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Archive for February 4, 2012

Michael Beck

John Michael Beck Taylor (born February 4, 1949), commonly known as Michael Beck, is an American actor, perhaps best known for his role as Swan in the 1979 film, The Warriors.

Beck was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the third of nine children. He attended Memphis University School and Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, on a football scholarship. After graduating with a degree in Economics, he was one of 30 (out of 2,500) applicants chosen for London’s Central School of Speech and Drama. His stage credits, beginning with college, include: Camelot (he was King Arthur); and Cat On a Hot Tin Roof. Besides acting, his hobbies include reading, music and cooking.

Michael Beck is predominantly known for his role as “Swan” in the Walter Hill classic cult action film ‘The Warriors’ (1979). The plot follows The Warriors from Coney Island, Brooklyn. Cyrus (Roger Hill), leader of the Gramercy Riffs, the most powerful gang in New York City, has requested all NY gangs to send nine unarmed representatives to Van Cortland Park, where Cyrus proposes the assembled crowd a permanent citywide truce that would allow the gangs to control the city. Most of the gangs laud his idea, but Luther (David Patrick Kelly), leader of the Rogues, shoots Cyrus and frames the Warriors. In the ensuing panic, the Warriors escape. Unbeknownst to the Warriors, however, the Riffs call a hit on them through a DJ (Lynne Thigpen), believing them responsible for Cyrus’ death. Swan (Michael Beck) takes charge of the group and they head back to the subway… Awesome.

Beck followed The Warriors with the role of “Sonny Malone” in ‘Xanadu’ (1980), and promptly ruined his career prospects. He followed that with b-movies such as ‘Megaforce’ (1982), and ‘Triumphs of a Man Called Horse’ (1982). (Both the Xanadu and Megaforce roles garnered him Razzie nominations for Worst Actor and Worst Supporting Actor respectively.) Beck also appeared in other b-movies such as ‘Warlords of the 21st Century’, ‘The Last Ninja’, ‘The Golden Seal’, ‘Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story’, ‘Rearview Mirror’, the 1984 TV movie ‘Blackout’, and ‘Wes Craven’s Chiller’ (as a cryogenically suspended sociopath). He also starred in a short-lived television series, ‘Houston Knights’ (1987). More recently, Beck has featured in the television shows ‘JAG’, ‘Robin’s Hoods’, Walker: Texas Ranger’ (in the episodes Flashpoint and A Difficult Peace), ‘In the Heat of the Night’ (TV Series), and as a Mars-born terrorist-turned-cyborg assassin “Abel Horn” in the science fiction TV series ‘Babylon 5’ 1994 episode “A Spider in the Web”, and as “Mr.Jones” in the spinoff series ‘Crusade’. 

Michael has narrated numerous audiobooks of John Grisham novels. He has also narrated Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz; A Darkness More Than Light by Michael Connelly; State of the Union by David Callahan; and the unabridged version of Bill Clinton’s My Life. He also lent his voice to the popular video game adaptation of The Warriors in 2005.

George A. Romero

George Andrew Romero (born February 4, 1940) is a Canadian-American film director, screenwriter and editor, best known for his gruesome and satirical horror movies about a hypothetical zombie apocalypse. He is the “Godfather of Zombies.”

Romero was born in New York City to a Cuban-born father of Castilian Spanish parentage and a Lithuanian American mother. Romero attended Pittsburgh’s Carnegie-Mellon University. After graduating in 1960, he began his career shooting short films and commercials. One of his early commercial films, a segment for ‘Mister Roger’s Neighborhood’ in which Mr. Rogers underwent a tonsillectomy, inspired Romero to go into the horror film business. He, along with nine friends, formed Image Ten Productions in the late 1960s, and produced ‘Night of the Living Dead‘ (1968). The movie, directed by Romero and co-written with John A. Russo, became a cult classic and a defining moment for modern horror cinema.

Three films that followed were less popular: ‘There’s Always Vanilla’ (19710, ‘Jack’s Wife / Season of the Witch’ (1972) and ‘The Crazies’ (1973) were not as well received as Night of the Living Dead or some of his later work. The Crazies, dealing with a bio spill that induces an epidemic of homicidal madness, and the critically acclaimed arthouse success ‘Martin’ (1977), a film that deals with the vampire myth, were the two well-known films from this period. Like many of his films, they were shot in or around Pittsburgh.

In 1978, Romero returned to the zombie genre with the greatest zombie movie EVER: ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (1978). Shot on a budget of just $500,000, the film earned over $55 million worldwide and was named one of the top cult films by Entertainment Weekly in 2003. Romero made a third entry in his “Dead Series” with ‘Day of the Dead’ (1985).

Between these two films, Romero shot ‘Knightriders’ (1981), another festival favorite about a group of modern-day jousters who reenact tournaments on motorcycles, and the successful ‘Creepshow’ (1982), written by Stephen King, an anthology of tongue-in-cheek tales modeled after 1950s horror comics.

From the latter half of the 1980s and into the 1990s came ‘Monkey Shines’ (1988), about a killer helper monkey, ‘Two Evil Eyes’ (1990), an Edgar Allan Poe adaptation in collaboration with Dario Argento, the Stephen King adaptation ‘The Dark Half’ (1993) and ‘Bruiser’ (2000), about a man whose face becomes a blank mask.

Romero updated his original screenplay and executive produced the remake of Night of the Living Dead directed by Tom Savini for Columbia/TriStar in 1990. Romero had a cameo appearance in Jonathan Demme’s Academy Award-winning ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ in 1991 as one of Hannibal Lecter’s jailers.

Universal Studios produced and released a remake of ‘Dawn of the Dead’ in 2004, with which Romero was not involved. Later that year, Romero kicked off the DC Comics title Toe Tags with a six-issue miniseries titled The Death of Death. Based on an unused script that Romero had previously written as a sequel to his “Dead Trilogy,” the comic miniseries concerns Damien, an intelligent zombie who remembers his former life, struggling to find his identity as he battles armies of both the living and the dead. Typical of a Romero zombie tale, the miniseries includes ample supply of both gore and social commentary (dealing particularly here with corporate greed and terrorism — ideas he would also explore in his next film in the series, Land of the Dead). Romero has stated that the miniseries is set in the same kind of world as his ‘Dead’ films, but featured other locales besides Pittsburgh, where the majority of his films take place.

Romero, who lives in Toronto, ‘Land of the Dead’ there. The movie’s working title was “Dead Reckoning”. Its $16 million production budget was the highest of the four movies in the series. Actors Simon Baker, Dennis Hopper, Asia Argento, and John Leguizamo star in the film. It was released on June 24, 2005 to generally positive reviews.

Unlike most modern day zombie flicks, Romero’s contain a healthy dose of social commentary. Night of the Living Dead is a film made in reaction to the turbulent 1960s, Dawn of the Dead is a satire on consumerism, Day of the Dead is a study of the conflict between science and the military, and Land of the Dead is an examination of class conflict.

In June 2006, Romero began ‘Zombisodes’, broadcast on the Web, they are a combination of a series of “Making of” shorts and story expansion detailing the work behind the film ‘George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead’, which follows a group of college students making a horror movie in the woods, who stumble on a real zombie uprising. When the onslaught begins, they seize the moment as any good film students would, capturing the undead in a cinema verite style that causes more than the usual production headaches. The film was independently financed, making it the first indie zombie film Romero has done in years.

Romero’s last zombie film, ‘Survival of the Dead’ was intended to be a direct sequel to Diary of the Dead, but the film features a new cast of characters, and did not retain the first-person camerawork of Diary of the Dead.  and the majority of the story taking place on an island.

Romero says he has plans for two more Dead movies which will be connected to Diary of the Dead.