Monday, February 21, 2011

Austin Powers :: Mike Myers :: Austin Powers in The Spy Who Shagged Me

It's rare that a sequel is better than the original.  And usually there's some debate over whether that's true.  See: The Godfather 1 & 2, Alien & Aliens, Terminator & T2.

I will here make the case that Austin Powers 2 is better than the original.

- More Dr. Evil.
- Mini-Me.
- Fat Bastard.
- Time travel (I'm a sucker for time travel movies).

- Heather Graham.  Hotter than Elizabeth Hurley.  Not interesting in this movie.

That should be enough.  If not, at least we can probably agree that both AP1 and AP2 are better than Goldmember.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Shrek :: Mike Myers :: Austin Powers - International Man of Mystery

Seems like recently on this blog I'm spending a lot of time realizing that a lot of the stars in these movies have really fallen off in quality.  Enter: Mike Myers.

But I'm going to try something different on this entry.  I won't be bagging on Mike for making crap like The Love Guru.  There are lots of other places on the web where you can find that.  Instead I'll keep it positive for as long as I can.

I was in college when Austin Powers came out.  I always remember when a bunch of guys from my floor in the dorms went to see it.  Jorge from across the hall came in afterward and said that the bald guy was really funny... you know... Telly Savalas. Unfortunately for Jorge, he was referring to Mike Myers' second role as Dr. Evil.  We gave him shit for that for a long time.

But he was right.  In the case of this film, Austin Powers is funniest because of Dr. Evil.  As with most great franchises, the hero can only be as cool as the villains he's fighting.  James Bond was at his best against over-the-top villains like Goldfinger and Jaws.  The action figures on G.I. Joe's team were boring.  Give me Destro's silver head over Leatherneck any day of the week.  He-Man's allies sucked (I'm looking at you, Man-At-Arms).  Give me Trap-Jaw with moving jaw piece and interchangeable arm-weapons, Tri-Klops with the spinning eye piece, Kobra Khan who squirted water when you pressed his head down, or even Stinkor, the figure that smelled like a skunk (I think my parents threw that one away because of the smell... though I'll never be sure).

But I digress.  Austin Powers' best scene: Dr. Evil and his son, Scott Evil, in group therapy.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Coming To America :: Eddie Murphy :: Shrek

Moving on through my DVDs, I get more Eddie Murphy. This time in voiceover form as Donkey, the talking donkey, from Shrek.

There are some movies I own because they are incredible films that I can watch over and over and over again.  There are other movies I own because I liked the movie one time I saw it, and the DVD was on sale for less than five bucks.  Shrek definitely belongs in the second category.

I originally saw Shrek in the theater and was thoroughly entertained.  It just doesn't hold up for me on multiple viewings. I'm not sure if the jokes just weren't that funny to begin with and I was brainwashed by viewing with an audience, or if they're the kind of jokes that are really funny the first time you hear them and then get annoying upon repetition.  I'm sure, "Why did the chicken cross the road?  To get to the other side," was really funny at first.  Just like "Orange you glad I didn't say banana?" and people who, when asked if they got a haircut, say, "No, I got them all cut."

I loathe those people.

But then again, I annoy the hell out of people with my dumb jokes from the Naked Gun (You: "Gum?"  Me: "Yes, it is."), candy bar commercials (You: "Hungry?"  Me: "Grab a Snickers."), and Simpsons quotes ("Where's my burrito! Where's my burrito!").  So maybe I should just give Shrek a break.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Trading Places :: Eddie Murphy :: Coming To America

Another blog entry, another star who used to be awesome but really, really sucks now.  Hi Eddie Murphy!  Or, since it's Coming to America, I should say, "Hello Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Eddie Murphy, Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Arsenio Hall, and Eddie Murphy."

Despite Murphy's recent slate of films (Norbit?), I still love going back to his 80's stuff.  Coming to America is a classic.  An African prince wants to fall in love, rather than having an arranged marriage, so he and his friend go to find a queen in Queens, NY. Hilarity ensues.

Despite the great lead performances from Hall and Murphy, the real pleasure in this movie comes from all the side characters (including several played by Hall and Murphy as well).  Future "ER" star Eriq La Salle with his greasy Jheri curl hocking "Soul Glo" (complete with catchy jingle).  Frankie Faison as the greedy landlord.  The barber shop guys discussing their favorite boxers.  John Amos's "McDowell's" restaurant trying to avoid McDonald's lawsuits.  Samuel L. Jackson's foiled armed robbery.  And who can forget the musical stylings of Randy Watson and his band Sexual Chocolate, crooning "The Greatest Love of All."

Sexual Chocolate!  SEXUAL CHOCOLATE!!!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sneakers :: Dan Aykroyd :: Trading Places

Dan Aykroyd connects from Sneakers to one of the best comedies of the 80's, Trading Places.

Aykroyd is in great form, Eddie Murphy is at the top of his game, plus after years as the "Scream Queen," we actually get to see a topless Jamie Lee Curtis.

I love the "nature vs. nurture" wager and the twist on the "Prince and the Pauper" storyline.  Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche are perfect as the Duke Brothers.  Denholm Elliott is hilarious as Coleman, the butler.  We get pimps and parties, a hooker with a heart of gold, ahomicidal Santa, drunk baggage handlers, and Paul Gleason (the principal from Breakfast Club) getting raped by a gorilla.

Even after watching this movie as many times as I have, I still don't exactly understand the whole stock market sequence at the end.  All I know is that Murphy and Aykroyd get rich and the Dukes get poor.  That's really all you need to know to enjoy it, I suppose.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Last Crusade :: River Phoenix :: Sneakers

He played the young Indiana Jones in Last Crusade and a young spy in Sneakers. River Phoenix looked to have great potential, but of course died young of a drug overdose.

It's always tragic when young talent dies.  We can look at that spark of talent and imagine how much more amazing work they would have done if they had been given the chance to live a full life and career.  Imagine River Phoenix competing for roles with Leonardo DiCaprio.  Imagine more of Heath Ledger's Joker in the next Batman sequel.  Imagine the laughs we could have gotten from more comedies from John Belushi, John Candy, or Chris Farley.  Imagine the directions music would have taken with more albums from Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, Keith Moon of The Who, or Kurt Cobain.

You're imagining some pretty amazing stuff, right?

Well, I'm probably going to piss some people off for saying this, but you're probably wrong.  I'm not saying that those artists wouldn't have made more good or even great art.  But thinking that a handful of talented performances or great albums means that they could continue to make great art forever is fallacy. Two words: Chevy Chase.  If Chase had died in 1985 after SNL, Caddyshack, Vacation, and Fletch, he would be considered one of the greatest comedians of all time.  Instead, we got Chevy in the 90's with a failed TV talk show and awful films like "Cops and Robbersons."  Chevy Chase was a Hollywood punch line for nearly two decades.  John Belushi is still a genius because he didn't live long enough to be offered scripts like "Funny Farm."

That doesn't diminish any of these artists' youthful accomplishments.  It just brings the godlike status of these deceased celebrities back down to earth a bit. 

By the way, Sneakers is an awesome spy thriller with a great cast: Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd, Ben Kingsley, David Straithairn, and even James Earl Jones.  Check it out if you've never seen it.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Temple of Doom :: Harrison Ford :: The Last Crusade

Harrison Ford from Temple of Doom to Last Crusade gives me one last visit with Indiana Jones, because, no, I will never own "Crystal Skull."

Ahh, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  I love this one.  I might even love it more than Raiders of the Lost Ark, although that's a really tough debate that I keep going back and forth on.

This one's got everything.  Horses, tanks, daddy issues (James Bond as Indy's Dad?  I love Sean Connery), origin story, knights, museums, a hot blonde, blimps, boats, motorcycles, evil Nazis (as if there's any other kind), plus the hilariously inept Marcus Brody. 

One of the things I love about Indiana Jones is that he has to rely as much upon his brain as he does on his fists, gun, or whip.  The entire climactic scenes in the cave when Indy must pass the trials and choose the correct Grail rely on his knowledge and reasoning skills.  And it's still riveting to watch, despite the complete lack of explosions and fighting.  Take a lesson Michael Bay.

It is interesting watching this film in the post-Dan Brown / Da Vinci Code era.  That book and a ton of A&E / TLC / History Channel shows have been pushing the idea of the "Holy Grail" as actually being a continuation of Jesus' bloodline.  So it kinda feels refreshing to go back to when the Grail was just a cup.  A magic cup, but still a cup.