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The Michael Keaton Revival

Now – I love me some Michael Keaton, he’s one of my favourite actors and has been for years. Sadly he has often been overlooked and underused particularly in the late 90s and early 2000s, but recently Keaton has been having a bit of a resurgence in his career – and I for one love it. So right here, I want to take a quick look at Keaton’s career so far and celebrate the return of one of cinema’s overlooked greats.

His real name is Michael Douglas, but he had to change it when he became an actor because of that other Michael Douglas fella. Exactly where Keaton took his stage name from – I’m not 100% sure as I’ve read two different sources. One stating he used the name after reading an article about Diane Keaton and another saying he took the name from Buster Keaton.

Keaton’s acting career began in the mid 70s on TV in shows like  Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood, Maude and The Mary Tyler Moore Hour. In 1982 he secured his first co-starring credit appearing alongside Henry ‘The Fonz’ Winkler in the comedy flick Night Shift. This role kick-started his early film career and Keaton became known as a comic actor when he starred in Mr. MomJohnny Dangerously and Gung Ho.

Johnny Dangerously

By the way, I recommend Johnny Dangerously if you want a stupidly funny parody flick in the same vein as Airplane! and The Naked Gun. Its a brilliant spoof of gangster films and often overlooked. ‘You fargin’ icehole!’

It was in 1988 when Keaton got his major breakthrough role. Tim Burton cast him in the horror/comedy picture Beetlejuice. Probably one of my favourite Tim Burton films and one of my favourite Keaton films too, even though he appears in less than 20% of the movie, Keaton stole the entire flick and cemented Betelgeuse (correct spelling of his name) as one of the most memorable film characters of the 80s. The much rumoured sequel is still – supposedly in the works.

Beetlejiuce

It was the following year in 1989 when Keaton would team up with Burton once more in one of the most controversial pieces of casting ever…

Batman Logo

Oh my goodness, the backlash both Burton and Keaton got for Batman is legendary. There were over 50,000 letters of complaint sent to the studio when it was announced that Keaton would be playing Batman in the (then) new movie… and this was the late 80s, pre-internet days too. Years later, Keaton spoke out about the outrage his casing caused.

“It baffled me that anyone was thinking about that. I heard about the outrage, and I couldn’t get it. I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal. It made me feel bad that it was even in question.”

All this backlash steamed from the simple fact that Keaton was known for his comedic roles and the fans just refused to believe that this comedy actor could play a serious Batman. Of course both Burton and especially Keaton would prove their doubters wrong. In my humble opinion, I still feel that Keaton was the best live action Batman and Bruce Wayne.

Keaton Batman

The success of Batman catapulted Keaton into the limelight and he became a superstar. The film also began the more ‘adult’ superhero movie and a trend that still continues today where every other flick released now is a superhero one. This was followed by the sequel Batman Returns in 1992 where Burton and Keaton teamed up once more. This sequel was much darker and violent than the first. There was even a third Batman film in the pre-production stages, but when Burton left the project – so did Keaton and the franchise took a massive nosedive as it continued without either of the two people who made it the success it became.

Keaton was riding high in the late 80s and early 90s as he starred in more films including; Pacific HeightsMy Life, The Paper and Multiplicity – a return to his more comedic roots written and directed by the great Harold Ramis where Keaton’s character clones himself.

Multiplicity

After re-watching the film recently, I was pleasantly surprised to find it still holds up well and you get four times the Keaton too.

In the late 90s, he played the same character twice in two different movies based on novels from the same writer. He appeared as Agent Ray Nicolette in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown from 1997 and then again in Out of Sight from 1998. Both films based on the work of author Elmore Leonard. But by the time the 2000s rolled around, Keaton career was drying up. He still acted but never managed to reach the same success as the late 80s/early 90s and those heady Batman years. The 2000s were a very mixed bag for the actor and appearing in movies like Herbie: Fully Loaded hardly helped either. But here’s the thing about a bad Keaton film, the movie may be bad – but it still had Michael Keaton in it and he was always a joy to watch.

The big major starring roles were just not coming his way and I couldn’t understand why – he was still a damn good actor, he just wasn’t getting the job offers he deserved. In 2014 he was cast as the antagonist in the terrible remake of Robocop… and you know how I said before how a bad Keaton film is still worth watching just for him? Well this Robocop remake is a perfect example of exactly that. Despite the lacklustre career Keaton was experiencing by 2014, it was this very same year he starred in the movie that changed everything.

Birdman Poster

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a brilliant film that sees Keaton cast as a struggling actor who was once famous for playing a superhero decades ago… does any of this sound familiar? I really do not want to say too much about this one as going into it blind is the best way to experience this flick. But any and every Michael Keaton fan should watch Birdman. Keaton is on top form as actor Riggan Thomson who tries to put on a Broadway play in an attempt to reinvigorate his failing career all while being haunted by his iconic, titular superhero alter-ego Birdman… or is he?

Keaton even won a Golden Globe Award as well as earning a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his role in Birdman. At last, he was back where he belonged and was getting the recognition he deserved as an actor. On the 28th of July, 2016 – Keaton was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and about damn time too.

Also in 2016, he starred as Ray Kroc in the movie The Founder which tells the true story of the man who created the McDonald’s fast food empire… all be it not very harmoniously.

The Founder

In fact the very reason I decided to write this article was because I just watched The Founder and thoroughly enjoyed it, highly recommended. Its just so great to see Michael Keaton not just getting acting jobs, but getting great ones and doing them justice too.

Most recently Keaton has returned to his superhero movie roles, only this time on the other side of the the coin when he played super-villain The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming. No, I’ve not yet seen it as I’ve been a bit busy getting ready to welcome our first baby due in just a couple of days as of writing this. But I have heard great things about the flick and in particular Keaton himself. Plus you’ll also be seeing him soon-ish in Disney’s live action version of Dumbo, set to be directed by his old sparring partner Tim Burton in 2019… maybe Beetlejuice 2 after that?

Well it seems like Michael Keaton is back and I for one love it. I miss him when he’s not acting or acting in bad films and I always enjoy it whenever he is on screen (yes even in bad movies). His career, right now is going from strength to strength – I hope it continues for many years to come. If you know any film fans that are not aware of this man’s work – then, I want you to do me a favour. I want you to tell all your friends about him… He’s Keaton.’

Micheal Keaton 2

I’m just shocked and thankful that I’ve gotten away with everything – experimenting here, trying at this, failing at that, being good in some things, not so good in others. It’s kind of amazing that people are still sticking by me. When they come up to me in the street, I just want to write them all cheques. – Michael Keaton

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George A. Romero

Strangely enough, last night I was watching Night of the Living Dead when the news of the legendary George A. Romero’s passing popped up onto my news feed. And I do mean ‘legendary’, a word that is often thrown around when talking about writers/directors/actors, etc and one often misused – but what else can you call the person who invented the modern zombie?

Right here, I’d like to take a look at Romero’s amazing career in films and even games, his massive influence and how he changed the horror genre forever.

George A Romero Quote

Born George Andrew Romero on the 4th of February, 1940.  Romero was born in the New York borough of The Bronx. He started his career filming short films and commercials and in the late 1960s, he formed a production company called Image Ten Productions. In 1968 Romero wrote, produced and directed quite simply one of the most seminal and influential horror movies ever – Night of the Living Dead.

Night of the Living Dead

Originally called Night of the Flesh Eaters and even given a copyright under that title. The film’s name was later changed to Night of the Living Dead, yet the original theatrical distributor failed to include a new copyright under the new name and the film became public domain. Romero never made a single penny form the movie as it became the most popular horror film of 1968 meeting with rave reviews and high critical praise.

There are pluses and minuses to the film being in the public domain. The negatives mean anyone can do anything to the film… and they have – from colourised versions and alternate cuts with newly added scenes and music to endless remakes and reissues. As of writing, there are six different remakes/version of this movie and countless alternate cuts and variations. The major positive about this being in the public domain is that the movie can be seen completely free and legal pretty much anywhere – including right here…

Night of the Living Dead created what we consider the modern zombie. Yeah sure, there had been zombie flicks before it, but they were zombies created by mind control or curses, etc. It was George A. Romero who changed zombies into the re-animated dead corpses that eat flesh that we now know. The film’s influence can still be felt today and zombies are more popular than ever now. Big fan of the TV show The Walking Dead? You can thank George A. Romero for that, even The Walking Dead creator, Robert Kirkman has stated how much of an inspiration Romero and Night of the Living Dead was to him.

The Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright modern classic Shaun of the Dead was massively inspired by Romero’s work and chock full of hidden jokes and references for the hardcore Romero fan to find. The influence this movie has continued for decades and still remains today.

Romero may have never made any money from his first major film, but the high praise the movie did get allowed him to make more movies (this time with copyrights). He continued to make more movies including There’s Always VanillaJack’s Wife / Season of the Witch and The Crazies. None of the films really made any impact in the way Night of the Living Dead did previously. Then in 1978, Romero directed Martin.

George A Romero Martin

Martin is a vampire film with a lot of heart, a stylistic flick that modernised the vampire lore. Often overlooked and forgotten about, Martin is a film I can’t recommend enough.

It was also in 1978 when Romero released what many (including myself) consider the greatest zombie film ever made – Dawn of the Dead. Released a decade after his first foray into the zombie film, this is not a sequel to Night of the Living Dead but more so just another zombie picture that may or may not exist in the same universe. Romero then followed this up with another zombie movie – Day of the Dead in 1985 which rounded off his then ‘Dead trilogy’ of films.

It was in 1982 when the trifecta of horror royalty of the 80s came together to make what is considered one of the all time great anthology horror movies…

Creepshow

Creepshow. Three of the finest in 80s horror teamed up to bring this flick to the big screen. So you have George A. Romero directing stories written by Stephen King with the awesome Tom Savini doing the special effects/make-up work. Three of the best of the best of the best all in one fantastic movie. Creepshow is a great mix of gore, scares, macabre and very, very black humour. One of my all time favourite anthology films that any horror fan should watch.

Romero was at the top of his game through the 80s and most of the 90s too. Films like Monkey Shines, Two Evil Eyes and The Dark Half (written by Stephen King) ensured Romero kept himself busy. And in 1990 , he updated his original screen play for Night of the Living Dead to be remade by his long time friend and collaborator – Tom Savini, a remake I definitely recommend as its great. But Romero didn’t just stay behind the camera as he made a easy to miss cameo in The Silence of the Lambs in 1991 as one of Lecter’s jailers…

George A Romero Silence of the Lambs

Romero not only plied his talent to movies, but also video games too. In 1998, he directed an advert for the then new Resident Evil 2 game. A game franchise that is very heavily influenced by Romero’s ‘Dead’ series of films. He was even asked to direct a whole movie based on the game franchise but declined saying:

 “I don’t wanna make another film with zombies in it, and I couldn’t make a movie based on something that ain’t mine.”

But the time the 2000s rolled around, Romero’s film career was drying up. His influences were still felt throughout the film-making world, and his ‘Dead’ film series started to see numerous remakes as zombies became hugely popular once more. Both Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead saw remakes in the 2000s. As the zombie genre was gaining popularity, Romero decided he was not yet done with his ‘Dead’ series and directed a few more films – Land of the DeadDiary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead. 

Romero also made a cameo as a main boss in the game Call of Duty: Black Ops. He appears as a zombie version of himself in the add-on Call of the Dead zombie map.

George A Romero Call of the Dead

Romero was joined by other horror TV and movie icons, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Danny Trejo, Michael Rooker, and Robert Englund. 

On the 13th of July this year, Romero announced yet another film in his ‘Dead’ series – Road of the Dead and even released an official poster.

George A Romero Road of the Dead

He described the movie as…

“Set in a sanctuary city where this fat cat runs a haven for rich folks, and one of the things that he does is stage drag races to entertain them. There’s a scientist there doing genetic experiments, trying to make the zombies stop eating us, and he has discovered that with a little tampering, they can recall certain memory skills that enable them to drive in these races. It’s really The Fast and the Furious with zombies.”

Just three days later and he passed away. What is going to happen to the movie now is (as of writing) unknown.

George A. Romero’s influence has lasted almost fifty years, from his breakthrough classic Night of the Living Dead in 1968 right up to today. He has had a hand in creating some of the best and most recognisable writers and directors working in horror today. Romero also influenced the video game world and I’m sure he will continue to influence the horror genre in any medium for many more years to come too.

George A. Romero passed away in his sleep on the 16th of July, 2017 following a brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer.

George A Romero

“If I fail, the film industry writes me off as another statistic. If I succeed, they pay me a million bucks to fly out to Hollywood and fart.” – George A. Romero

Queen Biopic Finally Gets A ‘Breakthru’

Its been a long time coming, with several pre-production problems – but the Queen/Freddie Mercury biopic is going ahead. Officially announced on the Queen website, the movie will be called Bohemian Rhapsody and the project is so far along that pre-production work begins next week with filming starting in September!

Queen Band

Queen were one of the greatest rock bands of the 80s and their music still continues to inspire to this day.  The film is set to show the band’s early years, rise to fame and the almost break up in 1985 before the memorising Live Aid gig that eventually catapulted Queen back into the limelight once more. But who will be playing the key roles?

FreddieMalek

Well flamboyant front-man, Freddie Mercury will be played by Rami Malek who was recently seen in Mr Robot. As for the rest of the band? Well they have yet to be announced, but Queen Online has promised to make more announcements soon.

The film will be directed by Bryan Singer – known for The Usual Suspects and several of the X-Men movies. With Roger Taylor and Brain May on board as the film’s executive music producers. Roger and Brain have said on Queen Online that…

“Rami has great presence and he’s utterly dedicated to the project. He’s completely  living and breathing Freddie already, which is wonderful.”

But there’s more. Fancy trying out for a role as an extra in the movie? Well you can…

Queen Castcall

Is your hair 70s/80s enough to apply?

No release date has been announced yet – but stay tuned to the official Queen website for more news. After all the false starts and breakdowns with the project over the last few years, lets hope everyone involved can all share One Vision.

Freddie

 

Moore, Roger Moore – Licensed To Thrill

I became a James Bond fan in the 80s – mainly due to one man. Sir Roger George Moore who sadly passed away recently. Right here, I’d like to take a look at the legend, his life and career as I remember Roger Moore.

Early Life

Born on 14 October 1927 in Stockwell, London – the only child to policeman George Alfred Moore and his Indian born mother, Lillian Pope. Roger Moore attended Battersea Grammar School, but as the Second World war broke out – the family was evacuated to Holsworthy, Devon where he was educated at Launceston College.

Moore had an apprenticeship at an animation studio – but was fired after making a mistake with one of the animation cells. Around the same time, his father was investigating a robbery that had been reported at the home of film director Brian Desmond Hurst – which in turn led to Moore being introduced to the director and eventually hired as an extra in the film Caesar and Cleopatra from 1945. Hurst was so impressed with the young Roger Moore’s professionalism that he offered to pay Moore’s fees at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Moore spent three terms studying at RADA where, in a strange twist of fate, he met one of his fellow classmates for the first time – Lois Maxwell, who would go on to play Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond franchise.

When he turned 18, Moore was conscripted for national service at the end of WW II. He was commissioned into the Royal Army Service Corps on 21st September 1946 as a second lieutenant. Moore was an officer in the Combined Services Entertainment Section and eventually became a captain, commanding a small depot in West Germany.

Early Career

Moore worked as a model through the early 1950s appearing in print adverts for knitwear and toothpaste.

In 1954, he singed a seven year contract with MGM and the movies he featured in were all disasters. In Moore’s own words…

“At MGM, RGM (Roger George Moore) was NBG [no bloody good].”

Roger Moore

Appearing in the movies, Interrupted Melody, The King’s Thief and Diane – Moore’s MGM contract was cancelled due to the critical and commercial failures.

Moore starting making appearances in TV shows such as, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and the TV series of The Third Man. He landed the lead role as Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe in the TV show, Ivanhoe (1958–1959). After which, he secured yet another lead TV role with The Alaskans (1959–1960) – where Moore played “Silky” Harris. But it was his casting as Beau Maverick for the TV series, Maverick (1960–1961) where Moore started to become recognised. Interestingly enough, a young Sean Connery tried out for the very same role role too.

From his role in Maverick, Moore was then cast as the lead role of the James Bond-esque Simon Templar in The Saint (1962–1969). A role that made Moore an international star on both sides of the Atlantic. Moore was then cast as Brett Sinclair alongside Tony Curtis as Danny Wilde in the TV show, The Persuaders! (1971–1972). The show was a flop in the US but successful in other territories including Europe and Australia.

Just around the corner was the pivotal role that would make Roger Moore a guaranteed superstar.

The James Bond Era

Interestingly enough, Moore had previously been considered for the role of James Bond several years earlier after his success with The Saint. It was around 1966 when Sean Connery declared he was retiring as James Bond and the producers of the successful franchise began looking at a replacement. Moore was too busy with his TV commitments – so he role went to George Lazenby in 1969 before Connery changed his mind (and his bank balance) and returned as James Bond in 1971s Diamonds Are Forever. Then when Connery stepped down for good, this was when Moore got to play James Bond for the first time in Live and Let Die… or so many people believe.

While the 1973 flick, Live and Let Die was Moore’s first cinematic outing as James Bond – he had previously played the role. In 1964, he made a guest appearance as a more humorous take on James Bond in the comedy series Mainly Millicent.

You can watch Moore’s very first James Bond performance right here.

Moore would go on to play Bond in The Man with the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy and A View to a Kill. He was the oldest actor to play the role as Moore was 45 when he starred in Live and Let Die and 58 in his final Bond film, A View to a Kill.

Post Bond Career

During the Bond years, Moore made several film appearances including playing the role of an eccentric millionaire so obsessed with Roger Moore that he had had plastic surgery to look like his hero in The Cannonball Run. Yes, Roger Moore played a character that looked and acted like Roger Moore… the casting was perfect.

Yet he didn’t act on screen for five years after retiring as James Bond. It was in 1990 when Moore returned to the screen with the TV show, My Riviera. He also appeared inThe Quest and the Spice Girls movie, Spice World. While the unfunny 2002 movie Boat Trip was critically panned – Moore’s role of an amorous homosexual was highly praised as he got to show off is more comedic talents.

In 2010, Moore voiced the bow-tie wearing, talking cat, Lazenby (get it?) in the family movie Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. Which itself contained more than a handful of James Bond references, in-jokes and parodies. Even after all those years, he could not shake that James Bond persona.

He also has several films in post production waiting to be released in 2017 and 2018 including, Summer Night, Winter Moon, Astrid Silverlock and Troll Hunters.

He was one of the best. Charming, erudite and talented.

Roger Moore died in Switzerland after a brief battle with cancer on 23rd May 2017. He was 89 years old.

Some are blessed with musical ability, others with good looks. Myself, I was blessed with modesty.

Roger Moore

7 Of The Best Public Domain Horror Movies

Ahhhhhhh, public domain. When a previously copyrighted movie loses its copyright (or it never had one to begin with) and that movie becomes perfectly legal to watch for free. To be honest – a lot of public domain flicks are pretty damn terrible, but if you are willing to sift through a lot of crap – you can find some diamonds on the rough.
So here, I’d like to highlight some of the best public domain horror moives out there that you can watch right now and not pay a penny for. From overlooked low budget gems to famous horror pictures that hold a great deal of respect with horror fans. Each and every one of these films are completely free… FREE!

1) Alice, Sweet Alice
Twelve year old Alice lives with her mother and younger sister Karen. During Karen’s fist communion she is brutally murdered by a masked assailant.
Alice Sweet Alice
This film was also known as Communion and Holy Terror. Due to changes in distributors and various other legal problems, the film was never properly registered for copyright. You can watch Alice, Sweet Alice right here.
2) Satan’s School for Girls
A young woman investigating her sister’s suicide at a private girls’ school finds herself battling a satanic cult.
Satan's School For Girls
Produced by Aaron Spelling – yes, THAT Aaron Spelling. This made for TV movie was long forgotten about and nobody bothered to secure a copyright for it. You can watch Stan’s School for Girls right here.
3) Rehearsal for Murder
A year after his fiancée’s death, a playwright schedules a rehearsal for his new play, which proves to be a trap for her killer.
Rehearsal for Murder
Yet another made for TV movie that nobody bothered to copyright. This one has a few recognisable names like; Robert Preston, Lynn Redgrave, Patrick Macnee and Jeff Goldblum. You can watch Rehearsal for Murder right here.
4) House on Haunted Hill
Eccentric millionaire Fredrick Loren and his wife, Annabelle, have invited five people to the house on Haunted Hill for a ‘haunted house’ party. Whoever can stay in the house for one night will earn ten thousand dollars each.
House On Haunted Hill
From director William Castle. The original copyright holder failed to renew the film’s copyright resulting in it falling into the public domain. You can watch House on Haunted Hill right here.
5) Carnival of Souls
After a traumatic accident, a woman becomes drawn to a mysterious abandoned carnival.
Carnival of Souls
When originally released – the film was a failure in the box office so the producers distanced themselves from the movie and didn’t bother to renew its copyright. Yet today its regarded as a landmark in psychological horror. You can watch Carnival of Souls right here.
6) Night of the Living Dead
A group of characters barricade themselves in an old farmhouse in an attempt to remain safe from flesh eating zombies.
Night of the Living
One of the most infamous and influential horror films ever made. Director George A. Romero created the modern zombie with this one… just a shame he forgot to apply a copyright to the film. You can watch Night of the Living Dead right here.
7) Tormented
A man lets a former flame fall to her death rather than let her interfere with his new relationship, but her ghost returns to disrupt his impending nuptials.
Tormented
A little campy and dated but don’t let that introduction music put you off because there is an effective and creepy ghost story here. Yet another film where the copyright was never renewed. You can watch Tormented right here.

There are plenty more public domain horror films out there to discover – some great, some not so great. I have merely scratched the surface with this list, but there are hundreds more to find and watch.

WTF Hollywood: Wired

John Belushi was one of the most beloved and respected comedy actors who ever lived. So to show that deep respect and admiration… they made a terrible biopic movie that just takes a big dump on Belushi, his family, friends and loyal fan base all in one go.

That’s right, I’m going to take a look at the cinematic disaster that was Wired.

Based on the book Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi written by Bob Woodward. Wired is a movie so messed up and disrespectful that it became a huge critical and a commercial failure, plus it has never seen a DVD release as of writing either. Wired currently holds an overall approval rating of 4% on Rotten Tomatoes.

How The Disaster Began

It was when Belushi’s widow, Judith and his manager Bernie Brillstein approached Bob Woodward and asked him if he would like to write a factual account of the life of John Belushi in an attempt to straighten some of the rumours that had been circulating over his death at the time. The result of which was the book – Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi.

Several of Belushi’s closest family and friends were interviewed for the book including his widow Judith his brother James Belushi and closest friend Dan Aykroyd. Yet none of them were happy with the final product as they felt to book was exploitative and not representative of the John Belushi they knew and loved. In fact, Judith detested the book so much that she eventually wrote her own account on the life of her husband withSamurai Widow.

Even though the family and friends of Belushi hated the book and made that very clear, it still went on to become a best seller. Woodward then sought out to sell the movie rights to the book and the result of that was the movie Wired.

It Gets Bad Within Minutes

The movie opens with Belushi leading the Killer Bees in a rendition of the classic blues song I’m The King Bee in what is supposed to be a scene from Saturday Night Live – but as the film couldn’t secure the rights to use anything from SNL, these scenes look less like something from one of the biggest and most popular shows of the 70s/80s and more like something shot in a dingy basement. But it gets worse, so much worse.

Before I get much further into this cinematic mess of a film – I would just like to point something out. Yes the movie is beyond terrible but I have to recognise Michael Chiklis in his debut film role playing John Belushi. He is amazing and nails the Belushi performance, the mannerisms, the high energy, the voice – he even gets the eyebrow thing nailed. Chiklis is most definitely the best thing this film has to offer. The movie is horrendous but I still would suggest watching it just for Michael Chiklis’ amazing performance.

Anyway, as I was saying – the movie gets bad right from the off. After the brilliantly acted but terrible looking opening, the film cuts to Belushi’s dead body in a body-bag being wheeled into a morgue lying on a gurney. Belushi’s body is left alone in the morgue when suddenly a hand from the body-bag pops out, grabs a donut, eats it and then burps before getting up from the gurney and running down the corridor of the morgue. Yes you just read that right. This film has the dead body of one of America’s much loved and dearly missed comedy actors returning from the dead, swallow a donut like a cartoon character and then run around a morgue naked except for a sheet covering his modesty.

The film also has Bob Woodward appear played by J. T. Walsh. Yes, the author of the book that the film is based on is a character in the film. That is not so much 4th wall breaking but more so just smearing the 4th wall in excrement. Anyway, Belushi escapes the morgue and runs into a taxi driving angel… seriously, his name is Angel and he’s an angel – the film quickly becomes one of those ‘guardian angel’ flicks where the main character is shown his life and what went wrong… only done badly. So if you have been keeping up so far, this is a biography where the dead body of John Belushi comes back to life and is driven around in a taxi by an angel to be shown how crap his life was.

Can you understand why Belushi’s family and friends felt this film was disrespectful?

Disrespectful And Exploitative

Angel takes Belushi to the scene of his death just in time to see his corpse being carried away. We then get that overused and bog-standard scene where the dead body doesn’t believe they are dead and the reveal by the guardian angel that no one can see or hear him. Angel then takes Belushi on a tour of his life. Think A Christmas Carol only written by the same guy that wrote The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension – because it was. Wired’s screenplay was penned by Earl Mac Rauch and also the last movie he wrote.

We are introduced to Dan Aykroyd played by Gary Groomes who lectures Belushi on his drug intake. The film also shows various SNL performances and sketches featuring The Brothers Blues – not The Blues Brothers because, as I mentioned earlier, the movie didn’t have the rights to use certain names. These Brothers Blues scenes are pretty well done though and again, Chiklis provides a stunning performance and if you didn’t know better – you could swear that was the real John Belushi at times as his dancing, movements and mannerisms are perfect.

The film takes us on a mish-mash of various ‘flashbacks’ to Belushi’s life but fails to show anything of his actual life. It becomes more a collection of SNL sketches that didn’t really exist because they didn’t have the rights to use them. They couldn’t even use the names of some of the people Belushi was closely associated with in his career.

There is one scene where John asks Judith to marry him and its really well done too, its personal, emotive and well shot. But sadly these scenes that do delve into his life and that of those around him that could have been more interesting if they were the focus are few and far between as the movie is more focused on trying to hammer home that drugs are bad. The film is basically one overtly long anti-drug PSA and not a respectful biography of John Belushi.

But the opening of the dead body of John Belushi waking up and running around naked was just the tip of the iceberg as this movie even manages to out-do its own disrespect. There is a scene in the movie that shows Belushi’s autopsy… and that’s not the worst of it. Belushi is depicted as being awake during this as its played up for laughs as Angel dances around in the background and Belushi screams in pain as well as do impersonations of Marlon Brando while a laugh track plays.

Just take that in for a moment and try to put yourselves in the shoes of a family member or friend of John Belushi watching that scene. Seeing a person you loved and cared about screaming during an autopsy while a laugh track plays over the top. Yeah pretty disrespectful right?

A Diamond In The Rough

Look, the film is horrendous, disrespectful and exploitative. It just shows no regard, no attention, no respect to John Belushi, his life or anyone that knew him. However, there are some great moments in the flick. Aside form Michael Chiklis as John Belushi, Patti D’Arbanville plays Cathy Smith – the woman who supplied Belushi with most of his drugs and who injected him with the speedball that killed him. D’Arbanville’s portrayal of the drug dealer is mesmerising as she is interviewed by the police. The scene is brilliantly acted and shot as well as being brutally honest. An excellent scene… just a shame it ends with the line “Just another fat junkie went belly up” in reference to the death of John Belushi.

But then there’s a scene where they show Belushi’s coffin being loaded onto a plane and its handled in a slapstick/comedy manner as they struggle to get the dead body of John Belushi on-board. As they just can not fit the coffin on the plane, they decide to take his dead body out and just strap it into a seat instead. I know I have used the word ‘disrespectful’ more than a few times in this article but what else can I call this scene?

The last act of the movie mostly takes place in the room Belushi’s died in and again, its well done for the most part. Well directed, well shot and well acted – its moody and effective. But then these scenes are inter-cut with Belushi and Angel playing a Blues Brothers pinball table where its agreed that if Belushi wins that he can go home. This is the main problem with this film, the good scenes – and there are some really good scenes are ruined with slapstick and inane comedy. One second you are watching Cathy Smith inject John Belushi with the fatal drug cocktail that killed him in a scene that is brilliantly convinced, portrayed and very powerful, then seconds later you watching ghost Belushi play pinball with an angel or even Bob Woodward interviewing John Belushi quite literally as he slowly dies. For every great scene in this film, there are a dozen or so bad scenes that ruin them.

The Conclusion

Wired is a mess of a picture. It depicts Belushi as a burping, farting imbecile and shows hardly anything of his good and caring nature. I know Belushi was no angel. I’m fully aware of his legendary drug taking and how he could and would disrupt a film shoot. His behind the scenes antics are well known and reported on. Yet despite all of this, the people that knew him best like his widow Judith and best friend Dan Aykroyd always said that he was one of the most caring and thoughtful people they knew. A man who underneath his many demons still had a heart of gold.

This movie shows pretty much none of that and chooses to portray Belushi as a thoughtless, careless drug addict. As a bio – the movie just does not work as it tells very little about the life of John Belushi other than he liked drugs a lot. Then as a movie about drug abuse it falls flat as all of the hard hitting and well shot scenes that are supposed to leave an impact on the viewer are book-ended and inter-cut with unnecessary bad, slap-stick comedy. There are just not enough ‘ WTF Hollywood’s’ to go around.

A new John Belushi biopic has been rumoured for quite some time as back in 2013 Emile Hirsch was said to have been cast to play Belushi.

The film was set to be relased in 2015 and obviously, that never happened and nothing has been heard of since. Wired was such a huge insult and disappointment for John Belushi fans that a new bio that does the great man justice would be welcomed with open arms. Make it happen Hollywood, give us a worthy Belushi bio that can wash away the bad taste of Wired.

‘Atuk’: The Cursed Screenplay?

Now, before I get into the meat of this article, I wish to make it perfectly clear that I do not believe in curses. I believe in accidents and coincidence. No matter how bizarre or macabre a situation may seem, to me it’s an accident/coincidence with a possible, reasonable explanation. With that out of the way…

There have been several notable cursed movies over the years. With titles such as The Exorcist and The Omen being two of the most famous. Then there are curses associated with actors like Bruce Lee and his son Brandon Lee. Or even curses connected to a character such as Superman. Just a few examples of supposed curses in movies. But what about a cursed screenplay? Well yes, there is one of those, too, and one that is being blamed for the deaths in the ’80s and ’90s of some of the biggest names in comedy.

The Incomparable Atuk was a novel released in 1963 by writer Mordecai Richler. The book is a satirical tale about a Canadian Inuit who moves to Toronto and loses his simple lifestyle when he is seduced by the greed and pretensions of the big city.

It was going to be one of those fish out of water plots akin to other comedy movies like Crocodile Dundee or Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Rights to the book were bought in the 1970s by Canadian filmmaker Norman Jewison and the supposed cursed screenplay was written by Tod Carroll. If you feel brave and wish to read this cursed screenplay, then you can do so right here. I have to issue a warning, though, not because of a curse, but because the screenplay is not very funny.

But what about the deaths this screenplay is said to have been linked to?

1. John Belushi

It has been said that while Carroll was writing the Atuk screenplay, he had John Belushi in mind to play the title role. By the time the screenplay was completed in the early 1980s, Belushi had become a household name thanks to his time on Saturday Night Live, and things seemed to be working out perfectly. Everything was set to go into pre-production and Belushi apparently loved the script and really wanted to play the part too. The movie was set to begin filming in 1982 — but Belushi died of a drug overdose before that could happen.

2. Sam Kinison

The production of Atuk lay dormant for around a decade before the idea to try to get the film off the ground once again came about in the early ’90s. Known for his outlandish attitude and loudmouth comedic approach, Sam Kinison was signed on to play the lead role, and the film even commenced filming. However, after a few days of shooting – Kinison’s overbearing attitude and drug-fuelled lifestyle caused his life to unravel. He was soon fired from the Atuk production and shorty afterwards he was dropped by his agent. Then in 1992, Kinison’s car was struck by a drunk driver in a head-on collision, resulting in his death from the multiple internal injures he sustained.

3. John Candy

In 1994, Atuk’s production was fired up once more, and this time it was larger-than-life comedy actor John Candy who was suggested for the lead role. Candy was said to have been very interested in taking on the role and read the script with great interest, he was set to star in the movie. Sadly, he died of a heart attack before he could sign up for the movie.

4. Chris Farley

Even after the deaths of three stars connected to the film’s production, Atuk was still trying to find its star. It was 1997 when Chris Farley was suggested for the role, and he was all set to sign on for the film, too. Yet the cursed screenplay took another victim when Farley died of a drug overdose that same year.

Coincidentally, Belushi and Farley were both former SNL stars, both 33 at the time of their deaths, and they both died of a drug overdose — and both after expressing interest in playing the title role in Atuk.

5. Phil Hartman

This one is a little tenuous, I admit. It has been said that Farley took the Atuk script to his friend Phil Hartman with a plan to get Hartman involved in the movie too – in a possible supporting role. Six months after Farley’s death and Hartman was fatally shot several times by his wife, before she committed suicide.

So there you have it. An apparently cursed script that is connected to some of the biggest names in comedy from the ’80s and ’90s. But what of the screenplay today? Well, United Artists is said to be the copyright owner and still has the original script in its archives. Perhaps one day the studio will want to once again attempt to get the film off the ground. But would anyone want to sign up to star in a movie with a supposed cursed screenplay?