RIP Dino De Laurentiis

Another link to cinema’s past has left us with the passing of the legendary Italian and eventually American producer at age 91. A truly old school style movie mogul with all the good and bad that went with that, creatively speaking, Dino De Laurentiis was instrumental in launching the worldwide vogue for European cinema, particularly in his partnership with fellow powerhouse producer Carlo Ponti and ultimate Italian auteur Federico Fellini.

During a period I personally consider Fellini’s creative prime, De Laurentiis co-produced two of the director’s most powerful films, the classic tearjerker “La Strada” with Anthony Quinn and the great Giulietta Masina, and “Nights of Cabiria” also with Masina, a great tragicomedy and a huge personal favorite of mine. He also produced two now somewhat obscure adaptations, a version of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” with Audrey Hepburn and “Ulysses.” Fortunately, the latter was not an adaptation of the James Joyce stream-of-consciousness meganovel, but Homer’s “The Odyssey,” and starred Kirk Douglas in the heroic title role.

No snob, De Laurentiis had a gift for commingling arthouse fare, quality middlebrow entertainment, and complete schlock — some of it fun, some it merely schlocky. Geeks cried foul when he eschewed stop-motion for an unworkable animatronic monstrosity and, mostly, Rick Baker in a monkey suit for his silly mega-blockbuster remake attempt, “King Kong,” but that movie was a classic when compared to something like the hugely regrettable killer-whale flick “Orca.”

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Forever Typecast: 15 Actors Who Can’t Escape Their Characters

We here at Bullz-Eye always knew that we wanted to run a piece in conjunction with the release of “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince,” but what we didn’t know was what kind of piece it would be. We considered the matter, and we came to the conclusion that it would’ve been a little too easy to whip up a list of our favorite Hollywood wizards. In the midst of the discussion, however, an observation was raised about the film itself: what’s going to happen to these kids – Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson – after the last of the “Harry Potter” books has been adapted for the silver screen? Will they be able to rise above their roles and find work elsewhere, or are they destined to be remembered solely as Harry, Ron and Hermione? From there, we quickly began to bandy about the names of other folks who have and haven’t been able to score success in other cinematic identities, and the piece began to write itself. Ultimately, only one of our selections seemed impossible to pigeonhole as either “Forever Typecast” or “Escaped Typecasting,” and when you see that actor’s name, we think you’ll nod your head knowingly and understand exactly why we had that problem.

Here’s a sample of the piece, to hopefully tempt you into checking out the whole thing:

Mark Hamill, AKA Luke Skywalker:

Mark Hamill may not have had much in the way of cinematic credits when he was introduced to the world as Luke Skywalker, future Jedi, in “Star Wars,” but he’d sure as heck done his time on the TV circuit, appearing on everything from “The Partridge Family” to “The Streets of San Francisco,” even playing a guy named Doobie Wheeler on “The Texas Wheelers.” But when you’re the star of the greatest space opera of all time ,you’ve got to expect a certain amount of blowback, and Hamill got it in spades. Despite starring in the fondly remembered “Corvette Summer” with Annie Potts and being directed by Samuel Fuller in the critically acclaimed “The Big Red One,” things just weren’t happening for the guy outside of the “Star Wars” universe…well, unless you consider being third-billed to Kristy McNichol and Dennis Quaid in “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” to be happening, that is. Post- “Return of the Jedi,” Hamill did a few straight-to-video features before realizing that he might well find more luck off the camera and in the recording booth. Having already worked for Hanna-Barbera in the early ’70s, it was a quick transition for Hamill to return to the world of voiceover acting, and it was a move that paid off in a big way. Whether you’ve known it or not, you’ve heard his dulcet tones providing voices for “The Adventures of Batman & Robin” (The Joker), “Spider-Man” (Hobgoblin), “Avatar: The Last Airbender” (Ozai), and “Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!” (The Skeleton King), among dozens of others. Good for him, we say. But the truth of the matter remains: when you see his face, Mark Hamill is still Luke Skywalker.

Got the idea? Great! To see the rest of the feature, either click right here or on the big ol’ image below:

  

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My Name Is Bruce

Bruce Campbell has never received the attention he deserves as a character actor. After two failed TV series and a lifetime of riding on Sam Raimi’s coattails, you’d think that he’d run into a bit of luck eventually, but the closest that he’s come to success is a supporting role on the USA drama “Burn Notice.” Sometimes, when you need something done, you’ve got to do it yourself, and though Campbell’s first trip behind the camera (the Sci-Fi Channel movie, “The Man with the Screaming Brain”) was ultra-campy, his latest effort is a big improvement. A self-proclaimed Bob Hope movie with decapitations, “My Name Is Bruce” isn’t the actor’s finest hour, but it’s a nice bit of fan service that will please his loyal following.

My Name Is Bruce

In it, Campbell stars as a fictional version of himself, a B-movie action star who’s recruited by a small mining town to stop the recently resurrected Chinese God of War, Guan-di. What follows is the kind of goofy, slapstick comedy that fans have come to expect from the actor over the years, and it’s littered with familiar faces like Ellen Sandweiss (“The Evil Dead”), Dan Hicks (“Evil Dead 2”), Timothy Patrick Quill (“Army of Darkness”), and Ted Raimi. Those expecting anything other than B-movie quality are bound to be disappointed, but if that’s the case, they’re probably not real Bruce Campbell fans either. “My Name Is Bruce” is the ultimate fan experience, and though it will probably never rank among the actor’s best work, it’s still a must-see. In fact, the vast collection of extras included on the Blu-ray release (like the audio commentary by Campbell and the making-of featurette, “Heart of Dorkness”) is worth the price of admission alone.

Click to buy “My Name Is Bruce”

  

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Fiona Glenanne of “Burn Notice,” dissected

Look, I like Gabrielle Anwar’s character, the gun-toting Fionia Glenanne, as much as the next red-blooded American male, but I never thought someone (other than maybe a few of the “Burn Notice” writers) could put together 650+ words on what she represents in a post-feminist world. But Ginia Bellafante of the New York Times did just that.

Fiona is a character with no memorable precedent: a genius joke-take on girls with gun lust, the joke being that above all else she is every woman who needs to be sent a copy of “He’s Just Not That Into You,” next-day delivery. In the show’s back story Michael broke up with Fiona years ago, disappearing without explanation. (I imagine this to have been like Berger dumping Carrie with a Post-it note on “Sex and the City,” except it occurred three feet from a terrorist cell.)

Fiona has never been able to get over Michael despite his persistent and explicit reminders that he is not made of the ordinary stuff of human need. Still, she keeps pushing for the dream, dating other people solely to try to make Michael jealous, interrupting stakeouts and shooting sprees and manhunts to ask for a key to his apartment or to tell him that what she would really like for her birthday is a teddy.

While reading the piece, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop — for Bellafante to criticize Anwar’s character for continuing to pine over her ex-boyfriend even after all these years. But that shoe never dropped. Bellafante genuinely admires Fiona and what she represents. Good stuff.

On a side note, anyone else remember the pilot episode where Fiona spoke with an Irish accent (which made sense because she used to be a member of the Irish Republican Army)? I thought they should have stuck with it, though the creators apparently thought otherwise.

  

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