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Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

One Wes Craven Film Nobody Seems to Remember

posted by jtotey
Meryl Streep in 1999's Music of the Heart (Miramax)

Meryl Streep in 1999’s Music of the Heart (Miramax)

It’s sort of crazy to know that Wes Craven, who grew up in a strict Baptist family and wasn’t allowed to see any movies of any sort, later become known as one the great leaders in the horror genre. Craven has been credited for creating some of Hollywood’s scariest films and characters. He created Freddy Krueger and his nightmares, people living under the stairs and the entire Scream series.

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In 1972, Craven began his career in horror with The Last House on the Left with Sean Cunningham.
“It was totally coincidence. My mother wouldn’t even let me read DC Comics,” Craven said in an interview with AV Club. “It was just that Sean had some guys with some money who wanted to make a movie that was interesting, and it had to be scary. I literally remember a conversation along the lines of, ‘Sean, I don’t know anything about making a scary movie.’” Somehow he managed to do just fine.

But while many are familiar with Craven’s films, even if they have never seen any of them, there is one that they tend to forget, namely because it is unlike the others. In 1999, Craven directed the inspirational film, Music of the Heart. The true story was based on the life of Roberta Guaspari who at a crossroads in her life, began to teach violin classes in East Harlem with incredible results creating the Opus 118 program which is still operating today.

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Music of the Heart starred Meryl Streep who received nominations for an Oscar, a Golden Glboe and a Screen Actors Guild Award for her role. The film’s original title, 50 Violins, was put aside since research showed that people who saw Streep’s name attached to a film with the word “violin” in the title, automatically assumed that it would be sad film. And while Streep was the first choice to play the part, she initially declined. Though Streep had never seen any of Craven’s films up to that point, she wasn’t sure about jumping into a film project with him. It is said that she did hear him in a radio interview and was impressed with what she heard, but her schedule wouldn’t allow for her to star in the film. The role was giving to Madonna who had a different perspective on how the story should play out and was later dropped from the production. Sandra Bullock and Meg Ryan were also considered briefly. After receiving a personal letter from Craven himself, Streep agreed to do the part.

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For four weeks before the start of production, Streep learn to play the violin by practicing six hours a day. The film featured many of the actual students involved in Guaspari’s program. The film also starred Angela Bassett, Gloria Estefan and Aidan Quinn.

Wes Craven (Wikipedia)

Wes Craven (Wikipedia)

In the end, the film was a modest hit. Craven himself said that it was difficult to market the film with his name attached to it. Not surprisingly, critics appreciated Streep’s portrayal of the teacher. While Rotten Tomatoes critics gave the film a 64% approval rating, audiences gave the film much higher marks.

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When asked by Movie Fone if Craven had any interest in producing another non-horror movie, he said, “Well, your question leads me to believe you don’t understand the harsh realities of being a director [laughs]. You don’t usually have a choice of changing genres. Once you do a film as hard-hitting as Last House, it’s the general assumption that that’s the kind of person you are. And so people don’t send you their comedies.” He then explained how he was approached by Bob and Harvey Weinstein to do two more Scream movies and then he could do a film out of the horror genre.”

Since Music of the Heart, Craven did get a chance to direct Red Eye, a psychological thriller in 2005 and a short romantic comedy segment for the 2006 compilation film, Paris, je t’aime. Below is the trailer for Music of the Heart.

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Are You Selfish?

posted by jtotey
(Pixabay)

(Pixabay)

Believe it or not, it wasn’t too long ago that when a couple decided to wed, they would send you an engagement photo with the big news in through the U.S. Postal System. (That’s that big box outside your home with the red flag). (“Hey! Bob is getting married. How nice.”) Imagine if you went to the mailbox and found another photo of the couple the next day. (“Hey! Bob is STILL getting married!”) And the next. (“Bob, come on. We know. You’re getting married.”) You get the idea. Pretty ridiculous right? However, in our “advanced” world, people, both men and women, will do just that in their Facebook feed. Why is that? Isn’t once enough?

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Then, there are the people who post selfies every other day of just their face. Nothing special. There was nothing wrong with their two-day-old picture they just posted. Still, you can be sure to find a list of comments from friends telling them how good they look. Then there are the others who post “duck face” shots or selfies with their tongues hanging out (thank you Miley Cyrus). I really wonder if these people think, “I really want to post another selfie, but I don’t want people to think I’m conceited, so I’ll stick my tongue out as if it’s joke.”

Parents boasting of their child’s achievements online is nothing new and most of the time it is welcome news. But then there are those, you know the ones, that think EVERYTHING that their child does is worth posting about. (“Today Johnny got out of bed before 11:00 a.m.! How did I get so lucky? My little ‘baby’ is growing up LOL!”)

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But are selfies a form of narcissism or self-documentation? Pamela B. Rutledge Phd. D. M.B.A. Wrote about this subject in 2013 for Psychology Today. In it, she states that selfies can “facilitate self and identity exploration” and can be more about context than the self. This can be in reference to the activities shown in the photo to even how the photo was taken. She stresses that not all selfies are about seeking external validation. “People often say that posters of selfies just want approval. We ALL seek approval. Humans are social animals, driven by the need for connection and social validation. We want to be valued, appreciated, and included in the groups that matter to us.” She also states that selfies “feel” more real than traditional portraits and can be normalizing. I guess if everybody is posting pictures of themselves, it has become pretty normal. But can it ever get to be too much?

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“Danny Bowman, who was diagnosed with a body dysmorphic disorder, explained that he grew suicidal due to his addiction taking pictures of himself. Bowman shared how he would shoot 200 pictures a day to get just the right look. In fact, the 19-year-old Englishman said that he might spend as much as 10 hours a day just taking selfies,” states an article in Science World Report.

Cover of "Selfish" (edited) (Universe Publishing)

Cover of “Selfish” (edited) (Universe Publishing)

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While he acknowledges that Danny’s case is very extreme, psychiatrist Dr. Davide Veale says, “This is a serious problem. It’s not a vanity issue. It’sa mental health one which has an extremely high suicide rate.”

In that same article, Dr. Ruteledge is also quoted saying, “put aside your anxieties over rampant narcissism and moral decline of the digital generation and exhale … like every trend, the behavior will recede when the excitement and newness wears off…” That was a couple of years ago.

Recent news suggests that Kim Kardashian has been “stressing out” about the sales of her new book, aptly titled, Selfish. That’s right, the reality TV star, famous for being famous, has blessed up with a coffee table book of some of her best selfies. Since May, the book has “only” sold 32,000 copies. That sounds like a lot to me, but I guess she and her publisher were thinking they would sell a lot more. In fact, she was recently a guest on the Live with Kelly and Michael TV show talking about the book and she gave away her secret to the perfect selfie. She takes about 100 or so photos and then picks the best one to post on Instagram. She says that the book is all about memories, but to judge the book by its cover, it looks a lot more than just a scrap book. But two questions come to mind: Why do so many people care and will we be seeing a lot more “selfish” books from other celebs in the coming months? One already did.

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Shellfish

(Universe Publishing)

A parody of Karadashian’s book is out called Shellfish by Kim Carr-Dachshund. Publicity for the book says the Carr-Dachshund is “forever being mistaken for that celebrity Kim with a similar-sounding last name. Not only has Kim Carr-Dachshund created a line of popular jewelry and a collection of super-cool sunglasses, she’s even been called a modern-day Marilyn Monroe. In her travels, Kim has found tributes to her popularity worldwide, such as toys, home decor, and even a postage stamp! And despite her very busy schedule, Kim has also recently developed an interest in shellfish.”

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Zoinks! Scooby-Doo and Gang Return to the Big Screen

posted by jtotey
The "traditional" Shaggy and Scooby-Doo! (Warner Bros.)

The “traditional” Shaggy and Scooby-Doo! (Warner Bros.)

News broke this week that Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, Daphne and Velma will all be featured in a new animated movie to be released in September 2018. The press release states the the “film marks a reintroduction of Hanna-Barbera animated favorites to moviegoers everywhere” which might make some fans nervous. The release doesn’t state if Warner Bros. would focus on the traditional-looking characters and personalities or the new version of the upcoming Be Cool Scooby-Doo! TV series that will debut on Boomerang this fall. (The style of the artwork and story-telling will be significantly different than what we are used to and looks similar to the animated Family Guy series, that is anything but family-friendly.) The Boomerang series was initially to be shown on Cartoon Network.

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The new film is said to reunite Oscar-nominated producers Charles Roven and Richard Suckle who worked on the last two Scooby-Doo movies which were live-action and CGI animated and became a disappointment to fans. But the good news is that the pair will be joined by producer Allison Abbate who worked on The Iron Giant and the Oscar-nominated Fantastic Mr. Fox. (She did also produce Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie, but we can let that slide for now.)

The new film will be directed by Tony Cervone, a multiple Emmy Award nominee and was fully involved in the previous Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated series, which is probably the best version of Scooby and his friends to date, so that’s good. However, the “visionary” Dan Povenmire (Phineas and Ferb and the aforementioned Family Guy) is said to bring his “creative sensibilities” to the film as well. Finally, the screenplay is written by Matt Lieberman who was responsible for Dr. Dolitle: Tail to the Chief, a film that nobody has ever heard of.

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The "Family Guy" version of Scooby and the gang. (Warner Bros./Boomerang)

The “Family Guy” version of Scooby and the gang. (Warner Bros./Boomerang)

So, does this movie have a change to be any good? Greg Silverman, President of Creative Development seems to thinks so. “Like countless fans, I have always loved the Hanna-Barbera cast of characters,” he acknowledges in the press release. “As one of their most famous brand ambassadors, Scooby-Doo will take the lead in re-introducing this pantheon of enduringly popular animated stars on a grand scale with an exciting new movie.” Dan Fellman, President of Domesic Distribution agreed saying, “It’s always a treat to see Scooby-Doo on the big screen and to share his larger-than-life adventures with audiences. As anticipation grows throughout production, the movie’s mid-September release date should start the fall season with a burst of fun.” Finally, Veronika Kwan Vandenberg, Preident of Worldwide Distribution had this to say: “Scooby-Doo and his friends have the kind of universal appeal that reaches across cultures as well as generations.  We expect this new take on the franchise to generate even more fans around the world.”

That last comment makes me the most nervous. Why do we need a “new take” of the Scooby-Doo brand? Still, I don’t want to judge book by its cover or a movie by its poster. This could be great. It could. We’ll see.

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‘Mission Impossible 5′ is Still a Fun Ride

posted by jtotey
Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) and Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) in "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation" (Paramount)

Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) and Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) in “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” (Paramount)

In 1996 when Paramount created the first Mission Impossible film, fans of the classic TV series were none too pleased when the makers decidedly killed off the team and turned the film into a “Tom Cruise film.” Still, the film worked well enough to create two more Cruise-centric Impossible films. But Paramount went back to the series’ roots with a team effort for 2011’s Ghost Protocol, making that film the most popular in the franchise, at least it for many of its fans. And it was not just good storytelling, but also image-improving as Cruise, at the time, was making headlines for all the wrong reasons. This time around, Cruise is getting a lot more attention for doing his own stunts.

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For Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation, the team is intact again – sort of. Paula Patton, who was such a great addition to the cast in Ghost Protocol, is nowhere to be seen or heard from in this film, even though there are some references to the last film here. Jeremy Renner as William Brandt and Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell get a lot less screen time for this story as well, but Simon Pegg as Benji is promoted to a much more important role and shows a more serious side than he did in the last film.

Alan Huntley (Alec Baldwin) and Benji (Simon Pegg)

Alan Huntley (Alec Baldwin) and Benji (Simon Pegg)

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For this story, the IMF has burned a few too many bridges and is forced to shut down “even as the most harrowing threat yet known to the free world lies in the shadows” as stated in the film’s press release. You see, up until now, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and company have not proven that The Syndicate, a group of renegade spies, really exists. Alan Huntley (Alec Baldwin), the CIA Director wants to shut them down but Hunt has gone missing. Meanwhile, Hunt and company are both hiding from and exposing the creepy looking and sounding Solomon Lane and the audience is left wondering if Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) is good spy or a bad spy.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner)

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner)

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Unlike the Ethan Hunt of the previous films, here we see a more imperfect one. In fact, the film highlights a scene where Hunt is cleary not at his best and yet still manages to get the job done. There is something satisfying about not seeing Tom Cruise at his best. And like MI4, there is more than one hero. Baldwin is a nice surprise as well. The actor has done so much comedy in the last few years that we forget that he can really act. Not that his part is all that serious, but at least it’s not as goofy as those Capital One commercials. (Although it might have been fun to hear him ask someone else what was in their wallet.)

Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, Rogue Nation isn’t as much fun as Brad Bird’s film nor is the ending as spectacular. And while the storyline is a little difficult to understand, you should be able to hang on through it all. MI5 does make for a fine sequel. It is also surprisingly “clean” with little language and the violence isn’t as graphic as it could be.

Previous Posts

One Wes Craven Film Nobody Seems to Remember
It's sort of crazy to know that Wes Craven, who grew up in a strict Baptist family and wasn't allowed to see any movies ...

posted 6:34:05pm Aug. 31, 2015 | read full post »

Are You Selfish?
Believe it or not, it wasn't too long ago that when a couple decided to wed, they would send you an engagement photo with the big news in through the U.S. Postal ...

posted 2:02:41am Aug. 27, 2015 | read full post »

Zoinks! Scooby-Doo and Gang Return to the Big Screen
News broke this week that Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, Daphne and Velma will all be featured in a new animated movie to be ...

posted 9:22:59pm Aug. 20, 2015 | read full post »

'Mission Impossible 5' is Still a Fun Ride
In 1996 when Paramount created the first Mission Impossible ...

posted 6:21:32am Jul. 31, 2015 | read full post »

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[caption id="attachment_1076" align="alignleft" width="400"] Michael Angarano (Christopher Archer), Ki Hong Lee (Gavin Lee/3401), Brett Davern (Hubbie Whitlow/7258), Tye Sheridan (Peter Mitchell/819), Johnny Simmons (Jeff Jansen/1037), Ezra ...

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