June 25, 2009

Rest in Peace Michael Jackson...

So very, very sad about Michael Jackson. I'll have a lot more to say and share later but wanted to get this up for now -- Michael's performance from Motown 25, circa 1983. This was the performance that took him to the level of being an absolute phenomenon. Whatever else you want to say about him, he was the rarest of talents...

More to come...

June 24, 2009

Commercials We Love - "Terry Tate - Office Linebacker"

This one is for Reebok -- "Terry Tate - Office Linebacker" -- from the 2003 Super Bowl.

The acting in this is great, especially the guy wimpering behind the recycling bin, and also the guy who plays Terry, Lester Rasta Speight, who I remember was also very funny when he appeared as a semi-regular on My Wife and Kids.

Related Posts
Commercials We Love - "Laptop Hunters"
Commercial We Love - "Be Like Mike"
Commercials We Love - "Super Mario Land 2"
Commercials We Love - Cindy Crawford & Little Richard for Charlie

June 23, 2009

What Puts Your Butt in the Movie Seat?

We came across an interesting article written by Scott Mendelson over at the Huffington Post asking the question, "Is Megan Fox the Main Draw for Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen." Mendelson correctly points out that as far as the advanced hype for the film goes, "pretty much everything is Megan Fox-related."

We couldn't agree more. Each day, there seems to be new Megan Fox news, whether it's an interview in Entertainment Weekly, her comments on her relationship with Brian Austin Green, comparisons to Angelina Jolie, or photos of her at Transformers' UK, German, and LA premieres.

Don't get us wrong, we're not complaining. When it comes to Megan Fox, we here at PopCultureFiend were in on the ground floor (all the way back to her days on Hope & Faith, we're ashamed to admit.) And for the record, we agree with the rest of the universe that she's the hottest thing walking. (These photos of her in purple are the sexiest we've seen of a fully clothed woman in a long time.)

But back to Mendelson's article. He makes an interesting point when he suggests that Fox may prove an exception to the rule that, "women will see a film just because a guy in it is cute, but men rarely do the same for actresses."

We pondered this for quite a while and decided Mendelson's premise was true. Through the history of American cinema, whether it was Rudolph Valentino, Troy Donahue, Elvis Presley, or Zac Effron, women have a history of shelling out to see their heartthrobs on the big screen. Guys are different though. We tried to think of the last time we ponied up for a movie ticket solely based on an actress we had a thing for, and well... we couldn't think of any such occasions. We thought harder and considered the objects of two of our biggest celebrity crushes, Cameron Diaz and Halle Berry, and whether or not we saw any of their films strictly based on the fact that they were in it... We hadn't... Over the years, we passed on many of Berry's films, including Gothika, and even Catwoman, in which she's featured in tight spandex for much of the film. As for Diaz, we did pay to see the chick flicks The Sweetest Thing and The Holiday (but we actually liked both of those, so we get a pass.) We're also proud to say we stood our ground and drew the line on seeing In Her Shoes and also plan on missing My Sister's Keeper, opening this Friday.

Based on this, we concluded that Mendelson's theory is correct. We men will go see a movie just because the actress in it is hot. In fact, after much deliberation, we agreed that we're more likely to see a movie starring an older or less attractive actress we think is talented and/or has a track record of being in good movies. Such actresses include Kate Winslet, Laura Linney, Jodie Foster, Joan Allen, and Diane Keaton.

So what do you know? We're not shallow after all.

Feeling good about ourselves, we decided to take this discussion to our brethren. We conducted an informal poll of our friends, and after some fun reminiscing, we realized our memories were faulty. We actually had (and would continue) to see movies purely to see a hot actress... But with one small proviso... Nudity.

Our focus group revealed that every single one of us, as pubescent teenagers, horny college students, unemployed post grads with too much free time (or simply because we were voyeuristic pervs) had paid to see one or more of our favorites bare some skin. We then came up with a collective list of examples that included among others:

Rebecca Romijn in Femme Fatale...

Demi Moore in Striptease...

Madonna in Body of Evidence...

Saved By the Bell's Elizabeth Berkley in Showgirls...

Lindsay Lohan in I Know Who Killed Me...

Meg Ryan in In the Cut...

Katie Holmes in The Gift...

Elle MacPherson in Sirens...

and Brooke Shields in The Blue Lagoon (which turned out to be a body double.)

We embarassedly admit we stood on line and paid hard earned cash to see some of these, and we're pretty sure we wouldn't have if it weren't for the nudity. And we've even made a mental note about two upcoming releases -- Fox plays a possessed cheerleader in Jennifer's Body and Jessica Biel plays a stripper in Powder Blue...

Guess you can forget what we said about not being shallow...

June 17, 2009

The Evolution of the 80s Teen Movie - How Bob Clark, Gen X, and Home Video Changed the Landscape of American Cinema - Part II

Below is part 2 of my three-part article. If you missed part 1, I recommend you take the time to read it here.

Part II

In the 1970s, cable television was largely relegated to rural or mountainous areas where large terrestrial antennas were scarce, making home reception of broadcast television signals difficult if not impossible. However, the 1980’s saw an explosion of American households in urban areas gaining access to cable television. During the decade, the number of cable TV households in the US more than tripled, from 17% in 1978 to 57% by 1989.

The growth of cable television was greatly fueled by the development of premium movie channels like HBO, Showtime, Cinemax and The Movie Channel, and the continuous slate of popular films they offered. Prior to cable television, once a film completed its theatrical run, it was usually years before it made its way to network television where, if the film was exceedingly popular, it might be broadcast twice a year.

At the same time that cable television was beginning to boom, sales of home videocassette recorders were spiking, thanks in large part to the American consumers’ resolution of the VHS vs Betamax issue as well as the Supreme Court’s ruling that home video recording was legal and not a violation of copyright, as alleged by plaintiffs, Universal City Studios, et. al. (You can read the Court’s ruling here.)
In 1982, only 4% of American households owned a VCR. By 1988, the figure had reached 60%. No doubt, Americans were enamored with the “VCR” for the way it allowed them to record a show and watch it later. But in addition to being able to “timeshift” their TV watching, VCR owners were also excited that they could now enjoy feature movies in the comfort of their homes, whenever they wanted. As a result, the Hollywood studios began scrambling to form home video distribution divisions for the huge catalogs of movie titles which they owned. Concurrently, as these studios implemented the technologies, and sales, marketing, and delivery methods needed to ready their pictures for public consumption as videocassettes, large video rental chains (Blockbuster, West Coast Video, and others) were founded and fiercely competed with each other, as well as with the small mom and pop dealers that were springing up on every corner..

Thus, between cable and home video, Americans now had the ability to see complete and unedited recent hits (Chariots of Fire, Taps, Kramer vs Kramer, Foul Play, War Games, Close Encounters, Poltergeist) that were long gone from cinemas but hadn’t made it to network TV yet. Fine films that were overlooked during their initial theatrical release (Nighthawks, Blade Runner) were rediscovered, as were cult and foreign films like Harold and Maude and Cat People. And of course, popular comedies like Arthur, Smokey and the Bandit, 9 to 5, Cannonball Run, and 10 were watched repeatedly and their laughs enjoyed over and over again. Studio executives quickly realized that a film’s success at the box office was no longer the sole factor on whether or not these releases could be impactful and profitable. Films could now be remarketed (or in some cases, bundled as a group) and sold for broadcast on basic and premium cable TV channels. As this was taking place, market research began to show that that a large part of the audience for cable TV movies (particularly repeat viewings of these movies) were high school and college youth, who had ample amounts of free time on their hands to sit around watching their favorite films. (On a side note, it’s clear that the American pop culture phenomenon of quoting movie lines began with these teens of the 1980s who would watch (and rewatch ad nauseum), memorize and repeat dialog from cable TV classics like Blazing Saddles, Caddyshack, Animal House, Stripes, and Airplane.) When studio brass saw their film’s viewer ratings and the corresponding audience demographics, a concerted effort was made to unearth, unshelve, acquire rights to, script, shoot and release content that appealed to this key “Generation X” demographic, and that content consisted largely of teen movies.

America, and particularly Hollywood, was soon completely enamored with the teen movie genre. The profit margin (box office receipts now combined with cable TV revenues) of movies like Porky’s, Private Lessons, Homework, and The Last American Virgin proved very attractive to film production companies and their investors. Particularly intriguing were the low-budgets these films offered, typically less than $10 million and often less than half that. Actors almost always worked cheaply, as most were happy just to have a role in a Hollywood feature. Principal photography took place locally, props were simple and inexpensive, and shooting schedules tight. Screenplays could be written quickly, as writers could tap into their own teenage experience (real or imagined) for material.

But eventually, filmmakers exploring the teen movie genre became more creative. Writers and directors began to acknowledge there was more to teenage life than the neverending quest to get laid and began to make films that explored other aspects of contemporary youth. Amy Heckerling’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High, though it failed to do much business upon its release in late summer of 1982, was nonetheless praised for it’s dead on depiction of contemporary teenage culture, customs, and mores. Much has been written about how screenwriter Cameron Crowe, in his attempts to make his script more authentic, went undercover at a southern California high school. But what’s important is that it resulted in a teen movie rife with identifiable characters that, in between laughs, are dealing with real issues, problems, and scenarios. Let’s face it, as high schoolers, very few of us were seduced by our friend’s mom, road-tripped to a Mexican whorehouse… or wore dresses and makeup to sneak into an all-girls school. So what was great about Fast Times was that the characters were placed in situations, some comical (Brad fantasizing about Linda while he watches her poolside) and some serious (Stacy’s pregnancy and subsequent abortion) that most of us, as teenagers, either went through ourselves, or knew someone who had. In short, Fast Times resonated as the first authentic teen movie. Yes, there are secondary storylines involving Brad’s job woes and the antics of the now famous Jeff Spicoli. But while most teens films up until this time relied on an anecdotal series of gross humor and sexual gags to sustain their momentum, Fast Times, at its core, gave us a lovable, empathetic central character (Stacy) and a more meaningful and realistic series of events involving her search for a boyfriend and her relationships with her brother, and her friends Linda, Damone, and Rat.

The legitimization of the teen movie continued in 1983 with Martha Coolidge’s sentimental Valley Girl, and Paul Brickman’s Risky Business, which broke the teen movie mold with its Revolutionary Road/The Graduate-like themes of rebellion against the supposed American dream of life in the suburbs, attending an Ivy League college and landing a high paying corporate job. Risky Business also set itself apart from other teen movies with its artful cinematography (Lana’s first appearance; the train sequence), and an ethereal original score by new age artist Tangerine Dream that proved a big departure from the typical teen movie soundtrack full of contemporary pop and new wave hits. But while the well-received Risky Business and a handful of other films did much to establish credibility for teen movies, the unequivocal validation of the genre came with the release of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders.

Oklahoma-born S.E. Hinton’s first novel The Outsiders, chronicles the experiences of Pony Boy Curtis, a teenage “greaser” growing up in Oklahoma, struggling with the death of his parents and searching for meaning in his life. In a period where juvenile comedies like Joysticks were in abundance, The Outsiders offered a serious and genuine examination of teen angst (similar to Rebel Without a Cause) as it explored themes such as loyalty, friendship, jealousy, class warfare, and parental neglect.

Interestingly, one of Hinton’s later novels, Tex, had previously been made into a feature film directed by Tim Hunter and starring Matt Dillon. Tex, though, was barely noticed upon its release in the summer of 1982. Not the case when production began on The Outsiders. Director Francis Ford Coppola had won two Best Director Oscars for The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, and had also helmed the critically acclaimed Apocalypse Now. As a result, Coppola had ascended to the pantheon of America’s greatest living filmmakers, so when he signed on to shoot The Outsiders, Hollywood took notice. With a respected director like Coppola now working in the genre, the modern teen film now had Hollywood’s official seal of approval

The Outsiders firmly established that teen movies could successfully extend beyond comedy. As a result, Hollywood soon began cranking out more teen dramas (Racing with the Moon, All the Right Moves, Rumble Fish), and expanding teen movies into other genres, such as thrillers (The Boys Next Door, Out of Control) and horror movies (A Nightmare On Elm Street, Fright Night.)

But of course, what most of us remember The Outsiders for is that incredible cast of young actors, all completely unknown at the time, and each of whom would go on to become a bonafide star in their own right. Credit Coppola and also casting director Janet Hirshenson (who incidentally, is still at the top of her profession -- she cast this summer's Angels and Demons, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G.I. Joe) with recognizing the talent and charisma of Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, C. Thomas Howell, and Diane Lane. Within two years of The Outsiders release, each would be a lead actor with above the title billing. This group would go on to star in some of the most popular and signature films of the decade, including The Karate Kid, The Breakfast Club, Top Gun, Dirty Dancing, and Rain Man. Like American Graffiti, which ten years earier had kickstarted the careers of Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Suzanne Somers and others, The Outsiders served as a launching pad for some of the coming decades' biggest stars. On their way to becoming Hollywood’s A-listers, though, The Outsiders cast members would each star in their fair share of 80s teen movies.

Part III: The Brat Pack and the Legacy of 80s Teen Movie

June 12, 2009

10 Reasons We Love Al Bundy

10. He takes no crap from anyone (especially fat women.)

9. He's a real All-American guy.
The kind of guy we'd enjoy hanging out with. He drives a Dodge, drinks beer, likes sports, TV, John Wayne movies, and frequents a local strip bar called The Jiggly Room.

8. He turned us on to Psycho Dad
Al's favorite TV show glorified guns, violence, and matricide. Sadly, a Congressional hearing led to its cancellation.

7. He's got cool friends.
Where would Al be without his running buddies, Jefferson, Griff, Ike, Bob Rooney, and Officer Dan?

6. Chicks dig him.

Pamela Anderson, Heather Parkhurst, Renee Tenison and Bobbie Brown (top) and Barbara Moore, Milla Jovovich, Shannon Tweed, Krista Allen, Tia Carrere, Brandi Brandt, the Swedish Bikini Team, Keri Russell and Neriah Davis (bottom) all guested on Married With Children.

5. He's great with the insults.

4. His daughter is hot!

3. He's the founder of No Ma'am.
With their motto of "Carpe Mammarium" ("Seize the hooters") The National Organization of Men Against Amazonian Masterhood does more fine work than Greenpeace, Feed The Children, and the Red Cross combined.

View the No Ma'am charter or p
urchase an authentic No Ma'am tee shirt courtesy of E.E. Bell (Bob Rooney) at E.E. Bell Online. (We got ours!)

2. He scored 4 touchdowns in one game!

1. He makes us feel better about ourselves.
No matter how lousy our lives are, Al's is just a little bit worse. His neverending misery cheers us up.

Related links:
Married With Children Official Site at Sony Pictures Television

June 10, 2009

Beatles Rock Band is Best at E3

Hello PopCultureFiend.com readers. If any of you are wondering why I was only able to get one blog post up last week, it's because, well... I ran out of gas. I had a flat tire. I didn't have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn't come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car! There was an earthquake... a terrible flood... locusts!... IT WASN'T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD!!!!

No seriously, I was tied up with
E3 and other miscellaneous crap.

And speaking of E3, with all due respect to
Microsoft's motion sensing controls, the PSP redesign, and the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMOG, the news and game that created the most excitement at E3 was when Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr made a brief appearance to plug The Beatles: Rock Band. By all accounts, the game offers much more than simply adding Beatles music to the Rock Band franchise (although that in and of itself would more than satisfy many.) Gamers will get brand new Rock Band graphics and menus, incredibly detailed 3D avatars of the Fab 4 that change their look and dress based on the era (mop top, psychedelic, Abbey Road, etc.), and even new instruments, including replicas of John Lennon's Rickenbacker guitar and Paul's Hofner bass. Beatles: Rock Band will also be the first game of its type to allow more than one singer at a time, thereby giving players the chance to imitate the band's signature rich, intricate harmonies.

Judging from the
opening cinematic and gameplay trailer, the game's look is absolutely stunning. Plus, Beatles Rock Band was apparently created with cooperation and input from Paul, Ringo, and John Lennon's and George Harrison's widows, which should give an indication of what to expect from the game in terms of quality. (The four have been notoriously protective about how the Beatles' music, likenesses and brand are used. )

Songs from the Beatles' catalog that will be part of the game include "I Saw Her Standing There", "I Want to Hold Your Hand", "Day Tripper", "Octopus’s Garden", and "Here Comes The Sun" (with the rest of the Abbey Road album to follow shortly after the game's release), plus 40 more tunes. Personally, I'm crossing my fingers for "Helter Skelter", "Nowhere Man", "And I Love Her", "You Won't See Me", "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", and "Yer Blues".

In anticipation of the game's September 9th release, I've create this official Beatles: Rock Band countdown clock. (Let's hope the game includes "Strawberry Fields Forever" so the theme I chose makes sense.)

The Beatles Rock Band Official Site

June 9, 2009

Things That Bug Me About Teen Wolf

At the end, when Michael J. Fox is taking the foul shots, why was that guy allowed to stand right underneath the basket?
First of all, it's made quite clear that it's the guy's 5th foul... I mean, the guy had fouled out... You have to leave the court when you foul out. My 7 year old son knows that. Did none of the movie's writers, producers, cast or crew have any familiarity at all with the rules of basketball? Couldn't someone (even a janitor who was mopping up the sweat on the gym floor so none of the actors would slip) have stepped up and said, "Hey, you know guys, if that was the guy's fifth foul, then he'd really have to go to the bench."?

And to make it worse, there was no time left on the clock, so the ref (correctly) clears the court... But for some reason, he allows this one guy (Mick) who, once again, had fouled out of the game, to stand right underneath the basket during the foul shots. The ref even has to tell the kid to "Get back." This really irritates me because it's just completely unrealistic. ("More unrealistic than a teenage werewolf playing basketball," you ask? Yes, I think so.)

Boof (Susan Ursiti)
Whatever happened to that girl who played Boof?
Susan Ursiti is one of those 80s actresses that was in one movie and then you never saw or heard from her again. Kinda like that really hot girl who played the blond (I think her character's name was Cookie) in One Crazy Summer. Or that chick who played Scotty Palmer's girlfriend in Hardbodies (Teal Roberts is her name)... Or Patrick Dempsey's girlfriend in Loverboy?... Or that girl with the really big forehead from Can't Buy Me Love... What happened to these women? Did they get married and quit the business?... Or were they sucked into that same Hollywood actress black hole that claimed Mary Stuart Masterson?

Cookie from One Crazy Summer
Anyway, I looked up Susan Ursiti on IMDB.com and she has a handful of other TV and movie credits (a Charles in Charge episode, a 21 Jump Street in '87) but nothing memorable.

How does Niles not lose his footing while standing (and dancing) atop a moving van?
This stunt defies gravity and several other laws of physics. Later in the movie, The Wolf is able to do it, maybe due to his enhanced animal agility and balance, but Niles... no way.

How the hell did Chubby even make the basketball team?
I would more likely believe the existence of actual werewolves than that fat load being on the court making sky hooks.

Was that a body double for the girl who plays Pam?
Watch the scene below very carefully. As Pam seduces Scott, she takes off her bra, and then there's a weird cut, and then we only see the girl's back... Looks like a different girl to me. The actress playing this part is named Lorie Griffin, and I'm wondering, when they were casting, why didn't they just tell her, "Look, there's a scene where you'll have to take your top off; it won't be shown, but we need you semi-nude for this one scene." So what happened? Did she agree to take her top off and then changed her mind last minute? This ain't exactly a Lady MacBeth kind of role; they could've gotten a thousand actresses for this part. So why not just hire an actress that has no problem with the nudity and just pay her, instead of having to pay Lorie AND a body double? Just a thought...

Why'd they make a sequel?

The infamous Teen Wolf Too starring Jason Bateman shares the title of worst comedy sequel of the 80s with Short Circuit 2, Jaws 3-D, Jason Takes Manhattan, and Mannequin 2: On the Move.

Why can't I buy that song that plays during the end credits?
No, not "Win in the End", which is the song that plays during the basketball game montage where Michael J. Fox does the same behind the back pass and the same layup twenty-five times. I'm actually talking about "Shooting for the Moon" which is one of the best songs from a movie EVER. Everyone... I repeat, EVERYONE I know who's seen this movie, LOVES that song. And yet, because there's no official soundtrack for Teen Wolf, there's no way to get a CD-quality copy of it. And you can't get it by recording the audio from the DVD either, because there's a bunch of crowd cheers and dialog on top of it. I checked, and Amy Holland has a few CDs available on Amazon, but none of them have "Shooting for the Moon" on them. Totally unacceptable.

Why does becoming a werewolf make you a better basketball player?
Makes no sense whatsoever on any level -- physiologically, psychologically, or zoologically.

Teen Wolf at IMDB.com

June 2, 2009

Who was the Greatest Athlete of the 80s?

This rare video clip that I dug out of the Pop Culture Fiend Archives asked that very question. So I broke it down and came up with the answer:

Navratilova dominated women's tennis during the mid-eighties, but in the early part of the decade, she battled Chris Evert for supremacy and by 1988, Martina had been overtaken by Steffi Graf...

Forget the 80s, had his career not been cut short by injury, Bo Jackson might very well be considered the greatest athlete of all-time. Still the only athlete to reach All-Pro level in two sports (he was elected to the MLB All-Star Game in 1989 and the NFL Pro Bowl that same year) Bo also won All-America honors and a Heisman trophy while at Auburn University. Unfortunately, all of this happened too late (1985 or later) for him to be considered the greatest athlete of the 80s...

Tyson was ferocious beast, a knock-out machine the likes of which boxing had never seen. But like Jackson, Tyson was virtually unknown prior to 1985. And although he would win his first heavyweight championship the following year, Tyson fought in an era where that division was grossly short on talent...

No doubt Jordan was spectacular in the 80s. At the University of North Carolina, he won a championship, was a two-time All-American, and the Naismith Award as College Player of the Year in 1984. As a pro during the 80s, Jordan was first team All-NBA three times, and won four scoring titles, on his way to becoming the greatest basketball player of all-time. But its worth noting that Jordan won exactly ZERO NBA championships in the 80s...

So my vote goes to Gretzky. During the 80s, The Great One won seven NHL scoring titles, four championships, and an amazing nine MVP awards. In the process, he obliterated a host of major NHL records, including most points in a season (215 in '85-'86), most goals in a season (92 in in '81-'82), and longest consecutive point scoring streak (51 games in '83-'84).

Related Posts:
The Photo That Launched the Nike Empire

Related Links:
Why Bo Jackson is the Greatest Athlete Ever
ESPN's Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century