Keepin’ Cool With The AC Breeze & New Release DVDs

“Doing da ying and yang, da flip and flop, da hippy and hoppy (yodels) Yo da lay he hoo! I have today’s forecast.
(yells)
HOT!
– MR.SEÑOR LOVE DADDY (Samuel L. Jackson)
DO THE RIGHT THING (Dir. Spike Lee, 1989)

He said it! It was been unbearably hot this week so the best thing to do is to get the air cranking, tear open a few Netflix envelopes, and devour some DVDs. Here’s some I’ve seen lately and while for the most part they are a dire lot they did provide some diversion from the sweltering Summer sun. Let’s start with :

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM (Dir. Shawn Levy, 2006) From the trailers I saw for this last Christmas (sorry Holiday season) it looked to me like yet another Ben Stiller as punching bag enterprise but this time aimed at kids with lots of CGI. Well, that’s pretty much what it is but it’s better than I expected with more than few really funny moments and a great supporting cast. Abundant back and forths (some improvised) between Stiller as a hapless failed inventor turned security guard and Robin Williams dominates the lively proceedings. Williams plays a life sized Teddy Roosevelt in battle mode mannequin, who as I’m sure you know if you’ve even glanced in the direction of this movie, comes to life with everything else in the museum at night. Not so life size are the miniatures cowboy Jebediah (Owen Wilson – uncredited for some odd reason) and Roman warrior Octavius (Steve Coogan) who make good with their bit parts – sorry for that lame ass pun. Wait – lame ass puns dominate this movie so I’ll leave that in.

Anyway Ricky Gervais somehow pulls off some amusing walk-throughs without having a single genuinely funny line while oldtimers Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs pull no punches (literally) but the real shining player here? 3 words – Dick. Van. Dyke. Nice to see the man atone for years of bland TV and forgettable cameos by sinking his teeth into his role as Stiller’s smooth retiring night guard mentor. Lots of critics have dumped on NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM (it has a 44% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and I agree with the consensus that the CGI doesn’t impress like it used to and that the humor may be way too broad at times but I still think it’s a decent family film. Even if that’s all that it is.

THE NUMBER 23 (Dir. Joel Schumacher, 2007) Sometimes I watch movies that I know are going to be horrible. It’s that I want to know just how and in how many ways they are horrible. I guess the genre here is psychological suspense though there’s nothing either psychological or suspenseful in this convoluted Jim Carrey vehicle. For the first 10 minutes or so Carrey is his usual glide through life wisecracking self until his wife (Virginia Madsen) gives him a book about the supposedly mystical number of the title. He of course becomes obsessed with 23 seeing it everywhere – in his birthday, address, social security #, etc. He cites examples (as does the opening credit sequence does to drive home the meaningless point) like “Ted Bundy was executed on the 23rd of January” * and even writes “9,11, 2001 – 9+11+2+1=23″ in pen on his arm. Before long he makes the connection to not only the saxophone (the saxophone has 23 keys!!!) playing detective of the book to some murdered girl and others who have had similar deadly numerical obsessions helping the movie make its red herring quota. Schumacher’s films all have an overly glossy look – something he perfected in the era of high impact rock videos and magazine ads – and this is no exception. Nothing resembling real life here. This time he tried to disguise the stylized emptiness with the contrived “depth” of a cultish pseudo-intellectual theory. Consider it an extremely dumbed down Pi (which cinematographer Mattthew Latique worked on too!). How many ways is this movie horrible? I’m think-ing of a number…

* Actually he wasn’t! Bundy was sent to the electric chair on January 24th, 1989. Ah-ha!

DISTURBIA (D.J. Caruso, 2007) So I feel old and unhip because it took until his hosting of Saturday Night Light earlier this year for me to take note of Shia Lebeouf. I mean the kid is apparently really hot these days – magazine covers, TRANSFORMERS, and he’s even going to be the son of Indiana Jones next Summer. Lebouf was called by Vanity Fair the next Tom Hanks (who was called the next Jimmy Stewart in the 80’s) has here what was billed as REAR WINDOW for a new generation. Uh, okay. Well, underneath the teen angst veneer the premise of Hitchcock’s classic is just a clothesline to hang cliche after cliche on. Under house arrest instead of being wheelchair bound Lebeouf out of boredom spies on his neighbors – mostly Sarah Roemer – the cliched perfect girl next door until his binoculars wander to the cliched suspicious activities of…oh you know the plot!

It’s not really so odd how it’s not that we can guess everything that happens way before it happens – it’s that it seems like the film makers knew we could guess them and still made no attempt to actually trigger true suspense. The house of the serial killer is one of those that only exists in the movies – so full of secret compartments, passageways, shrines, and a well lit sanitized freezer room – he must have gotten the Murder Maniac special at the local real estate office! I shouldn’t be so hard on this movie though – it’s just another PG-13 thriller throw-away for the weekend multiplex crowd. I’ll also admit though that Lebeouf is talented – he rises above this dreck at every unsurprising turn. Now let’s just see how he handles that bullwhip.

SOME RANDOM BABBLE :

Isn’t it funny how Eddie Murphy who reportedly walked out of the Academy Awards last March because he didn’t get the statue for DREAMGIRLS turned down the sequel to DADDY DAY CARE and actual Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr. stepped in to play the same role in DADDY DAY CAMP? Isn’t that funny? Isn’t It?!!? Oh, nevermind.

Don’t ask me what’s funny about UNDERDOG – because I got nothing.

If they ever make one of those VH1 biopics about The Kids In The Hall they really ought get that guy who’s supposed to represent Verizon (or is it AT&T? Cingular?) in those damn Alltel commercials to play Dave Foley. I mean the guy – Scott Halberstadt – would nail it I bet.

The new celebrity-reality show The Two Coreys featuring the present day antics of former teen movie stars Corey Feldman and Corey Haim is airing now on A&E – The Arts & Entertainment Channel. This is definitely ironic because The Two Coreys is neither art nor entertainment. Discuss…

If it seems like the Coen Brothers are overdue for a movie and it sure does to me – their all too brief Buscemi bit in PARIS, JE T’AIME was such a tease – well, soon (November) we’ve got – NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy. It’s got Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Kelly McDonald, and Josh Brolin. Despite the fact it has been a while since the Coens have done a film based on their original screenplay this seems promising.

More later…

Film Within A Film Follow-up Fun!

“Life is like a movie. Write your own ending.”
– Kermit The Frog in THE MUPPET MOVIE (Dir. James Frawley, 1979)

Looks like I made some serious ommisions according to the many many readers who wrote in about my
10 Definitive Films Within Films (07/01-07/08) post last time out so here’s some of the best suggestions, picks, and oversights :

Tony Ginorio suggests :

Something’s Cookin’“, the cartoon that opens WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (Dir. Robert Zemeckis, 1988). An excellent pastiche of a 1940s Tex Avery short, with Roger and Baby Herman unleashing mayhem as only animated characters can. Halfway through, however, the director yells “Cut!”, and what at first seems like a mere cartoon suddenly becomes a live set, with a flesh-and-blood director chewing out his ink-and-paint actors, completely up-ending our preconceived notions of what is “real” and what is movie magic. Not only does this clever device introduce the film’s main concept – that animated characters are real – it also foreshadows the way characters and events in the main story are not what they seem: how a simple infidelity case turns out to be a cover-up for something far more sinister, and how a certain femme fatale turns out to be “just drawn that way.”

Mike Weber writes :

Billy Bright (Dick Van Dyke) watching his old movies on late-night teevee in THE COMIC (Dir. Carl Reiner, 1969) – which I swear was a major part of the inspiration for Firesign Theatre’s “Don’t Crush That Dwarf” album, which came out the next year and ends with an identical setup.

See You Next Wednesday” – in any number of John Landis films (and the”Thriller” video) – but best in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981). *

Peter Bogdanovich’s TARGETS (1968), which uses outtakes from THE TERROR (1963) as the latest film from star Byron Orlok (Boris Karloff), at whose drive-in premiere the ultimate confrontation takes place.

The whole setup for KISS KISS BANG BANG uses an actual film from1987 (DEAD AIM) that featured one of the cast (Corbin Bernsen). Footage from DEAD AIM was used as a film called “Johnny Gossamer“, in which the character played by Bernsen is used as part of the McGuffin.

* Though we never actually see any of it, the fictional film “See You Next Wednesday” (based on a quote from 2001 : A SPACE ODYSSEY) is like Mike remarks above a running gag through-out just about every John Landis movie (including KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE, THE BLUES BROTHERS, & COMING TO AMERICA) it even warrants this Wikipedia entry.

Mike also wrote back :

“I completely forgot the double feature from the marquee of the theatre in the beginning of GREMLINS
(Dir. Joe Dante, 1984) – “Watch the Skies” and “A Boy’s Life” – the working titles of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (Dir. Steven Spielberg, 1977) and E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (Spielberg, 1982).

A lot of people emailed me that DRIVE-IN (Dir. Rodney Amateau, 1976) should have been noted but Jon Futrell made the case best :

As a fan of drive-in movie theaters, I’d have to say my favorite movie within a movie is “Disaster ’76” from the 1976 release DRIVE-IN. A production of the equally fictional Executive Pictures (complete with Mount Rushmore logo), “Disaster ’76” plays on the screen at the Alamo Drive-in one Friday night. A jumbo jet is bombed on a New Year’s Eve flight, knocking out the entire crew except for stewardess Margo. A ship’s captain (in full uniform no less!) takes the control and tries to land. Instead, he crashes into a high-rise skyscraper creating “a tower of an inferno”. Somebody actually said that in “D ’76“. While the folks at the drive-in have their own romantic and criminal issues at the theater, there’s floods, sharks and an overturned cruise ship on the screen. It’s almost a shame that Irwin Allen didn’t make a similar “all disasters in one” type of film.

Film Babble sadly notes that DRIVE-IN is not available on DVD at the present time – sigh.

J Campie a film critic from Managua, Nicaragua (Confidential.com) agrees with many of those who wrote in when he writes :

Please include in your list “
El Amante Menguante” (you can translate it as “The Shrinking Lover“, although it loses the poetic bent of the original spanish title). This is a fake silent movie that Benigno watches in TALK TO HER (Dir. Pedro Almodovar, 2002) In it, a man shrinks so that he can actually enter his complete self inside the woman he loves. I know it sounds….strange and icky to say the least, but on the movie it looks lovely, and works wonderfully to highlight the central themes of the best Pedro Almodovar film ever made.

Jeff Beachnau states :

You forgot the two (well, 3) greatest movies shown in Christmas classics –

The Night the Reindeer Died” starring Lee Majors shown at the beginning of SCROOGED (Dir. Richard Donner, 1988). *

And the greatest movie within a movie of all time (which I didn’t even know until I grew up that they weren’t real movies), “Angels with Filthy Souls” and “Angels with Filthier Souls” shown in HOME ALONE (Dir. Chris Columbus, 1990) and HOME ALONE 2 : LOST IN NEW YORK (Dir. Chris Columbus, 1992).

* It’s a TV movie but I’ll allow it.

Other films within films that multiple movie lovers wrote in :

Devil’s Squadron” in THE STUNTMAN (Dir. Richard Rush, 1980)

Living In Oblivion” in LIVING IN OBLIVION (Dir. Tom DiCillo, 1995)

SILENT MOVIE (Dir. Mel Brooks, 1976) Was the first major silent feature film in forty years that Mel Funn (Brooks) and cohorts Dom Deluise and Marty Feldman were trying to make actually named SILENT MOVIE? It’s been decades since I’ve seen it so – anybody know the answer? Anybody?


O Brother, Where art thou” from SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS (Dir. Preston Surges, 1941) This of course is notable because it was a fake movie within a movie that became a real movie almost 60 years later thanks to the Coen Bros.

COVEN” in AMERICAN MOVIE (Dir. Chris Smith, 1999) Another film within that is a film itself on its own – though COVEN is only 40 min. long.

The Spy who Laughed at Danger” from HOOPER (Dir. Hal Needham, 1978)

The Old Mill” from STATE AND MAIN (Dir. David Mamet, 2000)

This one I felt truly ashamed as a hardcore Python fan to have not noted –

The Crimson Permanent Assurance” from MONTY PYTHON’S THE MEANING OF LIFE (Dir. Terry Jones, 1983) Notable for many reasons but to break it down to the principles – A: Terry Gilliam’s tale of elderly anti-globalization office clerks commandeering their workplace structure and turning it into a pirate ship was originally supposed to be inside the movie but it became such an entity itself at over 15 minutes it cost much more than the rest of the production. B: – Matt Frewer (Max Headroom) makes his film debut in it. And C: – It comes back to disrupt the movie from within – an announcer even says “we interrupt this film to apologise for the unwarranted attack from the supporting feature…”

Okay! Next time out actual film reviews of movies in theaters and movies out recently on DVD -so please stay tuned.