The Lonely Maiden Heist

08-Sep-09 12:17 PM by
Filed under Trailers; Comments Off on The Lonely Maiden Heist

Massachusetts has become home to a booming film industry, hosting such movies as Mall Cop, Fever Pitch, The Game Plan, The Proposal, and Pink Panther 2. Okay, so that's not exactly a winning track record — but I have to support the home team, right?

One film that came to my neighborhood was The Maiden Heist, shot primarily in Boston but partly at the Worcester Art Museum, just a block from my house. But after a one-night screening at the local performance hall, the final product never saw a wider release, with its planned May 29th theatrical debut being cancelled after the bankruptcy of its distributor. As NPR detailed, the film's home video rights had already been purchased, so the window for a silver screen release was not indefinite, as is often the case with films that sit on shelves for years. It's unfortunate that a comedy starring movie starring Morgan Freeman, William H. Macy, and Christopher Walken should not realize its potential, as these are some of my favorite actors.

On the other hand, the trailer for The Maiden Heist has to be one of the least funny previews I've ever seen. I don't know if it's the jokes that fall flat, or the presentation — could they have chosen and spliced different scenes together and gotten a better effect? — but this has to be one of the few comedic trailers that failed to elicit from me a guffaw, chuckle, or even a smirk:

Can talent of this caliber go wrong? Critics would say that's what happened with The Bucket List, which paired Morgan Freeman with Jack Nicholson. The film has only a 41% rating on Rotten Tomatoes — yet I liked it. Does liking a film others hated mean I have bad taste, or low standards? If so, perhaps I can redeem myself by not being in the minority who find little redeeming value in The Maiden Heist. I hope the DVD, releasing on October 27th, does well… but if it doesn't, then its cancelled theatrical run may've been a blessing in disguise.

The Profits and Prophets of Star Trek

26-May-09 7:53 PM by
Filed under Star Trek; 1 comment.

Moviegoers have voted with their wallets: Star Trek is awesome. JJ Abrams' reboot of Gene Roddenberry's universe has been raking in the dough over the last three weekends. Box Office Prophets reports on the opening weekend:

… young Kirk and friends did blow the cover off the box office with an opening weekend take of $72.5 million, plus another $4 million from pre-midnight Thursday showings, which gives the movie a running total of $76.5 million so far. … The debut is huge for this franchise, as the opening frame is more than the combined total of the last three films' opening weekends (Nemesis — $18.5 million opening, Insurrection — $22.1 million opening, First Contact — $30.7 million opening). The debut throws out the trend of Star Trek films opening between $14 million and $23 million, when removing the top and bottom score. The average opening for Star Trek is about $19 million with all films included… The 2009 Star Trek outgrossed the last film (2002's Nemesis finished with only $43.3 million in domestic box office) in two days.

In its second week, Star Trek was second at the box office, where the "sci-fi staple earned an impressive $43 million, falling only 43% from its $75.2 million debut." It fell to third place over Memorial Day Weekend, ending with $183.5 million. Its fourth weekend will surely put it over $200 million. Previously, the Star Trek film with the highest domestic gross, and the only one to break $100 million, was The Voyage Home at $109.7 million; the film with the highest total gross (foreign and domestic) was First Contact, at $146 million.

Though it was agony a year ago to receive the announcement that this film was delayed from its original release date of Christmas 2008, it seems Paramount knew what it was doing. Star Trek is an excellent summer blockbuster, and I'm relieved the distributors showed faith in the franchise to position it to capitalize on the season. But it's not just my own hopes that were realized; earlier this month, my local newspaper reported:

While promoting an appearance at the Boston Super Megafest back in November, Jonathan Frakes (aka Commander William T. Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation) said he was "cautiously optimistic" about the new take on Star Trek. So are many area Trekkers who have been faithful to the 40-year-plus phenomenon.

This is a good article, and author Craig S. Semon has done well in representing geek culture at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. However, as you may recall, I too was at the Super Megafest and remember Mr. Semon being in the same audience I was for Mr. Frakes' session. My recollection of the occasion is a bit different, as I reported back in November:

[Jonathan Frakes] asked our opinion of the new Star Trek movie. I offered "cautiously optimistic", to which he replied, "I feel the same, except for the 'cautiously' part."

It was therefore not Commander William Riker, but Blogger Ken Gagne, that Mr. Semon was quoting. (It's possible the quotation was based on a separate but similar occasion for which I was not present — but unlikely.)

But I'll let this misquotation go. Not only do we share a common goal — the success of Star Trek — but if I'm going to put words in someone's mouth, it might as well be someone out of this world.

Davis Advertising and YOU!

18-Dec-08 3:46 PM by
Filed under Films, On Stage, Potpourri; 5 comments.

I can't help but admire movie actors who are able to convey so much emotion and passion, because I know that the filmmaking process induces almost exactly the opposite. Big-budget films require inconvenient locations, long hours, and scenes shot seconds at a time, making it difficult to maintain energy from cut to cut.

I experience few of those challenges in my own avocation as a stage actor. Most of my work is in musicals like Brigadoon, or comedies such as Run For Your Wife!. But a good actor is a diverse one, and I try to reflect that in a portfolio that includes other media as well. I've worked on the silver screen before, but only as an extra, a role that's easy to miss. Recently, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to star in a commercial.

Davis Advertising of Worcester, Mass., recently wanted to create a short video for digital distribution in online and media press kits. They sent out some emails, which eventually circulated to a friend with whom I'd been in the chorus of the musical Camelot five years ago. When he saw that they were looking for a "clean-cut, Richie Cunningham type", he immediately thought of me — proving it's not who you know, but who knows you. A few emails with the advertising company and an agreement to shave my beard later, and I had the part.

Working with just two men behind the camera and only one in front of it proved a much more enjoyable experience than being a film extra. We were able to shoot multiple takes, change angles, and improve and improvise rapidly. I've been told that I am a good physical actor (think Donald O'Connor in Singin' in the Rain), and the format of this commercial suited that strength; I had all my lines down in no time flat! An hour of shooting and we were done — and a month later, the following commercial was unveiled:

(For those curious, the stock footage comes from the PSA "Are You Ready for Marriage?". Hat tip to Kahm!)

Thanks again to Jeff at Davis Advertising and Clyde from Sterling Community Theater for this, my first-ever commercial. It was a great experience and a new one to put on my theatrical résumé. I look forward to doing more such work!

It Looks Like Worcester's Day

06-Sep-07 12:02 PM by
Filed under Celebrities, Films; 3 comments.

Here's a post of limited geographic appeal — but as I suspect many of my readers are concentrated in my area, here goes:

Worcester Living, a bimonthly magazine of Central Massachusetts, recently printed an interview with Templeton native and resident Richard S. Kendall. The article is a fascinating look at not only Mr. Kendall's story, but also the films, stars, and visual techniques he encountered in his years as a special effects artist. His credits are far more numerous than his IMDb profile suggests, including TRON, Fantastic Voyage, the original The Poseidon Adventure, Planet of the Apes, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, among others. The picture of him being fed by Marilyn Monroe is one any red-blooded American would kill to be in. Unfortunately, since Worcester Living is an entirely print publication, you'll find no trace of the interview or its assets on their Web site.

A few weeks later, Worcester Magazine ran an interview with Kaz Gamble. Besides being part of the team behind the oft-delayed local independent film We Got the Beat, Mr. Gamble is also working on a documentary of my current stomping grounds of Worcester, Massachusetts. Here's what scene from his own life he would incorporate to epitomize Worcester:

We're on Richmond Street, getting out of St. Mary's — and that block itself looks like urban vibe — and some kids have a bus pass, so we leave there, take the bus downtown, hang out there, go to the Midtown Mall arcade, eat there in the mall, then the girls would try to flirt with us, and we leave, take the bus back out to the neighborhood, and going up to Holy Cross hill, all the houses there, the nice lawns, not like all the three-deckers, and in the evening, I would call dad to pick me up.

There are some pretty dull documentaries out there that consist of little more than pointing a camera at someone and presenting what they have to say, if anything; then there are fantastic documentaries that use that model as a base, but incorporate extensive editing and special effects to create a cohesive narrative. I hope Mr. Gamble has the wisdom to present this unique city as effectively as its rich history and unique culture deserve.

Read All About It

13-Jun-07 4:16 PM by
Filed under Films, Potpourri; 2 comments.

Potentially working as an extra on Indiana Jones 4 later this month has me thinking about my two previous experiences in that capacity.

The first was Fever Pitch, the 2005 film starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore. Several scenes were shot in Fenway Park, a small section of which Boston Casting filled with paid extras. Not the whole stadium, though; in any sufficiently wide-angled shot, if you look far enough back, you'll notice none of the fans are moving. That's because they don't have legs. To save money on actual extras, inflatable dummies often fill in the seats that no one will notice beyond whether or not they're occupied.

It took a long time to set up each shot, what with lighting, makeup, cameras, and conferrals among the production crew. Every scene had to be filmed multiple times from multiple angles, so the extras huddled under their jackets, waiting for the call to "Action!" before shedding their covers and acting warm until "Cut!" signified it was safe to warm up again while the crew reviewed the recent footage and prepared for more. No noise was permitted; we mimed our actions, with cheers or catcalls (which may otherwise drown out the main characters' dialogue) dubbed in later. I didn't see Drew Barrymore, but Jimmy Fallon seemed happy to be surrounded by fans. We kept him company that September night from 6 PM to 6 AM — probably the first all-nighter I've ever pulled. (Driving home, I noticed my framerate had dropped considerably.) But it was all worth it:


Fever Pitch
Click for larger image.

The other movie I've worked on was The Game Plan, starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. I worked as a sideline photographer at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro and again at Fitton Field at Holy Cross in Worcester. Each required showing up at 4 AM, which meant rolling out of bed at 2 AM. It was wet and dreary that October, and though I was spared the false enthusiasm of pretending to be a fan in the bleachers, I wasn't able to remain seated like they were, which was exhausting. Hundreds of extras reneged, to the point that Boston Casting desperately offered iPod raffles as an incentive for people to show up. I don't know if I'll be visible when the film hits theaters in September, but, as with Fever Pitch (which I've never actually watched, except for my scenes), the DVD will likely prove more enlightening.

Long hours, crappy food, and minimum wage — I'd decided additional extra work would give me insufficient compensation to warrant pursuing further opportunities; they'd just be redundant on my resume, anyway. But, unlike Sean Connery, for Indiana Jones, I'll come out of retirement.