Category Archives: LBoM: In Memorandum

East Bound And Down: Farewell To A Legend

Its funny – I was writing an article covering the Smokey and the Bandit films (its one of the many articles I have in my backlog) when the sad news about Burt Reynolds death hit my news feed. So I’ve put the Smokey and the Bandit article on hold for a while as I remember the man that made Bandit such a memorable character in the first place.

Born Burton Leon Reynolds Jr. on the 11th of February, 1936 in Lansing, Michigan. In 1946 his family moved to Riviera Beach, Florida where Reynolds attended Palm Beach High School and he quickly made a name for himself as an American football player. Looking to peruse a career in the sport, Reynolds received multiple scholarship offers and after graduating from high school he attended Florida State University on a football scholarship. He suffered a knee injury in his first game of his sophomore season so had to sit out the rest of the season. The same year, he was involved in a car accident and lost his spleen and severely injured his other knee as a result, which brought a swift end to his professional American football dreams.

Burt Reynolds Football

Later, he attended Palm Beach Junior College and studied English under Professor Watson B. Duncan III. It was Duncan who suggested that Reynolds try a bit of acting and cast him in a play he was producing, Outward Bound. Reynolds won the 1956 Florida State Drama Award for his performance and got bit by the acting bug. Burt Reynolds made his Broadway debut in the play Look, We’ve Come Through and received many positive reviews for his performance too. He went on to act in several more plays. It was the late 50s when Burt decided to move to Hollywood and try for a movie career but found it hard to land any roles. So he took jobs working in restaurants waiting tables and washing dishes to make ends meet.

Burt Reynolds Young

Reynolds eventually landed some very small TV show roles before making his film debut in 1961’s Angel Baby. More TV roles followed including parts in Riverboat and Gunsmoke, his TV jobs led to starring roles in low budget flicks like Navajo JoeImpasse and Shark! through the 60s. In the late 60s, Burt was even offered a huge role from legendary film producer Albert R. Broccoli in when he was offered the James Bond role after Sean Connery announced his retirement from the prestigious part, a role that would have shot him to super-stardom. Obviously Burt never took the Bond role stating…

An American can’t play James Bond. It just can’t be done.

– Burt Reynolds

It was in 1972 when Reynolds would make his big breakthrough in the movie Deliverance. Based on the novel of the same name, Deliverance is a tense and taught thriller that earned three Academy Award nominations. Full of brilliant and memorable scenes such as the awesome Dueling Banjos and the controversial “squeal like a pig” moments. The film tells the story of four city men out on a canoe trip down a river. Lewis Medlock (Burt Reynolds) and Ed Gentry (Jon Voight) are the experienced ones of the four who are more than conformable with the outdoor life. While Bobby Trippe (Ned Beatty) and Drew Ballinger (Ronny Cox) are virgins to wilderness. The quartet cross paths with some locals and rub them up the wrong way. The guys head to the area where they aim to start their canoe trip and that’s when things begin to unravel.

Burt Reynolds Deliverance

Deliverance is an amazing flick and Reynolds really comes across as a leading man in it too. Burt even went on later to say that he felt Deliverance was the best film he ever did. Despite the serious tone of Deliverance, through the 70s Reynolds became mostly known for his comedic roles. Films such as 1973’s White Lightning and Lucky Lady from 75 and of course the picture that would cement him as a true Hollywood star and comedic actor, Smokey and the Bandit.

As I said earlier, I’m actually writing a dedicated Smokey and the Bandit article where I will go into the film(s) in more detail. So just a light glossing over here but Smokey and the Bandit is one of the all time great and classic flicks. A fast paced car chase movie full of action, comedy and some light racism…it was a different time in the 70s. The film was written and directed by Hal Needham. Reynolds and Needham would become close friends and the two would form a great partnership collaborating several times from this point onward. In short, I fucking love Smokey and the Bandit and it was the film that made me a Burt Reynolds fan.

Burt Reynolds Bandit.jpg

Reynolds also made his directorial debut in 1976 with Gator – the sequel to his earlier film, White Lightning. More films with Hal Needham followed though the late 70s and 80s including Hooper where Reynolds plays “The Greatest Stuntman Alive” Sonny Hooper. Smokey and the Bandit II followed in 1980. With The Cannonball Run from 1981 being another Needham/Reynolds classic team up.

The Cannonball Run is about a group of car enthusiasts who take part in a cross country race. JJ McClure (Burt Reynolds) teams up with Victor Prinzi (Dom DeLuise) and his alter-ego Captain Chaos to take on some of the biggest names in entertainment to win the big race. This film really is star-studded, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. all feature in this one, oh and Jackie Chan in one of his first American film roles too. The sequel Cannonball Run II came out in 1984 and its just as high octane and madcap as the first film.

Burt Reynolds Cannonball

Reynolds career remained fairly steady though the 80s as he appeared in multiple films trough the decade. But his star power started to wane though the 90s and his film roles became smaller or he just starred in some pretty bad flicks. It got to a point when in 1996, Burt had to declare bankruptcy. Partly due to his over extravagant lifestyle and partly due to his divorce from then wife Loni Anderson. Then in 1997, he made an amazing comeback and burst back onto the big screen with the Paul Thomas Anderson directed Boogie Nights. A film that was inspired by the story of real life porn star John Holmes.

Burt Reynolds Boogie Nights.jpg

Boogie Nights is a brilliant film that focuses on the porn industry without actually being about porn. With a multitude of characters all crossing paths to tell an interweaving story about the rise and fall of porn star Eddie Adams/Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg). Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) plays the porn film director who struggles with the changing times and falls from grace as the film progresses.

After Boogie Nights, Reynolds had a career boost, He’d never reach the highs of that late 70s and 80s era again, but he was getting more and more work as the 2000s approached. He not only got roles in movies and TV, but video games too when he played Avery Carrington in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and with Saints Row: The Third where he played himself. Burt also played a small role in The Longest Yard from 2005, which was a remake of his 1974 film of the same name. He maintained a steady career though the 2000s and even landed a role in Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood…but sadly that’s a role he never got to play.

Burt Reynolds Tarrantino

Burt Reynolds died in the 6th September, 2018 of cardiac arrest after suffering from heart problems in recent years.

Burt was good looking, charming, talented and had a laugh that will remain in my head forever. I’m going to miss that moustache sporting, cowboy hat wearing sun of a gun. A true legend and one that will leave a huge gap in the world of movies.

Burt Reynolds Hat

Marriage is about the most expensive way for the average man to get laundry done.

– Burt Reynolds

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Cha-mone! Michael Jackson In Movies And Games

Today would’ve been The King of Pop’s 60th birthday. So to celebrate and remember the man, I’m going to take a look at MJ in movies and video games. From main, starring roles to smaller cameo appearances.

Regardless of what anyone thinks about his more than bizarre personal life, one can not deny that Michael Jackson was one of the finest singer/song writers ever. He amazed millions of fans around the globe with his performances from huge and epic world tours to single show stopping smaller appearances. I mean just look at the 1983, Motown 25th anniversary where he did Billie Jean live, still one of the single greatest live performances ever.

But I’m not here to reminisce over his musical prowess (well maybe a little), its time to take a look at MJ in movies and games.

The Movies

The Wiz.jpg

The Wiz was Jackson’s first ever film appearance back in 1978. A reimagining of the classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz novel by L. Frank Baum and based on the Broadway musical of the same name. The Wiz was an all singing and dancing extravaganza and featured some serious and legendary talent including Diana Ross, Richard Pryor, Quincy Jones and even an uncredited Luther Vandross.

Jackson played the Scarecrow who of course is in search of a brain. MJ belts out quite possibly the most famous song from the entire film, Ease on Down the Road along with Diana Ross. The Wiz was panned when originally released with many critics saying the only saving grace was Michael Jackson. The film has gone on to become a cult classic that really is not worth watching these days, just do a YouTube search for Ease on Down the Road and you’ve seen the best part of the film.

Thriller.jpg

Next film role for MJ was the music video and short movie hybrid of 1983’s Michael Jackson’s Thriller. After watching the John Landis classic werewolf flick, An American Werewolf in London, MJ contacted Landis and asked him if he’s like to direct a music video – an idea Landis had no interest in. But Landis didn’t want to pass up the chance of working with Jackson who was (at the time) on top of the world as a superstar. So he suggested they get together to make a short movie instead, an idea Jackson loved and so the greatest music video of all time, Thriller was born.

Landis had his friend, long term collaborator and legendary make-up artist Rick Baker on hand to provide the special effects and make-up – which still look stunning today. While Landis and Jackson wrote the screenplay for this short movie. This teaming up created a phenomenon. In 2009, the Thriller video was inducted into the National Film Registry and to this day is the first and only music video to ever receive such an honor.

Off the Wall

At this juncture I just was to ask a question. Why do people consider Thriller to be his best work? It’s often cited as one of the greatest albums ever and don’t get me wrong, it’s a damn good album. But I personally would praise Off the Wall as an overall better piece of work than Thriller. In fact I’d even argue that Bad is a better album than Thriller. Anyway, back to the topic…

Captain Eo

In 1986, MJ once more teamed up with film-making legends for his next project, Captain EO. Jackson worked with George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola for this seventeen minute 3D mess of a film. Shown exclusively at Disney theme parks around the world. Originally, it was only shown from 1986 to 1996, but it was given a re-release following Jackson’s death in 2009. I got to see this film on a trip to Epcot in Disney World Florida a few years back.

MJ plays the titular Captain EO a captain of the spaceship with a crew of aliens. After crossing paths with The Supreme Leader (Anjelica Huston) who demands Captain EO and his crew are to be subjected to torture. MJ busts out some dance moves and sings a couple of songs turning the evil Supreme Leader and her grimy land into a paradise.

Visually, Captain EO is stunning. Just a shame its got a mess of a story, bad acting and a sickly sweet “we can change the world” mantra that Jackson seemed to enjoy shoving down people’s throats back then. This mini movie/music video is no Thriller and a waste of great talent.

Moonwalker

1988 saw the release of perhaps MJ’s most egotistical project…and that’s saying something. The epic opus that was Moonwalker. I’m not entirely sure how one would describe this film as its not really a film so to speak. Its more a collection of music videos, clips and performances, an anthology of everything MJ inspired by his Bad album. The film is split into various sections including; Man in the MirrorRetrospectiveBadder,  Speed DemonLeave Me AloneSmooth Criminal and Come Together.

Each section has its own flavour and style and they all work as mini movies/music videos within one huge movie. There’s no real story or narrative to follow except for maybe the whole Smooth Criminal section where MJ helps some homeless children fight off the evil Frankie “Mr. Big” LiDeo (Joe Pesci). Moonwalker is a huge mess…but one I can’t help but enjoy. There are some amazing highlights including the Badder segment where MJ’s Bad music video is recreated with kids. Speed Demon which picks up directly after Badder and has MJ dancing with a rabbit costume (its better than it sounds). The extended version of Smooth Criminal is also great fun even if the main story of that segment is crap. As I said, Moonwalker is a mess but not without its charm.

Ghosts

Michael Jackson’s Ghosts from 1996 sees MJ team up with some major talent once more for another short movie. With a story from famed horror writer Stephen King and directed by special effects maestro Stan Winston. MJ plays multiple parts in this one, the main one being the owner of a creepy house who entertains children with his magic tricks. The mayor of the town (also played by MJ) takes a disliking to the mysterious owner of the house and so attempts to run him out of town.

I have always felt that this was an attempt to make a new Thriller mini movie…and it kind of succeeds too. Michael Jackson’s Ghosts is a good watch with some amazing effects work and lots of fun to be found that features various songs from his HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I and Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix albums. Its just that…this is no Thriller, but its close.

Men in Black II.jpg

Then in 2002, MJ made a quick cameo is the sequel Men in Black II. The film starred Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as the extraterrestrial police (kind of) who have to protect Earth from alien invasions and keep the secret of alien life from the humans.

Jackson played Agent M in a quick appearance on a video call to Men in Black boss Zed as well as also making a voice cameo on a phone later.

Miss Castaway.jpg

Which all leads to Michael Jackson’s final on screen scripted performance in the comedy film, Miss Cast Away and the Island Girls. A parody film in the same vein as films like The Naked Gun, Airplane!, etc. Again, MJ jut has a small cameo in this playing Agent M.J. who appears as a holographic image.

I’ve never seen it to be honest, not sure if I really want to either. But its there for those that want to see Jackson’s final scripted movie role.

The Games

Michael Jackson’s first appearance in a game was the tie in to his movie Moonwalker. Now things will get a little confusing here as there was more than one version of the game and I don’t mean different ports, I mean completely different games released for different systems and all released at different times through 1990 but all called Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker.

Moonwalker Arcade

I guess I should start with the more famous arcade version first. Published and developed by Sega, Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker is an isometric scrolling shoot/beat em’ up style game where you can two friends can team up and all play as MJ (yes three MJs) based on the Smooth Criminal section of the Moonwalker movie. Make your way though levels, take out bad guys, rescue kids and defeat the evil Mr. Big.

It was pretty simple gameplay, typical arcade fare designed to eat your coins faster than  fat person at an all you can eat buffet can eat chicken wings. As simple as the game was, it was also massively playable and great fun. Featuring some of Jackson’s most famous songs and locales from the movie. Perhaps the best part of the game was the Dance Magic move where MJ would dance along to one of his tunes while all the enemies on screen joined in until they could dance no more and are defeated.

Moonwalker Megadrive

Sega and Jackson built up a relationship which led to the arcade game and then versions of Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker for Sega’s home consoles with both the Master System and the Mega Drive/Genesis getting their own games. While these games were ports of each other, they were different to the arcade version. Yet they all shared the same basic gameplay with you playing as MJ saving kids, taking on the bad guys and eventually defeating Mr. Big. And yes, the awesome Dance Magic returns too. Where the arcade game was an isometric viewpoint, the home console versions were side scrolling games. These home versions lacked something, the fast paced fun factor just wasn’t there and the game(s) got very repetitive very fast compared to the arcade game.

Moonwalker Amiga

As for the home computer versions, well that was a completely different game altogether. This time developed by Emerald Software and published by U.S. gold. The other games took inspiration form the Smooth Criminal section of the film only, but the home computer game used more elements of the film. This one was split into four different levels. The first being a top down maze-like game with you playing as MJ trying to escape crazed fans while collecting the bunny costume from the Speed Demon portion of the film. The second level was also a maze-like one but now with you on the motorbike from the film and having to collect tokens which will morph you into a car so you can jump a barrier. Level three is inspired by Smooth Criminal and is a side scroller where MJ shoots bad guys with a machine gun. Then finally there is the big showdown between MJ and Mr. Big with Jackson now transformed into a robot (yes this happens in the film) and shoots the henchmen that appear from various openings in the level.

Out of the three versions of the game, the arcade one is still the best to play with the home computer one being not very good at all.

Sonic 3

Next up is a game in which Jackson didn’t appear in person, but did provide music for…possibly. MJ was a huge fan of Sega’s mascot Sonic the Hedgehog and it has been said that he asked Sega if he could provide music for a Sonic game. In 1994 Sega released Sonic the Hedgehog 3 which may or may not include some of MJs music. There are conflicting stories, one says they MJ did provide music for the game but after allegations of child abuse began to rear-up, Sega removed all music MJ had composed for the game. Others claim that MJ was never asked nor did he ask Sega to provide music for the game. Another story says that MJ did compose a few tracks for Sonic the Hedgehog 3 but he ultimately was not happy with the end result and the lack of sound capabilities with Sega’s console so asked for them to not be used. Then another story says that MJ’s music is in the game, but he was uncredited for “legal reasons”.

There is this article by The Huffington Post from 2016 that claims they can prove MJ’s music is in Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Is Michael Jackson’s music in Sonic 3…can’t say I care all that much anymore. Its a story that has just dragged on for years and while I may have found it interesting years ago, now I couldn’t care less.

Space Channel 5.jpg

Sticking with Sega and MJ popped up in another one of their games…well two actually. He appeared in a cameo for Space Channel 5 in 1999 and again in its sequel, Space Channel 5: Part 2 but in a larger role from 2002. These were dance/rhythm games where you had to follow the on screen prompts in a series of QTEs to pull off dance moves. So MJ fitted perfectly here. Jackson voiced and performed his character himself so he was pretty authentic.

Ready 2 Rumble 2.jpg

But between the two Space Channel 5 games, MJ also appeared in the boxing game Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 from 2000. Yes, Jackson was a boxer punching people in the face and everything. Though it has to be said that Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 is a game with its tongue firmly in cheek, it uses comedy a lot – so the MJ in this is very much a parody. Again Jackson provided the voice and even did motion capture for the game. So if you ever feel like playing as a bad-ass boxing Michael Jackson, then you know where to look.

In 2010 after his death, MJ was resurrected in video game form in Michael Jackson: The Experience. This was another one of those dance/rhythm games with you copying the prompts on screen to mimic some of Jackson’s iconic dance moves. Songs such as Bad, Thriller, Beat It, Billie Jean, Smooth Criminal, Speed Demon, Black or WhiteDon’t Stop ‘Til You Get EnoughWanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ and many more were included.

Planet Michael

There was one more game to feature Michael Jackson, but it was never released. Called, Planet Michael the game was a massive online multiplayer game. However, exactly what the game was going to be is anyone guess. Info is very thin on the ground and seems to have been abandoned. The Facebook page still exists and you can find some early concept art easily online. But as the game was originally given a 2011 release date and its now 2018 with no game in sight, I guess we can say its been cancelled.


Well there you go, Michael Jackson’s life in movies and games. A bit of a mixed bag with some worthy entries and some real stinkers too. But I wasn’t here to review any of these titles, just to bring them up and highlight them and to remember Michael on what would’ve been his 60th birthday today.

Young Michael.jpg

Happy Birthday Michael.

Just because it’s in print doesn’t mean it’s the gospel.

Michael Jackson

A Little R-E-S-P-E-C-T: The Last Of The Blues Brothers

What a kick in the nuts, today we lost Soul Sister Number One as Aretha Franklin has died after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was one of the finest singers to ever walk this Earth and the world of music will be a little darker without her bright flame.

I was brought up on real R n’ B music, soul and the like. I still remember Sunday mornings as a kid when Mom would make us do housework before Nan and Granddad would visit for dinner. Mom would always put some music on while we polished, vacuumed and washed. Songs from people like Sam and Dave, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke and of course Aretha Franklin would fill my ears and turn me into the fan of proper blues, soul and Motown that I am today.

But there was another element that turned me into the fan of what I like to call “real music”, a film and one of my all time favorite films ever, a musical film and a film Aretha was a part of herself – The Blues Brothers. The loss of The Queen of Soul today has got me thinking about the amazing talent involved in The Blues Brothers and how many of them we have lost over the years. So here, I’d like to pay my R-E-S-P-E-C-T to the stars of The Blues Brothers and even its sequel. Yeah I’ll throw in Blues Brothers 2000 as whether you liked the film or not, one can not deny it had some stunning people in it who are sadly no longer with us. This is for all those, in memorandum for all they have given us over the years.

The Blues Brothers Title

Walter Horton  1921 – 1981

“Big” Walter Horton appeared in the first film alongside John Lee Hooker on the street as they performed Boom Boom together.

John Belushi 1949 – 1982

One of the originators of the whole Blues Brothers craze, along with Dan Aykroyd. The duo created a phenomenon that has lasted decades and still attracts new fans to this day.

Cab Calloway 1907 – 1994

The oldest member of the family, he was born when the 1900s were till new. Cab provided one of the best scenes in the original film when he belted out Minne the Moocher.

John Candy 1950 – 1994

John Candy

His role as parole officer Burton Mercer in The Blues Brothers was one of his first movie acting roles after a successful career in TV.

Junior Wells 1934 – 1998

Wells made a small cameo in Blues Brothers 2000 as one of the band members during the Cheaper to Keep Her song.

Grover Washington Jr 1943 – 1999

Grover was a part of the ensemble group, The Louisiana Gator Boys from Blues Brothers 2000 where he was joined by several other musical legends.

Bobby Sheehan 1968 – 1999

Not just appearing in the sequel but also a founding member of the band Blues Traveler who feature in the film.

George Sperdakos 1931 – 2000

A character actor known for small roles in numerous films. He played a priest in Blues Brothers 2000.

Kathleen Freeman 1919 – 2001

Kathleen Freeman

Kathleen played Sister Mary Stigmata A.K.A The Penguin, the vicious nun Jake and Elwood have to visit in the first film and she returned for the sequel too.

Esther Ridgeway 1959- 2003

She was one of the entourage of friends that accompanied and joined in with Aretha Franklin as she sang Respect in the car dealership in Blues Brothers 2000.

Jeff Morris 1934 – 2004

Jeff played Bob of Bob’s Country Bunker where the boys did their Country & Western gig in the first film. He also returned for the sequel to reprise his role.

Ray Charles 1930 – 2004

Of course this man doesn’t need an introduction, its Ray Charles. He played (imaginatively) Ray of Rays’s Musical Exchange where Jake and Elwood get their instruments from in the first film.

Gracie Ridgeway 1957 – 2006

Along with her sister Esther, she was also part of the entourage that sang Respect with Aretha Franklin in the sequel.

Wilson Pickett 1941 – 2006

Wilson appeared in Blues Brothers 2000 playing the character Mr Picket at the “phone company” where he sang 634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.).

James Brown 1933 – 2006

James Brown

The hardest working man in show business, The Godfather of Soul. He played Reverend Cleophus James in both films.

Billy Preston 1946 – 2006

Another one of the Louisiana Gator Boys supergroup that popped up in Blues Brothers 2000.

Lou Rawls 1933 – 2006

And yet again, one of the Louisiana Gator Boys from the sequel.

Bo Diddley 1928 – 2008

Yes he was another one of them Louisiana Gator Boys. That band had some serious talent in it eh?

Isaac Hayes 1942 – 2008

Guess what? Aside from recording the greatest song ever with Shaft. Yes Isaac was also a Louisiana Gator Boy in Blues Brothers 2000.

Wally High 1938 – 2008

Played one of the Russian thugs chasing after Elwood in Blues Brothers 2000.

Koko Taylor 1928 – 2009

A female in the Louisiana Gator Boys band from the sequel and known for he powerful blues singing voice.

Henry Gibson 1963 – 2009

Henry Gibson

A brilliant character actor who you would find popping up in a lot of comedy films of the 80s – one of which was The Blues Brothers where he played the leader of the Illinois Nazis.

Alan Rubin 1943 -2011

Known as Mr. Fabulous, Rubin was one of the members of The Blues Brothers band appearing in both films as the trumpet player.

Clarence Clemons 1942 – 2011

Along with the many others, Clemons was part of the Louisiana Gator Boys from Blues Brothers 2000.

Charles Napier 1936 – 2011

Played Tucker McElroy, lead singer and driver of the Winnebago for The Good Ole Boys Band in the first film. He was another one of those great character actors you’d see in many films.

John Lee Hooker 1942 – 2001

Johm Lee Hooker

One of the best blues musicians ever, he appeared in the first film singing Boom Boom on the street.

Pinetop Perkins 1913 – 2011

Along with John Lee Hooker, he was also on the street performing Boom Boom in the first film.

Donald “Duck” Dunn 1941 -2012

Another member of The Blues Brothers Band. “Duck” was the bass player as uttered some of the best lines in both of the films. “We had a band powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline.”

B.B. King 1925 – 2015

Played Malvern Gasperone who sells Elwood the police car that would become the new Bluesmobile in Blues Brothers 2000…he also became one of the Louisiana Gator Boys later in the film. As well as bring one of the most recognised blues musicians ever.

Carrie Fisher 1956 – 2016

Carrie Fisher

She played Jake’s stalker/ex-girlfriend in the first film hellbent on trying to kill Jake and his brother Elwood because she was stood up at the alter by Jake.

Matt “Guitar” Murphy 1929 – 2018

The lead guitarist of The Blues Brothers band and married to Aretha Franklin’s character in both films.

Aretha Franklin 1942 – 2018

Aretha Franklin

Which all brings me to the latest loss in The Blues Brothers family. A force to be reckoned with as the strong willed wife of Matt “Guitar” Murphy. She had two great performances in both films singing Think in The Blues Brothers and Respect in Blues Brothers 2000.

She will be missed, one of the very finest singers ever with a career that spanned six decades. I’ll Say A Little Prayer For You..

Don’t say Aretha is making a comeback, because I’ve never been away!

Aretha Franklin.

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

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 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

Game Over Man, Game Over! Remembering Bill Paxton

Well this is a kick to the scrotum – we recently lost Bill Paxton and right here, I’d like to remember the man, his career and reveal what Bill was doing the day that JFK was assassinated.

Bill was born in Texas on the 17th May 1955. His first acting job was in a movie called Crazy Mama from 1975, where he played a small uncredited role. He directed and starred in the all too strange and surreal video to the Barnes & Barnes song Fish Heads in 1980.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. You want to know about that JFK connection right? Well…

The above photo is on display At The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. Its a photo of the gathering crowd outside the hotel that JFK was staying in on the 22nd of November, 1963 and it was taken in the morning just as JFK was setting out for his what would be a fatal tour of Dallas, Texas. See that 8 year old boy being lifted above the crowd in the back? That’s Bill Paxton.

Anyway, back to Bill’s movie career. He managed to get a few small roles through the early 80s in movies including Stripes (1981), Night Warning (1982), Streets Of Fire (1984) among others. Yet it was a small role playing a spiky, blue haired street punk in some young and unknown film director’s low budget flick called The Terminator from 1984 that most movie fans remember seeing Bill for the first time.

He may have had the first line in the movie, but he learns the hard way that you just do not pull a flick-knife on a killer cyborg sent from the future. This small role kick-started a long friendship and career with director James Cameron. Bill and James collaborated several times through the years including True Lies (1994) and Titanic (1997). The duo even teamed up for a documentary on the real Titanic called Ghosts of the Abyss released in 2003. And yes, of course James gave Bill his breakthrough role as Private Hudson in the 1986 sequel – Aliens.

Yet there is one more collaboration between Bill and James that not too many people are aware of. You see, in 1982 Bill formed a musical band called; Martini Ranch. They released a song called Reach and the video was directed by none other than James Cameron. The music video is worth watching to see how many other The Terminator and Aliens alumni you can spot. But be on the look out for Lance Henriksen, Paul Reiser and Jenette Goldstein.

Bill continued to forge himself a career as an actor through the 80s and 90s in films and TV. His many, many appearances include; Commando, Back to Back, Next of Kin, Brain Dead, Trespass, Predator 2, Tombstone, Apollo 13 and Twister just to name a few.

By the mid-late 90s, Bill was getting more and more roles. With his performance in the Sam Raimi’s tense thriller A Simple Plan from 1998 being one of my personal favourites.

All through the 2000s, he was continually working in movies and TV. Frasier, Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, Thunderbirds, 2 Guns, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. all featured Bill. He even starred in a sequel TV show to the Denzel Washington movie, Training Day. And I can’t forget the Groundhog Day-esque Edge of Tomorrow where Bill acted alongside Tom Cruise from 2014.

From the morning of the JFK assassination of 1963 and his cheeky appearance to his as yet unreleased movie; The Circle where Bill will be seen acting with Tom Hanks, John Boyega and Emma Watson. Bill had an impressive, long and varied career. But I have always found it strange how he never really become the big leading man in the movies. A handful of larger roles aside, he always seemed to be a secondary character – and I’ve saved the best until last…

Even with over 90 roles in music videos, TV shows, documentaries and of course movies. There is one character in one film that I will always remember Bill Paxton for. You can keep your Private Hudson and Aliens. This is the Bill Paxton I’ll always remember.

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From the John Hughes classic Weird Science – the lovable asshole that is Chet Donnelly. I love this character so damn much even though he’s horrible, overbearing and does nothing but terrorise and bully his younger brother Wyatt throughout the film.

Chet is just so damn memorable with so many quotable lines.

But first I’d like to… butter your muffin.

That’s not a joke, that’s a severe behavioural disorder. I mean, the next thing you know, you’ll be wearing a bra on your head!

Not having a good time? Do you think they’re having a good time being catatonic in a closet?

How ’bout a nice greasy pork sandwich served in a dirty ashtray?

I’m gonna tell Mom and Dad everything. I’m even considering makin’ up some shit!

You two donkey-dicks couldn’t get laid in a morgue.

You’re stewed, buttwad!

And my all time favourite Chet Donnelly line from Weird Science

An accident? An accident? Do you realise it’s snowing in my room goddammit!

I really need to go and re-watch Weird Science for the 157th time.

Bill Paxton died on the 25th February 2017 due to complications from surgery. He was 61.

Thanks for the movie memories Bill.

Anyone who’s worked very hard on a craft or an art to get a certain precision in terms of execution and performance wants to get past all that stuff that holds you up – your ego, all the doubts.

Gene Wilder

Another great lost in 2016.

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Born Jerome Silberman on 11th June, 1933 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He would later become known professionally as Gene Wilder and over the years he became a legend not only on the stage and screen, but also as a writer and director. He took his stage of Gene Wilder name at 26.

Gene Wilder:I had always liked Gene because of Thomas Wolfe’s character Eugene Gant in Look Homeward, Angel and Of Time and the River. And I was always a great admirer of Thornton Wilder.”

Wilder’s first on screen appearance was in the classic Bonnie and Clyde (1967) where he played a hostage. But his big break in films came in the Mel Brooks directed The Producers (1968) where Wilder played Leopold Bloom and even earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. This film also sparked off a long lasting friendship between Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder that would endure for decades.

MG

It was in 1971 when Wilder auditioned for what would probably become his most famous role.

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He managed to land the role of Willy Wonka in Mel Stuart’s film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. You know that whole initial entrance Wonka has in that film where he walks towards the crowd with a limp and carrying a cane. Then the cane gets stuck in between the cobblestones and he falls forward, but turns it into a forward roll and bounces back up to his feet? Well that was Gene’s idea as he thought it would show a level of uncertainty about the character as to whether he was lying or not, which is something that is played upon later in the film several times. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was not a huge critical or box office success at the time and even Roald Dahl himself disliked the adaption. But the film gained a cult following over the years and cemented Wilder as one of the all time greats.

Wilder struggled to find a big hit and pretty much every film he starred in at the time had been flops. Woody Allen offered him a role in one segment of his 1972 comedy film, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask). And the film was a success, finally putting an end to Wilder’s string of cinematic flops. It was also around this time when he began writing an little idea for a film he had called Young Frankenstein, an idea he took to Mel Brooks. Mel initially turned the film down, Wilder forgot all about the project and moved onto other things. It was when Wilder’s agent, Mike Medavoy who asked Wilder if he had any ideas for two other clients Medavoy had (Peter Boyle and Marty Feldman) that he decided to restart his little Young Frankenstein idea and again see if Mel Brooks would be interested in directing to which he finally agreed, but Brooks was too busy filming something else to commit. Brooks offered Wilder a role in his new film in the meantime until he was free to direct Young Frankenstein…

BS

Blazing Saddles (1974) was a moderate hit at the time but eventually became a comedy classic in its own right with Gene Wilder playing Jim, the “Waco Kid”. In 2006, Blazing Saddles was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Both Wilder and Brooks were now free to get to work on the Young Frankenstein film which eventually became a huge commercial success. Wilder and Brooks received Best Adapted Screenplay nominations at the 1975 Oscars for the film but lost out to Francis Coppola and Mario Puzo for their adaptation of The Godfather Part II. But now with Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein both being big hits for Wilder and Brooks, this opened the doors for both of them to try other projects and next up, Wilder wrote and and made his directorial debut with The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975).

Sometime in 1975, Wilder’s agent sent him a script for a film titled Super Chief and he even suggested Richard Pryor for a part in the film. The title of the film was changed to Silver Streak (1976) and marked the beginning of yet another long lasting partnership.

RG

For the rest of the 70s, Wilder wrote, produced and directed several films including The World’s Greatest Lover (1977) and The Frisco Kid (1979) which was originally to star John Wayne, but due to ill health he couldn’t commit and sadly died in June 1979. The part was then offered to some newcomer called Harrison Ford instead.
As the new decade of the 80s rolled around, Wilder went from strength to strength first appearing alongside Richard Pryor once more in the Sidney Poitier directed film Stir Crazy (1980). Wilder also directed his third film, The Woman in Red (1984) which won an Oscar for Best Original Song for Stevie Wonder’s song “I Just Called to Say I Love You”.

The 80s were coming to a close and the idea to team up Wilder and Pryor once more came about with the film See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989).

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The 90s marked the end of an era for both Wilder and Pryor when they starred in the film, Another You (1991) which would prove to be not only the final film on which they would work together on, but also the final appearance in a starring role for both of them. Though Wilder and Pryor made other appearances in films and TV shows, neither of them ever starred in a feature film again and Pryor died in 2005. Strangely enough, while Wilder and Pryor had one of the most memorable onscreen friendships, they never got on off screen and were far from friends.
In 1994, Wilder did star in the sitcom, Something Wilder. As well as appearing in the TV movies, Alice in Wonderland, Murder in a Small Town and The Lady in Question. Wilder also guest stared in the sitcom Will & Grace and even won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor on a Comedy Series for his role.

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While no longer a star of the big screen and only making small appearances on TV. Wilder was still considered one of the all time greats and still kept himself busy through the 2000s with his writing. In 2005, he wrote and released his highly personal memoir, Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art. In 2007, Wilder also wrote his first novel, My French Whore and followed that up in 2008 with a second, The Woman Who Wouldn’t. In 2010 he then released a collection of stories called What Is This Thing Called Love? And In 2013 he wrote his third novel, Something to Remember You By: A Perilous Romance.

Gene Wilder died at the age of 83 on the 28th August, 2016, at home in Stamford, Connecticut, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

GW 4

Gene Wilder:I never thought of it as God. I didn’t know what to call it. I don’t believe in devils, but demons I do because everyone at one time or another has some kind of a demon, even if you call it by another name, that drives them.

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