Catching Up With The Films of 2018: The Last Movie Star (dir by Adam Rifkin)


Vic Edwards (Burt Reynolds) was once the biggest movie star in the world.

At times, that’s hard to believe.  Vic may have started out as a stunt man before moving on to star in westerns and action movies but Vic is now 80 and he moves slowly and with a permanent slouch.  At times, he appears to be so frail that you wonder how he even manages to get out of bed in the morning.  Though he still possesses the acerbic wit for which was once famous, the words now come out a lot slower and his voice is tinged with pain that is both physical and emotional.  It’s been a while since Vic appeared on a movie set.  After years of being a self-described asshole, Vic now spends most of his time alone.  His only friend appears to be his aging agent, Sonny (Chevy Chase).

When Vic receives an invitation to attend a film festival in Nashville and accept a career achievement award, Vic goes in hopes of not only getting his ego stroked but also visiting some of the places where he grew up.  It’s only once Vic has arrived that he discovers that the film festival is basically a group of wannabe hipsters hanging out in the back of a bar.  Under the direction of Doug (Clark Duke), the film festival has previously given lifetime achievement awards to everyone from Al Pacino to Robert De Niro.  Vic’s the first recipient to actually show up.

After a night of watching a younger version of himself and answering inane questions about his career and his turbulent personal life, Vic comforts himself by getting drunk and yelling at Doug and his friends.  The next day, while the film festival continues, Vic get Doug’s sister, Lil (Ariel Winter), to drive him around Tennessee.  Vic wants to visit the places of his youth.  As for Lil, she just wants to get rid of her cranky passenger so that she can deal with her emotionally abusive boyfriend.

As you probably already guessed, in The Last Movie Star, Burt Reynolds may have been cast as a character named Vic Edwards but he was basically playing himself.  (Director Adam Rifkin has said that he would have abandoned the film if Reynolds had turned down the role)  When Vic watches himself onscreen, the clips are from Burt Reynolds’s old movies.  When Vic falls asleep and has a dream in which he confronts his younger self, the film uses footage from Deliverance and Smoky and the Bandit.  (“Slow down!” Vic yells as the cocky, younger version of him speeds down a country road.)  When Vic considers his own mortality, it’s obvious that the aging and frail Reynolds was doing the same thing.

At the start of the film, both Vic and Reynolds seem so infirm that you wonder how he’ll ever make it through the weekend.  But, as the film progresses, an interesting thing happens.  Before our eyes, both Vic and the actor playing him become stronger.  His confidence returns and, as Vic confronts the past, we finally start to see some hints of the old charisma that once made him the world’s biggest film star.  As we watch the film, we realize that his body may be weak but his mind is still sharp.  We come to realize that Vic now understands that he will die someday but he’s still not going to give up.  He may accept his own mortality but he’s not going to surrender to it.

That Burt Reynolds passed away just a few month after The Last Movie Star was released adds an extra poignance to his performance in the film.  The Last Movie Star has its flaws.  The pacing is inconsistent and, when it comes to Vic relationship with Lil, the film too often falls back on anti-millennial clichés.  In the end, the film works best as a tribute to its star.  The film argues, quite convincingly, that if anyone deserved to be known as the last movie star, it was him.

Music Video of the Day: You Can Call Me Al by Paul Simon (1986, directed by Gary Weis)


How did Chevy Chase come to star in a music video?

It all started with a case of mistaken identity.  Paul Simon and his then-wife were at a party where they met French composer, Pierre Boulez.  Boulez was not sure who Simon was and repeatedly called him “Al.”  At the same time, Simon was suffering from a mid-life crisis that would not be resolved until Simon visited South Africa.   Simon brought the two incident together when he wrote You Can Call Me Al, the lead single off of his 1986 album, Graceland.

As for the video, it was the brainchild of Lorne Michaels.  Michaels, of course, is best known for producing Saturday Night Live and it was his idea to combine the tall and extroverted Chevy Chase with Paul Simon, who was neither of those things.

Lorne Michaels and Chevy Chase have had a long history together.  Michaels originally hired Chase for SNL and was instrumental in Chase’s early success.  Chase reacted to his sudden success by leaving SNL after its first season and subsequently trashing the show in interviews.  When Chase first returned to host SNL, he got into a fist fight with his successor, Bill Murray.  Chase’s subsequent appearances on the show have become legendary for Chase’s obnoxious and absuive behind-the-scenes behavior.  (In 1986, for example, Chase suggested a sketch in which openly gay cast member Terry Sweeney would announce that he had AIDS and then be regularly weighed throughout episode.)  Eventually, Chase managed to become the first former cast member to be banned from appearing on the show.

Paul Simon, though, is still welcome anywhere he goes.

 

Music Video of the Day: Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr. (1984, dir. Ivan Reitman)


I wish the literal video for this was still up. Oh, well.

All these years later, I still don’t have any idea why she goes into that house. I guess we are supposed to believe she lives there with these two kids that miss their cue?

These other kids nail it.

Despite finding lists of all the celebrities in this video, I have no idea who this guy is that Ray Parker Jr. becomes for this bit.

I also wonder why she didn’t see him while turning away from the moving table to go to the window.

In the window is footage of the movie that has aged horribly. Parker Jr. is blue screened in there for this famous shot.

He ain’t afraid of no ghost. A lawsuit on the other the hand, that’s a different matter. I hope this music video doesn’t remind me of a Huey Lewis & The News video as well.

Now Ray Parker Jr. stands creepily outside of her window.

This is looking familiar.

Chevy Chase can call Ghostbusters if he has a ghost problem…

but what about if he gets stuck in Benji again?

Who can he call then?

I knew this looked familiar.

Do You Believe In Love by Huey Lewis & The News (1982)


Do You Believe In Love by Huey Lewis & The News (1982)

I’m sure it’s a coincidence. I just find it humorous to see that considering the lawsuit saying that this song ripped off, to one extent or another, the Huey Lewis & The News song I Want A New Drug. The scene above is from the video that helped kick off their career on MTV and set the tone for their future videos since it was such a success despite being ridiculous. Is the riff in You Crack Me Up…

sound like the same riff from Johnny And Mary by Robert Palmer?

Or is it just me?

What a feeling. Thanks for making that one easy, Irene Cara.

Something tells me that Cindy Harrell was hired by someone who saw the movie Model Behavior (1982), which she was in.


Model Behavior (1982, dir. Bud Gardner)


Model Behavior (1982, dir. Bud Gardner)

From what I’ve read, they just showed up on the set of a movie Candy was shooting to try and get him to make this cameo appearance.

Ray Parker Jr. rising from the top of the stairs like he’s Michael Myers come to kill her. Why?

Or at least scare her. It’s probably a reference to Gozer.

Melissa Gilbert. I have no idea what she’s doing here. I’ve only seen an episode or two of Little House On The Prairie, so I guess there could have been some episodes with ghosts. Some of these cameos feel like they happened because the celebrities were involved with NBC.

Speaking of cameos I can’t explain, it’s former baseball player Ollie Brown.

Boundaries!

I do like that for the majority of the shot it looks like she should be falling over but isn’t.

More people that Parker can summon for some reason.

Don’t worry about them.

Pose for the featured image of this post.

Thank you.

Jeffrey Tambor.

Is it 555-5555…

or 555-2368 as you showed earlier?

George Wendt apparently got in trouble with the Screen Actors Guild for his appearance in this video. I’ll link to the article with that information at the end.

Senator Al Franken.

Now we get a series of confusing cameos.

Danny DeVito. I think this is only the second music video he has ever been in. The other one was for the song Billy Ocean did for The Jewel Of The Nile (1985).

Carly Simon for some reason. She would go on to do the theme song to Working Girl (1988) with Sigourney Weaver. Maybe they were friends. I don’t know.

Umm…one more thing. Have you tried calling the Ghostbusters? No clue as to why Peter Falk is here.

The breakdancing was improvised. So was Parker Jr. pushing Bill Murray around.

I think Teri Garr has one of the best cameos.

Don’t swallow that cigarette, Chevy.

Fun fact: In European and other non-US markets, the “no” sign was flipped.

If you want to read some more information about the video, then follow this link over to ScreenCrush where they have a write-up on the video with information from people who worked on the video.

According to mvdbase, Ivan Reitman directed, Keith Williams wrote the script, Jeff Abelson produced it, Daniel Pearl shot it, and Peter Lippman was the production manager.

If you ever get a chance to watch the literal music video for this, then do so. I doubt it will surface again though seeing as this music video almost didn’t get an official release because of the issues surrounding all the cameos.

Enjoy!

No Safe Space: Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story Of The National Lampoon (2015, directed by Douglas Tirola)


Drunk_Stoned_Brilliant_Dead_PosterThe documentary Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead pays tribute to National Lampoon.  Founded in 1970, National Lampoon was published for 28 years and, at the height of its popularity, its sensibility redefined American comedy.  When it came to National Lampoon, nothing was sacred and nothing was off-limits.  The success of National Lampoon led to a stage show called Lemmings and The National Lampoon Radio Hour, which featured everyone from John Belushi and Bill Murray to Chevy Chase and Harold Ramis.  Michael O’Donoghue, famed for his impersonations of celebrities having needless inserted into their eyes, went from writing for the Lampoon to serving as Saturday Night Live‘s first head writer.  National Lampoon’s Animal House, Vacation, and Caddyshack are three of the most influential film comedies ever made.  Everyone from P.J. O’Rourke to John Hughes to The Simpsons‘ Al Jean got their start at National Lampoon.

As influential as it was, National Lampoon is a magazine that would not be able to exist today’s world.  Just looking at the cover of most issues of National Lampoon would reduce today’s special little snowflakes to the point of hysteria.  In Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead, National Lampoon‘s publisher claims that the Lampoon ultimately ceased publication because the religious right threatened to boycott any company that advertised in the magazine.  Today, it would be the “safe space” crowd complaining that the magazine did not come with proper trigger warnings.  Lena Dunham would look at one issue and go into a rage spiral.  Salon would publish a hundred hand-wringing think pieces about how National Lampoon was the worst thing since Ted Cruz.  Colleges would ban it and religious groups would still burn it.  National Lampoon was a magazine that went out of its way to be offensive to both the left and the right but, as editor-in-chief Tony Hendra puts it, the job of satire is to make those in power feel uncomfortable.  By poking fun at everything and challenging its readers, National Lampoon exposed the absurdity behind both the country’s prejudices and some of its most sacred beliefs.

Kennedy VW Ad

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead follows the National Lampoon from its founding to its ignominious end.  Along with interviews with Lampoon alumni, it also features archival footage of both Lemmings and The Radio Show, providing glimpses of  Christopher Guest, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, and Harold Ramis before they became famous.  There are also interviews with celebrity admirers of the Lampoon who talk about how the magazine inspired their own work.  It makes sense that Judd Apatow was interviewed and Kevin Bacon made his screen debut in Animal House but what was Billy Bob Thornton doing there?

Unfortunately, drunk, stoned, brilliant, and dead describes some of the most important and talented figures in the Lampoon‘s history.  The documentary especially focuses on Doug Kenney, the Lampoon’s co-founder.  Everyone interviewed agrees that Kenney was a comedic genius who was also often emotionally troubled and who would vanish for months on end.  After the initial critical failure of Caddyshack, Kenney disappeared in Hawaii.  His body was later discovered at the bottom of the cliff.  Did Kenney jump or did he slip or, as director John Landis suggests, was he murdered by a drug dealer?  Nobody seems to know but Kenney’s ghost haunts the documentary.  This collection of very funny people get very serious when it comes time to talk about Kenney’s death.  Even Chevy Chase briefly redeems himself after years of bad publicity when he gets choked up.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead is tribute to both a magazine and a bygone era.  See it before it gets banned.

How_I_Killed_Lampoon_6_embed

Here Are the Reliably Boring Razzie Nominations!


Yawn!  The Razzies are always so boring!  Here are this year’s predictable nominations.  Talk about them on twitter and impress your friends.

Worst Picture
Fantastic Four
Fifty Shades of Grey
Jupiter Ascending
Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Pixels

Worst Director
Andy Fickman, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Tom Six, Human Centipede 3
Sam Taylor-Johnson, Fifty Shades of Grey
Josh Trank, Fantastic Four
Andy and Lana Wachowski, Jupiter Ascending

Worst Actor
Johnny Depp, Mortdecai
Jamie Dornan, Fifty Shades of Grey
Kevin James, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Adam Sandler, The Cobbler and Pixels
Channing Tatum, Jupiter Ascending

Worst Actress
Katherine Heigl, Home Sweet Hell
Dakota Johnson, Fifty Shades of Grey
Mila Kunis, Jupiter Ascending
Jennifer Lopez, The Boy Next Door
Gwyneth Paltrow, Mortdecai

Worst Supporting Actor
Chevy Chase, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 and Vacation
Josh Gad, Pixels and The Wedding Ringer
Kevin James, Pixels
Jason Lee, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip
Eddie Redmayne, Jupiter Ascending

Worst Supporting Actress
Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip and The Wedding Ringer
Rooney Mara, Pan
Michelle Monaghan, Pixels
Julianne Moore, Seventh Son
Amanda Seyfried, Love the Coopers and Pan

Worst Screenplay
Simon Kinberg, Jeremy Slater and Josh Trank, Fantastic Four
Kelly Marcel, Fifty Shades of Grey
Andy and Lana Wachowski, Jupiter Ascending
Kevin James and Nick Bakay, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling, Pixels

Worst Remake or Sequel
Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Road Chip
Fantastic Four
Hot Tub Time Machine 2
Human Centipede 3
Paul Blart Mall Cop 2

Worst Screen Combo
Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell, Fantastic Four
Johnny Depp and his glued-on mustache, Mortdecai
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, Fifty Shades of Grey
Kevin James and either his Segway or glued-on mustache, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Adam Sandler and any pair of shoes, The Cobbler

Razzies Redeemer Award
Elizabeth Banks
M. Night Shyamalan
Will Smith
Sylvester Stallone

Film Review: Vacation (dir by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley)


Vacation_poster

Oh, what sweet Hell is this?

I have definitely seen worse movies than Vacation but it’s hard to think of one that left me as annoyed.  As I watched this movie, I found myself wondering how anyone could have made as many wrong decisions while directing one comedy.  Then I remembered that this film had two directors and I was left even more annoyed.  Seriously, couldn’t one of these two credited directors look at the footage and say, “Wow, we’re making a really crappy, unfunny, and mean-spirited comedy.  Maybe we should reconsider the tone of some of these scenes.  Maybe we should just abandon this all together…”

This film is a reboot of the old Vacation movies that Chevy Chase used to make in the 80s and 90s.  (Christmas Vacation is the one that everyone loves but there were others as well.)  In the original Vacation movies, Chase played Clark Griswold.  Clark would always try to take his family on the perfect vacation and would slowly lose his mind as his best laid plans always crashed into a wall of chaotic reality.  The original Vacation films were all uneven but likable, largely because Clark seemed to be so sincere in his madness.

In Vacation, Ed Helms plays Clark’s son, Rusty Griswold.  Rusty is all grown up and living in the suburbs.  He has a job as a pilot for a cheap airline.  He’s married to Debbie (Christina Applegate), who was known as Debbie Do Anything in college.  He has two sons and they’re both annoying.  James (Skyler Gisondo) is overly sensitive and plays guitar.  Kevin (Steele Stebbins) is a psychopath who is constantly bullying his older brother and dropping F-bombs every chance he gets.  (A little kid saying “Fuck,” is only funny the first few times you hear it.  After the 20th time, it just gets boring.)  James sings self-pitying songs.  Kevin continually tries to murder his brother by putting a plastic bag over his head.

Rusty wants to take his family to Walley World, the same destination that Clark wanted to visit in the original Vacation.  This involves driving across the country in an Albanian car that’s always on the verge of exploding.  Along the way, they stop off at various locations and have adventures.

And not all of the adventures are bad.  Occasionally, the film is saved by a funny cameo.  Charlie Day shows up as a suicidal river guide and he’s genuinely funny.  You find yourself wishing that he had a bigger role.  And then there’s a scene where Rusty and Debbie attempt to have sex at the Four Corners and are caught by cops from four different states, all of whom promptly start to argue about who has jurisdiction.

But those scenes are the exception.  For the most part, Vacation is just a parade of uninspired scatological humor and missed opportunities.  When Rusty and the family drop in on his sister Audrey (Leslie Mann) and her well-endowed husband, Stone (Chris Hemsworth), Rusty spends a lot of time talking about how Audrey and Stone are politically conservative.  Once they arrive at Audrey’s home, we are shown a picture of Stone hanging out with Charlton Heston but, otherwise, Stone and Rusty’s political differences are never mentioned again.  And don’t get me wrong — I wasn’t particularly looking forward to having to sit through a political argument between Ed Helms and Chris Hemsworth.  But still, why set up a joke if you’re too lazy to include the punch line?

Of course, the main problem is that you just don’t care about these Griswolds.  As characters, they’re all pretty unlikable and therefore, you really don’t care if their vacation is a success or not.  Poor Christina Applegate!  After holding her own against Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, and David Koechner in both Anchorman films, she’s given nothing to do here, beyond being the punchline in a few misogynistic jokes about being wild before marrying Rusty.

As weak as all the characters are, Rusty is the main problem.  He can’t handle the fact that his wife has had more sexual partners than he has.  He can’t discipline his youngest demon child.  He has absolutely no good advice to give to his oldest son.  When Rusty drags them across the country to Walley World, it’s not because he wants them to have a good vacation but because he wants to recreate a memory from his childhood.  If Chevy Chase’s Clark was always unhinged but sincere, Rusty Griswold is just an asshole and it’s impossible to care about him.  It doesn’t help that Ed Helms, as talented as he may be, has a neediness to him that can be amazingly off-putting whenever he’s cast in a lead role.  He always seems to be trying way too hard to convince the audience to love him.

Incidentally, Rusty and the family do make time to visit Grandpa Clark.  Chevy Chase looks even worse than he did on Community and it’s all pretty boring.

My advice would be to take a vacation from seeing Vacation.

Vacation Shows That Chris Hemsworth Is Quite Mighty (Red Band)


Vacation2015

Any kid growing up during the 1980’s remembers having seen the original Chevy Chase comedy classic National Lampoon’s Vacation. While subsequent sequels weren’t as memorable as the first film it didn’t diminish just how fun that original one was.

It’s been many, many years since the last Vacation film but now it looks like we have a new one set to release this year. Chevy Chase returns, though it would seem it might be more of a cameo. This latest film in the series looks to focus on Clark Griswold’s oldest son, Rusty, who now yearns to relive the happiest time of his life as a child: the road trip to Wally World,

The trailer looks to up return the raunch in the series with some help from Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth. From looking at the trailer’s payoff it looks like Hemsworth is quite mighty indeed.

Vacation is set to release this July, 31, 2015.