London Hughes understands why people can’t stop drooling over Bridgerton star Regé-Jean Page. Not only does he film incredible sex scenes in the show, but she says he knows how to plant a good kiss on someone in real life.
“He’s a good kisser. It was great,” she told Glamour about what it was like to kiss him on-screen one time. “Not a bad day at work at all.”
Hughes explained they worked together on a “sitcom in the U.K that never got made.” And in the show, she had her “first-ever kissing scene” with Page, who made her feel completely comfortable on-camera.
“He made me feel so secure about the kissing scene. I’d never done one before and had a mild asthma attack, and he was such a professional. He’s the best,” she said.
Although they get along well, Hughes noted they’re nothing but “really good friends.” In fact, when his career blew up from Bridgerton, Hughes remembers how great it was to see him succeed.
“It’s really insane seeing your friend go from like 10,000 followers to a million and a half in three days. He’s so sweet and lovely and the best actor,” she said.
The only thing that Hughes wasn’t prepared for was to see Page’s sex scenes in Bridgerton.
“He’s a friend of mine, so I never saw him in that light,” she explained. “But I don’t know if it was the pandemic or whatever, because I know him, but seeing those scenes brought out something in me that was not previously there before.”
“So, yes, the Duke and Duchess’ scenes in Bridgerton are currently my favorite sex scenes,” Hughes added.
She’s definitely not alone!
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Cloris Leachman, who played Phyllis on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, dies at age 94 | Film
Cloris Leachman, a character actor whose depth of talent brought her an Oscar for the The Last Picture Show and Emmys for her comedic work on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and other TV series, has died. She was 94.
Leachman died of natural causes at her home in Encinitas, California, her publicist Monique Moss said Wednesday. Her daughter was at her side, Moss said.
Millions of viewers knew the actor as the self-absorbed neighbour Phyllis on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She also appeared as the mother of Timmy on the Lassie series. She played a frontier prostitute in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a crime spree family member in Crazy Mama, and the infamous Frau Blücher in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein.
Born in Iowa in 1926, Leachman began her performing career with plays and beauty pageants during her teens. She began appearing in small television and film roles after winning a place in the 1946 Miss America pageant and studying acting in New York City. Her early career included small parts in the Robert Aldrich film Kiss Me Deadly (1955) and the Paul Newman film The Rack (1956).
Her acting career only really took off in her 40s, when she was cast as Phyllis on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1970. In the early 70s she was cast as Ruth Popper, wife of the high-school gym teacher in The Last Picture Show, directed by Peter Bogdanovich and based on Larry McMurtry’s book. The role would bring her the best supporting actress Oscar at the 1971 Academy Awards, a British Academy film award, and cement her reputation in the screen industry and her presence in the public eye.
In 1975, Leachman’s character on The Mary Tyler Moore Show – and Leachman herself – was given her own spin-off series, Phyllis, which ran for two seasons.
Leachman continued to work in television and film over the next 50 years, amassing close to 300 acting credits over her lifetime. She had recurring roles in the early 00s television series Raising Hope, the 2019 revival of Mad About You, and the adaptation Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods. Her role as Grandma Ida in Malcolm in the Middle from 2001-2006 was one of her most popular, netting her two Emmy awards and a slew of nominations.
In 1977 she appeared in an episode of The Muppet Show. She also performed as a voice actor in the 1986 My Little Pony movie, the 1994 animation A Troll in Central Park, the English dubbing of Hayao Miyazaki’s 1986 Castle in the Sky, and an episode of The Simpsons.
Leachman worked frequently with Mel Brooks, appearing in Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety (1977) and History of the World, Part I (1981).
Brooks paid tribute to Leachman on Wednesday on Twitter, calling her “insanely talented”.
“Every time I hear a horse whinny I will forever think of Cloris’ unforgettable Frau Blücher. She is irreplaceable,” Brooks said.
Leachman holds the record for the most Primetime Emmy acting nominations in history, with 22, and she is tied for the most awarded: she has eight Primetime Emmys to her name (a record later equalled by Julia Louis-Dreyfus), as well as one Daytime Emmy.
Other members of the screen industry paid tribute to Leachman’s talent and humour on social media on Wednesday.
Hear me out: why Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes isn’t a bad movie | Planet of the Apes
Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes is a remake that has the forward momentum and expansive qualities of a sequel; a love letter assuming a familiarity with the 1968 sci-fi classic, counting on our expectations so that it could playfully thwart them.
The 20-year-old Planet of the Apes was the best version of fan service, arriving well before we knew what fan service would be: think recent franchise sequels like Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Jurassic World that are precious about colouring within the lines, often behaving more like remakes than Burton’s Apes.
In the latter, Mark Wahlberg, an admittedly bland alternative to Charlton Heston, plays an astronaut who once again crash lands into a futuristic society where apes capture and enslave humans in an evident reversal of evolution.
The surprise in the original (spoiler alert!) is that the seemingly foreign planet ruled by apes is actually a post-apocalyptic Earth. The revelation arrives in a scorching and iconic final image where Heston’s George Taylor discovers the Statue of Liberty strewn about as rubble.
In his blockbuster spectacle, Burton levels up the time travel mechanics to approach Tenet-like complexity. And he manages to squeeze a couple OF genuinely breathtaking surprises that stay true to the spirit of the 1968 film. But audiences weren’t as appreciative of the inexplicable cliff-hanger ending.
Burton’s Planet of the Apes is widely maligned. It’s got a 44 percent critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 27 percent audience score. The public were keener on the Rise, Dawn and War of the Planet of the Apes prequel cycle that would follow a decade later. Those films stripped down the sci-fi premise, serving up an explainer with a real-world aesthetic (ironically, with heavy CGI) that narrates in overwrought detail how apes could come to rule an inhumane society.
The recent Apes cycle leans towards the “serious” affect of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, while Burton’s Planet of the Apes unsurprisingly hews closer to the sexy, stylized and macabre take on Gotham in Batman and Batman Returns. Maybe it’s just a matter of preference that I lean towards Burton’s elevated, B-movie funhouse, enjoying fine details like interspecies sexual tension (a dialed up version of what’s in the original) or a hilarious display of ape foreplay. Glenn Shadix’s horny hooting and hollering and the seductive dance from Lisa Marie (Burton’s girlfriend at the time) are particularly unforgettable.
In a time before CGI completely took over, Burton relished what actors accomplish with prosthetics. Paul Giamatti, Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Roth chew scenery while hunching and hoisting their bodies to mimic simian behaviour.
Burton’s Planet of the Apes is also popcorn fare that doesn’t sacrifice the striking visual treats: a playful rotating camera that reveals why rose petals are falling upwards; an army of apes falling into formation at the pace of dominoes; the numerous visual nods to the original, including a twist on the Statue of Liberty’s fossilized crown.
But none of the images in Burton’s movie or the prequel trilogy for that matter even try to be as implicating or impactful as those in Franklin J. Schaffner’s Planet of the Apes. That film, which was playing In theatres weeks after the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, showed ape soldiers posing for a photo over a pile of human carcasses. In another scene, Schaffner’s civil rights era allegory about equality and justice depicts a courtroom scene with apes positioned like the three wise monkeys (“hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil”).
The most unfortunate departure for Burton’s Planet of the Apes is that it gestures towards the civil rights era politics of the original without engaging in meaningful ways, as if inhumanity towards Black people wasn’t as urgent at the dawn of the 21st century. But that doesn’t mean his Planet of the Apes is completely apolitical. Tim Roth’s sneering and menacing General Thade is like a forecast for the kind military maneuvering to come after 9/11, which took place weeks after the movie was released.
The most memorable scene in Burton’s Planet of the Apes is also its most subversively political. The scene features original franchise star Charlton Heston. He plays the ailing father to Roth’s General Thade, occupying a villainous knowledge keeper role similar to Maurice Evans’ Dr. Zaius in the 1968 film.
In that scene, Heston’s Zaius warns Thade of the threat humans pose by pointing him to a man-made invention: a handgun.
At the time, Heston was the president of the National Rifle Association (NRA). A year before Burton’s Planet of the Apes hit theatres, Heston was at an NRA rally, countering post-Columbine sentiments for gun control by hoisting a replica musket in the air and shouting defiantly at reformists “From my cold, dead hands!”
Burton gave us Heston as a dying elderly ape, quivering at mankind’s ability to produce weapons. “Their ingenuity goes hand in hand with their cruelty,” he says, in the ultimate self-own. “No creature is as devious, as violent.”
Forget Ratatouille, here’s Ratatoing! The rise and rise of the ‘mockbuster’ | Film
It is hard to describe what happens 24 minutes into Ratatoing, an animated children’s movie from 2007. Four unnerving rats – one with a handlebar moustache, another in pearls – begin to jump up and down and grunt in a restaurant, in order to alarm the human clientele. “La, la, la, la, la,” they sort of sing while sort of dancing. They then do the can-can and shout “HA, HA, HA!” before making ghostly noises. Ratatoing is not, it is safe to say, a good movie. It is barely even an acceptable movie. It was created in just four months by Brazilian animation studio Vídeo Brinquedo, to be released in the same month as Ratatouille, the restaurant-and-rat-themed film that went on to win Pixar the Oscar for best animated feature.
“I don’t have regrets but I’m not proud of it,” says Ale McHaddo, one of Ratatoing’s producers. He says Vídeo Brinquedo had a budget of just £75,000 to script, cast, animate and score each movie he worked on. These included The Little Cars (released the same year as Pixar’s Cars) and Little Bee (released two years after DreamWorks’ Bee Movie). Ratatouille’s budget, by comparison, was £112m. “I was young and needed to produce some films,” says the 37-year-old from São Paulo. “I thought, ‘I have plenty of ideas – but OK, I need to pay my bills.’”
The movies McHaddo helped to create are “mockbusters” – films that ride on the coat-tails of blockbusters. The first ones emerged in the 1950s, but the 1990s and early 2000s saw a rush of poorly-animated Disney and Pixar imitators that are now finding a second life online. A comedy YouTube video from June 2019, dissecting and mocking clips from Ratatoing, has now clocked up more than 8 million views. “It’s a rat!” bemoans YouTuber Danny Gonzalez. “You don’t need to give the rat a sexy saunter!” Another video – marvelling at the abundance of shoddy Kung Fu Panda imitators, such as Chop Kick Panda – attracted an audience of 1.4 million.
These mockbusters are not about to disappear. Last year, LA production company The Asylum released Homeward, an animated film about mythical creatures, magic and brothers, a couple of weeks before Pixar released Onward, an animated film about mythical creatures, magic and brothers. Speaking to the New York Times in 2007, founder David Latt likened his movies to “tie-ins”, saying: “I’m not trying to dupe anybody. I’m just trying to get my films watched.”
Still, mockbusters raise a lot of questions. How are they made? Why don’t massive studios sue them? And how do the people behind them feel about their work? Vitor Brandt and Daniel Turini wrote the script for Vídeo Brinquedo’s Little & Big Monsters, inspired by DreamWorks’ Monsters vs Aliens. It took them just three days. The resulting film, which follows wacky scientists on monster-hunting adventures, scores 1.1 stars out of 10 on IMDb. “There is no redeeming quality to this movie,” wrote one reviewer.
“They didn’t care much about the quality of the script,” says 38-year-old Brandt of his bosses. The only information he had to work off was a Monsters vs Aliens poster, as DreamWorks hadn’t yet broadcast any trailers. And rushing meant mistakes made it into the final cut. “There was a character named Fred,” says Brandt, “which in Brazil is short for Frederico. At the last minute, they decided to rename him Guto. They searched for ‘Fred’ in the script and did a ‘replace all’ with Guto. But there was a line in which ‘Fred’ was called ‘Frederico’ by his angry uncle. The replace changed it to ‘Gutoerico’, which makes no sense at all.”
Turini, 40, says he was told to write more dialogue than action, avoiding scenes where characters ran because those were harder to animate. But, he adds, because the films were often based on concepts of as-yet-unreleased movies, there wasn’t actually much copying. “It was fun to do something completely free.” The sequel to Little & Big Monsters, which neither Brandt nor Turini worked on, is called What’s Up and is about the same scientists floating in a house attached to a giant balloon. No prizes for guessing what that was inspired by.
How do mockbuster studios avoid being sued by giants? Larry Zerner, an LA-based copyright lawyer, explains that many early mockbusters were based on public domain stories such as Aladdin, meaning “anybody can do it and nobody can really complain”. Disney lost a 1993 lawsuit against GoodTimes, a company that released its own animated Aladdin. He also notes that under US trademark law, a film’s title is not protectable until the film becomes a series. “So where you can have protection for Harry Potter or Star Wars, anyone can make a movie called Titanic.”
But what about films that copy concepts, such as dancing penguins and pandas that are good at taekwondo? “The test is: are the two works substantially similar? You have to have a good chunk. Just a house with balloons? Not enough.” Overall, Zerner characterises mockbusters as “mosquitoes on the side of the elephant”. It often isn’t worth it for, say, Disney to sue a small company and give it publicity. Zerner imagines mockbusters will be around for a while: “There are people who want to make quality movies – and there are people just trying to make a buck.”
Vídeo Brinquedo is now defunct, but I managed to track down Marco Botana, who joined the company in the late 90s as a product director. “At the end,” he told me by email, “as a lot of studios usually do, we just produced what was trending in animation and entertainment through the world.” He describes Vídeo Brinquedo films as “animations based on character tendencies, such as bears who fight, bees with identity crisis, rats who cook”.
Botana said the company never tried to trick consumers, nor did it receive any complaints. He points out that The Little Cars sold more than a million copies in a single month in Brazil before being dubbed for international audiences and selling 5,000 copies in a week in Walmart. “We always wanted to produce entertainment at accessible cost. We also wanted to offer job opportunities to a lot of animators in Brazil, where there wasn’t an animation industry. Throughout the history of the company, we have always given a lot of job opportunities, paid taxes and got children happy.”
Practically all of The Little Cars takes place on one strip of pixelated asphalt. And it was not the only imitator released in 2006, the year Pixar’s Cars came out. There was also A Car’s Life: Sparky’s Big Adventure, made by New York company Spark Plug Entertainment and boasting a look similar to that of 1990s PC games. “I was told going in that this wouldn’t be super-polished,” says an animator who worked on Car’s Life 2 and 3. The animator, who we’ll call Harry, was a recent graduate and took the job for experience. He worked remotely for four months on each and had no contact with any of the other animators. A fellow worker, who we’ll call John, says he was paid $4 per second of animation. Normal rates go from $150 to $2,500. “I honestly put very little effort into it,” says John. “I didn’t bother wasting my time polishing a turd.”
Harry later worked on another mockbuster for a different company. “I would say the standard was lower,” he says. “They seemed to care less about detail.” While working for Spark Plug, Harry would animate entire scenes, but here he was given specific shots. This meant that when each animator’s shots were tied together in to a scene, there would be continuity errors with lighting and locations. “I discussed it with my supervisor,” says Harry, “but he said that’s the way the director wanted it. I would say this for Spark Plug – yeah, it was making mockbusters, but the director cared about making the movie as good as he could within the budget he had.” Spark Plug Entertainment appears to be defunct and could not be reached for comment.
Harry “felt uneasy” making mockbusters but distinguishes between films that were “piggybacking” off popular concepts and ones that deliberately tried to mislead consumers. He also believes these jobs were an economic necessity at a time when many studios were laying off staff. Turini, the Vídeo Brinquedo scriptwriter, says mockbusters were often the only way for creatives to get their foot in the door, and provided a cheaper alternative for poorer consumers in Brazil. He points out that nobody asks mainstream movie-makers if they feel guilty about their jobs, even though many “suppress diversity” and “fill all the theatres with the same movie, with the same point of view, produced by the same countries”.
Darrell Van Citters is an animator who worked on such Disney classics as The Fox and the Hound before forming his own studio in 1992. In 2011, Van Citters produced the mockbusters Chop Kick Panda, Tappy Toes and Puss in Boots: A Furry Tail for fitness brand Gaiam. The company had existing infrastructure to distribute exercise videos, so branched into mockbusters. It did not respond to a request for comment.
“This was during the depths of the recession when nothing was coming in,” 64-year-old Van Clitters says. “I had a couple of people message me on Facebook telling me I should be ashamed of myself, but I’m never ashamed to provide for my family.” Compared to most mockbusters, Van Citters’ films have high-quality animation, though he faced budget restraints. Of Chop Kick Panda, he says: “You’ll notice, when the fighting starts, the kid hides his eyes and says, ‘I can’t look.’ And neither did we.”
Van Citters’ studio now works on The Tom and Jerry Show, and he’s not the only mockbuster creator to have gone on to experience mainstream success. Vídeo Brinquedo writer Brandt won an International Emmy Kids Award for his TV show Young Hearts: Embrace Diversity, while producer McHaddo has created a show broadcast by Nickelodeon. Product director Botana now creates online educational videos for children.
The world’s most infamous mockbusters were made by German studio Dingo Pictures in the 1990s. No one from the company responded to requests for an interview, though its website is still live. The childish animation and poor quality control – in some dubs, actors accidentally read their stage directions – mean the movies have become heavily memed, taking on new lives decades after they were made.
“I find it amusing that there are so many reviews on the internet about these movies,” says Turini. “They do 35-minute videos about a 45-minute animation, showing almost all of the movie, to say at the end that they don’t recommend it. In a way, they are monetising the mockbuster just like the mockbuster tried to monetise the blockbuster.”
For producer McHaddo, renewed interest in Vídeo Brinquedo is both funny and troubling. At a recent film festival, it pained him when an audience member asked him about Ratatoing. “I needed that expertise to evolve,” he says, “to learn how to work with a team and a low budget. So it was important.” Was he ever happy with the finished movies? “No,” he says with a laugh. “Never, never, never, never.”
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