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Easy-to-understand conversation on movies, television, music and video games

The Wilhelm Scream: A Brief History

We’ve all heard it multiple times. Even if you think you haven’t, trust me, you have. I’m talking about the famous, “AHHHOOWWWWW!!” sound effect that has been featured in over 225 movies and television episodes spanning over six decades. It’s called the “Wilhelm Scream” and it was first used in the 1951 Gary Cooper film Distant Drums as a character is being eaten by an alligator.

Research shows that the effect itself was probably voiced by Sheb Wooley, an actor and singer most known for his song, “The Purple People Eater” (1958) and for starring alongside Cooper in the 1952 western, High Noon. The sound bite’s name comes from Private Wilhelm, a character who delivers the legendary scream while getting shot in the leg by an arrow in The Charge At Feather River (1953).The shriek is used several times during the film and was the third documented movie to make use of it.

Labeled, “man being eaten by alligator,” the effect was shelved and didn’t see much use until Ben Burtt, an American sound designer, stumbled upon it while pouring over sound archives at Warner Brothers Studios. He and his USC buddies incorporated it into a project they were working on called The Scarlet Blade (1974).

Burtt was later contracted for the Star Wars films and gave the yell its most famous appearance during a scene where an Imperial Storm Trooper is shot and falls into one of the Death Star’s chasms.

He continued to work on several George Lucas and Steven Spielberg projects, including the remaining Star Wars films and all of the Indiana Jones movies, and made wide use of the effect throughout those features. Other film-makers picked up on the clip and utilized it in their own work, such as Peter Jackson in Lord of the Rings and Quentin Tarantino in Kill Bill.

Sixty-five years later, and the memorable scream has become an industry joke. It’s used as much for comedic effect as it is for its truly effective portrayal of pain and terror. Everything from theme park attractions to video games have capitalized on its instantly recognizable status and it seems doubtful that it will ever disappear.

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REVIEW: Chef (2014)

If you’re a Netflix subscriber, you understand the struggle that is wading through the wasteland of straight-to-DVD mediocrity. Hidden among the jumbled mess lies a decently polished gem directed, produced and starring Jon Favreau called Chef.

It follows the story of Carl Casper, a renowned Chef in Brentwood, California. When a prominent food critic pays a visit to the his place of business, he dials up a series of courses sure to result in a stellar review. The owner of the restaurant, played by Dustin Hoffman, disapproves of his ideas preferring to stick to the menu favorites.

A two star rating by the critic sets Casper’s temper ablaze, who takes out his frustrations on the blogger and owner before quitting. Now he must juggle an uncertain future with a son longing to develop a closer relationship with him while he searches for the next step in his career.

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Favreau actually incorporated parts of his own life into the film’s script and boy does it show. The Iron Man actor seems completely at home in the culinary environment and absolutely nails the role of a proud, somewhat foul-mouthed, speed-talking cook. Sofia Vergara stars as Casper’s former wife and handles the rather downplayed part fairly well, despite being accustomed to the loud, comedic character she has portrayed in ABC’s Modern Family since 2009.

Casper’s son, Percy, is an adolescent trying to cope with his parent’s divorce and increasingly estranged dad. Played by Emjay Anthony (It’s Complicated), he does a convincing job of mingling passive disappointment at his father’s absence with eager curiosity and enthusiasm when Casper begins to make more time for him. John Leguizamo performs admirably as Casper’s loyal sidekick and provides his own share of comedic relief on screen.

Hoffman only appears for a short duration but depicts a frustratingly unoriginal owner well enough that you want to punch him in the face by the time Casper finally quits. Scarlett Johansson also has a minor role as a server.

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The strength of this movie lies in its ability to blend just the right amount of humor with heartfelt themes on the importance of family, humility and pursuing one’s passion. Over the course of this film, Casper’s journey takes him from a distant dad, ignoring his potential, to a loving and involved parent who finds joy working alongside his son as a self-employed maverick of the food truck industry.

In a time where comedies are a dime a dozen, Chef provides a healthy dose of laughs without falling into the lazy conventionality of profanity-laced, bathroom humor. If you can’t get on board with that, then it’s still a sizzling, frying and baking montage of delicious meals sure to inspire your inner culinary creativity.

10 Funniest Tweets From Last Night’s #SpringBreakInFourWords

In the 21st century, Spring Break has become synonymous with raging beach parties and regrettable decisions. As thousands of college students make their way to the surf and sunshine, a plethora of bad memories will no doubt follow them. @midnight capitalized on the inevitability, presenting #SpringBreakInFourWords to contestants and fans on last night’s show.

Here are the 10 funniest

1)

bail

2)

beer

3)

civic

4)

darwin

5)

deposit

6)

international

7)

liver

8)

missing

9)

rubio

10)

unfortunate

The Case for Idris Elba as James Bond

This year will mark the 10th anniversary of English actor Daniel Craig first taking the reins of 007 in the hugely successful Casino Royale. Three more action-packed, spy flicks later and it appears the massive shoes of the most famous spy in literary & cinematic history will need a new wearer.

Craig has delivered four of the five James Bond movies his contract requires. Whether directly due to his acting, or to other flaws in the film-making process, his streak has been met with mixed success. Casino Royale (2006) and Skyfall (2012) hold a 95% and 93% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, Quantum of Solace (2008) and last year’s Spectre, didn’t quite hit the mark, with neither film managing to pass 65%.

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In an interview with TimeOut Magazine, Craig clearly revealed his desire to hang up the Walter. In response to the idea of making another Bond film, Craig said, “I’d rather break this glass and slash my wrists…If I did another Bond movie, it would only be for the money.” According to multiple sources though, Craig will indeed honor his contract and make one final go at it. Presuming it will be his last, the debate over who his successor will be has been widely discussed for the better part of two years.

British actor and star of HBO’s The Wire, Idris Elba appeared to be the front-runner, with other prominent stars such as Michael Fassbender, Damien Lewis and Tom Hardy also in the conversation. After remarks from Anthony Horowitz, author of the James Bond novel Trigger Mortis, and former Bond star Pierce Brosnan however, it appears Elba is no longer favored to land the role.

Horowitz stated, “For me, Idris Elba is a bit too rough to play the part. It’s not a color issue. I think he is probably a bit too ‘street’ for Bond.” The author later apologized for his use of words saying he didn’t mean to cause any offense. Brosnan was more straight-forward in his opinion saying, “He’ll be male, and he’ll be white.”

I’m not sure if there is a clear description of James Bond in the original Ian Fleming novels as being white, but whether or not there is, it shouldn’t matter. Films have been deviating from the course outlined in the literature they were adapted from for decades and there is no reason the status quo needs to be maintained in regards to Bond’s skin tone. He is a fictional character and the “he should be white because he always has been” argument just doesn’t cut it.

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Elba could reinvent an entire franchise desperate for an eager new face to propel the icon forward. No, not just because he is not white. He is an experienced veteran of the screen and boasts an impressive resume, which above all, showcases the versatility needed to play such an important icon. In 2007 he was a street-smart drug king in American Gangster. In HBO’s The Wire he takes on a similar role. He can also effectively portray a noble, stoic character as displayed in both Thor movies, as well as in Avengers: Age of Ultron. 

The 43-year-old also makes a convincing leader. In Prometheus (2012), he commands a spaceship voyage and maintains crew morale in the midst of alien hostility. The following year he played commanding officer Stacker Pentecost in the robot-action movie, Pacific Rim. Elba is best known for his role as Detective John Luther in the British crime drama, Luther (2010-2015). His persona almost perfectly identifies with that of 007 in this show. Luther is described as having emotional demons, due to the difficulties of his job, a theme that repeatedly appears throughout the more recent Bond films. Additionally, he is known as a genius crime-solver, prone to using unorthodox and occasionally illegal methods to obtain information and make arrests. Any fan of James Bond knows the same holds true for him as well.

His performance in last year’s Beasts of No Nation was outstanding and thought by many to have been overlooked by the Academy during Oscar season.

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Elba has the necessary physique, looks fantastic in a suit and possesses a very strong, easily identifiable voice. He has lent that voice to Zootopia and the upcoming live-action reboot of The Jungle Book and shows great dedication to maintaining a powerful vocal presence through studying speeches by politicians Barack Obama and David Cameron, as well as actors Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson. The combination of his size and voice makes him a dominant force on the screen, allowing him to steal any scene he appears in.

He has been nominated five times for the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film, winning once. He also has four Emmy nominations and won the 2015 Screen Actor’s Guild for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role for Beasts of No Nation and for Luther. Let’s take a look at how some of his more memorable performances have fared on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Wire (2002-2008) – 96%
American Gangster (2007) – 80%
Luther (2010-2015) – 89%
Thor (2011) – 77%
Prometheus (2012) – 73%
Pacific Rim (2013) – 72%
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) – 75%
Beasts of No Nation (2015) – 91%
Zootopia (2016) – 99%

Elba himself told Variety magazine that he’d be eager and willing to accept an offer to play Bond adding, “I’m not speaking to the James Bond people. They are not speaking to me. So if it was to happen, there you go — the will of the nation.” If he were to be given the role, Elba wouldn’t want the attention to be on the obvious change in skin tone. While interviewing with NPR in 2011 he said, “Sean Connery wasn’t the Scottish James Bond and Daniel Craig wasn’t the blue-eyed James Bond, so if I played him, I don’t want to be called the black James Bond.”

As of today, over 35,000 people have liked a Facebook page titled, “We Want Idris Elba For James Bond.” Other celebrities have voiced support for the idea also. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Welsh actor Christian Bale exclaimed, “Let’s have bloody Idris Elba as the next James Bond!” Chris Pine told E! Magazine, “I think he’d make an incredible James Bond.”

In a recently released trailer for the upcoming action-film Bastille Day, you can get a great feel for exactly what Elba could look like as Bond.

Elba’s powerful presence commands the audience’s attention. He can beat enemies to a pulp, manipulate adversaries with his words and charm ladies with his impeccable style and vibe. He would bring experience across many acting genres that could blend into exactly the sort of agent James Bond is, and then some. Though it would undeniably present a fresh change to the streak of white males portraying the legendary spy, the most important reason why Idris Elba should be 007 isn’t the color of his skin, but the talent and skill he has acquired over a long and successful career.

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10 Funniest Tweets From Last Night’s #HangoverSongs

The ever-growing popularity of #HashtagWars on the Comedy Central show, “@midnight” has resulted in one of the best trends yet – #HangoverSongs. Fans were asked to modify tunes in a way that played off the all too common result of a hard night out.

Here are the 10 funniest they came up with.

1) 

Capture

2)

hh

3)

hkn

4)

ij

5)

jn

6)

jnm

7)

nm

8)

pl

9)

thy

10)

ujk

Trailer & First Look at Ben-Hur (2016)

Among the slew of reboots seeking to cash in on a blend of summer dollars and nostalgia is the Timur Bekmambetov directed film, Ben-Hur. According to Paramount Pictures vice-chairman Rob Moore, the epic will be less a remake of the 1959 Best Picture winner and more of a different interpretation of the 1880 Lew Wallace novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. 

Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire) will star as the Jewish prince-turned-slave. Morgan Freeman will portray Sheik Ilderim, who trains Ben-Hur in the art of chariot racing after he is freed from slavery. Toby Kebbell (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Fantastic Four) will play Messala, Ben-Hur’s adopted brother who betrays him on a false accusation stemming from a Roman governor nearly being hit by falling debris.

Jesus, played by Rodrigo Santoro (300, 300: Rise of an Empire) is said to have a prominent role in the upcoming film. The role of  Ben Hur’s love interest Esther, was assigned to Nazanin Boniadi, who had sizable parts in the shows General Hospital and Scandal.

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As was the case in the 1959 movie, filming takes place in Italy, specifically in Rome and Matera, which was also used as the set for Jerusalem in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Bekmambetov wanted the chariot race scene to be filmed in the historic Circus Maximus arena in Rome, but was denied due to the danger of damaging the preserved site. As a result, the race and many other action-packed scenes were shot at Cinecitta Studios and will rely heavily on CGI.

The story will supposedly focus more on the formative years that Ben-Hur and Messala shared while growing up together, making the betrayal that much more intense. The reboot will feature multiple encounters between Jesus and Ben-Hur, culminating with his conversion and belief in Christ.

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This certainly feels like a needless blockbuster remake, created for the sole purpose of bringing in late summer earnings, CGI-action fans, large religious families who may not go to the movies often and those who adore the Charlton Heston version.

Even the casting choices feel lazy. Morgan Freeman plays a wise old adviser (never seen that before). James Cosmo looks to be an aging warrior, which is exactly what he plays in Troy, Braveheart and Game of Thrones.

The continuing trend of repackaging successful films of the past for a quick buck may have claimed another victim. Ridley Scott did it in 2014 with Exodus: Gods & Kings, the largely unsuccessful reboot of Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 classic, The Ten Commandments.This time, it’s one of the highest grossing and Oscar-winning spectacles ever made.Only a matter of time now before other icons like Gone With The Wind and Citizen Kane tempt directors blind to originality.

Harrison Ford back as Indiana Jones in July 2019

Nearly eight years ago, my friends and I purchased tickets to a film we all hoped would revive our childlike wonder and adoration for one of the greatest cinematic heroes ever created. Instead, we got something only a few sad steps better than Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. I’m talking of course about the Steven Spielberg flop, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

It was almost poetic how much our hopes and dreams for that movie embodied the central character. Indy was old, slow and had lost the spark that captivated millions of moviegoers since 1981. In a similar way, we all begrudgingly sulked out of the theater feeling disappointed and let down.

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Now, Indiana Jones is back for what we all assume will be one last shot to send the whip brandishing adventurer riding off into the desert sunset, proud and head held high. Spielberg returns to direct with longtime collaborator and Lucasfilm president, Kathleen Kennedy. Frank Marshall and Kennedy will produce and have worked together on several Spielberg films in the past, including all the Indiana Jones movies.

The big selling point for the fifth installment in the franchise is that Harrison Ford will once again reprise his role as the iconic archaeologist. It was rumored for some time that a new Indiana Jones film was in the works, but many critics and fans believed that it would feature a young Indy and take place before the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Names like Chris Pratt (Jurassic World, Guardians of the Galaxy) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) were being tossed around in various movie talk channels.

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As exciting as it will be to see my favorite actor of all time on the big screen again, I have to admit I’m worried. No sequel could ever permanently tarnish the original three films in my eyes, but Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was not….good. Another flop would have people talking about a franchise killer. Not only that, but seeing the now 77-year-old Ford potentially turn in a movie as bad as the last one would be heartbreaking for the generations of fans that have come to admire his work.

In order to successfully propel the Indiana Jones trademark forward, one of two things needs to happen. The first is what I had hoped I would hear with Disney’s announcement of the upcoming film – that it would focus on Indy’s younger adventures and star Chris Pratt. After seeing him in Jurassic World, I was convinced there wasn’t anyone more fitting and appropriate to fill those massive boots.

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We now know that won’t be happening until after 2019 at the earliest, which leaves us with only one other option – make this one hell of a movie. It’s difficult to see how the aging Ford would sign on for yet another installment after permanently retiring from Star Wars last December. This will almost certainly be his last ride. It will already be an incredible feat to make him exciting enough to satisfy audiences and make them forget the last attempt. It will be another thing entirely to make him anywhere near as good as he was in Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade.

That being said, we need to look ahead into the distant future of this franchise and find someone who can bring in the younger audience by portraying a pre-Raiders Indy. So much of the charm that Indiana Jones affords is built off the old adventure serial films Spielberg and George Lucas grew up watching. Horse chases, exotic civilizations, old maps and  a good ole shoot-em-up, fist-fight, ass-kicking of evil made those movies as memorable as they are. It’s impossible to imagine Indy or a successor progressing and continuing on into the technological world of today. It would devolve into Lamborghini chases and computer hacking, rather than the exciting use of limited resources that made the stakes more believable back then.

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While Hollywood is becoming ever more reliant on sequels and reboots for easy money, I firmly believe in the excitement the Indiana Jones name can provide. If a talented enough actor can be found – one who can embody all the traits Harrison Ford’s depiction had, then this franchise could continue on as successfully as Star Wars did last Christmas.

 

REVIEW: Man of Steel

Man of Steel is a little better than your average summer blockbuster. The acting was all there. Hans Zimmer’s score was moving and dramatic. The villains were menacing and believable and the special effects were top-notch. And yet, for several reasons, the second consecutive attempt at a Superman revival just couldn’t quite hit a home run.

Director Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300) recruited relative newcomer Henry Cavill for the legendary Clark Kent, backing him with veteran performers in Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon and Laurence Fishburne.

 

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With certain doom awaiting the planet Krypton, scientist Jor-El sends his son Kal-El (Superman) off to Earth in the hope that he can help save the mortal world from the same fate his own brought on itself. Unknown to Kent, his father placed the genetic information necessary to continue Kryptonic life into his son’s cells. While Kent struggles to blend in to a less-than-super human society, the evil General Zod searches far and wide for the key that would allow him to wipe out Earth and begin a new life for his kind.

Rather than a straightforward narrative, the film relies on a solid backstory of how Superman came into being, but then skips ahead to his adult years, jumping back in time throughout the two-and-a-half hour duration to reveal important moments in his life. It would have been more fluid and exciting to trim down the introduction and give us a chronological order of the major events and times at which he realizes his growing powers.

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One of the central messages that is received loud and clear is that of global warming and the dangers of human reliance on natural resources. While noble and necessary efforts, the opening sequence by Jor-El and each subsequent reference to that motif sounds like a straight up copy and paste job from a UN Climate Conference. It just felt a little too forced.

Some other less believable moments hurt this movie. Rather than the classic heart-related death of Kent’s adopted father, Snyder opted for a scene in which he risks his life to save the family dog from a ridiculously huge tornado. Costner signals to his son not to try and save him as it would reveal beyond all doubt the power that he held. It was a great moment because of the sacrificial nature of the father, but the fact that he even put himself in that much danger for the dog (no offense to dog lovers) is just too silly for a film of this caliber.

Also lacking was the romantic chemistry between Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Kent. Their meeting was tweaked significantly from the 1976 movie and in such a way that I was left wondering if the love story was actually going to be held back until the upcoming Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. It started out too slowly and then picked up too quickly at the end when the writers realized they hadn’t developed that essential part of the plot enough.

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What could have made this film feel much more like a complete superhero tale is if they had laid off on the action in the last hour of screen time. The narrative was compelling and interesting enough, but could have included more scenes crucial to the development of the characters if the explosions, collapsing skyscrapers and mass death had been trimmed down. The final battle features so much reckless destruction and loss of life that it starts to feel like Superman didn’t really win the day or care about collateral damage at all. Why wouldn’t they have their final battle somewhere further away from the millions of people that would no doubt be in harm’s way?

Finally, there was a quote towards the credits that made me take away a whole half star from my final rating. As Superman blasts off in front of a military commander, a lower ranking female officer is scene smiling in the background. Her superior asks why and she sheepishly responds, “Nothing sir. I just think he’s kind of hot.” What a dumb line. What a totally unnecessary, stupid, borderline sexist moment. That kind of garbage belongs in made-for-TV, B-Level trash. I can’t believe that passed through the final cut. I really can’t.

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At the end of the day, Man of Steel provides a satisfying enough experience due to talented acting and a refreshing idea, but leaves us exhausted and somewhat frustrated at the end wondering how much better it could have been.

NSFW: Funniest Tweets From Last Night’s #FilmPoops

Comedy Central’s hilarious late-night game show, @midnight featured a Hashtag Wars challenge in yesterday’s episode where contestants were required to reword movie titles in a way that made them relate to…well pooping. The hashtag #FilmPoops exploded (pun intended) on Twitter almost instantaneously, opening the lid (pun intended) for all the less mature members of the Twitter universe to showcase their best work.

Here are some of the funniest #FilmPoops tweets so far.
Capturedeuceexcrement

green pile

jfd

jk

titans
trouble

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