Category Archives: Entertainment

5 Reasons Disney Should Release a PG Version of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, In Theaters

Photo by Lucasfilm
Photo by Lucasfilm

Imagine my disappointment…

Everything was going along nicely.  When I was four, my parents took me to see the original Star Wars in the theater, igniting my lifelong fandom.  Next, I was lucky enough to marry a woman who is as big a Star Wars geek as I am, or geekier (I mean, how lucky am I, right?!).  Then, with great excitement, we introduced our five-year-old twins to Episodes IV, V and VI* this fall in anticipation of taking them to see Star Wars:  The Force Awakens.  And what happens next?!  The movie is released with a PG-13 rating.  As you would expect, my reaction was much like Luke’s upon learning that Darth Vader was his father… “Noooooooooooooooo-ooooooooooo-oooooooo!”

My wife and I were concerned about how much violence might be in the film for it to get pegged with a PG-13 rating.  So, we decided to do a date night on opening day and check it out before exposing the kids to it.  We loved the film, but agreed that it’s too violent for them.  We don’t even let them watch the evening news, yet – that shit’s scary.

So, I’ve decided to appeal directly to you, oh benevolent Disney Corporation to please release a version of The Force Awakens in theaters re-edited to garner a kid-friendly PG rating.  In case you’re hesitant, I’ve put way too much thought into this and come up with a five-point proposal as to why you should do it.  Here it goes…

  1. Ticket Sales

Oh sure, you might have broken all-time sales records on your opening day, but there’s no reason to let that stop you from opening up the film to a broader audience and selling even more tickets.  Think about it, my wife and I already went to see the film once and we will go again to see a PG version with our kids if you release it.  There are literally millions of other parents exactly like us.  Literally.  Millions.

  1. Toy Sales

OK, I admit that my son already has a LEGO Tie Fighter and will be getting an X-Wing for Christmas (shh… don’t tell).  But just think of how many more The Force Awakens toys he would be begging for if he could actually see the movie!  I’m sure he’s not alone.  Heck, my daughter isn’t as into Star Wars as my son, but she loves Leia and she’s bound to love Rey even more once she sees this movie.

  1. The PG Legacy

Until Episode III came along and changed the game, Star Wars had a storied legacy as being a PG franchise.  People were delighted by that fact.  Come on guys – bring the PG Star Wars legacy back to theaters.

  1. Because Disney

You’re The Walt Disney Company for goodness sake!  Seriously, the words “kid-friendly” and “Disney” are practically synonymous.  Do it for the children!

  1. You’re Going to Eventually Anyway

Someday, Star Wars:  The Force Awakens will appear on broadcast television, probably on ABC.  So, why not simply make the edited for TV version a couple years early and release it in 3D, Real D 3D and IMAX 3D?  You know you want to.

So, there it is… five compelling reasons why you should help all of us Star Wars Super Geek parents out and make a PG cut of the film now.  Let us buy our kids some overpriced popcorn and sodas and give them the experience we had long, long ago.

May The Force be with you.



*We didn’t show our kids the prequels.  Why bother?  Episode III is PG-13 and way too violent for them.  What’s the point in watching I and II without III?  Besides, they learned all the backstory they needed from IV, like their parents.

Message to Teens: Stay Weird. Stay Different. Stay Alive.

In his acceptance speech on Sunday, Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar winner Graham Moore spoke out in support of teens that feel weird or different.  He said, “When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong.  And now I’m standing here and so I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere.  Yes, you do.  I promise you do.  You do.  Stay weird, stay different.  And then when it’s your turn and you’re standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along.”

I’m not standing on any stage and I don’t foresee myself winning an Academy Award in the near future, yet I feel compelled to help pass his message along.  Like Graham, I didn’t fit in when I was a teen.  I went to a small school in rural Ohio.  I was shy, artistic, asthmatic, and not particularly good at sports.  Try as I might, I just never seemed to fit in.  I used to dread school.  Each day meant another round of being picked on and outcast.  I didn’t have to fake being sick in order to stay home, because I had so much anxiety about school that it would actually make me sick.

I was only in the sixth grade when I contemplated suicide.  It was early in the school year and all I could see was a long road of pain stretched out ahead of me.  I wanted out.  I had spent the previous school year begging my parents to let me leave the small private school that I was in to go to the larger public school.  My best friend‘s parents had agreed to let him do so and I pleaded to be allowed the same chance to start fresh somewhere new.  Though I had my parents’ sympathy for my struggle, they thought the private school offered the best educational opportunity and had decided to keep me there.  I would lay awake in bed for hours at night, fretting over what humiliation and degradation the next school day would bring.

Late one night, while the rest of the family was sleeping, I made my way down to the kitchen, opened the knife drawer and considered which blade would make the cleanest cut across my wrists.  Two thoughts entered my mind:
1. My family loves me and this will devastate them.
2. In three years I will be out of there and on my way somewhere else for high school.
Knowing that my time at that school was limited was ultimately what made me slowly slide the drawer shut and go back to bed.

I rode out the next three years.  It was long.  It was torturous.  I still relive the bad memories in my mind.


High school was better and college was better still, and I eventually moved away and found my own place in the world.  I’ve been able to build a life for myself that I love.  I have a beautiful, brilliant wife, wonderful children, and have worked in industries throughout my adult life that have rewarded me for being artistic and unique.

So, here’s my message to pre-teens and teens that are struggling, because try as they might, they just can’t seem to fit in.  Stay strong.  Be true to yourself.  The adult world will reward you much more for all the little ways that you are unlike everyone else than it will for the ways that you’re the same.  Embrace the pain.  It will be your badge of honor someday.

The Trip to Bountiful and the Idealized Past

Last week I had the opportunity to enjoy a powerful production of Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful at the Ahmanson Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.  The performances, staging, and set design were all truly fantastic.  It is now entering the final week of its run and I recommend catching it if you have the chance.

Set in the spring of 1953, the play focuses on the character of Mrs. Carrie Watts, brilliantly portrayed by Cicely Tyson.  Carrie is in the twilight of her life.  It has been 20 years since she last visited her hometown of Bountiful, TX – a mere three-hour drive from Houston, where she lives with her son Ludie (Blair Underwood) and daughter-in-law Jessie Mae (Vanessa Williams).  Her days are made of sharing a cramped one bedroom apartment with Jessie Mae and reflecting upon her childhood in Bountiful.

Seen from one perspective, the play is a sort of love letter to small town life.  Carrie pines to escape the big city and return to that place, which has become to her a symbol of happiness, freedom, and pristine beauty.  Ludie, too, is enamored with it.  Jessie Mae stands out as the one person that harbors no affection for Bountiful, which serves to make her the lone antagonist within the world of the play.

Seen another way, however, the play is an allegory to what happens when we create within ourselves an idealized version of past places and events.  Though Carrie reveals at one point that her father struggled to keep the family farm going and we learn that unsustainable farming practices reduced the community to a ghost town, Carrie chooses to cull out only the happy memories that she has of the place and the people with whom she shared it.  She has come to hold Bountiful sacred as a utopian ideal, where the people were kind, the air was fresh, and each day was full of joyous adventures.

And so it is with life, once we begin to hold an idealized past time and place in our minds, the present time becomes more cruel and wherever we live now seems to have nothing good to offer.  Time tends to wash away pain and intensify positive memories, making them more pungent, poignant and blissful than they actually were.  We run the risk of having our past become a toxin that poisons our present.

I saw this trick of the mind play out many times during the years that I worked as an actor in Los Angeles.  People arrived here seeking opportunity in the entertainment industry, but ended up pining for the place from which they came.  Crystalline memories of home made the harsh realities of this place all the harder.  Eventually, it seemed like everything was better where they came from.  They would stop looking for the good in this place and these people.  They’d start to wonder what they were searching for when they came here – after all, things were pretty great there.  Like Carrie, they would come to wonder how they came to feel so bitter and angry all the time.  They’d start to think that maybe if they went back home, then they’d become more like the happy person they once were.

And so that’s the great takeaway from The Trip to Bountiful.  Like Carrie, we’d probably all be a lot happier in the here and now if we would let the past remain in the past, and stop taking it out of the box from time to time to clean it, polish it, and move it a little higher up on the mantel.

The Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Streaming; the Definitive List

If you are a sci-fi purist searching for the best sci-fi movies streaming on Netflix then you’ve come to the right place.  The list below is based upon what is arguably the definitive list of the top 100 sci-fi movies of all time.


Searching the web, I was dissatisfied with the available lists of science fiction movies presently streaming on Netflix.  Many of the lists include fantasy films, which – in my opinion – muddle the rankings.  Though I am a fan of the film classic “Wizard of Oz” for example, I don’t think that it should be jockeying for position against the “Star Wars” franchise and “2001: A Space Odyssey” in any “Best Movies” rankings – unless you are noncategorically ranking “The Best Movies of All Time.”

So, I searched for “best sci-fi movies of all time” and landed upon TimeOut Film’s recent The 100 Best Sci-Fi Movies list.  What makes the list special is who TimeOut reached out to in order to select the films.  They didn’t do an online poll; they didn’t just reach out to critics.  Instead, their comprehensive approach was to have “Leading sci-fi experts, filmmakers, science fiction writers, film critics and scientists pick the best sci-fi movies ever made.”

The result is an exciting array of fantastic films ranging from 1927’s “Metropolis” to 2013’s “Her.”  The list is comprehensive, exhaustive, and 100% pure science fiction.  Happily, the list includes links to the films on and iTunes.  Sadly, it does not include links to Netflix Streaming.

Doing my part to improve the lists of sci-fi movies available on Netflix Streaming, the list below contains all of the films in TimeOut Film’s top 100 that are available for streaming (I will update the list from time-to-time).  The number beside each film title reflects its position on the TimeOut Film list.  I’ve flipped the list from the way it’s posted on TimeOut Film, so that the-best-of-the-best appear first.  Clicking on the film title will open the film’s page on in a new window or tab on your browser.

Happy viewing!

8.  Metropolis (1927)

16.  Terminator 2:  Judgment Day (1991)

26.  Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

31.  The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

33.  Silent Running (1971)

38.  Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

42.  The Fifth Element (1997)

44.  Star Trek 2:  The Wrath of Khan (1982)

48.  Ghostbusters (1984)

58.  Donnie Darko (2001)

86.  Barbarella (1968)

89.   Fantastic Voyage (1966)

95.  Serenity (2005)

Bonus:  Here, in no particular order, are a few sci-fi films that didn’t make the TimeOut list, but are currently streaming on Netflix and you might find worth the watch:

Robot & Frank (2012)

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Star Trek III:  The Search for Spock (1984)

Star Trek:  Generations (1994)

Star Trek:  Nemesis (2002)

The Brother from Another Planet (1984)

Starman (1984)

Strange Days (1995)

Event Horizon (1997)

Life in the Cirque du Soleil. 10 Questions with Actress Jeana Blackman

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of seeing longtime friend, actress Jeana Blackman, perform in Cirque du Soleil’s” at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.  The production was stunning and Jeana was at the top of her craft.  Afterward, I wanted to learn more about the production and what the experience has been like for Jeana.  So, I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to start a segment that will be recurring here on Super Eclectica – “10 Questions with…”

So, here we go…  Ten questions with Cirque performer Jeana Blackman.

Jeana Blackman Headshot

1.  MeWhen did you first decide that you wanted to be a performer?
Jeana:  I don’t remember making a conscious decision to be a performer; however I was apparently just eleven years old when I told my parents that I wanted to be an actor.  By that point, I’d already been performing in school plays, church productions, community theaters and the like since I was a toddler.  Guess it was just meant to be!

2.  MeWhat attracted you to working with Cirque du Soleil?
Jeana:  That it was a job. [Smiles]  Seriously though, I’d actually never thought about performing with Cirque du Soleil.  I saw “Nouvelle Experience” when I was fifteen and made a point thereafter to see the subsequent touring shows but I didn’t even know that the company hired actors.  Once I was approached, it was intoxicating to think that I could be onstage with such amazing diverse talent.

3.  MeWhat was the audition process like for Cirque du Soleil and for the roll of The Nursemaid in “KA”?
Jeana:  Cirque du Soleil first contacted me about a role in a different show and the callback process was challenging.  It was three hours of intense physical improv with various characterizations.  I’d never done anything like that but I had trained in different aspects of performing all of my life.  I think that I did well because I didn’t put pressure on myself to be something that I wasn’t.  I’m a strong physical comedic actress but I’ve never trained as a clown.  If I had let that bother me, I don’t think I would’ve made it into the database.  As for the nanny role, I was asked to submit a video (that’s still on YouTube I believe) and then I was flown to Las Vegas for another marathon improv audition. Two weeks later, I was jumping into airbags. It was a whirlwind.

4.  MeOnce you were cast and started rehearsals for “KÀ,” was there anything that surprised you about the show or its rehearsal process?
Jeana:  I think the biggest surprise is how you develop your character. In Los Angeles, show runs are short and you rehearse with the entire cast. Once the show opens, rehearsals stop. KÀ is an ongoing process with people from creation [in 2004] working with people who joined the cast a month ago. There are constant trainings and it is expected that your character will develop as you do shows. Opening night is just the beginning.

5.  MeBefore you joined Cirque, you were a working actress in Los Angeles.  What was it like making the transition to Las Vegas?  Did you experience culture shock?
Jeana:  It wasn’t just moving to Las Vegas that gave me a culture shock, it was the fact that I was joining the circus – an entirely different genre of entertainment.  Many of my co-workers were born into circus families or started learning their craft at a very young age.  Certain specialists are idolized in this world while typical Los Angeles celebrities draw a blank look.  And there is nothing like watching a world event like the Olympics or the World Cup with a company of international performers and technicians.

Jeana Blackman in Costume

6.  MeYour costume and makeup for the roll of The Nursemaid are quite intricate.  How long does it take for you to get in and out of it all?
Jeana:  It takes about an hour to do my make-up and pin curl my hair for the wig. Getting dressed and actually getting on stage takes at least an additional fifteen minutes. After shows, I can get my make-up off and be out of costume in about ten minutes.

7.  MeOne question that is actually three questions with a sub-question… How much does your costume weigh, is it hot inside of it, and does it restrict your movement?
Jeana:  My costume weighs about twenty pounds and it is definitely hot – especially when it’s humid.  When it’s dry, the costume becomes a static electricity machine.  The costume doesn’t restrict movement as much as it defines it.  My character is old and heaver, and the costume helps me achieve that effect.

Me(Sub-question) Have any fans of the show ever recognized you out of costume?
Jeana:  Nope. Never.

8.  MeDue to production needs, you and another performer share the roll of The Nursemaid for each performance.  What are the challenges of the two of you trying to match your performances so that we all think we are seeing just one performer?
Jeana:  A lot of matching the other nanny is about making sure that we both see the character the same way, and that’s where the third eye of our artistic director is a huge help.  Neither of us are the original Nanny.  We have some freedom to create but it’s also important that we have respect for the original creation.

9.  MeYou’ve been performing in “KA” for nearly 5 years.  How do you keep it fresh?
Jeana:  There are several things that help keep the show fresh for me.  One important one is that I do half of the nanny role for two weeks then switch to the other half.  Plus – between house troupes switching acts from night to night and back-ups going in to stay fresh – the people I work with in any given scene rotate quite a bit.  That certainly keeps me on my toes.  But perhaps the biggest help is that I love my job.  It sounds corny but I love what I do and if I’m getting bored, I know it’s time to go.

10.  MeWhat is your favorite thing about doing the show?
Jeana:  Right now, my favorite thing is seeing the faces of the kids who see the show.  The look of awe is just incredible.  And if they see you waving just to them at the end of the show, the expressions are priceless.  Ask me the same question tomorrow and you might get a different answer.

(It goes to 11)  Me:  Bonus Question… What is one thing about “KA” or Cirque du Soleil that it might surprise us to learn?
Jeana:  The show runs a little over ninety minutes but it is so technically intricate that the first dress rehearsal/run-through took over eight hours.