PAUL: The Film Babble Blog Review

PAUL (Dir. Greg Mottola, 2011)

STARMAN meets SUPERBAD in this sci fi comedy that has Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the comic duo from SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ, aiding and abetting an extraterrestrial fugitive voiced by Seth Rogen.

Pegg and Frost, who also co-wrote the screenplay, are a couple of British geeks on an American vacation that kicks off with a visit to Comic-Con in San Diego before making a road trip to alien landmarks from Area 51 in Nevada to Roswell, New Mexico.

There’s a FANBOYS vibe going on as the pair are starstruck at meeting fictional fantasy novelist Adam Shadowchild (Jeffrey Tambor), whose name is a running gag throughout the film – the joke being that only hardcore nerds know who he is.

Right after stereotypical rednecks (David Koechner and Jesse Plemons) harass Pegg and Frost at a U.F.O. themed diner, our protagonists meet Paul – the CGI crafted little green man from another planet.

“He looks too obvious!” Frost protests, but our snarky title character explains that it’s because pop culture has been inundated with his image in case an encounter occurs.

It turns out Paul, a pot-smoking heavy-drinking party animal of an alien, has escaped from his 60 year imprisonment at Area 51 and is on the run from a government agent (Jason Bateman playing it perfectly straight), so Pegg and Frost’s rented RV becomes his vehicle to an undisclosed location for a spaceship pick-up.

Kristen Wiig, in one of her better performances, jumps on board the RV as a half blind trailer park manager who gets converted from her crazy Christian mind set by the outspoken E.T. and is chased by her father (John Carroll Lynch). Also on the chase are SNL’s Bill Hader and the creepy Joe Lo Truglio as clueless FBI agents.

Every sci fi movie ever seems to be referenced in “Paul”. Lines are lifted from STAR WARS, locations from Star Trek to CLOSE ENCOUNTERS are visited, and then there’s the presence of Sigourney Weaver as “The Big Guy” – Bateman’s boss who will stop at nothing to recapture Paul.

It’s a film for sci fi nerds by sci fi nerds. It’s sloppy and choppy, but it has so many legitimate laughs in it that I didn’t care that it didn’t come close to the visually stylish Edgar Wright films that Pegg and Frost cut their teeth on.

PAUL is fast-paced foul-mouthed fun with an infectious silly tone that never lets up. Although you can see many of the gags coming, they’re still funny when they land thanks to the playful platform provided by Pegg, Frost, Rogen, and director Greg Mottola.

Though I don’t consider myself a STAR WARS fanatic, Trekkie, or sci-fi junkie to any extreme, my inner star-child was greatly amused by these alien antics.

More later…

Happy Anniversary A-Z (Well, W)

A few weeks back Patrick Goldstein on his LA Times blog asked “Is there any Hollywood movie that isn’t having an anniversary this month?” He could reasonably have said this year as well because every time I surf the net or pick up a magazine there is a anniversary piece about a classic or cult movie that came out 20 years ago, 25 years ago, 30 years ago and so on. There are quite a few good articles so I thought I’d compile a far from complete listing of some of the best ones. Here goes:

AIRPLANE! (Dir. Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, & Jerry Zucker, 1980)

The gag-a-minute disaster film satire just turned 30 (USA release date July 2nd, 1980) and there are a gaggle of tributes including this New York Times piece:

“Surely It’s 30 (Don’t Call Me Shirley)” – Matt Zoller Seitz

There’s also this well worth checking out piece:

“Airplane!, one of the best comedies ever made, celebrates its 30th anniversary (with videos)” – Scott Wampler (

BACK TO THE FUTURE (Dir. Robert Zemeckis, 1985)

This anniversary, the film’s 25th, was marked by what’s been called a “twitter hoax” involving a photoshoped picture of Doc Brown’s Delorean dashboard. You can read about it here:

“Debunked: ‘Back To The Future’ Twitter Hoax” Jeff Sneider (

Pretty funny but Conan O”Brien’s tweet was funnier:

“Today’s the 25th anniversary of “Back to the Future” – The movie that popularized DeLoreans, Flux Capacitors, & almost nailing your own mom.”

THE BLUES BROTHERS (Dir. John Landis, 1980)

1980 comes up a lot here – it was quite a summer. Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi’s musical car chase extravaganza was definitely a highlight as these links attest:

“Remembering ‘Blues Brothers’ 30 years later” – Christopher Borrelli (Chicago Tribune)

“30 years later and ‘Blues Brothers’ still on a mission from God”Steve Spears (

“The Blues Brothers Gets Vatican Seal Of Appoval”Ron Hogan (Popular Fidelity –

CADDYSHACK (Dir. Harold Ramis, 1980)

Score another for 1980 with this much beloved country club golf comedy which pitted the slobs against the snobs. Read on:

“Is it Really the 30th Anniversary of ‘Caddyshack’?!” – Jane Boursaw (

(Dir. Irvin Kershner, 1980)

The second (or the 5th if you want to split hairs) film of the ginormously popular STAR WARS series is widely thought by many, including me, to be the best stand alone installment. Here’s some links to those who think likewise:

“Report from the 30th Anniversary Empire Screening” – Pablo Hidalgo (

The Empire Strikes Back Turns 30, As Do Fans Pyschic Scars” – Mike Ryan (Vanity Fair)

“Empire Strikes 30: Ars looks back at a amzing film” Ben Kuchera (

FLETCH (Dir. Michael Ritchie, 1985)

Chevy Chase’s newspaper reporter wisecracks through one of his best comedies, if not the best. This is by far the best column I’ve found yet on the film’s birthday:

“White losers rejoice: Fletch celebrates 25 years” – Peter Hyman (

GOODFELLAS (Dir. Martin Scorsese, 1990)

It’s too early for tributes just yet – the film was released on September 19th, 1990. Until then here’s the news of Spike TV’s anniversary tribute:

“Spike TV celebrating ‘Goodfellas’ 20th at Guy’s Choice Awards” (

Stay tuned to this space for more on GOODFELLAS 20th…

(Dir. Steven Spielberg, 1975)

Too many to list here but here’s some of the cream of the crop of 35th anniversary wishes to what many claim was the first summer blockbuster:

“‘Jaws’ 35th anniversary: Remembering the first summer blockbuster” – Andrea Reiher (

“Jaws’ 35th anniversary: How Jaws changed summer movie blockbusters” Michael Avila (

“35th Anniversary of Jaws Begins in a Junkyard” – Robert Falconer (

MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (Dirs. Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones, 1975)

Last year it was reported that there would be a 35th anniversary celebration at Doune castle in England (where much of the movie was shot):

“Monty Python reunion planned for Doune castle” (

I couldn’t find any other info – a date for the reunion or anything so if you know what’s up with it please email me.

PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE (Dir. Tim Burton, 1985):

“Los Angeles Film Festival: Paul Reubens to mark 25th anniversary of ‘Pee Wee’s Big Adventure'” – Susan King (

PSYCHO (Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)

“Hitchcock’s Psycho at 50, The sounds of violence” Jack Sullivan (

RAGING BULL (Dir. Martin Scorsese, 1980):

“Brutal Attraction: The Making of Raging Bull”

– Richard Schickel (

THE SHINING (Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

“The Shining – 30th Anniversary – May 23, 1980”

WILD AT HEART (Dir. David Lynch, 1990)

Actually other than some notices about 20th anniversary screenings I haven’t found a good anniversary appraisal for this one. I just rewatched it and really loved see it again so maybe I should consider doing one. Hmmm.

I know there are a lot of significant anniversaries I’ve missed – REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955), THE APARTMENT (1960), MASH (1970), NASHVILLE (1975), and many many more so please let me know what else we should be celebrating in the comments below. Looks like a followup is in the cards.

More later…

Visiting The New Varsity Theater On The Verge Of Its Reopening

This Friday, the 27th, the Varsity Theater in downtown Chapel Hill is officially reopening (there was a sneak preview showing of THE WIZARD OF OZ on Sunday night, the 22nd). The theater, which closed last June, has been undergoing heavy renovations so I thought I’d visit and check out just what the new owners – Paul and Susan Shareshian – are doing to restore the theater to its former movie-house glory. Last Friday Susan Shareshian showed me around as the carpet was being installed and we talked a bit about the changes they’ve made and their plans for the theater’s future.

Dan: Well, I’m really impressed with the place. It’s got the old fashioned theater look going in the nicest way.

Susan Shareshian: Thanks – we had UNC art students paint those murals on the panels.

D: Those look incredible and the whole place looks so clean.

SS: Yeah, it took a long time to get it like this… to get it free of dust.

D: So what are the Holiday movies you’re going to be showing in December and are they going to be 35 millimeter prints?

SS: They are all going to be original prints. We have “A Christmas Story”, “Polar Express”, “Miracle On 34th Street”, and “Christmas Vacation”.

D: So I see the birthday room is that going to be where the office was before – have you had bookings for that yet?

SS: We do have bookings for not only birthdays but we have bookings for holiday parties – not just for kids but for adults. We also have some private screenings for people who have made films and want a place to show it. At this point, it’s been about a month, it couldn’t be better. People are very very excited about it. We’re thrilled. This is all very grass roots, it’s really just Paul and I and our friends and family that are helping us. The goal is on the site to have the calendar so you see what’s coming, also to do advance purchase for tickets.

D: In the theaters how much work has been done?

SS: They are all being re-carpeted too. The chairs are the same, the carpet’s changing, the curtains are new, the moldings are new, and that’s about it. So far. And then in the red theater, the big theater…Paul wants to name them but he can’t come up with good names…

D: So you’ll show the older films in the small theater?

SS: Probably. It depends, “The Wizard Of Oz” we’re going to show in the big theater.

D: When did you decide to take on the theater and make a go of it? Was it right when you heard the theater was going to close?

SS: Yep, and then we had to be really thorough about understanding about how to run a successful theater and what that means. What the distribution companies want and how they work and all that stuff. One thing we’re going to do is we’re going to ask “what do you want to see?” I can tell you right now that everybody wants to see “Star Wars”, everybody wants to see “Back To The Future”, so when we show those it’s gonna be busy. Then if we pick some that are my favorites we probably won’t be as busy but that’s okay! We’re also going to do some other cool stuff like Wednesday afternoons we’re going to have foreign films for seniors. We’re going to work out deals with senior communities to have them bused here so they can be dropped off. Things like that.

D: Well I’ll definitely be here on opening day.

SS: Good! We’re going to do pre-sales starting on Monday. We’ll be here at the ticket window – I’m going to take the paper off the windows on Monday but leave the paper on the doors until Friday.

D: So you’ll be set up for credit cards?

SS: Yep. Mastercard, Visa, and debit but no American Express.

D: Will there be any differences with concessions?

SS: We’re working something out with Sugarland across the street to have desserts and we’ve been also talking about bringing in a gelato machine. But other than that it will be pretty traditional movie theater candies.

D: The classics?

SS: Yep. The classics.

I was sorry to miss the sneak preview last night which I heard was a rousing success but, like I said, I’ll be there this Friday for the Grand re-opening. It’s great to see the theater in such great shape and here’s hoping that Paul and Susan Shareshian’s enthusiasm and drive will help the Varsity thrive for a long time.

More later…

Soundtrack September Selection # 7: EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS

One of the last selections of the month comes from Jason Kennedy – a musician and friend from when I lived in Greensboro, NC close to a decade ago. Also known as “Hook” or more recently “Pinball”, Kennedy puts a spot light on a supreme soundtrack that many have overlooked:


“First there was Star Wars. Every kid my age had that one. Then there was Raiders of the Lost Ark. Not everyone had that one; but once your best buddy Mike Edwards told you how terrifying the “Well of the Souls” track was, well you kind of had to get it. Yet those were first and foremost souvenirs. There was nothing inherent in the music that particularly moved you other than the mental image of Harrison Ford hurling through space or running through the jungle. All that changed the moment Eddie Wilson showed up.

To a budding teenager in the early eighties summer break meant being stuck at home for 3 months with no mobility, few resources and even less company. These were the days before Beta fell to VHS; before Hulu or the internet; before Netflix or Blockbuster. There was one main source of entertainment, and we called it plain old TV. And on TV, HBO was King. And that’s where I first found Eddie, lurking in the pages of the HBO guide, with a summary paragraph and a detailed listing of every time I could see him day or night, a cruel reminder of what little else I had to do.

I was interested in rock music well enough by this time. I had bought some records (Police, Men at Work), perused my older brother’s vinyl collection (Rush, Reo Speedwagon) and purged hours of time watching MTV (a fellow King for sure, albeit from another place entirely). Yet Eddie and the Cruisers afforded me something that I just couldn’t buy at any record store. For in addition to just liking the music, I was increasingly interested in the idea of the band itself. The instruments they used; the songwriting process. The rehearsals and the sound checks and the dealings with shady managers. And all of a sudden, here was a glimpse behind that curtain. The faces that once only stared back from an album cover suddenly had names and personalities; they began to live and breathe. You mean people in a band argued with each other? They made moves on each others girlfriends?? They took drugs and died from them??? Why on earth would anyone in a successful band want to do anything but smile for the camera and count their money? These were the questions that the Cruisers suddenly had me asking. And while much of that may have shaped the tunes, it would be an insult to let it define them. So as Eddie would say, let’s get on with the music.

Only one album ever saw release during Eddie Wilson’s too brief career, 1963’s Tender Years. Keyboardist/lyricist Frank Ridgeway (the band’s own ‘quiet one’) modestly described it as “one album, twelve cuts, a big deal about nothing”. Except that in the summer of 1963 “On the Dark Side” was the number one song in the country. And twenty years later John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band returned it there. With that original album 20 years out of print (look for a copy of the LP in the film), director Martin Davidson needed someone to reinvent the Cruisers sound for the big screen. Cafferty and Co., a fledgling Rhode Island bar band with a healthy Springsteen fixation (the Boss may well have taken notice of the Cruisers himself, cribbing both the concepts of a sax wielding musical foil and a girlfriend/wife vocal accompanist for his own E Street Band) were the perfect choice.

“On the Dark Side” was the first song written after Ridgeway joined the band to provide lyrics to Eddie Wilson’s music; it was also the band’s crowning commercial achievement. Starting life as a plaintive ballad, it quickly transformed into an edgy expression of universal angst and uncertainly at the hands of an unattainable and more than likely non-existent lover. That initial DNA of Ridgeway lyrics and Wilson music coursed through the remainder of the album. “Wild Summer Nights” and “Down on My Knees” were both up beat rockers detailing the lustful pursuit and acquisition of teenage dreams, and the sober morning after reflection of what price one is willing to pay for them. The ballads “Tender Years” and “Boardwalk Angel” traded these insecurities of what may or may not be for a more romanticized idolization of what could and should be, if only life would stop getting in the way. The album was padded out with several workman-like covers of contemporary rock and roll; songs with little agenda save for keeping dance floor feet from losing the beat or skipping a step.

The soundtrack culminates with a song not found on the Tender Years record. “A Season in Hell” was to be the title track to the Cruisers’ follow up album. Satin Records (anticipating a “Dark Side” redux no doubt) refused to release it and effectively destroyed the band in the process. Sonically and thematically years ahead of it’s time, “A Season in Hell” was a portent of many things to come in those next few formative years for rock and roll. Backwards tape masking? Hendrix was listening. Lyrical gravity coupled with surrealistic imagery?? Dylan noted it. A controlled chaotic crescendo??? It took the Beatles 3 more years to get there with “A Day in the Life” (note the similarly pre-positioned titles). It was Eddie and the Cruisers’ masterstroke, and the world wouldn’t listen. How many geniuses does that remind you of?

I guess it all sounds quaint today, when anything you’ve ever wanted to know is a mere keyboard click anyway. But for a kid who knew next to nothing about the world and even less about how it worked, Eddie and the Cruisers was a revelation of style and substance, a guilty glimpse into the inner workings of this thing called rock and roll that would go on to shape my life in ways that I’m still trying to figure out. I can’t recall the last time I actually listened to this soundtrack, but that’s of little consequence. I listened to it enough then to last a lifetime. For that one brief period of time, the Cruisers were the light and the way. Eddie lives.”

More later…

Soundtrack September: Heavenly Movie Soundtracks & More

We’re coming to the home stretch of Soundtrack September but don’t worry there’s still plenty left!

The Reverend Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade, contributed a wonderful piece entitled “Heavenly Movie Soundtracks”. Here’s an excerpt with a link to the full article:

While the first soundtrack recording I recall buying was the inescapable STAR WARS by modern movie music maestro John Williams, it was Williams’ follow-up score for SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE that really struck a chord (no pun intended) with me. I will never forget the dramatic impact Superman’s main title march had on me, accompanied as it was by the film’s literally soaring opening credits. Williams brilliantly utilized a variety of styles to underscore the superhero’s story, from his origin on the doomed planet Krypton to his climactic showdown with arch-nemesis Lex Luthor. The score also includes the song “Can You Read My Mind?”, although it is performed in the film by Margot Kidder as more of a spoken word recitation, with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse.

The SUPERMAN score was nominated for a 1978 Academy Award but lost to Giorgio Moroder’s innovative electronic score for MIDNIGHT EXPRESS. Moroder would go on to score a number of successful 80’s movies, including FLASHDANCE. In my opinion, however, Moroder’s best work is his alternately lyrical, intense and sexy score for the 1982 remake of the horror classic CAT PEOPLE. David Bowie co-wrote and performed the film’s title song, which was recently resurrected to awesome effect in Quentin Tarantino’s INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.”

Read the rest of Reverend’s Reviews: Heavenly Movie Soundtracks at Movie Dearest.

Next up, Fletch from the brilliant Blog Cabins, billed as: “Movie reviews and commentary made fun”, pointed out a piece he wrote last year about his 5 favorite soundtracks and here are a few of his choices and a link to the rest:

PULP FICTION (1994) People give a ton of credit to Quentin Tarantino for kick-starting or re-starting careers, but they’re usually talking about actors. However, the man has probably been a bigger force (dollar-wise) when it comes to rejuvenating the careers of soul, R & B, pop and surf musicians from the 60s and 70s. His breakout film featured songs from artists as diverse as Dick Dale, Al Green and Urge Overkill, no doubt selling millions of albums for them in addition to the sales of this film’s soundtrack.

Favorite Track: “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon” by Urge Overkill.

RUSHMORE (1998) If any director has rivaled Tarantino in terms of quality and diverseness when it comes to his films’ soundtracks, it’s Wes Anderson. This one is all over the place, with great tracks from classic rock starts like John Lennon and The Who to folk star Cat Stevens to jazz to Mark Mothersbaugh’s brilliant scored tracks. Brilliant all around.

Favorite Track: “A Quick One While He’s Away” by The Who.

Read the rest of Fletch’s Favored Five: Movies Worth Listening To at Blog Cabins.

More later

It’s Confirmed: The Varsity Theater Is Closing

“I love the smell of popcorn in the evening. It smells like…Varsity!” – Me from one of my first shifts ever at the theater in 2004

After weeks of speculation and much community commentary, the Varsity Theater, built in 1927, located in downtown Chapel Hill, N.C. is closing. The last night will be Thursday, June 25th with THE HANGOVER (7:15/9:30 PM) and THE BROTHERS BLOOM (7:00/9:20). As I’ve blogged before I’ve worked there since 2004, but I’ve gone to the theater since the ’70’s having seen many crucial films from my youth there (STAR WARS, THE JERK, AIRPLANE!, etc.) so this is very sad for me personally. For many folks in the area it will be a blow, maybe not a devastating one, but one that will grow as the idea of a Franklin Street without any movie screens has yet to sink in.

David Fellerath’s blog post (“Varsity Theater To Go Dark Friday, June 26” – Film Beat, June 23rd) that broke the story reported:

“Owner Bruce Stone wouldn’t directly confirm the theater’s closing, but when asked if the fact that the Indy had not been provided with movie listings for the Varsity meant there would be no movies there, he replied, ‘That would be a correct inference.'”

So there it is. Stone has still yet to make an official announcement but we all know the gig is up. Maybe, just maybe, with much hope a developer or future buyer will take on the place. Such a beautiful old iconic theater shouldn’t end up like so many others across the country – old boarded up shells of former glory. The Varsity Theater was so much more than an old art house – it was a beloved institution that really tied the town together, as The Dude might say.

Farewell, sweet Varsity.

More later…

The End Of The Varsity Theater? Well, not just yet.

If you follow this blog with any frequency you know that I work part-time at the Varsity Theater in my hometown of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Earlier this month the theater’s owner, Bruce Stone, told his employees that he would not be renewing the lease come June 1st. Since then many rumors have circulated throughout the Triangle area about the fate of the theater. All that was certain, at that time, was that he was negotiating with potential buyers and the Varsity’s last day would be Thursday, May 28th. Now though it looks like he will keep the theater open 1-3 weeks more in hopes of making a smooth transition with a new owner. Whether this happens remains to be seen and I, as well as my co-workers, have been trying to deal with the notion that the Varsity may close – with hope just temporarily but very possibly for good. Here’s some links to some local articles about the up-in-the-air situation:

Lights May Dim At Varsity Theater (The Herald Sun – May 26th, 2009)

Owner May Sell Iconic Theater (The Chapel Hill News – May 27th, 2009)

Varsity Theatre Set To Be Sold But Not Closed
(Daily Tar Heel – May 27th, 2009)

This is all frustrating and depressing for me and many folks as the theater has been a beloved institution since its birth in 1927. I grew up going to the Varsity. When I was seven years old I saw STAR WARS there in 1977 – a memory I’ve never forgotten and possibly why that movie keeps coming up on this blog. I attended many movies over the years as it changed hands from a one screen first run movie house to a bargain theater in the early 80’s then, after being closed for a bit, re-opened as a art house with 2 screens (the large theater was split in half in 1982). Stone, who founded the Chelsea Theater at Timberlyne Shopping Center roughly 20 years ago, bought the theater in 2000. I got a job at the Varsity in 2004 (the same year I started this blog) and have highly enjoyed working there – seeing many movies and forming many friendships.

Like I said before, I thought tomorrow night would be both my final night and the Varsity’s but it looks like we both will see a bit more of each other. I, of course, hope that the theater will continue but as so much on Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill has changed it may be time to adjust to this major change. I’ll keep you posted with what happens as I hear it. If you live in the area you may consider coming to seeing what just could be the last double bill (pictured at the top of this post). It’s such a great old school theater with a great atmospheric vibe I know I won’t be alone in missing.

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…

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…


The original trilogy gets the treatment.


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



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.


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…

All This And Hamlet 2 – Several New Release DVD Reviews

It’s time to clean out my notebook and post a number of new release DVDs. Enjoy!


In an early 80’s television interview Roman Polanski, over wine in a ritzy restaurant, casually responds to a question about liking young girls: “Here you come to a concrete case for which I have been behind bars and that’s what you want to talk about”. So begins this documentary examination of one of the most notorious court battles in American history. For those who don’t know, (which I can’t imagine) in 1977 Polanski was charged with statuary rape, among other things, and after a year of wriggling through rigorous red tape he fled the country never to return. If he does attempt to come back he’ll be immediately arrested despite being forgiven by the girl in question (Samantha Geimer) and her mother years ago. Most folks know those basics but what this film lays out is all the particular twists and turns that resulted in the legendary director’s exile and it’s a fascinating and well crafted study that plays at times like a tight legal thriller.

Over 30 years later this is still an ongoing case as just today it was reported that Polanski lost a dismissal bid by the Los Angeles County court system. As we see in tons of TV news footage and vintage photographs, Polanski is small in stature usually sporting a bemused expression under his Beatle-esque mop top. His work though was never small in stature – the classics CHINATOWN, ROSEMARY’S BABY, and his Oscar win for THE PIANIST confirm this. He was roundly criticized by the press after the tragic death of his wife Sharon Tate for appearing to not be in enough mourning for their liking so when this incident broke they had a ferocious field day. This is good news for the film makers here because they never seem to be at a loss for the proper accompanying shot or sound bite to tell the story. Polanski only speaks from footage and interviews from the period but lawyers, press, colleagues, and most interestingly Geimer provide much insight into the complications and frustrations involved.
The film takes its title from a quote from French producer Andrew Braunsberg: “In France he’s desired and in America he’s wanted.” That defines the culture difference that court reporter Richard Brenneman explained best: “The European reporters looked on Polanski as a tragic brilliant historic figure…the American press tended to look at him as this malignant twisted dwarf with this dark vision.” The film only falters when it utilizes scenes from Polanski’s movies to illustrate certain points – it really isn’t necessary to have a clip of Mia Farrow dialing a phone from ROSEMARY’S BABY when somebody talks about getting an urgent call. As the film progresses however, these bits of his filmography are filtered in more effectively and arguably the flavor of his fine (for the most part) work should have a place in this portrait. As intriguing and informative as a documentary can get, this is vital viewing and not just for film buffs though obviously that’s who it’ll most appeal too.
HAMLET 2 (Dir. Andrew Fleming)

Poor Steve Coogan. Like his fellow brilliant Brit blokes Simon Pegg and Ricky Gervais he’s finding it hard to carve out a niche in the American comedy movie marketplace dominated by Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, and the ever present Apatow academy. This didn’t make much of a dent when it came out late last summer but it didn’t matter because Coogan was concurrently rubbing elbows with some of that comic crowd in TROPIC THUNDER (albeit briefly before blowing up). For his starring role in this wannabe indie quirkfest he sure gives a go of it as a high school drama teacher with delusions of grandeur in Tucson Arizona (“where dreams go to die” he laments). When he finds out that the drama program will be cut he stages the improbable sequel of the title in an odd attempt to save it. He cites teacher inspirational movie fare like DANGEROUS MINDS and MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS when trying to connect to his class but there’s very little that’s poetic about his soon to be dead society.

With Catherine Keener as his unsatisfied sarcastic spouse it’s like SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK but with the artistic existential angst replaced with hit and very miss one-liners! Well, not really – I just couldn’t resist the reference. There are a number of genuine laughs throughout but they don’t stack up into anything resembling classic comedy. It’s too broad, only occasionally cutting, and Coogan is so over the top with his character that his antics would make Jim Carrey cringe. The Keener subplot involving a live-in David Arquette (who I keep mistaking for Ryan Gosling) should have been excised completely and the supposed show stopping song “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” frankly isn’t that funny either. Still any movie that has an over eager Amy Poehler assisting Coogan in chewing the scenery and Elizabeth Shue playing herself isn’t a complete waste of time. If only it was named HAMLET 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO – then maybe we’d really have something here.

STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS (Dir. David Feloni, 2008)

I guess because I grew up on the original trilogy I feel obligated to see every movie under the STAR WARS banner. Despite the fact I hated the prequels, dislike the video game style of the animation I saw in awful trailers, and all the terrible reviews (it’s at 19% at I still put this in my Netflix queue when it dropped on DVD. I know this bloated pilot for the Cartoon Network series is intended to be for children but I watched most of it with my Brother’s 3 kids last Christmas and when I said “hey, it’s 6:00 – should we keep watching or switch to a Simpsons rerun?” They all screamed “Simpsons!” My sentiment exactly for this is a stone cold bore from its opening intergalactic newsreel replacing the sacred scroll to its stock celebratory ending. Somewhere in between there is bland battle after battle with lasers, explosions, close call escapes, and scores of other action that I couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for.

Plot you ask? I know you didn’t ask but it’s about Jabba the Hut’s son (who for some odd reason seems based on Truman Capote) being kidnapped and Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker (voiced by James Arnold Taylor and Matt Lanter) being called upon to save him to preserve the Republic or some such. Sounds riveting, right? A new annoying character to the misguided mix is added – Ashley Eckstein as Jedi trainee/weird orange freak Ahsoka Tano. She brings her own brand of obnoxious banter as she calls Anakin “Sky Guy” while she bounces through the confusing tangled terrain of this sci-fi crapfest. The voices of prequel veterans Samuel L. Jackson and Christopher Lee fail to spark the STAR WARS spirit and even a late third act cameo by C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) can’t save this animated abomination. George Lucas should be more ashamed by this than for The Star Wars Holiday Special. Don’t worry I’m not going to claim my childhood was raped but damn, it did cower in the corner for a bit after enduring this.

X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE (Dir. Chris Carter, 2008)

“I’m done chasing monsters in the dark” says former agent now full time Doctor Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and apparently so is X-Files creator/writer/director Chris Carter because this is strangley stripped of the supernatural elements that were the bread and butter of the TV show and the 1998 movie (X-FILES: FIGHT THE FUTURE). There’s no cigarette smoking man , no lone gunmen, and most surprisingly – no aliens. In other words everything that was cool about the X-Files is absent. A bearded Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) is yet again needed by the FBI after years of being hunted by them. He’s reluctant at first to help them with the case of several missing women, one of them an agent, but of course he shaves while Anderson dons her best 90’s professional pant suits and they rev up the old trusty X-Files mystery machine van onto a road into the wilderness chasing adventures while blaring Mark Snow’s immortal theme song on their vehicle’s sound system. Okay, I made part of that up because I was so disinterested in what really happened.

It all begs the question – why bring back Duchovny, Anderson, and Mitch Pileggi as Walter Skinner for a plot that’s just one step removed from an Ashley Judd/Morgan Freeman formula thriller? It doesn’t make sense to just drop tidbits about the not-so superduo’s child and Mulder’s long lost sister instead into diving head first into what fans want and deserve – that is, to actually be X-Files. The first film was creepy fun, this is just creepy. Real life subjects like Duchovny’s addiction to internet porn and the case of Anderson’s missing career * would be more compelling than this. Carter said that if this movie was successful there would be a third film that would deal with aliens and all the conspiracy stuff that this severely lacked. Well, the film bombed but I still hope he’ll make a third one solely to serve as an apology. I wanted to believe that this film didn’t suck but alas, it’s as bad as its title.

* I know that’s a cheap shot. She’s actually been in a few recent notable movies such as THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND and TRISTHAM SHANDY: A COCK AND BULL STORY with Steve Coogan incidentally.
Okay, so that makes one excellent documentary, a fair only fitfully funny comedy, and 2 franchise failures. Hope my next batch of Netflix envelopes will be much better.

More later…