversee the non musical ones as well. The story is basically a reverse of the original films plot. In "Grease," new girl Sandy comes to Rydell and falls for tough guy Danny Zuko. Here, new guy Michael (played by Maxwell Caulfield) (according to the script, Sandy's cousin) comes to Rydell and falls for tough girl Stephanie Zinone (Michelle Pfeiffer). Sadly, Stephanie has a boyfriend in the personage of Johnny Nogarelli (Adrian Zmed), now head of the T-Birds. What amuses me here is that the film goes out of it's way to make all of the "undesireables" in the film ethnic. Joining Johnny are his fellow T-Birds Louis DeMucci (Peter Frechette), Davey Jaworski (Leif Green) and Goose McKenzie (Christopher McDonald). In the first film, Sandy Olsson (her last name in the play was Dumbrowski but it was changed to accomodate ONJ being from Australia. I guess no one ever transferred to high school from Poland) meets up with Danny Zuko, who, with the exception of Stockard Channing's Betty Rizzo, are the only characters with last names. Just a thought but something that stood out to me.

Rydell is still peppered with some familiar faces, including Principal McGee (Eve Arden) and her assistant Blanche (Dody Goodman). Coach Calhoun (Sid Ceaeser)still teaches gym while Frenchy (Didi Conn) is now teaching home ec. What I found funny is that Eugene (Eddie Deezan), made out to be a brainy nerd, is still in school. How in the hell did Danny, Kenickie and the others graduate and he's still here?

"Grease 2" was not a hit, with critics or fans, when it was released. Coming out the same day as "E.T." certainly didn't help. Yet, taken as a stand alone film, it's not that bad. The cast is talented and the story is fun. And most of the songs are pretty good. A friend of mine who was in the movie business at the time told me that Paramount had screened the first five minutes of the film (the opening "Back to School" number) for theatre owners to much applause. However, for whatever reason, the public didn't connect with the film, which is a shame because as sequels go it's one of the better ones. And, thankfully, most of the cast survived and went on to bigger and better things.

The biggest star here, of course, is Pfeiffer, who is now a three time Academy Award nominated actress. She also has an amazing string of six consecutive Best Actress nominations from the Golden Globes (1989-1994). As for the other Pink Ladies, one who I thought should have had a great career was Lorna Luft, who played Paulette. The daughter of Judy Garland and step-sister of Liza Minelli, Luft only had a few television credits under her belt when she was cast in "Grease 2." She later went on to write the memoir "Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows," which was made into a multi Emmy award winning mini series. The only other Pink Lady to succeed was the youngest, Pamela Aldon, who played Paulette's sister and tag along. She has had a very successful television career and in 2002 won an Emmy for providing the voice of Bobby Hill in "King of the Hill."

On the guy side, the luck was a little better. Caulfield, who made his film debut here, could not escape the Carrington name, landing a recurring role on "Dynasty" and then it's spinoff series, "The Colbys." Younger fans may remember him from "Empire Records." He has continued a very successful career in his native England and has been married to Juliet Mills (Nanny and the Professor) since 1980. Adrian Zmed went from "Grease 2" to "T J Hooker," where he played officer Vince Romano. He also had a brilliant part in the Tom Hanks comedy, "Bachelor Party." He also hosted the television series "Dance Fever" for three seasons. He continues to work in television and on Broadway, where he has played Danny Zuko in "Grease" opposite his then-wife Susan Wood. I had the genuine pleasure of catching Zmed and the Cassidy brothers (David and Shawn) in a production of "Blood Brothers" on Broadway and was truly impressed with his performance. Another T-Bird was Christopher McDonald, who played Goose. Goose was the "slow" one in the group, hoping to win his share of "Roy Or bi son al bum ums." McDonald is a constant fixture in films and on television and has appeared in such movies as "Quiz Show," "The Perfect Storm" and as the hated Shooter McGavin in "Happy Gilmore." Peter Frechette (DiMucci) is a Tony and Emmy award nominated actor who has appeared in several episodes of "Law and Order." An internet rumor has him dying of AIDS, but I assure you he is very much alive and working. Ironically, there is a bit of "Grease" in this film, actor Matt Latanzi, who had appeared with Olivia Newton John in "Xanadu," as well as several of her videos and married the actress in 1984. Director Birch continues to work on Broadway where she has been nominated for five Tony Awards as well as choreographing films.

Tune in next week when we look at one of the most irreverant films ever, the hilarious "Monty Python's Life of Brian."

Well, that's all for now. 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.