Friday, December 14, 2007

Terry Tate Compilation

"The pain train's coming for you! Woo-woo! Woo-woo!"

Whoever came up with this ad campaign at Reebok is hopefully running the company now because it was nine kinds of genius. Terry Tate - Office Linebacker is iconic and the ads are so blasted funny it is physically impossible to keep a straight face through any of them. Each spot has is packed with quotable lines so picking one or two favorites is nigh impossible. Someone on the interwebs compiled most of the ads into one 10 minute spot on YouTube and here it is.

Behold, the genius that is Terry Tate - Office Linebacker:

The missing ones I know of explain how Terry was "discovered" and his "sensitivity training," both of which are absolutely hysterical. Sensitivity Training and the OSPN Terry Tate restrospective. Enjoy.

Now Playing: Hollywood Homicide

Harrison Ford, why hast thou forsaken me?

This is Indiana Jones, Han Solo, and John Book. Anyone that grew up in the 1980s idolized him, yet his last genuine hit was the over-amped Air Force One 10 years ago (and I’m not counting the awful What Lies Beneath because that film, like this one, sucked). Instead of using his 30 years worth of clout to only work with the best, he apparently doesn’t care anymore.

I swear I don’t know what goes on in the man’s head when he goes out of his way to star in unfunny tripe like Hollywood Homicide when it is so clearly beneath him that even he doesn’t seem cognizant of which film he’s in.

Not helping matters is the fact that his partner is played by Mr. Lacking Personality himself, Josh Hartnett. This is another case of an undeserving actor having a career when no semblance of talent is ever on screen. His character, of course, wants to be an actor, which proves unintentionally ironic during his thespian displays of shouting “Stella!” at the top of his lungs. About the only time he’s convincing during the film is... wait, nope. I can’t finish that sentence with a straight face so let’s move on to what else fails.

The plot involves a rap group finding themselves on the wrong end of a machine gun at a club, and when the cops are called in to investigate they find their personal lives intertwined with the case. Think of a cop movie cliché and I guarantee you it makes an appearance somewhere, which is shocking considering the amount of talent both in front of and behind the camera. There are plenty of big names who sort of blow through their roles as though they’re just doing this for the paycheck and aren’t ashamed to let it show. Martin Landau has an Oscar, last I heard, yet he's playing a knock-off of Robert Evans who was better spoofed by Dustin Hoffman in Wag the Dog.

Just sayin'.

It's funny now to watch Isaiah Washington play the rage-filled music mogul behind everything, because of the hostility which bounced him from "Grey's Anatomy." The ultra-hot Lena Olin appears as Ford's psychic girlfriend and like Keith David as Ford's supervisor, is completely, utterly wasted. So much talent, so little script. The film is not serious enough to become emotionally involved with, funny enough to laugh at, or sleazy enough to revel in. It limps along to its conclusion, the least exciting car chase I think I've ever seen followed by equally unexciting show downs with the villains.

While I may have a glimmer of hope for the upcoming Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it has more to do with the combination of Lucas, Spielberg, Ford, and the return of Karen Allen than with Ford by himself. By this point, I think it’s obvious that the man doesn’t care anymore which is heartbreaking for fans. When Ford wants to, he proves time and again that he’s more than an actor. He’s an icon.

I sincerely wish he would care about something again, and soon.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Now Playing: Modern Romance

"Petey... Carol... Petey... Carol..."

Albert Brooks walks a fine line for me. Sometimes he’s funny while others he comes off as annoying. I think it depends on how likable he is in his films. Witness Finding Nemo or Defending Your Life where his schtick works because the characters are genuinely heartfelt, sweet characters who try their best but are held back by their personal fears.

I bring up those examples because his work in Modern Romance falls on its face immediately after the opening. By the end of the film, literally nothing has changed for any of the characters and Brooks' neurosis fail to come off cute and register instead as stalker-ish.

He plays Robert, a film editor currently working on a sci-fi film starring George Kennedy, and is in a semi-continuous relationship with Mary, played by the luscious Kathryn Harrold. The opening scene is hilarious as he meets her for dinner then tries to break up with her. Robert demands she not call him, then Mary looks him straight in the eye and asks, “This time?”

It turns out they break up all the time, then get back together, only to break up later and Robert isn’t as much in love with Mary as he is with the pain and essential "rebirth" of the breakup-makeup process.

The film does have its moments like when Robert, post-breakup, is flying high on Quaaludes, but it has one note it hits repeatedly for 90 minutes and it’s not a good one. His first date after the breakup laid me out but afterwards the film simply wasn’t very funny.

Alright, the George Kennedy film was pretty funny as was the discussion with the director afterwards but that’s it. Certainly nothing funny happened after that. Oh Albert, why won’t you make me laugh more? You know I love you, don’t you?

Imagine a film like that and you have Modern Romance. I was hitting my head on the desk in frustration from the moment he finds the phone bill through to the credits, so thanks for the migraine, Al. I suspected based on the premise that My Fair Lady wouldn’t find any of the film funny and when I gave her a verbal highlight reel her response was succinct:

“That doesn’t sound very romantic. Or funny. Why would I watch that?”


This may come with the reputation of being Albert Brooks’ masterpiece but it says less about modern romance than it does about Brooks’ desire to be in a room where Harrold disrobes completely before climbing into bed with him.

If nothing else, you have to admire her willingness to show off her killer, and all-natural, body and for that alone I thank Albert Brooks. But the rest of the film could have been spent, I don’t know, maybe playing a character that actually funny. Or grows.

Then again, Brooks’ point is that that’s the joke. It’s too bad no one told him it wasn't a funny one.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Now Playing: I Trust You To Kill Me

“Sometimes you have to go through something to find out why you did it.”

“If you know anything about Kiefer, organization is not his middle name.”

I Trust You To Kill Me is a brilliant documentary about what happens when you take a well-known actor and make him the road manager of a band on the verge of success during a two-week road trip across Europe around Christmas. Throw in a metric ton of egos and chaos ensues. What I found absolutely fascinating though was the intimacy the cameras caught because Kiefer Sutherland is very guarded about his privacy now that he’s grown up.

Kiefer has a very touching story about a case he carries. He also attacks a Christmas tree while drunk, which makes him even more awesome in my book. But the moments that stick with the viewer are ones where he lets his guard down completely while talking to the film crew and just says what is on his mind. When the band gets to one gig and no one is there, Sutherland and his best friend literally hit the streets of Dublin and go into bars and restaurants handing out tickets and talking the band up. He also calls in to a local radio station for an impromptu interview where he talks at length about the band and invites all listeners to come to the pub that night to hear them.

Sutherland knows that it is his fame that will help get butts in the seats and he is fine with that. He shares some hearty laughs with his friend along the way and it makes you happy for him that he is enjoying himself, even if bar patrons only recognize him as Jack Bauer.

If the music were not good then the documentary would suffer, but fortunately Rocco and his band can play. I don’t think they’re quite as good as Sutherland talks them up to be but they do have plenty of talent. Rocco has some anger issues to work through but he’s smart enough to channel them through his music and his vocals are better for it.

Sutherland starts the documentary talking about how he can only take them so far and then after a certain point he will have to, by necessity, step back. When they reach that point in Berlin the result is hilarious. Without going into the specifics, the editing is pure gold as it contrasts the situation the band is in with where Sutherland is.

I Trust You To Kill Me is a very good look behind the scenes of an up and coming band on the road as well as an unguarded look at Kiefer Sutherland as he begins to realize his hard partying days are almost over.

If you consider yourself a fan of his then you absolutely must watch this.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Now Playing: 28 Days Later

Danny Boyle knows how to direct a thriller, no doubt about it. His introductory film, Shallow Grave, remains the single most malevolent film I’ve ever seen. There’s no other way I can think of to describe it, not even as a descent into madness. Boyle knows how to build tension and wring ever last drop of sweat out of his audience but far too frequently he’s undone by those very same talents.

As such, I think 28 Days Later is all the best and all the worst examples of his personal tics together in a single film.

The film opens with a group of animal rights activists trying to free some chimps from a research lab. A doctor catches them then freaks out when he sees what they’re doing. He warns them that the chimps are infected with rage and clearly the activists think that’s nothing more than a metaphor. They find out how wrong that assumption is about five seconds later then the film jumps to a hospital bed 28 days later.

Jim (Cillian Murphy) sits up in an empty hospital and finds himself very much alone in the greater London area. As he starts to put together the pieces he discovers the United Kingdom has been evacuated because of a virus. Then he goes to church and finds out that not everyone has left.

The “not-a-zombie” people in the film are genuinely frightening especially in the context of germ warfare. I say that knowing full well the film, despite the obviousness of the infection metaphor, is pretty much Boyle’s attempt to ramp up the zombie horror thriller and in that regard the film succeeds. It’s genuinely unsettling throughout and the digital video grainy aspect lends an extra layer of grit to the film.

I think Murphy is talented when it comes to being creepy but he’s sort of stranded here since he’s playing “normal.” Even the point where he would, one presumes, naturally excel late in the film feels like a cheat because I couldn’t see the character going all “Lord of the Flies” that quickly. Which brings me to the turning point of the film for me and for long time fans.

About an hour in, Jim’s crew arrives at a military base and this is the exact moment where the film tends to lose people. I can understand what Boyle was saying here, but it does feel wildly out of place. There is only one truly bad guy introduced here and he’s more of a right-hand man than the actual military leader (long-time Boyle pal Christopher Eccleston) who wants to do right by his men more than anything else.

The film maintains its intensity through to the very end, but this sequence feels more like a middle than an end, the coda not withstanding. On that note, I somewhat preferred the other ending that played theatrically (included on the disc) even if Boyle should have stopped it before his final shot.

I’m curious now about the sequel, 28 Weeks Later, to see what effects a larger budget and bigger explosions have on this story. The original film definitely is a good scare-fest, but those same scares are muted by that final hour and some poor character decisions.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Now Playing: This Film Is Not Yet Rated

After watching this documentary two things are abundantly clear to me. The first is that MPAA former honcho Jack Valenti was an absolutely brilliant politician and the second is that Kirby Dick is my new hero.

Dick set out to make a documentary on the MPAA which is considered a very shadowy organization, an obvious irony very much at the forefront of this documentary. Every film maker has to submit their films to this organization for a rating and never knows how the process is going to turn out.

No one knows who the raters are.

No one knows who is on the appeals board if someone doesn’t like the rating their film is tagged with.

The only thing any one knows, really, is that an individual’s film is screened for a select few people who fill out a form and arbitrarily decide what rating a film deserves.

Dick decided to find out who exactly was behind this process and the results are as illuminating as they are infuriating.

The first step Dick makes is to hire a private investigator to track down the raters. Thus begins a month-long odyssey where they manage to uncover the identities of most of the raters, the form the raters use while watching a film, and other scandalous items. But why, you might ask, is everything so scandalous? Doesn’t the MPAA work for us, the viewing public, to help parents decide what to let their kids watch?

The answer is yes and no.

The “yes” to that question goes back to the MPAA’s stated purpose of being a self-governing watch dog that helps Hollywood police itself with no intrusion from Washington. In a fun twist, that’s also the answer to the “no.”

The MPAA takes a movie, watches it, decides what rating to give it, then sends it back to the film maker with the rating stamped on it. If someone doesn’t like their rating, they can file an appeal with the appeals board and hope for the best. That much is obvious.

What isn’t as obvious until Dick starts digging is how blatantly the MPAA approves of bad language violence over sex and nudity. If there is full frontal nudity of either gender at all, that film has about a 99% chance of getting slapped with an NC-17. If those same people are blown to smithereens by a cruise missile while the villain throws out f-bombs, then welcome to either a PG-13 or an R.

Through interviews with dozens of film makers and industry insiders, Dick exposes one MPAA hypocrisy after another all while his PI continues digging. The interviews cover Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry), Kevin Smith (Clerks), John Waters (Hairspray), Matt Stone (South Park), and others famous for knocking heads with the MPAA. When they get enough evidence together, Dick assembles a cut of the film and then proves he has bigger cajones than any one else I know.

He submits it to the MPAA for a rating then captures what happens.

Not surprisingly, his film is slapped with an NC-17 and an extra on the disc has him talking about this moment at the South By Southwest film festival in Austin. Make sure you watch this extra because that one story alone is absolutely hilarious. After getting the rating, Dick files an appeal and goes through that process showing every step of the way. But as jaw dropping as his film is, the finale is where his point is most brilliantly made on who exactly the MPAA truly serves.

If you have any interest whatsoever in the film business, then This Film is Not Yet Rated is essential viewing. It may be NC-17, but Netflix has it available and you can find it through additional channels. Watch this film and let the debate rage on.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Greatest. Wine ad. Ever.

Martin Scorsese recently directed a wine ad. Of course, it being Martin Scorsese he didn't just shoot a 30 or 60-second spot. Oh no. He has an entire story devoted to it and the brilliance is a testament to both him and to Alfred Hitchcock. You'll know why the second you start watching the video which is mandatory viewing for film lovers.

Check it out right here.

Also, the music that kicks in during the action sequence is from "North By Northwest."