The Film Babble Blog Top Ten Movies Of 2009

All this last month readers have been asking me for my top 10 movies of 2009. I’ve mentioned before that some major prestige films don’t get to my area until late January or early February or later, and that’s not considering many Foreign films that aren’t released in these parts until months after the Oscars so it’s usually a month or so into the year before I post my picks. So since there’s no way I’m going to catch up anytime soon and because tomorrow the Academy Award nominations are going to be announced, now is as good a time as any for my list for what I think was a great and diverse year for film:

1. A SERIOUS MAN (Dirs. Joen & Ethan Coen)

“The greatest films are the ones that leave you not able to explain, but you know that you have experienced something special. I’ve always had this feeling that the perfect response to a film or a piece of work of mine would be if someone got up and said, ‘I don’t know what it is, but it’s right.’ That’s the feeling you want – ‘That’s right’ – and it comes from four or five layers down, it comes from the inside rather than from the outside.”
– Robert Altman

I’ve been plowing through the new book: “Robert Altman: The Oral Biography” since I got it for Christmas and I was struck by the quote above. It made me think of A SERIOUS MAN, though the latest Coen Brothers cinematic conundrum is anything but Altman-esque. With Michael Stuhlburg leading an equally unknown cast into the academic abyss of late 60’s suburban Minneapolis, it’s the Brothers’ most personal work to date. Whether it’s a post modern riff on the story of Job or a series of nonsensical jabs at everybody’s existential expense, it’s a perplexingly pleasing parable. Read my original review here.

2. UP (Dir. Pete Docter)

Last year the same #2 position on this list was held by a Pixar film (WALL-E) so I was tempted to go in another direction here. But, that would’ve been wrong because UP honestly deserves this space. The first 10 minutes alone deserve this space. This wonderful tale of Carl (voiced by Ed Asner) – a crotchety old widower who attaches thousands of balloons to his house in order to fly it to Paradise Falls in South Africa is a rambunctiously inventive and funny flight. And if you don’t cry at that sweeping opening montage, either you have a heart of stone or you’re Armond White. Read my original review here.

3. THE HURT LOCKER (Dir. Kathryn Bigelow)

Every explosion has an emotional impact in this gripping war drama featuring Jeremy Renner as a bomb defusing expert who’d rather risk his life in Iraq than be home with his wife. Read my original review here.

4. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (Dir. Quentin Tarantino)

This indulgent alternate history World War II film is possibly over-stuffed with story strands but as I said in my original review: “the pulse and tone of Tarantino’s best work is intact.” Read the rest of that review here.

5. BLACK DYNAMITE (Dir. Scott Sanders)

Though it was little seen, this is hands down the funniest film of 2009. Forget THE HANGOVER, this blaxploitation homage/satire/greatest hits has more laughs per minute and is sure to be one Helluva a future cult classic. Read more here.


6.
THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX (Dir. Wes Anderson)



Wes Anderson’s stylistic whimsy works wonders in this friendly, fuzzy, and ferociously witty film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book. So does George Clooney’s charm which I enjoyed more here than in a certain air-born live action film that is sure to get more acclaim awards wise. Read my original review of THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX.

7. BRIGHT STAR (Dir. Jane Campion) An unfortunately overlooked period piece centering on poet John Keats’ (Ben Whishaw) doomed courtship of Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). A beautifully moving work with first rate performances including a scene stealing Paul Schneider as Keats’ writing partner Charles Armitage Brown. With hope the Academy will take notice. Read my original review here.

8. DISTRICT 9 (Dir. Neill Blomkamp) Without a doubt the most frighteningly original (and strikingly satirical) work of science fiction of the year. A misadventure in alien apartheid leaves a wet behind the ears field operative (Sharlto Copley) with his arm mutated to that of a “prawn” and he…oh, just go watch it. Read my original ravings here.

9. ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL! (Dir. Sacha Gervasi)

This documentary about a Spinal Tap-ish band of aging Canadian heavy metal rockers may have you snickering at first but before you know it they win your heart over with their “never say die” determination. As I said in my original review: “Metal heads and casual movie-goers alike (which means just about everybody) ought to dig it.”

10. BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL – NEW ORLEANS (Dir. Werner Herzog) Speaking of “never say die”, Nicholas Cage re-ignites the crazy edge of his persona in this twisted and surrealistic corrupt cop crime caper while he re-ignites his “lucky crack pipe” yelling “I’ll kill all of you…to the break of dawn! To the break of dawn baby!” Read about more craziness and how this does and doesn’t relate to Abel Ferrara’s 1992 BAD LIEUTENANT here.

Spillover:


The ones that didn’t quite make the Top Ten grade but were still good, sometimes great flicks – click on the title for my original review.

STAR TREK (Dir. J.J. Abrams)

THE INFORMANT! (Dir. Steven Soderbergh)


ZOMBIELAND (Dir. Ruben Fleisher)


THE ROAD (Dir. John Hillcoat)

IN THE LOOP (Dir. Armando Iannucci)


A SINGLE MAN (Dir. Tom Ford)


WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (Dir. Spike Jonze)


AN EDUCATION (Dir. Lone Scherfig)

AWAY WE GO (Dir. Sam Mendes)

OBSERVE AND REPORT (Dir. Jody Hill)


BIG FAN (Dir. Robert Siegel)

(500) DAYS OF SUMMER (Dir. Marc Webb)

MOON (Dir. Duncan Jones)


ABEL RAISES CAIN (Dirs. Jenny Abel & Jeff Hocket)


TWO LOVERS (Dir. James Gray)

I didn’t write reviews of these but they are also strongly recommended:


SUMMER HOURS (Dir. Olivier Assayas)


GOODBYE SOLO (Dir. Ramin Bahrani)

WORLD’S GREATEST DAD (Dir. Bobcat Goldthwait) Yep, that’s right.


More later…

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10 Blink And Miss Them Movie Cameos

Followers of this blog may have noticed that I have a fondness for film cameos. Film Babble Blog has featured lists like 20 Great Modern Movie Cameos, The Cameo Countdown Continues, and more recently Without A Hitch – 10 Definitive Directors’ Cameos In Their Own Movies, but this list is a bit different because many people may not have noticed these cameos at all. They can be difficult to catch as they go by fast but they’re there just waiting for some film geek like me to point them out. So here goes:

1. George Harrison in MONTY PYTHON’S LIFE OF BRIAN (Dir. Terry Jones, 1979) Harrison helped finance this film solely because he was a big fan so it stands to reason that they’d throw him a bit part. He can be seen in a crowd scene and although he is uncredited he actually has a character name: Mr. Papadopoulos. He has one word of dialogue (“ullo”) spoken to Brian (Graham Chapman) as he is introduced by Reg (John Cleese) as “the owner of the mount” they are planning to rent. It’s brief but worth looking for – if only so you can point out to your friends: “Look! There’s a Beatle!” Speaking of the Beatles…

2. Phil Collins in A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (Dir. Richard Lester, 1964)

This is kind of a cheat because Collins wasn’t a well known celebrity at the time (he was 13), and you can barely see him in the audience shots of the concert climax but I just couldn’t resist listing it. Collins has often bragged about being one of the 350 teenage extras screaming at the Beatles, especially when he hosted You Can’t Do That!: The Making of “A Hard Day’s Night” (1995). Though as you can see his visage is impossible to recognize, even when enlarged, he is listed in some movie guides as being one of the stars of the film.

3. Alan Ladd in CITIZEN KANE (Dir. Orson Welles, 1941) This is a pretty infamous one – Ladd is one of the reporters in the screening room after the opening newsreel. It’s a smoke filled shadowy shot but he can be clearly seen, though it took Roger Ebert’s commentary on the DVD for me to identify him. He can also be seen at the end of the film smoking a pipe and even has a few lines.

4. R2D2 in STAR TREK (Dir. J.J. Abrams, 2009)


This cameo/Easter egg was rumored when the film opened last summer (there was even a Paramount sponsored contest centered on finding it) but it was pinpointed by fanboys all over the internets when the film hit DVD/Blu ray last month. It works as a funny little visual joke as well as a shout out from one science fiction franchise to another.

5. Dan Aykroyd in INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (Dir. Steven Spielberg, 1984) It may have seemed strange to see the former SNL funnyman hawking Crystal Head Vodka in advertisements that refer to the last INDIANA JONES film, but Aykroyd actually has a legitimate connection to the series. He appears in Indy’s second installment as Weber, a British cohort who arranges a getaway plane for Jones (Harrison Ford), Willie (Kate Capshaw), and Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan). It’s easy to miss him as it’s a sweeping long shot and he’s such an incidental character but he still makes the most of his 18 seconds in this film.

6. Dennis Hopper in HEAD (Dir. Bob Rafelson, 1968) This one is priceless because Hopper looks like he can’t wait to get out of the studio, get on the road and shoot EASY RIDER (Monkees money funded EASY RIDER you see). Jack Nicholson, who co-wrote HEAD, is also in this scene which has the movie break down around Peter Tork with many members of the film’s crew coming into the shot including director Rafelson. When he swoops behind Tork to get to Rafelson I’d like to believe he’s asking “hey man, how long is this gonna be? We gotta get going!”

7. Christian Slater in STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY (Dir. Nicholas Meyer, 1991)

I know, I know – another STAR TREK cameo but this one baffled me when I first saw this film. When Slater pops up it’s a dark shot and I distinctly remember the murmur in the theater as everybody seemed to collectively wonder “was that Christian Slater?” Credited as “Excelsior Communications Officer” Slater appears in a doorway, has a few lines, and then he’s gone. What was he doing there? In an interview with DVD Playground he answered that question: “My mother cast that film and needed someone to fill in. Yet even so, that was probably the most nervous I had ever been in my entire career.”

8. Richard Dreyfuss in THE GRADUATE (Dir. Mike Nichols, 1967) Again, this might be playing loose with the definition of cameo too, but Dreyfuss’ smart part as “Boarding House Resident” always makes me laugh when I watch this film. Over the shoulder of landlord Norman Fell, Dreyfuss’s delivery is unmistakable on his only line: “Shall I call the cops? I’ll call the cops.”

9. Sigourney Weaver in ANNIE HALL (Dir. Woody Allen, 1977) She only appears in one shot, and it’s a long one, as Alvy Singer’s (Woody Allen) very tall date to yet another showing of THE SORROW AND THE PITY but if you ever see this film on the big screen you can see her features better. It was her first film and I bet nobody involved could predict that only 2 years later she would break through big in ALIEN. From “Alvy’s Date Outside Theatre” with no lines to science fiction icon/feminist heroine Ripley is quite a leap considering.

10. The Clash in THE KING OF COMEDY (Dir. Martin Scorsese, 1982) From the IMDb Trivia section for this film: “In the scene where Robert De Niro and Sandra Bernard argue in the street, three of the “street scum” that mock Bernhard are Mick Jones, Joe Strummer, and Paul Simonon, members of the British punk rock band, The Clash.” There are many pictures of Scorsese directing RAGING BULL wearing a Clash t-shirt so there’s obviously a connection between the master film maker and “The Only Band That Matters” (as they were billed at the time).

Okay! There goes another patented Film Babble Blog list. If you have any other blink and miss them movie cameos please drop me a line.

More later…

FANBOYS: Lame Love Letter To Lucas Has A Few Laughs (New DVD Review)

FANBOYS (Dir. Kyle Newman, 2008)

After doing 2 years time in development Hell, this royally panned project came and went through theaters with warp speed earlier this year. It’s immediately easy to see why. “A short time ago in a galaxy not so far, far away” goes the blue text which fades for the yellow title, done in faithfully curved block STAR WARS font, powering through space to make way for the famous crawl. Yep, it’s that reverential to the beloved space saga but the jokes contained in the crawl like this one: “Ever wonder where these words are flying? Maybe aliens in another galaxy will one day read this and think WTF?” tell us we’re in for crude cheap comedy instead of knowing sci-fi obsessed geek satire.

It’s a shame too, because it’s a interesting premise: In 1998, a group of die-hard STAR WARS fans (Sam Huntington, Dan Fogler, Jay Baruchel, and Chris Marquette) decide to break into Skywalker Ranch to steal a copy of the long awaited EPISODE I – THE PHANTOM MENACE. You see, one of them (Marquette) is dying of cancer, so they and obligatory girl geek Kristen Bell, want him to see the movie before his death. Notice I didn’t say it was a good premise, just an interesting one as we all know how EPISODE I turned out – some folks would’ve chosen death over seeing that still reeking pile of CGI, poor plotting, and Jar Jar Binks bullshit. But hey, in the aforementioned premise is the opportunity to parody the lives and dreams of fanatics with pot shots at their arguments over series inconsistencies, disputes with Trekkies, and dead end devotion.

FANBOYS is more concerned with raunchy scatological humor and road movie clichés (like a gay biker bar scene that plays like a outtake from WILD HOGS) than it is with character driven comedy. There are flashes of wit here and there which come mostly in the cameos. Given the subject matter it’s no surprise to see Kevin Smith show up, his pimping out of Jason Mewes is at least as amusing as anything in ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO. Not playing themselves are Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams from the original holy trilogy, they give a bit of credibility to the proceedings even if their parts are little more than walk-ons. For some inexplicable reason, Seth Rogen plays 3 roles – 2 Star Trek nerds and a STAR WARS tattooed killer pimp who the Fanboys tussle with in Las Vegas – yep, it’s that kind of movie.

When William Shatner appears, mocking himself yet again in another throwaway cameo, it’s amusing to note that in the Trek Vs. Wars battle, Star Trek is the reigning winner right now. The J.J. Abrams reboot is bathing in the kind of overwhelming critical acclaim that George Lucas’s prequels never received and its series future looks blindingly bright. FANBOYS is nothing more than star waste in its attempts to be a tribute or homage or comic valentine or whatever. The ending Skywalker Ranch sequence has some charm despite being horribly edited, but it at least hints at the heart this film could’ve had. Just maybe after so many STAR WARS satires from sounder sources like The Simpsons, SNL, South Park, Robot Chicken, Family Guy, etc. this stuff is beyond stale.

Through all of this I’m reminded of a great bit from Late Night With Conan O’Brien: Triumph the Insult Dog (voiced by Robert Smigel) visiting the STAR WARS: EPISODE II – ATTACK OF THE CLONES Premiere back in 2002. Between the bits of the puppet’s prodding ridicule, some young guy dressed perfectly as Spock walks through the hoards of real life fanboys holding his hand high not in a Vulcan salute but in a more universal salute to everyone in the crowd (watch it here). Considering the current status of that rebooted franchise the middle finger seems beautifully appropriate to me.

More later…

STAR TREK: The Film Babble Blog Review

STAR TREK (Dir. J.J. Abrams, 2009)

Sporting the most positive pre-release buzz since THE DARK KNIGHT, Gene Roddenberry’s vigorous vision proves itself yet again in a dazzling spectacle of a sure to be Summer blockbuster. This is extremely impressive after the diminishing returns of the last few films of the franchise featuring Patrick Stewart leading The Next Generation crew. It’s boldly back to basics here with a prequel/reboot that re-introduces the original characters from the classic 60’s TV series, now played by hot young actors and actresses just out of Starfleet Academy and entangled in an action packed series of (as Spock says) “universe ending paradoxes“.

A friend joked a few weeks back that the trailer made it look like: “a Mountain Dew commercial…thought it may be Star Trek X: Treme.” And yeah, that’s a reasonable fear – that it would be a new fangled streamlined brainless affair – but somehow Abrams has presented intact an engaging re-imagining of the best elements of Star Trek with the immediately recognizable quirks of the protagonists, the strong chemistry of the relationships, and the overall humanity that was the core of the long loved series. No dark dystopian future here, as we see young fit cadets of all races and alien species at Starfleet Academy in unusually sunny San Francisco after an opening that establishes the opposition in upbringing that defines the brash arrogant James T. Kirk, Chris Pine who doesn’t ape William Shatner but still captures his ego, and the cold logical half human/half Vulcan Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto).

Singled out for his impulsive potential by Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood), Kirk quickly gets in trouble by cheating on the Kobayashi Maru training exercise (something Trekkies or Trekkers or whatever will appreciate) which gets under the skin of the test’s designer: Spock, see what they did there? Kirk’s hearing is rudely interrupted by a patented Trekkian threat, a gigantic evil electrical space cloud which, of course, may destroy the Earth, the Universe, and everything. Helming the Romulan ship at the heart of this insidious cloud is Captain Nero (Eric Bana) who is harboring a revenge vendetta because of the actions of future Spock. That’s right, Spock as portrayed by as an elderly Leonard Nimoy, appears in a glorified cameo to mentor and advise Kirk and, most enjoyably, to inspire him to provoke young Spock’s conflicted emotions at a crucial moment.

The original cast is wonderfully replicated with a nice mix of familiar affectations and fresh interpretation. Karl Urban and Simon Pegg lapse almost completely into impressions of DeForrest Kelly and James Doohan (if you live under a rock that’s Dr. McCoy and Scotty the engineer, respectively) but they keep the characters amusingly in check even if they don’t quite make them their own. As Lieutenant Uhuru, Zoë Saldana brings a strong headed take on the iconic part even if most of it entails swooning over Spock – yep, one of the many details that makes this “not your Father’s Star Trek”. John Cho (Harold from HAROLD AND KUMAR) as the wet behind the ears Lieutenant Sulu and Anton Yelchin as earnest 17 year old Ensign Chekov convincingly take their posts on the Enterprise bridge.

Fittingly the movie in the franchise that this most resembles thematically and spiritually is STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN. The revenge scenario of the obsessed villain, Kirk’s rejecting of the no-win situation in the before mentioned Kobayashi Maru, the mind controlling slugs (in a sequence that may be a timely statement on torture techniques), and Spock’s immortal “I have been and always shall be your friend” line, all recall that fan favorite film which many consider the best of the series. This new entry though, is strong enough to change that consensus as Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman’s sharp screenplay re-writes a lot of Star Trek history while at the same time upholding and paying glorious homage to it. STAR TREK is fast flashy fun – it’s colorfully gorgeous (see at an IMAX theater if you can – although none of it is filmed in IMAX), powerful, and as good as the ginormous, yet well earned, hype suggests.

More later…

10 Movie & TV Themed Slot Machines (A Vegas Vacation Post)

Since I’m on vacation in Las Vegas until the end of the month I won’t be posting much, but I just couldn’t resist making this list. Strolling through many casinos I saw many slot machines that were based on popular movies and TV shows so I decided to document my favorites. I decided to avoid those patterned after game shows (Wheel Of Fortune, The Price Is Right, etc.) because these were concepts that were game formatted to begin with and there are so damn many of them. So here goes:

1. Star Trek:

Nice to see the old school graphics especially because we’re about to be inundated with images from the new-fangled prequel/reboot extremely soon.

2. The Sopranos:

One of my all-time favorite TV shows makes for a pretty impressive slot machine spectacle. But watch out – your wallet might get whacked…

3. STAR WARS:

The original trilogy gets the treatment.

4. INDIANA JONES:

I saw a few different Indy themed machines but this overwhelming display definitely has the gambling goods.

5. TOP GUN:


6. ALIEN:


7. The Munsters: This one was pretty surprising. The ancient sitcom is not readily slot machine machine material but I was highly amused to find that, much like the show itself, it was developed because of the popularity of The Adams Family slot machine. Also, I learned funnily enough that some of the members of the cast sued IGT (International Gaming Technology) over the use of their likenesses.

8. THE WIZARD OF OZ:

9. Happy Days: Another Nick At Nite favorite becomes a jukebox styled money maker (and taker).


10. That Girl: Really? That Girl? That’s a slot machine? Okay! Just never thought Marlo Thomas’s smiling mug would make the casino cut but there it is. Though maybe because, as the theme song goes, “She’s tinsel on a tree, she’s everything every girl should be”, it makes some kind of sense.

Like I said above I won’t be posting much for the time being (unless I make it to a Vegas movie theater while I’m here), but I did just participate in an ongoing series of posts about the best films of the aughts that the great blog Film for the Soul is chronicling called “Counting Down The Zeroes.” I contributed an essay about my favorite film of the year 2000: WONDER BOYS which you can read here.

Now back to my vacation.

More later…

10 Actors Amusing Reactions To Their Signature Characters Being Re-cast In A Remake *

* Or reboot or re-imaging or whatever rationale they’re using.

This is not one of those “Hollywood has completely run out of ideas” posts – though the amount of remakes coming down the line is staggeringly depressing. No, this is about when a new version of a beloved cinematic staple is announced and it’s obviously threatening to the original actors who won’t be included. Inspired by Faye Dunaway’s response to the absurd casting of a proposed BONNIE AND CLYDE remake (see #4), this list is what I believe are the funniest and most pointed reactions to redundant rehashes:

1. “I am Snake Plissken!” Kurt Russell on an upcoming ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK redux. He elaborates in an interview with Entertainment Weekly: “I didnt play Snake Plissken, I created him! Goldie [Hawn] and I were talking the other day about this, and I said, ‘Man, this is weird, isnt it?’ And she said, “When they were going to do a remake of Private Benjamin, I thought, ‘I didnt play Private Benjamin, I created that role!’” Russell may not have to worry, with the state of the economy the movie is likely to be axed. Well, with hope that is.

2. “Nobody ever offered me a part.” – William Shatner on the new J.J. Abrams STAR TREK prequel. This is actually not so ridiculous a complaint – if Leonard Nimoy as Spock (in an odd time warp way I guess) can be included, why can’t the original James T. Kirk? Shatner even made a youtube video response to clarify things. Watch it here.

3. “They didn’t even ask me!” Adam West on being left out of the first BATMAN reboot starring Michael Keaton in 1989. David Letterman made this into a comic catchphrase and on a Saturday Night Live sketch, Michael McKean did a dead on impression of West declaring: “I wanted to play – Uncle Batman. He – he would be an older, distinguished gentleman — much like yourself, Commissioner Gordon….(addressing Weekend Update anchor Norm McDonald) and he would help Batman fight crime!” Needless to say that didn’t happen. As Robin (David Duchovny – that’s right) on that skit said: “Holy Not-Taking-Your-Medication, Batman!”

4. “Couldn’t they have at least gotten a real actress?” – Faye Dunaway on the casting of Hillary Duff in the BONNIE AND CLYDE remake. Duff responded “I think that my fans that are going to go see the movie don’t even know who she is. I think it (what she said) was a little unnecessary, but I might be mad if I looked like that now too.” Jeez, show some respect little Miss 15 minutes of fame gone into obnoxious overtime! This is another should be axed project with only this cat fight left standing.

5. “These comedy remakes are horrible!”Tom Selleck on the possible George Clooney * movie redo of Magnum, P.I. He elaborated: “I tell you what worries me – because I love Magnum and we have loyal fans – is they take these TV show titles, and they buy them and they spend $100 million on special effects, and then they make fun of them and trivialize it. Then they try and get the actor who used to be in it to do some ridiculous cameo to prove to the audience that it’s OK. And I will not do that.” Sounds like a not so subtle jab at the Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson STARSKY AND HUTCH but a lot of other TV to movie adaptations fit the bill.

* Now it looks like Matthew McConaughney is on as Magnum. Sigh.

6. “Pointless”Gene Wilder on the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (The Wilder original was entitled WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY). Wilder went on: “It’s all about money. It’s just some people sitting around thinking ‘how can we make some more money?’ Why else would you remake Willy Wonka? I don’t see the point of going back and doing it all over again. I like Johnny Depp, and I appreciate that he has said on record that my shoes will be hard to fill. But I don’t know how it will all turn out.” Well, it turned out pretty bad. Depp’s Wonka was creepy not charming like Wilder’s and the movie misfired on many other levels. “Pointless” actually is an understatement.

7. “I’m furious”Jack Nicholson on Heath Ledger getting the role of The Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT. From an interview in 2006:

MTV: What do you think of another actor, Heath Ledger, playing the Joker in next summer’s “The Dark Knight”?

Nicholson: “Let me be the way I’m not in interviews. I’m furious. I’m furious. [He laughs.] They never asked me about a sequel with the Joker. I know how to do that! Nobody ever asked me.”

Nicholson, right after Ledger’s death, told reporters in London “I warned him.” What? Nicholson warned him about playing the Joker? “It’ll kill you!” Is that what Jack advised? Or was it a threat/curse? Anyway as much as I love Nicholson (and readers of this blog should know this well), his Joker was a joke while Ledger’s was the real deal. I know Jack as a 3 time Oscar winner knows this well by now.

8. “Fletch is me.” Chevy Chase on the proposed (but stillborn) FLETCH re-whatever it is: “If I played any part in the Fletch remake, think about it: as soon as I appeared on the screen people would say, “Hey… There’s Fletch, man!” Silly idea. Keep me out of it.” Chase pissed off Kevin Smith (read Smith’s blog to find out how) who had a “Son Of Fletch” pitch, then FLETCH WON was on as a prequel with possible Chevy providing an older Fletch voice-over perspective with Jason Lee, Ben Affleck, Zach Braff, and Joshua Jackson (?) being tossed around for the role. This is more and more looking like another ‘not gonna happen’ projects. Unless they put it on the Underhill’s bill…

9. “When he had to do fart jokes, he lost me.”Jerry Lewis on Eddie Murphy’s THE NUTTY PROFESSOR. Despite that Lewis was an executive producer on this and its sequel NUTTY PROFESSOR II: THE KLUMPS he told Entertainment Weekly just last year: “I have such respect for Eddie, but I shouldn’t have done it. What I did was perfect the first time around and all you’re going to do is diminish that perfection by letting someone else do it..” On Sunday however, at the Oscars Murphy presented Lewis (“from one Nutty Professor to another” he said) with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and bygones were nowhere to be seen.

10. “Give me a break – Joey Bishop on the “re-imagining” of OCEAN’S 11: Not exactly a reaction to his role because Danny Ocean (Frank Sinatra’s original part) is the only name used from the 1961 original in the George Clooney/Brad Pitt/Everybody in Hollywood remake but Bishop’s response is priceless nevertheless: There will only ever be one Rat Pack. Its a joke. All they are doing in the remake is a cheap impersonation of the original Rat Pack. People knew about Frank and his broads and Dean and his drinking. They knew that we partied together. With the new version, you’ve got five or six people who never had any association with each other off screen.” They can’t sing either, right Joey? Right? Oh, sorry Mr. Bishop passed away in 2007. Maybe the success of OCEAN’S 11 and its 2 sequels was too much for him.

Okay! Another patented Film Babble Blog list down. Anybody’s amusing response that you think should have made the list? Please let me know.

More later…

Time For A Re-Appraisal – GODFATHER PART III Is The Best Of The Series

This is definitely NOT my contribution to the BIZARRO BLOG-A-THON (June 23-25th) hosted by LazyEyeTheater or EnergeticEyeTheater or whatever:


We all can admit now that both GODFATHER PART I & PART II were just overrated populist mock epics that got overwhelming acclaim because of early 70’s pop politics and they got Oscars because producer Robert Evans scored a deal with the Devil that would make Joseph Kennedy proud. The series was only redeemed when GODFATHER PART III arrived in 1990. It featured re-casting of the highest order and a script that out has Mario Puzo out-Shakespeare-ing Shakespeare mounting in a grand sweeping sense of neccessary closure. When we last saw Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) it was the late 50’s and he was left all alone by those who once loved him sitting on a bench at his Lake Tahoe estate – with dead eyes and a cold withdrawn demeanor. If you’re like me, and I know I am, you’d want to see more of the decline of this guy, right?

Made to order, GODFATHER III picks up 20 years later as Michael tries to finally go legit with a deal with the Vatican, harasses his ex-wife, destroys his children’s dreams (or maybe just his children), and ends up yet again on a bench now much older and still alone but this time we get to see him die! Yep, all necessary events that solidify once and all Michael Corleone into the classic character we all love and make us completely forget the first 2 films.Michael’s snazzy new look – the spiky bleached hair-do and more stylish attire show that the man has gotten hipper – see how he puts down Sinatra stand-in Johnny Fontane (Al Martino) with this crack: “I’m just gonna go into the kitchen and listen to some Tony Bennett records.” Snap! His voice is gravely to the extreme and his arm motions are more flailing – while the old Michael was stoic and subtle, new Michael is in your face with his bug eyes and exclaimations: “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in!”

Then there’s the case of the recasting of one of the main members of Michael’s posse – previously D-lister Robert DuVall barely registered as lawyer Tom Hagen so it’s a major improvement to bring in the grand gentleman actor George Hamilton to be the consigilere. Hamilton, with his ultra-tan and slick lovable posing, alone provides a gravitas that the early entries were sorely missing. It only gets better – when Winona Ryder was too ill to participate, director and co-writer Francis Ford Coppola drafted his daughter Sophia to take on the role of Michael’s daughter Mary. Sophia Coppola’s performance was originally derided but in recent years it has been re-evaluated to be considered one of the best in all cinema. Her death scene (sorry Spoilers!) when she realizes after a few seconds that she has been shot and says “Dad?” in an unaffected blank manner is as heartbreaking as it gets. I get choked up just blogging about it.

It’s well known that Joe Mantegna as a Armani suitted John Gotti-esque competitor of the Corleone’s parlayed his role into the beloved long-running character Fat Tony on The Simpsons but how many know that Andy Garcia parlayed his role into playing a bunch of other likewise thug but still charming parts in a bunch of other notable films I’m too lazy to look up right now. Oh, wait – the OCEAN’S 11 movies – see, pretty much the same type guy, right? We’ve got GODFATHER III to thank for that. The involving plot with the Pope dying and a montage of murders, which the other GODFATHER films concluding murder montages hold nothing on, also rule. Diane Keaton returns as Kay to do some more much needed finger waging at Pacino and reportedly they resumed the set romance they had during the first 2 flicks – good for them. For comic relief we’ve got Don Novello who while he never says anything funny is still amusing to see because we can say ‘hey it’s Father Guido Sarducci!’ So disregard what everyone says about I and II being ‘all that’ and savour this saga statement that is up there with SON OF THE PINK PANTHER, LICENCE TO KILL, STAR TREK V, and THE PHANTOM MENACE as being the undeniable best of their respective series. Just when you think you’re out, GODFATHER III pulls you back in – again and again.

More later…

STOP LOSS Lost Me But RUN FATBOY RUN Had Me Pegged

As good as TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE and 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, & 2 DAYS (reviewed last time out) were they failed to gain an audience (at my hometown theater at least) so it’s on to a couple of the new Spring crop of movies:

STOP LOSS (Dir. Kimberly Peirce, 2008) The opening scene with mobile phone footage of soldiers in Iraq razzing each other with ethnic and whitebread stereotypes raging brought to mind unpleasant memories of REDACTED. For a short bit this film appears to have a higher purpose than that base insufferable Brian DePalma cinematic bloodstain then it drastically drops to a lower level. With his trademark worried eyes, squad leader Ryan Phillippe serves what he thinks is his last combat mission (involving a particularly hellacious gunfight which kills 2 of his men) and comes home with his surviving men to his hometown. They are greeted with a parade full of applause and teary eyes but Phillippe is told shortly afterwards that he is being “Stop Lossed” – that is, his term of service is being involuntarily extended and he is to be sent back to Iraq. He immediately responds in anger and escapes from the army installation becoming a AWOL fugitive. His plan is to appeal to a Senator who shook his hand and said “if you ever need anything…” back at the celebratory parade so he sets off for Washington D.C.

Phillippe’s squad, who mostly remain back on the Stop Lossed sidelines, is quite the clichéd crew: there’s the thick headed bully (Channing Tatum), the short-fused guitar-playing cut-up (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the religious square nicknamed “Preacher” (Terry Quay), the smooth Hispanic player (Victor Rasuk), and of course, the tough token black guy (Rob Brown). Try as they might neither the characters or the film rise above well worn cliches. Such can’t be disguised by the quick-cutting MTV * technique of flashing hundreds of photographs in front of our eyes at supposedly key moments.

Phillippe talking with an awful Texas accent and brooding squint-eyed as if the movie is a foggy shadowy stage has shown more layers previously like in last year’s BREACH, but here seems to have retreated back to the wood board mode that he walked-through CRASH with. His co-star and somewhat love interest is Abbie Cornish – ex-girlfriend to Phillippe’s fellow soldier friend (Tatum). She travels with Phillippe across country in scenes that have an 80’s road movie sensibility in the same sense that every element of this film feels borrowed. As for being Peirce’s first film for nearly 9 years since BOYS DON’T CRY this is quite a let down filled to the brim with cringe-worthy acting and weak dialogue. For all its anti-war pro-troops posturing STOP LOSS, though based on a very real and hard to stomach government policy, has a extremely low percentage of plausibility.

* The film is an MTV Films Production after all.

RUN FATBOY RUN (Dir. David Schwimmer, 2007)

An unlikely movie-star if there ever was one, Simon Pegg still seems to have nudged a notable niche into the world of hip pop culture. Bit by bit – the first bit being his little seen but great British sitcom Spaced then his and director Edgar Wright’s hilarious satires SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ and now a just revealed big bit is that he is tapped to play the iconic role of Scotty in the new STAR TREK reboot. In the present meantime though Pegg goes mainstream with this romantic comedy about marathon racing. How mainstream? Well, this is directed by David Schwimmer – Ross from Friends! So Pegg is a slacker sloth we gather right off as he abandons his pregnant fiancée (Thandie Newton) at the altar literally running down the street away.

The movie cuts to 5 years later and Pegg’s still running but this time running after shoplifters as a low level security guard for a women’s clothing store. He still pines for his ex and longs to be more of a hero to his son (Matthew Fenton) but that is increasingly difficult as Newton has taken up with Hank Azaria – a well-to-do muscular all too perfect suitor who runs marathons. “Why would you want to do a thing like that?” is Pegg’s reaction to that last bit. He realizes though to gain his son’s respect and possibly win back his ex he will have to take something seriously and see it through to the end and the Nike River-run in London may just be the ticket.

It’s fitting that Pegg’s shabby apartment has a poster of TEAM AMERICA up because as that film told us in song “you’ve got to have a montage!” and so a shaping up sequence of the sort is on. Pegg’s SHAUN OF THE DEADSHAUN OF THE DEAD co-star Dylan Moran, who has some of the best lines, bets on his friend completing the 26 mile marathon as do his landlord’s (Harish Patel) cunning daughter (India de Beaufort). Among the wacky physical humor in the training scenes and the underdog insults there are affecting face-offs with Azaria down to the starting line gunshot and beyond: “I can lose weight… but you’ll always be an arsehole!” Pegg deliriously exclaims.


Though not in the same comedic league as and HOT FUZZ, RUN FATBOY RUN is extremely likable as fluffy and predictable as it is. It’s not a laugh a minute, it’s more a mild chuckle per scene but its big heart and sunny nature made me smile often throughout its running time (no pun intended). Doubt this will make much of dent in the U.S. box office but like the folk that gather behind Pegg FORREST GUMP-style as his lovable louse stumbles through the miles of the marathon RUN FATBOY RUN will no doubt accumulate fans. Pegg may not have completely arrived Stateside yet but this is one cheeky bit closer.


More later…

Those Damn DirecTV Movie Tie-In Ads – Offensive To Film Buffs?

To cut to the chase – yes. Those commercials (most running for 30 seconds) that re-create a scene from a well known movie oft played on cable with an actor re-outfitted in their old characters duds and mugging to the camera about the better picture quality benefits of DirecTV have been irking me for some time now. Let’s take a look at a few of them shall we? :

The first of these that I have seen wasn’t too bad – it had Christopher Lloyd dressed and made up to look like his 1985 Doc Brown character from BACK TO THE FUTURE (Dir. Robert Zemeckis) in this ad designed to make you feel like you’re coming back from commercials to a movie you forgot you were watching. Lloyd hams it up saying “I forgot to tell Marty when he gets back to the future he needs to get DirecTV HD!” As Wikipedia notes “Marty would not actually be able to get DirecTV once he got back to the future as it did not exist in 1985 and the Doc of 1955 would obviously have no way of knowing about it. However, this blatant illogic can be regarded simply as a joke.” Uh – okay!

You can’t really fault Charlie Sheen for turning a fast buck revisiting his MAJOR LEAGUE (Dir. David S. Ward, 1989) role of Rick ‘Wild Thing’ Vaughn. It’s a movie that seems to always playing on some cable channel (mostly TBS) and he was likable in it which is seriously unlike just about all of his other films so he and DirecTV are in the clear here. Major points would have been added if Dennis Haysbert (who played Voodoo practicing Cuban defector Pedro Cerrano in the 1989 film and its sequels) did some add-on shot (he’s probably too busy doing AllState ads) – but I’ll still put this in the acceptable pile.

Now those were somewhat cute – if you stick to mainstream movies and B or C-list celebrities popping up in mock scenes from their movies sure we can look the other way but Sigourney Weaver resurrecting her female-empowering alien-ass-kicking heroine Ellen Ripley in this ALIENS ad attrocity that just starting airing recently really gets my goat! To see this classic character who was named by the American Film Institute as the #8 greatest hero in American cinema history shilling for DirecTV is just depressing. Maybe we can tell ourselves that it’s one of Ripley’s clones from ALIEN RESURRECTION – no, it’s still sad.


I mean it makes some kind of marketing sense to have Jessica Simpson break the 4th wall from her role as Daisy Duke in the apocalypse-warning signpost that was THE DUKES OF HAZZARD (Dir. Jay Chandrasekhar, 2005) and chastize her leering viewers by taunting them by saying “Hey – 253 straight days at the gym to keep this body and you’re not going to watch me on DirecTV HD? You’re just not going to get the best picture out of some fancy big screen TV without DirecTV.” Though incredibly eye-rolling inducing it makes some kind of sense because it’s a completely disposable commercial movie and nobody will care if a character steps away from that kind of cinematic enterprise to do a sales pitch for a company. Speaking of stepping away from the Enterprise …

“Settling for cable would be illogical” Captain Kirk (William Shatner) says to Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy) grimace. Shatner is surrounded from footage from STAR TREK VI mind you in this commercial. Not the first time he’s acted reacting to nothing and it won’t be the last. This one is understandable because Shatner with his Priceline.com pitches, MCI, and the UK Kellogg’s All-Bran cereal ads has been a commercial spokesman * almost more than he’s been an straight actor, no wait he’s never really been a straight actor. Still, I get a bit pissed off watching his laconic walk-through in this ad I’m reminded by comedian Patton Oswalt’s put down from Shatner’s Comedy Central Roast -when he held up a paper bag and dared Shatner – “Could you act your way out of this?”

* To see the hilarious origins of Shatner as a commercial spokesman checkout this hilarious Commodore Vic20 Ad.

I just feel like we’re one step away from having Ralph Fiennes popping up as his evil Nazi personage Amon Goeth in a mock scene from SCHINDLER’S LIST looking right at the camera and saying “don’t you want to see me personally execute masses of Jews in the crystal clear clarity of DirecTV? Don’t you?!!?”

Okay, maybe that was a bit over the top – none of the ads so far have been from serious dramas or Oscar-caliber prestige pictures but I think these ads are bad for the film community. Okay, maybe just the online film community. Okay, maybe just me. Now this one with Pamela Anderson playing her iconic character C.J. from the television show Baywatch is just about right – hear that DirecTV! Stick to TV shows and low-brow comedies that were cheesy to begin with and all is forgiven. Okay?

Postscript : I know I haven’t covered all of those damn ads – Leslie Nielsen revisited his 1980 Dr. Rumack performance in a AIRPLANE! one, Ben Stein again asked “Bueller? Bueller? …” for a FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF throw-back, Bill Paxton once again chased a tornado in a TWISTER take, and shortly before his death in Pat Morita brought back Miyagi from THE KARATE KID (’86). If there are any others that irk you or that you actually like – send ’em on in to :

boopbloop7@gmail.com

Oh yeah – I read somewhere that Bill Murray was all set to re-Carlize himself for a spot from CADDYSHACK (’80) but he was either out of the country working on a film or he came down with a case of integrity…

More later…