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Ask 411 Movies for 02.11.13: Bullet to the Column!

February 11, 2013 | Posted by Leonard Hayhurst

What Leonard Recently Watched
Sometimes all I ask of a movie is that it lives up to its title. In Bullet to the Head there are a lot of bullets to a lot of people’s heads. It’s a throwback anti-hero action film, popular in the 1980s. It features two veterans of the genre in director Walter Hill and star Sylvester Stallone. They have the perfect sense of what the movie is supposed to be and don’t try to do more than that. It is a little raw and gritty, with some of the kills producing shock value on their suddenness. The movie is based on a graphic novel and there seems to be some conflict between the source material and Hill and Stallone just doing the type of movie they know how to do. However, there is a certain mix of the fresh and familiar that had me liking this more than I thought I would for a solid 6.5 out of 10.

Obscure Television Series of the Week
Title: Nearly Departed
Air Dates: April 10 to May 1, 1989
Network: NBC
Cast: Grant Pritchard as Eric Idle, Caroline McWilliams as Claire Pritchard, Stuart Pankin as Mike Dooley, Wendy Schaal as Liz Dooley, Jay Lambert as Derek Dooley and Henderson Forsythe as Jack Garrett
Premise: Similar to the movie Topper, Eric Idle of Monty Python and Caroline McWilliams of Benson star as an upper crust couple who die in a car wreck. They remain in their home and cringe at the working class family that moves in and changes it. Only Grandpa Jack can see and talk with the ghosts, and he’s not too impressed by them.

This series was suggested by Dan in the comments last week, based on last week’s installment being about a ghost haunting her old home in Jennifer Slept Here, starring Ann Jillian. We’ll have another failed Jillian sitcom next week along with a profile on her career and a look at other television actors that didn’t break big despite a push.

Q: With the lights going out at the Super Bowl, has there ever been any tv shows or movies where a terrorist attacks a major sporting event? The only one I can think of is The Sum of All Fears.

A: The readers did most of my work for me on this question in the comments last week with suggestions such as Bane exploding the football field in The Dark Knight Rises, the opening of Munich based on real Olympic events, a baseball player brainwashed to kill Queen Elizabeth in The Naked Gun and an episode of Caprica that featured a terrorist attack at a pyramid game.

However, the two best examples of movies revolving around a terrorist attack at a major sporting event are Sudden Death from 1995 and Black Sunday from 1977.

Sudden Death stars Jean-Claude Van Damme as Darren McCord, a Pittsburgh fire marshal for Civic Arena during game seven of the Stanley Cup finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks. In attendance is the vice president of the United States (Raymond J. Barry), who is being held hostage with other notables by a former government agent turned terrorist (Powers Boothe). McCord discovers the plan and it’s up to him to prevent the terrorists from blowing up the arena at the end of the game, save the vice president and take down the bad guys. The story was conceived by Karen Elise Baldwin, wife of Penguins owner Howard Baldwin.

Black Sunday stars Robert Shaw as a Mossad agent who discovers a plot by the terrorist group Black September to use a bomb on the Goodyear Blimp to blow up the Orange Bowl during Super Bowl X. Shaw teams up with an FBI agent played by Fritz Weaver. They race to stop the disillusioned and suicidal former prisoner of war pilot of the blimp (Bruce Dern) who is working with Black September leader Dahlia (Marthe Keller). It’s based on a novel by Thomas Harris, who created Hannibal Lecter. The movie was pulled off thanks in large part to director John Frankenheimer having good relationships with Goodyear, from when he made the racing flick Grand Prix, and CBS, where he cut his teeth as a director.

Q: I am sure you get this type of question all the time. When are they or why haven’t I found this tv series on DVD?  And I am sorry, because I am going to ask it again. However, these are show I never hear people as about. The shows in question are kids’ shows I used to watch.  The first two were on fox (if I remember right) and were created by famous comedians.  Bobby’s World and Life with Louie.  As I recall they were both emmy award winning, and more importantly kids’ loved them.  I would love to be able to share them with my kids. but like I said nobody remembers them.  

The other series I am asking about was the final series of the “original” Transformers story line.  When I say “Original”, I refer to the first three series they had before they started going back and telling news stories involving Generation one characters. Which means I am talking about Transformers, Beast Wars, and Beast Machines. The first two were given new life with re-releases through Shout factory and on a pretty regular schedule. Then they stopped and I am wondering if and when they would be getting the Beast Machines series released?  I enjoyed the series (not as much as the others) and I am some what of  a completionist, so I would to own it as well.  I know there is one version already out there, but I would like a Shout Factory version.  They produce good quality DVDs.  Thank you for your time.

A: Bobby’s World ran from 1990 to 1998 on Fox Kids. It was created by comedian Howie Mandel, who served at the voice of Bobby Generic, a precocious boy with an active imagination. All seven seasons can be purchased on DVD or watched instantly on Amazon. The season sets run $19.99 from MoonScoop Group, released through Amazon’s CreateSpace manufacturer on demand program.

Life with Louie ran from 1995 to 1998 on Fox Kids. It was created by comedian Louie Anderson and was based loosely on his childhood growing up in Wisconsin. In January 2006, Louie Anderson said in a radio interview that the series wold be released on DVD in the U.S., but it hasn’t to date. Three two-episode sets were released on DVD in the United Kingdom, where it ran on the European version of Jetix.

The complete series of Transformers: Beast Machines was released by Rhino in 2006. In 2004 a five episode DVD was put out by HGV Video. Rhino still has the rights to Beast Machines, from what I could find, although their version appears to be out of print. It can be found new and used through online retailers, like Amazon, but you’ll pay a hefty price.

Q: Hello again, the recent discussion of crashes has brought to mind a question I have had for a while.  Many a film has shown a vehicle careening off a cliff and plummeting into a gorge or ocean.  My question is about recovery of the wreckage after filming is finished.  I know some are done with miniatures and expect that in today’s eco-friendly world where mechanical technology (as opposed to FX) allows for easier/better cleanup the studios are careful about leaving scrap behind.  But was that always the practice?  Did filmmakers in the 40’s and 50’s leave behind the wreckage?  And if so are there any notable places where it can still be viewed?

A: Cleaning up shooting locations usually falls to production assistants to do or arrange. If a production is shooting on location, it’s usually in the contract with owners of the property or the municipality they’re in that they will clean everything up and leave everything the way they found it. For car, plane and train wrecks the production would contract with a salvage company experienced in that type of debris cleanup and removal. Cars are a bit easier as you just need a tow truck to take it to a salvage yard most of the time. However, in some instances the cars are fixed up and sold to collectors or go on the circuit to movie and car shows, like with Trans-Ams from Smokey and the Bandit and Chargers from The Dukes of Hazzard.

As you mention above, a lot of work is done with CGI now and miniatures back in the day, so less giant messes. During the studio era, much more was shot on studio lots and sound stages or land studios owned or had access to, making clean up much more in house. I couldn’t find any stories about productions leaving giant messes behind and trouble from that.

One of the most spectacular in camera wrecks of all time was for the 1976 movie Silver Streak, where a train crashes through what is supposed to be Chicago’s Central Station, but it was done in an empty aircraft hangar in California. A replica train and replica station were built specifically for the production at an estimated cost of about $500,000. This was all for 14 seconds of screen time. However, sometimes that’s what a production has to do to get what it wants. Amtrak refused to cooperate with filming, fearing the movie would be bad publicity for them. The production instead worked with Canadian Pacific Railway for exterior train shots and did interior shooting on sound stages. Production assistants rocked the mock train cars back and forth and passed fake trees and such in front of the lights to simulate movement.

Next week, we’ll go over Ann Jillian’s career and other failed television stars as I said above, plus Bates Motel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and why Terry Funk’s movie career never took off. See you then and be sure to send more questions.

Don’t die.
“Cancel the Super Bowl? That’s like canceling Christmas!”


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Leonard Hayhurst

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