Archive for the 'Entertainment' category

Happy birthday to G.W. Bailey!

Aug 27 2009 Published by under Entertainment

I was watching The Closer the other night, and I was observing again how much I like the character of Lt. Provenza, and the actor G.W. Bailey who plays him.  In a nice bit of synchronicity, it turns out that I looked him up only a couple of days before his birthday today!

Bailey, who turns 65 today, has had a long and fun career.  He seems to have made a guest appearance on every classic television show of the 70s and 80s: Charlie's Angels, CHiPs, Starsky and Hutch, Soap, Laverne & Shirley, Lou Grant, Happy Days, Benson, M.A.S.H., St. Elsewhere, Remington Steele, Simon & Simon, Newhart.

His real mark on the 80's was his recurring role as the cantankerous Lt. Harris in the Police Academy films.  I personally will think of him most fondly for his role as the town drunk and sidekick Peter in the underappreciated cowboy comedy Rustler's Rhapsody.  Now he really shines as Lt. Provenza in The Closer, and I couldn't have been happier to see him still in action.

A very happy birthday to G.W. Bailey, and best wishes for a long and prosperous career!

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Roger Ebert on 'death panels' and the power of a phrase

Aug 17 2009 Published by under [Politics], Entertainment

If you don't read Roger Ebert's blog, you probably should.  In recent years (and probably before that, but before blogs) he's been writing some of the most thoughtful posts I've seen on a range of topics, from politics to science to, of course, movies.  His recent post discusses "The Big Lie" that is Sarah Palin's "death panels."

Update: The comments are well worth reading as well.  Roger does an amazing job of remaining polite while concisely slapping down the rudest of the crazies who stop by for a fight.

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Catching "The Wave": still relevant

Aug 13 2009 Published by under ... the Hell?, [Politics], Entertainment

Watching crowds of lunatic extremists attempting to shut down any reasonable debate about healthcare by shouting down politicians at town halls and even bringing firearms to protests is reminiscent of the scare tactics that brownshirts used to secure power in pre-WWII Germany, a point that has been made by at least one observer.

It's worth pointing out that strong-arm and intimidation tactics, though often viewed as acceptable in an "end justifies the means" way,  tend to spiral out of control because of their very nature.  I'm reminded of an old made-for-TV movie, The Wave, about a high school teacher who starts a "youth movement" as a lesson which spirals quickly out of control.  The entire movie can be viewed on YouTube, in two twenty-something minute parts:

The movie, and its novelization, are based on a real-life incident which occurred in California in the 1960s.

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Nice interviews with Richard Garriot and Lyn Evans on Vice/

Aug 12 2009 Published by under Entertainment, role-playing games

A few months ago, I got a nice email from the folks at Vice Magazine/ pointing me to a video interview they did with Richard Garriot (aka "Lord British"), the fabulously wealthy fantasy computer-gaming guru responsible for the Ultima series of games.

I was distracted by other things at the time (did I mention I'm trying to get my tenure package together and finish a book?), but I was reminded of Garriot by another email advertising a written interview with Lyn Evans, one of the project managers at CERN.

The Evans interview (which can be read here) is a nice discussion of the basic goals of the collider project and last year's startup problems.

The 20-minute Garriot interview (which can be viewed here) is absolutely fantastic!  Not only does he share the story of his development of his line of fantasy games and his experiences in space, but he gives a tour of his really cool mansion.  This mansion includes a dungeon, secret passageways, pre-first-editions of the Lord of the Rings novels, and cool science toys like an observatory and ferrofluid manipulator. The interview contains lots of fascinating tidbits about Garriot's life and views.

(We need more wealthy people like Garriot, who put their wealth towards fun and creative projects!)

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Biltmore Estate... and Rick Springfield!

Aug 03 2009 Published by under Entertainment, Travel

This weekend, the wife and I took a trip up to Asheville, NC, to see the historic Biltmore Estate... and see a Rick Springfield concert! The trip was an absolute blast, and I thought I'd share some pictures of the Estate grounds, as well as of the concert itself.

Biltmore consists of a massive home of some 250 rooms and grounds of some 8,000 acres , and it is the largest privately-owned residence in the country.  It was built in the 1890s for George Washington Vanderbilt, who had inherited a fortune from his railroad tycoon father and grandfather.  Vanderbilt was a celebrity of his time, and built the home in part to escape from the chaos of New York City and the attention he received there.   Vanderbilt died in 1914, leaving his wife Edith the master of the estate.  In 1930, at the height of the Great Depression, daughter Cornelia opened the estate to the public so that the tourist draw could increase the area's local revenue.  The house remains in family hands, and is now a wonderful tourist attraction.

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Hollywood: Now officially out of ideas

Jul 06 2009 Published by under ... the Hell?, Entertainment

Okay, now I think we can make this official:  Hollywood is completely out of novel ideas.  We started to suspect that this was the case when they started remaking very old classics such as King Kong, but at least there was an argument that those older films could use a high-tech facelift.  Then they started remaking classic films which were nearly perfect, such at The Haunting and The Day the Earth Stood Still, and completely botched them.   When Hollywood's favorite muse became the videogame industry, one might be forgiven for assuming they had run out of ideas then.

But no, July 2009, is the official month the movie industry ran out of ideas.  From IMDB:

Classic 1980s computer game Asteroids is crashing onto the big screen - the arcade hit is set for a Hollywood movie makeover.

Universal Pictures bosses have snapped up the rights to make a film out of Asteroids, and are said to have given G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra director Lorenzo Di Bonaventura the job of breathing life into the project.

If you'd like to see an image of the project they're "breathing life" into, look no further:

Asteroi1Yeesh... one hopes that this is some sort of surreal joke...

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Happy birthday to Ray Harryhausen!

Jun 29 2009 Published by under Entertainment

It's a good time of year for birthdays: today is Ray Harryhausen's birthday!  If you don't know who Ray Harryhausen is, you should be ashamed of yourself -- he's the undisputed master of special effects.

Harryhausen pioneered the use of stop-motion animation to bring fantastic creatures to life.  If you've seen It Came From Beneath the Sea, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Clash of the Titans, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms or -- heaven help me -- The Valley of Gwangi, you've seen Harryhausen's mastery of special effects.

My favorite, which I still find awesome to this day, is the animated statue of Kali (via This Distracted Globe):


The Golden Voyage gives us this nice bit of trivia about the sequence:

In order to rehearse all the six arms with the actors in the sequence three stunt men had to be strapped together with a big belt standing and posing as Kali.

The adventure films of Harryhausen never made a whole lot of sense, but they were fun and filled with creatures more memorable than most of the throw-away CGI beasts produced today.

Most of Harryhausen's work was done from the 50s through the 80s, but he still has an impact -- numerous little "tributes" to him appear in animated films, and in 1992 he won the Gord0n E. Sawyer Academy Award "Given to an individual in the motion picture industry whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry."

Happy birthday, and hopefully many more, to the father of modern special effects!

(P.S. I'm honored to share a birthday with him!)

Update:  The Seventh, a site dedicated to Harryhausen, is fascinating!  Particularly intriguing is the section on Lost Projects, imaginative movie ideas that Harryhausen never got a chance to make.  Even more intriguing: one of these lost projects, War Eagles, was originally conceived in 1940 but is going to be released in 2010, with Harryhausen as executive producer!  From IMDB: "A publicly humiliated test pilot and a lost clan of vikings riding giant eagles are America's only hope against a surprise Nazi attack."  Awesome!

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Happy birthday to Bruce Davison!

Jun 28 2009 Published by under Entertainment

I'm out of town for a few days, and likely posting light, but I had to put in a short "happy birthday" to actor Bruce Davison!

Davison, who has a distinguished air about him that screams, "upper echelon", is often pegged for roles as academics, doctors or politicians -- both good and bad.   He played the evil, mutie-hating Senator Kelly in X-Men, and the do-good philanthropist on the remake of Knight Rider.  He did an excellent, though brief, job as the unstable Dr. Silberman on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and has guest-starred on shows as diverse as Seinfeld, Battlestar Galactica, and Lost.  I've always been particularly fond of his role as the increasingly deranged Dr. Stegman on the surprisingly good Stephen King miniseries Kingdom Hospital.

One performance of his, however, has been burned into my brain from long before I knew who he was.   One of his earlier roles was in the made-for-TV movie The Wave (1981), in which he plays high-school teacher Ben Ross, who is apparently turning his students into a new wave of Nazi idealogues.

Best wishes to Davison on his birthday for a long and successful career!

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A happy birthday to Brian Cox!

Jun 01 2009 Published by under Entertainment

I couldn't let June 1 go by without acknowledging the birthday of one of the coolest character actors around: Brian Cox!

Brian has had  a remarkable career and done many roles, including but not limited to: Agamemnon in Troy, the mean mutant-hating William Stryker in X-Men 2, the sleazy spy in the Bourne Identity, and the cantankerous Captain O'Hagan in Super Troopers.  Even when the movie itself isn't great (cough, cough -- Troy -- cough, cough), Brian manages to make it worth watching.

One of my favorite of his roles, however, is also one of his earliest: he was the first actor to play Hannibal Lector, in the 1986 Michael Mann film Manhunter!  I still prefer Cox's subtle, almost bored Lector to Anthony Hopkins' over-the-top performance!

Anyway, happy birthday to Brian Cox, and here's hoping for many more great performances from him!

6 responses so far

"Sherlock Holmes" is a real film? Really?

May 27 2009 Published by under ... the Hell?, Entertainment

I've known for a while that a new version of Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson, has been in the works.  Via The Little Professor, I finally got to see the trailer:

WTF?  Is this for real?  End of the world plots?  Martial arts battles?  Supernatural stuff?  Daredevil stunts and explosions?  Hookers?  Does any of this sound anything like Sherlock Holmes??!!

Mind you, I'm not really complaining.  Sherlock Holmes is a strong character, and his image and stories will survive any oddball interpretations.  Anyway, I've enjoyed other interpretations of Holmes, in particular the collection Shadows Over Baker Street in which he battles Lovecraftian horrors.

It's just that, if I were to make a really ridiculous parody of modern action films and their "dumbening", I would make a film exactly like Sherlock Holmes!  I'll still almost certainly go see it, but I'll have this latter clip in my mind the whole time:

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