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 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…

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 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 :

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…

Recent Raves

Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) : In the old days, if someone had a secret they didn’t want to share… you know what they did?
Ah Ping (Ping Lam Siu) : Have no idea.
Chow Mo-wan : They went up a mountain, found a tree, carved a hole in it, and whispered the secret into the hole. Then they covered it with mud. And leave the secret there forever.
Ah Ping : What a pain! I’d just go to get laid.
Chow Mo-wan : Not everyone’s like you.
(Dir. Kar Wei Wong, 2000)

Again sorry for not posting for a bit – I’ve been too busy working 2 jobs to see many movies lately. Now I have a little time to write so I thought I’d babble ’bout not just movies but some music, books and other whatnot that I’ve been digging lately in a post I call :

Recent Raves – Film, music, and other whatnot
(or things that have kept me alive lately)

WAL-MART : THE HIGH COST OF LOW PRICE (Dir. Robert Greenwald – 2005) This may be full of information most already know (small long owned businesses being destroyed when a Walton family owned monstrosity rolls into town, scores of people who are on welfare while being employed by Wal-Mart, repeated crimes in their security-free parking-lots, etc) but Greenwald’s heartbreaking documentary makes a convincing case that there may not be anything but EVIL at that discount superstore monopoly. Without much polish – no glitzy graphics or snappy soundtrack – this flick particularly got to me because the company I work for does some of the same shit. The movie is not all depressing doom – it does end on a hopeful note and the parody commercials are great :

Betty Johnson (Susie Geiser) – I’m Betty and I’m a Wal-Mart associate. I love working at Wal-Mart! I love that they pay me less than min. (minimum wage) because that means I can’t afford to eat as much and I get to keep my figure!”

SNAKES ON A PLANE-Mania Internet Style : This hilariously titled upcoming Samuel L. Jackson action flick has created a flurry of web activity – satirical trailers (I actually can’t tell the spoofs from the real thing – in fact I don’t know if the poster image to the left is real or a joke), excited fan blogs, and even a promotional campaign that involves a songwriting contest – a winner get to have their homemade song on the soundtrack. I’m sure the premise of hundreds of venomous snakes set loose on a plane to kill someone testifying in a mafia case will inspire many a young starving musician. Apparently the movie had some re-shoots in which they added a line the Internet Movie Database says is expected to take on cult status:

Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson): “I want these motherfucking snakes off the motherfucking plane!”

That’s a badass line, sure. I’m just wondering if Jackson will say as he has in so many movies “this is some repugnant shit!” In fact I’m betting on it.

If you haven’t checked out the suberb site YOUTUBE you really should. Where else can you get William Shatner’s riveting interpretion of Elton John’s Rocketman , this great live-action version of the Simpsons opening done to promote the Simpsons syndication in Britain, and an archive of TV performances from the Kinks, Iggy Pop, the Specials, Funkadelic, and many other previously uncirculated goodies. My favorite find is the rare footage of 4 members of Monty Python appearing on a Texas PBS station in 1975. Recently discovered after being shelved for 30 years its unfortunately short (only 14 minutes because an engineer taped over the last bit) but a treat indeed to see.

Wilco @ Memorial Hall, March 5th and 6th 2006: I never thought Wilco, who I consider the best band RIGHT NOW, would play at Memorial Hall here in Chapel Hill – the same venue that hosted a historic 1954 Louis Armstrong concert and where I saw Mel Blanc speak when I was a kid (still have the autographed picture that he handed me while doing his most famous voice – Bugs Bunny : “here you go Doc”) So of course I had to attend both nights. The place had been renovated in the last year or so and the acoustics were fantastic.

The first night while singing “Hummingbird” Tweedy scooped a young girl (obviously the daughter of fan parents in the front row) out of the audience and held her without losing the song’s flow at all. A wonderful moment. It was to his credit that he didn’t try the same thing the next night – he knew you can’t turn some spontaneous connection into some show biz move.

“Is any song worth singing if it doesn’t help?” Jeff Tweedy’s sad-sack vocals beautifully etched out their own precious place in the Hall as the melody stiftened during the opening song “Wishful Thinking” the second night. Despite his saying that the show would be the same even the banter – the whole setlist had been juggled around with less Summerteeth and a couple of new songs (I won’t guess at the titles) were premiered.

I was elated to get recordings on disc of both shows from my friend Hook. The sound quality is sweet and to hear “She’s A Jar”, “The Good Part” and dusted off from the 1996 album Being There the charming as country- rock-can-get “Say You Miss Me” blaring from my stereo and filling up the walls of my house has really soothed a number of sleepless nights lately.

Kar Wai Wong’s IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE and its bizarre follow-up 2046 I had been meaning to see IN THE MOOD… for a long time and the occasion of the release of its somewhat sequel 2046 announced that now is the time. Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) suspects his wife is having an affair with the husband of his neighbor Su Li-zhen Chan (Maggie Cheung). They form a friendship and a unique relationship develops. An achingly lyrical film that stayed with me for days.

2046 is as complicated as its title. Its a hotel room number, it is the last year before Hong Kong would be completely absorbed by mainland Chinese rule, and probably most important it is the name of a science fiction martial arts story that Chow Mo-wan is working on. Less poetic than its successor, disjointed and definitely too long 2046 is still worthwhile – incredible visuals, touching acting, and an unimposing soundtrack make it a fine companion piece.

More soon…