Category Archives: Celebrity Chatter

Danny DeVito’s lost film and fan favorite, “The Ratings Game,” gets much-needed new life

Olive Films continues playing the game, and they remain the winner in the victorious game known as Rare, Forgotten and Lost Movies That Must Be Seen and Owned.

Witness: Commemorating the 30th anniversary of Showtime’s first original movie, The Ratings Game, actor-director Danny DeVito and producer David Jablin sought to finally bring their passion project to the home video market. “Being collectors of special edition discs of our favorite films, we decided that if we were going to do it at all, we’d want to give our ‘baby’ the same kind of loving treatment and do it in a way that would appeal to comedy fans and video collectors like ourselves,” says DeVito.

“In looking for a distributor, we specifically wanted a filmmaker-friendly company that would recognize and respect that this was a passion project for Danny and I and still is” explains Jablin. “It’s been great dealing with everyone at Olive who have truly cared about getting all the details right as much as we have. Danny had the one print ever made of the film for its 1984 big-screen premier party in storage all this time and Olive Films has done an absolutely beautiful job restoring it in full HD.”unnamed

See what we mean? Olive played, they won, Danny and David won. And we won.

In 1984, Showtime Networks made their first foray into original movies with The Ratings Game starring Danny DeVito and his wife Rhea Perlman. The hilarious and biting take-down of the ratings-obsessed network television industry, which also marked DeVito’s feature directing debut, was greeted with love-letter reviews from critics and fans alike. The feature also boasts an eclectic comedy ensemble with performances from Gerrit Graham, George Wendt, Vincent Schiavelli, Ronny Graham, Steve Allen, Huntz Hall, Michael Richards and Jerry Seinfeld. Unfortunately, after its premiere, the film slipped through the cracks of the network’s slowly evolving distribution channels and fell into obscurity as a result, “except with its many fans who continue to hound us for copies to this day” adds Jablin.

MV5BMTkxNjYwMjA0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjgwODI0NDE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_With some notoriously bad, foreign-made bootleg versions floating around under the name The Mogul, the film has remained essentially lost for more than 30 years. “The mere existence of those totally crap bootleg copies really stuck in our craw and definitely motivated us to set the record straight and put out our film in all of its original glory,” adds DeVito.

In addition to the film itself, the DVD and Blu-ray includes a liner notes booklet with photos and art from the film, as well as a rare collection of four early short films directed by DeVito. “The bonus materials we included have also never been distributed on disc and were fan favorites from our early work,” says Jablin. Altogether they tell the story of Danny’s journey as a film director of distinction.”

Meryl Streep as camp classic Florence Foster Jenkins, the worst singer in history?

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Streep as Jenkins

She was considered, other than Wing, the worst singer who ever lived, if you want to call what came out of her mouth singing. Her name was Florence Foster Jenkins, famous for uttering “some may say that I couldn’t sing, but no one can say that I didn’t sing.” Meryl Streep plays her in the big-screen Florence Foster Jenkins. Missed the fun at the cineplex? The flick arrives on Digital HD November 29 and on Blu-ray Combo Pack December 13.   The Blu-ray Combo Pack with Digital HD features 50 minutes of bonus content including behind-the-scenes footage, a Q&A with Streep, an exploration of the music, deleted scenes and much more.

While the voice she hears in her head is beautiful, to everyone else it is hilariously awful. Her husband and biggest fan, St. Clair Bayfield (portrayed by Hugh Grant) is determined to protect his beloved Florence from the truth. But when Florence stages a huge concert at Carnegie Hall, he faces his greatest challenge to make sure her performance hits all the right notes.UNCEM_1471109269337

It would be Jenkins’ first and only performance at Carnegie Hall in 1944. The show sold out, some 2,000 were turned away and scalpers sold tickets for outrageous sums.  Hmm, Jenkins died a month after that performance . . . not bad for an encore. Jenkins collapsed and died in Schirmer’s Music Store; her last words? “It must’ve been the creamed chicken.”

 

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The real Jenkins

In one word: Brava!

“Back in Time” takes a look at the impact the “Back to the Future” films have had on on culture

Cher has always wanted to turn back time. It’s been there, of sorts, in Back in Time , a documentary that’s a look at the very real impact the Back to the Future movies have had on our culture. This tightly-focused film shows that what was once a little idea became something truly amazing which resonated through the culture.
Spanning over two years of filming, Back in Time is a cinematic monument to the immensity of the trilogy’s fandom. By capturing countless of hours of footage and interviews, the crew watched as the impact of the trilogy became apparent. Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale, James Tolkan, Lea Thompson, Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox give interviews about their experiences with the movie.

Back in Time began as a project conceived by Jason Aron, a fan of the Back to the Future series that was posted to the website Kickstarter in June 2013. More than 600 people backed the campaign, pledging more than $45,000 in order for the documentary to be made. The film was shot over a period of two years; while production primarily took place in the United States, another filming location was that of London, England during a Back to the Future fan event. The film opened theatrically on October 21 2015, the day that the series’ protagonist Marty McFly travels to in Back to the Future Part II. The DVD travels to store shelves on September 13.

Gregory Weinkauf of The Huffington Post said that the documentary “gets to the heart of the Back to the Future phenomenon, proving as enjoyable as the franchise it affectionately explores”, calling it “a delightful return to, and updating of, a beloved story”.

A chat with Barbara Cook: “If someone reads my book with an open mind, he or she can come back from dark places”

The tastiest cookbook this season? Make that Cook book, as in Barbara Cook’s autobiography Then and Now: A Memoir  (Harper, $28.99). The 88-year-old icon shares her life and career, the highs and lows, some of which are quite painful to read. There are warm memories of her golden years as Broadway’s newest ingénue and Broadway’s favorite soprano in the original productions of Plain and Fancy (1955), Candide (1956), The Music Man (1957) and She Loves Me (1963) and later into a sophisticated cabaret and concert artist . . . as well as much sadder, deeply painful memories.barbaracook01_1320848280
At the lowest point of her career, she was drunk and desperate, sleeping through the day and “I didn’t shower or brush my teeth for days at a time.” She confesses that she was “so broke I was stealing food from the supermarket by slipping sandwich meat into my coat pocket.”

Today, Cook suffers from polymyalgia rheumatica, a disease that forces her to use a wheelchair. She may be slower, her voice much softer, but she refuses to give in.  As a recovering alcoholic she still attends her AA meetings. (She quit drinking in 1977.) For that we continue to applaud her. We caught up with Cook one summer afternoon at her Upper West Side apartment and had a lovely conversation, fraught with lots of coughing and short sentences, of the good and bad and both acts—before and after sobriety—of her life. Read her story, and enjoy performances we share.2016-06-27-1467056258-9031733-Cover_BarbaraCook-thumb

First things first: You have been asked to write a book for years. Why did you finally write an autobiography?
Yes, people have wanted me to write a book for some time. I kept saying, ‘Why? Who the hell cares?’ Then it occurred to me that I have had this up and down life, and if someone reads my book with an open mind he or she can come back from dark places and have a successful career. I wrote every word, mostly by hand, on white-lined paper.

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And what dark places!
They were things I have lived with for so long. They were a huge part of my life. It’s the first time I am talking about them publicly . . . it was time to talk about the things I had held inside for a long time. It had always been easier not to discuss mother, my sister’s death, the shame and blame I had felt. I spent decades often thinking that I didn’t deserve the nice things that have happened for me. I drank and I ate. I found myself mad at my mother since she blamed me for my sister’s death from double pneumonia. I thought I could help people who have gone through or who are going through what I did. [Barbara’s sister died at 18 months; Barbara was three years old]

No wonder we didn’t like your mother after reading the book. She blamed you, as a child, for your sister’s death!
Yes. My sister had pneumonia, and then I got pneumonia and whooping cough. I gave her whooping cough on top of the pneumonia. (Pauses) When I was in therapy, my first therapist said something that was so smart ‘Did it ever occur to you that she caught it and that you didn’t give it to her?’ Wow. That really helped me because I grew up thinking I was responsible for my sister’s death. I started to think, well, if my sister hadn’t died father wouldn’t have left. I was five. (Pauses, quietly) I became responsible for my sister’s death and his leaving as well.

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When I interviewed Liza Minnelli, she told me even recovering alcoholics must always refer themselves as alcoholics. Did Liza break rules by talking about AA? 
AA does not have rules. It has suggestions. They don’t call them rules. I supposed one can break one’s own anonymity which I don’t do.

What did you think went wrong with Liza?
I know Liza and have sat around talking with her. But I don’t think I know her well enough to talk about that.

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Cook with Leonard Bernstein, during the recording of the cast album of “Candide,” the comic operetta, based on Voltaire’s satirical novel

It’s sad seeing you in a wheelchair. Do you believe you will get out of that chair one day?
Well I guess if the condition gets good I will. My spirits are mostly okay, but nobody likes to be like this. There are days when I get down, but I don’t seem to stay down for long.

Many of your fans are gay. Your only child, Adam LeGrant, is gay. You and I are talking less than a month after the tragic massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando. When I say ‘homophobia’ . . .
(Interrupts) It affects me like everyone else. Homophobia is a stupid, horrible way of thinking. It’s getting better, but it’s still, oh God! awful.

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Cook with her son Adam at the opening night of “Sondheim on Sondheim” at Studio 54 on April 22, 2010. Photo by Bruce Glikas

Were you disappointed when you learned your son Adam was gay?
When Adam told me he had something to tell me, I had no idea he was going to tell me he was gay. I thought he was going to tell me he broke up with his girlfriend and was never going to marry her. When he said he was gay, I knew I would never have grandchildren—that entered my psyche immediately. I thought there’s something wrong. I have a son I don’t know. I was really upset and I screamed and cried like crazy for about five days. It occurred to me that  all my life I felt like a little girl with her nose pressed against the glass of a candy shop. I didn’t feel part of real life. But when I bore a son I felt more connected to the world. When Adam told me was gay, I didn’t feel connected anymore.   After crying, I thought, ‘Wait a minute. What on earth is going on with you? What the hell is wrong with you? He is your son!’

I asked Liza about why she has such a gay following. She told me her fans relate to her pain, just as they related to her mother’s pain. You are aware you have a large gay following?
Oh sure. I talked about it with friends a couple of times. But I don’t know what it’s about. Could I be they relate to my problems? Who knows? We all have problems.

You made your Broadway debut in the 1951 musical Flahooley; you won a Tony for The Music Man. A far cry from growing up in Atlanta in such poverty you used to eat dinners of white bread and ketchup. You are a legend! A special survivor!
(Long laugh ) Oh God,  I don’t think of it as way. We all think we’re special. I know I am very, very grateful of the gift I have given. Singing is a wonderful way to move and touch people. I feel that I must sing because it feels so good to get all that out! I suppose it’s a gift from a  higher power.

Where do you keep your Tony?
I have a dining room and it’s kept in a bookcase in there.

After reading your book, I still cannot figure out if you liked Elaine Stritch.
(Laughs) I liked her, but not always what she did. Her behavior sometimes. Somewhere inside her was a very nice person.

Barbara+Cook+Roundabout+Theatre+Company+2016+Ligbg69Xb9flI am going to push you in a corner. What’s your favorite song?
(Laughs) Oh my goodness! The answer is no. I have no favorite.

How about a song you never sang?
I don’t think of things that way; I think of shows I wished I had done. I wanted to do The Most Happy Fella. I auditioned again and again for that and I really wanted to do it. But if I had done that, I wouldn’t have been able to do Candide.

You will be 89 on October 25. Ever think how you want to be remembered? What will be on your gravestone?
Oh gee. Wow. No one ever asked me that. (Pauses) SHE DID HER BEST.

 

 

“In Search of Lost Films” is a terrible thought, yet a fascinating new book

It’s a game cinephiles hate to play, lost and found, with the emphasis on lost. Yet films thought to be lost have been found . . . and some lost films remain lost. We found In Search of Lost Films (BearManor Media, $29.95/$19/95), a new book that investigates how an extraordinary number of important films are believed to be lost forever.

unnamedMartin Scorsese‘s Film Foundation claims that “half of all American films made before 1950 and over 90% of films made before 1929 are lost forever.”  Deutsche Kinemathek estimates that 80-90% of silent films are gone;[5] the film archive’s own list contains over 3500 lost films. A study by the Library of Congress states that 75% of  all silent films are now lost.  An interesting note: No prints of Nobody Ordered Love (1972) exist; director Robert Hartford-Davis ordered all prints to be destroyed upon the his death. This film is on the BFI 75 Most Wanted list.

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Theda Bara made more than 40 films between 1914 and 1926, but most were lost in the 1937 Fox vault fire. One was “Cleopatra” 1917); only 20 seconds exist.

How could this happen? And is it possible to recover these missing gems? In this new book, noted film critic and journalist Phil Hall details circumstances that resulted in these productions being erased from view. For anyone with a passion for the big screen, In Search of Lost Films provides an unforgettable consideration of a cultural tragedy.Spanning from the early days of the silent movies to as late as the ’70s and touching all corners of the global film experience, groundbreaking works of significant historical and artistic importance are gone. Cinema icons including Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, Oscar Micheaux and Vincente Minnelli are among those impacted by this tragedy, and pioneering technological achievements in color cinematography, sound film technology, animation and widescreen projection are among the lost treasures.

The ground-breaking “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” continues to prove its cinematic importance

It’s a film ripe for rediscovery. While Mike Nichols was shooting scenes with Jack Nicholson, Art Garfunkel, and Candice Bergen at what was then known as Folkestone Studios in West Vancouver for Carnal Knowledge. Nearby, Robert Altman and his crew were building Presbyterian Church, an actual Old West mining town for his period western, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, starring the then real-life couple, Warren Beatty and Julie Christie. Remember René Auberjonois? The man best-known for the Broadway musical flop Coco and who appeared in the Altman film says McCabe & Mrs. Miller is the best film he’s ever been in. “That is the one that will be on my tombstone,” he coos.
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With its fascinating flawed characters, evocative cinematography by the great Vilmos Zsigmond, and soundtrack that innovatively interweaves overlapping dialogue and haunting Leonard Cohen songs, McCabe & Mrs. Miller brilliantly deglamorized and revitalized the most American of genres. The screenplay is based on Edmund Naughton’s 1959 novel McCabe; Altman referred to it as an “anti-western film” because the film ignores or subverts a number of Western conventions.

So important is McCabe & Mrs. Miller that in 2010, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”.Criterion is releasing the flick on Blu-ray and DVD on October 11.

SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES 

* New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
* Audio commentary from 2002 featuring director Robert Altman and producer David Foster
* New documentary on the making of the film, featuring actors René Auberjonois, Keith Carradine, and Michael Murphy; casting director Graeme Clifford; and script supervisor Joan Tewkesbury
* New conversation about the film and Altman’s career between film historians Cari Beauchamp and Rick Jewell
* Featurette from the film’s production, shot on location in 1970
* Q&A from 1999 with production designer Leon Ericksen, hosted by the Art Directors Guild Film Society
* Archival footage from interviews with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, in which he discusses his work on the film
* Gallery of stills from the set by photographer Steve Schapiro
* Excerpts from two 1971 episodes of The Dick Cavett Show featuring Altman and film critic Pauline Kael
* Trailer
* Essay by film critic Nathaniel Rich

“Adjust Your Color: The Truth of Petey Greene” offers a look into the life and times of the original shock jock

He was a radio and TV personality like no other, a pioneering shock jock and talk-show host long before the Sterns and Springers sprung into action. Petey Greene took on racism like no one before and become an inspiring voice for understanding.  His true-story is told in Adjust Your Color: The Truth of Petey Greene (Virgil Films), a riveting documentary featuring rare footage and classic interviews.
In the tumultuous ’60s and ’70s, Greene emerged as a one-of-a-kind voice speaking out against racism, crime and poverty. An ex-con, he used his years in prison as an education in people and society, and as a radio host and later a TV personality in Washington, D.C., spoke the people’s language to point out what needed to be changed to make life better for everyone.

Oscar-nominated actor Don Cheadle (who portrayed Greene in the 2007 award-winning feature Talk to Me) narrates this insightful documentary that explores the life and times of Greene, the bombastic radio DJ-activist who rose to prominence in the ’60s via his groundbreaking show, Rapping With Petey Greene. By the ’70s, he was hosting Petey Greene’s Washington, a similar show on TV,  whose wide range of guests included a young shock jock named Howard Stern, shown here in rare footage wearing blackface and an afro during an interview with Greene. (Stern has called Greene the greatest radio personality of all time.)

Fearless and provocative, Greene galvanized audiences with his frank and often humorous commentaries on topics like race, religion, poverty, sex and corruption. He was unafraid to state truths that others would rather avoid, such as, “People use drugs because drugs is good!” Numerous prominent figures appear in the film to pay tribute to Greene’s importance and influence, including sportscaster James Brown, boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, former Washington Mayor Marion Barry and actor Robert Hooks, who calls Greene “the ghetto jester, the original rapper.”
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Adjust Your Color: The Truth of Petey Greene is an invaluable reminder of the power of speaking the truth loud and clear.

 

Time Life celebrates the legacy of Prince today with a purple pressing of vinyl

When Prince tragically passed away in April, he left behind a legacy as a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and actor.  To commemorate the wildly talented icon, musical innovator and seven-time Grammy-winner behind such chart-topping hits as “When Doves Cry,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Raspberry Beret,” “Purple Rain” and “Little Red Corvette,” Time Life has released a special, limited-edition of the recently released vinyl album, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Live – Volume 1.
The initial pressing of the album, released on April 29, immediately sold out and rose to #13 on Billboard‘s Vinyl Album chart.  The new pressing, which features Prince’s blistering and unforgettable guitar solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” from his 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction, will be highlighted by purple vinyl in honor of the influential star.  It went on sale today at a suggested retail price of $25.98 wherever vinyl albums are sold.
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“Following Prince’s passing, we recognized that we needed to do something truly special to   commemorate his incredible musical legacy,” says Jeff Peisch, SVP of New Product Development & Marketing for Time Life. “When the first run of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Live sold out immediately, the opportunity presented itself to do a purple vinyl pressing that perfectly captures the ‘Purple One,’ and is sure to resonate with those who loved his music and style.”
Time Life and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have digitally released the filmed performance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” from an evening featuring Prince’s own induction by a 23 year-old Alicia Keys. Prince’s three-minute-long blistering solo went viral following his death, and has now entered into legend.  Prince fans and music lovers searching to own the filmed performance can now go to iTunes to download the music video for just $1.99.
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Live – Volume 1  is a selection of the most memorable moments from induction ceremony history, featuring the biggest names in rock performing in combinations not seen anywhere else.  This 180 gram vinyl “ticket” is a front-row seat to the very best the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies have to offer.

Aside from “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which also features Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood and Dhani Harrison, the release includes performances from legendary talents like Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Cream, Steve Winwood, Metallica, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Ron Wood, Joe Perry, Green Day, James Taylor, Al Green, Chuck Berry and more.

Jam-filled performances of chart-busters like “Johnny Be Goode,” “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,” “A Change is Gonna Come,” “Train Kept a Rollin,'” “Ironman,” “Woodstock,” “Blitzkrieg Bop” and “Can’t Get No Satisfaction” make this volume a must-have for any LP library.

Scumbag Charlie Sheen becomes the pitchman for condoms. You read that right.

We know that Charlie Sheen has stuck his dick in just about everything quivering . . .  and now the disgraced actor has joined forces with Lelo to unveil what experts describe as “one of the most important innovations in sexual health for 70 years”–Lelo Hex, a condom re-engineered.

Sheen is one of just a handful of celebrities to publicly gab about HIV. He contracted HIV (“three hard letters to absorb,” he moans) sometime in 2011. He doesn’t know how, or from whom. After years of paying racketeers millions to keep his status secret, he realized, he recalls, “enough.”In November of last year, Sheen went on Today to admit:  “I’m here to admit that I’m in fact HIV-positive.”

Sheen’s revelation was personal. It was about ending the extortion and taking back control. But his disclosure had bigger repercussions that not even he could have anticipated. Dubbed ‘the Charlie Sheen Effect,’ the actor’s candidness sparked a surge in awareness surrounding HIV and AIDS–and a timely one at that! Not only is condom usage is at an all-time low, STIs are on the rise, including new drug-resistant strains of centuries-old diseases.
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For HIV in particular, public interest has waned since the epidemic of the ‘80s. Despite being in possession of the facts and cognizant of the risks, a dangerous ‘It’ll never happen to me’ attitude prevails.

Sheen is endorsing condoms as part of his efforts to drive discussions on sexual health, but this is not any old condom. Lelo Hex claims to be structurally different, aimed at addressing the most common issues with condoms today–that they reduce pleasure, slip frequently and break too easily.

Sheen’s still a scumbag.

“Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Volume 1” is a 180-gram black vinyl ticket to the very best music, ever

Everyone knows vinyl is making a 180-gram comeback, but for the record, there’s a new collectible music mavens and vinyl devotees must own: Rock & Roll hall of Fame Live – Volume 1. For over a quarter century, rock and roll’s biggest stars have gathered on one special evening for an exclusive party: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.  Honoring music’s most influential figures with the most prestigious of awards, it’s also an evening where both artists and fans celebrate rock and roll with once-in-a-lifetime performances.  For the first time on vinyl, Time Life has pressed a selection of the most memorable moments in the history of the induction ceremony, previously only available in digital and physical formats.
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2This release includes performances from legendary talents like Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Cream, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood, Metallica, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Ron Wood, Joe Perry, Tom Petty, Green Day, James Taylor, Al Green and Chuck Berry.  Unforgettable collaborations occur on this volume, such as Tom Petty paired with Prince, and Mick Jagger paired with Bruce Springsteen.  Jam-filled performances of chart-busters like “Johnny Be Goode,” “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,” “A Change is Gonna Come,” “Train Kept a Rollin,'” “Ironman,” “Woodstock,” “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” and a show-stopping performance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” make this volume a must-have for any LP library.  Volumes 2 and 3 will roll out though this the year, allowing fans to collect even more of these beloved performances on vinyl. Additionally, the net proceeds go to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, which  supports the exhibits and educational programs of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.