All posts by justdevin

Devin Pike remembers the Web when it was nothing but annoying animated GIFs as far as the eye can see. A film critic and entertainment reporter since 1981, Devin is the founder and former editor-in-chief for Red Carpet Crash. He has hosted, directed and produced programs for Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA, CBS Radio, Rational Broadcasting and Time Warner Cable. Mostly, Devin hates talking about himself in the third person, because it makes him feel schizophrenic.

Remembering Robin Williams

In the fall of 1987, I had a few delusions of becoming a stand-up comedian. I had a few pages of material drawn up, and in those days, it was a lot easier to get into places like the Dallas IMPROVISATION when you were in your late teens. This is how I wound up at the Improv on a Monday night, waiting my turn to get on stage at Open Mic Night, to try out some new material.

The manager comes up to me very early on, and tells me “You’re not going on tonight, but you should really stay here and see what happens.” He was right. The emcee welcomes the sparse crowd to the Open Mic Night, then announces some bogus name (I think it was Myron Grombaucher from Euless). A figure bounds up onto the stage…

…and it’s Robin Williams. I found out much later that he was in town doing junket interviews for GOOD MORNING VIETNAM, and was looking to keep his improv skills sharp. Once the applause dies down, he looks out at the crowd, and says, “Okay, someone give me a topic. Anything. First thing that –”

A voice from the audience: “Religion.”

And off to the races. Robin riffed on religion first, then that flowed into a 90-minute free-association routine that was just there, for us. There were identifiable pieces from a few of his previously released shows, like the Met or the Hollywood Bowl, but watching him work, at the height of his comedic powers, was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. It was our gift, just for being there.


Robin Williams is gone, now. In the coming months, we’ll second-guess why he decided to take his own life. We’ve done it before, with other talented actors. Too many times. What winds up happening, sadly, is that the suicide becomes the story. “How selfish.” “He still had so many years to give us amazing performances.” “Why couldn’t he have reached out for help?” “Why are we talking about one man’s death when we have so many things we need to fix in the world…” On and on.

When someone with the tag “celebrity” dies, for whatever reason, we have to break up their life into little bite-size notions and shovel our own experiences on top of it. It’s the easiest way to tell a story to an audience: give it a context that mirrors our own lives. What this tends to do, sadly, is diminish the person’s lifetime body of work into a handy punchline. Catchphrase.

Never mind that Robin Williams was one of the world’s most recognizable actors and comedians for the better part of four decades. He studied at Juilliard’s College of Marin for theatrics alongside Christopher Reeve, and was hand-picked by John Houseman for advanced studies. His films, his roles, are touchstones for four generations of moviegoers and television watchers.

As the days turn to weeks, and TMZ finally latches on to the next celebritragedy, please try to not lose sight of that.


Even with all of the outstanding comedic roles Williams had – Mrs. Doubtfire, Peter Pan, Popeye, the King of the Moon – it was his dramatic roles that caught my attention. Go back and watch INSOMNIA, Christopher Nolan’s coming-out party, and see how unnerving Williams could be with a role that was just edgy enough to get under your skin and make you itch. For hours. We saw that edge with THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, which walked an odd line between absurdist comedy and suburban pathos.

There were three times Williams had a performance good enough to win an Academy Award, if it had just gone in a different year – GOOD MORNING VIETNAM (lost to Michael Douglas for WALL STREET), DEAD POETS SOCIETY (Daniel Day-Lewis, MY LEFT FOOT) and THE FISHER KING (Anthony Hopkins, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS). Of all the performances in that period, THE FISHER KING is my favorite, the one I’ll watch at least once a year. The joy on Williams’ face as he speaks to Jeff Bridges about his would-be love, Lydia, is transcendent.

Robin Williams’ performances bounced back and forth between the boundaries of utter lunacy. Bliss and pathos, in equal measure. To be able to relay that on camera, on stage, you have to know both in equal measure.

Two weeks ago, he posted a vintage pic on Instagram celebrating his daughter Zelda’s 25th birthday:

At some point after that, the pathos took over.

 

Devin Pike is the Entertainment Lead for Movies at The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @JustDevin.


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WATCH: Omaze Winner Of STAR WARS Force For Change Walk-On Part For EPISODE VII

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Omaze specializes in pairing up unique opportunities for fans to get a heckuva bang out of their charity dollars. Their STAR WARS Force For Change campaign was especially flashy, working with JJ Abrams and the Bad Robot crew to raise $4.26 million for UNICEF this year.

The pledge perk with the highest profile was a random winner getting a walk-on role in STAR WARS: EPISODE VII. Omaze set up a Skype call with D.C. Barns, where he thought he would just be talking about his love of the STAR WARS Saga. Guess again.

With an exciting initiative that offered a chance to win unique rewards and prizes, including a once-in-a-lifetime grand prize, Star Wars: Force for Change raised $4,261,410 USD for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Contributions were received via fundraising platform Omaze from citizens of 125 countries and enough money was raised to support the equivalent of 7-8 new UNICEF Innovation Labs. The grand-prize winner was D.C. Barns of Denver Colorado, who shared during a donor video chat that the first time he saw Star Wars when it opened in theaters in 1977, when he was only five. “I loved it! … I just couldn’t get it out of my head of 35 years.” D.C. was then asked to share his favorite Star Wars moment. As he began to reply, he was suddenly surprised in his Denver office by members of Star Wars: Force for Change team. Once settled, D.C. exclaimed, “This! This is my new favorite Star Wars moment!”

D.C. will enjoy a trip to London for himself and a guest, a behind-the-scenes visit to the Star Wars set, and will be fitted with a costume and filmed for a scene in Star Wars: Episode Vll.

UNICEF’s current network of 14 Innovation Labs help create sustainable solutions to critical issues facing children around the world in the areas of nutrition, water, health, and education. The funds raised through Star Wars: Force for Change will impact the lives of children around the world, through projects like MobiStation, a portable, solar-powered educational kit to ensure children have access to quality learning anywhere, and Rapid FTR (Family Tracing and Reunification), a mobile phone application that helps reunite separated and unaccompanied children with their families in natural disasters.

Disney committed an additional US $1 million to support the launch of Star Wars: Force for Change. Star Wars continues to inspire generations of dreamers and doers to use their creativity to accomplish great things. Star Wars and Lucasfilm were built on the belief that in uniting creativity with innovation, you can make the impossible possible.

STAR WARS EPISODE VII, written and directed by J.J. Abrams, and starring Andy Serkis, Harrison Ford, Gwendoline Christie, Domhnall Gleeson, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Lupita Nyong’o, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Peter Mayhew, Max von Sydow, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and D.C. Barns, is slated for release December 18, 2015.

Five Things We Learned From SDCC 2014

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While I didn’t go to San Diego Comic-Con this year, plenty of my Fifth Estate brethren did, chasing interviews and looking for that one exclusive that would make attending the four days of the largest pop culture gathering in the world worthwhile. Here’s what we found out, as the dust settles and the bruises, blisters and strained ligaments heal up:

1. DC is still chasing Marvel for the lead in owning hearts and minds at the box office.

While DC started strong with the reveals of Gal Godot as Wonder Woman, and a snippet of the stare-off between Superman and Batman in the 2016 film DAWN OF JUSTICE, the completed sequence of the Avengers getting their collective arses handed to them by Ultron in next year’s AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (which still hasn’t shown up in any form of shakycam footage, amazingly) was mind-shatteringly awesome. Marvel has their ducks lined up with films until the heat death of the universe. DC has BATMAN VS SUPERMAN, then JUSTICE LEAGUE… then we’re not sure.

 

2. … but DC is kicking ass on the TV side of things.

AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. got things cooking in the second half of the season, and AGENT CARTER will get its debut when AGENTS goes on Winter Break. Meanwhile, ARROW is coming off a phenomenal sophomore season, and its spin-off, THE FLASH, will debut on the WB this Fall. CONSTANTINE on NBC looks to be tonally on point – think a supernatural version of HANNIBAL, and you’re on track. Panels for both shows were raucous – put Stephen Amell and John Barrowman on the same stage and watch the swooning start. As much as Marvel owns the movie side of things, DC has it going on through the airwaves.

 

3. Mike Tyson doesn’t give a damn if you think he’s crazy or not.

Adult Swim may have pulled off one of the most amazing shows in its history – and if you know how much I love AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE, THE VENTURE BROTHERS, or SPACE GHOST COAST TO COAST, you know I’m impressed. MIKE TYSON MYSTERIES is an animated Tyson – voiced by the big man himself – joined by his crime-solving friends: his adopted Korean daughter, a talking pigeon (voiced by Norm MacDonald) and the ghost of John Chambers the 9th Marquess of Queensbury (the great Jim Rash). It’s just as batshit as it sounds.

 

4. The biggest surprise may have been SKULL ISLAND.

None of the other big players had a real “out of left field” moment that caught fans on their heels quite like Legendary Pictures’ announcement of a prequel to KING KONG. There’s an effects test and release date (November 4, 2016), but that’s about it. No director, cast, or credited script writers announced. Doesn’t matter, man. SKULL ISLAND. Pair that with the GODZILLA 2 news that Rodan, Ghidorah and Mothra would be showing up to wreak havoc, and the first look at Duncan Jones’ take on WARCRAFT, and Legendary might have had the most bang from their Hall H bucks.

 

5. Adam Savage is the best cosplayer in the universe.

A lot of the actors attending SDCC wanted to get a look at the show floor, so they donned costumes to try and walk around without getting absolutely mobbed. Daniel Radcliffe put on a Spider-Man costume. Norman Reedus tried to wear a Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man rig, but when he took it off to cool down, the secret was out. No one, however, puts more into a cosplay outfit than Mythbusters’ Adam Savage, who has been working on his environmental suit from ALIEN for the last two years.

 

One Bonus: there are a lot of great galleries of the cosplayers from SDCC. This collection from Comic Vine is my favorite, so far.

 

Devin Pike is the Entertainment Lead for Movies at The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @justdevin.