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Encino Men... 30 Years Later


Encino Man (aka California Man) saw three young stars unite for an outlandish '90s comedy about being ice cool and then waking up to become a high school drop out in the MTV generation '90s. Starring Brendan Fraser, Pauly Shore and Sean Astin, these actors found the fun in this nutty star-making movie before going their separate ways...

encino men 30 years later

What Ever Happened to Pauly Shore?

Love or hate him, Pauly Shore peaked in the mid-90s. This is a widely accepted truth pertaining to the actor who came to be known as The Weasel. While Saturday Night Live has launched many comedy star's movie careers, Pauly Shore's actually started on MTV show Totally Pauly in 1990. Having had a few film roles prior to his superstardom in the '90s, Shore's first credited TV appearance was in 1987 on 21 Jump Street. He followed these up with a few minor supporting roles before landing a career-defining performance in Encino Man or California Man as Stoney Brown alongside Brendan Fraser as Link and Sean Astin as Dave Morgan.

Shore's career exploded at this point, landing the lead role in Son in Law, In the Army Now, Jury Duty and Bio-Dome. Coasting on his newfound star power, Shore became a hot comedy headliner, drawing audiences to get more of his unconventional goofy charm and offbeat screen presence. In the age of Beavis & Butthead, his whatever attitude, throwaway nuttiness and comic charm had a foothold. While divisive like other high profile acts such as Jim Carrey, "the talent police" as Mike Myers would put it eventually caught up with him.

Suddenly Shore was a veritable Hollywood outcast. Launching his own self-referential Tinseltown adventure film, Pauly Shore is Dead, he effectively tried to reinvent himself from the inside out. While famous for his definitive roles in the '90s, Shore became a punchline with many cameos and music video appearances over the years. His Rotten Tomatoes score shows a string of rotten Tomatometer ratings bar The Heckler, making him a favourite punch bag for critics over the years. However, that didn't stop the self-confessed weasel from appearing out of nowhere every now and then with productions like the misguided spoof, The Bogus Witch Project and celebrity adoption satire, Adopted.

What Ever Happened to Sean Astin?

Has anyone led a more fascinating acting career than Sean Astin? Starting out as a child star in 1981 with two TV movies, Astin first made a name for himself in 1985 as Mikey in Steven Spielberg's enduring '80s classic, The Goonies. Over his 40 year movie career, Astin has developed a knack for playing roles in films that come to characterise the era, picking up parts through the '90s in films like Memphis Belle, Toy Soldiers, Encino Man and stirring and career-defining coming-of-age American football drama, Rudy.

His lead role in Rudy as the quintessential underdog left the actor typecast and on a quest to effectively break the mold. Having been a part of indelible films through the '80s and '90s, it seemed only fitting that Astin should be cast in Peter Jackson's 2000s-defining trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. Playing Sam, the dependable sidekick to Frodo, Astin's almost unrecognisable performance was a bit lost in the scope and gravity of its burgeoning ensemble sharing cast wins and garnering several nominations.

Since his superseding career-defining and best known role as Sam in The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King, Astin has led an eclectic and versatile career with occasional supporting film roles, TV characters and regular work as a voice artist.

Astin followed up his years-long role as Sam with less serious roles, playing in Adam Sandler comedy movies 50 First Dates and Click with varying degrees of efficacy. Getting the odd role to push off his performance as Rudy, Astin's found himself taking on key roles in sporting glory films like Forever Strong and Woodlawn. Having achieved worldwide fame from a young age, the boyish-looking actor's best known roles and instant facial recognition puts him at a disadvantage. While not quite a household name, Astin's used his team player reputation and relative anonymity to good effect as Hollywood's Mr. Dependable.

Regularly making TV appearances with recurring roles in 24, The Strain, The Big Bang Theory and more recently Stranger Things, he's become an easily recognisable face for many generations. He's also become renowned for his voice work, playing Raphael in the long-running Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, being the narrator for Captain Underpants and lending his voice to many video game characters.

What Ever Happened to Brendan Fraser?

At the time of Encino Man, Fraser was also a shooting star only beginning to get his dues and recognition. Playing the titular character, essentially a cave man brought back to life from the Stone Age in a very different world, his naive exuberance went on to define his career until health issues forced him to take a hiatus. Fraser reprised his role as Link with a few cameos in Paul Shore movies racking up star-making roles in School Ties, Airheads, George of the Jungle, Blast from the Past and The Mummy.

Taking on cartoonish comedic performances, not unlike Jim Carrey, Fraser was sure to counterbalance his appetite for the zany with some serious performances to demonstrate his range with fine films like Gods and Monsters opposite Ian McKellen as late director Sir James Whale and The Quiet American as a counterpoint to Michael Caine.

While his hit-and-miss rate found him veering from ambitious duds to working with more accomplished directors and stars, one thing was always clear - Fraser had oodles of charm and talent. Now on the verge of a comeback, somewhat stunted after the Batgirl film was cancelled, it will be fascinating to see him starring in Darren Aronofsky's The Whale.

 
'Trainwreck: Woodstock '99' - A Hellish Tour of Toxic '90s Youth Culture in America


Michael Lang has long been associated with Woodstock since his integral involvement with the iconic 1969 music festival. Immortalised as a symbol of peace and love through the ages, there was an attempt to revive the festival for modern audiences in 1994. Due to a number of issues, including poor infrastructure and subpar security, the dream wasn't realised and Lang decided to attempt another revival of Woodstock again in 1999.

Thirty years after the original, the 30th anniversary seemed like a good reason to celebrate the history and ideals of the first Woodstock. However, as docuseries Trainwreck: Woodstock '99 reveals featuring interviews with Jewel, Fatboy Slim and Bush frontman, Gavin Rossdale, it was not to be. Composed of three 45 minute episodes entitled "How the F**k Did This Happen?", "Kerosene. Match. Boom!" and "You Can't Stop a Riot in the 90's.", this damning behind-the-scenes tour uncovers Woodstock '99, a hedonistic binge fest of a music event that continues to haunt with its devil-may-care attitude and rampage of riot, rage, sexual assault and faeces. In some ways, an echo of HBO's Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage, Trainwreck goes deeper into the toxic culture of America in the '90s and how the insane festival ended in a cloud of smoke.

Trainwreck: Woodstock '99

Being 1999 with talk of the Y2K bug and the end or turn of the millennium, the world was already on edge. Hosting a music festival about love and peace for up to 200,000 fans may not have been the best idea given the Zeitgeist of the time. Putting about 186,000 young people on a "playground" campus without rules for 3 days is bound to result in mayhem and unfortunately whatever instigates it, some of the most primal urges are bound to come out. As shocking as it is... it's even more impactful when you get the full context of the underlying fury.

Watching live concert footage of Rage Against the Machine's performance from the time, which is actually missing from this documentary's final version of events, you can get a sense of the angst. Trainwreck: Woodstock '99 refers to their famed Killin' in the Name track with a reworked Rage track but actually focusses more on the likes of Korn and Limp Bizkit's performances in firing up the crowd.

The first mistake for festival organisers, Michael Lang and John Scher, was making it mostly about money. The 3-day event had a gross take of $28,864,748 based on the sale of some 186,000 tickets. Obviously arranging a music festival is not a non-profit enterprise, which requires months and even years of planning. However, Woodstock '99 was a bait-and-switch because it was coasting on the ideals of a brand name associated with hippie values. The concept of Woodstock is nothing like the 1999 event that unfurled and the momentary illusion came crashing down around the festival, its attendees, the performers and the organisers.

Failing to provide the necessary infrastructure in terms of safety and security, this festival has been lambasted for its many inadequacies in hindsight. Trying to host a massive 3-day music concert with nearly 200,000 people, you need to ensure that you keep everyone safe and well-provided for, especially when the festival is a law unto itself and so closely associated with excesses and public nudity. Passing a blind eye over happenings within the grounds, in spite of being relayed via live television footage, gave the attendees a sense of impunity.

Trying to maximise profits, you can be sure the organisers were trying to do what they could to minimise costs. This meant selling off the rights to provide food and drinks as well as hiring security personnel who were inexperienced or ill-equipped. Hiking the prices for food and water, Woodstock '99 found participants paying unreasonable prices for refreshments with basic items like water and hot dogs selling for $4. Not being able to bring your own supplies into the venue, this monopoly only fueled the anger and indignation of concert-goers.

Experiencing warm weather and being essentially locked into an old air base's grounds, the crowd needed water, even more so in light of the dehydration caused by drinking and narcotics. Relying on substandard water for drinking and makeshift ablution facilities, it's actually a miracle Woodstock '99 didn't result in more dire consequences.

Not providing adequate sanitation and infrastructure, the air base invited poor living conditions tantamount to the squalor of some of the worst refugee camps. Starting off well on Day 1 with spirits high, things naturally devolved as you'd expect in a mismanaged space inhabited by hundreds of thousands of people. Already infused with drugs and alcohol, Woodstock '99 was already powder keg situation with dehydration and tempers running short.

As if the conditions weren't bad enough, the cherry bomb on the top was the festival's epic line-up of bands. The '90s were famous for grunge music with hard rock acts riding teenage disillusionment. While Woodstock in 1969 was characterised by more low-key musical artists, this festival was the antithesis - boasting the likes of Korn, Limp Bizkit, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against the Machine, some of the loudest bands with the most inflammatory lyrics.

Mosh pits are already a cesspit of aggression and Woodstock '99 effectively incited an already boisterous crowd. Just short of a riot, live footage shows just how active the festival goers were, a literal sea of people crowd-surfing and swaying in unison. Trainwreck: Woodstock '99 documents how the festival featured a great deal of nudity, substance abuse and was largely infiltrated by a toxic spirit. Relaying some rather hellish scenes with the aftermath compared to a war-torn Bosnia, it's no wonder this doomed event became the subject of two documentaries much like the infamous Fyre music festival.

Featuring extensive interviews with everyone from organisers, security, crew, performers, journalists and concert-goers, Trainwreck: Woodstock '99 offers a fairly comprehensive overview. Getting candid interviews with organisers, many of whom still see the event as an overall success, this docuseries provides a well-balanced retrospective in terms of the dizzying failure that caught world headlines. Inspired by Fyre, these documentaries are now seeing the festival for what it was in the cold light of day after more than two decades.

In spite of everything that went wrong, it's curious to note that some festival goers still regard Woodstock '99 with some nostalgia. While the overarching problems are easier to see from an bird's eye view and in retrospect, the substandard camping conditions and apparent lawlessness must have given its attendees a rare yet strong dose of reckless freedom. Some teenagers crave this kind of rebellious outpouring and ending with the concert goers essentially burning Woodstock '99 to the ground just seemed like they may have got the festival they wanted and ironically some of their best memories ever.

While the fictional Waynestock (now an actual festival's name) also didn't go to plan, it would be hilarious to see a Wayne's World 3 find Wayne and Garth gearing up to attend Woodstock '99. The cable TV show duo connected themselves indelibly with the '90s rock music scene with Wayne's World and Wayne's World 2 so it would be funny to see Mike Myers and Dana Carvey make a long-awaited return. They reprised their characters in some Super Bowl ads recently, proving they can still do it and there's still a fan base so who knows. Maybe taking it from a found footage perspective and given the renewed interest in the malfunctioned Woodstock '99 festival would give it just the right mix of ingredients for a rebirth.

As far as Woodstocks go, the dismal press from the '99 edition certainly buried any hope of another festival. Moreover, Michael Lang's passing in January 2022 means that it will definitely not be under his oversight. While that's probably a good thing, given the false starts of the '90s, the extensive coverage of the infamous Woodstock '99 may be just the tonic to have someone take a stab at it again. After all, based on the documentary findings and steep learning curve... it can only get better.

 
Why, I Worry There Isn't a Mad Movie


Mad magazine was a pop culture staple, a publication that has parodied everything with a special focus on America, which released its final issue in April 2018 - not an April Fool's Joke! It's not quite as edgy as National Lampoon's was but found a place in the hearts and minds of its readers who not only enjoyed the comedy but took pride in its satirical bite and wit. Saying things without spelling them out and lampooning everyday scenarios as well as popular culture of the day, Mad and Alfred E. Neuman cultivated a subculture of self-confessed reprobates.

The Mad franchise was established enough to release a popular board game where the object of the game was to lose your money. Using classic imagery and comic styling from the magazine, this board game served as a sort of anti-Monopoly employing some similar elements but integrating some suitably Mad reversals. Behaving like a chicken, discriminating against players, sending them to Anywhere or landing them the one note to rule them all - it was an absolute gas. While the board game had its place, the magazine's regular publication and obscured reflection of society Made it a highlight of the month.

Mad Magazine Movie?

This author discovered the loathsome joys of this pulpy magazine in his early teens. Visiting the local CNA or news agent, this magazine was cleverly positioned in the comic book section alongside other favourites such as Archie, Superman and Batman. While it was always fun to find out what Archie, Betty, Veronica, Reggie and Jughead were up to in the world of Riverdale, conjuring up a retro Friends atmosphere where Archie's adventures were always at the behest of his crew, Mad magazine presented a different kind of escape.

Poking fun at the very fabric of society in its counter-cultural fashion represented a stick-it-to-the-man attitude that would obviously be attractive to a teenage rebel without a cause. Flipping the bird to authority or kowtowing to the powers that be, it was a proper send up that while newsstand friendly was subversive enough to cause a stir. From "The Light Side of..." to "Spy vs Spy" and that unfolding back page, there were obviously classic comic strips that formed the meat for each magazine with a thematic Mort Drucker tie-in to skewer the pop culture talk of the town.

This ribald sense of humour could get pretty gross but somehow managed to skate a thin line between what's deemed clever without becoming overtly offensive. This comic was intended to provoke but not lose readers in taking a stand or risk making the news for all the wrong reasons. Snide, grotesque and even sexually aware, Mad magazine stopped short of tipping into National Lampoon's terrain making it kinda family-friendly enough to allow mom and pops to let junior keeping buying the filth.

It wasn't limited to dirtbags, but it was generally appreciated as the kind of "contraband" that spoke with a disdain appreciated by those trying to bottle their teenage spirit. In response to the publication's retirement at 67 years, Weird Al Yankovic revealed the mag's influence in this tweet saying "I can’t begin to describe the impact it had on me as a young kid – it’s pretty much the reason I turned out weird.". Being in South Africa, a country that only got television in 1976 and was ruled quite stringently by censorship laws, Mad magazine's counter-cultural fun Made it pure popcorn entertainment with a secret weapon.

Testament to the rag's enduring appeal is Jerry Seinfeld, who achieved all kinds of household name fame thanks to the runaway success of the show, Seinfeld. One of the world's most successful and wealthiest entertainers, Seinfeld who is regarded as a comedy heavyweight with his clean observational style comedy, also happens to be one of the magazine's biggest fans. Why else would he attribute so much pride to being lampooned and making the cover of a Mad magazine?

All of this is to proffer the question why isn't there a Mad movie? There was an attempt to recreate the same success National Lampoon's had with Animal House with a movie called Up the Academy, which didn't really have anything to do with the magazine. However, as Mad publisher Bill Gaines says they actually paid $30,000 to have Mad magazine disassociated with the movie when it was released to television - it was that much of a clanger.

Directed by Robert Downey Sr. who later referred to it as "one of the worst f**king things in history" it did develop a cult following, even starring The Karate Kid himself in Ralph Macchio. Up the Academy was a classic case of no one wanting to take full ownership with several drafts of the script never meeting expectations and many promising scenes hitting the cutting room floor.

"I thought, 'Well, in addition to a Mad movie, there's nothing wrong with having something like Lampoon did with Animal House. Animal House was "Lampoon Presents" and really had nothing to do with the magazine, it was just using their name, and it was a good movie, and it was very successful, and it Made Lampoon a lot of money. I guess. So we were going to do the same thing." The magazine's long-running fan base obviously means it will draw an audience, the pure existence of A Futile and Stupid Gesture (the closest thing to a National Lampoon's magazine film) suggests they could come up a a story... so why the heck not? The biographical angle could warrant it, taking a page from Mort Drucker's life could even serve as a gateway. Now that the magazine has ceased, it just seems like it needs some kind of tribute to continue its legacy, awaken new fans and just poke fun with some self-deprecation in whatever form.

 
Joe Badon on 'The Blood of the Dinosaurs'


Joe Badon is a filmmaker, illustrator and musician whose unconventional artistic style and vision sets him apart. Having directed feature films The God Inside My Ear and Sister Tempest, Badon's also the writer and illustrator of 'The Man with Ten Thousand Eyes' and 'Terra Kaiju'.

Joe Badon Director

His unbridled creativity continues to fuel each artistic production as is the case for his latest adventure, The Blood of the Dinosaurs. A surreal, moody, trippy and altogether wild short film, which featured at Fantasia... Spling caught up with Badon to find out more about the short, his story, guerilla filmmaking and what lies ahead.

How did you get into filmmaking?

In 2017, I saved up some money, wrote a script and found all my cast and crew mainly through Facebook. Together, we made The God Inside My Ear. I have no formal training, although I did work with directors in illustrating storyboards for a number of years.

What would you say are some of the TV shows and films that have had a marked influence over your creative life?

Twin Peaks, Off The Air (adultswim), The Devils, Holy Mountain, True Stories, Rubber, Jesus Shows You The Way to the Highway, Hour of the Wolf, Evil Dead 2 and Eraserhead.

What would your elevator pitch be for The Blood of the Dinosaurs?

It's Mr Rogers on acid during a midlife crisis.

The film alludes to natural resource depletion and sexual perversion... what inspired The Blood of the Dinosaurs and are you willing to expand on some of the underlying themes of the film?

It's just a meditation on the Circle of Life and the meaninglessness of existence.

The short film creates an unnerving and uncomfortable feel by straddling genres and realities... what do you find most appealing about playing to the ambiguous?

Ambiguity lets every viewer interpret the film more personally and individually.

What’s the most freeing thing about opting to go the short film route?

People are cool with less narrative structure with short films.

Your actors seem to be completely invested in your vision. How would you describe the working relationship and do you ever get any pushback when it comes to more outlandish scenes?

At this point, actors know that I'll be asking for crazy shit and they're cool with it. Having done two other films, people know I have a specific style and vision and they seem to trust me. I am very blessed by this.

Do you prefer the short film format?

I've actually created two feature films before this. With longer format stuff, you're able to create a richer narrative story and more character development... that's why the next project - The Wheel of Heaven - is an episodic.

The Blood of the Dinosaurs is a naturally divisive film. What’s the greatest compliment and conversely the worst insult you’ve received about it?

Honestly, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive. I think that the biggest complaint is that people just want to see where the story goes from here as the short basically just ends and will pick back up in The Wheel of Heaven.

Filming almost exclusively in Louisiana, what do you think are some of the limitations and benefits?

The limitation is that there is no really no access to industry investors and professionals as opposed to Los Angeles.

The benefit is that everything is *much cheaper* and you can actually do guerilla filmmaking. That would be *impossible* in Hollywood.

You’re busy with the festival circuit with the screening at Fantasia right now... but have you had a chance to think about what’s next?

Next is editing The Wheel of Heaven, which is already shot. And there are a few bigger film festivals that we're waiting to hear back from for The Blood of the Dinosaurs. Plus, The Blood of the Dinosaurs

is playing HollyShorts on Saturday, August 13th at midnight at the Chinese Theater in Los Angeles and I'm planning on attending!

 
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