Mayer, most famous for standing in for Tom Wopat on The Dukes of Hazzard during a contract dispute, passed away on 23 July (11) in Sherman Oaks, California. He died of natural causes.
After starring in the hit TV show for 17 episodes, he was let go after CBS bosses brought back Wopat and John Schneider, following a drop in ratings.
He went on to star in soap opera Santa Barbara, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and the 1997 Jim Carrey film Liar Liar.
Married three times, he was engaged at the time of his death, and has three daughters.
The best way to go into Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is to think of it as the first film in a brand new franchise; a franchise in which mermaids love men zombies won’t eat you and a Fountain of Youth exists but all laws of logic reasoning and competent storytelling don’t. Although screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio were smart enough to sever the narrative ties to the first two sequels in their franchise’s fourth outing the latest swashbuckling adventure in the series shares most of the same faults its predecessors faced.
Director Rob Marshall (Chicago) steps in for Gore Verbinski in On Stranger Tides but you’ll be hard-pressed to find his contributions to the already-flashy film that finds our hero Capt. Jack Sparrow (the inimitable Johnny Depp) on the hunt for the fore mentioned fountain. Of course he’s not the only one looking for eternal life: also in tow are nameless stereotypical Spaniards the English crown headed by a reformed Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and Blackbeard a ruthless pirate who looks and sounds a lot like Ian McShane. Their paths cross on numerous occasions as the story scrambles across the map culminating in a splashy battle in a magical meadow where Ponce de Leon’s greatest discovery lies.
Less a cohesive story and more a collection of individual set pieces linked together by nonsensical dialogue and supernatural occurrences the film isn’t all that hard to follow if you don’t strain yourself doing so. The sequence of events collide so conveniently for the characters you can’t help but call the screenplay anything but the result of complacency while the film itself sails so swiftly from point to point it’s actually a waste of time to dwell on plot holes and motives. Disrupting its momentum (which is one of the few things the film has going for it) is an unwatchable romance between Sam Claflin’s missionary Philip and Syrena (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) one of a handful of murderous mermaids who do battle with Blackbeard’s crew. Their bland courtship will have you begging for Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley to return to the high seas and that’s saying something.
The all-female fish people are one of a few additions to the Pirates world but their effect on the film is negligible outside of being the impetus for the coolest action sequence in the picture and perhaps the most unnerving of the series. The others include Penelope Cruz as Blackbeard’s busty daughter Angelica and Stephen Graham as shipmate Scrum. The former feels out of place among the cartoony happenings but provides much needed sass while the latter fills in for Kevin McNally’s Gibbs for much of the film and is a pleasure to watch for some hammy comedic moments.
As always however this is Depp’s show and he continues to put a smile on my face with his charisma and theatrical presence. Even though he’s operating on autopilot throughout you can’t help but marvel at his energy and enthusiastic output as he literally fuels the fun in the film. The same can be said of Rush who’s given a meatier and more significant arc this time around. He trades quips with Depp as if they were a golden-age comedy duo and they remain the most appealing attraction in the franchise. Though he brings an undeniable sense of danger to the picture I was sadly underwhelmed by McShane’s Blackbeard a character with such a domineering reputation and imposing look he should’ve been stealing scenes left and right. Instead I felt he phoned his performance in though that could’ve been the result of Marshall’s indirection.
No better than the genre-bending original but a slight improvement over Dead Man’s Chest and At Worlds End On Stranger Tides suffers centrally from lack of a commanding captain. Marshall’s role is relegated to merely on-set facilitator or perhaps liaison between legions of talented craftspeople that make the movie look so good. Whatever vision he had for this venture if he had a unique take at all is chewed up and spit out by the engines of the Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster factory rendering the film as mechanical as the ride from which it is based.
I say "creepy" because Untraceable’s theory could actually be a reality. The possibility of a tech-savvy psycho setting up a Web site that displays graphic murders could happen with the fate of each of the tormented captives left in the hands of the public: The more hits the site gets the faster the victims die--and in the case of Untraceable die in very gruesome ways. Of course Untraceable also gives us a peek at the good guys--the FBI division that is dedicated to investigating and prosecuting cybercriminals. Special Agent Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) is one such Internet expert who along with her co-worker (Colin Hanks) is stymied by KillWithMe.com’s untraceablity. But soon the movie turns predictable as the cat-and-mouse game gets personal and Marsh must race against the clock to stop the madman. Lane has certainly looked better in her past movies. For obvious effect they’ve made Agent Marsh rather worn-down with dark circles under her eyes and very little makeup as she sits in front of the computer hunting the bad guys all night on the late shift. The fact that she’s also a widow having lost her cop husband to the job and caregiver to her young daughter doesn’t help the woman get anymore rest. Then when the crap starts hitting the fan and people close to Marsh get hurt the actress really shows the pain on her already haggard face. Marsh even admits “I do a lot of things well but I don’t lose people well.” It’s a standard tough-FBI-agent role and Lane is very capable at it. Supporting her is Hanks (Orange County) as the resident comic relief (what little of it there is) as well as Billy Burke (Fracture) the local cop trying to help Marsh catch the psycho Internet killer. As for the killer himself the actor who portrays him (and I won’t give it away) is very effective in the role. There are a couple of other things Untraceable has going for it besides the chilling premise: director Gregory Hoblit who knows his way around a crime thriller having directed gems such as Primal Fear and Fracture and the dank Portland Oregon locale. Hoblit creates just the right amount of tension and dread as the clock ticks down and the race nears its end but something about an overcast rainy environ just lends itself to more doom and gloom doesn’t it? Of course there are also the torture scenes which add a certain level of Hostel-like horror. What Untraceable lacks is a compelling narrative. The bevy of writers involved (never the best of signs) tend to throw in too many conventional thriller plot points--like the red herrings on who the killer is before he’s revealed and explaining why the killer is doing what he’s doing. All these things dilute the film’s initial potential. Still let’s just hope this doesn’t spawn real-life copycats.
Moore shoots back at GOP
Michael Moore got in his own two cents Wednesday, responding to Republicans' charge that the filmmaker be prosecuted for offering underwear and food to college students in exchange for their promise to vote, The Associated Press reports. "It's ironic that Republicans have no problem with allowing assault weapons out on our streets, yet they don't want to put clean underwear in the hands of our slacker youth," Moore said. "The Republicans seem more interested in locking me up for trying to encourage people to participate in our democracy than locking up bin Laden for his attacks on our democracy." AP reports the Michigan GOP on Tuesday asked four county prosecutors to file charges against Moore, citing an election law provision that prohibits a person from contracting with another for something of value in exchange for agreeing to vote. Moore is currently touring the country and imploring "slackers" who usually don't vote to head to the polls this year, saying they could make the difference in the presidential race, and offering gag prizes to incite them.
Rape charges against Anthony Anderson dismissed
On Wednesday, a judge in Memphis, Tenn., dismissed rape charges filed in July against Kangaroo Jack star Anthony Anderson and another man, Reuters reports. Judge Anthony Johnson threw out the case brought by a film extra on the set of Hustle & Flow at a preliminary hearing after calling the woman's testimony suspicious and bizarre. Charges against Witherspoon also were dropped. The woman had accused Anderson and Wayne Witherspoon, an assistant director on the Hustle, of raping her in a trailer on that film's set. "He is, of course, both relieved and delighted by the judge's decision to throw out what was so obviously a trumped-up case," Anderson's spokesman Allan Mayer said.
Actress MacDowell bids adieu to marriage
Actress Andie MacDowell and her husband, former high school classmate Rhett Hartzog, have divorced after nearly three years of marriage, People magazine reports. People quoted a source close to the couple as saying, "It's a painful and very private time." No other details about the split were available. MacDowell, 46, and Hartzog, 45, married in November 2001 with a 450-guest ceremony in Asheville, N.C. It was the actress' second marriage.
Seized Limbaugh records ruled valid
A Florida appeals court ruled on Wednesday that prosecutors acted legally when they seized Rush Limbaugh's medical records during a 2003 investigation into whether the conservative radio host misused prescription painkillers, Reuters reports. The outspoken conservative commentator had claimed his constitutional right to privacy had been violated because the search warrants were issued without giving him prior notice or a chance to challenge the seizure. Florida's 4th District Court of Appeals said the search warrant authorizing the seizure outweighed Limbaugh's right to keep his medical records private. Limbaugh, who has not been charged with a crime, admitted an addiction to prescription painkillers last year and took time off from his popular syndicated radio show for drug rehabilitation.
Judge extends restraining order against Mel Gibson stalker
During a brief hearing yesterday, Superior Court Judge Linda Lefkowitz extended a temporary restraining order to three years against a homeless man who showed up at Mel Gibson's Malibu, Calif., estate demanding they pray together. Zack Sinclair, 34, has pleaded not guilty to six misdemeanor counts that include trespassing and disorderly conduct, district attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons told AP. He remained in jail Wednesday without bail pending an Oct. 12 hearing. The order bars him from coming within 100 yards of Gibson, his wife or their seven children, their home, Gibson's work, the children's school and the chapel.
PGA wants end to bogus producer credits
The Producers Guild of America is stepping up its bid to stop Hollywood studios from giving bogus credits to people as a bargaining chip. Speaking at a news press conference Wednesday, PGA President Kathleen Kennedy said the guild is asking studios to include language specifying the duties necessary to receive it into every would-be producer's contract. According to Kennedy, studios oftentimes give producer credits as a kind of low-cost compensation, which boosts an actor, agent or manager's show-business resume. If a credit is given unfairly, guild lawyers pledged to sue--not for money, but to force a studio to remove the credit.
Motley Crue guitarist gets hip replacement
Motley Crue guitarist Mick Mars is recovering from hip replacement surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his publicist Katie McNeil said Wednesday. Mars, whose real name is Bob Allen Deal, suffers from a degenerative, rheumatic disease called ankylosing spondylitis, which causes ligaments and tendons to attach to the bone. The affected area becomes inflamed and some of the bone may erode. McNeil told the AP doctors expect Mars, 53, to walk again soon with the help of a physical therapist and is looking forward to a possible Motley Crue comeback tour. "He would do it if the tour happens," she said.
Guylaine Cadorette contributed to this report.
Told from the perspective of one innocent maid Mary Macearchran (Kelly MacDonald) the story starts as she arrives at the magnificent country estate of Gosford Park. On this particular weekend host Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon) and his wife Lady Sylvia (Kristin Scott Thomas) have invited an eclectic group to the house for a shooting party. The guests include Sylvia's two sisters (Geraldine Somerville Natasha Wightman) their respective loser husbands (Charles Dance Tom Hollander) her cantankerous aunt Constance (Maggie Smith) for whom Mary works British matinee idol Ivor Novello (Jeremy Northam) and his American friend Morris Weisman (Bob Balaban) a film producer who makes Charlie Chan movies. As the upper-crust guests bicker about money and power the ranks of house servants personal maids and valets below make sure their charges are well taken care of under the guidance of the head butler Jennings (Alan Bates) head housekeeper Mrs. Wilson (Helen Mirren) and head cook Mrs. Croft (Eileen Atkins). Through Mary's eyes we see that the glamour of the upstairs patrons and the seeming precision downstairs are not all they seem. The two worlds are destined to collide and when they do it leads to only one thing--murder.
One of the joys of an Altman movie is his uncanny ability to take a huge ensemble cast of really good actors and carve out a film from their personal stories. This style can also work to the film's detriment however and in Gosford Park the mostly British cast melds together almost too well. Often you can't even tell who's who. Still with all the talent involved there are at least a few bright moments: Smith as the wisecracking Constance an old lady who's very used to being waited on hand and foot gets all the best lines and delivers them flawlessly and veteran actress Mirren is also brilliant as the staunch Mrs. Wilson. She turns in one of the film's only heartbreaking scenes as her character grieves for the son she gave away long ago in the name of servitude. Also good are MacDonald as the young Mary Clive Owen as the valet Robert Parks who carries more than just a chip on his shoulder and Emily Watson as the headstrong chief housemaid Elsie. Northam too shows off his musical abilities as the suave piano-playing singing Novello. The rest all blend together except unfortunately the two American actors--Balaban comes off as annoying and Ryan Phillippe playing an actor pretending to be Morris' valet is in way over his head.
Interestingly the film is taken from a story idea dreamt up by Altman and Balaban. One wonders if perhaps the two were inspired to create Park after watching an episode of the classic '70s British television drama Upstairs Downstairs which was about a wealthy British household whose servant class had just as many dramas as the people they served (hmm sounds familiar). Sure it's conceivable that two Americans sitting around talking about making a distinctly British movie (and a period piece to boot) could pull it off and with a tremendous talent like Altman attached you'd think it would work. But Park misses the mark. The Altman-esque qualities are all there--the way he interweaves his characters' stories and shows real people with real emotions--but maybe just maybe Altman is simply out of his element. You enjoy the ride but it's not a ride through appealing territory and you're definitely watching from the window as the characters live a life you never really become a part of.