Movie Blog Post: CHUCK (The "Real Rocky" Chuck Wepner Story)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Chuck Wepner in Philadelphia for Q&A after Screening of His Biopic


By Tinsel & Tine Editor, Le Anne Lindsay

When Chuck Wepner was introduced to the Philadelphia audience in attendance at PFS's Prince Theater for the preview screening of CHUCK, the first thing he said was that the only way he agreed to have his real story told was if there were no sugar coating; he wanted it all out there - warts and all. It just so happens that some guys can wear warts like badges of honor, because Chuck, played by "Ray Donovan" lead Liev Schreiber, is the kinda guy you root for, despite his many stupid choices, lost opportunities and general NJ lugheadedness.

See below video for excerpts from the Chuck Wepner Q&A also featuring producer Michel Tollin and Philadelphia Film Society Executive Director Andrew Greenblatt: Note: video will not be visible to those receiving Tinsel & Tine via RSS Feed. Click HERE to view

Called the "Bayonne Bleeder" because he seemed to have absolutely no feeling in his face, able to take direct punch, after punch, after punch, and keep going despite the buckets of blood pouring from his swollen mug.  If there's one aspect that Schreiber captures perfectly about Wepner in director Philippe Falardeau's film, it's the energy the guy had of being able to be the loudest, most expansive braggart in any room, yet terrified that he'll be seen as some kind of a joke.

In 1975 Wepner is married to Phyllis played with true lower middle class charm by Elisabeth Moss (See Tinsel & Tine's Post on The Handmaid's Tale). At first, the two seem to have the perfect push and pull chemistry, where she understands who she married and he knows she's a saint for putting up with him, but that all changes shortly before his bout in the ring with Muhammad Ali.

Chuck Wepner and Muhammad Ali
Cadillac’s ‘Dare Greatly’campaign features Wepner.
I don't really understand all the ins and outs as to how a 2nd rate boxer got a chance at the title against Ali, but it happened, with Wepner as more of a parody great white hope than an actual contender. During the fight, Chuck only manages one good punch against Muhammad Ali, yet he miraculously lasted almost the whole duration of the match, right up until the last 19 seconds of Round 15.  This turned Chuck Wepner into a superstar. Although, I gotta admit, I had no idea who he was, but I was a young'un in '75; but from what I gather, it would be like the way you didn't have to follow boxing to know all about Mike Tyson in the 90's. In fact, it was all this Wepner fanfare which inspired Sylvester Stallone to personify Philly's own iconic Rocky Balboa the following year.

When Rocky won the 1977 Best Picture Oscar (up against Taxi Driver, Network, and All the President's Men) Wepner was thrilled and bragged to everyone in Bayonne as if it were him up there on the big screen, or at least got paid and given credit for his story, but to Stallone's discredit, none of that happened.  Sly has yet to pay Wepner a dime from all those Rocky millions!  Eventually, when they meet, Sly tries to get The Bayonne Bleeder a part in Rocky II, but Chuck totally blows the opportunity.

Leiv Screiber and Naomi Watts in Chuck movie before breakup

Chuck is still with his second wife, Linda who also attended the screening in Philly. Linda is played by an almost unrecognizable Naomi Watts, she's got one of those chameleon faces anyway, but I wouldn't have thought she could pull off sassy, Jersey born and bred bar wench, but she does. Too bad Watts and Schreiber ended their 11-year union, last September, which would have been shortly after CHUCK had it's world premiere at the Venice Film Festival. Supposedly they remain on friendly terms for the sake of their two sons, Alexander, nine, and Samuel, seven.

Bottom Line: Does the world need another boxing movie? Well, Chuck is no Rocky or Millon Dollar Baby, but it's only right that Chuck Wepner finally has a movie he can call his own.

T & T's LAMB (movie bloggers association) Score: 3.5 outta 5

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DIRTY DANCING: Win Philly Tix - T&T Interview with Jennifer Mealani Jones

Friday, May 12, 2017

Film to Stage Post:

The Classic Story Returns to Philadelphia
May 16 - 21 at the Merriam Theater!

I'm really looking forward to seeing the Kimmel Center Broadway stage adaptation of Dirty Dancing, some movies are hard to picture going from the screen to live theater, but I think this one will lend itself. And great timing as the movie is celebrating it's 30th Anniversary!  So sad we lost Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey's real nose since the musical romantic drama took the box office by storm back in 1987, and became a beloved favorite for subsequent generations. For me, it's not quite up there with Grease, Footloose or Fame, but it's still a nice guilty pleasure flick.

Tinsel & Tine got a chance to interview one of the cast member,of this current touring production Jennifer Mealani Jones, who plays the role of Penny. Jones is a Philly graduate of University of the Arts, a former Philadanco dancer, and was a Phila.76er's 'Dream Team' dancer, so be sure to scroll past the contest to read our chat.


Tinsel & Tine wants to know your feelings on Dirty Dancing, which by the way, will broadcast a remake on TV May 24th 8pm on ABC starring Abigail Breslin as Baby.  FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN TICKETS to the Opening of Dirty Dancing the musical at The Merriam theater enter via Rafflecopter below, which links you to T&T's Facebook page to comment or Twitter to Tweet about the contest.  (As always, please be sure after you make your comment on facebook, you then hit "I commented" on Rafflecopter or it won't register).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Interview with Philly's Own Jennifer Mealani Jones

T&T: I’m sure this is the question everyone has inquired about, but it must be asked, what’s your relationship to the 1987 “Dirty Dancing” movie: something you watched growing up on DVD often? You’d seen it before, but not one of your go to, feel good movies? Or something you watched once you got the role of Penny Johnson in this production?

JMJ: I loved DIRTY DANCING as a kid. My Mom didn't really let me watch TV growing up so it was always a treat when I could catch a movie here and there, especially when it was a dance movie with a bad-boy stunner like Patrick Swayze - When I was cast in DIRTY DANCING, my friend shot me a text saying, "Remember when we were watching Dirty Dancing in college and you said 'Mannnnnn, I would do anything to go back in time and be one of those dirty dancers!' Look at you now." Dreams do come true.

T&T: My sister runs the custom shop and teaches classes in Custom Design at the University of the Arts, so I’ve gotten a sense of the dedication of their theater department, can you sum up your experience at the school?

JMJ: I spent most of my time in the dance department. Going to UArts for four years was the best thing I ever did. I went from a small-town life to living in a gritty, vivacious city and going to a University full of weirdos with a passion for art, just like me. I had instruction from the best teachers, more performing opportunities than I could have ever imagined, and I met people that became friends for life. It was a lot of work, a lot of joy, a little bit of pain, but overall an incredible four years.

T&T: How long will you be in this current touring production of “Dirty Dancing”? What’s been the most fun part of the experience? If you could be in any show either currently or formerly on Broadway what would it be?

JMJ: My final performance with DIRTY DANCING will be at the end of June. It's been an incredible year of touring with such talented and inspiring humans. The most fun part of this production has been performing in cities that I've never even heard of like Sioux Falls, SD or Fayetteville, AR. Those cities were so hip and so fun.  - As far as Broadway shows? Any Fosse show. Put me in all of them! Let me do Sweet Charity! Chicago! Cabaret! I could go down the full list. Oh and West Side Story, of course.

T&T: Philly is such a foodie town, I’m sure there are places you couldn’t wait to visit once you were back in the city. What are some of your favorite spots, anything from favorite Stephen Starr restaurant, to pizza and of course steak sandwiches, to best coffeehouse.

JMJ: It's so hard to name just a few ! El Vez will be a priority. I'm going to stop by the spots I used to frequent like Varga Bar, Bru, Jose Pistolas, Silk City, Devil's Den, and Garage Bar. I'm hoping I can catch all my stunning Queens (Lady Poison, Iris Spectre, and Maria Top Cat. ILY!) at Frankie Bradleys. I'll definitely stop by Pats, Genos, Jims, AND Dalessandros. I love all of the La Colombe coffee roasters but I'm sure I'll have some new places to try. I can't wait to be back in the city!

JENNIFER MEALANI JONES (Penny Johnson), an Ellicott City, MD native, started her dance career in Philadelphia, PA., where she graduated from the University of the Arts (BFA in Jazz Dance). While in Philly she performed with Philadanco, was featured on “So You Think You Can Dance” (Season 10), was an NBA 76ers Dream Team dancer and worked with the brilliant Gunnar Montana. In 2014 she moved to Los Angeles where she has danced and worked professionally on stage, in film and commercials. Jennifer is grateful for the love and support from her family and friends, and is thrilled to be starring as Penny on this tour of Dirty Dancing!

The Principal Leads in this production:CHRISTOPHER TIERNEY (Johnny Castle) & BRONWYN REED (Frances “Baby” Houseman)
Buy Tickets to Dirty Dancing Kimmel Center Broadway
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Tinsel & Tine (Reel & Dine): Philly Film, Food & Events Blog



Saturday, May 6, 2017

ZPZ Productions Jeremiah Tower The Last Magnificent
Tinsel & Tine Highlight & Review of Foodie Doc


By Le Anne Lindsay, Editor

The artwork for the poster is what first drew me to this documentary, as most regular readers know, the "Tine" in Tinsel & Tine stands for the tines of a fork, so when I saw the "Jeremiah Tower" poster of the fork giving the middle tine, like a middle finger, it made me laugh!

But when I got to the theater, I saw trailers for the new Richard Gere movie The Dinner and the rare glimpse of Debra Winger in The Lovers, and suddenly I really wanted to see a narrative film, not a doc on a temperamental chef. Surprisingly, I got what I was craving in the very first scene of Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent, which is a compelling narrative within a documentary. Director Lydia Tenaglia (executive producer of Zero Point Zero Production) does a fantastic job of recreating Tower's lonely, but privileged upbringing in a way that hooked me immediately.  The film seamlessly cuts back and forth between present day Tower to a little boy representing Tower as a youth, giving the impression you're simply inside his memories.  Memories of Jeremiah as a young boy of 9 or 10, living for months on a luxury ocean liner, describing his first taste of consommé, brought to him on deck under a cozy blanket, by a steward; sampling gourmet fare of every imaginable delight, making friends with the kitchen staff and memorizing menus.

I'm so drawn to this kind of old world opulence, indulgence, elegance and fantasy. This was the world Jeremiah's parents lived, and thus, albeit from a very non-parental distance, it's the world they instilled in their son. But understand, it's not a snotty, entitled, playboy world, it's about style, taste, understanding how to properly entertain and enjoy life! It's the champagne world my soul craves every day. Which is what his restaurant, STARS, in San Francisco became, not only the template for the modern American restaurant, but it was a fabulous party every night - hosting the best celebrities, royalty, drag queens and politicos, all mixing it up with a few lucky regular joes.
Upon preliminary research I thought that the project, at best, would be an interesting biopic of a successful restaurateur – one who had left a great legacy on the American culinary landscape. What I found instead was a rich and complex story of an artist, one who continuously endeavored to reconcile his artistic dreams and visions with the “vulgar reality of life…” - Lydia Tenaglia
The idea for the film came from Chef, author, and raconteur Anthony Bourdain, who is best known for traveling the globe on his stomach, on his television show Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (CNN), a travel docu-series for CNN.

Bourdain had read Jeremiah Towers’ memoir, "California Dish: What I Saw (and Cooked) at the American Culinary Revolution" (2004) (currently in reprint and titled "Start the Fire"), and thought Tower would make an interesting subject for a documentary as he was instrumental in revolutionizing the way Americans eat and dine from the mid ‘70’s to late ‘90’s:
He was, for a golden time, before and after the revolution, the most important chef in America. He was easily the most influential. Everyone cooked like Jeremiah Tower. Everyone wanted to BE Jeremiah Tower – or at least bask in his presence. His restaurant, STARS, became the template for the modern American restaurant. He was, arguably the first celebrity chef. He was most definitely the first chef anyone wanted to sleep with. And yet, one minute he was there – then he was everywhere – and then he was gone. Why did the man who nearly everyone agrees was absolutely instrumental in how and what we eat in restaurants today disappear? And why was he written out of history – his accomplishments dismissed, attributed elsewhere, the whole subject suddenly uncomfortable?

The Last Magnificent investigates the life, times, accomplishments and mysteries of a brilliant, immensely talented, mercurial and inconvenient man who changed the world.
The other surprise is that Towers seems likable, not likeable in a gregarious or sexy way, or likable in a he's so brilliant way, but reasonable in his thinking and dealings with others. Private, yes, but not a hermit. He's a perfectionist, but doesn't appear to be a hot head. And he had a right to feel betrayed by Alice Waters creating a cookbook from his revolutionary menus and just giving him general credit along with others in her kitchen.  Sure, she gave him his chance at Chez Panisse, but he put the Berkley bistro on the map!

My only minor criticism of the film is when we get to Tower's reemergence into the food scene as executive chef of the re-opened Tavern on the Green (by Philly's own Jim Caiola and David Salama of Beau Monde and L’Etage - although they seem like a coupla muddlers in the film and very disrespectful to Tower) anyway, at this point, I wanna stay in the present, however, the film then delves back into some behind the scenes reasons Tower's Starz restaurant suddenly closed, which is not relevant to his current issues and should have been part of the Stars portion of the movie, since for the most part, it's a linear documentary.  Otherwise, CNN Films "Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent" is a delicious foodie film and embraceable biopic.


After the film, Diane and I wanted to keep the elegant foodie mood going, so we stopped into Olde Bar (block and a half from Ritz 5 Theater) for some cocktails and bar fare. This Jose Garces restaurant resides in the building of the Original Bookbinders, so it retains that rich, clubby, martini lunch appeal.


#TheLastMagnificent Features: Tony Angiotti, Stars former manager ~ Sharon Bacon, former waitress Chez Panisse ~ Mario Batali, chef, television host ~ Anthony Bourdain, chef, producer, writer, television personality ~ Jim Caiola, Tavern on the Green ~ Seamus Coyle, Stars former bartender ~ Steve Ells, restauranteur ~ Florence Fabricant, The New York Times food critic ~ Mark Franz, chef/restauranteur ~ Andrew Friedman, food journalist ~ Ken Friedman, restauranteur ~ Mike Greensill, jazz pianist ~ Alexandra Tower Ewers, Jeremiah Tower’s niece ~ Gregg Lowery, friend of Jeremiah Tower ~ Jerry Matters, long-time patron of Stars ~ Jean-Pierre Moullé, long-time executive chef, Chez Panisse ~ Michael Palmer, Jeremiah Tower’s roommate at Harvard College ~ Wolfgang Puck, chef/restauranteur ~ Ruth Reichl, Gourmet magazine former editor-in-chief ~ John Sanger, Harvard College schoolmate of Jeremiah Tower ~ Regina Schrambling, The New York Times former food writer ~ Cathy Simon, Harvard College schoolmate of Jeremiah Tower ~ Martha Stewart, author, television personality ~ Stephen Torres, culinarian, director, Roots of American Food Festival~ Peter Tower, Jeremiah Tower’s nephew ~ James Villas, former food and wine editor of Town & Country and close friend ~ Steve Vranian, former Stars cook ~ Alice Waters, chef (in file footage)~ Jonathan Waxman,chef/restauranteur ~ Clark Wolf, restaurant consultant

Twitter: @LastMagnificent | @ZPZProduction | @CNNFilms |
Instagram: @lastmagnificent | #TheLastMagnificent

T & T's LAMB (movie bloggers association) Score: 4.5 outta 5
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Cozy Quilt of Food Movies, we'll add more patches as T &T discovers more films where food plays the biggest "roll"

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About This Blog

is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?
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