July 2008 Archives
This is another guy that doesn't get nearly the press that he should. Sure, his work isn't exactly Wes Anderson films and he's pretty much got to rely on Adam Sandler for work, but people should recognize him as a good actor because he is a good actor. And he wrote creative, smart, funny sketches for Saturday Night Live. Take a look at his resume.
Forget about Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo (although I'd argue that DB: EG is still better than 75% of the crap released weekly these days) for a second. Rob Schneider was the glue that held the early 90s cast of Saturday Night Live together. Think about Sensitive Naked Man. Who else could have pulled that character off? David Spade? Not the king of sarcasm. Adam Sandler? No, he was a less easily thrown off version of Jimmy Fallon. No, Rob Schneider was the only one who could have pulled it off. He was by far the most versatile member of that cast (save for the late, great Phil Hartman, but he's more closely aligned with the prior cast). How about Tracy, the girl that worked at the Donut Hut in the "Gap Girls" sketches? Or one of the "Bellisima" waiters? The "You Like-a The Juice" guy?
If you're thinking, "Come on! He was that Richard guy with the 'Making Copies' sketch. That was so lame," it might be a good idea take a trip into the wayback machine and look at yourself from 15 years ago because I\it's a pretty sure bet you were one of the millions of people doing a lousy impression of him. It's OK. Come to terms with it. Own it. Because it was funny as fuck. And it still holds up today.
Here's another thing: This guy never broke character on SNL, unlike today's cast, which giggles and guffaws with every minor slip up. Hey, newsflash 2007-8 SNL cast: The material isn't that funny. We're not laughing, so why the hell are you? It's all Jimmy Fallon, who opened the door to laughing like an idiot in every sketch. He could barely hold it together in a scene. Rob Schneider was and is a professional, and that should count for something. UR: -17.5
In his SNL prime, Jon Lovitz seemed destined to slip into the type of character actor persona that Phil Hartman so ably filled when he left the show, but it never seemed to click for him. But if there was a role that Jon Lovitz was destined to play, that role was Jay Sherman, the rotund New York film critic with a revulsion for every contemporary Hollywood movie and a love of anything edible. It was the perfect vehicle for a pre-High School High Lovitz. He was the perfect comic foil: goofy but serious, sarcastic but earnest and harsh but sensitive.
The beauty of the show was that it basically held nothing sacred. Every horribly made, fictional film sequel that got an emphatic "It stinks!" from Jay Sherman was an indictment of the current pabulum that Hollywood churned out. Jay's boss was a corporate megalomaniac (ala the Trumpster), who turned his house of chicken and waffles into a major broadcasting network.
In an effort to keep the show afloat and a genuine stroke of genius, James L. Brooks (executive producer of both the Critic and the Simpsons), engineered a crossover for the two shows. This resulted in the classic "A Star is Burns" Simpsons episode, when Springfield hosts a film festival and Jay Sherman is the guest judge.
It didn't help. The show was canceled after a mere 23 episodes, despite critical acclaim and a loyal (but modest) fanbase. UR: -32
What is it?
It’s the first movie in which Mike Myers plays more than one part. In this case, he plays Charlie Mackenzie, a San Francisco-based fake beat poet with a total fear of commitment; and also Charlie’s father Stuart, a surly Scot with an affinity for all things Scottish. It’s all directed by a pre-Sorkin Tom Schlamme.
Why is it underrated?
In the pantheon of Mike Myers films, So I Married an Axe Murderer is doomed to sit a distant fourth, behind the two trilogies (Shrek, Austin Powers) that made the man a multi-gazillionaire, and a Saturday Night Live skit turned movie(s) (Wayne's World).1 These movies made Myers a household name and the most quoted man in America. Axe Murderer bombed and sent Myers into a self-imposed exile/shame spiral. The film bombed and grossed just under $12 million, disappointing after the huge success of the Wayne’s World films. In fact, of all movies that Myers has starred in, this one didn’t even rake in 30% of the next lowest grossing film (Wayne’s World 2). Why no love?
This junior status in the Myers canon is undeserved. The movie is 90 minutes of pure entertainment, and really does keep you guessing until the end. Not in a Sixth Sense kind of way, but more in a “does that tall, manly looking woman at the bar have a penis?” kind of way. You just never know until you see it.
The plot is fun, with the little “did she/didn’t she” guessing game they play, but the characters are really what makes the movie great. Mike Myers is solid in his role as Charlie. It’s really the first time Myers got the chance to play himself at his own age. He’s on record stating that Wayne Campbell is himself as a teenager. In his other movies, the characters he plays are funny-talking schticks. But this version of Mike Myers is Mike Myers, and that’s a rare occurrence on the big screen.
Charlie’s fear of commitment causes him to break up with women for reasons like “she smelled like soup” or “she stole my cat,” but he comes off as funny and charming in his pursuit of Nancy Travis’s Harriet. As circumstantial facts seem to implicate her in the deaths of three newlywed husbands, he brilliantly vacillates between love and fear, alternately suspecting and dismissing her being a vicious killer.
The family scenes go down as the best in the entire movie. Brenda Fricker (Academy Award winner for her role in My Left Foot) takes her turn as Myers’s mother and is absolutely scene-stealing. She tries to make out with Charlie’s best friend Tony (the underrated Anthony LaPaglia) whenever she gets the chance, she calls the Weekly World News “the paper” (certainly Men in Black owes the film a debt of gratitude for that little nugget), and spouts lines like, “You’ve got that pickle up your ass again, haven’t you?” She’s the ultimate mother: loving, completely embarrassing and sexually harassing your friends. Hey--moms, right?
As Charlie's Scottish father, Stuart, Myers basically reprises his S.N.L. role as the proprietor of All Things Scottish, but given the greater freedom to insult and threaten those around him, the character becomes a hilarious caricature. He calls Charlie’s brother “HEED” (a Scottish-accented bastardization of the word “head”), and cruelly mocks the kid for having a slightly larger-than-normal noodle. He takes time to torture his son by comparing his head to Sputnik and asserting that the boy would probably cry himself to sleep on his oversized pillow. He’s also a fervent supporter of Lyndon Larouche, and a conspiracy theorist with an active dislike of Colonel Sanders “because he puts an addictive chemical in his chicken that makes you crave it fortnightly, smartass.”
Amanda Plummer plays her the role of Harriet’s sister with her usual “I just chugged three venti lattes and took six diet pills” energy. It isn’t hard for her to play a total psycho on screen (at this point, it’s probably safe to assume she is one), and she comes through again. Alan Arkin is brilliant in just about everything he does (see Little Miss Sunshine or the original In-Laws for proof). He pops up as the police chief who’s so nice, he pretends to be an asshole so Anthony LaPaglia would feel “more like a cop.”
The movie features several well-placed and very funny cameos. Phil Hartman's Alcatraz tour guide, John “Vicki” Johnson, relates a charming anecdote about “Machine Gun” Kelly urinating into the skull of his prison bitch. Steven Wright, Charles Grodin, and Michael Richards all appear in cameo roles as memorable characters / wonderful devices to move the plot along nicely. That’s the perfect combination of form and function right there.
The movie wound up being a stepping stone of sorts for Mike Myers. He proved that he could handle the starring role. And since playing more than one character worked so well in this movie, he stepped it up: playing two wacky lead characters in the first Austin Powers, moving up to three in its sequel, and by the third one, he played four characters. In the inevitable sequel2, they may not hire any other actors and just let Myers play all roles himself.
It’s not the best movie ever filmed in San Francisco (that distinction belongs to the almost-forgotten Sneakers), but it’s damn close. And it uses the city to its advantage. Between Alcatraz, Pacific Heights, Haight-Ashbury, the Embarcadero, and the Golden Gate Bridge, you get a full view of an incredible city. And if you like the song, “There She Goes,” you won’t be disappointed. There’s like ten different versions of it in the film.
There are three Shreks, three Austin Powers, and two Wayne’s Worlds. This begs a particular question: Where’s Axe Murderer 2?
With any luck, it’s coming after Shrek 4: Smack the Donkey.
1 But way ahead of The Love Guru!
2 Because Love Guru sure ain't coming back for more.
If you know Mark Mothersbaugh at all, you know him as one of the founders and lead singer of Devo. Devo's one of those bands that everyone always talks about as being ahead of its time, but never really quite gets. They were doing synth when the rest of the nation was doing the hustle and the 1980s were just a gleam in Ivan Boesky's eyes. And like every other band like them, Devo's worst song ("Whip It") became their most popular song.
In addition to being just about the strangest guy you'll ever meet, he's prolific as hell. Mark Mothersbaugh is credited on just about every song that Devo produced (excluding their covers). He has also contributed or fully written over 100 movie, TV and video game soundtracks, including just about every Wes Anderson flick. Evidently, really fucking weird people like to collaborate with other really fucking weird people. And oddly enough, he also hosts a painting/drawing segment on a children's show on PBS called Yo Gabba Gabba!.
You've been listening to (and loving) his music for years, without even knowing it. And even worse, you don't even know his name.
Shame on you.
It's pretty much common knowledge around New York that the best stadium resides in the Bronx. It's got the history, the championships, the retired numbers, Monument Park, and countless other attributes that suggest that this is (or should be) true. The general consensus about Shea Stadium is that it's got the charm of a monkey whorehouse. And the majority of Mets fans can't wait to see the thing imploded, so that they'll have a place to park next year when they visit the Mets' brand new home, Citi Field.
But here's a bold statement: since the 1974-5 renovation of Yankee Stadium, the best place to watch a baseball game (without rooting interest) is in Queens.
Colin Hanks makes a name for himself in this deliciously written tale of a high school senior making his college choice. He’s in a dysfunctional family with a divorced mother who only knows how to communicate with the Hispanic maid by shouting at her in paranoia and a father who is money obsessed. Jack Black is in all his splendor as the slacker brother. The story is good, feel-good even. What really makes it rock the house, other than a splendidly designed poster and plenty of cameos from heavy hitters like Harold Ramis and Ben Stiller, is the soundtrack. If you’re over 30 when you see this, add +10 points to the Underrated Rating because you’re too old to enjoy it at the -24 level. UR: -24
Everyone knows him when they see him: hanging bulldog jowls, troll-like stature, male pattern shiny bald head. Not a whole lot of people know him by name. He's Wallace Shawn, and while he was busy lisping his way through The Princess Bride, he was "incon-theeve-ably" putting together a career as one of Hollywood's most recognizable character actors.
He played Diane Keaton's ex-husband in Manhattan (arguably Woody Allen's best film), the sarcastic debate teacher Mr. Hall in 1995's Clueless, and the diabolical Vizzini in The Princess Bride. His voice over career includes both Toy Stories, Monsters, Inc and The Incredibles. Wherever there's work to be done, Wally Shawn pops up. He's like a smaller, not quite as sweaty Meat Loaf.
But his piece-de-resistance was 1981's My Dinner With Andre, a semi-autobiographical piece written with Andre Gregory and directed by Louis Malle, that features him and Gregory dining and discussing the latter's recent exploits around the world. It's a film snob's wet dream, thought-provoking and smart without pretense. UR: -22
This is an action-packed roller coaster with a great cast and almost nonstop bullets, that bombed big-time at the box office. The failure of this movie is pretty much a failure of marketing. They should have billed this as the next Ocean’s Eleven--a slick crime thriller with a huge ensemble cast including Jeremy Piven, Andy Garcia, Ben Affleck, Ray Liotta, Ryan Reynolds, Alicia Keys, rapper Common, some psycho neo-Nazi thugs, and a hysterical cameo by Jason Bateman. Piven is always awesome, but he really shines here as Buddy “Aces” Israel, a washed-up magician mixed up with the mob who’s flipped to the feds, but the plot really doesn’t matter. Basically, the story is this: every hitman, assassin, mobster, F.B.I. agent, and bail bondsman in town is trying to get Piven. A series of intricately woven connections and coincidences lure everyone to Piven’s penthouse suite in a Reno hotel and the guns start blazing. And they don’t stop! When the action starts it keeps going for the duration of the movie, and the violence here is ludicrously over the top--There is carnage by bullet and chainsaw, and a gunfight between people in two different hotel rooms in two different hotels, shooting across parking lots and pools. Needless to say, most of the cast doesn’t live to see the end credits. Most remarkably, Ben Affleck doesn’t suck. UR: -18