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The Late Movies: Cover Songs I Didn't See Coming

Sometimes you can see a cover coming a mile away. I know "Twist and Shout" was the first song Bruce Springsteen learned to play on the guitar, so when the E Street Band plays it live, I'm not exactly surprised. There are times when a musician or a band covers a song, though, and I'm absolutely flabbergasted. Sometimes it's because the song is played in a style far removed from the original. Sometimes it's because the two artists' music, style and personalities seem at odds. Sometimes it's simply because I didn't know that artist loved that song so much. While the Boss' rendition of "Twist and Shout" is pretty good, it's covers like these "“- the ones that come seemingly out of left field "“- that can really put a smile on your face.

"The Wizard" - Ahmet Zappa, Dweezil Zappa and John Tesh

John Tesh is a pianist and a composer and performer of pop and contemporary Christian music. He toured with Yanni. He played a Klingon in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He actually released an album called Sax on the Beach (and you thought that was just a Simpsons joke!). Making fun of him is sort of like unleashing the nuclear stockpiles of the United States and Russia on a single barrel of fish. He is, to say the least, a little uncool.

Every dork must have his day, though, and one night on Conan, Tesh got to sit at the cool kids' table and jam on some Black Sabbath with Frank Zappa's boys. The keytar finally makes sense to me.

"Romeo and Juliet" - The Killers

Brandon Flowers is correct on two points here: Dire Straits' "Romeo and Juliet" is one of the most beautiful songs you will ever hear, and his band probably could not do it justice. I'll tell you what, though. Never in the Killers' jittery, 80's-style alterna-rock did I get a whiff of the kind of deep, abiding love for the Dire Straits that they're talking about here, and anyone who loves "˜em like that is alright with me. No one could do this song justice, but we can't blame the kids for trying.

"Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" - The Cardigans

There are three kinds of bands that come out of Sweden: Phenomenal death metal bands, terrible death metal bands and bands that remind you of ABBA if only because they're from Sweden and don't play death metal. The Cardigans are in the third category and are best remembered for their first international hit, "Lovefool." If you're in the vast majority of people that remember them only for this, then it might shock you that not only did the Cardigans make music before and after "Lovefool" and are actually still around, but they put a Black Sabbath cover on their debut album. It actually sounds pretty awesome with sugary sweet vocals and Rhodes piano.

"Oops! I did it again" - Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson has earned an Orville H. Gibson award for his acoustic guitar playing, an Ivor Novello Award for his songwriting and a lifetime achievement award from BBC Radio. He has never shaved his head nor shown his genitals in public (at least that I'm aware of). He's about as un-Britney as one can get, and yet, he makes the song his own.

"2 Become 1" - Paul Gilbert

Paul Gilbert is regularly included on those "Greatest Shredders of All Time" and "Fastest Guitarists of All Time" lists. It's true; he's pretty good. Like, mile-a-minute-fret-board-melting-OMG-how-many-hands-does-this-guy-have good. (Also: former member of Mr. Big, but we can see past these things). You really want to think that this Spice Girls cover going to be some self-indulgent technical exercise where he noodles all over the song, and it is, but only at the end (followed by a special surprise). For the most part, it's pretty faithful to the original, and the way he talks at the beginning of the video makes it seem like he genuinely loves the song, which is sort of endearing.

"Breakin' the Law" - The Supersuckers

The self-proclaimed "Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band in the World" have been known to make occasional forays into country music. With this song, they drag Mr. Rob "the Metal God" Halford, kicking and screaming with them.

"Fat Bottomed Girls" - Oxford University's Out of the Blue

The fine young gentlemen of Oxford University "“- who, in my mind, still considered powdered wigs and breeches "casual attire" "“- recite the lyric "left alone with big fat fanny/she was such a naughty nanny/heap big woman you made a bad boy out of me" and all is right with the world.

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Martin Wittfooth
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Art
The Cat Art Show Is Coming Back to Los Angeles in June
Martin Wittfooth
Martin Wittfooth

After dazzling cat and art lovers alike in 2014 and again in 2016, the Cat Art Show is ready to land in Los Angeles for a third time. The June exhibition, dubbed Cat Art Show 3: The Sequel Returns Again, will feature feline-centric works from such artists as Mark Ryden, Ellen von Unwerth, and Marion Peck.

Like past shows, this one will explore cats through a variety of themes and media. “The enigmatic feline has been a source of artistic inspiration for thousands of years,” the show's creator and curator Susan Michals said in a press release. “One moment they can be a best friend, the next, an antagonist. They are the perfect subject matter, and works of art, all by themselves.”

While some artists have chosen straightforward interpretations of the starring subject, others are using cats as a springboard into topics like gender, politics, and social media. The sculpture, paintings, and photographs on display will be available to purchase, with prices ranging from $300 to $150,000.

Over 9000 visitors are expected to stop into the Think Tank Gallery in Los Angeles during the show's run from June 14 to June 24. Tickets to the show normally cost $5, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting a cat charity, and admission will be free for everyone on Wednesday, June 20. Check out a few of the works below.

Man in Garfield mask holding cat.
Tiffany Sage

Painting of kitten.
Brandi Milne

Art work of cat in tree.
Kathy Taselitz

Painting of white cat.
Rose Freymuth-Frazier

A cat with no eyes.
Rich Hardcastle

Painting of a cat on a stool.
Vanessa Stockard

Sculpture of pink cat.
Scott Hove

Painting of cat.
Yael Hoenig
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20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
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entertainment
11 Magical Facts About Willow
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Five years after the release of Return of the Jedi (1983) and four years after Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), George Lucas gave audiences the story for another film about an unlikely hero on an epic journey, but this time he had three Magic Acorns and a taller friend instead of a whip and gun to help him along. Willow (1988) was directed by Ron Howard and starred former Ewok and future Leprechaun, Warwick Davis.

Over the past few decades, Willow—which was released 30 years ago today—has become a cult classic that's been passed down from generation to generation. Before you sit down to explore that world again (or for the first time), here are 11 things you might not have know about Willow.

1. IT WAS WRITTEN FOR WARWICK DAVIS.

In an interview with The A.V. Club, Warwick Davis revealed that George Lucas first mentioned the idea for the film to Davis’s mother during the filming of one of the Ewok TV specials in 1983, in which he was reprising his role as Wicket. Lucas had been developing the idea for more than a decade at that point, but working with Davis on Return of the Jedi helped him realize the vision. “George just simply said that he had this idea, and he was writing this story, with me in mind,” Davis said. “He didn't say at that time that it was going to be called Willow. He said, 'It's not for quite yet; it's for a few years ahead, when Warwick is a bit older.'" The role was Davis’s first time not wearing a mask or costume on screen.

2. IT WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED MUNCHKINS.

Five years after he mentioned the idea, Lucas was ready to make his film with Ron Howard directing and a then-17-year-old Davis as the lead. The original title was presumably inspired by the characters from L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the subsequent Victor Fleming film.

3. IT WAS CRITICIZED FOR BEING A COPY OF STAR WARS.

Having thought of the two worlds simultaneously, Lucas may have cribbed some of his own work and other well-known stories a little too much for Willow, and some critics noticed. “Without anything like [Star Wars’s] eager, enthusiastic tone, and indeed with an understandable weariness, Willow recapitulates images from Snow White, The Wizard of Oz, Gulliver's Travels, Mad Max, Peter Pan, Star Wars itself, The Hobbit saga, Japanese monster films of the 1950s, the Bible, and a million fairy tales," wrote Janet Maslin of The New York Times. "One tiny figure combines the best attributes of Tinkerbell, the Good Witch Glinda, and the White Rock Girl.”

Later in her review, Maslin continued to point out the similarities between the two films: “When the sorcerer tells Willow to follow his heart, he becomes the Obi-Wan Kenobi of a film that also has its Darth Vader, R2-D2, C-3P0 and Princess Leia stand-ins. Much energy has gone into the creation of their names, some of which (General Kael) have recognizable sources and others (Burglekutt, Cherlindrea, Airk) have only tongue-twisting in mind. Not even the names have anything like Star Wars-level staying power.”

4. IT WAS THE LARGEST CASTING CALL FOR LITTLE PEOPLE IN MOVIE HISTORY.

Lucas has previously cast several little people for roles in Return of the Jedi, and there were more than 100 actors hired to portray Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz. But, according to Davis, the casting call for Willow was the largest ever at the time with between 225 and 240 actors hired for the film.

5. THE DEATH DOGS WERE REAL DOGS IN COSTUME.

The big bad in the film, Bavmorda, has demon dogs that terrorize Willow’s village. The dogs are more boar-like than canine, but they were portrayed by Rottweilers. The prop team outfitted the dogs with rubber masks and used animatronic heads for close-up scenes.

6. IT WAS THE FIRST USE OF MORPHING IN A FILM.

While trying to use magic to turn an animal back into a human, Willow fails several times before eventually getting it right, but he does succeed in turning the animal into another animal, which is shown in stages. To achieve this, the visual effects teamed used a technique known as "morphing."

The film’s visual effects supervisor, Dennis Muren of Industrial Light & Magic, explained the technique to The Telegraph:

The way things had been up till that time, if a character had to change at some way from a dog into a person or something like that it could be done with a series of mechanical props. You would have to cut away to a person watching it, and then cut back to another prop which is pushing the ears out, for example, so it didn't look fake ... we shot five different pieces of film, of a goat, an ostrich, a tiger, a tortoise, and a woman and had one actually change into the shape of the other one without having to cut away. The technique is much more realistic because the cuts are done for dramatic reasons, rather than to stop it from looking bad.”

7. THE STORY WAS CONTINUED IN SEVERAL NOVELS.

Willow has yet to receive a sequel, but fans of the story can return to the world in a trilogy of books that author Chris Claremont wrote in collaboration with Lucas between 1995 and 2000. According to the Amazon synopsis of Shadow Moon, the first book picks up 13 years after the events of the film, and baby Elora Danan’s friendless upbringing has turned her into a “spoiled brat who seemingly takes joy in making miserable the lives around her. The fate of the Great Realms rests in her hands, and she couldn't care less. Only a stranger can lead her to her destiny.”

8. THERE IS A MISSING SCENE CONCERNING THE MAGIC ACORNS.

Hardcore fans of the film have noticed that there is a continuity error that involves the Magic Acorns Willow was given by the High Aldwin. During an interview with The Empire Podcast, Davis explained that in a scene near the end of the film, he throws a second acorn and is inexplicably out after having only used two of the three Magic Acorns he had been given earlier in the film. Included in the Blu-ray release is the cut scene, in which Willow uses an acorn (his second) in a boat during a storm and accidentally turns the boat to stone. Davis says that his hair is wet in the next scene that did make it into the original version of the film, but the acorn is never referenced.

9. JOHN CUSACK AUDITIONED FOR THE PART OF MADMARTIGAN.

Val Kilmer in 'Willow' (1988)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Val Kilmer famously played the role of the reluctant hero two years after played Iceman in Top Gun (1986), but he was not the only big name to audition for the role. Davis revealed in a commentary track that he once read with John Cusack, who in 1987 had already starred in Sixteen Candles (1984), Stand by Me (1986), and Hot Pursuit (1987).

10. THERE IS A NOD TO SISKEL AND EBERT.

During a battle scene later in the film, Willow and his compatriots have to fight a two-headed beast outside of the castle. The name of the stop motion beast is the Eborsisk, which is a combination of the names of famed film critics, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel.

11. THE BABY NEVER ACTED AGAIN.

A scene from 'Willow' (1988)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

As is the case with most shows and films, the role of the baby Elora was played by twins, in this case Kate and Ruth Greenfield. The IMDb pages for both actresses only has the one credit. In 2007, Davis shared a picture of him posing with a woman named Laura Hopkirk, who said that she played the baby for the scenes shot in New Zealand, but she is not credited online.

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