Blog Archives

End of the Hurricane

An imprisoned Carter in the late 1960s (Getty Images)

An imprisoned Carter in the late 1960s (Getty Images)

Here comes the story of the Hurricane,

The man the authorities came to blame

For something that he never done,

Put him in a prison cell but one time he could-a been

The champion of the world.

-  Bob Dylan, “Hurricane”

Farewell to Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the former boxer declared one of the best middleweight contenders by Ring magazine in 1963 and wrongly convicted three years later for a triple murder in New Jersey.

Carter spent 19 years in prison before his conviction was overturned by a federal judge in 1985 and he was released. And early Sunday morning, the 76-year-old passed away in Toronto of complications related to prostate cancer.

Like many of my American contemporaries, I likely heard of Rubin Carter in the 1975 Bob Dylan song “Hurricane,” but since I was only four years old at the time, it didn’t really register. This changed in 1999 with the release of the Denzel Washington film Hurricane, and from that point on I was a Rubin Carter fan.

Whether or not you believe Carter to be innocent or guilty, the fact is that he and his friend John Artis—who was with Carter on the night of the shootings and during his final moments alive—never got a fair trial. They accepted their sentences, however unjust, and Carter even served as executive director of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Accused (AIDWYC) after being given his freedom.

Does that sound like something a guilty man would do? I don’t think so.

Carter with actor Denzel Washington and heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield (AP)

Carter with actor Denzel Washington and heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield (AP)

Carter went on to work as a motivational speaker and received two honorary Doctorates of Law—one from Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, and the other from York University in Toronto. Both degrees recognized his work with the Innocence Project—an organization focusing on the exoneration of wrongly convicted people, primarily through DNA testing—as well as the AIDWYC. He even won the Abolition Award from the Death Penalty Focus group in 1996.

In other words, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter took whatever life threw at him—no matter how negative and unfair—and came out the other side to affect positive change and to help others. And for that he deserves our gratitude.

Rest easy, Rubin. And know that I will always replace could-a been with was in Bob Dylan’s song because you were a champion of the world… just not in boxing.

Theater Thrills to Come!

The Goonies back in the day and today (Funny Junk)

The Goonies back in the day and today (Funny Junk)

Few things are better to a cinephile like me than to wake up Monday morning and learn that two of your favorite films—or film franchises—will be returning to theaters in the near future.

The first will be a sequel to the awesome 1985 adventure film The Goonies, which easily ranks as one of my favorite childhood movies. Rumors about a sequel have been floating around Hollywood for years—some involving a possible Broadway musical based on the film (which thankfully have stopped)—but no one has been able to get this thing done yet. Of course, it now looks as if this could change thanks in large part to director Richard Donner, who spoiled the surprise in a recent interview with TMZ.

“We’re doing a sequel,” Donner said as he signed autographs for his fans. This actually confirms what Goonies actor Sean Astin said when asked about a possible sequel in 2012: “It will happen. I’m 1000 percent certain there will be a sequel. I will bet my children on it.”

That’s good enough for me. And I can’t wait until Goonies 2 hits the Big Screen!

Of course, my excitement for the next film knows no bounds since I have been a science fiction geek for most of my life. And no science fiction franchise fuels my excitement more than… you guessed it… Star Wars!

Coming soon to a galaxy near you! (Disney/Sensible Reason)

Coming soon to a galaxy near you! (Disney/Sensible Reason)

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter on April 2, Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn indicated that shooting on Star Wars: Episode VII had begun in earnest and should be ready for release in December 2015. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t reveal much else—especially about casting, which Horn claimed was nearly complete—but he did mention a few tidbits worth recounting here.

The first is that the screenplay was co-written by two very talented Star Wars fans—Lawrence Kasdan (who penned The Empire Strikes Back) and J.J. Abrams—following an early draft by Michael Arndt. And if you ask me, only die-hard fans can produce a film worthy of carrying the Star Wars moniker.

The second tidbit likely isn’t new information, but Horn also mentioned that the new story would pick up “where 6 left off—and where 6 left off is 35 years ago by the time this is released.”

In other words, it won’t be easy to “connect the dots” between 1983’s Return of the Jedi and this new chapter—or the new trilogy, for that matter. I’m sure George Lucas is still receiving hate mail for his prequel films, which some fans feel should be viewed separately from the original trilogy. Granted, I feel he did the best he could to “set the stage” for the middle three episodes—aside from including Jar Jar Binks and casting that annoying, talentless kid as young Anakin—but this new trilogy should have much less work to do in this respect. After all, it won’t be limited by its connection to the Star Wars canon, or forced to tie up any loose ends, and can instead focus on new characters, new worlds and—most importantly—new ideas.

And this, dear readers, has me more excited about going to the theater than I have likely ever been. Now all we have to do is wait!

Miley Returns to Spotlight

Miley sheds her clothes, only this time it isn't by choice (Twitter)

Miley sheds her clothes, only this time it isn’t by choice (Twitter)

After fading from the limelight a little in recent weeks—and providing us all with a brief tongue-wagging respite—it appears that pop singer Miley Cyrus is up to her old tricks again.

Last Friday evening—during a performance in Illinois as part of the Bangerz Tour—Cyrus turned heads when she decided to shove her face into the more-than-ample bosom of dancer Amazon Ashley. Since Cyrus was fully clothed at the time, though, her antics didn’t make national headlines… at least not until today.

The latest escapade involving the “Wrecking Ball” singer happened Sunday night in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Cyrus was preparing to perform her hit “23” and went in for a quick wardrobe change, but ran out of time before the music started playing. Unwilling to disappoint her fans—yet willing to push the envelope at every turn—Cyrus moved quickly and took the stage without her costume.

Cyrus with Amazon Ashley and friends (Playback/Instagram)

Cyrus with Amazon Ashley and friends (Playback/Instagram)

That’s right… she took the stage in only her bra and panties. Go figure.

Although most people probably never noticed the costume mishap—and underwear undoubtedly provides more coverage than most of her outfits—Cyrus took to Twitter after the show to explain herself.

“Not a new outfit for 23. I didn’t make my quick change and I couldn’t not come out for the song so I just had to run out in my undies.”

I don’t know about you, but I certainly forgive her!

What Killed PSH?

Philip Seymour Hoffman took this creepy photo not long before his death (Victoria Will/AP)

Philip Seymour Hoffman took this creepy photo not long before his death (Victoria Will/AP)

It was February 2nd when the body of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, 46, was discovered in the bathroom of his New York City apartment, a syringe still stuck in his left arm. His tragic death was ruled an accident, but Friday the New York medical examiner’s office released their official cause of death: acute mixed drug intoxication.

Although this news may come as no surprise given the circumstances of Phil’s death—like the syringe—the combination of drugs he used during his final night on Earth just might: cocaine, heroin, amphetamines and benzodiazepines. And this after being clean for 23 years, falling off the wagon, completing a stint in rehab and then staying clean for almost another year now. What a shame.

When I first heard this “laundry list” of drugs—and please don’t take this the wrong way—I thought Phil had to be a complete idiot to let this happen. Here I was believing him to be an intelligent and stable guy—albeit with some bad habits and addictions, which we all suffer from in our own way—only to discover he was a brainless junkie with no self-control and no instincts toward self-preservation.

The truth, however, is that Phil was a sick man who took so many drugs—some legal and some not—that he built up a tolerance to them. The next time he used them, it took more to get him high, and more the time after that. In the medical field, this is referred to as stacking… and eventually, it will catch up with you.

Of course, I’m still struggling to understand why Phil chose this particular combination of substances. I get the heroin addiction and understand its effects to be mellow sedation, for lack of a better term. The benzodiazepines are nothing more than muscle relaxers used to treat anxiety, so they fall right in line with Lady H. And yes, I can see how this combination alone would be enough to do Phil in—and while he was shooting up “in the can,” no less.

We all know drugs and alcohol don't mix, but neither do drugs and more drugs! (Happy Hour/NHF)

We all know drugs and alcohol don’t mix, but neither do drugs and more drugs! (Happy Hour/NHF)

Classy.

What confused me weren’t the depressants found in Phil’s system; it was the stimulants.  The medical examiner found both amphetamines and cocaine in the mix, which I’m having trouble explaining. It’s possible he used these to stay awake and enjoy his heroin buzz longer—staving off the sleep that likely comes quickly after combining heroin with Xanax. Aside from that, I have no idea.

All I know is that the world lost an incredible talent and another good person to drug addiction. I feel like Phil could have prevented this—since any intelligent person should know a combination of this many drugs could be deadly—but individuals deal with their addictions in very unique and personal ways. It is never “one size fits all,” but its effects are always the same: pain, suffering and death.

From one combination to another, I guess…

In Honor of Harold

Ramis in his early years (Second City)

Yesterday morning, the world lost a truly amazing talent, a comic genius and an all-around great person—actor, writer and director Harold Ramis—who passed away from complications resulting from autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a condition he battled for years. He was 69 years old.

Many remember Ramis as the quirky and nerdy Dr. Egon Spengler from two of his best known films, Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II. Others remember him as the foil to Bill Murray in Stripes, another Ramis classic. But the man who appeared on-screen was only a small part of who Ramis really was— it was his off-screen success that truly changed the face of comedy.

Ramis’ journey to comic greatness began in the late 1960s and early 1970s. After working a variety of jobs—as a substitute school teacher, freelance writer for the Chicago Daily News and joke editor for Playboy magazine—he began studying and performing with Chicago’s Second City improvisational comedy troupe. Ramis left the troupe briefly and was replaced by another famous comedy performer—the great John Belushi—but returned in 1972 with friend and collaborator Bill Murray.

Together with Belushi, Murray and others—among them Christopher Guest and Gilda Radner—Ramis starred in The National Lampoon Show and eventually became a performer and head writer for SCTV, a direct competitor of another well-known comedy show, Saturday Night Live. And though acting would always have a place in his life, it was writing and directing that truly showcased Ramis’ talents.

Ramis with Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd in Ghostbusters (Columbia Pictures)

Among the films Ramis is best known for—aside from those already mentioned—are some of my favorite comedies of all time: National Lampoon’s Animal House, Groundhog Day, Meatballs, Back to School, Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation and Club Paradise, to name a few. And with a resume like that, how could he not be great?

Ramis’ long-time friend and colleague—Dan Aykroyd—reacted to the news of his death on Facebook: “Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my brilliant, gifted, funny friend, co-writer/performer and teacher Harold Ramis. May he now get the answers he was always seeking.” Steve Carell worked with Ramis on The Office and described him as “funny, gracious [and] kind-hearted,” all words that only scratch the surface of this great man and the joy he brought to so many.

Yes, Monday was a sad day for entertainment, but I feel an even deeper sense of loss since I grew up with Harold Ramis and his films. And I’m sure there are plenty of others who feel the same. It’s always sad to lose a great talent—especially one who brought laughter into the lives of so many—but it’s worse to lose a great human being… and that’s precisely what Harold Ramis was.

Rest in peace, my friend. I miss you already.

Sexy Sochi

More Bieber Shenanigans

Bieber blazing some bud (24-Hour Hip Hop)

Is it just me, or does it seem as if pop star Justin Bieber is becoming more of an ass with each passing day?

Last week in Toronto, the Canadian singer—who lives in the United States under a work visa—was arrested on accusations that he assaulted his limousine driver in December. Bieber also faces past charges that include drunk driving, driving with an expired license and resisting arrest—charges that were dropped on him last month in Miami, Florida.

Of course, the spoiled little shit may also be charged with felony vandalism after egging his neighbor’s house in January and causing nearly $20,000 in damages, too.

Well, today brought yet another Bieber-related issue to light. Apparently, he and his father were traveling from Canada to New Jersey last Friday and “blazing weed” the whole time. From what I understand, pot smoke filled the cabin and when pilots asked for Bieber to stop, he and his dad became “verbally abusive.” Things got so bad that the flight crew eventually put on oxygen masks so they wouldn’t test positive for marijuana during their next drug screening!

Fortunately for Bieber, a search of the chartered plane didn’t reveal any drugs, so he and his entourage were granted re-entry into the U.S. after he was detained for questioning for several hours. And no charges will likely result from this incident, even though it does illustrate my point of Bieber being a jackass… as if it needed further illustration.

The beautiful Selena Gomez (Getty Images)

On a related note was a recent story about Bieber’s ex-girlfriend, the lovely and talented Selena Gomez. Apparently, Gomez did a two-week stint in rehab last month for a combination of problems, including alcohol, marijuana and addiction to the prescription sleep aid Ambien. According to numerous sources, Gomez blamed her need for rehab on “that crazy boy”—namely Justin Bieber—after being exposed to the excesses enjoyed by him and his buddies… likely the same buddies who were arrested for drug possession a few weeks ago at Bieber’s home.

In other words, Bieber isn’t just being an ass and causing problems for himself; he’s dragging others down with him. And since his pattern of bad behavior seems to be growing, I can’t imagine things getting better for him anytime soon. However, I do have a recommendation that would likely solve everyone’s problems: ship his spoiled little ass back to Canada!

Just be sure to alert Canadian law enforcement before this happens so they can prepare for what’s coming. We all know that it won’t be pretty!

The Truth of the Tongue

Miley sticking out her tongue... among other things (MTV)

Miley sticking out her tongue… among other things (MTV)

No matter where she was or what she was doing in 2013, it seemed as if every picture taken of 21-year-old pop star Miley Cyrus caught her sticking out her tongue. In fact, it seems to have become one of her signature moves. Why is that?

This question was actually posed to Cyrus by Barbara Walters in preparation for her upcoming television special, Barbara Walters Presents: The 20 Most Fascinating People of 2013. And the response may not be what you were expecting.

Yeah, she obviously seems shy... as if! (Pop Dust)

Yeah, she obviously seems shy… as if! (Pop Dust)

“I get embarrassed to take pictures. That’s actually the truth,” Cyrus explained. “I’m so embarrassed because people are taking pictures of me, and I just don’t know how to—I don’t know how to smile and just be awkward, so I stick my tongue out because I don’t know what else to do.”

I suppose this makes sense, but it also raises another question: How does Cyrus explain her ass and tits hanging out in nearly every picture? It certainly isn’t what you would expect from someone claiming to be camera-shy, is it?

Not that I’m complaining, mind you…

Hello Seattle, Goodbye Seymour Hoffman

Seattle coach Pete Carroll takes the best kind of shower (AP)

If you missed last night’s Super Bowl, then you missed what had to be one of the most outstanding defensive showings in championship football history. And this is coming from a Steelers fan, no less.

In an unexpected turn of events, the Seattle Seahawks and their top-rated defense destroyed the highest scoring offense in the NFL—namely the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos—by a score of 43-8. The Broncos turned the ball over four times—twice in the form of Manning interceptions and twice by fumbling the ball—and started the game with an errant snap on offense resulting in a Seattle safety.

For Broncos fans—and Peyton Manning fans—it could not have been worse. And the one touchdown and two-point conversion they eventually scored did little to assuage the anguish over watching the number one offense in the league collapse so completely. It truly was a rout in every sense of the word.

So congratulations to the Seattle Seahawks on winning their first Super Bowl—and with an untested, second-year quarterback, too. I expect good things from this squad in the future. And who knows? They could be on their way to becoming the next dynasty in the NFL, especially if they keep playing like this!

On a sadder note, I would also like to honor one of my favorite actors and, sadly, another talent gone far too soon: 46-year-old Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Hoffman accepting his Oscar in 2005 (AMPAS)

On Sunday, police discovered Hoffman’s body on the bathroom floor of his Manhattan apartment, the victim of an apparent drug overdose. According to the latest reports, he even had a syringe sticking out of his arm—and it doesn’t get much more apparent than that.

Hoffman was an incredible and versatile actor who earned the respect and admiration of everyone with whom he worked. Upon hearing of his untimely death, actress Robin Wright described him as a “true artist,” while his co-star from the film Charlie Wilson’s War—the amazing Tom Hanks—called him “a giant talent.” Hoffman was an Oscar-winning actor—he took home Best Actor in 2005 for his performance in Capote—and starred in some truly great films: Scent of a Woman, Boogie Nights, The Big Lebowski, Magnolia, Almost Famous, 25th Hour and Cold Mountain, to name a few.

Yes, we have lost yet another great talent. And let’s hope this is the last one for a long, long time.

Farewell, Phillip. And thanks for the memories…

UPDATE: It seems that Hoffman’s death has been ruled as a heroin overdose. Police found nearly 50 packets of “Lady H” in his apartment, along with a host of prescription medications for everything from ADD to anxiety and high blood pressure. Hoffman entered rehab last year after a 23-year hiatus from drug and alcohol abuse. And sadly, it took only one slip to end his life. What a shame…

Bieber Busted!

Get used to this look, jackass (Getty Images)

Get used to this look, jackass (Getty Images)

In March, one of pop singer Justin Bieber’s neighbors accused him of spitting in his face during a heated argument about the loud parties often held at the young man’s home.

Last week, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department issued a felony search warrant for Bieber’s estate on vandalism charges. His neighbor alleges that Bieber assaulted him with eggs—which he tossed over a fence onto the house next door—and caused more than $20,000 to his home. The investigation is ongoing.

This week, another police department in the Miami area began to follow up on reports that some of its officers escorted Bieber and his entourage between several different strip clubs. This is obviously a no-no, especially without prior approval and authorization.

Now it seems that the spoiled, 19-year-old teenybopper is in even more trouble, this time for drunken driving, resisting arrest, driving without a valid license and maybe even illegal street racing!

I like this look even better! (Complex Magazine)

I like this look even better! (Complex Magazine)

Bieber was arrested early Thursday morning after police saw him driving a yellow Lamborghini and apparently racing a red Ferrari through a Miami neighborhood. When he was pulled over and confronted by officers, Bieber “was a little belligerent” and used some “choice words questioning why he was being stopped and why the officer was even questioning him.” The officers smelled alcohol and when they subjected Bieber to a field sobriety test, he failed miserably and was immediately taken to jail.

Is there no end to what this arrogant little prick will do? Better yet, does Lindsay Lohan know that Justin Bieber is trying to steal the celebrity basket case title from her?

He certainly seems to be gaining ground on her!

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