Brendon McCullin
  • The Lost Year of 'Saturday Night Live': 1984
    By: Brendon McCullin May 07, 2014
    NBC Universal Media/Getty Images Over the almost 50 years of Saturday Night Live, there have been plenty of seasons that were good (more than most casual observers would like to admit) and bad (some spectacularly so). There was, though, only one 1984: quite possibly the strangest season in the history of the show. With Eddie Murphy completely gone to pursue his superstar movie career and the second most recognizable cast member, Joe Piscopo, having worn out his welcome after the 1983 - '84 season, executive producer Dick Ebersol was left without a star. The remaining cast members, including a young Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jim Belushi, had never quite fit in with the show and were largely dissatisfied with the way that they had been treated. Many people figured that Murphy leaving would finally signal the death knell for SNL. Righting a Wrong Instead of trying to develop another young talent like Murphy, Ebersol turned to more established comedians, including one who had almost been part of the original SNL cast. By 1984, Billy Crystal was already a well known entertainer after his stint on the sitcom Soap and his numerous talk show appearances where he imitated celebrities like boxer Mohammed Ali, but in 1974 Crystal had been cut from the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players on the eve of the show's debut. Why that happened depends largely on who tells the story, but whatever the case, when Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, John Belushi, and Dan Aykroyd rocketed to fame, Crystal wasn’t with them. Nor was he offered the spot that went to Bill Murray when Chase left after the first season. Ten years later, Crystal was finally being given the chance to right what he considered a wrong. The Rest of the Gang Along with Crystal, Ebersol brought in Martin Short, who had already been a cast member of Canada's SCTV (which launched the careers of John Candy, Rick Moranis, and Catherine O'Hara), as well as Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer, fresh off their success in This Is Spinal Tap. Rich Hall, who had been part of an ensemble HBO comedy show called Not Necessarily the News, and Pamela Stephenson, who had been on the British precursor (Not the Nine O'clock News) of Hall's HBO show rounded out the new cast members. It was an odd turn of events considering that Crystal hosted SNL twice the season before he joined the cast, while Guest and Shearer had made a guest appearance as part of Spinal Tap. The Season Crystal, Short, and Guest wasted little time putting their stamp on the creative vacuum that they walked into. Ebersol was by all accounts a very good network executive, but he was not a comedian and didn’t come from a creative background. By the season opener, Crystal was already doing his Fernando Lamas impression ("You look mah-velous!") and Short had brought his Ed Grimley character with him from SCTV. By the third show, Crystal and Guest had worked up a breakout routine with their characters Willie and Frankie, who would continuously one-up each other with pain-inducing practices ("I hate it when that happens"). The show never missed a chance to exploit the new popular sketches — a hallmark of the Ebersol era — with Crystal doing his Fernando so frequently that the character almost deserved a separate credit in the opening theme. More than any season before or since, the show relied on pre-taped segments, with Guest, Shearer, and Short preferring to work that way. While it went against the grain of SNL, some of the short films, particularly Shearer and Short playing aspiring male synchronized swimmers and Guest and Crystal portraying aged Negro League baseball stars were as good as anything that the show had produced. The Oddness Perhaps the best remembered episode of the season is the one hosted by wrestler Hulk Hogan and Mr. T to promote the first Wrestlemania. In the most famous segment, the pair appears with Crystal on his "Fernando Hideaway" sketch and can't keep a straight face. While Murphy returned to host and the Beatles' Ringo Starr took a turn, the other hosts included figures like Jesse Jackson, Howard Cosell, and Bob Uecker. The first show of the season didn't even have a host. Additionally, there was little continuity with the show's fake news segment — called "Saturday Night News" instead of "Weekend Update" — with the show's host sometimes doing the anchoring and real newscaster Edwin Newman sitting in once before Guest finally took over midway through the season. In stark contrast to the hosts, the seasons musical guests were a who's who of mid-80s pop, with acts like The Thompson Twins, Billy Ocean, Bryan Adams, and super-groups The Honey Drippers (featuring Robert Plant), and Power Station (featuring Robert Palmer) all making appearances. The Aftermath When an industry-wide writers' strike halted production in early March 1985, the show didn’t return from the forced hiatus. The abbreviated season ended after just 17 episodes. NBC was unhappy with spiraling production costs and Ebersol was unhappy with his creative staff. Shearer had quit the show in January citing creative differences ("I was creative and they were different," he said later). Short and Guest didn't want to keep doing a live show. Louis-Dreyfus and Belushi (along with fellow holdover Mary Gross) had been used so little throughout the season that they wanted out. Crystal, enjoying the biggest success of his career, was seemingly the only one who wanted it to continue. Ebersol demanded a retooling, wanting to change the format to a completely taped show and with possibly a fixed rotation of guest hosts (his ideas for the rotation included Piscopo and David Letterman). Instead, NBC briefly canceled the show. After rethinking things, the network's executives decided that they would agree to give SNL another chance… if its original creator, Lorne Michaels, would take back over. Then and Now Eventually, Michaels agreed to return to the show and retained none of the cast or writers from the previous season. Taking a page from Ebersol's book, Michaels tried to use established actors like Randy Quaid and Anthony Michael Hall (along with Robert Downey Jr. and Joan Cusack) to re-launch the show… which very nearly did lead to the show being canceled permanently. It wasn't until the following season when Michaels entrusted SNL to virtual unknowns like Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Victoria Jackson, Jon Lovitz, Jan Hooks, and Dennis Miller that the show started the run that finally established it as the institution it has become. The goodwill that the show had gained from Crystal, Short and Guest's lone season helped carry it through Michaels' disastrous first season back. Thirty years later, the 1984 - '85 season remains an oddly alluring anomaly in the long comedic history of SNL.  
  • The Unusual Movie Stardom of Jamie Foxx
    By: Brendon McCullin May 06, 2014
    Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection Jamie Foxx is a lot of things; Academy Award winning actor, a talented singer and musician, and an extremely funny comedian. What he's not, however, is your typical movie star. Since moving to the big screen from a successful television career, first on In Living Color and then The Jamie Foxx Show, the actor has proved that he has little interest in being pigeonholed by the parts that he takes. Since winning his Oscar for Ray, Foxx has done roles in just about every genre of film, whether it's action (White House Down, Miami Vice), romantic comedy (Valentine's Day), straight comedy (Due Date, Horrible Bosses), musical (Dreamgirls), animated (Rio 2), or prestige pictures (The Soloist, Django Unchained). Checking off another box on his resume, he's now playing a villain in a superhero movie (Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2). He bounces between supporting and leading roles more regularly than any other major actor in Hollywood… to the point where it's difficult to figure out which way he's more comfortable. His willingness to bounce between genres and types of roles not only makes it hard to pinpoint what Foxx will do next, it also keeps it from feeling like he's overexposed. Beyond just his choice in roles, Foxx doesn't stand on superstar conventions. During this year's Academy Awards, Foxx and his daughter, Corinne Bishop, were suddenly on stage dancing during Pharrell Williams' performance of "Happy." Why? No real reason other than because he wanted to. Not only does Foxx continue to make music when he feels like it — he's a five-time Grammy nominee — he continues to do pretty much whatever he wants. Tap into social media and you'll find Foxx putting up goofy videos on his Vine, tweeting out pictures of his four-year-old daughter or his Spider-Man costars and clips of him singing sexy versions of unsexy words on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Most major stars are protective of their public image, but Foxx largely doesn't seem to care about his. He's earned the ire of conservative pundits for moves like calling President Barack Obama "our lord and savior" and for his spot-on impressions of Fox News' Bill O'Reilly. He's been outspoken on issues of race related to Quentin Tarantino's script for Django Unchained as well as the casting of Quvenzhane Wallis in the title role of his next project, a remake of the musical Annie. And, he drew the ire of Jay Z with some awkward comments about Beyoncé as he was presenting an award at this year's Grammys. No matter the situation, though, Foxx is unapologetic. It's not easy to know whether to admire Foxx for his zig-zagging through the Hollywood landscape or to be frustrated that he doesn't put his amazing talent front and center as often as he could. Either way, Foxx has proven repeatedly that what others think of his career or his choices means little to him. As perhaps the most unpredictable movie star working today, there's one other thing that Foxx is not… boring.
  • Which Former Weekend Update Anchor Is Having the Best Post-'SNL' Career?
    By: Brendon McCullin May 02, 2014
    NBC On Saturday Night Live, the cast member who anchors Weekend Update has always had a special role to fill on the show. Guaranteed a showcase, they are the one constant in an otherwise ever changing group of sketches. The originator of the role, Chevy Chase, left after one season to find stardom in movies, setting an example that would be followed going forward: Weekend Update anchors moving on to bigger and better things. You may have heard of Chase's immediate successors — Jane Curtin, Dan Aykroyd, and Bill Murray — all of whom (along with Chase) continue working regularly in film and television 30-plus years later. But how about everyone else who's held the desk? THE LOST YEARS When first Jean Doumanian and then Dick Ebersol took over as executive producer after Lorne Michaels exited the show following the 1979 - '80 season, the segment went through a number of changes, including sometimes being called Newsbreak and Saturday Night News. The most prominent host during the early '80s was Brad Hall — known to most, now, as Julia Louis-Dreyfus' husband — who anchored from 1982 - '84. Many of the other anchors during that time — Charles Rocket, Christine Ebersole, Brian Doyle-Murray, and Mary Gross — did the segment for just a year (or less). Most members of this group have faded into the background, although Rocket, who famously dropped an F-bomb during a SNL sketch, made regular appearances on television and movies (Moonlighting, Dances with Wolves) until his death in 2005. Doyle-Murray (Bill's older brother) and Guest were established character actors before joining the show and didn't miss a beat after leaving. Doyle-Murray has been in everything from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation to ABC's The Middle, usually playing some variation of a blowhard. Guest most famously played the six-fingered Count Rugen in The Princess Bride and earned additional praise for directing ensemble comedies like Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show.  THE GOLDEN AGE Since Michaels took back the reins of SNL in 1985, the format of Weekend Update has remained largely unchanged and the comics that have sat behind the desk have become some of the biggest names in entertainment. But, who's having the best post-SNL career? Starting with the mid '80s, we rank them from worst to best below: Kevin Nealon (1991 - '94) and Colin Quinn (1998 - 2000) Most non-hardcore SNL fans would have difficulty remembering anything about either Nealon's or Quinn's stint on Update, so maybe it's not surprising that they've had the least success since leaving the show (although they've still done significantly better than most of the Ebersol folk). Quinn was a stand-up comic before the show and just returned to doing more of the same when he left. He did host a show on Comedy Central for a while, Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn. Nealon's biggest success came playing hapless accountant Doug Wilson on Showtime's Weeds. Each is friends with fellow SNL alum Adam Sandler, so Nealon and Quinn also show up occasionally doing cameos in Sandler's films. Lately, we've seen Quinn show up on episodes of Girls as a boss and friend of Alex Karpovsky's character Ray. Norm Macdonald (1994 - '97) Like Quinn, Macdonald came to SNL with an established background in stand-up. He had the good fortune to be behind the desk during the O.J. Simpson arrest and trial, which provided endless fodder for the comedian… and possibly led to his dismissal after running afoul of NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer, a friend of Simpson. Macdonald had his own sitcom on ABC for three years (Norm), and keeps a steady schedule of stand-up dates. Besides doing voice-over and commercial work, he's also a frequent guest of Conan O'Brien and, like Quinn and Nealon, has a habit of showing up in movies that Sandler produces. Seth Meyers (2006 - '14) Meyers sat behind the Weekend Update desk longer than anyone, and is the only anchor that worked both solo and with a partner. He has only been gone a few months, so it's hard to grade him, but he's off to a rousing start as the host of NBC's  Late Night with Seth Meyers, maintaining his 30 Rock residence and boss Michaels. We're rooting for you, Seth. Dennis Miller (1985 - '91) Miller was the one responsible for returning Update back to something closer to Chase's original version. Unlike most of the others, Miller's sole role on the show was hosting the fake news segment, very rarely taking part in any of the show's sketches. Miller also might be the most controversial of the former anchors. After leaving SNL, he hosted Dennis Miller Live on HBO from 1994 - 2002, winning five Emmys. He also did a disastrous two-season stint as a commentator on ABC's Monday Night Football. After 2001, Miller's political views became increasingly conservative, leading to him to a gig at Fox News with a regular spot on Bill O'Reilly's The O'Reilly Factor. Since 2007, Miller has also hosted a syndicated radio show. Oddly, when Miller is on vacation his frequent fill-in both on radio and with O'Reilly is Macdonald. Amy Poehler (2004 - '08) One of the founders of the influential improv group Upright Citizens Brigade, Poehler joined with Tina Fey to form the first all-female team on Weekend Update, and the two have been joined together ever since. Poehler was such a powerful presence on the show that she managed to make an appearance on the segment by frequent target Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin come off as charming instead of forced. Since SNL, Poehler has starred in the movie Baby Mama and has done the voices for more animated characters than we can count. She also just completed her sixth season starring in NBC's Parks and Recreation. Time magazine named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2011 and, oh yeah, and she has a little awards show hosting gig that she does with Fey. Jimmy Fallon (2000 - '04) Fallon teamed with Fey to turn Update back into a buzz-worthy segment, with the two of them trading quips at which Fallon would frequently crack up. He tried his hand at movies after leaving the show, starring in Fever Pitch with Drew Barrymore and Taxi with Queen Latifah. It was when he returned to television, however, that he really hit his stride. Starting with taking over for O'Brien on Late Night, Fallon has steadily grown into one of the most powerful people in the entertainment industry as a late night talk show host. In February, he took over for Jay Leno on The Tonight Show, moving it back to New York from Los Angeles and earning accolades for his mix of goofy humor, music, and social media interaction. Tina Fey (2000 - '06) During her time on SNL, in addition to co-anchoring Update with first Fallon and then Poehler, Fey was the show's first female head writer. While still on the show, Fey wrote the hit teen comedy Mean Girls, and since leaving has starred in a group of comedies, including Baby Mama with Poehler and most recently Muppets Most Wanted. She wrote, produced, and starred in NBC's 30 Rock for seven seasons, and her book Bossypants  was number one on the New York Times bestseller list for five weeks. She's won eight Emmys, most recently for her work hosting the Golden Globes with Poehler, and she was the youngest ever recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Dazzlingly smart and funny, it's hard to find many people that can match resumes with Fey. Follow @Hollywood_com // Follow @LifeAsSitcom //
  • "SEX" Dust and Other Secrets in 'The Lion King'
    By: Brendon McCullin May 02, 2014
    Buena Vista Pictures via Everett Collection Once upon a time, the phrases "Circle of Life" and "Hakuna Matata" were not a part of the American lexicon. That was before Disney's The Lion King exploded onto movie screens during the summer of 1994. The tale of the young lion Simba — voiced in the movie by Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Matthew Broderick — who grows up to overthrow the reign of his evil uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons) became a global phenomenon, augmented by the songs of Elton John and Tim Rice. Even if you know that the film was nominated for four Academy Awards, here are some fun facts about the movie that you might not know. 1. The movie was the first Disney feature-length animated film to be created from an original script idea. All of the company's other animated movies had been based either on books or long established fairy tales. 2. The original script was titled King of the Jungle and centered on a battle between lions and baboons. In that version, Scar was the leader of the baboons. At some point during development, the animation team realized that lions don't actually live in the jungle. 3. At one point in the production, animators considered having the song "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" sung entirely by Pumbaa and Timon, much to the horror of John and Rice. A version of the song using Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella, the voices of the warthog and meerkat, was recorded but not used.  Similarly, the song was almost cut from the movie entirely until John lobbied to have it kept in. 4. Many of Disney's top animators at the time didn't work on The Lion King because they were working on the animated film being produced concurrently, Pocahontas. Most people at Disney thought that the historically-based film would be the more prestigious of the two. 5. It was the second Disney animated film, after Beauty and the Beast, to win the Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy. 6. When Irons' Scar delivers the line, "You have no idea," it is a direct nod to one of the actor's most famous roles as Claus von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune. In that film, Irons' character delivers the line in answer to his lawyer calling him a "very strange man." In The Lion King, he says it after Simba accuses him of being "so weird." 7. Timon's famous line, "What do you want me to do, dress in drag and dance the hula?" was improvised by Lane. 8. When Irons strained his voice while recording "Be Prepared," actor Jim Cummings, who voices the hyena Ed, stepped in and imitated Irons to get the song finished. 9. Originally, the intention was to pair Cheech Marin with his longtime comedy partner Tommy Chong to voice the hyenas Shenzi and Bonzai. They could never get in touch with Chong to reach an agreement, so Whoopi Goldberg was tapped instead. 10. James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair, who voice Simba's parents, also play a royal husband and wife in Coming to America, where they reign as the king and queen of a small African country and parents to Eddie Murphy. 11. Scar makes an appearance in a later Disney animated movie. He's seen as a rug during a sequence in Hercules. 12. There was a controversy over the formation of dust during a scene when Simba flops on the ground. Activist Donald Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association, asserted that the dust gathered to form the word "SEX" if you looked at a freeze frame of the scene and was an intentional subliminal message aimed at promoting sexual promiscuity. The producers said that really it was meant to be "SFX," as a reference to the special effects team that was working on the movie. In the films rerelease, some additional dust was added to the scene to blur any letters. 13. There was additional controversy over similarities between the film and a Japanese animated TV series entitled "Kimba the White Lion" that was produced in the 1960s. Disney has maintained that any similarities are coincidental, but Broderick has admitted that he thought that they were adapting "Kimba" when he first saw the script.   14. Three of the songs from the film — "Hakuna Matata," "The Circle of Life," and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" — were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" ultimately won the Oscar, and John's version of the song went to No. 4 on the singles chart in the U.S. 15. Rice, who had provided the lyrics for Disney's Aladdin and started his career as the partner of Andrew Lloyd Webber (Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, Evita), was made a knight by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994. John was knighted in 1998. The duo reteamed for the Broadway musical Aida in 2000. 16. Before playing Timon and Pumbaa, Lane and Sabella had previously worked together in the Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls. After The Lion King, they were paired again on Broadway in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. At first, Lane and Sabella were cast to be two of the hyenas, but their chemistry was so good that they were switched to voicing Simba's pals. 17. Lane and Broderick went on to star as Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom in the Broadway musical version of Mel Brooks' The Producers, and reprised the same roles in the film version. Reportedly, the duo saw each other only once during their voice work for The Lion King… passing each other in a hallway. 18. The stage version of The Lion King, which has been running since 1997, is the highest-grossing Broadway show in history. 19. The Lion King was the second highest grossing movie of 1994, behind Forrest Gump, in the United States, but it easily outdistanced Tom Hanks' movie worldwide and grossed over $768 million during its initial theatrical release. 20. The Lion King remains the highest grossing hand-drawn (or hand-drawn/computer animation combination) film of all time. It's the second highest grossing film in the history of Walt Disney Animation Studios behind only Frozen. Follow @Hollywood_com
  • The 10 Worst Singing Performances in Movies
    By: Brendon McCullin Apr 30, 2014
    Universal Pictures via Everett Collection There are some actors that we love to hear sing. In fact, we've compiled a list of a few performers' voices that we can't get enough of. Then there are others that really just shouldn't be given the opportunity to sing on screen. Some of them are truly terrible and some others are just misguided, but here's our look at the worst singing performances in movies. Pierce Brosnan, Mamma Mia! There's a reason that they used to dub actors' singing voices in musicals (Hello, Marnie Nixon!), and Brosnan is the poster child for revisiting the practice. He looks terrific in the Mediterranean locales and linen suits of Mamma Mia!, but his singing is bad enough that it almost deserves its own separate category. Russell Crowe, Les Miserables It's hard to know exactly what the producers were thinking when they cast Crowe in Les Miz, beyond just that he sort of looks right for the role of Inspector Javert. He certainly doesn’t sound right. Most of the rest of the cast can legitimately sing, so tossing the Gladiator star into the mix was all the more jarring. Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd There are actually worse vocal performances in Tim Burton's film about the "Demon Barber of Fleet Street"… Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham Carter to name two. The issue with Depp's singing is that he can't seem to figure out what to do with his accent. Sometimes it's there, sometimes it's not, and sometimes it morphs into a little bit of Keith Richards/Jack Sparrow. Alec Baldwin, Rock of Ages, or... ...Tom Cruise, Rock of Ages We tried to pick which was worse… Baldwin singing "I Can't Fight This Feeling" with Russell Brand or Cruise singing "I Want to Know What Love Is" with Malin Akerman. There was no consensus since they're both about as bad as anything you'll ever see in a movie musical. Feel free to watch them and see if you can decide... if you can make it all the way through either one.  Drew Barrymore, Music and Lyrics We love Barrymore, really we do. She's adorable and sweet and we like having her around. It's just that her voice is a little too thin for her to be singing on camera. We thought so in Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You and we thought the same thing in her rom-com with Hugh Grant.   Michael Caine, The Muppet Christmas Carol Okay, so it's a Muppets movie, we get it. Kermit and Miss Piggy aren't the best singers either. But both Tina Fey and Amy Adams have proven that just because you're surrounded by felt doesn't mean that you have to sing poorly. In the grand tradition of British stage actors, Caine just kind of talks his way through his singing parts. Not all traditions are good. Cameron Diaz, My Best Friend's Wedding Yes, the script called for her to be intentionally bad… and, by that standard, this is a dynamite performance. You know that you're in a rom-com when the crowd at a karaoke place starts going nuts for someone butchering a Dusty Springfield song. Edward Norton, Everyone Says I Love You This is kind of a shame, because it's clear that Norton really enjoys singing. He tosses himself into the musical performance with gusto, treating it like it's the prison cell scene from Primal Fear… which is what makes him such a good actor. It just doesn't make him a good singer. Based on Keeping the Faith and his Motorola commercial, however, it does seem like he'd be more fun at a karaoke bar than Diaz. Adam Sandler, The Wedding Singer Here's the mistake that a lot of people make… just because Sandler sings a lot doesn't mean that he's a good singer. We admire the fact that he likes to do it and we laughed at "The Turkey Song" and "The Hanukkah Song" on Saturday Night Live, same as everyone else… but there are limits to how much of Sandler's man-child voice that we can take. He is, however, welcome to continue serenading Barrymore once every 10 years as he did recently on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Sometimes even bad singing is sweet. Follow @Hollywood_com // Follow @LifeAsSitcom //
  • Does Naked Jason Segel Prove That Hollywood Is Sexist?
    By: Brendon McCullin Apr 30, 2014
    Sony Pictures In the promotional materials for this summer's Sex Tape, there's a whole lot of Jason Segel. The actor and his costar Cameron Diaz appear in various stages of undress, including altogether naked. Segel, of course, is no stranger to taking off his clothes for the camera. The former How I Met Your Mother star was famously nude multiple times in his breakout hit Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Many people found his nudity refreshing, given that it is usually women who are objectified sans wardrobe on the big screen, but Sarah Marshall costars Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis kept their clothes on. No matter how you slice it, though, Segel's seems to be another example of the double standard. When an actor with an imperfect body like Segel or Robin Williams doffs their clothes for a scene, it's typically seen as funny. When Lena Dunham does it on HBO's Girls, it results in social media posts imploring the actress to keep her clothes on and questions at press conferences about whether all the nudity is necessary. Seemingly, for an actress to play an acceptable nude scene it either needs to be completely required by the story — think Halle Berry in Monster's Ball or Jodie Foster in The Accused — or she has to look really, really good naked (as far as the vocal public is concerned). There isn't an apt comparison for a woman, but when an actor like Jonah Hill or Mark Wahlberg comes out and openly states that he used a prosthetic device to cover his anatomy for a nude scene, everyone just shrugs. An actress can get away with using a body double occasionally, but if she's going to do a nude scene the audience by and large expects to see the real deal… and if she wants to have surgery to enhance certain features then all the better. Segel, and a lot of male stars, can get away with being naked without issue because our society views male and female sexuality differently. In much the same way, there's no question about whether Segel's character would really be with a former model such as Diaz, while Dunham was questioned about her character's "unrealistic" fling with the very handsome Patrick Wilson. Segel learned his craft under the tutelage of Judd Apatow, who is also a producer on Dunham's show. Aptatow has long been a proponent of creative uses of nudity. When the writer/producer/director was confronted about the amount of time that Dunham spends nude on Girls by The Wrap's Tim Malloy, he defended the practice for both sexes: "There's male nudity in Walk Hard [helmed by Sex Tape director Jake Kasdan]. I have people naked when they're willing to do it," Apatow said. "Lena is confident enough to do it so we have the opportunity to talk about other issues because she is braver than other people. If Paul Rudd said to me, I'm willing to be completely naked in the movie, I would use it. If Seth [Rogen] said he was willing to be completely naked — he showed his butt in a post-sex scene in Knocked Up — I would use it because it's more honest.” While it's commendable that Apatow thinks that we should look at nudity across the board, the truth is that many people just don't see it the same way. Most of society continues to have an unrealistic expectation of women, wanting them to fit by turns into both sexual and asexual standard: the age-old Madonna-whore complex. Questioning Dunham's right to have her character naked without questioning Segel's or Kasdan's decision making process is inherently sexist… there's just no getting around that.   Benjamin Franklin, himself a fan of nudity, once told his fellow Founding Fathers, "We must all hang together or we will most assuredly hang apart." Similarly, it's either all right for all actors and actresses to be nude — regardless of body type — or it needs to be criticized equally for both sexes. Quite simply, naked freedom for one should mean naked freedom for all. Follow @Hollywood_com // Follow @LifeAsSitcom //
  • Our Favorite Actresses Who Can Sing
    By: Brendon McCullin Apr 29, 2014
    Universal via Everett Collection Plenty of singers try their hand at acting… some successfully (Cher, Barbara Streisand) and others not so successfully (Madonna, Kelly Clarkson, Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, etc.). There are times, though, when we're bowled over by the musical talents of our favorite actresses. Whether it's voicing an animated heroine or taking an unexpected role in a big budget musical, these actresses have proven that they have the pipes to belt out a tune while still delivering top-notch acting performances. Kristen Bell When many people saw the credits for Disney's Frozen, they assumed that Bell was just providing the speaking part for Anna, that surely it was someone else singing on "Love Is an Open Door." Even some hardcore Veronica Mars fans had lost sight of the fact that Bell came from a musical theater background or forgot about her appearance in Refer Madness: The Musical. Anne Hathaway So, a lot of people find Hathaway pretentious and annoying… it doesn't change the fact that the girl can sing. Audiences were surprised when her character started singing in one of her early films, Ella Enchanted, but by the time of Les Miserables, we were all aware that she had the ability. Still, her powerful rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" surprised just about everyone. Amanda Seyfried When Seyfried was first starting out in Mean Girls, we thought she was just another soap opera actress (she appeared on As the World Turns and All My Children) making a jump to the big time… which she subsequently did with her role on HBO's Big Love. Little known to the public, she had training in not only musical theater, but opera. It wasn't until 2008's Mamma Mia! that audiences got a taste of her singing… and then came her performance as Cosette in Les Miserables. C'est magnifique! Emma Stone Stone doesn't sing much because of some vocal cord issues, but when she was younger she was part of VH1's In Search of the New Partridge Family. She also did some backing vocals for the remake of The Waitresses' "I Know What Boys Like" from The House Bunny. It was her performance during the school assembly scene of Easy A,where she rocked the disco classic "Knock on Wood," that left audiences wondering if it was really her voice. It was indeed, and she was spectacular. Meryl Streep For years, Streep was known as the premier actress of her generation, though not as a performer with any musical ability. Starting with 2006's Prairie Home Companion, however, Streep has been unafraid to put her voice out for public consumption. She looked like she was having a blast playing the lead in Mamma Mia! opposite Seyfried and will soon be back on the big screen playing the Witch in the film adaption of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods. Anna Kendrick Despite starting her career doing Broadway musicals as a girl, the new "It" singing actress first came to notice with largely non-musical roles in Twilight and Up in the Air (although we did get a glimpse with her karaoke version of "Time After Time").  It wasn't until she killed as the reluctant a capella participant in Pitch Perfect that audiences fell in love with her voice. The actresses even scored a hit single with her version of "Cups (When I'm Gone)" from the soundtrack. With roles in Into the Woods and Pitch Perfect 2, we'll get plenty of opportunities to continue enjoying her vocal talent. Zooey Deschanel Her work with M. Ward on their She & Him projects have turned Deschanel into a legitimate recording artist, but she's still better known for her acting in movies like (500) Days of Summer and her TV show New Girl. Every Christmas the actress pops up in one of her earlier film roles as Will Ferrell's love interest in Elf singing holiday classics and she's set to appear in Barry Levinson's musical comedy Rock the Kasbah. Amy Adams Adams may be a five-time Academy Award nominee and might turn heads on the red carpet with her plunging necklines, but she knows her way around a song as well. The actress made a believable live-action Disney princess in Enchanted, including taking center stage during the big production number "That's How You Know." She apparently likes to sing in kiddie fare, because her other big on-screen musical moments mostly happened with Jason Segel, Kermit and Miss Piggy in The Muppets. Gwyneth Paltrow Paltrow's mother, Blythe Danner, started her film career in the musical 1776 and she has an uncle that's an opera singer, so she comes by her vocal abilities honestly. After making her on-screen singing debut in Emma, she starred in her father Bruce Paltrow's Duets, where her collaboration with Huey Lewis on Smokey Robinson's "Cruisin'" spawned an adult contemporary hit.  Besides having a recurring spot on TV's Glee, Paltrow also got her twang on in Country Strong. Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 12 Fun Facts About 'Beverly Hills Cop'
    By: Brendon McCullin Apr 25, 2014
    Paramount via Everett Collection Anyone alive in 1984 — and many that weren't — can instantly recognize the synthesizer strains of Beverly Hills Cop's theme song "Axel F." Eddie Murphy's blockbuster comedy topped Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom to be the year's top grossing movie. With talk that another sequel to the film is in the works, it's time to look back at what made the original such a smash. You might be able to hum along with the theme, but here are some fun facts that you might not know.   1. Sylvester Stallone was set to play Axel Foley right up until two weeks before filming was to begin, causing the production team to rewrite on the fly in order for Murphy to step into the role.  2. When director Martin Brest was offered the job by producer Jerry Bruckheimer he was lukewarm on the project, so he flipped a coin to decide whether or not to do it. When the film became a huge success, Brest had the quarter that he used framed. 3. Judge Reinhold and John Ashton did an improv bit during their joint audition that ended up in the movie. It's the scene in the film where Reinhold's Rosemont tells Ashton's Taggart that the average American has "five pounds of undigested red meat in his bowels." 4. The script bounced around Hollywood for a long time and was originally a more traditional, tense actioner. Among the directors that turned down the more serious script were Martin Scorsese and David Cronenberg. Before Stallone, Mickey Rourke, Al Pacino, and James Caan were each attached to the Axel role at various times. 5. Even though Reinhold was only two years removed from playing a high school senior in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the actor is four years older than Murphy, who was only 23-years-old when Beverly Hills Cop was released.   6. The T-shirt that Murphy wears in the film is from a real Detroit area high school (Mumford), which was inundated with requests for the shirt. The section of the movie filmed in Detroit also featured Gil Hill, who actually did work for the city police department, as Murphy's boss. Hill went on to be a city councilman in the Motor City. 7. The Beverly Hills police in the movie use something called a "satellite tracking system," which the film team made up as a way to get around a sticky plot issue. The government's first GPS didn’t become fully operational until 1995… 11 years after Beverly Hills Cop. 8. Harold Faltermeyer, who scored a Top 10 hit with the instrumental "Axel F," also wrote Glenn Frey's Top 10 hit from the soundtrack, "The Heat Is On." The movie produced two other hits in The Pointer Sisters' "Neutron Dance" and Patti LaBelle's "New Attitude." 9. Originally, the art museum where Axel goes to find his friend Jenny once he gets to Los Angeles was supposed to have two men working in it. When Bronson Pinchot — who would later star in the television show Perfect Strangers — auditioned with the weird Eastern European accent that his character Serge affects, Brest made the role bigger to allow more interaction between Pinchot and Murphy. The character was such a hit that Pinchot's sitcom character used a variation of the same accent. 10. Stallone retained his affinity for the original script. His film Cobra was largely based on the ideas that he had for Beverly Hills Cop. That film, along with Beverly Hills Cop 2, co-starred Stallone's one-time wife Brigitte Nielsen.   11. The film was the first comedy to open on over 2,000 screens upon its release. Its success helped set the stage for the "wide openings" that became the norm in later years.   12. The movie was the highest grossing R-rated comedy of all-time until The Hangover finally knocked it from its perch. It made over $230 million at the box office in the United States. Adjusted for inflation, however, that would translate to over $650 million now.
  • Tom Cruise and Eddie Murphy Return to 'Top Gun' and 'Beverly Hills Cop,' and We're Just Not Sure Why
    By: Brendon McCullin Apr 24, 2014
    Everett Collection Uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer recently revealed plans for sequels to two of his biggest hits: Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop. According to Bruckheimer, both Tom Cruise and Eddie Murphy are on board with reprising their iconic roles as Maverick and Axel Foley, respectively. The question, though, is why? Not just why there's any need to do sequels to movies that are 30 years old, but more importantly, why Cruise and Murphy would be willing to step back into the roles that helped make them famous. When They Were Young In the mid- to late-80s, Murphy and Cruise were arguably the two biggest stars in America. Murphy was already a star before Beverly Hills Cop debuted in 1984, thanks to Saturday Night Live, 48 Hours and Trading Places, but the giant success of BHC kicked him into another stratosphere. The movie was the highest-grossing R-rated comedy for 25 years until The Hangover. Two years later, Cruise cashed in the promise that he had shown in Risky Business by playing the cocky fighter pilot who "feels the need… the need for speed." The role kicked off a run for the actor that saw him not only conquering the box office, but winning critical acclaim in movies like Rain Man and Born on the Fourth of July. Superstars… No Matter What All these years later, Murphy and Cruise are still famous but it has more to do with who they were, rather than who they are. People still want to know about them — the net jumped to attention with rumors that Cruise was dating actress Laura Prepon… partially because she's 18 years younger than he is, but also because it's Tom freaking Cruise. When Murphy took a family vacation to Hawaii recently, photos of his daughter and girlfriend were all over the place… mostly because they're both gorgeous, but also because they're with Eddie freaking Murphy.   Murphy and Cruise don't need to revisit their past to reclaim the glory… they just need to do good work. Murphy has shown that when he picks a project that isn't schlocky kiddie fare (Bowfinger, Dreamgirls) that he's still a powerful entertainer.   The same holds true for Cruise, who too often relies on his famous persona to carry him through a role. Cruise has never stopped working, but he rarely deviates from his bread and butter roles as the "good guy." When he does step outside of his comfort zone — like with his hysterical and profane cameo in Tropic Thunder — it's thoroughly refreshing. Bruckheimer has said that Top Gun 2 will see Maverick dealing with the advent of unmanned drones and Beverly Hills Cop 4 will take Axel Foley back to Detroit.  Neither is an especially bad idea… they're just both thoroughly unnecessary. If only Cruise and Murphy could see that and leave their iconic characters in the past where they belong… and set about creating new roles that provide the same thrill that their work 30 years ago did. Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Is Avril Lavigne's 'Hello Kitty' the Worst Double Entendre Ever?
    By: Brendon McCullin Apr 24, 2014 When Avril Lavigne's video for her new single "Hello Kitty" hit the net, the reaction was swift and unkind. There was the claims of racism for Lavigne's objectification of expressionless Asian backup dancers to claims of intellectual plagiarism for the similarities with Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" video. The video, with its candy-colored (one sequence is set in what looks like a Sanrio store) backgrounds and funhouse props, is about as misguided an attempt at trying to be hip as you'll ever find. And one giant problem is the song itself. Come, Come, Kitty, Kitty With lyrics like "Come, come, kitty, kitty," and "Let's play truth or dare now, we can roll around in our underwear," it might be the worst use of double entendre and sexual innuendo in the history of music. When asked about the song's meaning by Digital Spy in October, and whether or not the "kitty" in question was meant to represent a part of her anatomy, Lavigne said, "Obviously it's flirtatious and somewhat sexual, but it's genuinely about my love for Hello Kitty!" Well, sure, because the line "I wanna do everything with you together, come play with Kitty and me" sounds like it's referring to a Japanese cat with a hair ribbon. WWMD (What Would Miley Do) The problem is that Lavigne is trying to have her cupcake and eat it too, which doesn't work in a world where Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus fight for social media attention. Lavigne didn't need to be as overt as hard rockers like The Who ("Squeeze Box") or AC/DC ("Big Balls") but she at least needed to commit as much as Madonna or Pink. The lyrics of the song call for one thing: winking knowledge of the innuendo at play. But the way that Lavigne handles it, both in the song and the video, provide nothing. In the video, Lavigne is frequently just as expressionless as her dancers; apart for a bounce here or there, she barely moves. If Cyrus were doing the song, for instance, there would be no doubt of the double-meaning. The video would've featured a slumber party orgy with the entire cast of a touring production of Cats. Why, Avril, Why? What's sad is that Lavigne feels the need to play this game at all. When she first started out, she was the pop antithesis to Britney Spears, singing about her "Sk8ter Boi." She's been down this road before with trying to find a niche somewhere between Stefani and Pink, most noticeably on her "Girlfriend." You wish that Lavigne would work harder to find a niche that's separate and different from her contemporaries. Putting out something that appears to be nothing more than an attention grab — how else do you explain releasing the weakest track from her eponymous album as a single? — she's made herself look a little bit desperate. At the very least, if she's going to do a video for a song with a double entendre title and sexual innuendo lyrics, then she needs to really commit to it. In today's musical landscape, female artists don't straddle the fence anymore. They jump into everything with everything they have. Hopefully, Lavigne won't do anything as egregiously bad as "Hello Kitty" again, but if she does, here's hoping that she at least fully owns it. Follow @Hollywood_com