Category Archives: 2006

Top 15 Comedy Road Trip Movies

Road Trip movies are some of the most unexpected gems over the past decades, as they usually sneak up on you–but they are definitely at the top of my list as some of the greatest comedies of all time.  Here’s my list for the top 15:

15 – Oh Brother Where Art Thou (2000)

A Coen Brother’s classic, you probably wouldn’t think about this being a road movie…but it is.  It’s also based on, arguably the biggest literary road trip…Homer’s The Odyssey!  Although Homer is given a co-writing credit on the film, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen claim never to have read “The Odyssey” and are familiar with it only through cultural osmosis and film adaptations. The title of this movie didn’t come from the book at all, but rather another movie. “O Brother Where Art Thou?” comes from the title of the movie-within-a-movie in Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels (1941). John Turturro has called this movie “a hillbilly musical comedy adventure.”

14 – Sideways (2004)

You would probably be surprised to find out that Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church had to audition for their roles in the film. You’d be even more surprised to find out that for the scene that Thomas Haden Church read for during the audition, it called for the actor to strip naked, which he did and was later surprised to find out that out of all the actors who auditioned for the same part with the same scene…he was the ONLY one to strip naked. And it got him the role. George Clooney campaigned for the part of Jack, but Alexander Payne thought Clooney was too big a star. However, Clooney got to play the lead in Payne’s next full feature, The Descendants (2011). Paul Giamatti admitted to faking every bit of wine knowledge, and not understanding why anybody would care about it. He also claims he was shocked that he was cast in a lead role and initially thought it was a practical joke. Paul Giamatti admitted in interviews that he doesn’t like wine.

13 – Kingpin (1996)

The Farrelly brothers bowled a strike with this one. It came out the same year as the Big Lebowski and I have to admit liking this one just a touch better. As is the case with most of his films, Bill Murray ad-libbed virtually every line he spoke. He would read over the script, get the “general” idea, and then discard it. The Farrelly brothers, on the DVD commentary, said that they’re very glad he did because it was funnier. Turned out, Bill was also a very good bowler. Bill Murray really bowled three strikes in a row in the scene where his character, Ernie McCracken does the same. The crowd’s reaction is genuine and is actually for Murray. Woody Harrelson, on the other hand, was a terrible bowler and according to the Farrelly brothers maybe got one or two strikes throughout the filming.

12 – Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Steve Carell, at the time he was cast for Little Miss Sunshine (2006), was a relative unknown in Hollywood. According to an article in Entertainment Weekly, the producers of the film worried that he wasn’t a big enough star and didn’t have much acting experience. However, between the time the film was shot in the summer of 2005 and its release in the summer of 2006, Carell became a huge success as the star of the high-grossing film The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) in August 2005 and the leading character of the popular NBC Emmy-winning television series The Office (2005), which premiered in March 2005 and for which Carell won a Golden Globe in 2006 for best lead actor in a comedy television series. In the span of just one year, Carell had become such a star that the producers had gone from protesting his casting to tapping him to do prominent promotion for the film. Bill Murray was the original choice to play Frank. The second choice was Robin Williams.  Thomas Haden Church turned down the role of Richard Hoover, a decision he said he later regretted.

11 – It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)

Stanley Kramer, who was known for doing serious films like Inherit the Wind (1960) and Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), set out to make this the ultimate comedy film. It became well known that Stanley Kramer was casting nearly every comedy performer he could think of. Some famous stars actually contacted Kramer to volunteer for the project, or to inquire as to why they had not been contacted. When this film was made there were about 100 stunt performers in the US. About 80 of them worked on this film. When the cast first assembled for a meeting with director Stanley Kramer, they were shown the stunts and second unit footage that had already been shot. Buddy Hackett was so impressed that he went to Kramer and asked, “What do you need US for?”

The film was so crammed with action that each leading actor was given two scripts: one for the dialogue and one for physical comedy. For one particular stunt, a billboard that the twin-engine Beechcraft flies through was made of thin balsa wood, except for a thicker frame for support. Stunt pilot Frank Tallman had to fly the aircraft directly through the center of the billboard or the thicker frame would shear off a wing. The billboard was located in Irvine, at what is now the intersection of Interstate 405 and Hwy. 133 (Laguna Canyon), near Lion Country Safari, just east of John Wayne Airport. They had practiced with paper signs but used balsa wood for the actual movie stunt. The wood stopped one engine and the other was sputtering enough that the plane barely made it back to John Wayne Airport.

10 – Midnight Run (1988)

The boxcar scene where Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) and John Mardukas (Charles Grodin) discuss whether or not they could ever be friends, was almost entirely improvised on-set. As regards Grodin’s famous, “You ever had sex with an animal, Jack?” line, he was told by Director Martin Brest to come up with something that was guaranteed to make even Robert De Niro laugh. The scene where John Mardukas (Charles Grodin) falls off a cliff was shot in the Salt River Canyon in eastern Arizona. However, the conclusion of the scene, the shots of Mardukas and Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) crashing through the river rapids, was shot in New Zealand, because the water was too cold in Arizona. I have to pause here…too cold. In Arizona.

9 – Paper Moon (1973)

I talk about this movie in a post about Madeline Kahn, you can read it here: KAHN  Ryan O’Neal and daughter Tatum O’Neal are both excellent as well as Madeline Kahn, in this. Tatum O’Neal was 10 years old when she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in this movie, making her the youngest person ever to win an Oscar in a competitive category. As of 2018, she still holds this record. She was four years younger than her rival nominee, Linda Blair, in The Exorcist (1973). Some Hollywood insiders suspected that Tatum O’Neal’s performance was “manufactured” by Peter Bogdanovich. It was revealed that the director had gone to great lengths, sometimes requiring as many as fifty takes of some of her scenes, in order to capture the “effortless” natural quality for which Tatum was critically praised. Either way, Bogdanovich maintained later that working with the young actress was “one of the most miserable experiences” of his life.

Prior to finalizing casting, Peter Bogdanovich says he met with Ryan O’Neal and Tatum O’Neal at their Malibu home. When Ryan invited Bogdanovich to start an exercise regimen of running on the beach, Tatum countered he wasn’t the type. When she explained to Bogdanovich she said that because he wouldn’t take his shoes or shirt off, he told Ryan, “She’ll do.” Peter Bogdanovich didn’t think the movie would make much money or would be very successful. He certainly didn’t think Tatum O’Neal would win the Oscar.  The film spawned an unsuccessful TV series Paper Moon (1974) starring Jodie Foster.

8 – Cannonball Run (1981)

I talk about Cannonball run at length at a post you can read HERE. In one of the earlier scenes in the movie, J.J. McClure (Burt Reynolds) said “Could get a black Trans Am”, and then answers himself, “Naw, that’s been done.” This is a reference to Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and Smokey and the Bandit II (1980), which starred Reynolds, and was directed by Hal Needham, who directed this film. DeLuise co-starred with Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit II (1980).

7 – The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

According to director Stephan Elliott, he took the three leads out in drag prior to the beginning of filming. None of them were recognized: Guy Pearce took the opportunity to be outrageously rude, Terence Stamp eventually forgot he was in drag and started hitting on girls, and Hugo Weaving got super-drunk and lay under a table for hours, tapping his finger in time to the music. This last detail was incorporated into the film in the hotel room scene.

6 – Dumb and Dumber (1994)

Harry and Lloyd are named after the (silent) comedy star Harold Lloyd. The feature film debut for Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly. They said years later that the main reason they got the job was that Jim Carrey’s breakthrough film role in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) had been directed by someone who had never done a feature film before (Tom Shadyac) and after a positive first meeting with the Farrellys, Carrey decided to give them the job in hopes of replicating that success. According to the Farrelly brothers, Jeff Daniels wasn’t wanted for the film, but Jim Carrey wanted him in it. In order to ensure a no from him, they offered Daniels $50,000 for the role. He accepted without any hesitation nor did he attempt to negotiate, despite insistence from his agent the film would “kill his career.” By 1994, the film was Daniels’ most successful.

5 – It Happened One Night (1934)It Happened One Night (1934) became the first film to perform a “clean sweep” of the top five Academy Award categories, known as the Oscar “grand slam”: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. This feat would later be duplicated by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) in 1976 and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) in 1992. However, It Happened One Night is the only one not nominated in any other category. According to Frank Capra in an interview with Richard Schickel for “The Men Who Made the Movies”, “We made the picture really quickly–four weeks. We stumbled through it, we laughed our way through it. And this goes to show you how much luck and timing and being in the right place at the right time means in show business; how sometimes no preparation at all is better than all the preparation in the world, and sometimes you need great preparation, but you can never out-guess this thing called creativity. It happens in the strangest places and under the strangest of circumstances. I didn’t care much for the picture, ] it turned out to be ‘It Happened One Night’.” Is often credited as the very first screwball comedy.

4 – Tommy Boy (1995)Rob Lowe played the supporting role of Tommy’s stepbrother and is uncredited. The reason for this is because Rob was contractually obligated to Stephen King’s The Stand (1994) at the time, so he took the part simply as a favor for friend Chris Farley. According to David Spade, he and Chris Farley got into a physical altercation on the set. Spade had gone out for a drink with Rob Lowe the night before. Farley had become very jealous and angrily repeated: “How’s Rob Lowe?”. David got so fed up with Chris hounding him on the subject that he threw his Diet Coke on him, to which Chris responded by throwing David into a wall and down the stairs. After the fight, Spade walked off the set and refused to continue filming. The pair would sometimes go for hours without talking to each other, talk to each other through the director, etc.

3 – The Blues Brothers (1980)During filming one of the night scenes, John Belushi disappeared and could not be located. Dan Aykroyd looked around and saw a single house with its lights on. He went to the house and was prepared to identify himself, the movie, and that they were looking for Belushi. Before he could, the homeowner looked at him, smiled and said, “You’re here for John Belushi, aren’t you?” The homeowner then told them Belushi had entered their house, asked if he could have a glass of milk and a sandwich, and then crashed on their couch. Situations like this prompted Aykroyd to affectionately dub Belushi as “America’s Guest”. John Candy orders three orange whips. This line was not scripted; Candy just improvised. While also a cocktail, Orange Whip provided refreshments for the crew, and Costumer Sue Dugan was daughter of the Director of Sales for Orange Whip, Kenny Dugan, who asked the brand be mentioned in the film.

2 – Smokey and the Bandit (1977)A majority of the lines and quotes spoken by Jackie Gleason character, Sheriff Buford T. Justice were improvised. Jackie Gleason reportedly modeled his character, Sheriff Buford T. Justice, after Burt Reynolds’ description of his father, a Florida police officer and Chief of Police. Among the character traits that came from this was the use of “sumbitch”, a colloquial pronunciation of “son of a bitch”. Jackie Gleason said the cafe scene with himself and Burt Reynolds was not in the original story, it was Gleason’s idea. Adding the Junior Justice character was Jackie Gleason’s idea. “I can’t be in the car alone,” Gleason said. “Put someone in there with me to play off of.”

Hal Needham was better known in the film industry as a stuntman and had great difficulty in getting any producers interested in this project. Only when his close friend Burt Reynolds agreed to star in the film did he manage to gain studio attention. Hal Needham asked Jerry Reed to write a theme song for the film. A couple of hours later, Reed presented “East Bound and Down” to Needham. With an acoustic guitar, Reed started to play it and Needham immediately stopped him. Thinking Needham didn’t like it, Reed offered to re-write the song. To which Needham replied: “If you change one note, I’ll kill you!” The song went on to become one of Reed’s biggest hits.

1 – Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)John Hughes, in an interview on the “Those Aren’t Pillows” DVD, said he was inspired to write the film’s story after an actual flight from New York to Chicago he was on, was diverted to Wichita, Kansas, thus taking him five days to get home. John Hughes wrote the first draft of the screenplay in three days. His average writing time for a screenplay in those days was about three to five days with twenty-some re-writes. Steve Martin was convinced to join the production after favoring two scenes he had read from the script; the seat adjustment-scene in the car, and the F-word tirade at the car rental desk. John Candy and Steve Martin’s favorite film that they have made. Although John Hughes was in a bad mood throughout the filming, as his life was falling apart, John Candy and Steve Martin had a great time together during production.

Top 15 Luc Besson Produced Movies

 

Over the years, I’ve been a big fan of Luc Besson. Not only has he been a fantastic director, but a great writer and producer as well. I can really appreciate that kind of career, he’s got his hands on so many projects. He is amazing at developing interesting projects. Sometimes the ideas are originated by him and then handed off to other filmmakers, sometimes he takes them all the way through till release and he’s never one to turn away a great project that needs him to just produce. Here are my top 15 favorites that he’s had a hand in creating:

15 – Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

OK, Ok, this hasn’t come out yet, but I just know it’s going to hit my list. It’s the original inspiration for Star Wars and The Fifth Element, so I know I’m going to like it. This film is based on a French sci-fi comic book series created in 1967 by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mezieres. Mezieres was also involved in creating visuals for Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element.

14 – Lucy (2014)

Many of his best stuff lay in 2 genres; Science Fiction and Action. This one film combines both aspects very well. In an interview on March 8, 2014, Besson said that this project took ten years to become a reality. Also, he admitted that he knew that some scientific assumptions were erroneous, ie; that humans use only ten percent of their brains. Nonetheless, he said that “(such an assumption) would be a great start for a sci-fi movie”. A woman, (Scarlett Johansson) accidentally caught in a dark deal, turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.

13 – 3 Days to Kill (2014)

Here’s one that Besson wrote but didn’t direct. It was directed by McG. A dying CIA agent (Kevin Costner) trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter is offered an experimental drug that could save his life in exchange for one last assignment. The meaning and relevance of the film’s title is that it refers to the estimate number of days that Ethan Renner (Costner) has to complete his mission prior to facing death from terminal brain cancer. Reminds me a great deal of a great film noir movie called DOA (Dead on Arrival) about a man who has been lethally poisoned and has to solve his own murder before he dies.

12 – Lockout (2012)

If you can excuse the main character’s dive out of a spaceship and not burn up on re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere and sky dive to a city below, then this is a pretty dang good flick. It totally would have made a fantastic “Escape From…number 3″ with Snake Plissken, but only because of Guy Pearce. He’s great. The plot totally reads like a Snake Plissken movie:  A man wrongly convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage against the U.S. (Guy Pearce) is offered his freedom if he can rescue the president’s daughter from an outer space prison taken over by violent inmates. Call it Escape From Outer Space. Besson came up with the original idea and even wrote a draft of the screenplay.

11 – Colombiana (2011)

Zoe Saldana is great, I did a blog about her a while back called Zoe Saldana Takes Over the World. Here’s a starring vehicle with her as an assassin, kind of a reoccurring theme with Besson, just look at Leon and Nikita. It’s no wonder as this film was originally supposed to be Leon part 2. The film was based off a script that was set to be a sequel for Leon: The Professional. The story was set to follow Natalie Portman’s character Mathilda as she tracked down and killed characters that had wronged her and Leon. Portman’s success kept her from availability and the script was eventually re-written into Colombiana and cast with Saldana.

10 – From Paris With Love (2010)

In Paris, a young employee (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) in the office of the US Ambassador hooks up with an American spy (John Travolta) looking to stop a terrorist attack in the city. John Travolta is the real reason to watch this film, he just crackles with electricity. When Caroline enters James’s apartment you can clearly see the book ‘Nikita’ which was written and directed by Besson, who wrote “From Paris with Love”. This is a spy genre film and it is interesting to note that the title of the earlier film To Paris with Love (1955) is said to have been the inspiration for James Bond creator Ian Fleming for the title of his 1957 James Bond spy novel, From Russia With Love which was later made into the 007 movie.

9 – District 13: Ultimatum (2009)

This is a sequel to one of my all-time-favorite stunt movies, District B13. Follows up with great stunts and action with Cyril Raffaelli and David Belle. For those of you that like the Daredevil series on Netflix, you’ll recognize Elodie Yung (Elektra) in the film. Cyril is a great stunt coordinator and he choreographed all the fight scenes in the movie and David, who invented Parkour, did all of his own stunts, without practice ahead of time. Most of the ones that you see in the film were of him performing the stunt for the first time.

8 – Tell No One (2006)

Luc Besson was lucky this project crossed his path. He was one of the Executive Producers on the film and it’s based on a fantastic book by Harlan Corben. Police find two bodies at an old murder scene and evidence to suggest the first victim’s husband is a murderer. The husband receives clues suggesting his deceased wife is actually alive and begins to investigate. This film is definitely worth finding, but it is in English subtitles, as it’s a French-language film. Originally, author Harlan Coben had optioned off his novel to Hollywood, with director Michael Apted attached. During this time, director Guillaume Canet, who had loved the novel, had been calling up Coben with his take on the novel. Coben was immediately impressed with Canet’s passion for the story, and his vision, stating that Canet understood that the novel was a love story first, and a thriller second, which Hollywood never got. When the option with Hollywood fell through, Coben contacted Canet and decided to give him a chance.

7 – Bandidas (2006)

In turn-of-the-century Mexico, two very different women (Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz) become a bank-robbing duo in an effort to combat a ruthless enforcer terrorizing their town. This is directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, who are coming out with Disney’s Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales later this year. Steve Zahn also plays a character in the film, and it’s good to see Penelope and Steve back together again.

6 – Leon: The Professional (1994)

Mathilda (Natalie Portman), a 12-year-old girl, is reluctantly taken in by Léon, a professional assassin (Jean Reno), after her family is murdered. Léon and Mathilda form an unusual relationship, as she becomes his protégée and learns the assassin’s trade. Luc Besson got the idea of doing this movie while working on his previous movie, La Femme Nikita (1990). In that film’s third act, Victor the Cleaner appears to deal with the aftermath of Nikita’s botched mission. Realizing the potential of the character was underused in that movie, Besson decided to create a story that focused on the activities of such a character. Both Victor and Leon appear dressed in a long wool coat, sunglasses and a knit cap. Both are played by Jean Reno. The film’s working title was “The Cleaner”.

5 – The Big Blue (1988)

The rivalry between Enzo and Jacques, two childhood friends and now world-renowned free divers, becomes a beautiful and perilous journey into oneself and the unknown. This film was such a hit in France that it played for over a year in theatres. The most financially successful French film of the 1980s. This film was probably the closest to Besson’s own upbringing. “I was never polluted by the world of cinema. I didn’t even have a TV until I was 16. My expression is a reflection of the world I have seen, and in that world everyone was barefoot in bathing suits, following the order of the sea, the natural order of sunrise and sunset. I never went to the cinémathèque. I didn’t know much about the masters of world cinema,” Besson has said.

4 – La Femme Nikita (1990)

Convicted felon Nikita (Anne Parillaud), instead of going to jail, is given a new identity and trained, stylishly, as a top secret spy/assassin. Luc Besson had Anne Parillaud train extensively with guns so that she would be completely at ease with them. Parillaud took to practicing loading and unloading a fake gun in her car which led to her being pulled over by the police and having their guns drawn on her in traffic one day as they thought her weapon was real.

3 – District B13 (2004)

I wrote about this great stunt film in my blog: David Belle and District B13. Set in the ghettos of Paris in 2010, an undercover cop and ex-thug try to infiltrate a gang in order to defuse a neutron bomb.

2 – The Fifth Element (1997)

I just love this film, although, I would have to admit that Chris Tucker has ruined it for me over the years. He’s so obnoxious in the film that he virtually makes it impossible to re-watch the film. Other than that, fantastic film. I was so upset after the film was released that no toys followed the film, as I wanted to buy all the action figures after I saw it. They could have really sold a lot of toys if they had this prepped like the Star Wars films. Another film that I loved enough to write a whole blog about; Fifth Element.

1 – Taken (2008)This film proves that Luc Besson has a magic touch. Again, he just wrote and produced this one but was genius when he hired Pierre Morel to direct as he was perfect for the job. It also gave Liam Neeson new life as an action star. Liam Neeson initially expected the film to bomb, but he signed on, in order spend four months in Paris, and learn karate, while playing the kind of role he had rarely been offered in the past. Ironically, not only was the film a massive hit, but created a new on-screen image for Neeson, as an action hero. Liam Neeson performs a good amount of his own stunts. Over the course of the movie, Bryan kills 35 people in order to get to his daughter.

Top 15 Jodie Foster Movies

 

Here’s another fine actress, that transitioned well from child star to great adult actress. A Disney player of the 70’s who managed to make intriguing and emotional role choices over the years and won an Academy award for her efforts. I loved her early Disney movies and respected her choices later on; easily as comfortable in a drama as a thriller or a comedy. Like all of my favorites, she’s versatile and adept at all genres. Here’s a list of my top 15 favorite Jodie Foster films:

15 – Taxi Driver (1976)

Jodie Foster has chosen some gritty roles over the years, not one to shy away from an uncomfortable role by any means. She seemed to do this early on in her career, trying as hard as possible to stretch herself as an actress, beyond her comfort zone. This is one of those roles. It’s interesting to me that she chose to do this role of a teenage prostitute in the midst of her popularity as a Disney star. Dangerous move, but one that ultimately proved to the Industry, at least, that she was an Academy Award caliber actress. I personally drift to her more funny or light-hearted movies, but there certainly is no denying her talent and ability to master any role and genre. This was her first nomination for an Oscar. Tough subject matter.

14 – One Little Indian (1973)

Now this Disney film was pretty neat because it’s the first time that James Garner and Jodie Foster would work together and when they worked together again it was over 20 years later, for Maverick (1994). Pretty typical fare overall, and similar to her other Disney work at this time, she was gearing up to be the star, even then you can see she was something more than a supporting actress.

13 – The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane (1976)

I put this film on the list because I think it’s pretty scary, although I haven’t seen it in 20 years, it spooked me pretty bad. To be fair, in interviews, Jodie Foster usually refrains from saying which of her films are her least favorites, but she has let it slip that this movie isn’t one she is fond of, explaining, “When people are there to simply do a job they don’t have any passion for, those are nearly always bad films.” It was first top-billed lead role in a major motion picture for Jodie.  1976 was definitely her breakout year, although from the 5 movies she did that year I prefer the Disney film, Freaky Friday, the most.

12 – Inside Man (2006)

Jodie, being fluent in French, dubbed herself in the French version. Jodie filmed her part in three weeks, and it’s a very different part for her, but as always she’s very good. It’s a pretty fun heist movie and my favorite Spike Lee film. Denzel Washington and the cast was allowed to ad-lib at times, he just seemed especially adept at it. The scene in the coffee shop was improvised. On the DVD commentary, Spike states that when Denzel ad-libbed the line, “I’ll bet you can get a cab though,” he nearly ruined the take by laughing really loud.

11 – The Brave One (2007)

Interesting to note, Nicole Kidman was originally cast as Erica. Jodie would be cast when Nicole dropped the project. Jodie also took over Kidman’s role in Panic Room (2002). It was Jodie’s idea for Erica to record sounds of the city for her radio show. Foster walked for miles all around Manhattan with headphones on to prepare for the role. The movie is like the female version of Death Wish, with Jodie playing the Charles Bronson role.

10 – Flight Plan (2005)

Jodie Foster’s role was originally written for Sean Penn. The original character’s name of “Kyle” was even kept. Coincidentally, Penn’s role in The Game (1997) was originally intended for Jodie Foster. A bereaved woman and her daughter are flying home from Berlin to America. At 30,000 feet, the child vanishes, and nobody will admit she was ever on the plane. It’s Lady Vanishes, on a plane!

9 – The Accused (1988)

Probably the most brutal role for any actress ever. What she has to go through to even film this is unfathomable. The movie is based on a real-life gang rape that occurred on 6 March 1983 at Big Dan’s Bar in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The bar lost its liquor license the very next day. Upon seeing a pre-screening of the film, Jodie Foster thought her performance as Sarah Tobias was so awful that she immediately began preparing for and taking the GRE’s for graduate school. She was prepared to leave her film career behind and focus on academia…until she won the Academy Award for her performance.

8 – Stealing Home (1988)Stealing home jodie Foster

This is one of those rare movies that no one seems to know about, but that I love. I tell people about it all the time and convince them to watch it and they usually thank me for it later. Mark Harmon plays a washed-up baseball player who is called back home to handle the ashes of his childhood sweetheart/ first love (Jodie) who had committed suicide. As he searches for what to do with them, he remembers the past and the relationship they had. In doing so he finds himself again. This movie was reportedly based on the real-life experiences of its writers, former Second City troupe members and WKRP in Cincinnati writers Steven Kampmann and William Porter. The two lead actors (Jodie and Mark) never even have a scene together.

7 – Panic Room (2002)

Another one of her great thrillers. This one is top notch, great cast, great crew all around. A divorced woman and her diabetic daughter take refuge in their newly-purchased house’s safe room, when three men break-in, searching for a missing fortune. As I stated earlier, Nicole Kidman was originally cast in the role of Meg Altman. Then, only eighteen days into filming, Kidman had to leave the film as well, due to a recurring knee injury, suffered during the filming of Moulin Rouge! (2001). David Fincher suggested that the studio close the production and collect the insurance, but the studio decided to go on. Jodie Foster was offered the role. She was due to be the president of the Cannes Film Festival jury but withdrew to work with Fincher, with whom she was originally supposed to work on The Game (1997) in the role now played by Sean Penn. Foster had only nine days to prepare for the role. Kidman left a small mark in the film nevertheless, however, as the voice of the girlfriend of Foster’s husband in the movie, heard answering the phone when Foster’s character calls him in a desperate attempt for help.

6 – Sommersby (1993)

An example that she can do it all, this is a great romantic film. A farmer’s wife begins to suspect that the man in her bed is an impostor after he returns home from the Civil War, based on the French film, The Return of Martin Guerre. Steven Reuther, one of the producers behind the project commented about the casting of Gere and Foster: “A lot of people questioned us about this coupling. And it was a gamble, because there are the obvious romantic leading females, and Jodie really is not one of them. Also, I don’t think anyone had ever seen Jodie in a period costume. But once we got her in the period clothes and the hair, it was like, ‘How could there have been a question?’ I think that part of why she was attracted to the character was because it was something she had never done before.”

5 – Candleshoe (1977)

I love this movie, which is kind of an alternate telling of the story of Anastasia but with a treasure hunt mixed in. Helen Hayes and David Niven are just fantastic in it as well as Foster. It’s the last of three theatrical movies that actress Helen Hayes made for the Walt Disney Pictures studios during the 1970s. The earlier films were Herbie Rides Again (1974) and One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing (1975). Screenwriter David Swift, who in the early 1960s directed Pollyanna (1960) and The Parent Trap (1961) for Walt Disney, developed this project for the company and was set to direct it. However, he felt Jodie Foster (then one of the most popular teenage actresses in the country) was all wrong for the part of Casey and stepped down. Boy, was he wrong, she is really great in this.

4 – Freaky Friday (1976)

The most popular of Jodie’s Walt Disney films, it’s a really fun movie and still holds up today, even with all the period clothes. The only time I can remember Jodie singing for a film, the title song “I’d Like to be You for a Day” is sung by Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster. Both Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris were nominated for Best Actress – Musical or Comedy at the 1977 Golden Globes for this film. Technically, as they also played each other’s characters, they were both nominated for playing the same characters. Jodie Foster said of the film whilst doing press publicity for the picture around the time the movie first launched: “I think it’s important for my career that I make all different kinds of films. I’m proud that I made Freaky Friday. And I thought the idea was terrific. A lot of my friends think it’s my best picture. I really like working for Disney”.  The date of the “Freaky Friday” in the movie’s story-line was a Friday the 13th.

3 – Silence of the Lambs (1991)

This is the movie that comes up generally as the best of Jodie’s films, and I do love it, but it’s not my favorite. It is Jodie’s 2nd Academy Award win after The Accused. Anthony Hopkins won as well for his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter. Jodie Foster claims that during the first meeting between Lecter and Starling, Anthony Hopkins’s mocking of her southern accent was improvised on the spot. Foster’s horrified reaction was genuine; she felt personally attacked. She later thanked Hopkins for generating such an honest reaction. Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster only share four scenes throughout the course of the film. With 24 minutes and 52 seconds of screen time, Anthony Hopkins’s performance in this movie is the 2nd shortest to ever win an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, with David Niven in ‘Separate Tables‘ beating him at 23 minutes and 39 seconds. Clarice Starling was chosen by the American Film Institution as the sixth greatest film hero (out of fifty), the highest ranked female on the list; Hannibal Lecter was chosen as the #1 greatest film villain (also out of fifty).

2 – Maverick (1994)

This film is just really great fun. Not only does Jodie get to work with one of her favorite actors, Mel Gibson, but she was reunited with James Garner again after 20 years when working with him when she was a child. They all have some funny stuff in this. Jodie Foster’s character’s gracelessness in the film stems from the first scene she shot, when she waited for Mel Gibson to help her down from the stagecoach. Instead, he took her parasol and walked away. She tried to get down alone and flopped to the ground. Director Richard Donner liked it so much he kept the shot in the film, and staged more scenes of Foster stumbling, being dumped through windows, etc. In the stagecoach chase sequence, stuntman Mic Rodgers (doubling for Mel Gibson) had to go under the coach and get up at the back. This is a direct nod to legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt’s similar stunt in Stagecoach (1939). By coincidence, second-unit director Terry Leonard, a former stuntman himself, performed this same stunt in the truck chase in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). I specifically talk about the stunt in the blog post, http://brothers-ink.com/2015/09/stagecoach-and-zorros-fighting-legion/ and again for the Indiana Jones stunt in the blog post http://brothers-ink.com/2015/12/stunt-team-for-raiders-of-the-lost-ark/

1 – Contact (1997)

This is one of the finest films, in what is a library of marvelous films by director Robert Zemeckis. It’s got one of the most remarkable tracking shots I’ve ever seen for any film. Ask my wife, I have literally watched and rewound this shot a hundred times trying to figure it out. Apparently, I learned later, this impossible shot, the long shot of Ellie as a child running up the stairs to get medicine, was actually filmed as a normal shot would have been and then flipped and placed in the mirror which, at the time of shooting was a blue screen placement in the cabinet. Any way you look at it, it’s a thing of beauty. Sorry, back to Jodie…Jodie Foster was interested in this movie as early as 1995. After initially deciding to drop out, her interest was resparked by a new revision of the script. Her character, Ellie is based partly on real radio astronomy pioneers and extra-terrestrial intelligence researchers. There’s also some Carl Sagan in her. He wanted a female hero to inspire girls to pursue science. Jodie really connected with that, being an academic herself. So much so that in 2011, Jodie was part of a group of private donors that saved SETI’s telescope array in California.

Starter For 10, The British Brat Pack

 

Every so often a movie comes around that is so chocked full of amazing actors that you have to wonder how they acquired such an incredible cast. It’s in hind sight of course. The secret is the cast was not well known back then but over the following ten years after the release of the movie, they’ve all racked up impressive lists of movies all on their own. Now, I must admit, that Great Britain has some of the best actors in the world, but it’s rare to find so many of them in one film. The film I’m talking about in this case is Starter For 10 (2006). Throughout this post I want to examine the cast and where they have gone.starter

To start, the film was written by David Nicholls, based on his own novel. He would go on to write some great stuff for the BBC, including Tess of the D’Urbervilles (2008), Great Expectations (2012) and Far From the Maddening Crowd (2015). The film was directed by Tom Vaughan who would also direct What Happens in Vegas (2008), Extraordinary Measures (2010), and Some Kind of Beautiful (2014). Now, not only was it produced by the BBC, but also by Tom Hanks and Playtone! Say what you will about his acting, he’s amazing at that, but has also really shown a talent for picking amazing projects over the years as a producer! His producer credits include Band of Brothers (2001), My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002), John Adams (2008), Mamma Mia! (2008), The Pacific (2010) and Parkland (2013).starter-10

James McAvoy:  The lead actor in this film, which is a period comedy set in 1985, where the story chronicles the misadventures of Brian Jackson (James McAvoy), a student trying to navigate life at Bristol University and his goals to be on the hit quiz show, University Challenge. Because of the time period, setting and cast, it makes it feel like an early 80’s Brat Pack film in the vein of The Breakfast Club (1985), St. Elmo’s Fire (1985), Oxford Blues (1984) and Class (1983). It’s interesting to note that it was Andrew MacCarthy’s acting that inspired James McAvoy to be an actor. In an interview he would state, “Yeah, St. Elmo’s Fire is probably the one that I love him in the most. He was really vulnerable, really open, I think. And he had floppy hair, kind of bad hair, and I had really bad hair for quite a long time when I was a kid…”.  starterfor101

Benedict Cumberbatch:  The center connection for all the actors would probably by Cumberbatch as James McAvoy and Benedict Cumberbatch would later co-star together in Atonement (2007). He would also be cast as Sherlock Holmes in a BBC Series created by his co-star Mark Gatiss and he would star in Star Trek Into Darkness with co-star Alice Eve. 4 of the actors would also be hired by Marvel as Cumberbatch plays Doctor Strange set to come out this year, McAvoy plays Professor Xavier in the X-Men movies, Dominic Cooper plays Howard Stark in the franchise and in Agent Carter on TV and Rebecca Hall appears in Iron Man 3. james-mcavoy-dominic-cooper

Mark Gatiss like I said, created Sherlock Holmes for the BBC (along with Stephen Moffat), but he’s also written for Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Doctor Who, and The League of Gentlemen. I like to think of him as a fine writer, but he has over 80 credits as an actor for the BBC.  Rebecca Hall has gone on to some very fine films like The Prestige (2006), Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), The Town (2010), Iron Man 3 (2013), The Gift (2015) and Steven Spielberg’s The BFG (2016). Alice Eve has finally broken out is some very good films over the years that include Men in Black 3 (2012), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) and Before We Go (2014). Dominic Cooper has recently been in Mamma Mia! (2008), Captain America (2011), and Warcraft (2016). And last but not least would be the understated, James Corden!  Who can forget that he’s taken over the Late Late Show, but he was also fantastic in Begin Again (2013) and Into the Woods (2014).james-corden-james-mcavoy-dominic-cooper

What an incredible cast and a lot of their careers really took off after this film.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

 

If you’ve been to Disneyland lately, specifically California Adventure, you will notice a “new” character walking around the theme park. It’s non-other than Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. I say “new” because he was actually the first animated character created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks in 1927, before he created Mickey Mouse, but he never owned the rights to him, until the Disney Company traded the rights for Oswald and all of his original Disney produced animated shorts with NBC/Universal in 2006 for the services of Al Michaels as play-by-play announcer on NBC Sunday Night Football (thank you Al Michaels, that was a Win/Win for us all).oswald

Now, if you’re a Nintendo game fan, then you’ll recognize that they put Oswald to use almost instantly in the video games, Epic Mickey, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two and Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion.  Here’s some more interesting facts about Oswald:

  • He was voiced by the same person that eventually would go on to become the voice of Goofy – Pinto Colvig, from 1930-1931.
  • Was voiced by actor Mickey Rooney after Pinto left in 1931.
  • Was voiced by Walter Lantz in 1935, who would become famous later for creating another famous animated character, Woody Woodpecker.
  • In the last animated short to feature Oswald, The Egg Cracker Suite (1943) he was voiced by June Foray, who would go on to voice Natasha and Rocky the Squirrel, in the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons.
  • Featured in DC Comics and Dell Comics over the years.
  • Was the first Disney character to sell merchandise.
  • The full version of the animated short Oh, What a Knight is included as an unlockable cartoon in Epic Mickey by collecting various film reels in the game.
  • Oswald won Best New Character in both Readers’ Choice and Editors’ Choice in Nintendo Power’s Best of 2010 awards.

Best Movie Stunts of the Year List 2000-2009

 

Here is the list for the Best Movie Stunts for the Decade 2000-2009 as listed in the book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

2000 – Mission: Impossible IImission motocycle

The motorcycle stunts in this John Woo Directed film performed by Tom Cruise and the rest of the stuntmen are worth the ticket of admission. Great bike stunts here.

2001 – Black Hawk Downblack-hawk-down-57593_3

Military precision is on full scale display in this fine film directed by Ridley Scott.  The actors went through a serious boot camp to get them ready and to make this as realistic as possible. Very well done.

2002 – Jackass The Moviejackass golf carts

The first time a successful movie was released with UNTRAINED stuntmen performing all the stunts.  Some of them are quite dangerous and most of them just downright silly and stupid.  But all of them entertaining.

2003 – Ong Bakong-bak-2003-13-g

Stuntman-turned-Actor Tony Jaa sparkles in this fantastic martial arts film.  In the past most martial arts films uses wires and then cgi to cover the wires later, but not in this one.  Jaa seems to have elastic legs with the kicks, jumps and splits he performs at lightning speed.

2004 – District B13District B13 Lobby Card

The French turn in a fantastic film full of Parkour stunts performed by one of the creators himself, David Belle and another great stuntman and top stunt choreographers in his own right, Cyrill Raffaelli.  If you are a fan of Taken with Liam Neeson, then you’ll love this film as Pierre Morel directed this one first.

2005 – Batman Beginsbatman

Now another Director who likes to film the action scenes himself enters the list, Christopher Nolan with this film and the sequel 3 years later.  He wanted to direct a bond film and got this franchise instead and really took it to heart.  He’s a big fan of doing practical effects and the audience gets the benefit of it all the way.  Thank you, Mr. Nolan.

2006 – Casino Royalecasino jump

Speaking of Bond, Daniel Craig‘s first entry as bond has some great Parkour in it as well.  I liked it so much I used a still as the cover for the 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts book.  It also boasts a World Record by flipping a car a record seven times!

2007 – DeathproofZoe Bell in Deathproof

I love to be able to announce another bad-ass stunt woman on the scene and Zoe Bell is not one who disappoints.  She spends the better half of Quentin Tarantino‘s movie strapped to the hood of two racing cars, with Stuntman Mike in the other car trying very hard to kill her at every chance.  Stuntman Mike played by Kurt Russell.

2008 – The Dark Knightdark_knight_7Here’s Christopher Nolan‘s sequel to Batman Begins and in so many ways it tops the original.  He manages to flip an eighteen wheeler end to end for this one by driver Jim Wilky and an amazing stunt crew.

2009 – Fast & Furiousfast-and-furious-1

The previous versions of this series were more racing films and this one transforms the series into a more stunt spectacular series from here on out.  All of the original cast is back and film is chocked full of great stunts.  Justin Lin would be the Director I would give credit to making this franchise more Universal.  And we are all the better for it.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

Adam Kirley and Sebastien Foucan for Casino Royale

 

This is the sixth time a bond film has hit the list.  It’s no surprise, as each bond film seems to want to out do the last one. This one starts off with a bang by having a fantastic foot chase (parkour chase) through the streets. Sebastien Foucan, a cofounder in Parkour, is unbelievable in this section of the movie. This opening scene took six weeks to film. Believe it or not, this marks the first time there is a foot chase in a Bond film.casino jumpAdam Kirley managed to perform an awesome stunt and break a world recond at the same time when he flipped the 007 Aston Martin 7 times in one take.  The car barrel-roll stunt by the Aston Martin DBS broke the world record for the most barrel rolls assisted by a cannon. Originally, the racing specifications of the DBS meant that a standard ramp would not be sufficient to get the car to roll, so the special effects team were called in to install a air-powered cannon behind the drivers seat. This allowed the car to complete seven full rolls. The stunt was officially entered into the Guinness Book of World Records on 5th November 2006.casino waterJust a side note I thought was interesting, “Casino Royale” was the first James Bond novel written by Ian Fleming and is the last of the original Fleming novels to be filmed by EON Productions. The shooting of this film now means EON Productions have filmed the entire canon of Fleming James Bond novels, although some just in title (that is: movies titled after Fleming novels whose plots have little or nothing to do with Fleming’s novels, for example The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), and You Only Live Twice (1967)). Casino Royale was directed by Martin Campbell for Eon Productions.Casino_Royale_(120)

 

Things to look up (go to IMDB page):

  • Adam Kirley
  • Sebastien Foucan
  • Martin Campbell
  • Eon Productions

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

John Lasseter: a return to glory

2006

John Lasseter is a Disney success story very much like the movies that he oversees. If you don’t know who John Lasseter is, he’s been the one behind every major Disney animated movie since 2006.  Before that, he was the creative force behind Pixar.  He is now the Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios.

He was also fired from Disney.

A visionary, he began his career at Disney working behind the wheel of a Jungle Cruiser at Disneyland when he was a student at CalArts in the 70’s.

He was the second student enrolled at the CalArts character animation program, created and taught by longtime Disney animators. While at school, he produced 2 animated shorts, both of which won him the student Academy Award for Animation.

Those shorts caught the eye of Disney animation. When he graduated in 1979, he got a job at Disney as an animator beating out over 10,000 applicants.  After they completed the work on 101 Dalmations, Lasseter thought there might be more ways to add new dimension to animation, a longtime dream of Walt Disney himself.

He was turned on to computer generated imagery (CGI), seeing some of the first sequences of the lightcycle in the original Tron.  He knew that CGI would be that new dimension he was searching for.

Unfortunately, those in charge of Walt Disney Feature Animation didn’t like that idea too much. So, after Lasseter completed a test project of Where The Wild Things Are, he was fired from Disney.

Lasseter, unfettered, connected with the folks over at Lucasfilm. They had a little division called Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Group.  They worked on a revolutionary short film called The Adventures of Andre and Wally B. that would change animation forever as Lasseter, who only wanted to use CGI for the backgrounds, ended up using CGI for the characters as well.

In 1984, George Lucas was forced to sell his fledgling division, now named Pixar Computer Graphics, to fund a financially crippling divorce (don’t worry about George, I hear he’s doing okay these days). Steve Jobs (Mr. Apple) became the majority shareholder of the newly spun-off Pixar.  Over a period of ten years, the company’s identity changed from a computer company that did animation on the side, to a computer animation studio, with Lasseter overseeing all of their projects.

You may have heard of some of their films: Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo and The Incredibles.

Fast-forward to 2006. Disney animated movies haven’t had a great run for several years.  They had been getting beat at the box office time after time with their traditional hand-drawn animated films versus the new CGI-based films.  In 2004, Disney attempted talks with Pixar about a new distribution pact, but tensions ran high, and talks broke off.

A groundswell of activity from former Disney execs (started by Roy E. Disney, Walt Disney’s nephew), called “SaveDisney” forced then-CEO Michael Eisner out, and put Bob Iger in place. Iger wasted no time as the new CEO, he promptly resumed broken talks with Steve Jobs, and on January 24, 2006 Disney announced they would acquire Pixar for $7.4 Billion.

On January 25, 2006, John Lasseter returned to Disney on his white horse, and to much heralded fanfare by his new employees and Disney fans everywhere.

Fade out.


Adam Kirley, Sabastien Foucan and Casino Royale

 

This is the sixth time a bond film has hit the list.  It’s no surprise, as each bond film seems to want to out do the last one. This one starts off with a bang by having a fantastic foot chase (parkour chase) through the streets. Sebastien Foucan, a cofounder in Parkour, is unbelievable in this section of the movie. This opening scene took six weeks to film. Believe it or not, this marks the first time there is a foot chase in a Bond film.casino Adam Kirley managed to perform an awesome stunt and break a world recond at the same time when he flipped the 007 Aston Martin 7 times in one take.  The car barrel-roll stunt by the Aston Martin DBS broke the world record for the most barrel rolls assisted by a cannon. Originally, the racing specifications of the DBS meant that a standard ramp would not be sufficient to get the car to roll, so the special effects team were called in to install a air-powered cannon behind the drivers seat. This allowed the car to complete seven full rolls. The stunt was officially entered into the Guinness Book of World Records on 5th November 2006.Casino_Royale_(120) Just a side note I thought was interesting, “Casino Royale” was the first James Bond novel written by Ian Fleming and is the last of the original Fleming novels to be filmed by EON Productions. The shooting of this film now means EON Productions have filmed the entire canon of Fleming James Bond novels, although some just in title (that is: movies titled after Fleming novels whose plots have little or nothing to do with Fleming’s novels, for example The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), and You Only Live Twice (1967)).Casino Royale was directed by Martin Campbell for Eon Productions.

casino2

Things to look up (go to IMDB):

  • Adam Kirley
  • Sebastien Foucan
  • Martin Campbell
  • Eon Productions

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM