“No matter what, Edward will always be special.”

Last month, we mined upcoming releases for inspiration in choosing our Movie of the Month. We decided to do the same in April.

Greg is especially handy in this regard. He manages a movie theater for a living and can probably rattle off release dates without using Google to cheat. He had three movies coming out in April that forced us to consider our selection this month. The obvious one is The Avengers: Endgame but we used a Marvel Cinematic Universe film for ideas last month. Pet Sematary is also coming out, but Aaron thinks it looks awful and Karen doesn’t run to see horror films. It appears that only 2 out of 3 Nerds will be seeing this one!

Ultimately, the release we chose will have opened by the time you read this, but we were inspired all the same.

Dumbo Poster

A live-action remake of Walt Disney’s 1941 classic has come to theaters! And it’s directed by Tim Burton.

For April, Greg and Aaron are going to take some time to talk about their favorite films in the Tim Burton filmography. And to start things off, we picked as our Movie of the Month a movie somewhat regarded as one of his best.

Edward Scissorhands Poster

Three Nerds’ selection, April 2019: Edward Scissorhands
Who Directed It: Tim Burton
Who Wrote It: Caroline Thompson
Who’s In It: Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest, Anthony Michael Hall, and Vincent Price
What does everyone else say about it: Rotten Tomatoes score: 90% (critics), 91% (audience), IMDB user rating: 7.9 (out of 10)
Where you can see it: DVD/Blu-Ray and numerous streaming services (Fandango Now, Redbox, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime). This one is actually part of the collection on Hulu!

The Nerds Weigh In
Aaron: I’ll just throw it out there in the beginning– I am unapologetically a huge fan of Tim Burton. I have a soft spot for his creative vision and can find something to like about even the movies that are considered “not-so-good”. With that said, my first viewing of Edward Scissorhands was back when the movie first came out. I was in high school. And I was left a little cold by it. I think my adoration for Tim Burton set the bar a tad too high, and I left this film fairly disappointed. However, in college, I frequented a movie club that used to spend entire weekends showing the collected library of well-known directors. The administrators of this particular club were pretty excited about the recent Oscar wins for Ed Wood. To celebrate, they showed, back-to-back, all four feature films that Burton had so-far directed as well as a handful of his better-known short films. It was here that I saw Edward Scissorhands for the second time. With an audience reacting to the movie’s considerable whimsy, I saw the movie in a whole new light. I also discovered that I could relate to the main character’s feelings of isolation. Subsequent viewings have turned a movie that I was so-so about into one of my favorite Tim Burton films. I generally watch this movie once or twice a year. (P.S. I am about to lose my mind over a Burton-directed remake of Dumbo.)

Greg: Saw this one at the drive-in, of the Harvest Moon variety. I was old enough to understand and chuckle at the oddity of it, but too young to appreciate the importance of it. Years later, after repeat viewings, the idea of Edward being a freak was slowly replaced, in my mind, with the notion that Edward was simply Edward. He was made that way. And because Edward was Edward, Edward was special. And, after more viewings, the movie helped me realize that we all are special in our own ways. Whether others see us as such or not. And then, even after more viewings than that, after years of watching once or twice a year, as Aaron does, a new revelation occurred to me. A new dream, actually. A dream consisting of a group of people in a basement bar, not unlike the one in which Alan Arkin introduces Edward Scissorhands to whiskey. Each person in the bar is undeniably distinguishable from the next, but all are accepting of the peccadillos of the others, not judging those next to them. Instead of pointing to me (I mean Edward) and saying, “that dude is all kinds of goofy,” they say, “That’s Edward, and that’s who he is.” And everyone in that shag carpeted basement raises a glass before moving the conversation along to something else.

Lil Bit O Trivia – Edward Scissorhands

1. Can you imagine anyone else playing Edward Scissorhands? Neither can we. But it turns out that both Jim Carrey and Robert Downey, Jr. were in the running to play the role. Tom Hanks apparently came pretty close as well. Gary Oldman was offered the part, but eventually turned it down. As was Tom Cruise, who turned it down because he thought the ending was too dark and bad for his image at the time. John Cusack expressed interest. William Hurt. In addition to those big names . . . and this is a rumor that we have found on multiple internet sites, but are unable to confirm . . . pop singer Michael Jackson was apparently interested in the role. It is rumored that he pestered Tim Burton with repeated phone calls that were never returned.

Vincent Price Picture

2. As big a fan of horror films and gothic entertainment that Tim Burton seems to be, it comes as no surprise that he is a fan of iconic horror-film actor Vincent Price. In fact, Vincent Price’s role in this film was tailor-made and written specifically for him. Unfortunately, Vincent Price was very ill during filming and his performance had to be cut considerably to accommodate his struggles with emphysema and Parkinson’s disease. Mr. Price passed away three years after the release of this film. Edward Scissorhands was his final screen performance.

3. This role was not an easy one for Johnny Depp. All accounts of the process of filming this movie claim that Depp went above and beyond the call of duty to perfect it. It is reported that he lost 25 pounds to prepare, but probably lost more than that throughout the process. The movie was filmed in Florida. It was hot. But Depp refused cooling agents in the skin-tight leather outfit. This caused him to pass out occasionally. Once, he threw up. Actually, he threw up twice while filming: Depp actually consumed all of the different foods and appetizers that the neighbors shove in his mouth during the barbeque sequence. His make-up for the role took almost two hours daily to apply. Why did Depp put in this much work to the detriment of his own health? Because producers were concerned that Depp’s pretty-boy 21 Jump Street image would hurt the film’s believability.

4. The wondrous menagerie of bushes that Edward Scissorhand’s masterfully creates while trimming the shrubbery in the film were actually meticulously-built wire frames. The frames were covered with real and artificial plants and flowers intricately woven around the sculptures. If you really like those sculptures, you can visit them. Some of them are on permanent display at Tavern on the Green, an upscale restaurant in New York City.

sk-2017_04_article_main_mobile~25. This image is a rendering of the actual fossil of an extinct primitive arthropod discovered in 2013 by paleontologist David Legg in Kootenay National Park in Canada. In Legg’s own words: “When I first saw the pair of isolated claws in the fossil records of this species I could not help but think of Edward Scissorhands.” The fossil was named kootenichela deppi in an obvious reference to the actor. Again, quoting Legg: ” . . . I am also a bit of a Depp fan and so what better way to honour the man than to immortalise him as an ancient creature that once roamed the sea?”

Well, that’s probably enough for this month, friends. Be sure to check back in throughout the month for more discussion about the filmography of Tim Burton. Aaron will start us off next week with the defense of a film in the library that is not one of Burton’s most popular. Can you guess which one it is?

 

“This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.”

Today is March 7, 2019. This means that we here at Three Nerds and A Movie only have to wait one more day before we can head to the theater and see Captain Marvel (unless we’re Karen, who got her tickets for tonight months ago).
captain marvel
We’re all pretty excited about this one. And not only because it’s the next installment in the ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe (a franchise that we’re all three pretty fond of). But because it isn’t very often that we get to see quality action-packed films that have a female as the lead protagonist.

Is it a coincidence that Captain Marvel is being released on International Women’s Day? We don’t think so.

To celebrate the release of Captain Marvel, not only are the three of us going to be putting a spotlight on our favorite movies that feature a woman who kicks ass, but we’ve selected a Movie of the Month that also features a strong female protagonist. It’s a science-fiction film. It’s a terrifying horror film. It’s the genesis of a pretty major film franchise all on its own.

It’s also one of the greatest movies ever made.

alienThree Nerds’ selection, March 2019: Alien
Who Directed It: Ridley Scott
Who Wrote It: Dan O’Bannon
Who’s In It: Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, John Hurt, Harry Dean Stanton, Ian Holm, and Yaphet Kotto
What does everyone else say about it: Rotten Tomatoes score: 97% (critics), 94% (audience), IMDB user rating: 8.5 (out of 10)
Where you can see it: DVD/Blu-Ray and four streaming services (Fandango Now, Google Play, Vudu, and Prime Video).

The Nerds Weigh In
Aaron: In seventh grade, some friends and I became obsessed with Aliens, James Cameron’s 1986 sequel to Alien. We had a VHS of the film dubbed off of HBO that got passed around and watched repeatedly. By myself, I might have watched the movie thirty times, and that doesn’t include the partial viewings or the times it was viewed with other people. My circle of friends really, really, really loved this movie, but were, admittedly, somewhat oblivious to the fact that it was a sequel. I finally saw the original in high school (mostly because I had become enamored of the work of Ridley Scott). It gave me nightmares. I’m not kidding. Alien scared the everloving hell out of me. Now, two decades later, there are things about Cameron’s sequel that I much prefer to the original. I think the special effects are better. I think the characters are more endearing. I think the seeds planted for the over-arching franchise plot are incredibly intriguing. But none of the subsequent films have frightened me. For that reason, the original gets the edge.

Karen: I didn’t watch Alien until I was older – later in high school, I think. At this point, my kinship with sci-fi was firmly rooted and I was voraciously reading and watching as much as I could. But I was never really jazzed about watching Alien. There was a cardboard cutout at the local video store for years (the upstairs part) and I always walked past it with mutual feelings of both indifference and unease. When I finally got around to watching it, I thought I knew what was coming. Like with most things to which humans assign expectations, I was wrong. I anticipated action and gore, which it obviously has in spades. But that really isn’t the point of Alien. Like all good sci-fi, it presents the viewer with insight about current reality through imagined fantasy, and it does it impactfully. I didn’t fully comprehend that on the scope that I do now, but I got a sense of it then and look back on it now with admiration and sincere respect for Scott’s masterpiece.

Greg: Alien was played on HBO and was rented on VHS in our house once or twice when I was a kid; maybe not so much when I was a small, shorter-than-I-am-now boy, but certainly when its sequel, Aliens, was introduced to audiences somewhere around the time when I was not the tallest person in my classroom, but somewhere, in height, between the otherwise tallest kid and the teachers. When Aliens came out, I do remember the film being the rave. And, since those I knew doing the raving were my older siblings who, at the time Aliens‘ predecessor, Alien, was released, were either too young to have seen the first in this series, or were unaware that a first in this series existed. Anyway, ’twas the mid-80’s when Alien was making its rounds around my family, and every time I tried to force my way into the room to join the crowd, I was always greeted with the “you’re too young to watch this” response. So, I did what any determined “too-young” movie lover would have done: I watched it anyway. Let me say simply this: “grown-ups know better.” At first, I was bored out of my mind. To a kid waiting for something exciting to happen, nothing does. And then it does . . . and then it does some more . . . and then you can’t un-see what you’ve seen . . . and then the swirling yellow alarm lights, and the fog, and then the alien-that-doesn’t-really-look-like-a-guy-in-a-suit-but-kinda-looks-like-a-guy-in-a-suit haunts dreams for a long time to come. Anyway, as I eventually grew into my teen years, I appreciated the film for its nuanced genre-mashing send up of a helluva great story. And those first minutes when nothing happens and I was bored out of my mind? Heck, I ending up loving those moments the best because they taught me the value of suspense before I ever learned to appreciate the word “Hitchcock.” And then, as I grew even older, I came to respect Sigourney Weaver not just as a dog-possessed, Pete-Venkman-loving/hating, Marshmallow-Man-soaked, gate-keeping resident of Central Park West, but also as a bad ass, alien-killing, controlling, dominant force of nature to be reckoned with. In Alien she is, at all times, even when she is scared, strong, confident, domineering, a pain in the ass, un-flinching, and indefatigable hero of all heroes. I was excited that this is our theme movie of the month. I am looking forward to a few weeks from now when I get to talk about not one, but two strong women movie characters who, when ya’ get down to it, take us all for a ride down a spiritual highway of growth and strength. And were it not for the strong woman in Alien (and the film’s director, who consequently also directed the film serving as my entry for this month) we would not have had, well, my entry for the month. Personal question: do you guys, when you reach the end of my posts say to yourself, “Jesus, that was a long post,” the same way I do when I proof it real quick after writing it?

Lil Bit O Trivia – Alien
1. The script for Alien  went through many revisions before it became the script that would eventually be shot. In the original script the characters names were all different and Ash did not exist. The script had a clause included stating that all characters were unisex and that it did not matter if they were cast as male or female. Over the years, there have been many rumors circulating about elements of the script that were written and never filmed, including a sex scene between Ripley and Dallas, a lesbian relationship between Lambert and Ripley, and a much darker ending. Reportedly, Ridley Scott had conceived of an ending where the Alien stows itself on an escape shuttle, eventually bites off Ripley’s head, and then mimics her voice to make a final log entry for her superiors.

bolaji2. Ridley Scott originally wanted to use animatronics to portray the Alien, but special effects at the time were not sophisticated enough for what Scott had in mind. This was a dilemma that could have potentially killed the film, but the casting director stumbled upon a Nigerian graphic designer named Bolaji Badejo in a pub. Badejo stood over seven feet tall and was incredibly thin. Believing that Badejo had the potential to make the Alien look more insect-like than humanoid, Ridley Scott consented to his casting. Never having acted before, Badejo was provided with Tai Chi classes and mime training to slow down his movements.  But he was also forbidden by Scott to fraternize with his co-stars, as Scott wanted them to be naturally terrified of him. Badejo spent fourteen very lonely weeks on the set of Alien. In a costume that was so cumbersome that a specially-constructed hoist had to be used since the tail of the Alien suit prevented him from sitting in a chair. Alien is the only film Badejo ever appeared in.

john hurt3. According to Sir John Hurt in a DVD commentary, he was considered to play Kane from the very beginning, but was forced to decline as he was already committed to a movie that was being filmed in South Africa. Jon Finch was given the role of Kane instead. Two separate incidents occurred, though, that eventually got Hurt the role. First: the government of South Africa banned Hurt from entering the country as they mistook him for an actor named John Heard, who was a very vocal opponent of apartheid. By this point, Finch was forced to drop out of Alien because he became seriously ill from diabetes on the first day of shooting. Ridley Scott immediately contacted Hurt, pitched him the script over a weekend, and Sir John Hurt arrived on set the following Monday morning.

4.  Dan O’Bannon’s idea for the screenplay was inspired by work on two previous projects. He had worked as a writer and special effects supervisor on Dark Star, a 1974 science-fiction comedy directed by John Carpenter. Dan O’Bannon decided halfway through filming that his initial premise worked better as a horror film so he began work on a script entitled Star Beast. Dark Star was a major failure commercially, but it had been seen by Chilean-French director Alejandro Jodorowsky, who had recently acquired the rights to Frank Herbert’s classic science-fiction novel Dune. Jodorowsky hired O’Bannon to help him with the book’s adaptation, causing Dan O’Bannon to sell all of his belongings so that he could move to France. While working on this ill-fated film, Dan O’Bannon met and worked with a series of influential artists, including H. R. Giger, the artist who designed the look of the Alien. When Dune eventually halted production due to lack of funding, Dan O’Bannon took the creative team to work on Star Beast, which was now titled Alien, using many of the designs that had already been created for Dune.

5. Over time, Alien would become one of the biggest franchises in science-fiction, spawning three sequels, two prequels, several comic book series, more than a dozen original novels, a digital web series, toys, and numerous games (video, roleplaying, and tabletop). The Alien franchise has also crossed over to the Predator franchise. This crossover has spawned comic books, video games, two films, and several original novels. Ridley Scott, in a recent interview, confirmed that not only do both franchises exist in the same created universe, but that his own classic Blade Runner (1982) also exists in that shared universe. Yeah, that doesn’t make any sense to us, either.

Well, that’s enough for this month, friends. Be sure to check back next week. Aaron wants to tell you about a science-fiction film that definitely deserves more love.

“What if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.”

Sometimes it’s really easy to pick our theme for a given month. October? Halloween. December? Christmas. So Valentine’s Day for February, right?

Wrong.

President’s Day?

Aren’t the Oscars in February?

Yes.

But so is Groundhog Day, and as soon as Karen suggested this as our movie of the month, all three of us got a little excited. We’re all in agreement: this dark 1993 comedy is justifiably regarded as one of the greatest comedies of all time.

Plus, it has romance in it. And Stephen Tobolowsky is in it. He once played a doctor on The West Wing, a television show about The President. Bill Murray was nominated for an Academy Award in 2004.

We’re covering all the bases with this one.

Groundhog Day Poster

Three Nerds’ selection, February 2019: Groundhog Day
Who Directed It: Harold Ramis
Who Wrote It: Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis
Who’s In It: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott, and Stephen Tobolowsky
What does everyone else say about it: Rotten Tomatoes score: 96% (critics), 88% (audience), IMDB user rating: 8.0 (out of 10)
Where you can see it: DVD/Blu-Ray and four streaming services (Fandango Now, Google Play, Vudu, and Prime Video).

The Nerds Weigh In
Aaron: I have always really loved Bill Murray. From watching reruns of Saturday Night Live on Nick at Nite as a child to repeated viewings of Ghostbusters to how effectively he has reinvented himself as a dramatic actor over the years (SEE: Lost in Translation, or Broken Flowers). There has always just been something about him that has appealed to me. He’s very funny without ever really being over the top. He’s droll. And sarcastic. And he got robbed of that Oscar in 2004. (I did, too, because I had placed my money on him in an Oscar pool).

Greg: The first time I saw Groundhog Day, I have to admit, it wasn’t my favorite. I’d seen Bill Murray try and use dynamite to kill a gopher, I’d seen him catch ghosts with his then buddy Harold Ramis. . . twice. . . and I’d seen him cope, with hilarity and sincerity, with three ghosts of Christmas, each of which were tasked with making him a better person. Groundhog Day seemed a bit of a departure for Bill Murray for me. Which is a strange thing for me to say about a Bill Murray movie because, when you think about it, every Bill Murray movie is basically a major departure (for him) from the last! But I guess the issue I had, upon that first viewing of Groundhog Day, was that I was not quite catching the philosophy behind the film. Another odd thing to say, because the movie drips with philosophy. . . but I just didn’t see it. I wasn’t looking far enough past the Bill Murray repartee to which we had all become accustomed. The various elements of the flick just didn’t add up, I’m sorry.

BUT. . . then HBO picked it up, and then VHS became an available medium for this head-scratcher, and I saw it again. . . and again . . . and again. Happily for me, I learned and understood the lessons of the movie a bit more quickly than did Phil. I once read somewhere that Phil’s spiritual journey of re-living the same day over and over lasted more than two decades for him. For me, it really only lasted the “window” as we call it between the theatrical and the home video experience of this modern day classic.

Karen: I’m with Greg on this one. The first time I saw Groundhog Day, I didn’t particularly love it. I seem to remember finding it grating. And also charming. And maybe a little uncomfortable.

But you get something different out of a film at different times in your life with different perspectives to lean on. As a somewhat adult-ish person, I get it now. Groundhog Day is a dark comedy, and the thing about dark comedies is that you don’t really understand the humor unless you have some experience with the subject. When Groundhog Day came out in 1993, I was still really jazzed by dark comedies like Heathers and Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead. I dug them because 1. they were good, and 2. I could relate, having been an angsty teenager. With Groundhog Day, I couldn’t yet appreciate the finely tuned spectacle of this Harold Ramis keeper, Bill Murray navigating the often painful second adolescence that comes from trying to be the best version of you as an adult. Now, I feel mirth. Over and over and over again.

Lil Bit O Trivia – Groundhog Day
1. Apparently, while filming this classic comedy, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis disagreed about what sort of film they were making. A lot. Screenwriter Danny Rubin reported in 2004 that Murray wanted Groundhog Day to be more philosophical than it was, while Harold Ramis firmly wanted the film to be a comedy. Earlier than that, though, while promoting the movie in 1993, Murray reflected that it was actually the other way around: Murray wanted a comedy, while Ramis wanted the film to focus more on the romance between Murray and MacDowell. Couple the differing visions with Ramis’ claim that Bill Murray was going through a divorce at the time and often “really irrationally mean and unavailable”, making this film destroyed a long-standing friendship. Bill Murray stopped speaking to Harold Ramis entirely for twenty years, only to finally bury the hatchet on Ramis’ death bed in 2014.

2. The large Groundhog Day Celebration that is the main centerpiece of this film is an actual annual event, held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania every February 2 since (roughly) 1887. The site of the festivities is a wooded area outside of town called, just as in the movie, Gobbler’s Knob (though the film depicts this site as being in the bustling town square). This annual celebration draws nearly 10,000 people every year. Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, and Stephen Tobolowsky (the actor who plays Ned) have all served as Groundhog Day Grand Marshals for the celebration.

Image result for woodstock Bill Murray stepped here

3. The town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania did not have a town center that looked good on camera, according to Harold Ramis, so they opted instead to film the movie in Woodstock, Illinois. The small town had been used for location shots in the 1987 film Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, which brought the town to the attention of Bob Hudgins, the location manager for Harold Ramis’ previous films. In the town of Woodstock, there is currently a plaque that commemorates the curb where Bill Murray’s character repeatedly steps in the puddle as well as many other tourist attractions for fans of the movie.

4. In 2003, this movie was the opening night film in the Museum of Modern Art’s “The Hidden God: Film and Faith” series. Other films in the series included Luis Bunuel’s Nazarin (1959), Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 (1963), Ingmar Bergman’s Winter Light (1963), and Andrei Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev (1966). A December 7, 2003 article in The New York Times (entitled “Groundhog Almighty”) discusses in-depth both the incongruity of Groundhog Day being included among such “serious” films and the opinions of different religious clergy and adherents (including rabbis, Jesuit priests, Buddhists, and Wiccans) about how this movie is applicable to (or, in some cases, actually about) their respective religions.

Multiplicity Poster

5. Before casting Bill Murray in the role of Phil, Harold Ramis had considered John Travolta, Chevy Chase, and Steve Martin for the role, but all were deemed “too nice”. Ironically, the “nicest guy in Hollywood” Tom Hanks was offered the role but turned it down because he was too busy with other projects. Michael Keaton was also offered the role, but turned it down because he found the script confusing. Michael Keaton has since admitted that he regrets declining this film, but would eventually work with both Harold Ramis and Andie MacDowell in Multiplicity (1996).

We think that will do it for this week, friends. Make sure to check back next week for more new content!

 

 

‘Come Out To The Coast! We’ll Get Together, Have A Few Laughs’

We’re certain that our selection for December’s Movie of the Month is sure to be a controversial one that sparks conversation. Not because the movie isn’t worthy of such a distinction, but because there’s probably more than a few among you that will disagree that the movie fits our theme.

Last month, we focused on underrated films and then put a spotlight on one of the most well-loved movies of all time. This month, we wanted to focus on our favorite Christmas movie (for obvious reasons) and selected a movie that just barely squeezes itself in. Have we lost our collective minds?

Our Movie of the Month is . . .
die hard
Don’t be a naysayer! Die Hard is a Christmas movie! It takes place on Christmas, right? It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy watching John McClane beat the crap out of terrorists, right? ‘Tis the season!

Three Nerds’ selection, December 2018: Die Hard
Who Directed It: John McTiernan
Who Wrote It: Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza
Who’s In It: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson, and Paul Gleason
What does everyone else say about it: Rotten Tomatoes score: 93% (critics), 94% (audience), IMDB user rating: 8.2 (out of 10)
Where you can see it: DVD/Blu-Ray and four streaming services (Fandango Now, Google Play, Vudu, and Prime Video).

The Nerds Weigh In
Karen: Duh. Obviously a Christmas movie. Christmas party. Christmas decorations. Christmas jokes. Christmas happy ending. Christmas movie. And as far as the movie guts go, there is something obviously special about the little tango between Alan Rickman and Bruce Willis in Die Hard. Movie perfection. After all of these years, the one-liners still make me chuckle.

Aaron: A year or so ago, I was challenged by Greg to do a Facebook list of my personal favorite top 20 films of all time. I had a really difficult time not including this movie on the list. If my list had been more genre-specific (Say, Top 20 ACTION Films of All Time), then Die Hard would have been– without question– the number one movie on that list. I’ve loved this movie ever since I first saw it as a kid, and I’ve loved it for different reasons throughout the years. As a child, it was a solid action film (and rated R!). As a teenager, I appreciated that it was a solid action film that wasn’t brainless. In college, I began to appreciate it as a solid beginning for an actor whose films I have greatly loved (I love Bruce Willis and I won’t apologize for it). As a student of theatre, I recognized just how nuanced Alan Rickman’s performance was. As an adult, I get nostalgic because they just don’t make them like this anymore. I am not exaggerating to say that, with the possible exception of The Empire Strikes Back, it is entirely possible that I have re-watched this particular movie more than any other. In fact, I may be overdue to watch it again.

Greg: I agree with Aaron: this is a Christmas movie. Look . . . No matter which “List Of Best Christmas Movies Ever” you look up online, Die Hard will appear on it. I’d bet my aging Toshiba laptop on it. This indubitably makes Die Hard, whether you like it or not, a Christmas movie. Following the same logic, no matter which “List of Best Action Movies Ever” you look up online, Die Hard will appear on it. This is all I have to say about the matter. Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-diehard.

Lil Bit O Trivia – Die Hard
14520310959981. The first Die Hard movie is based on a 1979 novel by Roderick Thorpe, entitled Nothing Lasts Forever. This novel is a sequel to his 1966 novel, The Detective, which was adapted into a film in 1968. The film version of The Detective stars none other than Frank Sinatra. Due to a stipulation in Sinatra’s contract, the producers of Die Hard were legally bound to offer the role of John McClane to Frank before auditioning other actors. Mr. Sinatra would have been 73 years old at the time and turned the role down.

2. What do Don Johnson, Richard Gere, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Sylvester Stallone, Richard Dean Anderson, Burt Reynolds, and Nick Nolte have in common? All of them are rumored to have been offered the role of John McClane. Also rumored to have been in contention: Robert DeNiro, John Travolta, Charles Bronson, and Mel Gibson. Also: Michael Madsen, Al Pacino, and Tom Berenger. Bruce Willis had auditioned very early on, but was, reportedly, not taken very seriously by producers as he was considered, at the time, a comedic actor. The original posters for the film, in fact, focus on Nakatomi Plaza and barely feature Bruce Willis at all.

FoxPlaza_TristanReville_Flickr3. Speaking of Nakatomi Plaza . . . the building used for this location is actually Fox Plaza, the corporate headquarters for the movie company that made the film. At the time, the building was still under construction, so there wasn’t much modification needed to get the space ready. It was cheaper as well; Fox did not have to rent a building location because they already owned the one they were using. (Bonus fact: Fox Plaza is also featured at the end of Fight Club. It’s one of the buildings that explode at the film’s conclusion!)

4. There’s a great bit of improvisation in Alan Rickman’s death scene . . . that no one ever told Alan Rickman about. In order to make it appear that he was falling from a building, Rickman was supposed to drop twenty feet onto an air mattress while holding onto a stunt man. It was agreed to a three count before Rickman would be dropped, but the stunt man intentionally let go on the count of two. Poor Alan’s expression as he falls is an expression of genuine terror. Incidentally, Die Hard is Alan Rickman’s film debut.

5. There’s been a long-standing Internet rumor that Die Hard was originally intended as a sequel to the 1985 Arnold Schwarzenegger flick Commando. According to Stephen de Souza, who wrote both Die Hard and Commando, this rumor is demonstrably untrue. However, it has been confirmed that the novel 58 Minutes by Walter Wager was intended to be the story for Commando 2. This novel served as the source material for the final script of . . . wait for it . . . Die Hard 2: Die Harder. Also, since we’re talking about it . . . the script for Die Hard With A Vengeance was adapted from a Jonathan Hensleigh short story (“Simon Says”) which had been already earmarked to potentially become a Lethal Weapon sequel.

Now it’s time for you to weigh in, friends! Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? What’s your favorite Christmas movie? Did we say “Happy Holidays” yet? Because we should have.

Happy Holidays from all three of us here at Three Nerds and a Movie!

“Get busy living or get busy dying.”

The process for selecting our Movie of the Month is an organic one, decided through somewhat intense (but always joyful) Messenger conversations between all three of us. We usually have a general theme in mind and then we proceed to pare our choices down within that theme to one that we all agree is worthy of the spotlight.

This month, the process worked a little differently because we had an idea that we couldn’t necessarily come up with a movie to represent. During a chat about underrated films of all shapes and sizes, we decided that we wanted to write about a movie that we each think is underrated and deserves a larger audience. This is a pretty straightforward process for our solo entries, but where do we start for the jumping-off point for our Movie of the Month?

How do you pick one “underrated” movie to represent all underrated movies? Just how do you define “underrated” anyway? Is it only movies that we think are really great, but never find a good-sized audience? Can we include movies that got universally-panned by critics but seem to be adored by the filmgoing-public? How exactly do you measure this sort of thing?

We consulted many, many, (many) lists on the Internet of what various critics and film lovers believe to be the most underrated movies of all time. A lot of good options emerged, but the very nature of what “underrated” seems to mean led to us having difficulty finding a movie that a) all three of us had seen or b) would be of general appeal to our readership.

And so, for the month of November, we are going to forego our normal “cinematic rabbit hole” concept and, instead, write about movies that fit a general theme. We’re going to highlight a movie that probably, by most definitions, is not really underrated. But hear us out…
shawshankWe know what you’re thinking: The Shawshank Redemption is about as far away as you can get from underrated. There probably isn’t a single person alive who doesn’t love this movie or at least enjoy some aspect of it. It is, in fact, listed on IMDB.com as the #1 Greatest Film Of All Time based on user reviews. So how is it underrated?

One of the things we learned about this film while doing some research is that The Shawshank Redemption is very lucky to be as popular as it is now. It was an absolute box office failure– the $18,000,000 it grossed in theaters sounds like a lot of money, but that amount didn’t even cover the cost of production. Some critics were lukewarm about it, citing the film as overly sentimental and too long. It wasn’t until the release of the film on home video that anybody seemed to care. Seven Oscar nominations later and a little help from Ted Turner, who loved the movie and sold the syndication rights to cable for much lower than normal, and one of the biggest “flops” of 1994 became one of the most well-loved films of all time.

Three Nerds’ selection, November 2018: The Shawshank Redemption
Who Directed It: Frank Darabont
Who Wrote It: Frank Darabont
Who’s In It: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown, Gil Bellows, and James Whitmore
What does everyone else say about it: Rotten Tomatoes score: 91% (critics), 98% (audience), IMDB user rating: 9.3 (out of 10)
Where you can see it: DVD/Blu-Ray and three streaming services (Fandango Now, Vudu, and Prime Video).

The Nerds Weigh In
Karen: Shawshank is ultimately a film about friendship. This is not to say that it is ONLY a film about friendship. But primarily, it’s a film about how, even in during the darkest moments of your life, a close friend can be your soul mate and your salvation. There isn’t a human on earth who doesn’t need to be reminded of that fact from time to time, and I think this is partially why there is so much appeal in a film like The Shawshank Redemption.

Aaron: I love this movie more than I can adequately describe in a few sentences, so, instead, I will share a memory of seeing this movie for the first time. Back in 1994, my girlfriend at the time, myself, and a friend were invited to participate in an advance screening of this film a full two weeks before it opened. It was a free screening and we had to fill out little cards afterwards saying what we liked and did not like about the movie. I was pretty excited about this movie (big fan of Stephen King and Tim Robbins), but my two companions had no knowledge whatsoever about this movie (though it would turn out that my girlfriend had seen the trailer). This movie hit my friend hard; it affected him personally and viscerally in a very meaningful way. Right about the point where the movie wants you to think that Andy has killed himself, my friend decided that he needed to use the restroom as he didn’t want my girlfriend “to see him cry.” My girlfriend leaned across me and whispered to him, “He isn’t dead. They haven’t shown the part in the preview where he’s standing shirtless in the rain.” My friend actually gasped that she would have had the gall to ruin the movie for him. He didn’t speak to her for the rest of the night.

Greg: GCMS gave us seniors a few days to visit the colleges of our choice. One day, I went with a few folks to not see a college, but to see a movie. Those with whom I attended this feature were the ones who actually had to convince me to abandon our college-visit day to see this prison movie. And I’m glad my arm was so easily twisted.

Lil Bit O Trivia – The Shawshank Redemption
rob reiner
1. Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Paul Newman, and Robert Redford were all considered for the part of Red. Jeff Bridges, Tom Hanks, Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise, Nicolas Cage, Johnny Depp, and Charlie Sheen were all considered for the part of Andy Dufresne. Charlie Sheen was, reportedly, so enamored of the script that he offered to do it for scale. Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise were, in fact, the immediate first choices of director Rob Reiner, who offered Frank Darabont $2.5 million for the rights to the screenplay, so that he could direct the film himself.

2. When Andy goes to the library to begin work as Brooks’ assistant, we meet Jake, Brooks’ pet crow. Tim Robbins had to time his line (“Hey, Jake. Where’s Brooks?”) around the crows’ squawking patterns so that he wouldn’t be squawked over as he spoke. This is a crow, after all. Not really trainable to squawk on cue. Robbins actually studied the bird’s squawking pattern for a time to figure out how to time the line. This improvisation is noticeable in the finished film. You can see Robbins watching the crow as he approaches it, waiting for the moment it would squawk.

3. Speaking of Jake the crow. . .there’s a moment in the film that almost got Frank Darabont and crew slapped with a hefty fine from the American Humane Society. They  were required to monitor all sequences that involved Jake. During the scene where Brooks feeds Jake a maggot, the AHS objected. Their grounds? It was cruel to the maggot. Darabont was required to use a maggot that had died from natural causes. One was found.

alfonso4. The mugshots of a young-looking Morgan Freeman that are attached to his parole papers are actually pictures of Morgan’s younger son, Alfonso. Alfonso also has a cameo in the movie as a con (he’s the one who shouts, “Fresh fish! Fresh fish today! We’re reeling ’em in!” as Andy is being escorted in). A year after The Shawshank Redemption, he appeared as a Fingerprint Technician in Se7en, another movie that stars his father.

5. Although set in Maine, the success of the movie helped boost the fortunes of Mansfield, Ashland, and Upper Sandusky, Ohio, three towns that share thirteen sites used as filming locations. According to the Mansfield/Richland County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the movie brought in more than 18,000 visitors, and produced an estimated three-million dollar boost to the local economy in 2013. There’s now a Shawshank Trail for tourists and local businesses have jumped on the bandwagon. A visitor can purchase themselves some Reformatory “Red” Wines, Shawshank Bundt Cakes, and the local Two Cousins’ Pizza sells Redemption Pie. The rock wall where Red’s “treasure” is buried, was built specifically for the film and stood for many years. Eventually, the wall was sold on eBay, one rock at a time, by the farmer who owned the land on which it stood.

morgantimbaseballThat’s all for this week, friends. Check in next week with Aaron. He’s got an underrated movie to recommend.

“He came home!”

Our movie of the month for October 2018 is obvious enough to almost be embarrassing. But it’s October, and we agreed that it should be a horror movie. We agreed that our selection is one of the best horror films of all time. And we also all agreed that we’re all three pretty excited about the new version of this film coming out later this month.

Often cited as “the first slasher film”, it actually appears on many Internet lists as being the greatest horror film of all time. It put Jamie Lee Curtis on the map. It put John Carpenter on the map (and Greg doesn’t love anybody if he doesn’t love John Carpenter). It has scared the bejeesus out of people since 1978.

Without further ado…

halloween

Three Nerds’ selection, October 2018: Halloween (1978)
Who Directed It: John Carpenter
Who Wrote It: John Carpenter and Debra Hill
Who’s In It: Donald Pleasance, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Tony Moran
What does everyone else say about it: Rotten Tomatoes score: 93% (critics), 89% (audience), IMDB user rating: 7.8 (out of 10)
Where you can see it: DVD/Blu-Ray

The Nerds Weigh In
Karen: I’ll admit that horror isn’t really my favorite genre, which depends entirely on the theme. Sci-fi horror? Yep. Psychological horror? Sometimes. Religious horror? Nah, doesn’t appeal to me. Halloween makes my cut, for reasons that are probably the same for everyone; it’s scary as hell but it’s also fun to take that ride. Growing up in small town Illinois, Haddonfield felt a little like home, and that just added an extra layer to the terror. Laurie Strode became a small town warrior of sorts in my eyes through that proximity. I can’t wait to see what she’s got in store for Michael Myers 40 years later. Give him hell, Laurie.

Aaron: I was five years old. Asleep on the living room floor at the babysitter’s house. The babysitter was watching HBO as I slept.  I woke up for an unknown reason. The first thing I saw was Mike Myers pushing a woman’s face into a hot tub. He turned the heat up. Eventually, the water was so hot that it burned her face off. I was completely and utterly traumatized by witnessing this. I have since learned that this sequence is actually in Halloween II, but the very thought of Mike Myers (regardless of which installment he appeared in) kept me from ever watching the first one until I was well into my twenties. With the possible exception of that clown doll in Poltergeist, Mike Myers is, for me, the scariest horror film villain of all time. He might have fucked me up for life.

Greg: Carpenter had some not-very-nice words to say about Rob Zombie’s Halloween reboot and its one and only sequel. Carpenter, and others, didn’t care for there being so much backstory to The Shape, which, in a way, weakens the evil behind the mask and lends a sympathy of sorts to it. Carpenter was also not a huge fan of the way-over-the-top violence in the Zombie films. I’m stuck in the middle, between two directors I love and between an original that can’t be beat and a remake that I thought did the original at least a modicum of justice. 

Lil Bit O Trivia – Halloween
1. Even though the movie takes place on Halloween night in Illinois, it was actually shot in early spring in southern California. This meant that the filmmaker had to make the area they were filming in look like the Midwest in autumn. To do this, the crew had to buy paper leaves from a decorator, paint them in the desired autumn colors, and then scatter them in the filming locations. To save money, though, after a scene was filmed, the leaves were collected and reused. Over and over and over. Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter note on a DVD audio commentary that the trees in the movie are quite full and green. There are even some shots where you can see palm trees. Have you ever seen a palm tree in Illinois? Neither have we. 

texas chainsaw2. The 1978 version of Halloween is widely regarded (with some dispute) as the very first slasher movie. The events that unfolded in Haddonfield, Illinois (aka Southern California – see fun fact #1) occurred well before that fateful night at Camp Crystal Lake, and long before anyone fell asleep on Elm Street. 1978 was more than a decade before Ghost Face terrorized a high school and one of those kids from Party of Five. Halloween‘s claim to the title is only disputed by some because Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was made and released four years earlier. The question remains: Is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre really a slasher movie? Or is it solely a dark retelling of somewhat true events? You be the judge, but it sounds way cooler if we say that Halloween is the first slasher movie.

thing from another world3. John Carpenter the horror director is also John Carpenter the horror fan, and if you watch closely, he pays tribute to one of his favorite horror/science-fiction movies, one which he would later, in fact, remake as his own a few years after Halloween (remade as The Thing in 1982). The original black and white The Thing From Another World (1951) plays on the TV in the background while little Lindsey is alone in the dark before The Shape unleashes real terror.

4. Speaking of Lindsey, the little brunette-haired girl whom Lori Strode is forced to babysit, is somewhat famous today (if you count reality TV stars as famous). Lindsey was played by Kyle Richards, who today is one of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Greg told the other nerds this fact,  but he won’t tell them how he knows. . .

5. John Carpenter and producer Debra Hill wrote the movie in only ten days. They filmed it in only twenty. John Carpenter also wrote and recorded the score for the entire movie in. . . wait for it. . . three days. Those three simple notes, when put together as he did, resulted in something almost as terrifying as The Shape itself. Most horror films spend way more time in production (and are not nearly as effective).


michael myers.jpg
What are your thoughts on this film? What would be your pick for the scariest movie of all time? Sound off in the comments!

“If he gets up, we’ll all get up, it’ll be anarchy!”

We had many discussions about what movie to spotlight as our first “movie of the month”.

Do we recommend something that all three of us love and believe deserves more attention? Do we pick movies that are universally regarded as “great”?  How obscure, how bizarre, how old should we allow our first movie to be? The AFI list of 100 Greatest Movies Ever Made has Citizen Kane listed as their pick for the best film of all time. Should we start there?

Ultimately, we decided that for our first month in this format, we should pick a movie that has something for the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess, and the criminal in all of us:

breakfasT_club

Of the films in John Hughes’ incredible body of work, The Breakfast Club stands chief among them for its timelessness. The themes are just as relevant to teenagers today as they were to us back then.

breakfastThree Nerds’ selection, September 2018: The Breakfast Club (1985)
Who’s In It: Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, and Paul Gleason
What does everyone else say about it: Rotten Tomatoes score: 88% (critics), 92% (audience), IMDB user rating: 7.9 (out of 10)
Where you can see it: Amazon Video, Vudu, Sling, Google Play, deluxe 2-disc Criterion Collection

 

The Nerds Weigh In

Karen: I’m no different than most kids in our generation in that I learned some important life lessons from movies and books. They’ve provided me with a lot of light-bulb moments. Art has the power to move thought. I love that. The Breakfast Club offered this kind of experience. I’m not sure if I had already started to develop an idea of how powerfully negative stereotypes could be before I saw the film or not. But I do know that it hit me hard when I watched it. I saw myself in all of the characters and I got it. John Hughes had a way of making teen angst tangible.

Aaron: My feelings– not just on The Breakfast Club, but on the work of John Hughes in general– can be summed up most succinctly with two lines of dialogue from the very film we’re talking about today:

BRIAN: Did you know without trigonometry, there’d be no engineering?
JOHN: Without lamps, there would be no light!

If great teen-angst movies from the 80’s were the light, then John Hughes is, without question, the lamp. And seeing The Breakfast Club at such a young age is one of the reasons I ever wanted to be a writer in the first place.

Greg: I wrote a paper on this movie for a psych class in college. The subject of the paper was something along the lines of stereotypes. I used the film, in a few different sections of the essay, as an example of how stereotypes develop and how those stereotypes are perpetuated, much to the chagrin of those bearing the labels, through the eyes of those who cannot or do not choose to see beyond a person’s exterior. Deep, right? I’m pretty sure I got a C- on it. Stupid college. The point I was trying to make then, a point which I will attempt to articulate again here, is that TBC is a movie that reminds us all that people are not always who they seem, and that not everyone’s personality or disposition falls into a pre-defined bucket, labelled by persons of more authority than what we can hope to achieve ourselves. People have to look deeper than the surface. People have to see what’s inside, and the only way they can see is first to open their eyes, then maybe their minds. I know. . . all these years later, probably a C+ paper at best.

Lil Bit O Trivia – The Breakfast Club

rick moranis1. Rick Moranis was originally cast as the janitor. He was replaced by John Kapelos, after “creative differences” with Hughes. Apparently, Moranis wanted to play the part as an over-the-top Russian, complete with gold caps on his teeth and cartoonish accent. Some reports say that he even had a large ring of keys hanging from his belt that he would fondle provocatively as he spoke.

2. Molly Ringwald was asked at first to play Allison, but requested instead to play the role of Claire. Robin Wright, Jodie Foster, and Laura Dern are other actresses of note who also auditioned for the role of Claire. Nicolas Cage and John Cusack were both considered to play the role of John Bender, a role that was originally intended for Emilio Estevez (who, of course, eventually played Andrew). Nicolas Cage might have actually gotten the role, but his salary for appearing in the movie was considered too high.

3. The woman and child in the car with Brian during the movie’s opening scene? That’s Anthony Michael Hall’s actual mother and younger sister! John Hughes himself appears at the end of the film as Brian’s father.
Anthony michael hall mom and sister and John Hughes

4. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds was written for the movie by producer Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff (guitarist and songwriter from The Nina Hagen Band). Billy Idol and Bryan Ferry were both offered the opportunity to record the song, but both turned it down. The song was eventually offered to Chrissie Hynde (of The Pretenders), who suggested Simple Minds. Her then husband (John Kerr) was the band’s singer. (Bonus: Billy Idol did actually end up recording this song as a bonus track for a Greatest Hits album)

benderbender

5. Judd Nelson reportedly remained in character as Bender for the entire shoot. This not only included wearing the clothes that he originally auditioned in, but included persistent taunting of Molly Ringwald. Protective of Ms. Ringwald, John Hughes fired Judd Nelson from the role. Stories on his rehiring conflict, however: some sources say that Ally Sheedy led the cast in convincing Hughes to keep him, and others say that it was Paul Gleason (the actor who plays Richard Vernon) who swayed the director’s wrath.

(Aaron Sidenote: As I uploaded that Bender photo, my wife is looking over my shoulder and she just said, “God, he was so hot!” I am not sure if she intended me to hear that or not. )

john bender

What say you, friends? What are your thoughts on this film?