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Ask 411 Movies for 2.18.13: Bringin’ da Funk!

February 18, 2013 | Posted by Leonard Hayhurst

What Leonard Recently Watched
Zombie purists probably won’t like Warm Bodies, because it plays very fast and loose with the zombie mythos. These zombies are unlike any ever seen and the rules of the world are vague at best. However, there is a lot going on under the surface as this play on Romeo and Juliet puts over a message of love and understanding needed to keep the world we know from ceasing to exist. There’s a lot of wit and charm here, thanks in large part to Nicholas Hoult doing a perfect job in creating his character and how he evolves. John Malkovich and Rob Corddry are wasted and letting them cut loose would have upped the fun factor. Other movies have tried to show things from the zombie side or do a romantic zombie tale, but perhaps none as successful as Warm Bodies. I’d give it a 7 out of 10.

Obscure Television Series of the Week
Title: Ann Jillian
Air Dates: Nov. 30, 1989, to Aug. 19, 1990
Network: NBC
Cast: Ann Jillian as Ann McNeil, Lisa Rieffel as Lucy McNeil, Amy Lynne as Robin Winkle, Zachary Rosencrantz as Kaz Sumner, Noble Willingham as Duke Howard, Chantel Rivera-Batisse as Melissa Santos, Cynthia Harris as Sheila Hufnagel
Premise: We wrap our look at the failed sitcoms of Ann Jillian with one that just has her name for the title. No The Ann Jillian Show, just Ann Jillian. After the death of her fireman husband, Ann McNeil decides to get a fresh start with her teenage daughter Lucy by moving to the small California town she honeymooned in. Ann got a job in a gift shop ran by Mrs. Hufnagel. Kaz had the hots for Lucy and Duke was his kind grandfather.

On Our Last Episode…
Apparently I didn’t do enough research last week into the question on Hollywood productions leaving messes behind when they shoot on location. Dan in the comments last week mentioned the mall from 1980’s The Blues Brothers and G-Walla mentioned the bus into a train wreck from 1993’s The Fugitive. This information was readily out there if I had just looked.

Here is a link to photos of the The Fugitive wreck remains alongside tracks of the Great Smokey Mountain Railroad in Dillsboro, N.C. The engine was not destroyed and now pulls a dinner train. Part of the ride is going by the wreck. So, it’s been turned into a tourist attraction.

The Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, Ill., closed about a year before filming of The Blues Brothers. A few stores remained open while the rest of the building was used as a temporary school by the Harvey-Dixmoor School District while a new one was built. In the summer of 1979, the property was rented out for eight weeks to shoot part of the The Blues Brothers. Some of the stores were redressed and false walls that cars crashed through remained in the mall for years after. The school district attempted to sue Universal Pictures for $87,000, but couldn’t prove an agreement that the production would return the mall to its previous condition after filming. The mall continued to deteriorate over the years until it was finally demolished last May.

Q: Still thinking about the Superbowl blackout, what are other good examples of live television events suffering through major technical problems or other issues that put continuing the program in jeopardy?
-Alan

A: NeverAcquiesce in the comments last week named the incident I was thinking of and a few others from WWE. In Your House 8: Beware of Dog was broadcast May 26, 1996, from the Florence Civic Center in Florence, S.C. Thunderstorms knocked out power after the first match and didn’t come back on until right before the main event. Two days later, WWE staged Beware of Dog 2 in North Charleston. The two matches from the first night aired with the other scheduled matches being redone live. To this day, it’s the only WWE ppv held in South Carolina.

Not quite the same, but the most infamous live gaffe in NFL history is probably the Heidi Bowl. On Nov. 17, 1968, the New York Jets were leading the Oakland Raiders at home 32-19. The game was running long due to penalties and injuries. Promptly at 7 p.m. eastern NBC switched over to its scheduled airing of the made for TV movie Heidi on the east coast. Well, with under a minute left to play the Raiders scored two touchdowns and won the game. The fallout was huge and led to the standard overruns you see on NFL games today.

Q: My question for you involves Soap Opera’s and how they pay their actors/actresses. My wife is an avid GH watcher and I’m amazed at how many people are on that show. How do Soap talent get paid? Is is a set rate or do they get paid by how many episodes they are featured on? It seems like they would be bleeding money having that many actors/actresses on set?
Thanks.
-Ray the Turtle

A: Soap opera actors get paid per experience according to this article from About.com. Someone new to the business will make about $700 per episode, going up to about $1,500 an episode after some time. Those with five to 10 years of experience can make between $1,500 to $3,000 an episode and those with over 10 years of experience can make up to $5,000 an episode. However, even veterans are only promised one to three days of work a week. Some icons of the genre can make much more as Tony Geary of General Hospital is reported to bring in $7 million to $10 million a year along with perks like extended vacation time and limited work hours. Susan Lucci of All My Children and Erika Slezak of One Life to Live were also said to be in that range before the cancellation of those shows.

Q: question my good friend….does every twist on all of Iñarritu´s films must involve a motorized Vehicle?
-Armin

A: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is a Meixan film director best known for 21 Grams, Babel and Amores Perros, which comprise his death trilogy. Amores Perros from 2000 and 21 Grams from 2003 deal with three individuals who have their lives connected after a tragic car wreck. Babel from 2006 earned several Oscar nominations. It does not include a car wreck, but the character played by Cate Blanchett is accidentally shot while riding a tour bus. Inarritu’s other feature film, Biutiful from 2011 also doesn’t include a vehicle crash. The main recurring themes in his films are how people react to their own mortality when faced with the death or near death of others and the relationship between parents and children, as he explains below.

Q: Couple of questions, just to keep you busy as I enjoy the column and I know content can be low sometimes.

1. Last week there was talk about trailers that were cut before the movie and scenes not appearing in them. My favorite example of this is the 1989 Batman movie. In some of the commercials, you can clearly hear the Joker ask “Where does he get those wonderful toys?” in the diner scene, but in the final cut the scene is in there but it’s cut very awkwardly so that you only barely hear the beginning. It’s like, ‘ere does he get those wonderful toys?”. I never understood why that was. Any clue?

2. The upcoming Bates Motel series will feature a serial killer (or at least a future one) in the title role. Aside from this show and Dexter, has there been any other TV shows about a killer where he’s the “star”? How about TV shows about criminals where they’re the star?

3. Before this Bates Motel, there was another idea (very similar to this one) about Norman Bates and how he gave his Motel away to another crazy after his death. Why didn’t that show work and maybe tell us a bit about it? I know it was eventually turned into a TV movie.

4. Why are all the Texas Chainsaw movies so terrible? Putting aside the first one (which is only classic because of it’s style, it’s not a great story or anything, but simple works) each sequel has been worse and worse. Sometimes it seems like they were intentionally trying to make a bad movie. I recall hearing about how one of the sequels had a commercial shot for it, with the Leatherface Excalibur scene, that originally had a much different plot but ended up the movie fell apart and another crappy sequel came out. Why hasn’t anyone been able to do anything with the concept? Also, why do they keep making these terrible movies? I know the smart answer is “money”, but it’s not like the franchise is a cash cow or anything.

5. I was watching a Roddy Piper versus Terry Funk match from 2011. Yes, 2011… Anyway, the crux of the feud was Funk being upset that Piper got a big Hollywood career and he didn’t. While I know this was all a storyline, it does sort of make sense. Why didn’t Terry Funk have a bigger career in acting? He had a few bit parts here and there and always seemed talented enough. Did he just not try or what? Did Piper ever actually beat Funk out for role, like perhaps in Body Slam?

– ODB

A: 1. Below is the scene in question and I hear what you do. My best guess is that it’s sloppy editing. As was said before, trailers are cut independently from the movie itself and often before the film is finished. So, whoever cut the trailer did a better job of splicing the takes than what wound up theatrically.

2. When you say criminal, you get into some murky territory. There have been several shows where lead characters have been wanted for crimes they didn’t commit, like The Fugitive, The A-Team and The Incredible Hulk, or ones where criminals are trying to go straight, like The Rockford Files and White Collar, or programs where crooks try to use their skills for good, like Leverage.

The best example of a Dexter like character being the lead of a series is Fox’s short-lived Profit from 1996. Adrian Pasdar stars as the title character, who uses everything from blackmail to murder to advance in the multinational company he works for. He was described as Satan in a suit.

The most successful series to have a villain as its lead is probably the original Dallas. The series was originally conceived to be a play on Romeo and Juliet as two feuding oil families are brought together by Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) marrying Pam Barnes (Victoria Principal). However, Larry Hagman’s J.R. Ewing quickly grew to be the most popular character and his schemes were the main plot lines. Ewing was another unscrupulous businessman who would use everything from blackmail to murder to get what he wanted. His only real redeeming quality was a strong sense of family and his family name. He could screw his brother and hate his sister-in-law, but you don’t dare come after them or there would be hell to pay.

3. Bates Motel was also the name of a 1987 made for TV movie that was meant to spinoff a television series. Alex West (Bud Cort) is a disturbed young man committed to an asylum after killing his abusive stepfather. In the asylum, he meets Norman Bates (Kurt Paul). Bates wills the motel to Alex upon his death. Alex is released and goes to the closed to motel. He attempts to reopen it with the help of a teen runaway (Lori Petty) and a handyman (Moses Gunn). The idea was to do an anthology horror series around the central characters like Friday the 13th: The Series where strange and horrific things would happen to the guests of the motel. NBC passed on the series, but aired the pilot as a movie to poor ratings and viewer response.

Anthony Perkins refused to be part of the series and even tried to stage a boycott of it. Kurt Paul, who plays Bates, served as a stunt double for Perkins on Psycho II and Psycho III. Due to the failure of Bates Motel, Universal did Psycho IV: The Beginning as a made for cable film in order to wrap up the original franchise.

4. Terrible is an opinion. There could be people out there who love all of the Texas Chainsaw movies. These people probably have brain damage though. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre was very influential in its look, style, cheap production and portrayal of horrors, which weren’t as gory as many people think. For the time it was realistic and shocking.

The 1974 movie gained a cult following, leading to a 1986 sequel. It was pretty much panned for being the opposite of the original with black humor, a bigger budget and prominent gore. Surprisingly, director Tobe Hooper defended the movie saying elements of gore and black comedy were in the first movie, he just upped it for the sequel.

New Line Cinema, after success with the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, started picking up other slasher properties, including Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Leatherface. Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Masacre III from 1990 was meant to be a sort of sequel, sort of reboot of the franchise. It flopped miserably and New Line shelved plans for future films.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation was released in 1994 and featured a then-unknown Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey. Kim Henkel served as director, who co-wrote the first movie with Hooper. Again, it’s a sort of sequel, sort of reboot. The movie was made independently and only received release in 1997 after Zellweger and McConaughey started becoming popular.

A straight up remake was done in 2003, the first from Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes, which also did remakes of other horror franchises. The movie was panned, but made more than $100 million worldwide on a $9.5 million budget. A sequel was planned, but turned into a prequel for 2006. It was made for $13 million and brought in about $50 million worldwide. Platinum Dunes said they wouldn’t be doing anymore and the rights were eventually bought by Lionsgate and Twisted Image.

In January, Texas Chainsaw 3D was released and earned a surprising $25 million its first weekend, but has only done a little over $34 million to date. It picks up after the events of the original movie and a sequel is planned for 2015.

So, to sum up, most of the movies did make money due to low budgets although they were panned by viewers and critics. Leatherface remains a horror icon due to the cult classic status of the original movie and because of that producers will try to revive him every few years to make a buck. The problem is that they try to make the films as cheap cash grabs and standard slasher flicks without adhering to the unique visual and story elements that made the original a success.

5. Terry Funk has had bit parts in several movies over the years including Paradise Alley, Over the Top, Timestalkers, Road House and The Ringer. He also had recurring roles in the short-lived shows Wildside and Tequila and Bonetti. From what I could find, Funk never really pursued an acting a career and only took parts as they would come his way. His first love was wrestling and he committed to his wrestling career instead of trying to develop an acting career that would take him away from the ring for long stretches like with Roddy Piper and Hulk Hogan.

Q:  Hey Mr. H,
Who would you say is the most well renown voice over actor? The name I see frequently in shows going back to Transformers back in my childhood is Frank Welker.  Also, speaking of Transformers, how did Orson Wells wind up working on Transformers: The Movie as the voice of Unicron? Was he hard up for money at the end of his life or just did it cause he could? His voice works perfectly for the character btw.
-Paul

A: Frank Welker is certainly one of the most prolific voice actors in history. His IMDB page has more than 680 credits, mostly voice work. His most well known characters are Scooby-Doo and Fred in various Scooby-Doo programs, Garfield on the new Garfield series, Megatron on various Transformers programs, George on Curious George, Marvin on Super Friends, Dynomutt the Dog Wonder, Iceman on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Hefty Smurf, Dr. Claw and Brain in Inspector Gadget and Slimer and Ray on The Real Ghostbusters. If you factor in voice over roles, Welker is the top grossing actor of all time when you combine the take of every movie he’s ever been in.

If you go all time, the most revered names in voice over history are Mel Blanc and Daws Butler. Blanc voiced a number of Looney Tunes characters including Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Tweey, Sylvester, Yosemite Sam and more.

Butler worked for Hanna Barbera and voiced many of their characters such as Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Quick-Draw McGraw, Snagglepuss, Wally Gator, Elroy Jetson and many others.

Transformers: The Movie actually drew some notable people to work on it outside of Orson Welles, including Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack and and Judd Nelson. I couldn’t find exactly how Welles came to the film, but he was doing a lot of voice work toward the end of his life, because his weight and health made doing much else impossible. Director Nelson Shin and story consultant Flint Dille have said Welles had a hard time recording his lines because of labored breathing. Shin was going to junk the work, but he ran it through a voice synthesizer to smooth it out and give Welles a more menacing tone. There were rumors that Welles died before recording all his lines and Nimoy finished some parts, but that has been refuted by those who worked on the movie. Welles in interviews belittled the movie and was quoted as saying the following in an interview:

“You know what I did this morning? I played the voice of a toy. Some terrible robot toys from Japan that changed from one thing to another. The Japanese have funded a full-length animated cartoon about the doings of these toys, which is all bad outer-space stuff. I play a planet. I menace somebody called Something-or-other. Then I’m destroyed. My plan to destroy Whoever-it-is is thwarted and I tear myself apart on the screen.”

Q: Since you are doing Ann Jillian month, would you call her, at least on the tv side, one of the most hyped busts of all time? I remember during the late 80s/erly 90s, the networks seemed desperate to make her the next big star, even doing a tv movie about her life with her in the starring role. But it didn’t really work and now she’s barely remembered.
Can you think of other people who were supposed to be the next big thing but didn’t really happen?
-JLAJRC

A: Ann Jillian, 63, was born in Cambridge, Mass. She was a child star appearing as Little Bo Peep in Disney’s Babes in Toyland and Dainty June in Gypsy. She did television work throughout the 1960s. In the 1970s, casting directors said she was too tall for youth parts, but looked to young for adult roles. She made do with stage plays and voice over work. Her star rose again in the 1980s thanks to roles in several made for TV movies and miniseries, including earning an Emmy nomination for the title part in 1982’s Mae West. The movie about herself, The Ann Jillian Story came out in 1988. As profiled over the past few weeks, attempts to break her out as a sitcom star failed with It’s a Living, Jennifer Slept Here and Ann Jillian. It’s hard to say why someone doesn’t catch on, a lot of the time it’s not finding the right vehicle for their talent or producers overestimating someone’s talent and appeal. I would say it was probably a bit of both for her.

Before Ann Jillian I went over the bombs of McLean Stevenson. The McLean Stevenson Show and Life with Larry were the two main attempts to make him a solo star. Stevenson earned his greatest fame as Col. Henry Blake on MASH. Stevenson said several times that leaving the series was his worst career move ever. He said the wrong people got into his ear and told him he shouldn’t play second banana to Alan Alda and Wayne Rogers and he could be much bigger without them. MASH proved greater than the sum of its parts as it remained a hit series through many cast changes.

The guy who got the most chances to be a big television star, but never made it was Robert Urich. Between 1973 and 2001 he was featured in 13 television series. Most didn’t go over a season with his two most successful in Vega$ and Spenser for Hire lasting three seasons each. Urich was well liked by viewers and critics, but it can’t be denied that given chance after chance to start in a hit show, he failed.

Sisters Audrey and Judy Landers were also pegged for big things in the 1980s that never materialized. Judy was the more successful of the pair, appearing in supporting roles on Vegas$, B.J. and the Bear and Madame’s Place. Audrey had the recurring role of Afton Cooper on Dallas and was in the short-lived Highcliffe Manor. The pair often played twins, even though they were born two years apart. I have no idea what’s going on below and I don’t want to know.

Next week we’ll talk about foul mouthed comedians who got squeaky clean TV shows, the sequel to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, television programs that survive without ever being big hits and much more. With the much more being what you the readers send in this week. So send in this week.

Don’t die.
“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

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Leonard Hayhurst

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