Friday, April 13, 2012

ISU and IWU Stars Battle on the Big Screen for Friday the 13th Box Office Honors

As it happens, new movies open this weekend starring two actors who got their starts at Illinois State University and Illinois Wesleyan University. When ISU and IWU go head to head at the box office, will ISU's Sean Hayes and his comic hijinks in "The Three Stooges" prevail over IWU's Richard Jenkins and the fright fest that is "The Cabin in the Woods"?

Sean Hayes, the Emmy and SAG Award winner (for "Will and Grace") who was a music performance major at ISU, plays frizzy-haired Larry, probably the least violent of the Stooges. Against all odds, the movie is pulling in good notices, with reviewers calling it a "thoroughly enjoyable paean to Moe, Larry and Curly and the art of the eye poke" as well as "an enchantingly well-done tribute."

Hayes, who appears at right at the bottom of the stack of Stooges, was cited by EW for doing "wonders with Larry's lost-puppy stare and syrupy voice" and by USA Today for perfectly capturing "the elastic sour face of bushy-haired Larry."

Richard Jenkins is probably best-known for playing the ghost dad on HBO's "Six Feet Under," even though he took home an Oscar nomination for 2008's "The Visitor" and received a special "You had a great year" award from the San Diego Film Critics Association for 2008, when he appeared in "Burn After Reading," "The Tale of Despereaux," "Step Brothers," and the afore-mentioned "The Visitor." He works frequently with the Farrelly brothers, the directors behind "The Three Stooges."

"The Cabin in the Woods," Jenkins' new release, was actually filmed in 2009 and then shelved until now because of studio MGM's financial woes. It has been receiving fabulous reviews, with Peter Hartlaub calling it "a film that defiantly follows its own muse -- and that muse is a zombie carrying a bear trap on the edge of a chain" in the San Francisco Chronicle. NPR critic Ian Buckwalter says, "Goddard and Whedon have created a wonderful puzzle of a film that is loving in its appreciation of good horror, even as it takes the genre (and its blood-lusty audience) to task for the unimaginative banality that has been too typical of recent scary movies."

Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum singles Jenkins out for praise, noting "his outstanding ability to make a fully formed character out of even the most minimal of building materials."

Both "The Three Stooges" and "The Cabin in the Woods" are playing locally at Carmike Palace Cinema 10, Starplex Normal Stadium 14, and Wehrenberg Bloomington Galaxy 14 Cinema.

Note: ISU's Pete Guither has pointed out that another ISU alum -- the amazing Jane Lynch -- is also in "The Three Stooges." Maybe it's the one-two-punch that put the Stooges over the top, as "The Three Stooges" edged out "The Cabin in the Woods" for second place this weekend, with "The Hunger Games" hanging on to first place overall. Box Office Mojo shows "The Three Stooges" took in $17.1 million in its first weekend, with "The Cabin in the Woods" right behind at $14.85 million.


  1. Diverging from the ISU/IWU alumni topic, the casting of Moe in "The Three Stooges" intrigues me. He's Chris Diamantopoulos, of whom I've become aware in the last 3 years. I saw him starring (opposite his wife Becki Newton) in the Gershwins' "Girl Crazy" at Encores, in which he impressed me with his song & dance skills. He had a regular role on both seasons of "The Starter Wife" (which I've seen) and the last season of "24" (which I haven't). He has recently been appearing as a foreign-accented gigolo on "Up All Night," and he's also the new commercial spokesman for Charles Schwab.

    He's very good-looking (someday he really should play younger brother to Jay Harrington of "Better Off Ted," they're like the same man in different-sized packaging), and I can't imagine what made him seem like ideal casting as Moe. But then I can't see him playing Robin Williams either, and he did that in a tvmovie about the making of Mork & Mindy. Maybe this flick will make him a bit more of the household name he deserves to be.

  2. Also in "The Three Stooges" is Illinois State alum Jane Lynch, as Mother Superior.

  3. D'oh! How could I leave out Jane Lynch?

    As for Chris Diamantopoulos, I'm quite glad they avoided the obvious Jim Carrey choice, although I believe I heard him mentioned initially as a Larry, so what do I know? (That rumor had Benicio del Toro as Moe, which is even stranger. Although maybe not as strange as Johnny Knoxville, who was in another rumor.)

    I don't know Chris Diamantopoulos, but I do think I knew he was married to Becki Newton, and I remember you talking about the two of them in "Girl Crazy." Looking at his credits, I think I saw him as a slimy (and tiny) gigolo type attached to Maya Rudolph's character on Up All Night. I don't actually watch that show, but it came on after something I do watch, and I think I might've seen him. He certainly didn't look like Moe.

  4. Yes, he's been on several episodes of that show. He is definitely a wee individual, you're right.

  5. I saw "Cabin in the Woods" today. I really enjoyed it, though it's probably not for all tastes. I'm glad I postponed reading reviews till afterward, as I'm surprised how much they give away. Admittedly there's plenty more to discover while watching, but I still prefer seeing it knowing only the generic plot setup, as I did.