‘Ghost Rider,’ come back. All is forgiven. After witnessing the wrong-in-every-imaginable-way “Green Hornet,” the Nicolas Cage superhero stinker deserves to be scraped of the barrel’s bottom to allow room for this boring, repetitive, steaming-turd of a film.
The latest incarnation of ‘Horet’ has a storied past that dates back almost two decades. Rumored involvement in the project included names like George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Nicolas Cage, Greg Kinnear and Jake Gyllenhaal, with Kevin Smith and Stephen Chow (“Kung Fu Hustle”) scheduled to direct. Everything from Jamaican accents and heroes with brain-implanted microchips being controlled by joysticks. Continue reading →
Sheldon LettichWritten by:
S.N. Warren (story)
Jean Claude Van Damme (screenplay)
Jean Claude Van Damme as Leon
Harrison Page as Joshua
Debra Rennard as Cynthia
Lisa Pelikan as Helene
Ashley Johnson as Nicole
Pre-screening memories: I was old enough, when seeing Lionheart for the first time, that I can’t call it one of the most important formative movies of my childhood. True, I wasn’t a fan of martial arts films before seeing it, and afterwards I became something of a devotee of Van Damme’s, but the most vital part of the film for my developing fandom was that it reinforced the lesson, first taught by Tim Curry’s performance in the movie Clue, that following an actor from project to project would
A: Never disappoint, because if nothing else, you at least get to see a performance by someone whose work you enjoy, and
B: could possibly lead to discovering something fantastic.
Which is my circuitous way of saying that my passion for the TV show Sledge Hammer! led directly to my lifelong love of watching people kicking other people in the face. Still inconsolable two full years after Sledge Hammer’s cancellation, seeing Harrison Page show up in television ads for upcoming film ‘Lionheart’ made me determined to see the film, which was rated a forbidding R, ensuring that I wouldn’t make it to the theatres.
When I finally saw the film on video it didn’t disappoint. Not only was Harrison Page fantastic in the film, but the action was unlike anything I’d seen in the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies that dominated my childhood, or even the occasional episode of Kung Fu. After all, who needed a machine gun when you could just spin really fast and crack someone across the jaw with your heel? A lifelong fan of the genre was born, as well as a devotee of Van Damme’s ‘all downhill from here’ ouevre.
New memories: I’m frankly amazed by how good this movie was. Not having seen it in years, I’d assumed that it was going to be one of those embarrassingly Natsukashi moments (that’s how you use that word, right?) where I’d created an epic action extravaganza in my mind that never actually existed – this was certainly not the case. The action certainly wasn’t up to modern choreographic standards, but everything else about the film was far better than I’d remembered.
That’s right, what impressed me most about the film was that it worked, first and foremost, as a drama. Sounds crazy, right? Van Damme’s a pretty limited actor, especially at this fresh-faced stage of his career, before that personal and professional setbacks that would reduce him to the withered husk of ‘JCVD’, but damn if it doesn’t work in this part, as a simply good, almost naïve man struggling his way through the seamy world of underground fighting. He’s helped on this journey by the even-better-than-I-remembered-it performance of Harrison Page, who provides perhaps the most raw, vulnerable, and downright emotional performance I’ve ever seen in an action film. The way his Joshua starts out sad, defeated and desperate and gradually finds a kind of purpose and nobility in training Leon is a great character arc, and it brings him to a moment, right at the end, which is unlike anything I’ve seen in an American action film.
The other thing that amazed me about the movie (other than the fact that it’s a semi-remake of Midnight Cowboy – Who knew?) was the aspect that likely affected me most as a youngster, and that’s the utter contempt that the film shows for the upper classes who are funding the brutal no-holds-barred fights. If the film’s battles aren’t the most spectacular thing ever, their settings are absolutely stunning, and steeped in subtext. Van Damme’s first professional fight is in a parking garage beneath an office building, literally taking place in the underbelly of New York’s wealth-obsessed establishment. From there the action moves out to LA, but the satirical settings don’t stop – there’s a huge pool in a beachside mansion, a squash court, and a ring constructed from the luxury automobiles of the elite who have come to watch men beat each other nearly to death. This all leads up to the final battle which takes place well within the closed walls of the upper-class, a tennis court around the back of a palatial estate. The entire film works as an attack on the kind of people who commoditize human beings, and if the message gets a little heavy-handed at times (and it does), at least the movie was trying to say something important, unlike just about all of its brethren.
I loved Lionheart as a child. As an adult, crazy as it may seem, I respect it.
Fascinated by film at an early age, Harrison sought the Hollywood dream after serving in the military.
He began, as most starting in the business do, by snagging small roles on television, film and stage. And looking back, has amassed a resume in an astonishing amount of popular shows, including C.P.O. Sharkey, Webster, HillStreetBlues, Fame, 21JumpStreet, TheWonderYears, QuantumLeap (which earned him an Emmy nod), MelrosePlace, AllyMcBeal, ER, JAG, and ColdCase, to name but a few.
But it was his role in the cult classic series SledgeHammer! (yes, the exclamation point was in the title) that cemented him into certified pop culture status. In it, he played Captain Trunk, the Pepto-Bismal-swilling, beleaguered head of a police department featuring the titular vigilante office (played by David Rasche). (Ed. note– If you are not putting this series on your Netflix queue this very moment, we don’t want to know you.)
Harrison spoke about his time spent on the set with a young Van Damme, his fond memories of Sledge, and the wisdom he’s amassed in his four decades of Hollywood. Thanks, Harrsion, from your pals at Natsukashi.
Title: Peter Pan (1960) Stage play Directed by: Vincent J. Donehue Written by: J.M. Barrie (original play) and Jerome Robbins (adaptation)
Starring: Mary Martin as Peter Pan Cyril Ritchard as Captain Hook Maureen Bailey as Wendy Sondra Lee as Tiger Lily Joey Trent as John Kent Fletcher as Michael Edmund Gaynes as Slightly
Pre-screening memories: My cousins introduced me to a lot of great movies. A few years older than my sister and me, they would come babysit and bring West Side Story, or Adventures in Babysitting. They took me to the movies to see The Witches (which terrified me and I resented them for it for a long time). And one special Sunday long ago, they introduced me to Mary Martin’s Peter Pan.
I remember immediately loving this version of the familiar tale. This was before I saw Hook – a very influential movie for my generation – and probably even before I saw the animated Disney film. All versions of Peter Pan, including the book, were fascinating to me. But this one held a special place in my heart.
Part of that might be the record we had with some of the songs on it. My parents were no lovers of music, so we owned a whole three records that my sister and I played to shreds. One was the Brigham Young University choir doing their renditions of musical hits. And both Tiger Lily songs were on there. I’m sure we coordinated dances…because we always coordinated dances. And even on this rewatching of the film, I remembered all the words. Ugga-wugga-wig-wam. Racist. So racist. So fun.
It’s great rewatching a film that you think has been almost completely wiped from memory, but then discovering that all of it is so familiar. Uncanny, really.
New memories:The movie definitely loses a little of its appeal. What seemed charmingly simple to a child, is a little threadbare as an adult. Also, I’m not sure I realized it was just a filmed production of a Broadway play when I was a kid. It’s definitely an entirely different movie to someone now familiar with different aspects of filmmaking.
That said, I still loved the movie for what it was. A 47-year-old woman playing a little boy is delightful, no matter what the decade.
He has also appeared as an actor in 13 Broadway and Off-Broadway shows including Greenwillow with Anthony Perkins, The Body Beautifulwith Jack Warden, Promenade with Madeline Kahn, Edward Albee’s Bartleby and Best Foot Forward, in which he co-starred with Christopher Walken and Liza Minnelli and sang “Buckle Down, Winsocki” on the original cast album. Directors he has worked with include Elia Kazan, Stella Adler, Herb Ross, George Abbott, George Roy Hill, Bobby Lewis, Peter Hunt, George Schaeffer, Robert Moore, Alan Schneider, Joe Layton, Gene Saks, Martin Charnin and Jerome Robbins.
TV credits range from Mary Martin’s Peter Pan to Cheers, Kojak, a recurring role on The Patty Duke Show, The Sid Caesar Hour, Playhouse 90, The Ed Sullivan Show, among many others, as well as a two-year run as Paul Stewart on As the World Turns.
Other than that, not much (!!!). Kidding, of course. We want to thank Mr. Gaynes for taking the time from his many theatrical endeavors to join us.
Title: American Graffiti (1973) Rated: PG
Directed by: George Lucas
Written by: George Lucas and Gloria Katz Starring: Ron Howardas Steve Bolander Richard Dreyfuss as Curt Henderson Charles Martin Smith as Terry ‘The Toad’ Fields Cindy Williams as Laurie Henderson Candy Clarkas Debbie Dunham Mackenzie Phillips as Carol Tagline: “Where were you in ’62?”
Contributor Pete Hayes goes cruising down the strip with Mark aka Kip Pullman, the owner of ‘Kip Pullman’s American Graffiti’ website to relive the sights, and most importantly the sounds of the seminal coming-of-age film from George Lucas.
Mark’s site is the go-to resource for all things ‘American Graffiti,’ and he shares his encyclopedic knowledge of the film, the soundtrack, behind-the-scenes trivia and his own tales of his first time witnessing ‘American Graffiti’ with his father. (A big thanks to Mark for all his knowledge in this episode!)
Find out if the return trip was worth the drive for Pete as he navigates his way down memory lane by clicking here, or listening below (and turn the sound up loud enough for your neighbors to hear it!).