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Tag Archive: Robin Williams


This year marks the 120th anniversary of the publication of H.G. Wells’ genre defining science fiction novel, The War of the Worlds We reviewed the latest incarnation of the story earlier this year here at borg.  This Halloween Eve marked the 80th anniversary of the broadcast of War of the Worlds, Orson Welles‘ theater company adaptation of Wells’ The War of the Worlds–the one that sent a minor panic across the U.S. in 1938.  Smithsonian Magazine has the best historical retrospective on the event (written in 2015) at its website here.  The show was just a quickly cobbled together episode of the radio drama anthology series Mercury Theatre on the Air, broadcast on CBS–the radio network–when an attentive audience took Welles’ performance for reality.  Indiana University’s Lilly Library commemorated the anniversary by publicly streaming its newly digitized version of the infamous event derived from Welles’ personal lacquer disc recordings, for free.  If you’re continuing your Halloween celebration through the weekend, there’s no better time to turn off the television and take yourself and your family on a time travel trip to sci-fi entertainment, 1930s style.  Stream the original radio presentation of Mercury Theatre’s War of the Worlds plus more classic presentations at the library’s website here.

Along with The War of the Worlds anniversaries, it’s a good time to celebrate actor and writer John Houseman, who co-founded the Mercury Theatre Players with Welles, and produced and co-wrote the script for the War of the Worlds broadcast.  Decades before gaining new fame in his Academy Award-winning role as the scary and iconic Professor Kingsfield in the movie The Paper Chase opposite Bionic Woman Lindsay Wagner, and later starring in the television series version, Houseman served as an uncredited co-writer to Herman J. Mankiewicz on Citizen Kane Initially collaborators, “Jack” Houseman and Welles would have a falling out soon after that was never mended.  Never escaping his early connection with Welles, Houseman died thirty years ago today, the day after the 50th anniversary of the War of the Worlds radio broadcast.

Early photograph of Mercury Theatre co-founders Orson Welles and John Houseman.

If you’re a John Carpenter fan, you may recall Houseman as the narrator at the beginning of Carpenter’s 1980 classic ghost story, The Fog Born in Romania, as the old coastal chap Mr. Machen (a name referencing 1890s horror writer Arthur Machen), Houseman delivered that same brand of captivating storytelling in his one-of-a-kind voice, storytelling that made the War of the Worlds broadcast so famous.

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Just shy of her 47th birthday, Koko the gorilla passed away Tuesday in her sleep at the Gorilla Foundation’s preserve in Woodside, California, in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Koko represents a giant leap in the future of humanity’s relationship with the animal kingdom–she could sign more than a thousand of words of American Sign Language and understood 2,000 words of spoken English, she liked to rhyme words, she could read and paint (painting not only real objects but expressions of her thoughts and emotions, even naming her paintings), and could play a musical instrument–the recorder.  She proved years of human scientists wrong, conveying clearly to the world that she had complex thoughts and feelings, sharing compassion, laughter, love, and care for others.  And she became famous for all she showed the world, and had well-known friendships with the likes of Mr. Rogers and Robin Williams.

Born on the Fourth of July in 1971 at the San Francisco Zoo, the western lowland gorilla was named Hanabi-ko, which is Japanese for “fireworks child.”  Koko’s ability to communicate with humans via American Sign Language put her twice on the cover of National Geographic, one photo featuring her own selfie (long before selfie was a term).  That was thanks to her long-time friend and researcher Dr. Francine “Penny” Patterson, who began teaching Koko in 1974 when she was three years old.  Over the course of her incredible life she proved that gorillas could communicate about objects that weren’t present, had the ability to recognize themselves in a mirror, and further, they could convey personal memories.  Koko invented new sign-language words for things she didn’t know the word for, she knew the meaning of what she was communicating, and she was even a teacher–another primate learned sign language by watching videos of Koko signing.

Her relationship with her first cat was covered by the mainstream press.  For her twelfth Christmas she wanted a pet cat, and for her following birthday she was allowed to select one from a litter of abandoned kittens, which she named All Ball, reflecting the roundness of the cat and her own fondness for alliteration.  All Ball died when she sneaked out of her room and was hit by a car that year, and Koko reacted like any human would, with profound grief, which she conveyed in words via signing.  Koko adopted several more cats over the next 30 years, adopting two most recently in 2015 that she named Miss Black and Miss Grey.  Koko was preceded in death by her friend Michael, her gorilla friend who also could sign, who passed away in 2000.  She was living with her friend Ndume, a male gorilla, when she passed away.

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race-poster

Stephen Hopkins, director of The Ghost in the Darkness, Predator 2, and the reboot of Lost in Space, and TV series House of Lies and 24, is bringing to the big screen the momentous race of Jesse Owens, the black track and field gold medalist who showed-up Adolf Hitler’s racist regime by winning in the 1936 Olympics.  The cleverly titled Race stars Stephan James (Selma) as Owens, the role previously given to John Boyega, who instead left the production to take on the role of Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Race co-stars Saturday Night Live alumnus Jason Sudeikis as Coach Larry Snyder, as well as Academy Award winners William Hurt and Jeremy Irons.  Race is the kind of serious topic biopic the Academy traditionally looks for at Oscar time.  If the film is the great drama that the story deserves, this could be a breakout role for both James and Sudeikis.

Jesse Owens biopic

But can Sudeikis overcome his comedy acting past to drive this drama home?  Many ex-SNL regulars have tried to break the SNL curse and jump into drama, including Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Steve Martin, Albert Brooks, and Eddie Murphy, along with other comedy talents like Michael Keaton, Eddie Izzard, Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, Will Smith, Robin Williams, and Jonah Hill.  Will the Academy recognize Race a year from now?  Murray, Aykroyd, Martin, Brooks, Hill, Smith, Williams, and Keaton have all been nominated for acting Oscars, but no ex-SNL actor has won an acting Oscar, and only comedic actors Foxx and Williams were able to make the switch from comedy to drama and take home the big prize.

Check out this trailer for Race:

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Spade and Farley

Nothing is more infuriating than the untimely deaths of people who make you laugh.  John Belushi.  John Candy.  Phil Hartman.  Robin Williams.  A new documentary by Spike takes a look at another one of these comedic gems, the life and death of the explosive personality that was Chris Farley, one of the funniest comedians to ever hail from that elite squad of comics who made their fame via their work on Saturday Night Live. 

Clips of the comedian’s best work from SNL and movies like Tommy Boy and Coneheads are interspersed with interviews of Farley’s friends and family in I Am Chris Farley, giving us some insight into what made this guy tick, including those who knew him the best: David Spade, Dan Aykroyd, Lorne Michaels, Adam Sandler, Jay Mohr, Bob Odenkirk, Molly Shannon, Tom Arnold, and his brother Kevin.

Farley followed in the footsteps of two of his own idols, Belushi and Candy, dying too early at the age of 33 back in 1997 from a drug overdose.  What can we learn from Farley’s death?  What pressure was Farley under, and how did such a quick rise in fame cause Farley to fall just as fast?  Could anyone have helped him along the way?  Here’s the trailer for the new documentary I Am Chris Farley:

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Fall TV banner

Now that the major networks have revealed their new TV series for the Fall line-up, what of the new series is worth adding to your must-watch list?  While we’re curious about the new offerings from the cable networks, we see many reasons to at least try out the pilot for several series, based on the genre, the subject, or the inclusion of some of our favorite actors.  We previewed Marvel’s Agents of Shield last week from ABC, and no other series looks to have as much appeal for genre fans as more Joss Whedon and Marvel characters.  But we’ve found 15 of the two dozen new series that have some reason to take notice, many with trailers that have been released with the announcements.  But be warned, despite some great actors, many of these previews look pretty bad and we’re only posting the trailers for you to judge for yourself.  if you want to save time, go directly to the previews for Almost Human, The Michael J. Fox Show, Dracula, and Sleepy Hollow, which look like the best of the new series the Fall has to offer–at least from the networks.

ABC

Moving past Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the reason you might give Back in the Game a try is because of the lead, Psych’s Maggie Lawson, as well as James Caan.  It looks like a comedy version of Clint Eastwood’s Trouble with the Curve.  As much as we like Lawson and Caan, we’ll probably skip this one.  Check it out for yourself:

ABC also has a spinoff of its Once Upon a Time series, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland We gave Once Upon a Time a try in its first season and it held our interest for several episodes because of series lead Jennifer Morrison, but an Alice in Wonderland spinoff?  The trailer makes this look better than Once upon a Time and it looks like more of a sequel than a real tie-in to Once Upon a Time.  And it does have John Lithgow playing the White Rabbit.  Check it out:

NBC

The only reason we’ll mention Welcome to the Family is because of lead Mary McCormack, who we loved on In Plain Sight.  Other than that it looks like just another Parenthood series with an overdone culture-clash theme.  Here’s the trailer:

Michael J. Fox is returning to TV with The Michael J. Fox Show.  On paper the description of this show looked almost cringe-worthy:  a series about a celebrity named Mike returning to TV who left to deal with his Parkinson’s.   But then you watch the trailer and only Michael J. Fox could make this look hilarious.  This series may be a very big win:

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Winters finds the big WWith the passing Thursday and public announcement yesterday of classic movie and TV comedian Jonathan Winters, we thought we’d post a few clips of some our favorite bits of his unique humor. In countless interviews Robin Williams counted Winters as his comedic inspiration, both men at the top of the world of improvisation.  Born in Dayton, Ohio in 1925, Winters went on to serve in the Marines in World War II.  His first TV appearance was on Chance of a Lifetime in 1954, and his 15-minute variety show The Jonathan Winters Show on October 23, 1956, sponsored by Tums for RCA on the NBC network included the first color video ever to appear on television.  That’s right, it was Jonathan Winters who brought color to the TV-viewing world. 

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Every generation who watched TV encountered Winters in some way.  He led the second generation of modern American comedic actors, following The Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy.  He was known by some as the Hefty garbage man and by others for his recurring bit as Maude Frickert.  Like many comedians in his and later generations, he released many comedy albums on LPs.  In 1961 Winters first entered the world of sci-fi TV in The Twilight Zone episode “A Game of Pool” with Jack Klugman.  He appeared in more than 50 movies and guest starred and starred on many TV shows in his 60 years as an actor, including repeated appearances in every major variety and talk show over the years. 

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