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Ask 411 Movies for 09.12.11: The Bronze Age!

September 12, 2011 | Posted by Leonard Hayhurst

It’s the eighth anniversary of Ask 411 Movies. My thanks goes out to all the readers for keeping the column going this long. It’s the longest continuous column by the same writer here on 411. I’ve only missed one weekly column in that time, when my computer died on me. It’s not only you the readers that keep me going with questions, but with the desire to write this column every week. If I didn’t think people were truly enjoying this and getting something out of it, I wouldn’t have any motivation to write it.

On a down note, I broke my foot Sept. 1. Long time readers know that I’m a reporter for a small newspaper in Ohio. I was walking back to my car after covering a traffic crash. It was dark and I slipped off the side of the road and rolled my foot. I broke the fifth metatarsal bone on the right side of my right foot. I’m in a walking boot and should be for about six to eight weeks. As you read this, I should be back to work if I figured out maneuvering on crutches and how to drive with my left foot.

In honor of our eighth anniversary, the YouTube clip of the week is Jimmy Kimmel celebrating the eighth anniversary of his late night show from earlier this year.

Actor Cliff Robertson died Saturday a day after his 88th birthday of natural causes. Robertson won the best actor Oscar in 1968 for Charly. He also played President John F. Kennedy in PT-109 and Uncle Ben in the Spider-Man movies. His other movies include Sunday in New York, The Best Man, The Devil’s Brigade, Too Late the Hero, Man on a Swing, Three Days of the Condor, Midway, Star 80, Class, Renaissance Man, Escape from L.A. and he played Shame on the old Batman television series.

Every week I highlight my favorite episode of a popular television series. Ok, Vega$ is more of a cult hit, but they reran it all the time when FX first became a network, so I’ve seen way more episodes than I should have of it.

The basic premise is that Dan Tanna (Robert Urich) is a private investigator in Las Vegas. My favorite episode is when Wayne Newton guest starred as himself in “Dead Ringer.” Richard Lynch plays a deranged Wayne Newton impersonator who thinks he’s the real deal and the real Newton has tricked everyone into think he’s the real guy. His plan is to kill Newton and take his place. The best part is at the end when Tanna catches the guy and he lets the real Wayne Newton use him for a punching bag.

Q: Leonard, I’m looking for the name of an old tv show. It was on in the mid(?)90’s and didn’t last long. The show had a court setting. They would ask a question. I remember one being “Do women have to be bitches to get ahead?”. The 2 sides would argue various points, then a “jury” would go to a room and come out with a verdict. The host was a heavy-set man with glasses and I think he was going bald.
-The Great Capt. Smooth

A: The first show I thought of was Lewis Black’s Root of All Evil from 2008 on Comedy Central. Black served as host and judge. He would pit two comedians against each other arguing which of two subjects was the true ‘root of all evil.’ Showdowns were between such things as beer vs. weed, Donald Trump vs. Viagra, NRA vs. PETA and Oprah vs. the Catholic Church. I don’t believe this is your show, so maybe some readers can help out.

Q: Hello Mr. Hayhurst, I just have a random question that you can get to whenever you feel it’s pertinent;

I was watching Farscape on Netflix after seeing Stargate SG-1’s “200” and wondering what on earth Vala was pitching to the producer guy. Little did I know it was one of the best sci-fi shows ever made, and absolutely blew me away. My question is, what are all the main cast up to these days? Obviously Ben Browder and Claudia Black went on to Stargate SG-1, and I think I remember Claudia on NCIS once, but other than that I haven’t seen any of the other main players. And possibly as a side question, do you think it is because they are Aussie, and thus would only get type-casted into Aussie roles? I thought Anthony Simcoe did a great job hiding his accent, as do many other Australian actors.

A: Farscape ran fours seasons of 88 episodes from 1999-2003. It was originally conceived and ran on The Nine Network in Australia and was shown in the United States on The Sci-Fi Channel, where it became a cult hit. John Crichton (Ben Browder) is an astronaut from modern day earth. He goes into a wormhole and comes out in another part of the universe. He is picked up by a living ship called Moya and its crew, a ragtag band escaping from the Peacekeepers. At the same time, the ship picks up Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black), a rogue Peacekeeper. Other characters are Ka D’Argo (Anthony Simcoe), Zhaan (Virginia Hey), Chiana (Gigi Edgley), Scorpius (Wayne Pygram) Bialar (Lani Tupu, who also voices the Moya’s pilot) and Stark (Paul Goddard).

I don’t think being Australian would have anything to do with typecasting the actors, because they weren’t playing Australians in the series. If anything, they would be typecast as actors who did heavy makeup or heavy costume roles on other sci-fi projects. Now, Paul Hogan, he’s typecast as being Australian.

Ben Browder, 48, was born in Memphis, Tenn. He’s working on the web series “Naught For Hire” as noir-ish private investigator, Nick Naught. Claudia Black, 38, was born in Sydney, Australia. She plays yoga teacher Sona on 90210 and does voice over work for video games.

Anthony Simcoe, 42, is a freelance corporate trainer and plays in the band Signal Room with Wayne Pygram. Pygram, 51, played a young Grand Moff Tarkin in Revenge of the Sith and a faith healer on Lost. He teaches drum at Kildare Catholic College. Virginia Hey, 59, moved from Australia to Los Angeles in 2009. She teaches meditation and is into new age spiritualism.

Gigi Edgley, 33, currently stars in the Australian series Rescue Special Ops. Paul Goddard has served as an acting coach for Australia’s Next Top Model. Lani Tupu is set to be in Robotropolis about a group of reporters covering a new factory completely run by robots, who must fight for their lives when the robots go haywire.

Q: Hello Mr. H,
I was watching Star Wars yesterday running all day on SPIKE, w/ my 4 month old daughter so she can say she saw it and I had a sudden thought: What if the original bombed in 1977, what would the fallout be? Would the whole Sci Fi genre still exist but still has B level movies or would it basically not exist in there only 1 or two Sci Fi movies are made yearly?

Also, what is your opinion on George Lucas touching up the original trilogy, I mean outside of the sound/picture clean up, such as making Yoda all CGI now.

A: With my broken foot I stopped many a time with my channel hopping on the Star Wars movies on SPIKE.

The sci-fi movie genre existed before Star Wars and would still exist even if Star Wars never happened or was a colossal bomb. The only thing you wouldn’t get might be the myriad Star Wars rip-offs that came after. Science fiction really began opening up as a popular and profitable genre that even mainstream filmgoers could get into in the late 1960’s with the success of movies like Planet of the Apes and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Many of the biggest hits of the 1970’s prior to Star Wars were sci-fi films like Westworld and The Andromeda Strain.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind was also released in 1977 and was one of the highest grossing movies of the year. Star Trek had already become a cult phenomenon and plans for a feature film began as early as 1975. They were scrapped and a new television show was planned. The new series was canned in favor of going back to a movie when Paramount saw how successful Star Wars and Close Encounters had been at the box office in 1977. It’s reasonable to assume with Close Encounters still a big hit coupled with the other forces at Paramount who wanted to do a movie over a series, the movie still would have happened. The Star Wars film series was heavily influential on cinema and the sci-fi genre, but I don’t think we can assume sci-fi would have been regulated to the back waters of filmdom had Star Wars flopped because of all the other projects out that and the other genre successes that had occurred.

When the original Star Wars trilogy was rereleased in 1997 to theaters as Special Editions, it was not only digitally enhanced, but included additional scenes and background effects. It was said this was closer to creator George Lucas’ original vision, which he couldn’t achieve at the time due to constraints of time, budget and technology. A controversial change, was having Greedo shoot first in the bar scene with Han Solo. In the original edition, Solo shot Greedo before he had a chance to fire. In my opinion, this change softens the original character of Solo and diminishes his personal journey as a character from an immoral space smuggler to a hero despite himself thanks to his love for Leia and friendship with Luke. Most of the other changes are pretty cosmetic. I think in Lucas going for what he wanted, he ignored what the fans wanted. The fans were perfectly happy with the original movies the way they are and by enhancing the movies with new technology there is something lost in that original magic and that original feel of time and place. We can go back and digitally enhance every old movie and make it technologically better, but it doesn’t mean we should and it doesn’t mean the movies with be ‘better’ just because it looks nicer.

I think the important thing is choice. Both versions should be available. If I wanted the new versions, I can get those. If I want the original versionsm I can get those. The original versions were released on DVD in 2008 as bonus material to a box set of the remastered films, that included even more changes from the theatrical rereleases. However, some fans weren’t pleased because the original versions were transferred from the 1993 laserdisc version and not fixed for modern video standards. It almost seems like a bit of a knife twist, ‘oh, I thought you didn’t want them touched in any way at all.’ I say just put out a straight up box set of the movies in their original forms. If it’s readily out there and everybody can get it, then there’s no reason to complain. The entire series is scheduled for release on Blu-Ray and back into theaters in 3-D.

Q: Whats up man….Just watched Catfish, assuming you’ve heard of it. I remember the trailer in the theaters but kinda forgot about it. Caught it on cable earlier today. For some reason based on the preview it had a thriller element to it. Was way wrong, not to say it wasn’t creepy My question is, was this a legit doc of the the events? I didn’t think it was because i would assume they was have said it somewhere in the beginning. At the very end they put up a few facts about the female like they would on an MTV reality show. Not sure why they would bother to put that on if this wasn’t real. Unless they purposely wasted me to feel like i do now. I really ended up enjoying it though, the thought of that actually happening to someone is wild. I say its worth checking out. Later dude

A: Someone asked me about Catfish a few months ago and I haven’t seen the film yet, but this is a question I can answer without watching it. Spoilers below.

As the synopsis on Wikipedia reads, Nev Schulman lives in New York with his brother Ariel and friend Henry Joost. Nev is a photographer and gets a painting of one of his photographs from an eight-year-old in Michigan. Nev becomes friends on Facebook with the girl’s family, including her older half sister Megan. Nev begins a long distance relationship on the Internet and over the phone with Megan. They find out some things that Megan said or sent wasn’t true and decide to drive to Michigan to confront her. It turns out that the mother, Angela, was pretending to be all the people Nev friended on Facebook, even though they do really exist. Angela used fake photos for everyone. She hasn’t spoken to Megan in a long time and her daughter, Abby, is no artist. Angela did the painting herself.

According to various online sources, Ariel and Joost have repeatedly said the documentary is real. They do admit to having recreated some early segments before they started filming. Many viewers believe the film to be a hoax, because everything was captured on film too perfectly and why they would start shooting stuff about Nev and his situation so early on doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. You can find many dissections of the movie and how real it might be online. So, the filmmakers have held that it’s real and no one has been able to completely disprove it at this time. I can’t give my own opinion without seeing the movie.

Q: Hey Leonard, Whatever happened to “Go To Hell Mike Piazza?”–the film that was once attched to Ben Stiller. I heard Mike Piazza didn’t like the “go to hell” part. Did this project become the forgettable “Envy”? There seems to be a link, but I can’t find anything to backup my theory.
-Super Guest

A: From a link that directed me to the Hollywood Stock Exchange website, the movie Go to Hell, Mike Piazza was added Sept. 20, 2005. The script was by David Rothman and Ryan Oxford. It was in development with Red Hour Films. Ben Stiller would star as a childhood friend of Piazza’s who blames his bad life as a hot dog vendor on the star baseball catcher. The guy sees his chance for revenge when he wins a chance on a game show to go to the All-Star game and pitch to Piazza. According to another story I found from ABC News, Universal was interested in the film. Jon Turtletaub was being looked at to direct. Other candidates were Jay Roach, Tom Shadyac and Todd Phillips. The project appears to be dead. Piazza is retired. Maybe we can change it to Go to Hell, Joe Mauer.

Envy came out in 2004 and doesn’t look to be connected as Go to Hell, Mike Piazza was announced after Envy’s release. In Envy Stiller becomes envious of his friend Jack Black after one of his get rick quick schemes actually works, a spray that will vaporize any type of poop.

Q: Let me ask a few questions for a change:

1.) It seems to me Predators was at least moderately successful, so i would assume that means sequel? Any info on that? I actually loved that they did not reboot it and actually made it a sequel to the originals…

2.) I recently read that Vin Diesel finally is going ahead on his new Riddick entry. I was wondering, what actually prevented it from becoming a trilogy in the first place? I kinda liked Chronicles of Riddick and while it seemed to be too ambitious for it’s own good, i don’t think it was that big of a flop, or was it? Any idea on what the original storylines was to be for parts 2 and 3 and what has changed now? Also compared to the original plan, how much budget did Chronicles have and how much will the new Riddick entry have?
-Mats from Before

A: Predators from 2010 grossed $52 million in the U.S. and more than $127 million worldwide. Its budget was $40 million. So, domestically, it was not considered a huge hit financially. At the time of the movie’s release director Nimrod Antal said he had several ideas for a sequel and the studio was behind him for a sequel. One idea was to do a direct sequel featuring Adrien Brody’s character. Another idea was to do a prequel about how Laurence Fishburne’s character first came to the Predator planet. There doesn’t seem to be any movement on a new film at this time.

Vin Diesel has said in several interviews that he loves the Riddick character and wanted to do two more films in the series. The next film would have dealt with the Underverse and the one after would return Riddick to Furya. Due to how poorly The Chronicles of Riddick did at the box office and was received by critics and filmgoers, Diesel and director David Twohy have had problems finding financial backing. According to the two in interviews, they are producing the film independently. Less budget means a greater focus on gritty action and not so much on special effects. The rumored plot has Riddick stranded for dead on a desert plant. He must fight the evils of the plant and bounty hunters on his trail. As of Aug. 10 the movie is being cast, according to Wikipedia. The budget for Chronicles was $105 million. It grossed a bit more than $57 million in the U.S. and about $115 million worldwide. No word on the budget for the new film, but we’re talking B-level. My guess might be somewhere in the $30 million range.

I’ve got a couple more questions, but I’ll save those for next week. I’m still behind and having trouble getting up to speed on everything with the broken foot. Thanks for being great readers all these years and here’s to eight more years, which actually would just be kind of pathetic.

Don’t die.
“In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck.”


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Leonard Hayhurst

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