Monday, February 28, 2011
Jane Russell was initially discovered by Howard Hughes, not because of her acting talent, but because of her 38" bust. Hughes financed her first film The Outlaw, made her a pin-up queen with WWII troops and the millionaire airplane designer even developed a special bra for her figure.
Russell appeared in many films over her career including Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, Young Widow, The Las Vegas Story, His Kind of Woman, The Paleface and Born Losers, the biker flick that infamously introduced Tom Laughlin's Billy Jack character to audiences around the world. Later she appeared in commercials for Playtex, promoting their 'cross your heart' bra.
Her later years were filled with some Broadway and charity work. We've lost another legend, she'll be missed.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Due to some family troubles I have not been keeping up with my blogs as I probably should have, and neither have I gotten out to see all the films up for the Oscars tonight, but I wanted to take a few moments to breeze through the few I have seen.
The King's Speech ~ This by far is the best of the litter of the Best Picture nominees I have seen this year. That's not to say it will win, although it might. I have heard that The Fighter is better, but I really can't speak to that.
This fascinating film about the heir to the throne of England conquering his speech problem is one that many can understand, and it has the key handicap feature that wins Oscars so often. It's time for Colin Firth to win and this is the perfect role. Geoffrey Rush is also in the running, having himself won in a similar handicapped role in My Left Foot. There is also an interesting nod to Rush's character from Shakespeare in Love with his love of the Bard. Another nice smirk comes from the appearance of Derek Jacobi, whose best known role is that of the title role stutterer in PBS' "I, Claudius."
Even Helena Bonham Carter is entertaining here and got a nomination. I usually find her freakish and over the top. Here's proof that she can reel it in and give a great performance. There's really nothing not to like about this flick, and I wouldn't be surprised if it swept the Oscars. I had always thought the more compelling story of the royal family of this time was Edward and Mrs. Simpson, but here I am proven wrong. Bravo, recommended.
Animal Kingdom ~ This one is very slow but it shouldn't have been. Based on the synopsis, I expected an Australian gangster flick but got a somewhat quiet drama, with a few shocks and bumps along the way, instead. Disappointing but good. Jacki Weaver is up for Best Supporting Actress, and she's good, but I thought that James Frecheville was better, and quite possibly should have gotten a Best Actor nod. But what do I know?
The Town ~ I really kinda dug this Boston heist flick, and I think Jeremy Renner definitely deserves his nomination for Supporting Actor. This is a different character from last year's The Hurt Locker, a much more complex and darker portrayal, and it gets my vote. Jon Hamm does little more than show up and draw in the "Mad Men" fans however. The real star is Ben Affleck, who co-wrote, starred and directed this flick. I think it's a shame that he is apparently still on the Academy's hate list, because I think he deserves recognition for his triple threat performance here - he is the star of this one. Where are his nominations?
How to Train Your Dragon ~ I could bitch about where Tangled and Megamind were in the animated feature category, but I'll refrain. This one was a surprise, not the best animated feature this year by a long shot, but a lot of fun. It's predictable, but compelling and entertaining. Recommended.
My predictions for tonight are as follows. King's Speech for Best Picture, David Fincher for Best Director, Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush for Actors, Natalie Portman and Hailee Steinfield for Actress, Toy Story 3 for Best Animated, Biutiful for Best Foreign, and Exit Through the Gift Shop for documentary.
Friday, February 25, 2011
Best Actress nominee Jennifer Lawrence tried to find her daddy who's on the run and has put the family home up for bail. If he doesn't show up, she loses everything. Most of the folks in this hillbilly hell don't want to help her. Everyone smokes pot and carries a gun, except for our protagonist so it's hard for her to make any headway finding her father.
Did I mention how slow this flick is? I wanted to scream at the screen for something to happen other than bad grammar or verbal and physical domestic abuse. Furthermore, Winter's Bone stinks of the social commentary that the bleeding hearts of the Academy love so much, but me, I kept waiting for the point, or better yet, a plot.
Now I wanted a plot, but when the flick turned into this effed up version of The Wicker Man meets Children of the Corn with a bit of, God forbid, The Village thrown in - I started wishing it didn't have a plot. Really. This got a Best Picture nomination, and Secretariat didn't? Wow. Not recommended.
Yes, Inception would have looked great on the big screen, and like many of the newer animations, and the big one, Avatar, it suffers on the small screen. One hopes that the new special effects technology, and the various forms of 3-D might save the theatre industry, but only if folks get the idea of waiting for home viewing out of their head. This was one of those you should not have waited for.
Special effects aside, this wasn't really anything special. Well, it was tons better than Predators but that's not the point. Once you get the concept of dream intrusion into your head and know the rules, this is really just a big budget, world tour, old school James Bond flick. No better, no worse. Lots of action and insane chases, lots of exotic locales - it's a good popcorn flick that is seriously toned down on the big screen.
The cast is flawless, director Christopher Nolan leaning on a few of his regulars, including Cillian Murphy and Ken Watanabe. Leonardo DiCaprio is in fine form as well, except for the similarities between this character and the one he played in Shutter Island. And much like that movie, his partner, Joseph Gordon-Levitt this time, out-acts him. It's a good flick, not a great one.
It's nominated for a few Oscars this time out, some deserving, some not. I can see music and cinematography easily, but Best Picture? I think not, unless it's up against Predators...
Monday, February 14, 2011
He was also in Young Frankenstein, "Get Smart," "Wonder Woman" and even "Misfits of Science." On television I first discovered Mars as recurring guest W.D. "Bud" Prize on the brilliant "Fernwood Tonight" and "America 2-Night." Just think of a TV series in the 1970s and he was in it. His animation career began with voice work on "The Jetsons" in 1962 and continued until just a couple years ago.
Kenneth Mars will be remembered and he will be missed.
Friday, February 04, 2011
"Episodes" is a series about exactly that - Americans ruining British television. The best part is that it's actually a BBC program. Writers Bev and Sean, played expertly by Stephen Mangan and the wonderful Tamsin Grieg (from one of my fave Britcoms, "Black Books"), are the creators of a successful series purchased by a American network executive who's never seen it.
Task one, they recast it. In the title role of the elderly schoolmaster, they place Matt LeBlanc, having far too much fun playing a parody of himself, and reset him as a hockey coach. They additionally change the title of the show to "Pucks," even though it originally had nothing to do with hockey. And that's just the beginning. I'm loving this, check it out.
Thursday, February 03, 2011
As much as I usually dislike Aaron Sorkin's work, he was adapting from Ben Mezrich's terrific book "The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal," so that counts for something. Two other elements make this film a no-brainer for me to like - it was directed by one of my favorite directors, David Fincher, and it has a score co-composed by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. Trent is one of my music gods. The direction, like the score, is very different and new territory for the creators, and yet, amazing work, the music being a highlight. Both are also nominated for Oscars. And Justin Timberlake is damn good too.
At this point, I have only seen half of the ten films nominated this year for Best Picture, but of those, The Social Network is the best, I think it has a very good chance of winning. I would give good odds to Fincher and Reznor as well. The Social Network might just sweep this year. Recommended.
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
The series follows the young Batiatus (John Hannah) and his wife Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) as they rise to the top of the gladiator management game in Capua. We get to see their early doings as well as those of "Blood and Sand" favorites Crixis (Manu Bennett) and future Doctore, Oenomaus (Peter Mensah).
We're also introduced to an earlier and cockier champion of Capua, Gannicus (Dustin Clare) and the seductive Gaia (Jaime Murray). You might remember the latter as Dexter's sociopath girlfriend and as H.G. Wells on "Warehouse 13." Both characters are much fun, and a reason to watch even if you already know what happens to everyone else.
"Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" airs Friday nights on Starz. Check it out.
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
The plastic robots were all the rage apparently, the Cabbage Patch Kids or Tickle Me Elmo of that Christmas, although I remember very little else about it. I know I had the Zobor model and it came with the fancy packaging that was also its 'home.'
My memory was jogged just recently by learning that Moonstone Books has a comic book series based on the Zeroids. I'll have to check it out.