Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Favorite Scary Movies...

Yes, dear readers, it's that time of year again...
Time for ghouls and goblins to haunt your neighborhood and demand candy!
As Halloween approaches, I wanted to talk about some of my favorite frightening films...
Personally, I tend to lean toward the more tame 'thrillers' rather than an all out gorefest. Those kinds of movies just aren't for me...
So here are some of my favorites:

"Psycho"--this 1960 Alfred Hitchcock classic celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and it still holds up well today. As scary as Norman Bates can be, I think people forget about the whole Marion Crane backstory that makes up the first half of the movie. Embezzlement! Scandal! A great score, a great cast, and a master of the genre--if you haven't seen "Psycho" in a while, check in to check it out...Mother would be proud...

"Poltergeist"--an early 80s scary story about a seemingly normal suburban family (led by the great Craig T. Nelson), whose house suddenly becomes the target of some not so friendly ghosts... Just remember to turn off the TV after you watch this one.

"The Omen"--I'm talking about the original here, not the recent travesty of a remake. This classic will make your heart pound for sure. Gregory Peck plays the father of a young boy who turns out to have a terrible secret. He's a real little devil...

"The Shining"--"Wendy, can't you see I'm...(pause for dramatic effect and creepy expression) working?" Jack Nicholson delivers a bone chilling performance as a man driven to insanity as a struggling writer who moves his family to a hotel in the middle of nowhere to serve as caretakers for the winter. The movie, directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on a Stephen King story, is just about as scary as they come. "What's up, Doc?"

"The Silence Of The Lambs"--"His first name is Louis." Anthony Hopkins leads an ensemble cast in this multiple Oscar-winning thriller. If you haven't seen this one in a long time, then it's been too long. Just remember to put it back in the basket when you're done.

Of course, the list could go on and on, but I'll stop there. What are some of your favorite scary movies? You've gotta have a favorite...

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"Back To The Future" 25 Years Later...

I still can't believe it's been 25 years--25 years!!! since a movie called "Back to the Future" made its way into theaters across the country. Back then, I was a kid who had always loved movies, and had followed Michael J. Fox on one of my favorite '80s TV shows, NBC's "Family Ties."
Like most everyone else who saw it, I was simply blown away when I first watched this film. Everything about it just "clicked"--and it seemed to be flawless. All of the performances were spot on, and it was entertaining from beginning to end. The movie blended comedy with science fiction, a dash of drama, and yes, even a spark of romance--and folks, to be able to pull all of that off is very, very rare indeed. I was so taken with it that I saw "BTTF" 4 times at the movies that summer, and recommended it to everyone.
Great movie, great cast, great music--and today, you can see it for the first time on blu-ray. Although I liked the trilogy as a whole, the first one is still my favorite.
I was fortunate that on a trip to Los Angeles in the late '80s, I took the Universal backlot tour and the tram took us to the court square set. I got an up close and personal look at the courthouse, the gas station, and all of the shops along the square. They told us that the filmmakers were prepping to shoot the sequel, and it was quite a sight to see in person. I'm glad I got to see it before it was destroyed by fire. Since then, they've rebuilt the sets, but nothing can replace that memory. On another trip to L.A. a few years later, a couple of friends and I went to the movies, and Eric Stoltz, along with a couple of his pals, sat right behind us. Stoltz, of course, was first cast as Marty McFly before Fox. I hope you enjoyed the movie as much as I did, and if you haven't seen it in a while, now's a great time to go back to "Back to the Future."
Watch the cast reunion that happened this morning on the "Today" show below.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Gone, But Not Forgotten

I've discussed this topic recently with friends, and this week, we've lost more very recognizable celebrities.
Among them, Arthur Penn, director of such films as "Bonnie and Clyde," and "Little Big Man," as well

as Tony Curtis, the Oscar-Nominated actor and who appeared in such classics as "Spartacus," and "Some Like It Hot," with Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe, and directed by the great Billy Wilder. I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Wilder several years ago at a restaurant out in L.A.

Now, word that one of Hollywood's most legendary TV writers and producers has left us. Stephen J. Cannell has died at the age of 69. I grew up watching the shows he created, and always loved his signature production company logo at the end of each one, with him typing furiously on a typewriter, then tearing the paper out of the machine and tossing it into the air where it animated and formed a "C."
Here it is:

Here's the obit from the AP:

NEW YORK (AP) — Stephen J. Cannell, the voracious writer-producer of dozens of series that included TV favorites The Rockford Files,The A-Team and The Commish, has died at age 69.
Cannell passed away at his home in Pasadena, Calif., on Thursday night from complications associated with melanoma, his family said in a statement on Friday.
During three decades as an independent producer, he distinguished himself as a rangy, outgoing chap with a trim beard who was generally identified with action dramas full of squealing tires and tough guys trading punches.
But his range was greater than for which he was given credit. Tenspeed and Brown Shoewas a clever detective drama starring Ben Vereen and a then-unknown Jeff Goldblumin 1980. Profit was a shocking saga of a psycho businessman that was unforgettable to the few viewers who saw it: Fox pulled the plug after just four episodes in 1996. WithWiseguy (1987-90), Cannell chilled viewers with a film-noir descent into the underworld that predated The Sopranos by more than a decade.
The Rockford Files, of course, became an Emmy-winning TV classic following the misadventures of its hapless ex-con private eye played by James Garner.
"People say, 'How can the guy who did "Wiseguy" do "The A-Team"?' I don't know," said Cannell in an interview with The Associated Press in 1993. "But I do know it's easier to think of me simply as the guy who wrote The A-Team. So they do."
During his TV heyday, Cannell became familiar to viewers from the ID that followed each of his shows: He was seen in his office typing on his Selectric before blithely ripping a sheet of paper from the typewriter carriage, whereupon it morphed into the C-shaped logo of Cannell Entertainment Inc.
That was all the idea of his wife, Marcia, he said, and it "appealed to my sense of hooey. ... I'm a ham."
He was also an occasional actor, most recently with a recurring role on ABC-TV's series, Castle.
A third-generation Californian, Cannell (rhymes with "channel") got into television writing scripts for It Takes a Thief,Ironside and Adam 12. It was a remarkable career choice for someone who had suffered since childhood from severe dyslexia (he became an advocate for children and adults with learning disabilities).
Cannell in recent years had focused his attention on writing books. His 16th novel, The Prostitute's Ball, will be released this month.
"I never thought of myself as being a brilliant writer, and still don't," he said in the AP interview. "I'm a populist. With Rockford, we were never trying to be important. And as thoroughly hated as it was by critics, I loved The A-Team. I thought it was really cool."
He was a producer of the feature film updating The A-Team, released earlier this year.
Cannell is survived by Marcia, his wife of 46 years, their three children, and three grandchildren.