Saturday, May 29, 2010

DENNIS HOPPER 1936 - 2010

It is with great regret that I report the sad, but expected, passing of veteran actor Dennis Lee Hopper from prostate cancer. He had been ill for some time. While Hopper gained notoriety for writing and directing the 1969 classic Easy Rider, he will perhaps better be remembered for his extraordinary acting career in both television and cinema for 55 years. He was 74.

Born in Kansas to, Marjorie, a lifeguard instructor and Jay Hopper, an OSS agent; young Dennis developed an interest in acting which eventually brought him to the Actors Studio in NYC. Hopper eventually turned his hand to photography, painting, poetry, and art collecting. One of his photographs became an album cover for Ike and Tina Turner and he purchased one of Andy Warhol's early prints of Campbell's Soup Cans for $75.

In addition to appearing in hundreds of television shows in the 50's and 60's (including The Time Tunnel, Bonanza, The Twilight Zone and The Big Valley), he also made his mark on movies starring alongside James Dean and John Wayne. But it was in 1969 when he gathered Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson and Terry Southern to star with him in his movie Easy Rider that people began to really take note. Despite accolades for this work as both a writer and director [ including an Oscar nomination], Hopper's confrontational attitude and accelerated use of drugs and alcohol took its toll on his career and his first marriage.

Audiences were treated first hand to what was going through his's mind at this time by the almost incomprehensible film The Last Movie, dismissed by both critics and audiences in 1971. Hopper sustained his Hollywood lifestyle by appearing in many low-budget movies until landing perhaps his most perfect role in Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. It is widely held that Hopper, an avid photographer, was not really acting as he portrayed a manic hyperactive photojournalist.

In the early 1980's Hopper entered rehab to kick his 3-grams-a-day cocaine addiction washed down by 30 bottles of beer and marijuana spliffs. It may have taken a while but it seemed to have worked by the time he played Frank Booth in David Lynch's Blue Velvet. He was back on form and his career revived.

Hopper directed Robert Duvall and Sean Penn in the acclaimed police drama Colours in 1988 Just two years later studio executives butchered his 1990 Jodie Foster film Catchfire - forcing him to use the Alan Smithee [disowned] credit and causing him to lose his taste for direction.

Like most actors of his ilk, Hopper took what was offered and since the 80's has appeared in classics like True Romance, Land Of The Dead and Speed [in which he falls victim to one of my favourite death scenes of all time], but he has appeared in countless turds like Waterworld, Super Mario Borthers and Space Truckers. He's no stranger to video games either as he made the FMV video game Black Dahlia in 1998 and more notably provided the voice of Steve Scott in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Despite his multitude of roles on the silver sceen, I'd be confident that the latter half of Hopper's career will be more remembered for his television appearances with the role of Victor Drazen, one of the first antagoonists in the hit Fox show 24, as Special Operations Colonel Eli McNulty on NBC's E-Ring and most recently up to the time he became ill, as record producer Ben Cendars in the TV show based on the movie Crash.

Hopper was delighted to have completed his work on Crash's second season as well as editing a 546-page book of photographs taken by him. Hopper was honored with the 2,403rd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in front of the iconic Grauman's Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. Surrounded by friends including Jack Nicholson, Viggo Mortensen, David Lynch, Michael Madsen, family, and fans, he attended its addition to the sidewalk on March 26, 2010.

Hopper is survived by his fifth wife Victoria Duffy [from whom he had filed for divorce], 42 with whom he had a 6 year old daughter. May he rest in peace.

Thanks to Constance for substantial editing assistance

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I guess the Army will let anyone join now?

The whole post 911 security tightening measures notwithstanding; one would think after the Fort Hood incident that the US Army would have some measures in place to prevent fraudulent enlistment into their esteemed ranks.

Apparently Jesse Bernard Johnston III, a Texas man with no military experience save 12 weeks Marine JROTC course from which he dropped out in '04, tricked the Army into letting him join a reserve unit as, wait for it - a non-commissioned officer. Johnston, 26, joined the Army Reserve in February as a sergeant and was assigned to the Army's Corps Support Airplane Company, based at the Fort Worth Naval Air Station, that has seen action in Iraq.

Johnston's former wife said "he would attend military functions in Marine dress uniform and claimed to have served in Iraq." The Associated Press says it appears to be the first case of "stolen valor" involving the enlistment process. Most cases involve attempts to get veterans benefits fraudulently or to falsely claim medals.

"This just raises some incredibly significant issues at a time when this country is involved in a global war on terror," said Rep. Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican who served with the Marines in Iraq and the first Gulf War. "If this person was able to penetrate the military fraudulently, you have to ask the question: Couldn't somebody who was out to do harm to our country do the same thing?"

Lt. Col. Maria Quon, spokeswoman for the Army's Human Resources Command, said her database contains an entry showing Johnston joined the military in 2002, but there are no documents to support the 2002 date. She described the lack of documentation as "unusual" and said it likely means the date was entered this year. The National Personnel Records Center, which collects information on all who have been discharged from the military said that it could find no evidence that Johnston ever served.

Colonel "Whopper" Creedon of UNETIDA unleashed a damning tirade: "I was outraged to read about this goon today. Did you see the photo of him in the blues? It makes me puke that anyone can just buy a set of these in a surplus store and go around pretendin' he's some kinda hero. One look at his fruit salad will tell you his uniform had never been inspected, I see two glaring errors even at that resolution. I'd not have authorised him with a goddamn G.I.Joe club membership, let alone enlisted him as an E-5 in the Army. If the maggot wants to serve that badly, let him serve in Levenworth."

Source: D.Stanglin, AP via USA Today

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Should've been called Robbing Hood...

...because both my time and money were robbed by Ridley Scott’s woeful representation of a classic legend.

The idea was sound: create a Robin Hood story that centred less on the legendary feats of the world's most famous archer and remould it using a more genuine historical basis. Of course, the obvious trap here is that if one removes the implausibility and mysticism from such a legend and yet still craft an entertaining story - one has to inject the tale with enough substance to make up for the loss of entertainment. Guess which part was missed in this project...

Scott was successful in setting his Robin Hood is a grittily realistic setting alright, everyone in the film was dirty and in rags, even the royalty were not as splendorously dressed as in most such depictions. All the wealth of the country had been drained by King Richard’s horrendously expensive crusade and there was little distinction between the once wealthy landowners and a common beggar. Needless to say this is a woefully depressing and pessimistic setting and of course the last thing the people need is a newly crowned King John who sends out the tyrannical Sir Godfrey as a medieval tax-collector or in many cases - life-collector. This undesirable situation is made worse by the fact that everyone’s favourite impotent troublemakers, the french, seek to invade England after weakening the state’s position by turning the Northern landowners against the King.

It’s at this point you’d assume that in true Hollywood blockbuster fashion Robin Hood would emerge to save the day and Scott would recrown Russel Crowe as an action-hero of this decade as he did in 2000. Well, Robin does succeed in thwarting the nefarious plans of Sir Godfrey and routes the Frogs from Dover coming ashore in wooden landing craft in a sort of medieval D-Day landing; but helping his army are his elite troops - war-orphaned children on Shetland ponies [I’m seriously not making this up]. Obviously that’s nothing like what Robin Hood is famous for and it’s not until the last 10 minutes does actually do something worthy of the character. This Robin doesn’t do any relieving the rich of their worldly possessions and using them to improve the economic situation of the poor, other than to plant grain stolen from the local church. When he does claim the belongings of a few dead nights – he was only robbing them from the knights’ assassins and it’s implied he keeps all the loot for himself and his perpetually intoxicated “merry” men.

One of the main reasons this fails is Crowe himself, complete with a bizarrely muddled accent - seriously, it takes real talent to speak with American, Australian and Irish accents in the same sentence. The man is far too old to be playing the titular hero at this point, which is supposed to be an origin story and we’re yet supposed to be treated to his true exploits! This is a middle-aged Robin Hood who meets a tragically frumpy old-Maid Marian played by an even more unforgivably older Cate Blanchett. The complete lack of chemistry between them does a monumental disservice to one of the most epic romances of legend. Danny Huston and William Hurt phone in their equally lacklustre performances and is heart-breaking too see poor Max Von Sydow acting like he had been kidnapped from the elderly actors retirement home and was being forced to perform against his will or he won’t get his supper. In fact out of such an overall dull cloud of a cast only the always splendid Mark Strong as Godfrey shone through like the sun itself with Scott Grimes' Will Scarlett showing some effort.

It’s obvious by the movie’s end that Scott has left it open-ended for a sequel to address these shortcomings. The idea of a sequel to this fills me with dread as both Crowe and Blanchett will be even older. Even if he gets a younger cast; in order to get to what potentially could be a more exciting chapter concerning a more recognisable Robin, one would have to painfully wade through this exceptionally bland origin drivel.

Final Verdict: Ridly Scott has crafted many movies of note, but this will not be regarded as one. Had this been about a medieval hero of his own invention it may have been worthy of something but as a Robin Hood story it can only be detested and ridiculed for such weak performances and a hopelessly disjointed plot flimsily connected to the legend. Some sporadically well crafted action scenes are present but are too tame to be enjoyed fully. Realistic to a point [not enough blood] but devoid of the expected action, adventure and sheer fun that made the legend of Robin Hood so enduring. Watch it if you simply have to or if forced but if you’re master of your own destiny – avoid.

Colonel Creedon Rating: *

Friday, May 21, 2010

"I am your Father!" ... and now I have been for 30 years!

This day exacly 30 years ago, the sprawling masses of fans of the original Star Wars movie [and Lucas forbid - people that may not have seen the original, but I doubt it] got to see what was unknowingly at the time - the greatest use of celluloid* that the world had ever seen [and will ever see again if the standard since then is anything to go by].

I speak of course of the May 21st release date of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 which thought the world the meaning of how to keep a secret after coming out of a movie...

Thank you George.

*The compound used to make film stock - I'll educade you people yet.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

More Crazy Japanese Bastards...

We all love those hidden "Candid Camera" style shows, they have it in the US with the original Alan Funt Candid Camera to the more recent Ashton Kutcher's Punk'd, while Bob Monkhouse and Jeremy Beadle did shows in the UK and of course Mike Murphy and the Naked Camera crew are responsible for our home grown efforts over the years. In any incarnation it's all really harmless fun.

But I honestly think those Crazy Japanese Bastards missed the point for their version...

Friday, May 14, 2010


Today, those who believe in his divine power, celebrate the 66th Birthday of the world's foremost visionary director, creator of Star Wars, George W. Lucas.

Since Lucas Day '09, God has executive produced the second season of the always impressive Star Wars: The Clone Wars, He is currently in post production work on Red Tails, the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American pilots to fly in a combat squadron during World War II and preproduction work on both the Star Wars live action series and Indiana Jones 5.

Governor Schwarzenegger announced that Lucas would be one of 13 California Hall of Fame inductees in The California Museum's yearlong exhibit. The induction ceremony was on December 1, 2009 in Sacramento, California.

Lucas' net worth is currently estimated at $3,000,000,000.


Friday, May 07, 2010

Captain America: The First Avenger

Iron Man 2 is old news now; heh - just waiting for the Blu-ray then I'll get all excited again but for now let us turn our attention to one of Marvel's teir-one superheroes, Captain America.

Director Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer, The Wolfman) is head honcho for the movie based on Steve Rogers, a young soldier during WWII who volunteers to undergo a series of experiments for a US army Super Soldier program which transforms him into a human weapon: Captain America. In order to defeat a high ranking Nazi menace, The Red Skull; Cap sacrafices himself and becomes entombed in solid ice for 60 years... ...until now.

Well that's just probably the most feasable"origin story" they could possibly glean from a rich history almost as old as Batman and Superman, I'm sure it'll be something like that. So Johnston will direct pretty-boy Chris Street Kings Evans in the role of the Captain [thankfully ending fourther Fantastic Four embarassment] and it was announced Tuesday that Hugo Am-I-seriously-being-typecast -or-what? Weaving will portray The Red Skull in yet another role akin to V for Vendetta and Transformers where we'll not see the man's awesome facial expressions.

Captain America: The First Avenger is slated for a July 22nd 2011 release [only a few weeks after Kenneth Branagh directs Chris Hemsworth in Thor]. Captain America will probaby feature a far heavier link to Joss Whedon's The Avengers movie in 2012. More when I have it.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Hawking's Grim Warning

World-renowned astrophysicist, Professor Stephen Hawking has been thinking a lot about the cosmic question, "Are we alone?" The answer is probably not, he says.

In honor of NASA's 50th anniversary, the 66-year-old British cosmologist delivered a lecture at George Washington University last week and theorized that there are answers to whether there is extraterrestrial life. Some of his suggestions indicated that there was no life elsewhere, and we are alone or, as an extention of that; that there is there is no life elsewhere that is within our perception as intellegent life. He further suggested that if intelligent life existed - when it gets smart enough to send signals into space, it also is smart enough to make destructive nuclear weapons.

In a new documentary series for Discovery Channel, Hawking says that Earth is unlikely to be the only planet where life has evolved and “The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like.” While he theorizes that most will be microscopic organisms, a few life forms could be intelligent and pose a threat. He believes that contact with such a species could be devastating for humanity.

Simply meeting an alien could be deadly because alien life might not have DNA like us, Hawking warned: "Watch out if you would meet an alien. You could be infected with a disease with which you have no resistance." He also suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”

Hawking concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”. He said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

Hawking's warnings of an alien invasion have prompted a vigorous defence of extraterrestrials by their most prominent Canadian fan. Former federal defence minister Paul Hellyer, 86, believes not only that aliens have visited Earth but also that they have contributed greatly to human technological advances. "The reality is that they've been visiting Earth for decades and probably millennia and have contributed considerably to our knowledge," Hellyer said.

Colonel "Whopper" Creedon of UNETIDA on the other hand seemed pleased with Hawking's theories. "I've had no greater vindication of what I do and why I continue to wear this uniform," he said following Hawking's lecture. The Colonel was later seen approaching the Professor who suffers from ALS and is confined to a wheelchair and placing a large brown envelope descretly behind Hawking's back before giving him a thumbs up. Hawking's electronic chuckle echoed throughout the room...

Stephen Hawking's Universe begins on the Discovery Channel on Sunday May 9 at 9pm

Source: MSNBC / CTV News / The Times / Christian Science Monitor / Constance