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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Horror Icon: Tony Todd

He has the golden voice; silky smooth. His stature is unmissable, but that's not why we can't take our eyes off him. When he appears on screen, his presence is powerful enough to render one speechless. He plays characters that are brutal to perfectly tortured souls in need of compassion. He is the legendary Tony Todd.

Anthony Tiran Todd was born on December 4, 1954 in Washington, D.C. He grew up in Hartford, Connecticut, attended the local schools and was even a member of the Boy Scouts of America. Tony went on to attend the University of Connecticut and studied at the Eugene O'Neill National Theatre Institute.

Tony's film career began in 1986 when he appeared in both Sleepwalk and Platoon. Sleepwalk is about a woman is hired to transcribe an ancient Chinese manuscript. She finds that little by little, the manuscript has powers that begin to take over her life. (Fun Fact: Sleepwalk also stared Steve Buscemi)

In 1987, Tony found himself facing off against a young Johnny Depp when he made an appearance in 21 Jump Street (Season 2, episode 9 for anyone who wants to know). Tony also spent the year staring in a couple of movies, one being Enemy Territory which saw him portraying the leader of a gang called The Vampires. He was known only as The Count. Tony starred along side Ray Parker Jr. (Ghostbusters) and Jan-Michael Vincent. It is an amazing film, but at the moment there are no plans to release it onto DVD.

In 1988, Tony found himself making small appearances in Bird (playing the character named Frog) and Colors which saw Tony play a Vietnam Vet. While '88 was a slow year, '89 proved to be more fruitful as Tony made appearances on MacGyver, Kate & Allie, Cop Rock and Night Court. He also starred along side Morgan Freeman and Beverly Todd in Lean On Me. Lean On Me was based on a true story and is about an arrogant and unorthodox teacher returns as principal to the idyllic high school from which he had earlier been fired to find it a den of drug abuse, gang violence, and urban despair. Eventually his successful but unorthodox methods lead to a clash with city officials that threatens to undo all his efforts. It's a brilliant movie and one that I recommend you see.

Welcome to the '90's. Tony found himself back on TV on Matlock as well as three TV movies, Criminal Justice, Ivory Hunters and The Bride In Black. But it was the remake of George A. Romero's Night Of The Living Dead, and his role as Ben, that scored with audiences. The film begins with siblings Johnny (Bill Moseley) and Barbara (Patricia Tallman) visiting their mother's grave in a remote, rural cemetery. During their visit, Barbara is attacked by a zombie. Her brother comes to her defence, but is killed in the struggle. Barbara flees the cemetery and discovers what at first seems to be an abandoned farmhouse. She is joined there shortly after by Ben (Todd) and the two clear the house of zombies and begin the process of barricading the doors and windows.

They discover other survivors in the cellar of the house and it becomes a battle of wits to survive the zombie invasion and each other. The tension between Tony Todd and Tom Towles who plays Harry Cooper was outstanding. And because of his performance in this, I've concluded that should we be over run with zombies, I plan on staying pretty close to Mr. Todd who was one of the most level headed characters in this film.

Night Of The Living Dead was handled by the same team as the original, with the exception that directing duties were handled by famed special make-up effects artist Tom Savini, who originally signed up with hopes of doing the make-up effects as he was not able to for the original film. Romero served as producer for the remake, and he recruited some of the original camera and sound crew to participate. As much as I loved the original film, this is one remake I recommend with two thumbs up and a broad grin.

As 1991 rolled around it became apparent that when zombies were attacking, bring in Tony Todd. That's what the creators of Voodoo Dawn did, casting Tony as Makoute. The story is about a group of immigrant Haitian farm workers that try to fight off an evil Haitian voodoo priest who tries to kill them and use their body parts to make up a zombie army.

It's a fun film and as a testament to the actors, they did a brilliant job keeping straight faces during some scenes (although if you look closely you can see they're about to lose it in a fit of laughter). Comedic and youthful, Voodoo Dawn was done really well, and despite it's weak plot, I do recommend viewing it. It's a great way to kill a couple of hours on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

'91 also saw Tony make a return to television, appearing in Jake And The Fatman as Jordan Lee as well as Star Trek: The Next Generation as Kurn. Tony also managed to squeeze in a couple of TV movies that year. Keeper Of The City and Love And Curses...And All That Jazz. The latter of the two is about a private investigator and her husband, who is a doctor, investigate rumours of a dead woman who was brought back to life by a voodoo spell. Once again, Tony, despite his talent, was a minor character.

In Keeper Of The City, Tony teamed up with Australia's very own Anthony LaPaglia. His minor role of Bridger didn't deter him from acting, and whilst it was a blink and you'll miss it role, Tony nailed it perfectly.

Then in 1992, Clive Barker and Bernard Rose threw Tony a lifeline in the form of an urban legend styled story based on the Clive Barker short story 'The Forbidden'. Tony would play the title roll of Candyman, a legend of mythology that appears if you say his name five times into a mirror.

Candyman contains the same urban legend feel of Bloody Mary, but also embodies other legends, like endangering a babysitter and maniac killers with unnatural deformities. The legend itself states that while Candyman was the son of a slave, he nevertheless became a well known artist. Yet, after falling in love with a white woman who becomes pregnant, Candyman is chased through the plantation. When he's caught, his drawing hand is cut off and replaced with a hook. His body is smeared with honey, prompting the crowd to chant his name five times (hence the say his name five times into a mirror) and then was stung to death by bees. Like Bloody Mary, the legend claims that Candyman is summoned by anyone who looks into a mirror and chants his name five times. Which of course is where all the trouble for Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) begins. (Fun Fact: Real bees were put into Tony Todd's mouth while shooting the climax. The only protection he used was a mouth guard that kept him from having the bees enter his throat)

I have to say, I love Candyman. The story is familiar (Bloody Mary) but the twists and turns that Clive Barker and Bernard Rose incorporated was brilliant. Tony Todd is just perfection as the vengeful spirit, Virginia Madsen is outstanding as his victim and Xander Berkeley as her unfaithful husband Trevor is just mind-blowing.

Candyman was a film that spurned a rarity in the horror genre. A trilogy. And thankfully, Tony Todd appeared in all three films. (Fun Fact: Written on the wall of the gang-ridden housing project Cabrini-Green are the words Sweets To The Sweet which is actually a line from Shakespeare's Hamlet) Do I recommending this? Absolutely. Go on, I'll wait while you call his name...

Two years later, Tony landed a role in The Crow. Playing Grange, Tony was a force of evil, the number one henchman if you like. And what a henchman he was. He was the muscle behind the Devils Night fires and certainly one that struck fear in the heart of every thug in the film. His demise in the film was at the hands of Ernie Hudson.

'94 also saw a return to television for Tony. He appeared on The X Files, Law And Order and Homicide: Life On The Street. Each performance was fantastic with Tony stealing the limelight away from the reoccurring actors.

The following year, Tony reprised his role as Candyman for the first of two sequels in Candyman: Farewell To The Flesh. He also managed to film three TV movies in which he was a leading character: Black Fox, Black Fox: The Prince Of Peace and Black Fox: Good Men And Bad. That same year, Tony reprised his role as Kurn in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. (Fun Fact: Tony also played the adult version of Jake Sisko in one episode)

In 1996 Tony Todd matched wits with Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote and even graced the halls of Beverly Hills 90210. He also stared in The Rock as Captain Darrow and Driven as Darius Pelton. But it was a little film called Sabotage that Tony showed just how damaging he can be.

Starring along side Carrie-Anne Moss (of The Matrix) Sabotage is really what you could call a surprise package. On the one had it is an low budget action film starring martial arts star Mark Dacascos, which may suggest the film will be hollow, brainless and lacking in genuine class. However the film is a surprisingly entertaining and stylish piece of cinema that betters many thrillers released by big studios. The performances are first rate and the character interactions are good with some great dialogue. Plus Tony as an assassin was something that couldn't be beat. He's proven himself before as a villain, and this time, he's THE villain.

Sabotage is worth a watch. Trust me, you won't be disappointed with it.

1997 bought about a little gem of a horror movie called Wishmaster. Tony found himself not only locking horns with a creature older than time (The Djinn played by Andrew Divoff) but he also found himself working alongside one of horror's biggest icons, Robert Englund. (Fun Fact: In a blink and you'll miss it cameo, Kane Hodder also makes an appearance)

Wishmaster is one of my weakness movies and one that I do rate highly. It's gory, it's funny, it's confusing as all hell and that's why I love it. Tony appears as a bouncer at a private party hosted by Robert Englund's character, Raymond Beaumont. When the Djinn appears at the party he says to Tony, "Step aside, doorman," to which Tony replies in a rather low and dangerous tone, "Doorman? The name is Valentine. Johnny Valentine. You'd better remember when they ask you how you lost your eye!"

While his cameo was less than ten minutes long, it was enough to make an impact. Whenever my girlfriends think of Wishmaster, they automatically think Andrew Divoff blowing his brains out, Robert Englund and his Freddy Krueger glance at the beginning when the create falls and Tony Todd attempting to break free of a straight jacket in a locked cube filled with water.

Returning to television in '98 Tony returned to the Star Trek series. This time he appeared in Star Trek: Voyager as Alpha Hirogen for one episode. That same year he finished up his rolls in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. (Fun Fact: Tony only appeared in two episodes for Hercules. One in '95 while the other was in '98)

Teaming up with Ernie Hudson, Donnie Wahlberg and Terrence Howard for the film Butter gave Tony a chance to play something different from assassins, henchmen, villains or victims. Now most reviews of this film are very critical, and I admit it's not Oscar worthy, however it can be enjoyable if you're after a B rated, direct to video style movie. Butter is about a corrupt record company executives that kill a singing sensation with a drug overdose rather than letting her leave their label and join another company. They then frame her cousin/manager for the murder forcing him to go on the run and to try to get the goods on the real killers. The story line is solid and the actors are brilliant in their own rights, but the writing for this film is the real disappointment and some will argue that it had negative stereotypes. I do ask you to watch it and make your own mind up about it.

In 1999 Tony Todd said farewell to Candyman by filming the final movie Candyman: Day Of The Dead. I found this to be the weakest link in the Candyman series. Starring Donna D'Errico (Baywatch) and Jsu Garcia (also know as Nick Corri – Rod Lane from Nightmare On Elm Street 1984), Candyman returns to try to convince his female descendent, an artist, to join him as a legendary figure. To this end, he frames her for a series of hideous murders of her friends and associates so that she has nowhere else to turn to.

Seeing as it was the end of the series, I had hoped for something better than what was produced. I was hoping for something that griped you with fear, that made you question everything that had happened and something that showed us Candyman wasn't just a legend in mythology, but in horror as well. Sadly, Candyman: Day Of The Dead didn't live up to the hype and is the lowest rated film out of the series.

As the millennium turned, Tony found himself back in a morgue. No, he wasn't dead, but rather a coroner in one of horrors most talked about series: Final Destination. Appearing as William Bludworth, Tony revealed some secrets about Death and Death's design to the movies heroes (Devon Sawa and Ali Larter). This revolation about Death had many people questioning whether or not Tony's character was actually Death in human form. (Fun Fact: Out of the five Final Destination movies to date, Tony has appeared in four of them. He reprised his role as Bludworth in parts two and five, and provided the voice of the ill-fated rollercoaster and train in part three)

2002 saw Tony return to television with appearances in Charmed, The District, Andromeda, CSI: Miami and Boston Public. And like all his cameo appearances, Tony stole the show, providing audiences with new drama and adventure.

A year later, Tony reprised his role as William Bludworth in Final Destination 2, providing our heroes once again with a small, intricate titbit about Death and it's design. However, seeing as Death is working backwards in this film, he did seem somewhat surprised to hear that, which should debunk the theories that he really is Death.

Jumping ahead a couple of years, 2005 proved very busy for Tony. Not only was he churning out movies like Heart Of The Beholder, Turntable, House Of Grimm and Checking Out, he also loaned his voice to an episode of What's New, Scooby Doo? as well as heating up our television screens in Night Stalker, Stargate SG-1 and Criminal Minds.

2006 was fruitful for Tony, who once again locked horns with Kane Hodder and Robert Englund in Hatchet. Hatchet was a look back at the horror films that had come before it, offering up a new bad guy by the name of Victor Crowley and showed us that there was something more terrifying than Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers. Like Wishmaster, Tony only had a small, blink and you'll miss it cameo, but I will admit, his name in the credits, along with Kane and Robert, persuaded me to purchase this film.

That same year he channelled his inner monster in The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyall And Mr. Hyde. Not Oscar worthy, but rather a fun film telling a story we've all heard a million times before. Tony was amazing and I can't fault his acting at all. If anything, he was the only highlight.

My criticisms of this film are echoed by those that have seen it. It's low budget and at times looks like a student film, the writing was terrible (the dialogue alone was just hilarious) and the settings are completely fake. Tony played the lead role of Dr. Jekyall and Mr. Hyde and I have to say, his make-up for Hyde was dismal and I'm pretty certain they used two different wigs for him. Once again, if you're after a B-graded movie with minimalist effects, then this may just be perfect for you.

2007 saw Tony team up with Buffy The Vampire Slayer star, James Marsters in Shadow Puppets. Now, this film cops a lot of flack from critics and Buffy fans, but I loved it. (And yes, I too am a Buffy fan)

The storyline is as follows: A woman (Jolene Blalock) and a man (Marsters) awake in individual white cells in an abandoned prison or mental institution wearing only underwear and without any memory. They hear a strange and creepy noise and decide to look for a way out of the facility. They stumble across two other people before splitting into pairs in an attempt to find a way out. After watching a man being killed by his shadow, Blalock and Marsters meet up with the others. Then they stumble onto Tony, who is chained to a wall and locked in a cage.

Once freed, it becomes apparent that Tony is a bit of a baddie. He had a bad temper, is sly and snide and when they discover their identities, it's made known that he's actually a criminal with a history of armed robbery and attempted murder.

Now, I don't really want to spoil this movie for those that haven't seen it, but I will disclose one thing. While Tony looks and acts like the bad guy, he isn't. His performance is flawless. Shadow Puppets is something that I highly recommend viewing.

In 2009, Tony joined the cast of TV's 24 as General Benjamin Juma. He also starred in the TV series Psych before he loaned his voice to one of the highest grousing movies of the year: Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen. (Fun Fact: He was the voice of Fallen)

2010 saw Tony return to the murky waters of Louisiana for round two against Victor Crowley in Hatchet II. Hatchet II sees Marybeth (now played by Danielle Harris) escapes the clutches of the deformed, swamp-dwelling iconic killer Victor Crowley. After learning the truth about her family's connection to the hatchet-wielding madman, Marybeth returns to the Louisiana swamps along with an army of hunters to recover the bodies of her family and exact the bloodiest revenge against the bayou butcher. This time, there was no quick, blink and you'll iss it cameo for Tony. As Reverend Zombie (see, again with the zombie) he was thrown head first into the deep end and ended up losing his life against Crowley.

After dying against one of horrors newest, and most fearful villains, what's next? How about a return to TV and a stint on a show called The Event. Tony found himself along side Jason Ritter (Freddy Vs. Jason) and Blair Underwood. (Fun Fact: Virginia Madsen who worked with Tony in Candyman also made an appearance in The Event)

2011 had Tony running back to the horror genre in a film called Jack The Reaper. I, personally, would have preferred to see more of him so I can only hope that a sequel is in the cards and that he gets more airtime next time around.

The story centres around a group of high school students whose Saturday field trip goes to hell when their bus crashes in the desert with nothing in site but a creepy abandoned carnival. Solid performances from a young cast, make-up was good, the story was OK. The back-story for the character Railroad Jack was original and I have to say, I'll never be able to look at a pickaxe in the same way again. I recommend this film for those wanting a cheap thrill and scare.

Also in 2011, Tony returned as our favourite coroner, William Bludworth in Final Destination 5. The movie is a prequel to the events of the first film, so bare with me. Bludworth once again is on hand to tell our leads all about Death and that he'll be seeing them soon. When questioned on why he knows so much, Tony simply says "It's my job" before turning around so we can see Coroner written on the back of his jacket. As our heroes fight to survive everything Death throws at them, Tony is there, waiting in the wings with baited breath as one by one, the survivors are picked off in gruesome fashion.

Whether he's a coroner, a creepy doctor with a secret life, a mythological legend or just some helpful stranger, Tony Todd's performances are simply flawless. His voice alone provides audiences with the necessary chills that all good horror movies are built on. His presence is second to none and when he's on screen, you can't tear your eyes away. He is a force to be reckoned with. He can be my leading man anyday.

Rhiannon's Top 5 Tony Todd Films

1) Candyman (1992) – Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman....can you say it once more?

2) Night Of The Living Dead (1990) – Tony was flawless as Ben.

3) Final Destination (2000) – Loved this series and Tony as the mortician was chilling.

4) Shadow Puppets (2007) – Without being THE bad guy, Tony was pretty evil.

5) Enemy Territory (1987) – The Count, need I say more.

Horror Icon: Michael Rooker

In 1986 it began.  He was unleashed onto the world.  An unstoppable force that no one would be able to tame.  No, I'm not talking about a new horror mass murdering villain.  I'm talking about iconic actor, Michael Rooker.

Notoriously known for his deep, raspy, gravelly voice and his frequent performances as sinister villains, Michael Rooker is forever embedded in peoples minds and memories as Henry in Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer.

But where did it all begin?

Michael Rooker was born in Jasper, Alabama on April 6, 1955.  After his parents divorced when he was just 13, he and his siblings were moved to Chicago with his mother, where Michael attended the Goodman School Of Drama.  He had the acting bug while attending college, and began appearing in local stage productions.

But in 1986 that all changed when Michael's good looks were highlighted and used in a rather chilling effect in Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer.  Loosely based on the true life serial killer, Henry Lee Lucas, this film is disturbing on so many levels.  It feels very real.  Too real, perhaps.  Nothing is slicked up and nothing seems counterfeit or contrived.  The entire thing is so utterly plausible that it chills you to the bone.  Needless to say that it's Michael's performance that gave this film its balls.  Chilling.  Outstanding.  Thought-provoking.  But above all, it's a must see movie.  (Fun Fact: It didn't get released into theatres until 1989 despite being filmed in 1986)

Rooker has stated before that Henry is a very easy character to slip into, quote, "I can bring that role back in a second.  I just rip into the little idiosyncrasies and it's interesting, I've never said good-bye to Henry.  That character, the introverted-ness, the soft-spoken quality is always there."  Now that is chilling.

In 1987, Rooker joined the cast of Rent-A-Cop (starring Burt Reynolds and Liza Minnelli) as well as Light Of Day which starred Michael J. Fox.  Despite being given a leading role the previous year, Rooker had to settle for a small cameo in each film.  In the case of Rent-A-Cop it may have been a good thing seeing as both Reynolds and Minnelli were nominated for a golden razzie for Worst Actor and Actress, with Minnelli 'winning' (and I use that term loosely) her category.

1988 rolls around and Rooker is given a larger role in what some people deem to be one of the greatest movies of all time: Mississippi Burning.  Starring along side Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, Frances McDormand and Brad Dourif, Rooker landed the role of Frank Bailey, who was a very predominate character, and quite racist at that.  It just shows how much talent this man has.  One scene that always sticks in my mind is when Gene Hackman ends up grabbing Rooker's character by the balls during a heated 'discussion' regarding the missing civil rights workers.  The film was very controversial when it was released.  Though fictional, the movie was clearly based on an actual case.  Many people felt that too many facts from the real-life case were distorted or left out.  In any event, it is a powerful piece of cinema and one that is highly recommended.

In 1989, Rooker joined forces with Al Pacino and John Goodman in Sea Of Love which was about a New York detective investigating a case of a serial killer who finds their victims through the lonely hearts column in newspapers.  A very underrated movie.  Sexy, steamy and has an Alfred Hitchcock feel to it.  Keep an eye open for Rooker as Terry who gets into a bit of a scuffle with Pacino and gets hurled out of a window.

We've reached the early '90's now and what a busy time it was for Michael Rooker.  You've all heard of the six degrees of Kevin Bacon, right?  Every actor can be linked to Kevin Bacon by six people or less?  Well, Michael Rooker is no exception.  Teaming up with Top Gun himself, Tom Cruise (who starred with Kevin Bacon in A Few Good Men), in Days Of Thunder as the character Rowdy Burns, appearing on television in Equal Justice, even starring in JFK along side Kevin Costner as Bill Broussard.

In 1993, Rooker found himself in a hellish story out of the mind of great horror writer Stephen King.  The Dark Half was about a writer's fictional alter-ego wants to take over his life at any price and saw Rooker take on the role of the town Sheriff while Timothy Hutton was the leading man...or should that be men?
For those that are fans of Stephen King, I have to say this film is probably the closest adaptation you'll ever get in regards to his work.  Like Henry before it, this film was also delayed in being released, filmed in 1991 but released to theatres in '93.  Rooker, while not the leading man, delivered a remarkable performance and gave 110% to his performance, stealing some of the focus from the other characters, which, to me, screams 'brilliant actor alert.'  The Dark Half is pretty much a forgotten gem in the horror field.  The direction, acting and writing were all up to scratch (some may even say perfect) and above all, it delivered on atmosphere, which most horrors today lack.  Believe me, once you watch this you'll never be able to listen to 'Are You Lonesome Tonight' in the same way.  Not after that highly uncomfortable dream sequence...

In that same year Rooker would team up with  director, Renny Harlin, and action hero, Sylvester Stallone for Cliffhanger.  (Fun Fact: This movie is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the costliest aerial stunt ever performed at a cost of $1 million)

Cliffhanger shows Rooker off as being a good guy, teaming up with Stallone and who is tricked into helping the merciless terrorists get off the mountain with dumped cases of cash from a mid-air hijacking gone wrong.  It's up to Rooker and Stallone to outwit the psychotic leader played by John Lithgow.  I'm not much of a Sly fan, but this movie (and Rambo and Rocky) are my exceptions.

Also in '93, Rooker teamed up with Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer in Tombstone, a western, that in itself prove that the western genre can be fun without being over the top and campy.  It was because of this film that Rooker learned how to shoot.  Rooker was cast as Sherman McMasters.

In 1994 Rooker starred in a short film that aired on the SciFi channel called Suspicious.  I'm sad to say I  haven't had the pleasure of seeing this.  Fortunately, my brother has seen it and gave me the scoop on the film which sounds a lot like an urban legend.  A highly paranoid woman driving to an unknown destination at night.  Every time she stops she is frightened by the people that are around her.  She stops at a gas station and the attendant is a very menacing man who tries every way that he can to get her out of her car.  Janeane Garofalo and Michael Rooker give excellent performances in this film.  So with that being said, when and if you get the chance, watch this film because it will entertain as well as frighten you.

Which brings me to the 1995 movie (and a favourite of many) Mallrats.  A star studded cast including Jason Lee, Jeremy London, Shannen Doherty and Ben Affleck, Rooker was in good company.  Mallrats is about two friends, who have both been dumped by their girls, seeking refuge in a mall.  (Fun Fact: The character of Svenning was not originally suppose to be bald.  Rooker was trying to dye his hair gray for a better look, and decided that bald worked a lot better)

Rooker did a lot of television appearances in the mid to late nineties.  Fallen Angels and Honolulu CRU were two series in which he made an appearance.  He also did a few television movies.  Back To Back was one such film.  Made in '96 Back To Back was about an ex-cop finds himself caught up in a battle between Japanese mobsters and local gangland thugs and discovers that he was framed for wrong-doings by a corrupt cop.  Action packed and directed by Roger Nygard and co-starring Scream Queen Danielle Harris, Back To Back gave Rooker the much deserved leading man status and, despite it's typical TV action movie formula, is probably one of the most enjoyable TV movies I've seen in a long time.  (Fun Fact: This film is also known as American Yakuza 2, and Back to Back: American Yakuza 2)

Jumping to 1998 and Rooker teamed up once more with a star studded cast in Rosewood.  Starring along side Jon Voight, Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle and Muse Watson (my feared Fisherman from I Know What You Did Last Summer), Rosewood was a dramatization of a 1923 horrific racist lynch mob attack on an African American community.  Channelling the same lines as Mississippi Burning, Rooker managed to steal focus whenever he appeared on screen as Sheirff Walker.

Failing to kill anymore because of his conscience, a troubled hit-man seeks aid from a forger to help him get papers to China.  However, the drug-lord has hired replacements to finish the job and kill the hit-man is the storyline for The Replacement Killers (1998).  Co-starring Chow Yun-Fat (in what I believe to be his first American film) and Mira Sorvino, Rooker played a LA cop who killed the son of Chinese Triad boss, Wei. Needless to say, a hit is put out on his young son but Yun-Fat's character finds he has a conscience and can't go through with it.  It all goes pear-shaped from there.

That same year, Rooker found himself in Shadow Builder which also starred Tony Todd.  The storyline for this film is a demon is summoned to take the soul of a young boy who has the potential to become a saint. By doing this he will open a doorway to hell and destroy the world.  Now I have friends who love this movie and friends who hate this movie with a fiery passion.  One of my friends described this film as "A complete trainwreck from start to finish.  Big fan of Rooker, but this was beneath him."  While another one of my gal-pals described this as "Enjoyable.  It had likeable characters, naturalistic acting.  There were some really creepy deaths.  There were also a couple of excellent wince-inducing stunts but over all it was pretty good and definitely worth a look."

Also that year, Rooker found himself matching wits against Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie in The Bone Collector.  If you haven't see this film, go and see it.  If you enjoyed Silence Of The Lambs, then you should enjoy this too.

In 2000, Rooker teamed forces with Arnold Schwarzenegger in The 6th Day.  The storyline is a futuristic action movie about a man who meets a clone of himself and stumbles into a grand conspiracy about clones taking over the world.  Redicuious concept (and probably my least favourite Arnie film) but whenever Rooker hits the screen you can't tear your eyes away from him as he commands the spotlight, once again stealing focus from his co-stars.  That, to me, is a sign of a brilliant actor.

In 2001, Rooker teamed up with one of my favourite acton stars, Jean-Claude Van Dammn in Replicant.  Van Dammn is a serial killer and Rooker is out to stop him.  Meanwhile, scientists create a genetic clone of Van Damme in order to help catch the real Van Dammn.  The clone then teams up with Rooker in a bid to stop the evil Jean-Claude.  It's a typical Van Dammn movie, but a mighty enjoyable one.

Jumping a couple of years to 2004, Rooker teamed up with Casper Van Dien in Skeleton Man.  Two scientists receive some objects and a skull from an ancient Indian cemetery, and while cleaning a vase, they are attacked and murdered by a mysterious being, known as the Skeleton Man.  A military squad commanded by Captain Leary (Rooker) seeks out two groups of four soldiers each that vanished in the jungle. They face the Skeleton Man, shooting him while he kills each soldier.  The Skeleton Man goes to a power plant, and Captain Leary explodes the facility destroying the supernatural being once and for all...or does he?

This film is another one that rages war between my friends.  Some loved it and others loathed.  I do recommend giving it a watch and making your own mind up about it.  It's an odd film but, with Rooker's genuis, it does have its moments.

In 2006 Rooker starred in Repo! The Genetic Opera along side Saw Queen, Shawnee Smith.  I understand why a lot of people don't like this movie and that's simply because many don't understand what is going on, due to the high vocabulary and constant musical numbers.  Having done musical theatre myself, I've always loved musicals for their creativity, incredible music and lyrics.  Repo! The Genetic Opera has a goth element about it (very Dracula's for anyone who's read my article on their cabaret) and is, by far, one of the funnest movies I've seen in years.  Highly recommended although it won't be everyone's taste.

Slither (2006) is probably one of Michael's more famed pieces of work.  Directed by James Gunn, Slither is about a small town is taken over by an alien plague, turning residents into zombies and all forms of mutant monsters.  For me, aside from Rooker being a horrible creature in need of being destroyed, the scene that stood out the most was the bath sequence.

I recommended it to a friend (who thought the film was about a giant snake – got to admit, I can see where she got that notion) and she now considers it a top ten film of hers.  Slither is not only well acted, but you get a sense of comearidary about the cast.  While it won't rank in my top ten favourite horror films, Slither is highly entertaining and a great way to kill a couple of hours.

2007 bought about an interesting film called Whisper in which Rooker played a character by the name of Sidney Braverman.  The storyline is as follows: When the eight-year-old son, David, of a wealthy New England socialite is abducted, his kidnapper Max Harper and his seedy associates assume it will be a routine kidnapping in exchange for a large ransom.  Unknown to the kidnappers, the shy and reserved David actually has a hidden agenda of his own, and a mysterious way of tapping into the minds of others. Soon, Max will wish that he had never kidnapped David, much less even heard of him.

During this time, Rooker made several television appearances from Law And Order and Crossing Jordan to Chuck and Criminal Minds.  Each appearance added new fans to his ever growing fan base.  Just like most guest stars who appear on TV shows, Rooker stole the limelight and gave audiences characters to love and loathe.

In 2010 Rooker bought us Freeway Killer which was a tale based on William Bonin who was a real serial killer residing in Californina.  Rooker was the detective in charge of the investigation.  Now I will admit that I haven't seen this, but it's something that I want to see despite the poor reviews I've read.
2010 also saw Rooker appear as a, quote "badass mo-fo prison guard," in Cell 213.  Cell 213 is a horror film set in a prison where, as things get worse and worse, you just want to yell at the characters, "Are you NUTS???  Just LEAVE!!!"

Which brings me now to a very popular TV series: The Walking Dead.  The Walking Dead in a nut shell is police officer Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) leads a group of survivors in a world overrun by zombies.  The plot is focused primarily on the human element of a post-apocalyptic world and the way the struggling humans survive.  (Fun Fact: The actors who played zombies had to go through zombie school to learn how to walk and move like zombies)  Rooker, to date, has only made three appearances as Merle Dixon, but is referred to as recurring character.

The one common thing I've noticed about Michael Rooker from writing this article is, despite his horror status firmly embedded in everyone's mind, he doesn't always need to stick to the horror genre in order to install fear.  His abilities and range outside of horror is what makes him a truly sensational artist, an expert at his craft.

To prove how good he is, Rooker even ventured onto VH1's Scream Queens (the show had 12 actresses compete for a chance to be in the next instalment of the Saw franchise hosted by Shawnee Smith) for one of the challenges which saw him seduced by the five remaining girl before being devoured by them and their vampire ways.  I know I was suppose to be watching the show for the girls, but I couldn't take my eyes off him.

From Henry to that little cameo appearance in Scream Queens, Michael Rooker has stamped himself in my eyes as, not only one of horrors best, but one of cinemas best actors.  He can be my leading man any day.

Rhiannon's Top 5 Michael Rooker Movies

1) Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer - Back when it all started, Rooker was an unstoppable force of nature.

2) The Dark Half - Highly underrated, this adaptation of the Stephen King book is often overlooked.  A must watch.

3) Slither - How can this not appear on the list.  Rooker is chilling, sinister, loveable, sexy...oh he's just brilliant in this.

4) Mississippi Burning - It might be my sentimental side coming out, but I loved this film and Rooker was fantastic in it.

5) Mallrats - Fun and fabulous!

Horror Icon: Katharine Isabelle

Scream Queen is a title that is thrown around too easily these days, but this month’s inductee into the Horror Icon Hall Of Fame fits the criteria.  This honor go to a lady with a powerful presence on screen (and a powerful set of lungs to boot).  This Horror Icon is Katharine Isabelle.

Born on November 2, 1981 in Vancouver, Canada, Katharine Isobel Murray made her debut.  Born to parents Graeme and Gail Murray, Katharine was destined to live life in the spotlight.  Her father created the special effects for the The X-Files and her brother is renowned actor, writer and director Joshua Murray.

Her career started in 1989 when she was just eight years old.  Working under the name of Katie Murray, Katharine starred in Cousins alongside big names like Ted Danson, Isabella Rossellini, Sean Young, Lloyd Bridges and William Petersen.

That same year she starred in Cold Front, The Last Winter and Immediate Family.  Katharine also made an appearance on the widely popular TV series, MacGyver.

In 1991, she changed her accredited name from Katie Murray to Katherine Isobel for the TV Movie Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus.

For the next few years, Katherine Isobel starred in numerous TV movies and shows, including Children Of The Dust, Lonesome Dove: The Series and The Prisoner Of Zenda, Inc.  But in 1996, along came the spookiness that is R.L. Stine and Katherine Isobel was given a chance to shine in the TV series of Goosebumps.  The episode was It Came From Beneath The Sink.

Starring as Kat Merton, one of the leading characters, Katherine Isobel scored many new fans, especially those that loved the Goosebumps books and TV Show.

That same year, she underwent another name change in the film credits, this time changing a single ‘e’ in Katherine to an ‘a’ so it spelt Katharine.  This change was first notable in Salt Water Moose as well as the TV movie, Titanic.

In 1998, she had the pleasure of working with her father when she appeared on The X-Files for a single episode.  That same year Katharine made her mark in horror with two thriller/horror styled movies; Voyage Of Terror and Disturbing Behavior.  (Fun Fact: By this time, the name we all know her as, Katharine Isabelle, was used in the movie credits.  The first time it appeared as such was in the episode of The X-Files)

Teaming up with V actor, Michael Ironside and Martin Sheen, Voyage Of Terror is about a
n infectious disease researcher is on a cruise with her daughter when an Ebola-type virus attacks the ship's passengers and crew.  It has a typical TV movie feel about it.  The characters aren’t fully developed, especially that played by Sheen, who was a back-stabbing presidential adviser.  Katharine’s performance as the teenage daughter was good.  Not outstanding, not memorable, but she did her job convincingly.

Behavior came about in the late ‘90’s riding on the coattails of the successful Scream, Scream 2 and I Know What You Did Last Summer.  Mind control is the bases of this film with unruly high school students being turned into upstanding citizens.  Katharine starred alongside James Marsden, Katie Holmes and Nick Stahl and held her own.  Playing the kid sister of James Marsden’s character, Katharine was convincing in her small role.  While she didn’t have a big role, Katharine was important in the critical escape of the characters from Cradle Bay.  If you haven’t seen Disturbing Behavior, hire it out and watch it.  Recommended film.

Returning to TV the following year, Katharine appeared in The Net, Da Vinci’s Inquest and First Wave.  Little did anyone know that this sweet, baby-faced Canadian was about ready to show the horror world what she was made of.

In the year 2000, Katharine teamed up with fellow teen stars Emily Perkins and Kris Lemche (Final Destination 3) for the horror/comedy Ginger Snaps.
Ginger Snaps is about two outcast teenager sisters, Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and Ginger Fitzgerald (Katharine Isabelle), who are very connected and have a weird pact of death between them.  Their hobby is photography, more specifically morbid pictures of violent death scenes.  On the full moon night the sixteen year-old Ginger has her first period, she is bitten by a wild animal, indeed a werewolf, but she omits the attack to her mother Pamela (Mimi Rogers).  A couple of days later, Ginger changes her behavior; her body is covered by excessive hair; and she has the need of attacking dogs and other animals.  While her mother believes that the menstruation is causing her changes of attitude, Brigitte seeks the cure with the local drug dealer Sam (Kris Lemche).

Now, I may get some arguments for what I’m about to say, but I believe that Ginger Snaps is one of the best werewolf movies around.  I know it’s a big favourite among my girlfriends because it’s an original concept that’s executed perfectly.  If you haven’t seen it, do yourselves a favour and go get it.  You won’t be disappointed.

2001 saw an unusual pairing.  Katharine found herself starring alongside rapper Snoop Dog in Bones.  The basic storyline for Bones is over 20 years after his death by a gunshot, Jimmy Bones comes back as a ghost to wreak revenge on those who killed him and to clean up his neighbourhood.  Not a great film, though it does start out in a promising manner.  It continues to feel promising until about half way through.  The one issue I had with this was the writing.  Snoop’s character wasn’t a villain and yet the script unjustly makes him out to be one.  It’s certainly for fans of B-Graded movies.  Katharine as Tia was disappointing.  After her performance in Ginger Snaps, there were high hopes that she’d move up on the cast list, not disappear into the background.  Regardless of her role, she still delivered 110%.

In 2002, Katharine founded herself in a movie alongside funny man Robin Williams, Hilary Swank and Al Pacino.  Insomnia is one of those rare movies in which Robin Williams isn’t cracking jokes or dressing in drag.  Insomnia’s storyline is two Los Angeles homicide detectives are dispatched to a northern town where the sun doesn't set to investigate the methodical murder of a local teen.  Directed by Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises), Insomnia is highly recommended.

Also that year, Katharine found herself as a supporting character in the TV movie remake of Carrie (Fun Fact: Carrie is currently being remade – again)

Playing Tina Blake and starring alongside Angelia Bettis and Patricia Clarkson, Katharine stepped up her game.  Despite the film falling flat when compared with the original, Katharine’s performance could not be faulted.  I don’t think the storyline for Carrie needs to be retold but just in case you’ve been living under a rock Carrie is the story of Carrie White, a lonely and painfully shy teenage girl with unbelievable telekinetic powers, and is slowly being pushed to the edge of insanity by frequent bullying from both cruel classmates at her school, and her own religious, but abusive, mother. Soon, she discovers she has telekinetic powers; and when the most gruesome of gags is played on her on prom night, all bets are off.

2003 saw Katharine take on not one, but two, of horrors greatest psychos.  Freddy Vs. Jason was a highly anticipated duel between the two big bads of New Line Cinema and Katharine’s character Gibb was caught in the middle.  (Fun Fact: This would be the first film in which Katharine co-starred Brendan Fletcher)

Katharine was outstanding.  Her character was a drinking, chain-smoking, but surprisingly not foul mouthed.  And her kill was what set Freddy Krueger off on his rampage against Jason Voorhees.  If you remember, Freddy was taunting Gibb, flashing her images of her dead boyfriend, before trapping her in his boiler room.  Just as he’s about to rip into her with his claws, she died, spurting blood into his face.  Jason had found her and rammed a pole through her unconscious body and that of the guy on top of her.

In 2004, Ginger returned.  Ginger Snaps: Unleashed saw Katharine team up again with Emily Perkins for a sequel to their wildly popular Ginger Snaps.  For a sequel, it’s not bad.  The storyline is as follows: The late Ginger's sister Brigitte, now a werewolf herself, must try to find a cure for her blood lust before the next full moon while hiding out in a rehab clinic from a relentless werewolf.

The only issue I really had with the film was the gratuitous masturbation sequence.  Whilst it was a dream and a link between being a werewolf with werewolf instincts relating to sex, it did take me out of the movie.  I don’t think it was set to offend, nor do I feel like it degraded the film in any sense.  It just took me out of the film and while it was happening, I was sitting there with a look of WTF on my face. 

That same year there was another instalment of Ginger Snaps released.  Ginger Snaps: The Beginning sees the film set in 19th Century Canada, where Brigitte and her sister Ginger take refuge in a Traders' Fort which later becomes under siege by some savage werewolves.

I’ll be honest when I say that I felt this film was the weakest of the series despite my love of Katharine and Emily returning as Ginger and Brigitte.  It was shot back-to-back with Ginger Snaps: Unleashed, and clearly they were running out of ideas with this werewolf inspired tale.  Get it to complete the series, but it’s not worth the watch.

2006 was a busy year when it came to TV movies and shows for Katharine.  From appearances in Stargate SG-1 and Reunion to the TV movies Eight Days To Live and Engaged To Kill, Katharine showed that she wasn’t just a pretty face with a powerful set of lungs.

In 2007 Katharine made an appearance on the hit TV show Supernatural.  Playing Ava Wilson, Katharine made two appearances in separate episodes, and secured her place in Supernatural history. 

In 2008 Emily Perkins and Katharine teamed up again, this time for Another Cinderella Story also starring Jane Lynch, Selena Gomez and Drew Seeley.  That same year saw Katharine team up with another Ginger Snaps star, Brendan Fletcher, in the TV movie Ogre.

There must be something in the horror water because in 2009 a little thriller movie called Rampage starring Brendan Fletcher crossed Katharine’s desk and sure enough she appeared in it but as an extra only. 

In 2010, Katharine returned to straight up horror with Hard Ride To Hell.  Highly underrated movie Hard Ride To Hell is about a
group of family and friends on a camping trip through the Texas badlands are taken on a one-way ride to Hell after they inadvertently witness a ritual sacrifice at a deserted campsite.  Pursued by the devil worshiping biker gang responsible, they hole up in an abandoned church near the border, only to discover that they are pawns in a decades-old battle between good and evil.  (Fun Fact: Ads taken out in popular horror magazines promoted Hard Ride To Hell as an ode to the very popular exploitation films)

This was one film that stirred the pot within my group of horror loving goons.  Half loved it, deeming it to be cheesy and an exploitation film while the other half hated it because, whilst it had everything, it didn’t quite mesh together.  At times it was tedious and some of the actors weren’t as convincing as they should have been, but for the purpose of watching Katharine show off her many talents, this film nailed it.

2010 also saw 30 Days Of Night: Dark Days.  Katharine played the role of Stacey in a film about Stella Olemaun, who survived the incidents in Barrow, Alaska, relocates to Los Angeles, where she intentionally attracts the attention of the local vampire population in order to avenge the death of her husband, Eben.

Truth be told, it’s not a great sequel, though it does have promising moments.  It is a film that rages a lot of debate about why Stella would return, however, where it counts it does fall flat.

Currently, Katharine is promoting her new film directed and written by the Twisted Twins, Jen and Sylvia Soska, American Mary.  The story follows medical student, Mary Mason, as she becomes increasingly broke and disenchanted with the surgical world she once admired. The allure of easy money sends Mary into the world of underground surgeries which ends up leaving more marks on her than her so called 'freakish' clientele. 

She also has a few other projects in the works including a new horror entitled 13 Eerie which, surprise, surprise, also stars Brendan Fletcher.  (If these two keep this up, Brendan might find himself in this Horror Icon Hall Of Fame too)  There is also another thriller entitled Primary and a comedy/horror film called Crazy Fat Ethel.

Katharine Isabelle.  Underrated actress?  At time yes.  Talented?  Undoubtedly.  Over the course of her career, Katharine Isabelle has shown how talented she is in numerous films and television appearances.  One thing is certain.  Her constant return to the horror the genre has us begging for more and is why she is crowned one of the ultimate Horror Icons.

Rhiannon’s Top 5 Katharine Isabelle Movies

1)  Ginger Snaps (2000) – See where the horror began...

2)  Freddy Vs. Jason (2003) – My introduction to Freddy but also to Katharine. Her performance as Gibb, while small, was incredible.

3)  Insomnia (2002) – Fantastic film that is vastly underrated

4)  Ginger Snaps: Unleashed (2004) – The return of Ginger.  Pretty good for a sequel.

5)  American Mary (2012) – Anything by the Twisted Twins has to be outstanding, but team them with Katharine and we have an unstoppable force of nature.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Horror Icon: Jamie Lee Curtis

When it comes to horror icons, there is really only one woman that...ugh..screams Scream Queen.  This time, I tackle the one, the only, the ultimate iconic lady of horror, Jamie Lee Curtis.

Born on November 2, 1958 to two iconic actors, Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, Jamie was destined to be a movie star.  With her mother's good looks and her father's charm, Jamie was determined to stamp her own mark on Hollywood.  (Side Note: Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis divorced in 1962)

Jamie Lee attended Westlake School in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills High School.  She graduated from Choate Rosemary Hall.  Returning to California in '76, Jamie attended the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.  (Fun Fact:  Jamie originally planned to major in social work, but quit after just one semester to pursue an acting career)

In 1977, Jamie Lee had some minor television appearances in Quincy M.E, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries and Columbo.  (Fun Fact: In The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, Jamie Lee worked with another Horror Icon, Robert Englund)

In 1978, at the tender age of nineteen, a fresh-faced Jamie Lee was given her chance to shine in John Carpenter's Halloween.  Halloween was a small, independent movie (which would eventually go on to be one of the highest grossing independent movies of all time) about a babysitter and an unstoppable force of evil.  Carpenter took a chance on Curtis, casting her as the movies heroine, Laurie Strode.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Halloween moved into cult classic status, launching Jamie Lee (and the movie villain, Michael Myers) onto unsuspecting cinema goers.  Laurie Strode was such a refreshing character.  Quiet, shy, and somewhat unsure of herself, Laurie found herself pitted against pure evil.  Jamie Lee played Laurie to her strengths making her sweet, caring, considerate of others and above all, strong.  I don't mean strong as in an abundance of muscles, but rather mentally strong.  Even during times of crisis, Laurie's first priority was the children she was looking after.

Combining her talents with Carpenter's menacing score and script (co-written by Debra Hill) proved successful and because of her role in Halloween, Jamie Lee was subsequently cast in several horror films which in turn gave her the nickname and well deserved title of Scream Queen.  (Fun Fact:  In Halloween, as Laurie is speaking with Sheriff Leigh Brackett after a sudden scare, a wisp of smoke passes by the camera lens ・ this smoke is actually from John Carpenter's cigarette)

The Fog in 1980 not only starred Curtis but was also helmed by Halloween director John Carpenter.  Mixed reviews followed the release but the box office takings was strong.  The Fog also saw a link between horror of old and new as Jamie starred along side her mother, Janet Leigh.  (Side Note: The Fog has since been remade, but nothing beats the original)

Ironic that 1980 would also bring about two other horror films, Terror Train and Prom Night.

Prom Night is one of my guilty pleasures.  The story concerns a group of high school seniors who are targeted by an unknown killer in revenge for their culpability in the accidental death of a young girl.  The anniversary of the incident falls on their high school's prom night and sees the sister of the victim being crowned.  Curtis plays Kim Hammond and delivers a fun performance.

Terror Train is a Canadian horror film directored by Roger Spottiswoode.  Curtis starred along side magician David Copperfield, Hart Bochner (Die Hard, Urban Legends Final Cut) and Ben Johnson.  Now, I enjoyed Terror Train, but a close friend of mine is constantly comparing it to Halloween, often remarking that it was shot for shot of Halloween (an opinion that has been echoed by some backers of Halloween)  In any case, Terror Train grossed an estimate $8,000,000 at box office upon it's release in October 1980.

In 1981, Curtis returned to Haddonfield, home of Michael Myers and continued her battle with one of horror's ultimate icons.  Reprising her role as Laurie Strode, Halloween II also saw the return of John Carpenter and Debra Hill as writers.  (Fun Fact: John Carpenter actually directed some scenes of Halloween II after deeming what had been film originally "too tame and not scary enough")

Halloween II saw Rick Rosenthal (who would later go on to direct the 2002 sequel Halloween: Ressurection) get behind the camera and lead us on a continuation of the orginial Halloween.  Taking place straight after the original film, we see Michael lumber his way through the Halloween decorated streets of Haddonfield before finding out via a boombox that someone has survived his attack and is being transported to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital.  Cue the insanity as Michael makes his way to the hospital, killing the graveyard shift staff, showing off his brute strength (he stabs a nurse in the back with a scaple before lifting her off the ground with one hand) before being blown to bits in a firey explosion...or has he?  (Fun Fact: Jamie's long hair in Halloween II is actually a wig as she had cut her hair for another role)

Curtis played Laurie with the same enthusiam that she had for the original film back in '78.  She was the same character and even though three years had passed, the way she handled the character, the way she made the audience feel for her, sympathise with her and above all cheer for her was something that one would assume would be reserved for someone like Donald Pleasence.  (Fun Fact: Jamie Lee also appeared in Halloween III: Season Of The the voice for the phone operator)  For a sequel, Halloween II is one of the best.  Spine chilling, manicial fun and Curtis is capitvating.

Roadgames also surfaced in 1981.  I'm flying the Aussie flag with pride here as it is an Australian film directed by Richard Franklin and stars Stacy Keach along side Curtis, who puts her lung power to the test playing a hitch hiker in the outback.

The story is as follows: A truck driver (Keach) discovers a green van in various places along his journey.  When he learns of a serial killer in the area, he begins to theorise that the killer must own the van.  Cue Curtis who is a young hitch hiker that Keach picks up.  They begin to discuss the possiblities of the serial killer when they arrive at a petrol (gas) station to see the green van parked off to the side.  Curtis investigates the van while the driver investigates the rest room.... I won't spoil the rest for you, but I do recommend this movie.  It's fantastic.  Filled with suspense and drama, it's no wonder that Roadgames was nominated for AFI awards in four catagories.

In 1983 Curtis shocked audience by ditching her horror roots and appearing in Trading Place along side Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd.  (Fun Fact: Curtis has gone on the record to say that Aykroyd was the best kisser she's ever worked with)  Trading Places is a light hearted comedy that sees a well to do commodities broker (Aykroyd) fall from grace and be replaced by a homeless street hustler (Murphy) all because of a bet.  It's kind of a modern take on Mark Twain's classic novel The Prince And The Pauper.  Jamie Lee shows off her assists as Ophelia, a hooker who gets roped into the bet and ends up being part of Aykroyd and Murphy's plan to beat the men who placed the initial bet at their own game.

Fast forward five years to 1988 and Curtis showed off her comedy chops again starring along side John Cleese, Michael Palin and Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda.  This is by far one of my favorite Jamie Lee Curtis movies....OK, I was watching it for Kevin Kline who actually was nominated and won the Academy Award For Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Otto.

A Fish Called Wanda is about a jewel heist planned by London-based gangster George Thompson (Tom Georgeson) and his right-hand man, Ken (Palin) who has a terrible stutter and loves animals.  They bring in two American's to help: an alluring con artist, Wanda Gershwitz (Curtis) and their 'weapons man' Otto (Kline).  Wanda and Otto are lovers, a fact that they hide from the others, pretending to be brother and sister instead.

The robbery goes well but Wanda and Otto betray George and he is arrested.  Hilarity ensures when Wanda, who was planning to double cross Otto as well, strikes up a seductive relationship with George's unhappily married attorney, Archie Leach (Cleese).  If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favour and run out and get it.  It is a brilliant film and Curtis is mesmerising as Wanda.

In 1989 Curtis jumped into the action, thriller genre with Blue Steel which saw her play a rookie cop who guns down a criminal in the act.  But when his weapon is picked up from the crime scene by a psychopath, Curtis' character is accused of shooting and killing an unarmed man.  She then spends the rest of the film tracking down the man that is now on a killing spree as well as trying to prove her innocence and prove that the man she killed was in fact armed and dangerous.

Blue Steel saw Curtis team up with Ron Silver, Clancy Brown and Tom Sizemore as the robber that she shoots and kills in the opening sequence.  Fun film that is worth watching.

Now we've reached the early 1990's and Jamie moved into the family friendly genre with appearances in both My Girl and My Girl 2.  But it was her performance in 1994 True Lies that Jamie, herself, dubs her favourite roll.  (Fun Fact: At the time when True Lies was released, Jamie appeared in a series of commercials for L'Eggs Pantyhose.  The company also took out an insurance policy for her legs which are still insured for $2,000,000)

While she wears her Halloween pin with pride, Jamie Lee has stated that True Lies has been her favourite role to date.  True Lies was a fun role, a departure from all that had come before it.  Let's face it, does anyone remember anything else from the movie aside from her strip tease?

The mid nineties saw Curtis stick to comedy with movies like House Arrest and Fierce Creatures, which, while not a direct sequel to A Fish Called Wanda, it did star the same cast.

Jamie Lee has proved influentual and a voice of reason so when she made a suggestion that her arch nemesis Michael Myers should return to the big screen upon the twenty year anniversary of Halloween producers took note of Curtis' comment and in 1998 both Laurie Strode and Michael Myers returned with Halloween H20.

Twenty years after the first attacks by Michael, Laurie has done quite well for herself.  She is still plagued by nightmares, however she now the headmistress at a posh, secluded school in northern California, hoping and praying every year that her brother won't find her.  (Fun Fact: As said on Halloween: 25 Years of Terror, Halloween H20 had scenes re-shot due to complaints of the Myers mask used in the film.  Scenes that could not be re-shot had a CGI mask replace them frame by frame.  Four masks were made for the film)

H20 was met with mixed reviews, however audiences loved it.  The dynamic relationship between Laurie and Michael was something cinema goers were starved of since '81 and the movie quickly became the highest grossing film in the original Halloween franchise (this is now second highest grossing after Rob Zombie's Halloween version on 2007).  Janet Leigh even made a cameo appearane as Norma, the receptionist.  (Fun Fact: Janet Leigh's character was named after 'Mother' in Psycho.  She also makes a referrence to "the drains in the girls shower room are clogged again" as well as driving off in the same car she was buried in - all referrencing her role in Psycho, 1960)

H20 saw Laurie grow up from a victim into a strong heroine that sends her son and his girlfriend (Josh Hartnett and Michelle Williams) away, choosing to stay behind and face Michael once and for all in a final showdown.  Laurie's determination to gather some small fragment of her life back was played perfectly with some critics deeming H20 to be the best sequel in the series.  Some have even gone as far as to say H20 rivals the original Halloween and stands up to the legacy that was created twenty years prior.

The end of H20 seemed pretty conclusional.  Laurie steals the coroner's van with Michael's body, knowing full well that he's impossible to kill.  She rolls the van down the side of a hill before decapitating him.  Surely no head means no more killer, right.  Right?

In 1999, Jamie Lee starred with Donald Southerland in Virus, a science-fiction horror film which was based on a Dark Horse comic book of the same name by Chuck Pfarrer.  Also starring William Baldwin, Virus is about the crew of an American tugboat that boards an abandoned Russian research vessel.  There's an alien life form aboard that regards them as a virus which must be destroyed.  If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favour and hire it out.  Not the greatest of films, but it is fun.  It's not a film that's too be taken seriously and seems to be a combination of the X-Files and Alien smooshed together.  Entertaining, but not top five material.

In 2002, Jamie Lee took one last crack at her evil enemy in Michael Myers, when she signed on for one last turn at being Laurie Strode in Halloween: Ressurection.  Fed up, tired and just generally irritated by the mere thought of her brother, Laurie is institutionalised, waiting, knowing that Michael will return.  (It is stated that at the end of H20, Laurie didn't behead Michael, but rather a paramedic - Michael, being the cleaver silent stalker he is, switched places with a paramedic that checked him over)  Sure enough he does, killing two bumbling idiot gaurds before stalking the institution in search of his sister.  He finds her on the roof and she manages to get him to stand with his foot in looped rope that hangs his body over the side of the building.

Michael grabs at his mask, causing Laurie some doubt as the screen flashes back to H20 to see 'Michael' grab his face while pinned by the car against a tree.  Reaching for the mask, Michael grabs her, pulling her towards him and somehow manages to stab her in the back.  Laurie kisses him and says "I'll see you in hell," before falling to her death.  Jamie Lee has left Haddonfield for good this time, her body falling a couple of stories, landing in the same position that Michael's did when he went off the balcony in the original Halloween.

2003 saw Jamie Lee switch bodies with Lindsay Lohan.  I don't mean that literally of course.  But I am referring to the remake of Freaky Friday in which Jamie Lee plays Lindsay's mother.

Freaky Friday was a decent film that is perfect for families.  Curtis for me, steals the limelight away from Lohan, acting like a spoilt brat while Lohan acts like a mature woman.  The storyline is pretty simple.  In order to get back into their own bodies, they have to understand each other.  A feel good movie that I highly recommend.

In 2004 I was delighted to hear that Jamie Lee had teamed up with Tim Allen.  I was a huge fan of Home Improvement and I've adored Tim Allen since then.  However, I was skeptical at him starring in another Christmas movie.

Christmas With The Kranks was one of the funniest films I had seen in a long time.  Tim and Jamie Lee are a married couple who do the same Christmas routine every year.  This year, while their grown up daughter is away, they decide that they're not going to do Christmas this year.  Hilarity follows as Tim Allen experiments with botox, Jamie Lee gets a faux tan and their plans of a cruise around the islands falls through when their daughter calls saying she's coming home for Christmas and can't wait to show her new man all their wonderful traditions.  It's a must see film, one that I would recommend strongly around Christmas time, however because I laughed so hard the first hundred times I saw it, I recommend it at any time of the year.

In 2010 Jamie Lee teamed up with Alien star Sigourney Weaver in You Again.  Now this film gets bashed a fair bit, but I loved it.  It was fun.  Granted, I will class it as a chick-flick.  Also starring Kristen Bell, who plays Jamie's daughter, Odette Yustman and everybody's favorite grandmother, Betty White.  A fun story that sees two generations fighting against the same people from high school that made their lives hell.

Aside from acting, Jamie Lee is also an accomplished writer.  Working with illustrator Laura Cornell, Curtis has written a number of children's books - a far cry from her Scream Queen status.

Whether she's making us laugh, educating our children through her writing or causing us to scream at the television or big screen, Jamie Lee Curtis is the ideal actress and one of my personal favourites.  Her sultry voice, her body, that tentative smile and those lungs have made her a household name.  And what I love most about her is how she always speaks so highly of Halloween, praising it as the launch pad for her career, but also for breaking new ground and creating what we know today as the slasher genre.  (Fun Fact: Jamie Lee doesn't actually like watching horror movies, citing that they terrify her)

She was once quoted as saying "I'm Laurie Strode's guardian angel" and she's right.  For the Halloween series would have been nothing if it wasn't for her.

Thirty years from now audiences will still be mesmerised by her powerful on screen presence, not just in Halloween, but in all her works.  We'll be hypnotised by her ability to be innocent and sweet one minute and a fiery vixen the next.  She is enchanting.  She is exciting to watch.  She is someone who we would love to have on our side.  She is the reason why Michael Myers is still running around...come to think of it, after she fell from the roof, we never saw Laurie again, nor was it mentioned that she had been murdered...Hmm that does leave it open for a possible return...

In any event, she is the ultimate Scream Queen.  She is Jamie Lee Curtis.

Rhiannon's Top 5 Jamie Lee Curtis Movies

1) Halloween (1978) - Seriously, was there any doubt that this would be my number one?

2) Roadgames (1981) - Flying the Aussie flag for this one.  Fantastic film that's a must watch.

3) True Lies (1994) - Jamie Lee in a strip tease for Arnie...need I say more

4) Christmas With The Kranks (2004) - Never have I laughed so hard during a holiday movie.  A must see at any time of year

5) A Fish Called Wanda (1988) - Filled with adult humor, this is a must see, laugh out loud film filled with lies, sex and betrayal.