Tuesday, November 22, 2011

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO: THIS BLOG

It has been five months since the last post here.

So, what happened? How did this once daily blog all of a sudden stop posting?

Honestly, and this is may be difficult to believe, but I just fell out of love with film.

I could feel it happening.

Last year, I would go out to movies every weekend as usual. But they were all forgotten by the time I got home.

I started going to the movies less.

I went from going to see two or three movies every weekend, to, this year, seeing three films the entire year.

The ironic thing is that I was losing interest just as this site was just starting to get more popular.

I used to have to fight to get DVD review copies and then, I was getting offers from most of the studios asking if I wanted them. I wound up having stacks of DVDs to review, and zero interest in watching them. It got to be like homework.

So, even DVDs, I have given up on.

I used to have a 5 at a time Netflix plan. Now, I've canceled my Netflix account, and not because of any price increases. If I watch DVDs, it is mainly TV on DVD sets.

Sarah Vowell has an essay in "The Partly Cloudy Patriot" about being a serious film fan, attending her local college screenings. As the years went by, she started to grow out of it. When I first read this piece, as much as I love Vowell, I couldn't understand how someone could outgrow film. Now, I understand it completely.

I haven't completely lost interest in the entertainment field. Instead, I've rediscovered live theatre. Beginning going to several local plays, I've moved on to on weekends, going to New York City and Broadway. I've seen more plays this summer than I have all my life. The immediacy of live theatre is far more rewarding than film. Not to mention that musicals have always been my favorite film genre, and they live on on Broadway.

But, I'm happy to say that I was there for what will probably be considered the prime of blogging, 2007-2009. These were the years that blogging was fun. Writers were reading others, linking back and forth.

Then, people began thinking "Hey, maybe I can make something from this". Corporate blogs expanded, blogs were created about how to make money while blogging, the fun started to leave. Many bloggers retired. And now, I guess I am joining the retirees.

Will this be the last post here? For the time being, most likely.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

THE WIRE - One Of The Greatest TV Series Of All Time

One of the reviews of THE WIRE stated it very simply. There are two opinions of THE WIRE. There are those that think it is one of the greatest TV series of all time. And, there are those that have never seen it.

I’ve now finished watching the series.

It is indeed one of the greatest TV series of all time. It is easily the greatest of the past decade.

And the thing is, I didn’t expect to feel this way. When I first started watching it, it was only out of obligation. But, I was quickly hooked and didn’t want it to end. I was at times going through four episodes a night, like a great novel.

If you haven’t seen the show, and please believe me, you should see it, I will keep this spoiler free, not even talking about what characters appear after the first season.

Here is a brief overview of the series.

SEASON ONE - The Major Crimes Unit in the Baltimore Police Department is created, made up of a group of unwanted detectives and officers from around the Department. Dominic West plays Jimmy McNulty, Wendell Pierce is Bunk, Sonja Sohn is Kima, Seth Gilliam is Carver, Domenick Lombardozzi is Herc, Clarke Peters is Freamon, Jim True-Frost is Prez and Lance Reddick is Daniels.

Their target is the Barksdale Organization, a drug dealing operation from a set of inner city apartments run by Stringer Bell (Idris Elba).

This is one of the best seasons in that it is the most focused, the smallest. You really get to know the characters, and the locations. The courtyard where the characters congregate becomes a character of its own.

SEASON TWO - This season focuses on the dock workers, and their union, while continuing the storylines from the first.

This is another fabulous season, arguably the best in that it takes an almost Dickensian scope, with all the new characters and storylines. Amy Ryan, who would go on to be nominated for an Oscar for GONE BABY GONE, joined the cast as a cop. Chris Bauer (now on TRUE BLOOD) is fantastic as Frank Sobotka, head of the dock workers union.

SEASON THREE - Here it expands to the political aspect of Baltimore, with the Mayor and City Council playing a big role. Aidan Gillen joins the series as Tommy Carcetti, a politically ambitious city councilman.

Season three may have one of the most interesting segments, as far as the sociological aspects of the show, with a storyline devoted to the attempt at decriminalizing drugs. Season three also introduces “Cutty” (Chad Coleman), who is just released from prison and tries to create a new life. Will he go straight? Get back into the game?

SEASON FOUR - This time, we look at the schools and how the “corner kids” are created. Without giving anything away, one character, who I wish I could write more about because he gives a truly excellent performance, goes into teaching.

Another season candidate for the series best. This time, it is a lot more personal season, focusing on the home lives of the kids and what the influence of family and education is on their decision making.

SEASON FIVE - In the final season, they introduced the media into the series, this time showing the Baltimore Sun and their reporters covering the city.

As much as I hate to say it, I had a lot of problems with this season. The central police storyline involves a character doing something STUPID. Their reasons are right, and many of the characters are opposed to it, that doesn’t stop it from continuing the whole season. Also, the newspaper storyline was a bit too “ripped from today’s headlines” like a LAW AND ORDER episode. Not that it doesn’t work, but it was a bit predictable, something THE WIRE usually isn’t.

That said, this is still a very good season. The secondary characters are again interesting. Clark Johnson is excellent as the newspaper city editor. And I just noticed that Tom McCarthy, who played a reporter, is the same Tom McCarthy who wrote and directed two amazing films, THE STATION AGENT and THE VISITOR.

The good thing about season five, with it being the final season, it does wrap things up well. There isn’t a SOPRANOS like stunt ending. There is closure. Some of the characters get happy endings. Some are tragic. But, there is an ending here, not an annoying cut to black.

The entire series is interesting because it never plays by the regular rules of TV. It expects its audience to be intelligent. While most TV shows will show Scene A which leads to Scene B which leads to Scene C, here, they might eliminate Scene B, maybe even Scene A, and expect that the audience knows what happened just from showing Scene C.

It also doesn’t play things in black or white. Some of the drug dealers are portrayed in very real, human terms. These aren’t just bad people, even though they are at times doing horrible things. We get to understand why they are that way, what society has done to them. They all play by their own rules.

All the secondary characters are fully developed. From Bubblies (Andre Royo), the junkie informant, to the feared Omar (Micheal K. Williams), and the hit man and woman team of Chris (Gbenga Akinnagbe) and Snoop (Felicia Pearson). No less than Stephen King has called Snoop one of the scariest female characters ever. Hard to argue that.

There is also Michael Potts as Brother Mouzone, the bowtied assassin who is more interested in his reading material than anything else around him. And I have to mention Dukie (Jermain Crawford), Poot (Tray Chaney), Proposition Joe (Robert Chew), Clay “Sheeeeeeee-it” Davis (Isiah Whitlcok Jr) and the excellent J.D. WIlliams as Bodie. I could go on and one but I won’t.

THE WIRE demands you pay close attention. Characters from previous seasons appear in little scenes that you might not even pick up on. For example, in Season five, a character, unseen since season two, pops up to yell at a character. Unless you saw season two, and remembered him, you may not know why he was yelling.

In listening to part of the commentary to one episode, I was told that the character on the screen, an ex-junkie in a meeting, had appeared in two previous episodes. I didn’t recognize her without the commentary, but as soon as they mentioned it, I immediately did.

Plus, in one season, you see a character sitting in a gay bar. It is only a less than five second shot, that I actually had to rewind the see if it was really him. No mention of this is ever made again, but it adds to the background and the audience’s understanding of the character.

Honestly, I don’t know how the show worked as a weekly series. It is so rich, with so much going on, it demands to be watched all together. Unlike many hour long series, it holds up as a full story, and doesn’t feel like so many series today that it is being made up as it goes along.

Again, if you have never seen THE WIRE, please do so. I will go so far as to say no film in the past decade is as rich, as socially relevant, than this series.

It is truly one of the greatest TV series of all time.

Monday, January 11, 2010

THE MOVIEZZZ BLOG INTERVIEW: Keith Coogan (Part Two)



For those growing up in the 1980's, ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING was a hugely popular film.  It was one of my favorites that I saw many times at the theatres.  A big part of the success of that film was star Keith Coogan.  As Brad Anderson, he was a very likable performer.  

I contacted Keith about doing an email interview about his career.  I posted the first part of where he talked his early TV work.  By the time BABYSITTING came around, he was already a veteran, appearing on countless TV series.  In this second half, he talks about the film that will always be a favorite of many.



Then came ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING. What was that like to work on?

Time of my young, 16-17 year old life! I had a huge crush on Lisa Shue, and became terrific friends with Anthony Rapp. This was my first feature and since it had a considerable budget for a "teen comedy" at the time, we had all the bells and whistles, trucks, effects, and stunts that made me want to get into the business in the first place. We shot for a few months in Toronto, a few weeks in Chicago, and a few days back here in L.A. for effects/pickup shots. That movie completely changed my career into a strong, healthy feature run of about a half dozen studio projects, and another dozen or so low-budget, independent films.



Did you have any idea that Chris Columbus would go on to be one of the bigger directors of today? Or Anthony Rapp would become with RENT a big Broadway star?

Sure did. Chris was already a cool guy because he was the crazy dude that wrote Gremlins, Goonies, and Young Sherlock Holmes. He was basically a Dante/Spielberg/Donner protoge, and I knew very well that he was going to be a huge success. As far as Anthony, he was far funnier, and had much better training then I did, plus he had a serious passion for theater, so yeah, I guess I knew he'd end up in something that was so hugely successful as "Rent".



Any thoughts on the rumored remake?

Get it done already, I can't wait to see it/be in it!!!!

Do you still keep in touch with anyone from the cast?

I wish I kept in touch with them more.



There were several other films that followed, HIDING OUT, CHEETAH, BOOK OF LOVE, TOY SOLDIERS, and then another cult classic, DON’T TELL MOM THE BABYSITTER’S DEAD. What were those years like?

These were the salad days. Except for the fact that every single one of them except for DTMTBD had a first-time director. I was a total smart-ass... I kept showing different directors where to put the camera, how to get out of a problem scene, all sorts of tricks I learned working in television for a decade before setting foot on a film set. All of the directors were gracious and accommodating to the complete balls I had to try to tell these adults how to run their multi-million dollar set. Thank goodness my Grandfather gave me guidelines on when to speak up and when to shut up, and his advice has always served me well over the years... when I heeded it.



You wrote on the IMDB 
“1991 was officially the end of my studio career. It kills me to think that in the same year that 3 major studio releases hit the big screen, that that will be the last time I star in a major studio film. It has been very hard growing up in this business. It's even harder to grow up in life. Yes, I was on top of the world in '91. But it was a small, tiny, insignificant splash in the ocean when compared to true success like Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, or even Corey Feldman.” 
You also wrote that you had to audition for all the roles you got. Were there roles that you didn’t get, or since you continually worked in smaller films, were you happy with those?

Oh, there were tons of juicy roles that I didn't get... that's simply a reality of the business for an actor. I do have a saying for whenever someone says I should have been in this movie or that one, I tell them, "No, I should have been in 'Cousins', I should have been in Toy Soldiers." That usually shuts them up pretty quick.



About the stigma of being a former child star, you wrote, 
“Remember, even if you grow up into a happy, healthy adult, you are still a "Former Child Star". Try living that one down. Or worse, try using that to your advantage when you grow up. It's tough. But what am I going to do... quit show business?” 
Is it really something you feel you have to live down?

Only when there isn't any fresh work/visibility that would cause someone to ask that... I've gotten a lot better about how to live my life when I'm not working on a set... I guess I just had to grow up a little and make sure that I could take care of myself even if the acting thing peters out or fails to materialize into the thing that I want it to be. I do get quite defensive when people ask me why I'm not working, and I've learned to just roll with it, and use that as an excuse to buckle down more, and dedicate myself even further to the craft.



What have you been up to lately?

A few things I am really proud of lately include:

--- "The Keith Coogan Experience" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=druRaQvYHv4 - A short film I shot in Dallas with some up-and-coming young filmmakers who also happened to be big fans... even though they are all straight, I think they kind of have a crush on me.

--- "Crafty" - A web series with participation from Kevin Connolly, Adrian Grenier, myself as well as many other surprise guests/cameos. This show is currently in production and is set around the Crafts Service (snack) table on the set of a fictitious television series called, "The Telepathist". Look for it to premiere on the internets early this year.

--- "Monologue a Day Project" - http://monologueaday.blogspot.com I learn and perform a Monologue a Day, as inspired by the book and film, Julie and Julia. I wanted to do something every day that I loved, and since I love to act, I said why not post a one-minute monologue every day, alternating between comedic and dramatic speeches, play excerpts,and original monologues.



You have posted several videos on Youtube. Will we be seeing more of those, especially Bruno the redneck’s movie reviews?

Not working on any more Buford for a while, focusing on the monologues... but a redneck character is sure to pop up once in a while.

You have also been blogging at your site Hollywood Kids. How did you get started?

wilwheaton.net is my geek hero and inspiration.



What is your favorite of the films you made? And is there one you wish would disappear from your filmography?

I love every single film I've ever been a part of... I even learned a thing or two on the ones that were tough/unpleasant/difficult/shitty... You learn why you make certain project choices, and what motivates you as an artist. Plus, a really bad shoot can bring about strong friendships... so, no... no regrets.



What are your favorite films, TV shows, musicians?

Spielberg/Kubrick/Heist/Action/Sci-fi.... oh shoot... I love almost all movies. I am really into "Dexter" and "Lost", and there are simply too many musicians to mention... although I did manage to see The Pixies when they were in Los Angeles late last year, and they're a pretty awesome band. Frank Black is a great songwriter... I also had a thing for Nirvana and Guns n Roses in the 90's.

Do you have any DVD recommendations?

Brothers Bloom - Inglourious Basterds - The Fountain - Star Trek - Wanted - Dark Knight - Anchorman - There Will Be Blood - No Country for Old Men - Up

What do you have on your Tivo (or what shows do you watch every week)?

Survivor, Lost when it's on, Dexter, and now... Jersey Shore... I'm so embarrassed.

A big thank you to Keith Coogan!  Be sure to check out his sites.  

Monday, September 24, 2007

THE MOVIEZZZ BLOG INTERVIEW: KEITH COOGAN (Part 1)


Twenty years ago, ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING premiered. A favorite of mine, I looked around to see what the cast was up to today. I was particularly interested in Keith Coogan who played Brad.

He was very good in the film, and went on to appear in several other popular films of the 80's and 90's, including another cult favorite DON'T TELL MOM THE BABYSITTER'S DEAD ("Dishes are done, man").

Well, I found him. He has a blog, Adventures in Los Angeles, and even his own YouTube channel. I contacted him to see about doing an email interview, and he agreed.

While ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING was the film where I first realized who he was, Keith had been around for a decade before, acting in some of the biggest TV shows of the 70's and 80's.

The grandson of legendary child star Jackie Coogan, Keith here talks about that early TV work.


How big of an impact did your grandfather have on your getting in the industry?

It must have been huge, although our family wasn't as close at the time I started acting (1975) as when he passed (1984), there must have been something in the blood. I know I was also inspired by Sesame Street, Electric Company, New Zoo Review, and Vi Alegre! I would see these other kids having fun on the TV, and I totally wanted to be one of those kids. Jackie played a supportive role, yet flat out would not coach, instruct or otherwise tell me how to act... he would simply repeat the mantra, "Watch your money, never trust Mothers!"

Early on, you appeared on countless TV shows. Do you have any memories from those shows?


The Waltons was a watershed moment in my career, and probably helped me get most of the rest of my guest appearance work in the late 70's and into the 80's. It was an unforgettable experience, joining a family that was so well known. Every single cast and crew member was welcoming and kind. To this day, they are the nicest folks in show business, although the creator of that particular show had a dirty old mouth, which was a surprising contrast to his material. Playing Jeffrey on the Waltons was also a great chance to stretch a little, you see, I played the biggest brat in the world, even though I thought I was a pretty well behaved young professional. I got to lie, cheat, steal, throw wicked attitude at Ralph Waite, run over the daisies with a stolen car, and nearly burn the barn down. Good fun. Shot from '78 into '79 at The Burbank Studios, it was the show that set our family up in a nice home in Malibu, California.


Love Boat was one of the only times I was ever offered a part without having to go through the audition process. I had the privilege of working side by side with Haley Mills, Sir John Mills, Reggie Jackson, and of course the entire cast of the show. I also had the not so fun experience of seeing how they shot the show... on a sound stage in Century City. I was sorely disillusioned.


Fantasy Island and Fantasy Island Jr. were also great chances at working with people I had grown up watching. Scott and Jimmy Baio, Jill Whalen (again), Gilligan, The Millionaire, and Larry Storch happened to be on those episodes, and it was also a kick in the pants. I loved working with Tattoo! Finally, here was an actor that was shorter than me! I will also become quite fond of Scott Baio, he is a very generous and patient actor.


The final episode of Mork and Mindy was sad. They all knew the show was ending, and so it was very hard to bring the joy out of everyone's performances. I played a kid reporter that was doing an interview with Mearth (Jonathan Winters). I tried a bit of improv, encouraged by my Mom, but when Mork fired back... I had nothing. Scary stuff that live television.

I always had a tough time with the "live" shows like Mork and Mindy, Laverne and Shirley, It's a Living, Growing Pains, Silver Spoons, Raising Miranda, Sibs, Just the 10 of Us and Married to the Kellys are the only "live" shows I ever worked on, and I was totally nervous the entire time. I prefer the pace and focus of a film shoot. I don't know why.. it's just the canvas that I like to paint on.


Little House on the Prairie came hot on the heels of shooting Laverne and Shirley, in fact, we had to throw some lies around about how late I worked on the final night of taping Laverne and Shirley, and how early I had to be on set for Little House... but that didn't matter, my career was on fire at that point. I played a blind kid that sings. Totally annoying if you ask me, but only because they play that episode far too much for my liking.


Chip's was actually my first theatrical job (outside of commercials). I had a non-speaking role in an episode that I don't even know the title of. We played a large family that left their baby in it's car seat at a picnic site. I remember making like I had to go to the bathroom real hard. It turned into 3 more appearances on Chip's.


The one thing I can say about the TV shows of the 70's like Duke's of Hazzard, Chip's and Knight Rider, is that they were all Rolling Thunder! Car carriers, grip and electric trucks, honey wagons and the like would all assemble at a moments notice somewhere along the Southern California Freeway system, and then before lunch, they had packed up, moved location, and were lighting something on fire by 2:00. Big shows with old school, union, studio people working on them. There is nothing like learning from the best. The last two were "Brat Patrol" and "Return of the Brat Patrol" where a group of kids were little mini-chips that got out played or something in track or basketball. The scripts were interchangeable, and represent some of the worst series writing ever. But it sure was popular. John Astin directed the last episode of Chip's. It's a small world.


Growing Pains was surreal. Here I was working with my agent's daughter. It was inevitable that I did the show, and it turned into a guest appearance on Just the 10 of Us as well. These were the two shows that I felt the least nervous on, probably because the cast and crew were so cool and laid back.

THAT'S ALL FOR NOW, PART II CAN BE READ HERE!!!!