Friday, December 30, 2016

Famous Director's First Theatrical Movies, Part 12

Welcome to the twelfth edition of Famous Directors First Theatrical Movies.  Today, we are discussing the versatile Ang Lee, the famous western director John Ford, and the actor-director Mel Gibson.  For one last time, let’s look at the first theatrical movie of these famous directors.
                Ang Lee’s most famous American Films include Sense and Sensibility, Brokeback Mountain, and Life of Pi.  His most famous foreign films include Eat Drink Man Woman and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  In the early 1990s, however, Ang Lee was unemployed for six years after graduating from NYU with an MFA in Film Production.  He stayed busy writing screenplays, and in 1990 submitted two screenplays to a competition sponsored by his home country Taiwan’s government.  His screenplay Pushing Hands won first place and attracted the attention of film producer Li-Kong Hsu, who offered for Lee to direct his first feature film.  Pushing Hands is about an elderly t’ai chi ch'aun teacher who emigrates to New York City from Beijing to his son, American daughter-in-Law, and grandson, and the culture clash that occurs between the traditional grandfather and the American life that his son and family lives.  The movie was a huge success in Taiwan, and received eight nominations at Taiwan’s premiere film festival, the Golden Horse Film Festival.  Lee made two more films exploring the culture clash between the old and new generations, The Wedding Banquet and the most famous, Eat Drink Man Woman, forming what is referred to as the “Father Knows Best” trilogy of movies.
                John Ford’s legacy is generally considered westerns, including Stagecoach, The Searchers, and the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but he also directed the film adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath and the award-winning How Green Was My Valley.  In the 1910s, John Ford was a prolific silent director, making multiple two and three-reel films (short films).  In 1917, John and his collaborator writer-actor Harry Carey, decided to ignore orders from the studio and make a five-reel movie instead of a two-reel film, thereby making Ford’s first feature-length movie.  That movie was called Straight Shooting.  At the beginning of Straight Shooting, a cattleman cuts off Farmer Sims’ water supply.  When Sims’ son goes in search of water, he is killed.  Cheyenne (Harry Carey) is sent to kill Sims but he switches sides when he sees his son’s grave.  Universal boss saved Straight Shooting from being edited down to a two-reel film, and today prints of the film are in the International Museum of Photography and Film at the George Eastman House.
                While Mel Gibson has been mostly a prolific actor, rising to prominence with Mad Max films and starring in four Lethal Weapon movies, he has directed a few movies, most famously Braveheart and The Passion of the Christ (his most recent, Hacksaw Ridge, has been winning awards, including many AACTA awards).  In the early 1990s, Gibson read a script based on a novel by Isabelle Holland.  He liked it enough to decide to direct it.   Gibson tried to ask other actors to play the main role, but none were interested, so he took on the main role himself.  The movie was called The Man without a Face and was filmed on location in Deer Isle, Maine.  Gibson plays Justin McLeod, a recluse and former teacher who is disfigured from a car accident.  Chuck Nordstadt is a 12-year-old boy who has a difficult relationship with his family and wants to join the military academy.  After meeting McLeod on a ferry, Chuck convinces McLeod to help him pass the academy’s entrance exam, and McLeod begins to meet Chuck in secret at his house to learn how to pass the entrance exam, but when Chuck’s mother and the townspeople find out, they begin to suspect McLeod was molesting Chuck...  It should be noted that the script did not have the more controversial aspects present in the novel, with (spoilers here) McLeod’s relationship with Chuck shown as nothing more than a misunderstood mentor-son relationship in the movie.  The movie was released on August 25, 1993, and received mixed reviews, holding 67% score at Rotten Tomatoes,  It made $24 million at the box office.
                In this entry of famous director’s first theatrical movies, each of these movies is not nearly as well known as the movies which followed in the director’s career.  However, each director used their first movie as a springboard to bigger and better movies following their first movie.  Check out these first theatrical movies of these famous directors.  

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Famous Director's First Theatrical Movies, Part 11

Merry Christmas Eve and welcome to the eleventh edition of Famous Director’s First Theatrical Movies.  Today our three subjects are as different as they come.  We are exploring the first work of z-grade low-budget director Ed Wood, Texan writer/producer/director Robert Rodriguez, and the comedic Kevin Smith.  Let’s get started!
                Ed Wood, considered by so many to be the worst director of all time that he was posthumously given an award with that distinction, nevertheless made several cult hits.  These, including his most famous movie, Plan 9 From Outer Space, are considered in the so bad it’s good category, a special kind of awful.  But in 1952, Wood had only directed a few shorts.  Christine Jorgensen had made national news in the US with his sex reassignment surgery into her, and George Weiss, a producer of low-budget films, sought to make an exploitation film about her.  Wood was a cross-dresser and convinced Weiss to let him star in and direct the movie.  Wood then successfully asked former Horror film star Bela Lugosi to star in his movie.  He played a scientist who is one of two narrators, though another narrator handled most of the movie.  The movie was shot in four days and made for $20,000.  There are two segments: 1. Glen or Glenda (Wood), a man who is a cross-dresser but is not a homosexual, and 2. Anna/Alan about a man who was raised as a girl and decides after his service in WWII to have a sex change operation.  Glen or Glenda also has several vignettes about several aspects of transsexuality, interspersed with the main plot added by Weiss to increase the running time.  The movie was released in 1953 and along with Wood’s other films, is considered among the worst films of all time.  In fact, famous critic Leonard Maltin considered it the absolute Worst Film. 
                Robert Rodriguez’s most famous films include the Spy Kids films, the Sin City films, From Dusk Till Dawn, and his Mexico Trilogy: El Mariachi (his first movie), Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico.  In 1991, Rodriguez made the short film Bedhead, and that convinced him to make his first feature film, El Mariachi.  Rodriguez raised $7,000 to shoot the movie, raised partly from the star, Carlos Gallardo, and partly from Rodriguez participating in drug trials.  Gallardo plays El Mariachi, a man who wants to be a mariachi player but gets caught up in a violent war between escaped criminal Azul and drug lord Moco and falls in love beautiful bar owner Dominó.  Rodrigez tried to cut corners whenever he could, for example, recording from a wheelchair instead of a dolly and using desk lamps for lighting.  He used 16 mm for filming and transferred the film to video, avoiding the costs for editing on film.  When Rodriguez tried to distribute to various direct-to-video Latino distributors, he was rejected.  So he decided to send his film to bigger distribution companies, including Columbia Pictures.  Columbia Pictures bought the American distribution rights, transferred the movie to 35 mm and spent a lot more than $7,000 releasing and marketing the movie.  El Mariachi eventually made $2 million at the box office.
                Kevin Smith’s comedies include Mallrats, Chasing Amy and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, but his first film, like Rodriguez’s El Mariachi, is considered one of his best.  Kevin Smith, living in New Jersey, saw Slackers, which was filmed on location in Texas rather than in Hollywood, and was inspired to make his own film.  After attending Vancouver Film School for four months, he returned to Leonardo, New Jersey, and his old job as convenience store clerk…where he got the idea to make Clerks.  The movie Clerks revolves around Dante, a convenience store Clerk who is called on his day off to cover a sick employee.  His friend Randal, who works at the RST Video next door, stops by and Dante and Randal create all sorts of trouble to pass the time, including playing hockey on the roof, closing the store to go to Dante’s ex-girlfriend’s funeral, and another of Dante’s ex-girlfriends showing up while Dante is dating another girl, Veronica.  Kevin Smith’s famous recurring characters Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) make a cameo appearance here.  Kevin Smith shot the movie at night was still working in the store during the day, and by the end of the shoot, he was unable to stay awake.  Smith maxed out credit cards to shoot the movie for $27,575.  Clerks premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and Miramax bought the film rights.  The film made $3.2 million at the box office.

                All three of these filmmakers threw themselves into their first movie, for better or worse.  Ed Wood never left his low-budget and exploitation roots when making films.  However, both Robert Rodriguez and Kevin Smith made their films knowing there were bigger and better things in store for the future.  They kept growing expanding their talent, and their movies are well-regarded today.  

Friday, December 16, 2016

Famous Director's First Theatrical Movies, Part 10

                Welcome to the tenth edition of the first theatrical movies of famous directors.  This time we are tackling the feel-good Frank Capra, the weird and otherworldly Guillermo del Toro, and the twist-reliant M. Night Shyamalan.  But what were their first movies?  What was their first theatrical release, the first movie that they tried to make a mark in the world? 
                Frank Capra’s movies tend toward comedy or feel-good drama, such as his most famous movies It Happened One Night, YouCan’t Take It with You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and It’s A Wonderful Life (which, incidentally, was not a success on first release).  But Frank Capra was a prolific director all the way back to the silent era.  He made shorts and documentary shorts in the early 1920s.  At the time, he was also a prolific writer, and he started writing for silent comedian Harry Langdon, helping him create Langdon’s signature character.  When Langdon moved to First National Studios, he brought along Capra and after Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, which Capra co-directed, they made together Capra’s first theatrical release in 1926, a silent comedy called The Strong Man. Langdon plays Belgian immigrant Paul Bergot, who is searching for a blind woman named Mary Brown, who he was pen-pals with during the Great War.  The movie was released on September 19, 1926, and ran for 75 minutes.  Langdon and Capra made one more film together, Long Pants before they went their separate ways. 
                Guillermo del Toro’s most famous works include The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth, Blade II, Hellboy I and II, and Pacific Rim.  Guillermo del Toro was born in Mexico and from a young child had an interest in film-making.  He made 10 short films before being given the chance to direct his first feature, a vampire horror film called Cronos, released in 1993.  This movie was also his first collaboration with Argentinean Federico Lippi and American Ron Pearlman, who made several subsequent releases with del Toro.  Lippi plays Jesus Gris, an older man who finds a device under a hollow archangel statue.  When he sets it off, a needle stabs him and he becomes more youthful, but with a taste for human blood.  Meanwhile, the nephew of the millionaire Dieter de la Guardia, Angel (Pearlman) is sent by his uncle to buy the archangel because Dieter knows about the powers of the device.  What follows is a battle between Jesus, Angel, and Dieter for control of the device.  The movie went over budget to $2 million and Pearlman agreed to a salary cut.  It was released on May 3, 1993, at the Cannes Film Festival and December 3, 1993, in Mexico.  The movie was submitted as the Mexican entry for the foreign language film for the Academy Awards (but it did not get a nomination).   It made $621,392 at the box office.
M. Night Shyamalan’s movies are well known, but only his early movies are critical and box office hits (with the exception of the recent movie The Visit).  He is best known for The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village, and The Happening (each of which has a “twist ending” to them), and the critically mangled big budget movies The Last Airbender and After Earth.  But in the early 1990s, Shyamalan was a student at NYU to parents from South India.  Like several other first time directors, he borrowed from family and friends for his first production.  M. Night Shyamalan wrote, directed, produced and starred in his first movie, called Praying with Anger. Shyamalan plays Dev Raman, an Indian American living in the US who is encouraged to make a trip to India by his mother.  Once there, he struggles with adjusting the culture in India and his friend Sanjay and prays to the Hindu pantheon with anger.  The movie played at film festivals and made $1.4 million at the box office.  It was since become a cult hit, with its exploration of the clash of Western (American) values with Indian life. 
All of these directors had to start somewhere.  Capra’s and del Toro’s collaborations helped secure their first theatrical success, while Shyamalan, like many on the list before him (Peter Jackson, for example), oversaw almost all aspects of production in order to get the film made.  Each of these directors went on to bigger and better things after their first film. Check out these first theatrical releases from famous directors.  

Friday, December 9, 2016

Famous Director's First Theatrical Movies, Part 9

               Welcome to the ninth installment of the Famous Director’s First Theatrical Releases series.  Today we look at the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, Sophia Coppola, Mel Brooks, the satirical comedian, and Robert Zemeckis, the director of popular movies.  Let’s begin!
                Sophia Coppola, best known for films like Lost in Translation, Somewhere, and Marie Antoinette, grew up under the influence of her father, the famous director Francis Ford Coppola.  She acted in several films, including The Outsiders and Godfather Part III.  In 1998 she made her own short film, Lick the Star, which played on the Independent Film Channel many times.  Follow the success of that short film, she wanted to make a movie out of Jeffrey Eugenides’ book The Virgin Suicides, even writing the script herself.  There was another script already written based on the book, but when Sophia showed her script, the production company agreed to use hers.  The Virgin Suicides was about five teenage sisters in the 1970s, the youngest of which attempts suicide early in the movie.  The parents start to put their teenage girls under such close scrutiny that they become depressed and isolated, to the point that…The Virgin Suicides was released on May 19, 1999, at the Cannes Film Festival and one year later throughout the US and the UK, and made $10 million at the box office.
                Mel Brooks’ career spans several decades, some of his biggest hits being Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Spaceballs and Robin Hood: Men in Tights.  Mel Brooks had already had television success with the hit show Get Smart, spoofing the spy films at the time.  In the early 1960s, Mel Brooks was thinking of an idea about two men who decide to unscrupulously gain money by asking wealthy people to put up front money for an intentional flop.  When thinking of an idea that would cause people to get up and leave before the first act ended, he thought of Adolf Hitler…in a musical.  Mel Brooks wrote the script, at the time called Springtime for Hitler, but all of the major film companies refused, finding the idea obviously tasteless and outrageous.  But two producers took a chance on Brooks’ idea, on the condition that he change the title to something other than Springtime for Hitler, so Brooks changed the title to The Producers and decided to direct the film himself, despite having never directed a movie before.  Filming started on May 22nd, 1967 and lasted 40 days.  Being inexperienced, Brooks made several mistakes and lost his cool during filming.  The Producers starts with Max romancing older ladies in exchange for money for his next play.  Leo, an accountant, tries to audit Max for a $2,000 discrepancy but instead Leo convinces him to drop it and then when Leo surmises that Max could make a fortune if he oversold share in a production doomed to fail, Leo convinces Max to go along with his crazy scheme.  The Producers was released on November 22, 1967, in Pittsburg and nationwide on March 18, 1968.  While the movie was a modest success and received mixed to negative reviews at the time of release, over the years it has gained a cult following and many modern critics have praised it.
                Robert Zemeckis career span some of the most visually spectacular movies of all time, including the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, and Flight. But in the late 1970s, Zemeckis had graduated from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts with a student film, A Field of Honor.  The movie attracted the attention of Steven Spielberg, who agreed to mentor and be executive producer for Zemeckis’ first movie, which was titled I Wanna Hold Your Hand.  Nevertheless, Spielberg had to agree to step in if Zemeckis was doing a poor job (thankfully, that didn’t happen).  Zemeckis’ film (which he co-wrote) focused on a fictionalized account of several young people trying to get a ticket to the see Beatles at the Ed Sullivan show, using body doubles and archive footage to simulate the actual members of the Beatles.  I Wanna Hold Your Hand earned rave reviews and test audiences loved it…but only made $1.9 million at the box office, not even breaking even with the $2.8 million budget.  Zemeckis didn’t give up even after the second movie he directed, Used Cars, bombed and finally found success with his sleeper hit Romancing the Stone. 

                All three of these directors wrote or co-wrote the script for their first movie, showing their desire for creative control of their first movie they direct.  The first two, The Virgin Suicides and The Producers, have since become cult hits, while Zemeckis’ movie, while not unknown, has faded somewhat into history.  Check out each of these first theatrical movies from these famous directors.  

Friday, December 2, 2016

Famous Director's First Theatrical Movies, Part 8

Welcome to the eighth edition of Famous Director’s First Theatrical Releases.  Here we are exploring the first films of political and war filmmaker Oliver Stone, Japanese epic filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, and prolific film director Ridley Scott.  These directors have made their mark on filmmaking, and they all had to start somewhere.  Here are their first theatrical movies.
                Oliver Stone is famous for such movies as a trio of films about the Vietnam War, Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Heaven and Earth, a trio of films about US presidents, JFK, Nixon, W, as well as Wall Street, The Doors and Natural Born Killers.  In 1974, Oliver Stone was a young filmmaker with only a short film, Last Year in Viet Nam, under his belt, and Stone made his first movie, a Horror Film titled Seizure.  Seizure was filmed in a lakeside house in Québec, with the entire cast and crew also staying in the house as well.   Seizure follows Horror Writer Edmund Blackstone (Jonathan Frid) who has recurring nightmares that come to life: his visions of three menacing people (The Queen of Evil, a dwarf named Spider, a scar-faced strong man named Jackal) who one by one kill everyone he holds dear.  Both the actress who played the Queen of Evil, Martine Beswick and Stone admitted the production was difficult.  The movie was released for a limited run in 1974 in New York City. 
                Akira Kurosawa, the acclaimed epic Japanese filmmaker, made such well-regarded films as Rashomon, Ikiru, Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Kagemusha, and Ran.  In the early 1940s, Kurosawa was a successful second unit director on for five years in films such as Uma and Roppa’s Honeymoon.  He also had two of his film scripts printed, one of which won the Education Minister’s Prize.  Kurosawa asked to buy the rights to a new Tomita Tsuneo novel, called Sanshiro Sugata (American Title: Judo Saga) and direct the film based on the novel.  He was deliberately making a period piece in a time when Japan was at war (1942-1943).  Sanshiro Sugata follows a young willful man named Sanshiro who travels into a major Japanese city in order to learn Jujitsu.  But once there, he sees another martial art, Judo, and begs a Judo master to learn to master Judo, who also teaches him how to balance strength and control.  The movie features many of Kurosawa’s trademarks, including camera wipes, weather which reflects the mood of the characters and changing camera speeds, depending on the intensity of the scene.  It was released on March 25, 1943.  Unfortunately, the Japanese government cut 17 minutes from the movie to comply with “Japan’s wartime entertainment policies,” and the 97-minute director’s cut has never been found (though the complete script exists).
                Ridley Scott has a varied and prolific filmmaking career, having directed such movies as Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, American Gangster, and most recently, the acclaimed movie The Martian.  In the 1970s, Ridley Scott and his brother Tony were very successful commercial directors, and Ridley had also directed episodes for the BBC.  Ridley Scott’s first film was called The Duellists and filmed in and around Sarlat-la-Caneda in a region of France called Dordogne.  Scott tried to emulate Stanley Kubrick’s lush cinematography from Barry Lyndon.  The Duellists was a historical drama set in the early 1800s during the Napoleonic wars.  The Duellists is the story of two Hussar officers, D’Hubert and Feraud.  D’Hubert is sent to arrest Feraud for dueling the city’s mayor, but the way in which D’Hubert arrests Ferauld (in the house of a prominent lady, which Feraud considered an insult), causes Ferauld to challenge D’Hubert to a duel... The movie was praised for its historical accuracy, with its military costumes and conduct during the Napoleonic era.  The Duellists went on to win best debut film at the Cannes Film Festival.  It was released on August 31, 1977 in France.

                Oliver Stone, like many other directors profiled on this list, had a difficult time directing his first movie.  Nevertheless, he refused to give up, and went on to direct some of the most critically acclaimed war and political movies in the 1980s and 1990s.  Kurosawa and Scott, who had honed their skill as filmmakers before their debuts as directors, showed off their talent once their first film was finally released.  Check out these first theatrical films from these acclaimed directors. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Famous Director's First Theatrical Movies, Part 7

Welcome to the seventh installment of the series, Famous Director’s First Theatrical Movies.  Today we look at the first movies of Wes Anderson, David Fincher, and Spike Lee.  Wes Anderson is known for his quirky, visually beautiful movies, David Fincher’s movies are varied and distinct, and Spike Lee’s movies are known for their sharp racial commentary.  Let’s check out the first movies of these famous directors.
                Wes Anderson is known for the films The Royal Tenenbaums, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Grand Budapest Hotel.  In 1994, Anderson made a short film titled Bottle Rocket with Owen Wilson and Luke Wilson.  The short film’s success at Sundance led them to contact with James L. Brooks and Polly Platt, the latter of whom served as producer on the feature film, Bottle Rocket. Polly Platt helped Anderson and the Wilson brothers secure financing from Columbia Pictures.  Bottle Rocket the feature film was released in 1996 and filmed entirely in Texas.  In Bottle Rocket, three friends, Anthony (Luke), Dignan (Owen) and Bob (Robert Musgraves) have a 75-year plan for several heists and live off the money from the robberies.  After they rob a bookstore and stop at a motel, Dignan falls in love with Inez, one of the hotel maids, decides to give Inez most of the money they stole…. While a critical success, Bottle Rocket, which was made for $7 million, only made $560,069 at the box office in 49 theaters. 
                David Fincher has directed such varied movies as Seven, Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network and Gone Girl.  In the early 1990s, Fincher was a co-founder of Propaganda Productions and had successfully directed music videos and commercials.  Meanwhile, Alien had a troubled pre-production, going through several writers and directors.  After Vincent Ward was fired from production, Fincher was asked to direct Alien 3.  During production, he clashed with the studio, 20th Century Fox, over the script and budget issues, and did much of the rewriting on the script.  Like James Cameron in Piranha 2, Fincher said that the producers did not have “the necessary trust” in him.  Ellen Ripley, the hero from the last two films, crashes in an escape pod on Fiorina “Fury” 161, a foundry made by a penal colony.  Everyone else from the escape pod is dead, and Ripley fears an alien embryo was inside someone from the escape pod.  An alien bursts out of a dog on the ship and starts attacking members of the Fury 161, forcing Ripley to battle the Alien once again.  The movie received mixed to negative reviews from critics (44% on Rotten Tomatoes), but grossed $149.8 million worldwide, thanks to a strong international box office (it only grossed $55.4 million in the US). 
                Spike Lee is known for such films as Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, The Original Kings of Comedy, 25th Hour, and Inside Man.  After releasing his student film, Joe Bed-Study Barbershop: We Cut Heads in 1983, Spike Lee set to make his first feature film, She’s Gotta Have It, in 1985.  Spike Lee filmed on location in the African-American neighborhood of Fort Green, Brooklyn for two weeks with a budget of $170,000.  The story concerns Nola, who freely dates three men at the same time, Jamie, Greer, and Mars.  Eventually, all three find out and Jamie lays down an ultimatum: he wants to be the only lover.  It should be noted that a controversial scene makes light of rape, which Spike Lee later regretted.  Still, the movie was well regarded by critics for its depiction of a vibrant African-American community, not stereotypes as pimps and drug dealers.  The movie made $7 million at the box office.
                Spike Lee and Wes Anderson, filmmakers with unique visions, both made movies that showed their emerging talent.  David Fincher, like James Cameron before him, was given a sequel where studios and producers put too much influence on the movie and it suffered as a result.  Here are the first theatrical movies of Wes Anderson, David Fincher, and Spike Lee.
                Schedule note: I will be taking next week off. Have a great Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Famous Director's First Theatrical Movies, Part 6

Welcome to the sixth edition of Director’s First Theatrical Movies.  Whether directors were given big budget movies or had to raise money to make low-budget passion projects, the fact remains that the director’s drive to direct their own project shines through.  Today we look at the varied talents of Stanley Kubrick, James Cameron, and Tim Burton. 
                Stanley Kubrick has directed some of the most influential movies of all time, including Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, the violent A Clockwork Orange, and the historical epic Spartacus.  But in 1951, Kubrick was a Look photographer who had directed two short films.  Based on the positive response from those short films, Kubrick was able to secure funding for his first feature film.  Based on a screenplay by Howard Sackler, a high school classmate of Kubrick, and starring a total of five actors, Frank Silvera, Kenneth Harp, Paul Mazursky, Steve Colt, and Virginia Leith, Fear and Desire (with the working title The Trap) started filming.  The story concerned an unknown war between two unknown countries.  Four soldiers, a general, a sergeant, and two privates, fall behind enemy lines.  They capture a peasant girl and the youngest soldier starts to befriend her…  Fear and Desire was released on March 31, 1953, in New York City and April 1, 1953, in the rest of the US.  The movie is now regarded as “old shame” by Kubrick, who did not approve of attempts in the early 1990s to rerelease his early work.  He said Fear and Desire was a “bumbling amateur film exercise.” 
                James Cameron has directed some of the most expensive and most successful movies of all time, including Terminator, Terminator 2, Titanic, and Avatar.  In the late 1970s, after making his own short film, Xenogenesis, he was able to use that to have various roles on different projects, including a production assistant on Rock and Roll High School (1979), art director on Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), special effects work design and direction on Escape from New York (1981) and production designer on Galaxy of Terror (1981).  James Cameron was originally hired to be the special effects director on Piranha II: The Spawning.  When the original director, Miller Drake left the project, Cameron was placed as pretty much the puppet director for the Italian executive producer, Ovidio G. Assonitis.  Shortly into production (some accounts say a week, some two and a half weeks), Cameron was fired, but his name remained on the director credit because the contract required an American director. The story is about mutant flying piranhas (obviously) who are attacking a seaside town, and it’s up to the diving instructor and biochemist to try to stop them.  While Cameron later claimed The Terminator, made in 1984, was his first true movie, he did also say that Piranha II was “the best flying piranha film ever made”.  There is also an account that Cameron broke into the editing booth and tried to re-cut his film, but that Assonitis found out and cut the film again.  The movie was released in December 1981 and on November 5, 1982. (http://www.ew.com/article/2010/08/18/cameron-piranha-3d-dante).
                Tim Burton’s dark comedic style is well known throughout his movies, including his early efforts Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, the 1989 version of Batman, Batman Returns, and he also directed such big budget movies as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and Alice in Wonderland (2010).  In the early 1980s, Tim Burton had directed three shorts, Vincent, Hansel and Gretel (30-minute special for the Disney Channel) and Frankenweenie and was recently fired from Disney Studios.  Paul Rubens, the star of a stage show (which was turned into an HBO special) called The Pee-Wee Herman Show, saw Vincent and Frankenweeine and felt Burton’s style meshed well with his character, Pee Wee Herman.  Paul Rubens was given the chance to write and star in his own Pee-Wee Herman movie and asked Burton to direct Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.  The movie was filmed around California and Texas with a budget of $7 million.  The story concerns Pee-Wee, a childlike man who loves his red bike.  His neighbor Francis paid someone to steal Pee-Wee’s bike because he wants it for himself.  But Pee-Wee desperately wants his bike back, so Francis sends the bike away, and Pee-Wee has to travel to the Alamo in Texas to get his bike back, and has several crazy adventures along the way.  The movie was released on August 9, 1985, and was a surprise hit, grossing $45 million at the worldwide box office. 
                Two of these directors’ first films are not well regarded, and Kubrick would rather you forget about his first feature, while Cameron has a more humorous approach to his (supposed) first movie.  Burton, like J.J. Abrams for Mission Impossible III, was noticed for his talent with other projects and was given his chance to direct his first feature.  Each of these directors used their first film to springboard onto later, more successful films.  

Friday, November 4, 2016

Famous Director’s First Theatrical Movies, Part 5

                Our journey of famous directors' first theatrical movies continues: Now we explore the Horror and Superhero director Sam Raimi, the suspenseful Alfred Hitchcock and the entertaining but always violent Quentin Tarantino. These directors have created some of the most memorable movies throughout time.  Here we are to explore their first theatrical movies.
                Sam Raimi most famous productions include the 2002-2007 Spider-Man Trilogy, and the Evil Dead movies.  Sam Raimi also directed A Simple Plan, Drag Me to Hell, and Oz: the Great and Powerful.  While most people start Sam Raimi with The Evil Dead, Sam Raimi actually made a 70 minute movie during college called It’s Murder!, and features Sam Raimi, his brother Ted and frequent collaborator Bruce Campbell.  The movie was about a young man whose Uncle was murdered, and he received the inheritance from him.  But a police detective investigates the murder, while trying not to be killed as well.  Sam Raimi released the movie at Michigan State University at the Groves Little Theater for admission of $1.00.  Unfortunately, the movie was not a big hit, and now is only known as Sam Raimi’s first full-length movie.
                Alfred Hitchcock was considered the master of suspense, having directed such classics as Notorious, Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest and Psycho.  But in the 1922, Alfred Hitchcock was living in England and his first potential first movie, Number 13, was cancelled due to the budget running out.  Hitchcock wanted to direct The Rat next, but the studio producing the film refused.  Finally in 1925 Hitchcock was given directorial control of a silent movie called The Pleasure Garden, and starred Virginia Valli and Carmelita Geraghty, two popular American actresses.  In The Pleasure Garden, Valli is Pasty Brand and Geraghty is Jill Cheyne, two chorus girls at the Pleasure Garden Theater, and follows the girls’ numerous affairs, including Pasty’s with Jill’s fiancé Hugh and Jill’s with the wealthy Prince Ivan.  Eventually Pasty marries Hugh’s friend Levet and Jill plans to marry the prince.  The movie ran for 75 minutes and filmed in Italy and Germany.  It was released in 1925 in Germany but wasn’t released until 1927 in the UK, after Hitchcock’s later film The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog became a success there. 
                Quentin Tarantino’s violent but entertaining movies include Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill (Volume 1 and Volume 2) and Django Unchained.  Quentin Tarantino’s first movie was supposed to be My Best Friend’s Birthday, but a film lab fire destroyed most of the film, so only 36 minutes have survived.  Thus, Tarantino’s real first theatrical movie is his famous Reservoir Dogs.  Tarantino originally planned a low-budget, black and white version of the movie, but the script was passed to Harvey Keitel, who liked it so much he co-produced and helped secure $1.5 million for the movie.  In Reservoir Dogs, six men plan a heist along with a mob boss and his son and underboss.  Four of the six men, Mr. White, Mr. Orange, Mr. Blonde and Mr. Pink start to slowly arrive back at the mob boss’s warehouse, where the rest of the film takes place.  Mr. White and Mr. Orange arrive first, with Orange bleeding severely, with Mr. Pink soon after.  Mr. Blonde brings a kidnapped police officer who they torture for information, and after Pink and White leave to retrieve the diamonds with the mob boss’s son.  But things start to fall apart when Blonde plans to set the police officer on fire…. The movie was released on October 23, 1992 and made $2.8 million at the U.S. Box Office, and has since become the first of many favorites by the violent filmmaker Quentin Tarantino. 

                All three experienced roadblocks on the way to their first theatrical movie: Raimi’s was not successful; Hitchcock’s first movie ran out of money, Tarantino’s was destroyed by a lab fire.  But they did not give up and went to make better movies than the ones they made before.  Check out these first theatrical movies of these famous directors.  

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Famous Director’s First Theatrical Movies, Part 4

                In this fourth installment of this series, we examine three more famous directors, and look at their first movie and the production behind getting the movie made. In this case, the directors today are Francis Ford Coppola, Cecil B. DeMille, and Michael Bay. 
                Francis Ford Coppola most famously directed the Godfather trilogy, as well as Apocalypse Now and The Outsiders.  In 1963, Coppola had recently graduated from UCLA and had directed two “soft-core nudie” movies in his credits.  Following those movies, he was given the opportunity to direct his first “mainstream” movie, Dementia 13.  Coppola was a sound technician on Roger Corman’s movie The Young Racers, and Corman gave him an opportunity to direct a low-budget horror film with a total budget of $42,000.  Coppola, who wrote the film himself, was given complete freedom during production, only for Corman to disapprove of the rough cut that Coppola showed him and shoot with a new director a new introduction for the film.  The film starred William Campbell, Luana Anders and Patrick Magee, who had all just completed filming of The Young Racers.  Dementia 13 follows Louise Haloran (Anders), who after her husband dies of a heart attack, tricks her husband’s family into letting her move into their Irish castle.  While she tries find a way receive some of the family fortune, a mysterious ax-crazy killer appears and starts killing people… The movie was released on September 23, 1963, as a double bill with Corman’s movie X: The Man with X-Ray Eyes and was given mixed reviews from critics. 
Cecil B. DeMille, before Steven Spielberg eventually became the most famous director name, was one of the most famous directors of the classic era, having directed such classics as The Ten Commandments (1956) and The Greatest Show on Earth (1952).  But way back in 1914, along with his co-director Oscar Apfel, DeMille was given an opportunity to direct his first feature, a silent western called The Squaw Man.  The movie has the distinction of being the very first feature-length movie filmed in Hollywood, with location shots in the surrounding areas in California.  In The Squaw Man, Dustin Farnum plays James Wynnegate, who is accused of taking money from an orphan’s fun (his cousin actually took money from the fund).  On the run, he rescues the daughter of an Indian Chef from a local outlaw named Cash Hawkins and they fall in love and have a child together.  The movie was released on February 12, 1914 and made $244,700 at the box office (which may not sound like much today, but at the time was quite a bit of money).
                While there’s no denying that Michael Bay isn’t the most critically lauded of directors, his franchise films, like Transformers 3 and 4, and have made billions of dollars (see here).  He also directed such major movies as Armageddon and Pearl Harbor.  In the early 1990s, Michael Bay was successful director of music videos and commercials, which attracted the attention of famous movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer.  He and producer Don Simpson gave Bay his first feature-length film, Bad Boys, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, which was filmed on location in Miami, Florida.  Lawrence and Smith play Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowery, respectively, play buddy cops investigating the theft of a heroin bust that was sitting down in evidence.  After Lowery’s ex-girlfriend is killed by the kingpin Fouchet, who is responsible for the theft of the heroin, her best friend Julie escapes to the police and specifically asks for Lowery, leading to all sorts of mayhem for the buddy cops.  The movie’s budget was $19 million and made $141.4 million at the box office, despite mixed reviews, showing Bay’s ability to make a bankable movie regardless of critical response. 

                These directors’ first theatrical movies are as varied as they come, from a low-budget horror to a silent western to a buddy cop action-comedy.  Each one, with their own weaknesses and strengths, show the emerging talent of these filmmakers.  Check out these first movies from Coppola, DeMille and Bay.  

Friday, October 21, 2016

Famous Directors’ First Theatrical Movies, Part 3

                You know what they say about sequels: they just keep coming and coming.  In this third installment in this series, we look at three more famous directors, Christopher Nolan, Clint Eastwood and J.J. Abrams, and their first theatrical movies. 
Christopher Nolan is a director well known for his big budget movies, most famously for The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, and Interstellar.  But in 1997, he had none of those movies under his belt. Nolan started shooting Following, which he also wrote, co-produced and filmed much of it himself.  Nolan used available light and friends’ houses to save production costs and had the actors rehearse the scenes many times before filming so he could get as few takes as possible.  The movie was filmed on weekends over a year so that the actors and crew could keep their regular jobs and only cost a total of $6,000.  On September 12, 1998, Following was released in Toronto and starred Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw, and Lucy Russell.  It focused on an unnamed Young Man who follows (hence the title) people as inspiration for his novel.  Unfortunately, he chooses to follow a man who robs houses for the thrill of the crime, not for monetary gain.  This intrigues the man, and the robber convinces him to commit similar crimes….  The movie has a non-linear plot structure, which Nolan returned to for later films.  The movie earned critical accolades and grossed $240,495. 
Clint Eastwood, best known for both acting and directing in his movies, for such movies as Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, (both of which he won the Academy Award for Best Movie and Best Director) and being an action hero in movies such as in the Dollars Trilogy and the Dirty Harry films.  In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Clint Eastwood was already an established actor, having been an action hero in movies such as “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” (released in 1966).  As part of a deal with the production company Malpaso Productions, he was given the opportunity to direct Play Misty for Me.  For his first movie, Eastwood convinced the production to film on location at places Carmel-By-the-Sea and Monterey instead of in Los Angeles.  Eastwood finished the movie under his budget $1 million (it actually cost $950,000) and four or five days ahead of schedule.  Play Misty for Me was psychological thriller focusing on Dave Garber (Eastwood) a disk jockey (an everyman type in sharp contrast to his usual action heroes).  Garber has a “chance meeting” with a woman named Evelyn at a bar, and the two hit it off.  But Evelyn soon reveals that she sought him out because he mentioned the bar on the radio.  At first, the two hit it off, but soon the woman becomes possessive, not willing to leave Dave alone and becoming jealous of any interaction with other women.  Garber tries to break it off that only makes Evelyn worse… The movie was released on November 3, 1971, and grossed $10.6 million at the box office. 
                J.J. Abrams, an established writer/producer for his trifecta of TV Shows (Felicity, Alias, and Lost, see here: ).  Abrams had already started to branch out in directing with two episodes of Felicity, three episodes of Alias and the pilot from Lost.  Meanwhile, production had stalled on the third Mission Impossible movie because the second director attached to the project had left.  Tom Cruise, after binge-watching Alias, asked Abrams to take over as director.  Abrams agreed, but production had to be halted for a year because of Abrams’ commitments to Alias and Lost.  Production finally started on July 18, 2005, with an entirely new cast, save for Cruise, who also took a pay cut.  Unlike many directors’ first movies, the movie was a high-profile big-budget production, costing $150 million to make. Production went around the world, to China, Germany, Italy and the Vatican City.  In this third Mission Impossible movie, Ethan Hunt, along with a new team of Impossible Mission Force agents, try to stop an arms dealer named Owen Davian from obtaining the “Rabbit’s Foot”, an object of unknown properties.  The movie was released on May 5, 2006, and made $397.9 million at the worldwide box office. J.J. Abrams went on to direct two Star Trek movies and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Each of these directors went on to bigger and better things after their debut movie they directed, but they honed their skills and showed off their talents in their first one.  Check out these first theatrical releases of the famous directors Christopher Nolan, Clint Eastwood, and J.J. Abrams. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Romance is for Other People is #FREE – ONE DAY ONLY!

My novel, Romance is for Other People is FREE for only one day: tomorrow, October 15, 2016 exclusively on the ebook hosting site Smashwords!  Follow the link below to get the book:


Available formats:
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And more!

If you don’t know what my book is about, here’s an excerpt from Tome Tender’s 5-Star Review:

Romance is for Other People by Lee Wolf nails the raging tsunami that is teen romance in the uncharted and turbulent waters of love as Lydia and Chris share their POVs, their feelings and their confusion when they each realize their BFF status is undergoing a metamorphosis that could spell the end of all things as they know it.  Can their relationship withstand the onslaught of hormones?  Will it bring them to a higher plane of awareness or end what they have shared for years? Is Chris really that clueless or is he avoiding acknowledging his heart’s desires?  Are Lydia’s “clues” going over Chris’ head?  Will the “villain” in all of this really be Cupid in disguise?

Review Link: https://goo.gl/yoXLBr

About Smashwords:
Smashwords is the world's largest distributor of indie ebooks.  We make it fast, free and easy for any author or publisher, anywhere in the world, to publish and distribute ebooks to the major retailers. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Famous Director's First Theatrical Movies, Part 2

                In this, the second in the series of famous director’s first theatrical movies, the focus will be on Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, and George Lucas.  While some directors’ first theatrical movies are released nationwide, other directors’ first-time movies receive minimal exposure, for example, the movie is released at a film festival but does not make it beyond that.  Still, most are available to watch somewhere, either to order on Amazon or watch/order on DVD through Netflix.  Here are the first time movies of three of the most famous directors.
                Martin Scorsese is known for films like Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, Goodfellas and Casino, which feature, many times, Italian or Sicilian characters in a New York setting, though he has made many films which do not feature that setting or characters, such as The Last Temptation of Christ, The Aviator, Shutter Island and Hugo.  But back in 1965, Scorsese was making student short film called Bring on the Dancing Girls.  But Scorsese returned to his movie with a romance plot, which was introduced to the storyline.   The movie was released as I Call First at the Chicago Film Festival in 1967 but was later called Who’s That Knocking at My Door, and then after adding a sex scene to market for exploitation film purposes, the movie was released to the public as J.R. in 1970.  The story concerns a young Italian-American man, J.R., who at first just stays close to his friends, drinking without a care.  He then meets a girl, played by Zina Bethune, who makes him want to marry and settle down.  But her past, and J.R’s struggles with “Catholic guilt,” complicate their relationship.  The film was released on November 15, 1967, at the Chicago Film Festival, and can be found today under the name Who’s That Knocking at My Door.
Woody Allen has a neurotic comedic style that features New York in a very different way from the dramatic and many times violent style of Scorsese.  His most famous films are the ones which feature New York prominently and Allen starring in a comedic role, such as Annie Hall, Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters, though he considers his best films which feature other characters, such as Stardust Memories, The Purple Rose of Cairo and Match Point.  In the early 1960s, Allen was given the opportunity to write the screenplay for the movie, What’s New Pussycat?  However, he was disappointed with the final film, so he decided to direct all the subsequent movies he wrote, so to have creative control over his works.  The first film he was able to direct was called, What’s Up, Tiger Lily?  The movie was actually an overdubbed Japanese movie called (in the English Translation) International Secret Police: Key of Keys.  Instead of the original dialogue, Allen dubbed comedic lines onto a Japanese movie that was made like a James Bond thriller.  In his story, Phil Moskowitz searches for stolen egg salad recipe.  Just like in the movie What’s New Pussycat?, several changes were made to the film after Allen had finished filming it, so in all subsequent projects, he assumed creative control of his works. The movie was released in April 1966.
                George Lucas will be forever linked to his most famous creation, the original Star Wars Trilogy from 1977 to 1983, and the prequel trilogy from 1999 to 2005.  Other than his 1950s nostalgia film American Graffiti, his only other work is his first film, THX-1138.  George Lucas based the feature-length movie on his student film Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB.  In the late 1960s, Lucas and Coppola co-founded American Zoetrope Studio Company.  One of the first films on the list was THX-1138, in which totalitarian control from the State is exerted over the people where romantic engagements are outlawed, who have shaved heads, are forced to take drugs to control their mind and have designations like THX-1138 instead of names.  THX-1138 is a factory worker who has a female roommate named LUH 3147, who works surveillance.  After LUH secretly places her drugs instead of THX’s, THX is freed from his drugs and falls in love with LUH…but the truth of their relationship is soon discovered by the State and they are both put in danger.  But when the finished film was turned over to Warner Brothers, they were unhappy with the finished product and cut four minutes, and released on March 11, 1971.  In 1977, George Lucas re-released THX-1138 with the cut scenes reinserted, and this version is the one originally released to home video.  As George Lucas is prone to do, he released a 2004 Director’s Cut, digitally remastered with new background scenes added. 

                With these films, studio interference can directly influence the direction of filmmakers in the future, such as George Lucas or Woody Allen, and that during the making of the movie, several different version may exist, such as Scorsese’s movie or Lucas’ film.  However, it is still fascinating to see first time director’s efforts.  Check out these first movies from famous directors.  

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Famous Director's First Theatrical Movies, Part 1

                Everyone has start somewhere.  Famous directors, now with long, impressive credits, will be honored by film buffs and historians for their most famous films.  But sometimes their first film is not so well known.  Sometimes it is, depending on the anticipation of the particular release.  This series will look at the first films of various first directors. 
                While Steven Spielberg’s films don’t bring the press they used to from the late 1970s to the early 2000s, nevertheless he is one of the most well known directors of all time.  His major films, such as Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extraterrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, are some of the most original and exciting movies ever made.  But in 1974, after cutting his teeth with several television films (including most famously, 1971’s Duel), Steven Spielberg was given his first major theatrical film The Sugarland Express, which starred Goldie Hawn, Ben Johnson, William Atherton, and Michael Sacks.   Based on a true story, Hawn plays a wife/mother who breaks her husband (Johnson) out of jail to find their son, who has been placed with foster parents in Sugar Land, .  They end up kidnapping a patrolman who joins them on a cross-country trip, with the police and news crews following their every move.  The movie was released on April 5, 1974 and made $12.8 million at the box office. 
                Ron Howard, best known today for directing smart, effecting films like Cocoon, Apollo 13, and A Beautiful Mind, first started in acting as the child Opie Taylor in the Andy Griffith Show, and then as the young adult Richie Cunningham in Happy Days.  He also appeared in several famous films, including The Music Man, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, American Graffiti, and The Shootist.  While he was still on Happy Days in 1977, Ron Howard was given the chance to direct the movie he was starring in, Grand Theft Auto.  In Grand Theft Auto, rich Paula (Nancy Morgan) introduces her boyfriend/fiancée poor Sam (Howard) to her parents, who think he is a “fortune hunter” and only after her for her money.  Sam is thrown out, but Paula escapes with her parents expensive Rolls Royce (hence the title) and they begin a cross country chase to Las Vegas to get married, with their angry parents chasing them.  The movie was released on July 16, 1977 and made $15 million at the world wide box office.
                Peter Jackson name will be forever linked to the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit trilogy, though he was also known for directing a remake of King Kong (2009) and the adaptation of The Lovely Bones.  In the late 1980s, however, Peter Jackson was a young filmmaker, who had only directed one short, The Valley.  For his feature film debut, over a period of four years Peter Jackson pretty much did every single role he could: writing, producing, directing, and acting in the movie Bad Taste, filmed in and around Pukera Bay, near Wellington, New Zealand.  In Bad Taste, which certainly lives up to its name, three AIDS investigators (Astro Investigation and Defense Services) go to the fictional town of Kaihoro, New Zealand to investigate the disappearance of the entire town.  Once there, they battle aliens who harvest humans as fast food.  The movie features a huge amount of comedic gore, giving the title a double meaning.  The movie was released on December 11, 1987 and made $150,000 at the world wide box office.

These three filmmakers will probably not be remembered for their first theatrical feature films, but nevertheless by learning their talents with these movies, not nearly as well known, they were able to hone their skills to make some of the most famous movies of all time.  Check out these first theatrical films by famous directors.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Highest Grossing Critically Mangled Movies

While many box office hits receive generally favorable reviews, anywhere from 80 to 100%, some movies are box office hits no matter what the critics say.  If something has enough franchise clout, it might still become a box office success.  If a Rotten Tomatoes (which gathers all the critic’s reviews and combines them all to a consensus and percentage) score is below 60%, then it is considered “rotten.”  Here are the top 5 highest grossing (by all time or worldwide gross) critically mangled movies. 
“Minions” was released in 2015, and is the spinoff of the Despicable Me movies.  In the Despicable Movies, aspiring villain Gru had miniature yellow helpers called “minions,” who mumble gibberish and get into cute trouble.  In Minions, the origin story of the minions are told, where they always desire to serve despicable masters.  Kevin, Stewart, and Bob, along with the other minions, start to serve the completely evil Scarlett Overkill.  The movie received 56 percent at Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus read: “The Minion’ brightly colored brand of gibberish-fueled insanity stretches to feature length but in their self-titled Despicable Me spinoff, with uneven but often hilarious results.” However, it grossed $1,159,398,397, #11 at the all-time box office.
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is the third in the series of Transformers movies, released in 2011.  Transformers, alien machines that can transform to things like trucks and cars, form two factions, the good Autobots and bad Decepticons.  In the third Transformers movie, the machines try to race to the moon to find a Cybertronian spacecraft capable of ending the war between the two factions.  The movie only received a 35% percent score on Rotten Tomatoes.  The consensus read: “Its special effects and 3-D shots are undeniably impressive, but they aren’t enough to fill up its loud, bloated running time or mask its thin, indifferent script.” However, it grossed $1,123,794,079, #13 at the all-time box office.
“Transformers: Age of Extinction” is the fourth in the series of Transformers movies, released in 2014.  In this movie, a CIA black ops division along with a bounty hunter hunt down the Autobots; who turn to a new cast of characters, different from the previous three movies, for help.  The movie received an incredibly low 18% on Rotten Tomatoes.  The consensus read: “With the fourth installment in Michael Bay’s blockbuster Transformers franchise, nothing is disguise: Fans of loud effect-driven action will find satisfaction, and all others need not apply.”  However, it grossed $1,104,054,072, #16 at the all-time box office.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” is the second movie in the series of Pirates of the Caribbean movies, released in 2006.  In this movie, Pirate Captain Jack Sparrow, along with his friends Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann and his band of pirates, try to find the Dead Man’s Chest, belonging to Davy Jones, while Will Turner is on a mission to acquire Sparrow’s compass.  The movie received a 54% score on Rotten Tomatoes.  The consensus read: “Gone is Depp’s unpredictability and much of the humor and originality of the movie.” However, it grossed $1,066,179,725, #19 at the all-time box office.
“Pirates of Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is the fourth movie in the series of Pirates of the Caribbean movies, released in 2011.  In this movie, Jack Sparrow teams up with Angelica to find the Fountain of Youth, but standing in his way is the Pirate Blackbeard.  The movie received a 32% score on Rotten Tomatoes.  The consensus read: “It’s shorter and leaner than the previous sequel, but this "Pirates" runs aground on a disjointed plot and non-stop barrage of noisy action sequences.”  However, it grossed $1,045,713,802, #20 at the all-time box office.

All of these movies are sequels or spin-offs, building off of previous franchise installments’ successes.  It also proves that sometimes, safe, loud action movies (or, in the case of Minions, comedy animated movies) do bring in box office results, regardless of critical opinion.  I could recommend you check out these movies, but you’ve probably already seen them in theaters already.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

New Revised Version of Romance is for Other People Uploaded - Here's Why

Hi Everyone,
   
     Today I am uploading a new version of Romance is for Other People to all 3 accounts where the book is available:  1. Createspace (the company that prints Amazon Paperback) 2. Smashwords 3. Kindle Direct Publishing.  NOTE: The new versions make the book temporarily unavailable.   Are there any plot/story differences? No.  It is exactly the same story.
     So why the new version?  Several reviewers have pointed out several major errors in my book (sentences which were confusing, sections which were told from Lydia's perspective (for example) described things happening from Chris's perspective, grammatical errors, etc.).   Nancy Winter was kind enough, without my asking, by the way, to sit down with the paperback version of my book and mark any errors she saw.    I have since corrected all the errors she marked in my book and corrected a few more I saw on my own.
    Also, on October 15, 2016, for one day only, my book will be FREE on Smashwords!  Smashwords contains all the different ebook versions, including epub, mobi (Kindle) and pdf.  It's the best way to release a free online version of my book.
    In anticipation of my Free Day I wanted to have a new version correcting the major errors that were pointed out to me. I know that as soon as I upload the new version, there will still be people who find more errors I missed.   But at least the big ones were taken out.
    I just wanted, you, my blog readers (all 30 of you) to know why a new version of Romance is for Other People was being released.
    If you feel so compelled, please share/retweet my posts about my book being free on Saturday, October 15!
    Thank you, everyone!
                         Lee

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Tales of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Quidditch Through the Cursed Child: Official Harry Potter Works beyond the 7 books.

               The official Harry Potter book series ended in 2007 with the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and seemingly again in 2011 with the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.  But knowing the fans incredible appetite for all things Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling has released four separate books (and three ebooks) as a supplement to the seven novels, but only one of which actually continues the stories of the main characters.  
                The first two books were released at the same time as supposed textbooks that Harry Potter studied in Hogwarts, in 2001, in between Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.   The first book is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, purportedly written by Newt Scamander.  In the book, stylized to be Harry Potter’s actual copy (and contains notes from Ron from the time of Goblet of Fire) there are descriptions of over 80 magical creatures throughout the world, including some that have appeared in the books, like the Hungarian Horntail, which appeared in Goblet of Fire.  The book also contains an introduction from Albus Dumbledore and a short biography of the author.  And now, in 2016, there is a new theatrical movie about to be released, about Newt and his dealings with magical creatures in 1920s New York City.  
                The other book released in 2001 is Quidditch through the Ages, supposedly written by Kennilworty Whisp.  This book details the history of the fictional flying broomstick game Quidditch.  The book has 10 chapters, which detail such things as the evolution of the Flying Broomstick, Ancient Broom Games, Changes to Quidditch since the 14th Century and Quidditch Today.  At 56 pages, it is the shortest of the supplemental books (not counting the ebooks). 
                In 2007 J.K. Rowling released 7 handwritten copies of The Tales of Beedle the Bard.  One of them was put up for auction, and Amazon.com paid an incredible £1.95 million (or $3 million).  The Tales of Beedle the Bard function as a type of children’s folktales for the world of Harry Potter, and were mentioned in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, with the story of The Tale of the Three Brothers read in full.  J.K. Rowling included that story and added four others, three of which were mentioned as part of the Tales book.  The four other stories are The Wizard and the Hopping Pot, the Fountain of Fair Fortune, The Warlock’s Hairy Heart (the only story not mentioned in Deathly Hallows), and Babbity Rabbitty and her Crackling Stump.  The book also features an “introduction” by J.K. Rowling set in the world of the book and notes from Albus Dumbledore. 
                Since 2013 J.K. Rowling had been working on a stage play based on the world of Harry Potter.  In 2016, the play was finally released to the public in the West End in the UK, called Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, parts 1 and 2 (to be watched over one day or two nights).  The story is by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne, but the play is officially written by Jack Thorne and the rehearsal edition was released in book form on July 31, 2016.  The plot of the play follows Harry, Ron and Hermonie as adults.  Harry is now an employee at the Ministry of Magic, and his son Albus is attending Hogwarts for his first year, both struggling with the past legacy that Harry had left at Hogwarts nineteen years ago.  The play opened to rave reviews and is sold out through the end of 2017. 
                Among the other supplemental stories released by Rowling: a 800-word unnamed short story for an auction, which was a prequel starring James Potter and Sirius Black, and three ebooks about Hogwarts, one being a guide to the place and two others featuring short stories of “Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies” and “Power, Political and Pesky Poltergeists.”

                While any fan of Harry Potter can read just the seven official books and be satisfied, the supplemental books expand on the world of the novels and give it depth and detail, and in the case of The Cursed Child, continue the story of our favorite characters.  Check out these official supplemental books to Harry Potter series.  

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Celebrities who Reprised their Roles in Universal Theme Park Rides

                Universal Studios, like its counterparts in Disney World, take advantage of its own properties to make rides and show based on movies.  Many of these rides have the original actors and actresses who reprised their roles from the movie(s), lending authenticity to the rides.  Here are those celebrities who reprised their roles In Universal Theme Park Rides.
                Despicable Me premiered in 2010, about a super-villain, Gru, who adopts three girls in the hopes to overthrow his nemesis.  Gru also has small yellow-colored Minions who help him with his schemes.  In 2014, Universal Orlando opened Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, a 3-D Ride in Universal Orlando and Universal Hollywood, which revolves around the idea that Gru has made a gun which transforms people into Minion, and “mayhem” of course breaks loose.  Steve Carrell was again the voice of Gru, along with Miranda Cosgrove as oldest daughter Margo, Dana Gaier as Edith, Elsie Fisher as Agnes and Pierre Coffin as the Minions. 
                Shrek was an enormously popular series of affectionate parodies of Fairy Tales, about an ogre who falls in love with a princess, who (spoiler alert) turns out to be an ogre as well.  Shrek 4-D, a 3-D show/ride set after the first Shrek Film, opened in 2003.  In this show, Shrek’s wife Fiona has been captured by the ghost of Lord Farquaad, and it’s up to Shrek and Donkey to race to get her back.  All four of the major actors, who were advertised for the original Shrek movie, returned: Mike Myers as Shrek, Eddie Murphy as Donkey, Cameron Diaz as Fiona, and John Lithgow as Lord Farquaad. 
                The world wide phenomenon of Harry Potter became one of the bestselling book series ever, followed by the runway box office success of the Harry Potter movies.  In 2010, at long last, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in Universal Islands of Adventure, featuring its signature attraction Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, where you fly in a motion simulator with Harry Potter and his friends to the Forbidden Forest.  All of the major actors from the original movies return for the ride, including: Daniel Radcliff as Harry Potter, Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley, Emma Watson as Hermonie Granger, Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore, Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid, Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy, Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasley, James and Oliver Phelps as Fred and George Weasley, Warwick Davis as Professor Flitwik, and Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom. 
                The Longest Running US Primetime Show is The Simpsons, with twenty-seven seasons under its belt.  The show, about a fat, stupid dad (Homer), smart, raspy mom (Marge), too smart for her own good daughter (Lisa), bratty and clever son (Bart) and pacifier sucking baby (Maggie) became one of the most iconic Television families of all time.  The Simpsons Ride, a motion simulator ride, premiered in 2008.  In the ride, the Simpsons go to the cartoon theme park Krustyland, only to be chased by Sideshow Bob throughout crazy theme park.  All of the major voice actors lend their voices for the Simpson likenesses: Nancy Cartwright played Bart Simpson, Maggie Simpson, Nelson Muntz, Ralph Wiggum and the Happy Little Elves; Dan Castellaneta played Homer Simpson, Krusty the Clown, Grandpa Simpson, Groundskeeper Willie, among others; Julie Kavner played Marge Simpson, Patty Bouvier and Selma Bouvier; Yeardley Smith played Lisa Simpson; Hank Azaria played Chief Wiggum, Apu, Moe Szyslak, Professor Flink, among others; Kelsey Grammer played Sideshow Bob; Pamela Hayden played Milhouse Van Houten, Russi Taylor as Martin Prince; and Christopher Lloyd cameos as Doc Brown, his character from the ride based on the Back to the Future movies.

                Other rides include Men in Black: Alien Attack: in which Will Smith and Rip Torn reprise their roles as Agent J and Agent Z, respectively and in Revenge of the Mummy, Brendan Frasier cameos as Rick O’Connell, his character from the Mummy Franchise.  Check out all of these rides that feature the original actors from the franchises, at Universal Studios, in Florida and in Hollywood.  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Celebrities Who Reprised their Roles in Disney Theme Park Rides

                For the most successful movie franchises, being able to go on a ride based on a kid’s favorite movie or TV show is the ultimate dream.  Not surprisingly, then, the majority of rides are not wholly originals but are based on successful movie franchises.  What’s even better is if the original actors reprise their role from the original movie on the ride or show, lending an authenticity and excitement to that ride.  Here are actors who reprised their roles in Disney theme park rides.
                In 2011, the original Star Tours in Disney’s Hollywood Studios (and Tomorrowland in Disneyland) was updated with a new computer animated 3D ride.  This ride was made for the repeat rider, with multiple beginnings, middle segments and endings for a total of 96 different rides.  The idea is that Star Tours is touring service through the Star Wars galaxy, but since the Tour (led by C-3PO and RD-D2) is trying to return a spy to the rebel alliance, the Galactic Empire is after Tour speeder.  Many of the actors from the original reprised their original roles, including Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, James Earl Jones as Darth Vader, Frank Oz as Yoda and unused archival footage paired with new audio recorded for the ride used Carrie Fisher’s princess Leia. 
                One of the last projects with direct involvement from the original creator, Jim Henson, Muppet Vision 3-D, a 3-D show, was released in 1991 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  The storyline is the Muppets are preparing sketches to demonstrate the 3-D technology.  In typical Muppet fashion, though, everything goes wrong when Dr. Bunsen Honeydew’s 3-D sprite Waldo escapes and causes trouble and mayhem.  All of the regular players from the Jim Henson productions reprise their roles made famous from the TV shows and movies: Jim Henson plays Kermit, Waldorf, and the Swedish Chef; Frank Oz plays Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, and Sam Eagle; Dave Goelz plays Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and Zoot, Richard Hunt plays Scooter, Statler, Beaker, and Sweetums. 
                Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable: is a 12-minute video starring the characters from the Lion King in the Land Pavilion in Future World in Epcot.  After some introductory narration by Mufasta, Timon and Pumbaa are seen chopping down the rain forest.  Simba quickly stops them and, using footage from the previous film, convinces Timon and Pumbaa about the importance of conservation.  From the original film, James Earl Jones reprised Mufasta, Nathan Lane reprised Timon, and Ernie Sabella reprised Pumbaa. 
                Stitch’s Great Escape, in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom, is a “theater in the round” production where all of the audience strapped in seats and are recruits in the Galactic Federation Prisoner Teleport Center who are told to keep an audio-animatronic Stitch from escaping…which he does, of course .  Chris Sanders, who played Stitch in the original production, returns, as does Kevin Michael Richardson, who played Captain Bantu, and Kevin McDonald, who plays Pleakley.
                Other rides which have some of original cast include: It’s Tough to be a Bug, a 3-D show where Dave Foley reprises his role as Flik from A Bug’s Life (all the other voice actors are new to the production; including ) in Animal Kingdom; and The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror which uses a snippet of Rod Serling’s actual voice from the original Twilight Zone TV show (though most of it was recorded by a new voiceover actor, Mike Silverman). 

                All of these rides and show can be found in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  Join me next time when I detail the actors from the original productions reprise their roles for the rides at Universal Studios.  

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Celebrities who starred as themselves in Theme Park Rides

               While television and movies are an actor’s livelihood, a celebrity starring in or giving a cameo to a theme park ride can give more excitement to a theme park ride and/or show.  For this list, we are focusing on celebrities who appeared as themselves, instead of say, rides that featured the characters they characters the portrayed, like say, the Simpsons voice over actors or the Harry Potter actors reprising their roles for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
                “Oh Canada,” starring Martin Short, premiered in 2007 in the Canada pavilion in Epcot.  A Circle-Vision 360˚ film where the audience can see in 360 degrees in every direction, this Canadian-born host replaced the outdated version that debuted in the 1980s.  Martin Short hosted a humorous yet informative overview of many things Canada has to offer.  There are several Meta jokes as well as jokes Martin good-naturedly makes about himself, making the thirteen-minute film well worth the effort.  
                “Ellen’s Energy Adventure,” starred Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”) as themselves (and also featured Jamie Lee Curtis, but she played a character named Judy), opened in 1996 in the Universe of Energy pavilion in Epcot.  In this ride, Ellen falls asleep and becomes a contestant on an energy-themed Jeopardy.  From there, the audience boards a ride vehicle which takes them to a theater with a video about the Big Bang, then through a diorama with dinosaurs, to a different theater where the main characters talk about various energy productions, and finally back to the original theater where Ellen uses her new knowledge to finish the Jeopardy competition. 
                Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster, which was starring the band Aerosmith, premiered in 1999 in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  This roller coaster is an inside steel roller coaster.  In the pre-show, Aerosmith has been practicing their song “Walk This Way” in the studio when the manager appears and tells them they are late for a concert downtown.  Steve Tyler and the other band members demand that the “guests” (the riders) join them on the ride to the concert, and the manager reluctantly calls for a “super stretch” limo.  From there, the riders board the ride, which is supposed to be an out of control limo on the highway. 
                The “Studio Tour” in Universal Studios Hollywood features Jimmy Fallon who appears on video screens during the tram tour, featuring humorous bits to complement the live host’s narration.  The tour is 45 to 60 minutes long.  The first bit covers the soundstages, then moves to a “metropolitan area for major cities like New York, and then on to a Mexican street and Six Points Texas, an old west town.  The ride also explores many sets from various films.  There are two mini-attractions inside the studio tour, one being “King King 360 3D,” which is a 3D show/ride with wraparound immersive screens (which happens immediately after the Metropolitan area), and the second, “Fast and Furious: Supercharged” which is part show/part 3D ride to finish off the studio tour.  The tram videos also feature cameos from other actors/hosts, including Carson Daly, who hosts The Voice at stage 12, Peter Jackson, who introduces the King Kong 360 3D ride, and Al Roker, who gives a humorous weather report before entering Six Points Texas. 

                The first three attractions can be found at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, while the Studio Tour is located in Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City, California.  Whenever you’re in one of the theme parks, check out these celebrity appearances on these popular attractions.  Join me next time when I detail the Disney Actors who reprised their original roles in Disney World theme park rides.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Summer Schedule: Theme Park Summer!

Hello Everyone!
       Due to a very busy schedule, there will be no more posts in May and one post a month in June, July and August.  This summer, the theme is Actors and Actresses in Theme Park Rides!
       June: Actors Who Appeared as Themselves in Theme Park Rides
       July: Actors Who Reprised Their Roles in Disney Theme Park Rides
      August: Actors Who Reprised Their Roles in Universal Theme Park Rides

See you in June!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Fourth Movies That Sunk Franchises

                Back when Hollywood would churn out sequels with no regard for quality (okay, it’s done today too, but also nevertheless today there are some notable exceptions).  For some of the biggest franchises, however, with the fourth movie the drop in quality was so bad it killed the franchise, and it was either completely rebooted or died forever.  The initial movie started out strong and has now become a cultural icon of the era it premiered in. But the movies subsequently received a dip in quality in sequels, to the point it hit rock bottom in the fourth.  Here are the fourth movies in franchises that ended them forever.
                Jaws was released in 1975 and was one of the most popular and (and at the time) highest grossing movies of all time.  However, in 1987, after two (already poorly received) sequels, Jaws: The Revenge was produced.  In this sequel’s storyline, the wife of the Chief of Police on Amity Island from the first two movies, Ellen Brody, is featured front and center.  After his brother-in-law, a Police Deputy is killed, she goes to the Bahamas and Ellen and her friends are attacked by the same great white shark that used live in Amity Island.  The movie has Ellen feeling a psychic connection with the shark and having nightmares about it.   The film was rushed into production with the idea that the mystical aspects would make it an interesting movie.  When it was finally released, it received terrible reviews and the ending was so confusing that it had to be changed for the foreign release.  That movie effectively ended the franchise, and no more Jaws movies have been made.
                Superman was released in 1978 and was a box office success and received rave reviews for Christopher Reeve as Batman.  But then in 1987, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was released.  In Superman IV, released in 1987, Superman tells the UN he will destroy all the nuclear weapons.  Lex Luthor, who has recently broken out of prison, puts a genetic matrix on a nuclear missile, which Superman intercepts and throws into the Sun.  The explosion creates a superhuman who called himself Nuclear Man and battles Superman to gain dominance of the planet.  The movie was not given production priority, and according to Christopher Reeve, the production cut so many corners that even if “the story had been brilliant, I don’t think we could ever live up to audience expectations.”  The movie opened at number four at the box office and received terrible reviews.  While there were plans made for Superman V, nothing came of it.  The Reeve-starring Superman Franchise was over.  The Franchise was rebooted in 2006 with Superman Returns, a sort-of sequel Superman and Superman II, and then was completely restarted with Man of Steel in 2013. 
                Batman was released in 1989 and was a huge success with praise given to Tim Burton’s vision and Michael Keaton’s acting.  Unfortunately, after the sequel Batman Returns failed to meet the box office receipts of the original, Tim Burton was replaced with Joel Schumacher, and his cartoony, goofy Batman Forever was a respectable success.  In Batman and Robin, Schumacher’s second Batman movie released in 1997, Mr. Freeze’s and Poison Ivy’s origin stories are revealed, and Barbara Wilson becomes BatGirl.  Poison Ivy meets Mr. Freeze and later frees him from prison after Batman (this time played by George Clooney) and Robin capture him.  Poison Ivy cuts off the life support to Mr. Freeze’s wife, who was in a coma, and convinces Mr. Freeze to use a telescope to freeze the city.  It’s up to Batman, Robin, and Batgirl to save the day.  While the movie made around $100 million, it was not enough to match the budget of the film and received terrible reviews.  The Burton/Schumacher Batman film franchise was effectively ended.  In 2005, Christopher Nolan directed and Christian Bale starred in the popular Batman Begins, followed by huge successes of The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012).

                With the case of Jaws, the franchise ended with the fourth movie’s release.  However, Superman and Batman have established fan bases and had TV shows and movies made about them both before and after the popular franchises which started in 1978 and 1989, respectively.  Still, it’s interesting to note that each popular Franchise ended on a particularly bad fourth movie.  

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Office, Starring Ricky Gervais: Three American Series Remakes More Popular in the US Than the Original British Shows

                Hollywood is not above stealing ideas if it means a successful series or a successful movie.  Jurassic World is the 3rd sequel to the Jurassic Park; the Marvel Cinematic Movies’ stories are based on the Marvel comics’ stories, for example.  One of the ways series creators get more series ideas is by watching successful shows from other countries.  If they are able to get the rights to the show, they create an Americanized show and hope the success of the home country show will translate to successful American show.  Sometimes the American show is so popular many Americans don’t even know that that it was created from a British show.  Here are three examples of three American series remakes more popular than their original British shows.
                Sanford and Son was a 1970s TV series about Fred Stanford (Redd Fox), a sarcastic junk dealer who is constantly trying crazy schemes to get rich, while his son Lamont Stanford (Demond Wilson) is the put-upon son who wants to escape the family business, but can’t completely due to getting involved in Fred’s schemes.  The show lasted from for five seasons from 1972 to 1977 and 135 episodes.  It was based on Steptoe and Son, about a “rag-and-bone man” (that is, a man who collects unwanted scraps and sells them) called Albert Steptoe (Wilfrid Brambell), who is set in his ways and says whatever he pleases, while Harold(Harry H. Corbett) is his son wants to escape his father and make his own life.  The show lasted for four seasons from 1962 to 1965 and again for seasons five through eight from 1970 to 1974 and lasted for 48 episodes (due to the fact that British seasons at the time were much shorter, only 7 or 8 episodes).   Technically Steptoe and Son was probably just as popular in the UK as Stanford and Son was in the US, but most US people don't know about Steptoe and Son.  
                The NBC series the Office was a hugely popular series about a dysfunctional office filled with eccentric characters who all worked in the same office at Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.  The show was filmed as if it was a documentary crew or reality show recording the office’s every move, with interviews with the cast spliced in between the plot of an episode.  Because the show is an ensemble piece, no one character takes the spotlight, though some characters like Michael Scott (Steve Carell), the inappropriately joking boss, and Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer), the everyday worker and the quiet receptionist who fall in love, take up more of the storylines.  The show lasted for 9 seasons and 201 episodes.  The show was based on the UK show also called the Office.  It followed a documentary crew recording the office lives of Werham Hogg Paper Company.  It was an ensemble piece, though the storylines tended to focus on the David Brent (Ricky Gervais), who typically makes embarrassing jokes in an attempt to be funny to his employees, and Tim(Martin Freeman) the every-worker who is in love with the receptionist Dawn (Lucy Davis).  The show was not a ratings hit in its first season, but due to being a critical hit, it was renewed for a second season and was a huge hit internationally.  The show lasted a total of 14 episodes.
                American Idol, at one time, was a cultural phenomenon.  Launched in the summer of 2002, the show, the show’s format became an immediate hit.  Beginning with the disastrous auditions of terrible aspiring singers, and then leading into live shows with actually pretty good singers where the audience would vote by phone, online or by text for their favorite singer.   Complemented by the singers were the judges with distinct, strong personalities, whose opinion many times led to the success of the performer.  The first seven seasons featured quite possibly the most famous reality judge grouping in TV history, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul.  The show ruled the 2000s decade, being number one in the US ratings from 2003 to 2011, ultimately lasting 15 seasons, ending on April 7, 2016.  American Idol was based on the British TV show Pop Idol, which ran for two seasons from 2001 to 2003, and had many of the same elements: disastrous performances during the auditions process leading to live shows where the audience voted for their favorite singer. The winners of the two seasons were Will Young and Michelle McManus.  The judges on Pop Idol were Peter Waterman (record producer and music executive), Simon Cowell, Nicki Chapman (music promoter and music manager), and Neil “Dr” Fox (radio DJ and television personality).  While the show was a huge success, it was put on hiatus by the start of The X Factor by Simon Cowell (the UK version of which is still going today). 

                If spot a successful TV show, it might be possible it was a remake of a show from another country.  Check out these originals that inspired some of the most popular American TV shows.