Tis the Season: To Watch Screeners

In the run up to Christmas, a load of “film” screeners were received in the post. With the awards season rapidly approaching studios wanted their children to be seen and voted upon.

MARTHA PLIMPTON, JAY R. FERGUSON, NOAH GALVIN, MATT SHIVELY, BEBE WOOD
THE REAL O’NEALS ABC 2016

In the run up to Christmas, a load of “film” screeners were received in the post. With the awards season rapidly approaching studios wanted their children to be seen and voted upon. Now with the Yuletide actually come and gone, television is taking its own hiatus from regular programming.

Despite having access to a number of advance screeners via ABC, one of the few networks who allow easy access to screeners, unlike others who want the coverage but do not allow early screening,  this is the time of year where entertainment takes a “backseat” in terms of programming.

Seasonal films and specials dominate the airways and even reality TV, something that is not watched nor written about on this site, takes a break.  Ergo regular programming is left by the wayside replaced with festive folderol aimed at the great unwashed and uneducated masses.

Granted not all the seasonal shows on offer are pap and rubbish, there are the specials aimed at the youngster in all of us. For example anything Charlie Brown, or those splendid stop motions Christmas specials; re: Rudolph and so on… It goes without saying that all country music or other musical  Christmas shows were ignored.

Over the next few days, it will be necessary to review the last of the films from the studios and to have a look at more ABC offerings, such as the splendid looking American Crime; second season, and the odd new program. Other new shows would have been looked at in depth if only the networks wanted to allow early viewing…

As pointed out in an earlier article, nothing from CBS or CW will be reviewed except in the most minimal way possible.  Both these networks turned up their  noses at the “small” size of my site and refused access to photos and other press materials.   Hence no regular reviews of Supergirl, Arrow or The Flash apart from the amalgamated reviews of the latter two shows. (Not any  series from these two snobs will be covered…)

New shows coming up in 2016 on ABC  are: The Family; a drama and Uncle Buck (which has already been reviewed) and another comedic offering, The Real O’Neals.  Other programs returning for another season are Secrets and Lies, Galavant (reviewed already…twice) and the earlier mentioned American Crime, which MikesFilmTalk will be looking at further, since several episodes have been posted for viewing.

On ABC Freeform, ‘nee Family, The Fosters are returning for their fourth season and also have a screener on offer.

Television aside, there are a few more films to be discussed, Listen to Me Marlon, Song of Lahore, Meru, What Happened Miss Simone?, Winter on Fire, Shaun the Sheep and The Armor of Light (Abigail Disney’s directorial debut)All but one are documentaries and some are more interesting than others. All have something to offer, even the films which can only be described as a “hard slog.”

Tis also the time of year to look over the odd  Netflix series or two. Jessica Jones, the Marvel “noir-ish” heroine, who could also be seen as a sort of superhero escapee from Frank Miller’s Sin City, is on offer right now. Apart from offering a splendid villain in the guise of David Tennant, who seems to be channeling his inner “grumpy”  from Broadchurch (Gracepoint) to good effect, this dark Marvel offering is entertaining and addictive.

Other projects, such as short films, will be addressed in this “slow” period as well. Stay tuned for more reviews and previews of upcoming attractions and returning favorites, in the meantime, “tis the season for screeners.”

 

Maureen O’Hara – Don’t Think You’re Gonna Get Rid of Me That Easy

Maureen O'Hara in McLintock!

When I was a child, I firmly believed that Maureen O’Hara was married to John Wayne. Not only did the two fit, but she was the only female who could have stood so tall against the Duke.  As I was convinced the flame haired beauty was Wayne’s wife, in real life, versus, reel life, when Disney’s The Parent Trap came on television it culminated in a moment of confusion, Brian Keith was not the Duke.

O’Hara worked with Wayne on a number of films, each time playing either wife, or (in the case of The Quiet Man 1952) romantic interest and then wife. In each film Maureen played the head strong and formidable female who stood head to toe, metaphorically at least, with her big strong husband.

The news that she died October 24, at the age of 95, in her sleep, stunned me. O’Hara seemed ageless. A woman for all seasons who would live to be 100, herself’s professed goal.   The actress, born in Dublin, Ireland, spent her life playing strong positive role models. In a time when feminists were not even contemplating burning a bra, her characters stood up to and ruled the menfolk in many of her films.

Her Mary Kate Danaher, who believes her new husband to be a coward, stands up to him when he “manhandles” her back to fight the bullying brother (Victor McLaglen). The red-haired colleen takes a mighty swing at Sean Thornton but misses.  

It was her role in the 1963 comedy western McLintock! (which was retelling of Kiss Me Kate with a cowboy setting) produced by Wayne’s son Michael and directed by Andrew V. McLaughlin where O’Hara proved that not only could she stand up to Duke, but she was adept at comedy.  Her bossy, and hilariously gruff, Katherine Gilhooley McLintock ruled the roost.

Her scenes with Chills Wills, who Duke obviously forgave for his tasteless 1960  Best Supporting Actor Oscar campaign for his role as the beekeeper in The Alamo, are brilliantly funny.

Katherine to Drago: “Shut up and do as you’re told.”

Drago: “This here Douglas feller…”

Katherine: “DRAGO!”

O’Hara could deliver these orders as only she could. With a tone that allowed no argument and gave no quarter.  As Barry Fitzgerald’s character Michaleen Oge Flynn the Matchmaker says of Maureen’s Mary Kate, “She’s the tongue of an adder.”

It was with complete delight that I introduced my, then, young daughter to the magic that was Maureen O’Hara when an old friend found a VHS copy of McLintock! and posted it to us in England. Despite the fact that the film is quite chauvinistic in its belief that women secretly want a man to either a) spank them, or b) “man-handle”  them, it works precisely because it is a comedic rendering of the Cole Porter adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

The plot, of McLintock! deals with a cattle baron being “bullied” by his wife for a crime (lipstick on his collar) for years. When their daughter returns home to the town of McLintock and her father’s 200 square mile spread, Katherine Gilhooley McLintock increases her assault on George Washington “GW” McLintock her husband.

Featuring Patrick Wayne as the love interest of a young Stephanie Powers, the film is a favorite of John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara fans alike.  While the movie “condone’s violence toward’s women and the message is very old fashioned, the entire thing is made more palatable by the ending.

After an epic town-long chase, with Katherine being doggedly followed by GW, the two end up at the blacksmith’s, where McLintock spanks Kate with a coal shovel. After tumbling the woman off his lap he tells her, “Now get your divorce.”

Drago, the hired hand, comes up with a wagon and the two men head back to the ranch. Katherine, rubbing her tender nether region, points  up at her husband on wagon and shouts:

“Don’t think You’re gonna get rid of me that easy!”

Katherine then runs after the buggy and grabs hold, riding the thing back to the ranch. The film ends shortly after with the two reconciled at last.  The scene works, not just because of the writing but because of Maureen O’Hara’s conviction and performance. On screen, the actress was bigger than life.

She was one of a kind and it is all too easy to believe that until she went to sleep at age 95, Maureen must have told the “big fella” that he was not going to get rid of her that easily, as “herself” had plans to stick around another five years.

Maureen O’Hara, actress, star, businesswoman, mother and the onscreen wife of another legend in five films has passed on.  I sat and watched McLintock! on Sunday appreciating once more the talent and performance of Ms. O’Hara.  Watching the featurette’s afterward, Stephanie Powers revealed that Maureen showed her how to keep the bright lights (used “back in the day” for filming) from affecting her performance. Maureen was a professional as they come and, sadly, there will be no replacement now that she is gone.

Mary Kate Danaher Thornton, Katherine Gilhooley McLintock, Mrs. Kathleen York, Min Wead, Martha McCandles, Martha Price, Olivia Spencer and even Doris Walker (Miracle on 34th Street) were all strong, passionate women who were unforgettable as was Maureen O’Hara herself. All will allow Maureen to live on.

RIP Ms. O’Hara the world will not be the same without you.

28 Months Later “In the Works”

Poster for 28 Days Later For fans of the original Danny Boyle directed and Alex Garland written 28 Days Later, this could be very good news. Certainly Facebook is full of fans singing their little rage filled hearts out at the recent news that Garland released stating that the script for 28 Months Later has been finished and is in the works but he will have nothing further to do with it.

Alex talks backstory a bit, not on the new 28 Days story but about the path taken to get a sequel worthy of the original. In GamesRadar+ the screenwriter talks about Boyle’s talking about a Garland written sequel while he focussed upon Trainspotting 2 a couple of years ago.

In reference to the Gamesradar+ story, it should be pointed out that they call the film a “zombie” film, which, technically it is not, the films are post-apocryphal and has nothing to do with hordes of the undead.

At that time Alex said he would write it but did not want any active participation in the project. Producer Andrew MacDonald said that he would take care of it. Regardless of whether the writer wants to work on the project, hopefully this sequel should have the same tones of originality that the first one had in spades. The other thing that 28 Days Later had was that wonderfully haunting music, used in a number of other movies, most notably Kick-Ass where the soundtrack was updated for the “Big Daddy Kills” sequence.

While many still refer to the first two as “zombie” films; the scary attacking people in the verse are not, undead flesh eaters. In 28 Days Later the whole outbreak starts because a few animal rights activists go to release monkies who have been infected with Rage. This virus actually turns the primates into screaming murderous, and enraged, creatures who only want to attack. The virus is transferred to people and poor Cillian Murphy wakes up from a coma to find the world in London has changed for the worse.

The first film was brilliant, the cross plot of the Christopher Eccleston’s Army Major, “I promised them women,” and the Brendan Gleeson’s doomed fatherly cab driver, “Get away,” were just icing on the cinematic cake. Naomi Harris and Megan Burns as the women rounded out the casting for this haunting and damned scary film. Boyle proved once again to be the master of celluloid.

Poster for 28 Weeks Later Then came the “star studded” 28 Weeks Later. Jeremy Renner, Rose Byrne, Idris Elba, Robert Carlyle and Imogen Poots, in what was her second feature film role, were stuck in an inferior version of Boyle’s and Garland’s Rage infested England. The first clue that this sequel would be lacking was the noticeable absence of both Boyle and Garland on the project. I liked the film because Carlyle was in it and he brought his own special magic to the role of the man who deserts his wife to the infected and then lies to his kids about it.

Jeremy Renner also made me a fan for life as the sniper with a heart and Idris Elba was not used enough. The story was a pallid follow up to the first film and it was a bit disappointing to not see anything of Murphy and Harris, or for that matter Burns, and their characters.

Apart from Garland’s admission that the script is standing by waiting to be greenlit, there is no further information about the project. Considering that the writer has also stated that no one, not even FOX were interested in doing another sequel after 28 Weeks Later does not bode too well for 28 Months Later.

If the film does get the go ahead, it is to be devoutly hoped that the studios do not forget the original premise and make the Rage infected attackers zombies. Let’s keep our film-lore straight here, this is not an English version of The Walking Dead. Hopefully more news will be released on the likelihood of this anticipated film being made, sooner rather than later.

Happy Anniversary: Has It Really Been Three Years?

Author's photo 2013
Sitting here recovering from being forced off the road on my bicycle Tuesday, my Internet came up briefly to show I’d gotten a trophy from WordPress. My connection then disappeared for hours so I hobbled around and did dishes and continued to put frozen vegetables on my swollen legs and ankles. Later, it came up long enough to reveal a Happy Third Anniversary award had been bestowed upon my little blog and the first thing that came to me was, “Has it really been three years?”

Really??

So much has happened in that short time span. Injury at, my then, work, returning to work, heart attack, ill-health retirement, Guardian Liberty Voice, South Africa, USA, Las Vegas, Arizona…

Sadly, throughout the Guardian Liberty Voice and Vegas time frame, I ignored my little WordPress baby. There were so many people I met in the business that should have been written about here. Stupidly, I put too much effort into an organization that was never going to amount to its owners’ claims.

This is about my blog, however, and not about shysters conning writers into over producing articles in a sweat shop content mill that pays less than nothing. I did take one thing away from my experience that hopefully will make my little blog a better place to hang out, I’ve gotten better at coming over here and posting.

While I’d like to say that I am also a better writer, my ego will not let me make a claim like that without laughing so instead let’s just say my confidence level has increased exponentially and leave it at that. And as you can see, I still have a tendency to write paragraph long sentences, so that has not changed!

But at least one thing has. My profession has gone from Prison Officer to professional writer. While I never made a fortune writing for my former employer I was paid to write. On the same token, it tickled me to death that I was paid to watch films and review them, something I did for free before and I also got to interview some awesomely talented actors, like Tony Todd, Tiny Lister, Terry Kiser, Stephen Bishop, Jordan Hayes, et al.

I got to meet some great folks at conventions and I was not paid to do that, it was expected that I attend all the con’s scheduled days, meet and greet and write a minimum of three articles a day. That never happened, and, somewhat unsurprisingly, despite what had been agreed upon, which was one article per day, this was not where the publisher saw the paper going, it was content mill or nothing.

All the fun I was having being duped into believing that what I was doing was crucial in building up a solid entertainment section kept me from my own “words and music.” My reasoning was that if I was getting paid to write, I had no time to write for free.

This from a guy who was writing, for quite a while, 8 to 10 500 word-plus articles a day. Now I have made up my mind that the only thing which will keep me from stopping by daily will be lack of Internet or death. Although I probably should make an allowance for healing time, as I just now put another bag of frozen broccoli on my leg.

I will say, again, how much I appreciate all those folks who have come along for the ride. Those who started off with me, only to leave through frustration, and then came back; I thank you for returning. You must have been checking up on me occasionally. That pleases me no end. For those who stop by to comment I also thank you. I have learned a lot from folks who took a moment or two to let me hear another point of view.

I raise my metaphorical glass to you all and I will try to never desert you, or my little blog again. Oh, and if the editors of WordPress ever feel the need to award my little blog another Freshly Pressed, I wouldn’t say no.

Just saying…

Cheers!

21 March 2015
Quartzsite, Arizona
USA

Action Films Equal Bodybuilding

Scene from BladeThings have changed in the action film world, to the extent that these types of movies equal a bodybuilding extravaganza for the actors involved. Take, for example, the Blade trilogy (1, 2 and 3) where in the last DVD  “Blade Trinity,” special features, the actors all talk about the inordinate amount of time spent weight training.

Actions films by the very definition of the genre include a lot of action sequences; car chases, shoot outs, heavy-duty fight scenes, et al. More emphasis is now place on action heroes looking more like professional athletes. As mentioned in the special features on the final Blade film, “more actors want to do a lot of their own stunts.”

This move toward shrugging off stunt performers who specialize in making the less athletic, or age challenged, actor is relatively new. Certainly the more “jock-like” actors have always wanted to do as many of their own stunts as possible, but now everyone wants to get into the act.

The “making of” documentaries on the third DVD point out this trend and watching films since the trilogy ended it appears that whether the movies are action oriented or not actors want to do more of their own stunts. This move seems to have broken the stunt world into three camps.

These seem to be: Coordinators, professionals who do the real risky stunts (like being set on fire) and standby performers (in case the actor cannot do the gig because of physical limitations or insurance, or “bottles it.”) *Losing one’s bottle, or “bottles it” and all the various iterations of this phrase equals Brit Speak for chickening out.*

Still of Dwayne Johnson

A lot of actors specialize in action features because they are athletic or former athletes. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the perfect example of a sports figure (we won’t go into the debate of WWE being mostly staged, these guys and gals are athletes…period.) who is forging a new career playing roles that are action heavy and he does a lot of his own stunts. Not only that, but Johnson’s acting is very impressive on top of his physical attributes.

But what about actors who aren’t natural athletes or, as stated above, limited by age?

With action films putting a lot more emphasis in actors at least looking like they could perform their own stunts, bodybuilding is the order of the day. This visual believability is crucial if the audience is to suspend their disbelief enough to buy the screen action equaling reality.

Gone are the days when attitude alone made a character deadly in terms of combat. Take for example, the television show “The Equalizer.” The late Edward Woodward, that brilliant actor from across the pond, played Robert McCall aka the Equalizer. McCall was an ex government agent of some sort, an assassin type, who hires himself out as a private detective. He is there to help the “little guy” who needs someone to fight the bullies.

Edward Woodward as Robert McCall

Woodward as McCall didn’t need to look like “The Rock” or Arnold Schwarzenegger to convince the audience he was deadly or tough. His acting skills and the character’s psychological makeup did that. McCall used guns to take out the villains, along with some physical action, and this did not require him to look like a bodybuilder or professional athlete.

Fast forward quite a number of years and Denzel Washington played Robert McCall as a very athletic and martial arts type of ex government killer. Guns were used very little as his McCall used a lot of “The Book of Eli” moves in his version of “The Equalizer.”

The character of McCall becomes less about shooting and more about being creative in dealing out death with something other than bullets. He was also more physical, in keeping with the new millennium’s perception of age; people are lot more active in their “twilight years” now than in the 1980s. Being in one’s late 50s or early 60s “back in the day” meant more reliance on walking frames, canes and a general lack of energy. In 2015 the retired generation have much more get up and go as well as being in better shape physically.

At least in the acting world, fitness is being stressed in terms of time spent in the gym prior to filming. Physical training, fight training and so on all take place in the run up to shooting and throughout the production. “Making of” documentaries on DVD’s feature a lot of “normal” actors talking about “beefing up” and getting “ripped” for a feature film.

It may well be that the action film equaling bodybuilding for its participants is now the norm. Certain actors, like “Resident Evil” star Milla Jovovich, have discovered that they enjoy the more physical aspects of doing stunts and, more importantly, are very good at it. The real dangerous gigs are still done by professionals, but the emphasis on the actor’s looking fit makes it easier for the viewer to believe in the action onscreen.

7 February 2015