Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

Famous ‘Ghostbuster’ Passes Away

posted by jtotey
Harold Ramis

Harold Ramis

Harold Ramis, 69, passed away February 24th in his Chicago home after losing a four-year battle with vasculitis, an autoimmune disease. Ramis is best known for playing Dr. Egon Spengler in both Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2, but you are probably familiar with a lot more of his work and didn’t even know it.

In addition to acting in the Ghostbusters films, Ramis also co-wrote the script with Dan Aykroyd, but his involvement with the franchise didn’t end there. He also wrote for the Ghostbusters video games, The Real Ghostbusters and the Extreme Ghostbusters TV Shows and he had planned on writing a reunion script for Ghostbusters 3 as well. Sadly, that never came to be.

Ramis’ background is as varied as his current resume. He got his start is comedy as a joke editor and review for Playboy magazine. In 1969, he became part of Chicago’s Second City Improvisational Theatre Troupe and in 1976, he became the head writer and performer for SCTV, sort of a Canadian version of Saturday Night Live. He frequently took small roles in his films and cast many of his friends from Second City Alumni in his films including Bill Murray, Rick Moranis and John Belushi. His first movie to write for was 1978 raunchy comedy Animal House followed by Meatballs, Caddyshack and Stripes, each starring Bill Murray. His first directing role was for Caddyshack and his last was four episodes for NBC’s The Office. Most of his films were hits, but he did have a few flops including 2000’s Bedazzled and 2009’s Year One.

Photo: Columbia Pictures

Photo: Columbia Pictures

Ramis was involved in pretty much every area of filmmaking including acting, writing, directing and producing. He wrote or co-wrote what some consider to modern comedy movie classics. His movies ranged from the raunchy to fairly tame. It can be argued that Ramis’ greatest work has to have been 1993’s Groundhog Day, which he served as producer and director as well. Co-written by Danny Rubin, it starred Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell about a self-absorbed guy stuck to relive the same day until he learns his lesson. It is said that Murray wasn’t happy with it because he wanted the story to be more philosophical, but Ramis just wanted it be a comedy.

Born in Chicago and finished out his life there too, Harold Ramis is survived by his wife, Erica Ramos; sons Julian and Daniel; daughter, Violet, and two grandchildren.

Hollywood and Noah

posted by jtotey
Donald Duck serves as Noah's assistant in "Donald's Ark," par of Disney's "Fantasia 2000."

Donald Duck serves as Noah’s assistant in “Donald’s Ark,” par of Disney’s “Fantasia 2000.”

It’s over a month away from the premiere of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, but the film continues to make headlines and most of them not good. People are complaining about everything from an environmental theme of the movie to the fact that Noah is being portrayed by Russell Crowe.

The problem is, most of these armchair critics have only seen the trailer for the film (which I might add, looks suspicious) but not the whole movie. It’s a classic case of judging a book by its coverflap.

Some critics have been invited to pre-screenings of the film including Joseph Cirilo who says: “This is most likely one of those times where the film is only loosely based on the actual text. Although the filmmakers behind the project would like us to believe it is the telling of ‘the untold story’ to witness in 3D and Imax, likely what we’ll see is the telling of the filmmakers own version of 2012 meets the bible.”

But Ted Baehr from MovieGuide, a Christian movie review ministry, had a different take on the movie: “Noah doesn’t significantly stray from the biblical source material and instead remains quite faithful. In fact, by the time the film comes out, the whole issue may be moot. All of the hyper-environmentalism that’s being reported, it’s not in the final movie. The environmental points are there, but they are dropped pretty quickly, and it’s more oriented toward salvation, and loving God, and being fruitful.”

We’ll have to wait and see when the film arrives in theaters at the end of March. In the meantime, remember that this isn’t Hollywood’s first foray into the 40 days and 40 nights of rain. Here are some of the more memorable ones with their own share of controversies:

1928Noah’s Ark (1928)
This melodramatic romance/disaster film was originally intended to be a silent film to be released in 1926 but with the new technology of the time, new scenes with dialogue were added making the film “half silent/half talkie.” The movie told two stories – one about a biblical Noah and a “modern” story about World War I. Both stories featured the same actors including Dolores Costello and George o’Brien. It cost about one million to make, three actors drowned, Costello caught pneumonia and John Wayne served as one of the films extras.

ssFather Noah’s Ark (1933)
This Disney “Silly Symphonies” short presents a fairly straight forward tale of the ark with some novel humor. Noah and his sons build the ark with some help from some of the animals. Two by two, the animals arrive on board except for the skunks. Noah gets chased by a lightning bolt and when the waters recede, the ark was stuck in a tree. As with other Silly Symphonies, it features little if any dialogue.

1959Noah’s Ark (1959)
This fairly unknown short produced by Walt Disney featured stop motion animation similar to the Rankin Bass Christmas specials.  Everyday items brought the characters to life. In this version, Noah and his sons were given just one week to complete the ark. While on board, the animals began to get restless, so Noah’s wife suggests that they play some music to calm the savage beasts. Everyone danced with their partner except for Mr.Hippo, who was a bit of a playboy. A rather large segment of the film is dedicated to Mrs. Hippo singing about her woes being married to the brute. It wasn’t Disney’s finest work.

LastThe Last Flight of Noah’s Ark (1980)
To call this a Noah’s Ark movie is quite a stretch, but it is included in the title. Eliott Gould plays a pilot whose job is the fly a cargo of animals in a beat up B-29 bomber for a missionary (Geneviève Bujold) and two orphans (Ricky Schroder and Tammy Lauren). The plane crashes on a remote island, the crew turn the plane into a boat and call it Noah’s Ark, the pilot falls in love with the missionary, the two get married and adopt the orphans. Did I mention that it was a Disney flick?

SuperbookSuperbook (1981, 2013)
“Superbook” was originally a Japanese anime television series about Christopher Peeper and his friend Joy who travel through time with a robot named Gizmo and a magical “Superbook.” It became pretty popular and the series was brought to the U.S. in the early 1980’s. The series was recently updated with CGI effects and whole different look.  In 1981’s “The Flood,” and the updated 2013, “Noah,” the trio get to help build the ark, take care of the animals and run away from bad guys all leading up to the rainbow promise at the end.

HBThe Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible (1985)
Produced by Hanna-Barbera, this animated series was aimed at the home video market. Each episode featured three young travelers who travel back in time to experience Bible stories firsthand and featured special guest star voices. In the Noah story, the three help Noah (Lorne Greene) and his family build the ark and take care of the animals. As the rains some, they jump on board just as an army comes to burn down the boat.

1999Noah’s Ark TV Miniseries (1999)
A rather bizarre version of Noah was created for NBC that meshed two of the Bible’s stories into one. Jon Voight starred as Noah with Mary Steenburgen as his wife who were neighbors in Sodom and Gomorrah with Lot played by F. Murray Abraham. Biblical accuracy wasn’t a factor during the three night affair. The climax features Lot leading a band of pirates to take down the ark. In the end, God not only destroyed the city for its evilness, but also the world with a flood while He was at it. Not surprisingly, Noah’s Ark was critically beat for its creative liberties, and odd depiction of Biblical characters.

donald2Donald’s Ark (2000)

Part of Disney’s Fantasia 2000, Donald Duck serves as Noah’s assistant who is in charge of directing traffic of the animals to get on board of the ark. He must get two of every creature including him and Daisy. It is said that all of the animals are a representation of the animals featured in earlier Disney films. Everything goes to plan until Donald and Daisy can’t find each other. As with the tradition of the other segments of the full film, the short features no dialogue.

SteveEvan Almighty (2007)
Although “technically” a sequel to the 2003 Bruce Almighty, Evan Almighty is a standalone comedy about a former TV news anchorman, Evan Baxter (Steve Carell), now running for office. He, like Noah, is told by God, (Morgan Freeman) to build an ark due to a coming flood. For some reason, God insists that Evan needs to look like the biblical version of Noah, complete with long flowing beard and robe, in order to play the part. By the time it premiered, it had become the most expensive film comedy ever which grossed less than its budget of $174 million.

Church Leaders Take Unusual Steps to Promote Film

posted by jtotey
Son of God opens in theaters on February 28, but many theaters will be showing the film on the night before due to a huge ticket sellout.

Son of God opens in theaters on February 28, but many theaters will be showing the film on the night before due to a huge ticket sellout.

The feature film, Son of God, is getting some unusual help in the promotion department thanks to Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Archbishop José Gomez, Craig Groeschel, Miles McPherson, Ray Johnston and others. The biblical film produced by Mark Burnett (TV’s Survivor, The Amazing Race)and Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel) opens nationwide on Friday, February 28, but these pastor are seeing to it that the film will play on every screen in a variety of multiplexes, approximately 3,000 in total, the night before.

For an example of this phenomenon, Crossroads Church in Cincinnati is bringing thousands of people to their local Cinemark theater where the film will be showing on 13 screens at the same time. “We’re inviting everyone to experience this historic film about the life of Jesus,” said Brian Wells from Crossroads. “If anyone comes to the theater to see another movie that night, they’ll be out of luck, unless we have a few extra tickets to give them!”

“It’s very interesting to see this level of excitement around the movie,” stated James Meredith, VP, Head of Marketing & Communications for Cinemark.  “We’ve already scheduled a few large-scale theatre buyouts for Son of God in theatres across the country.  The interest level for meetings, events, screenings and buyouts seems to be on par with that of major blockbuster, tentpole or franchise movies.”

Pastor Rick Warren has bought out eight different theaters throughout Orange County. “I’ve seen most of the films about Jesus produced in the past 50 years, and Son of God is the best,” Warren said. Warren is also supporting the film by creating his own curriculum which was released on February 15 – Son of God: The Life of Jesus in You.

In addition to pastors doing “Theater Take-Overs,” many others are buying out single screens at their local movie theater. “This is a rare opportunity to bring the story of Christ into our mainstream culture,” said Rick Warren. “We want to see Jesus in movie theaters where sight and sound can open up our senses and let grace come in. The message of the Gospel deserves to be on the big screen – and this is our chance to see it there.”

Relief organization Compassion International has also joined in the buyout campaign by distributing tickets to churches in more than 40 markets. “Jesus has always been at the center of our ministry,” says Mark Hanlon, Compassion International’s senior vice president of global marketing and engagement. “His life story is the greatest story ever told. And this film tells it in a beautiful, captivating way. The Gospel account of Jesus’ life is a central part of our program’s curriculum. That’s why we’re working with churches throughout the country to make this film an opportunity for outreach.”

“We’re very excited that the community is mobilizing to support Son of God,” said Mark and Roma. “The grass roots support is so important and the faith community is amazing when it mobilizes. Our hope is that the story and message of Jesus Christ will reach tens of millions of people nationwide.”

Son of God is the first major motion picture on the complete life of Jesus Christ in nearly 50 years. It will be released by 20th Century Fox in theaters nationwide on February 28, 2014, featuring powerful performances, exotic locales, dazzling visual effects and a rich orchestral score from Oscar®-winner Hans Zimmer. The film will be released in English, Spanish and Korean.

Help Spread the Word about ‘In Plain Sight’

posted by jtotey
in-plain-sight

Photo: Word Entertainment

This week, the official film trailer for the upcoming sex trafficking documentary, In Plain Sight: Stories of Hope and Freedom, has been released. Executive produced and narrated by Christian singer Natalie Grant, In Plain Sight will not only expose this rampant crime but will also benefit the work of Abolition International.

We’ve all heard the horror stories of women being forced to work as prostitutes in other countries, now brace yourself for even worse news. Right now, thousands of young women, (children really), are being tricked into working the sex trade in the United States. And even worse? Chances are these crimes are happening right in your own backyard. This isn’t sensational news blown out of proportion. It’s a real problem. Fortunately, we can be part of the solution.

Natalie Grant serves as Executive Producer and narrator for "In Plain Sight."

Natalie Grant serves as Executive Producer and narrator for “In Plain Sight.”

On October 4th of this year, Word Entertainment will be releasing a new campaign that focuses on three resources: the documentary film, a compilation album and a 31-day devotional/group study guide. Last year, $45,000 was raised through Indiegogo, a crowdfunding service similar to Kickstarter, to help produce the documentary. During the past several months, film crews were able to interview abolitionists, survivors, and law enforcement officials capturing not only frightening stories, but also stories of hope from aftercare homes located in Nashville, Baltimore, Sacramento, Little Rock, Houston and Dallas.

“While other documentaries have done a good job educating the public on this issue, we want to share stories of hope and freedom that are emerging from the darkness,” said David Trotter, co-executive producer. “We don’t want you to walk away depressed and unmotivated. We want you to be inspired to take action based on the hope you’ve experienced.”

David Trotter

David Trotter

Now, the production is in need of raising an additional $40,000 to complete editing the film and launching the campaign. Currently, just $1,700 has been raised of the goal but we still have 23 days to reach it. Tax-deductible donations are being accepted via Indiegogo of just about any amount, but if you are like me, you don’t have tons of money to throw at projects no matter how good they are. However, you can make a significant dent by donating $15 to the cause. Tell a few friends, and before you know it, we got this thing paid for! Plus, there are perks that come with your donation depending on how much you want to give that range from a simple “thank you” to a trip to the premiere of the film in Nashville.

Watch the trailer below and if you are so inclined, visit the Stories of Freedom website to add your name to the list.

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