About Me

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Montreal, Quebec, Canada
I am a Montreal-based actor, writer and comedian. When U.S. President John F. Kennedy was shot, I was three days old. I cried all day. My favourite books of all time are Moby Dick by Herman Melville, The Last Temptation by Nikos Kazantzakis and The Ewoks Fun Time Activity Book by Chirpa and Pamploo. I am a member of The Vestibules, On The Spot Improv and The Best Buy Battery Club. Except for the Battery Club, I've been at all this stuff for over 20 years. Enjoy my blog.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Casting The Live Action Rocket Robin Hood Movie

I remember at the end of each episode of the classic Canadian animated series Rocket Robin Hood, there was this short vignette. It claimed that Rocket Robin Hood would be appearing in an all new movie coming to a theatre near me soon. I spent about a year of my early childhood religiously checking my local newspaper listings for news of this alleged Rocket Robin Hood movie. After that, I got a little more cynical about ever seeing something as awesome as a Rocket Robin Hood movie in my lifetime. I came to the conclusion that the vignette was, to use my Dad's favourite phrase at the time, "total malarkey".

However, the idea of a Rocket Robin Hood feature film has stayed with me all these years. And now with movies like Transformers and The A-Team perpetually ruling the box office grosses, it is clear that retro is in....again.

The time is right for the fabled Rocket Robin Hood movie.

In live action.

Rocket Robin Hood The Motion Picture has the potential to be that rarest of things: the English Canadian blockbuster. The entire film could probably be shot in front a green screen. Today's digital effects could easily duplicate the limited animation look of the classic Canadian animated series. Rocket Robin Hood The Motion Picture would be ideal as a purely Canadian movie. It should be 100% Canuck and not just because almost no one in the US seems to have heard of the show (apparently it did do well in syndication in the US in the 60's but thanks to our Cancon regulations, the series had much stronger rerun staying power in the Great White North),  but because there are few pop culture icons as quintessentially Canadian as Rocket Robin Hood.

It's a property that is multi-generational in its appeal. The cartoon that has been running on Canadian TV pretty much non-stop for the last 50 years.

I also strongly feel that such a project should stay Canadian. That the cast and crew should be made up of people who still, for the most part, live and work in Canada in the Canadian film industry. So your Jim Carreys, your William Shatners, your Seth Rogans, your Pamela Andersons, your Keifer Sutherlands, your Rachel McAdams' and most definitely your Keanu Reeves' need not apply.

In the hopes that some high powered Canadian film producers are reading this (if I'm lucky maybe both of them are), here is my dream cast for the middle range budget Canadian live action blockbuster, Rocket Robin Hood The Motion Picture.

Also remember to hire yours truly to direct the film, write the script and act in it, K?

Paul Gross as Rocket Robin Hood

It's a natural.

There is no other Canadian leading man that could pull off the role of Rocket Robin Hood.....well...actually....there is no other Canadian leading man. Period.


Nonetheless, Gross would be able to nail just that right combination of tongue in cheek parody and semi-serious melodrama necessary for the part. If anyone out there is in doubt about the guy's acting chops, take a look at him in the outstanding Canadian TV series, Slings and Arrows.

Plus think about all those close ups on those great eyes of his during the lengthier bits of dialogue...

Tahmoh Penikett as Little John

Okay. So Helo from Battlestar Galactica and Ballard from Dollhouse is borderline on the purely Canadian angle. He has been on two big US/International TV series but, to the best of my knowledge, he still lives and works in Vancouver.

Mr. Penikett's certainly has got the bod for the role. He's also got the BSG and Joss Whedon geek street cred that's helpful in selling a film of this nature.

He doesn't seem to be working a lot lately so a big canuck movie might be the extra boost Mr. Penikett's career could use.

Mr. Penikett will, of course, need a bit of electro-quaterstaff training and let's hope he likes squirrels.

Remy Girard as Friar Tuck

A name like Remy Girard is key to breaking the often impassible Quebec box office barrier that all English Canadian films must face. He'd have to be cast anyway. If the film shoots in Montreal, then I'm pretty sure there's a Telefilm regulation that states that Mr.Girard must appear in any film shot in the metropolitan area.

People I know who have worked with Mr. Girard tell me he can literally play anything. A portly futuristic man of the intergalactic cloth should be no problem then.

Go watch The Barbarian Invasions again and this time picture Girard bouncing bad guys off of his stomach.

Sarah Polley as Maid Marian

Most likely there is not enough money in the Canadian film industry to lure Sarah Polley into a project like this. However, she's quite possibly the only truly Canadian young female star in existence.  After her, you might be able to go with Molly Parker but that would be like casting, I dunno, say, Nicholas Cage as Ghost Rider.

On the plus side, the role of Maid Marion in the original Rocket Robin Hood cartoon is almost nonexistent. It would be easy to beef up the part by working in Maid Marion's involvement with the New Space Democratic Party and other causes important to Ms Polley. Really, when you think about it, the Robin Hood myth (rockets or no) is all about combating poverty. Plus if there's any police brutality going on the year 3000, it's definitely being perpetrated by the Sheriff of KNOTT's burly guards.

Ms.Polley might also be looking to raise some cash for her next directing project. So a film that could possibly be even better than her excellent Away From Her might end up being a nice byproduct of Rocket Robin Hood The Motion Picture.

Eric Peterson as The Sheriff of KNOTT

His continual presence on uneven Canadian television notwithstanding, Eric Peterson is a great actor. I've had the pleasure of seeing Mr.Peterson live in such plays as Rock n' Roll and Billy Bishop Goes To War.  As always, the stage roles display his talents to much better advantage than, say, your average episode of Street Legal.

He also showed off some of the best timing and comedic acting I've ever seen on Corner Gas (and yes, I'm one of those people that actually really liked the show...but I think that's another blog).

The Sheiff of KNOTT (National Outer-space Terrestrial Territories) is a scheming weaselly little guy that everybody loves to see defeated in the most comedic and humiliating way possible.

Tailor made for Eric Peterson, that is.

Colm Feore as Prince John

No Canadian project of this magnitude could be complete without the participation of Colm Feore. One of Canada's very best actors, I have yet to see Mr.Feore in a role that he couldn't elevate directly off the page. This is particularly true of some of the -shall we say?- lesser Canadian films he's done.

If you've seen him in the Vin Diesel vehicle The Chronicles of Riddick then you've got a pretty good idea of what Mr.Feore could do with a role as juicy as that of Prince John.

If Feore were to throw in a couple of Trudeau mannerisms while playing the villain of Rocket Robin Hood, he'd bring the house down in just about any cinema in Canada, especially out West. 

With the Quebecois blockbuster status of Bon Cop, Bad Cop, Feore would more than likely add that extra juice to the box office revenues in La Belle Province.

Just as an aside, I remember Prince John's vignette had a line about, "...his plan to destroy and conquer the solar system". Oh, come on, Prince John! Anybody can conquer a solar system after they've already destroyed it. A half way decent evil genius tyrant has to at least conquer a solar system and then destroy it. Pfff! Wimp.

Rob Wells as Will Scarlet

Will Scarlet may be a bit of a stretch from Rick, the boozing, pothead, dim witted slacker of Trailer Park Boys.

But c'mon, Rob Wells in an actor, after all. He should be able to play another character. I have seen him in things other than Trailer Park Boys. Actually, come to think of it, I've never seen him play a totally different character (this is also true of his role in the upcoming intriguingly cheezily titled Canadian film, Hobo With a Shotgun).

That said, I'm sure the guy is dying to break out of the type casting mold he's been stuck in. Now that he's got the entire Trailer Park Boys series and two movies under his belt, Wells should be prime to move on.

Another important pertinent point is that Mr. Wells has a beard and so does Will Scarlet.

Will Scarlet is also kinda of a bit of a goofy character, as you can see in the clip below.

Those lines would be putty in Mr.Wells' hands, I'm sure.

Colin Mochrie as Infinata from Dementia 5

Everybody remember this weirdo episode that seemed to be completely unlike anything they'd seen before or since on the show? You know, the one where Robin and John get trapped in a really trippy dimension? And there's this weird looking evil insect sorta guy is in charge?

Including  Dementia 5 is a must for Rocket Robin Hood The Motion Picture. I see it as a smaller part of the overall story. Some place Robin and Little John must get through in order to get a thing that'll lead them to another thing that'll help them stop some kind of a thing that Prince John is trying to do that's bad.

You know, kinda thing...

I always found Infinata to be at bit too heavy handed and (as a small child) too scary for Rocket Robin Hood. Casting Canada's improv king in the role would lighten things up just enough to make the master of Dementia 5 a bit more humourous while still being a viable threat to our heroes.  Colin Mochrie has got just the right kinda face for the part. The make-up and wardrobe teams could do some really neat stuff with Mr.Mochrie as a starting point.

Take a look at this classic sequence.

Proof positive that even the people making Canadian Saturday morning cartoons were on drugs in the 60's. In fact, Ralph Bakshi (the man who later be responsible for bringing R.Crumb's Fritz The Cat to animated life on the big screen) directed this episode. That explains quite a bit. Seriously.

My fave sequence here is when Robin and John discover that the secret to escaping Dementia 5 is to close their eyes. Were the writers stealing from Frank L. Baum or something?

Imagine what Mr.Mochire could do with the scene where Infinata starts freaking out saying, "No. No. Don't close your eyes! You can't do that!". It'd be a thing of comedic genius.

Plus there's a good chance Mochrie's Infinata scenes would end up being arbitrarily cut into the next Spider-Man movie.

Terence Bowman as All of The Guards

Couldn't resist.

I'd have to hit the workouts a little harder than I already do just to pull off the physique of these guys. It would be worth it though. All of the guards look exactly the same. Through the magic of CGI, I'd be all over the movie. My personal theory on that, BTW, is that like the Old Republic in Star Wars, The Sheriff of KNOTT has put together an army of clones to do his dirty work.

There would be no lines to learn which would come in handy while I'm also writing and directing the film.

It was hard to find a decent picture of these glorified henchmen anywhere. So take a look at this clip. Just imagine me an' Remy nailing this scene.

I can't wait till we shoot that flying ass first into the camera stunt. That one'll take some practice.

Now Rocket Robin Hood The Motion Picture has its writer, director and cast.

What's left?

Well, a massively important element to the overall entertainment value of Rocket Robin Hood is, of course, the music. Not only is there that unforgettable theme song but the show is full of all kinds of little musical interludes. The interlude ballads are virtually always explaining how Prince John and The Sheriff of KNOTT are pure evil and vile and how Robin and his merry men are pure goodness and virtue.

If you wanna make some serious cash off of this project, the most obvious choice for a Canadian musician to interpret all of the classic Rocket Robin Hood tunes would be, undoubtedly, Justin Beiber.

Forget that....please.

Issues of taste aside,  the kid's bound to be back to being a nobody getting beaten up in high school by the time Rocket Robin Hood The Motion Picture is actually made.

Other choices might include Avril Lavigne, Sam Roberts, Shania Twain, The Tragically Hip, Arcade Fire, Simple Plan, Nickelback, The Barenaked Ladies, Alanis Morissette or the even more dreaded than Beiber choice of Celine Dion.

Seriously, though, could you see any of those people really doing justice to this?

As far as I'm concerned there is only Canadian recording artist whose musical style could both respect and at the same time breathe new life into the classic balladeering of Rocket Robin Hood. As an added bonus, she's already got  experience in family friendly entertainment:

No doubt about it. Feist's our girl. Now that I'm thinking about it, Feist should put out an entire album of covers of classic Canadian kid's TV show music.

Rocket Robin Hood The Motion Picture is just about ready to go.

So everybody out there write to your local office of Telefilm, the CRTC, the CABLE fund and your MP. Lobby heavily to get what will be The Greatest Canadian Movie Ever Made off the ground and into space.

In other words, raise a shout throughout the land for Rocket Robin Hood.

Finally, I'd just like to give a big shout out to my pal and former Star Trek: On Stage co-star, Andre, for planting this whole silly idea in my head.

So long for now, from an astro-glen on a star...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Leprechaun 4: In Space

One small step for man...One giant leap of terror
When I watched the first three installments of the horror hexology  Leprechaun, I remember thinking to myself, "This is all well and good but what if these movies took place in space?".

I must not have been the only viewer to muse so. Lo and behold, when the fourth film was released, it was indeed entitled Leprechaun 4: In Space.

An evil Leprechaun at large in the vast reaches of the cosmos. The mind reels at the very concept alone. It is a concept that is rich with narrative, thematic and cinematographic potential.

Leprechaun 4: In Space far exceeded my expectations.

The film opens with a group of Space Marines landing on a remote planet in an unspecified part of the galaxy.  While less erudite critics might site an homage to the early films of James Cameron, the more obvious homage is to Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket and Oliver Stone's Platoon. This, of course, points to the beauty of Brian Trenchard-Smith's direction. Like all great cinema, Leprechaun 4: In Space accommodates multiple interpretations.

The evil Leprechaun of the film's title awaits the Marines. Trenchard-Smith brilliantly tears a page from the David Lynch book of filmmaking and offers no explanation as to how the Leprechaun managed to make his way from Las Vegas in the 20th century (as seen at the end of the epic Leprechaun 3) to a planet hundreds of light years from Earth and seemingly hundreds of years into the future.  Also like Lynch, Trenchard-Smith displays a curious fixation with little people.

The Leprechaun is played by Warick Davis, once again reprising his classic role. Davis originated the role of Wicket, the Ewok, in George Lucas' now largely forgotten Star Wars series of films . Davis has also been seen in such obscure art house fare as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,  The Chronicles of Narnia,  The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Willow.  Davis makes some extraordinarily bold acting choices in the role. Most actors would consider the lilt of the Irish brogue de rigueur for the mischievous green hobgoblin. Davis, however, goes the entirely uncharted and unexpected route of endowing the Leprechaun with not an Irish accent but an English accent. The Irish intonations only escape Davis' mouth intermittently. The actor is clearly attempting to make a political commentary on the long unresolved situation in Northern Ireland.

As the Space Marines stumble upon the Leprechaun and his cache of gold, the Leprechaun quickly dispatches one of their lot with an emerald green lightsaber. It's rather an esoteric reference but it works for the film.

Later, the surviving battle fatigued Marines return to their ship.  However, it soon becomes clear that their diminutive nemesis has stowed away within the very body of one of the Marines. Using his mastery of the dark arts, the Leprechaun has embedded himself in the man's penis. He bursts forth from the confines of the Marine's crotch during a sexual encounter gone horribly wrong; killing the poor man instantly. The Marine is allegorically destroyed by the phallocentrism of his own masculine aura. A wry jest indeed.

What follows is a complex narrative structure that uses many clever and completely unpredictable plot twists that deconstructs and redefines the essence of the evil Leprechaun oeuvre. The diverse story elements culminate in a climax that Trenchard-Smith renders with both originality and complete believability. Yet there is also a note of an ambiguous sense of closure as we watch parts of the destroyed emerald goblin float through space.

A large part of the events unfold in the unremittingly dark and expressionistic bowels of an immense space ship that conjures up an image of both humanity and cultural icons dwarfed by the ever growing presence of technological determinism. Not since Andrey Tarkovskiy's Solaris has the emptiness of space and the looming presence of technology so succinctly represented the metaphysical state of the human condition.

A stand-out performance in the uniformly stolid cast is that of Debra Dunning in the role of Pvt. Delores Costello. Dunning is an actor I had the pleasure of working with at a large corporate event in Orlando, Florida in 2002. As was the case then, Dunning invests great sensitivity, warmth, and humour into the role.

Leprechaun 4: In Space is not for everybody. It's thematic depth and arcane references may be lost on some audiences. While others may balk at its audacious ability to trivialize violence, sex, horror and death. 

Proceed at your own peril.

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!

Friday, March 11, 2011

How The Western Went Post Apocalyptic

The Hollywood genre of the Western has had its apocalypse. Some time long ago it all but vanished from the great cinema screens of yore. There was a time, the old ones say, that The Western was a genre that dominated the Great Box Office Wars of the 20th century. A time when at least one western movie was broadcast each day back in The Time of Only 4 Channels on Television. A time when The Cowboy Role was a rite of passage for every male movie star. A time when the presence of the mythological cowboy dominated the fantasy world of every young boy and not just the ones who are really really into Toy Story.

All of that is gone now.

Little of the genre still stands today. The Western can only be seen occasionally in The Museum that is known as Cable Movie Networks. It is only spoken of by The Old Ones, overheard in a coffee shops and bars debating the merits of someone called The Duke over someone called Gary Cooper. Sometimes The Western will attempt to emerge from the sacred ground in which it is buried. A 3:10 to Yuma or an Alpaloosa will stick its head out of the sand. Even when well received, these films do not stay out in the light for long. People like Clint Eastwood and Kevin Kostner have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to keep the genre alive. The Western even manages a small but stable existence in Direct To DVD Valley and in Animated Comedy Gulch.

The genre met its apocalypse some time 30 or 40 years ago. Back in the 70's The Western experienced The Great Deconstruction. The myths of violence and racism that kept the genre alive for so long were challenged and taken apart by men like Sergio Leone and Eastwood. Once the public had glimpsed behind the curtain of The Western, it could do nothing but collapse into itself.

The Western does still thrive. Some of its elements escaped to live and flourish in movies like Lethal Weapon and Die Hard. Today The Western is present in action movies that star the likes of Jason Statham,or just about any other action movie that centers around the struggles of one exceptionally powerful hero to overcome the powers of darkness.

Today, the Western also very much survives in a Post Apocalyptic world.


The Post Apocalyptic Sci-Fi action movie is a genre that is still with us today and it is a place where the genre of The Western has laid down its stakes.

I'm gonna ditch the post apocalyptic movie mythospeak narration now, k?


The genre of the Post Apocalyptic Western is quintessentially displayed in the 2010 film, The Book of Eli. The movie stars Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman and Mila Kunis. It was directed by the Hughes Brothers of Menace II Society and From Hell fame. Not far into the movie there is a scene where Eli,  the amazingly skilled loner swordsman who roams the vast post apocalyptic wasteland that was once the USA, is hassled by a gang of bad guys in run down old saloon.  As Eli starts taking he baddies out with lightening speed and skill, it suddenly becomes very clear that we are looking at a Western.

The Book of Eli has many of the points that 9 out of 10 film academics agree makes a Western: the heroic loner with incredible fighting skills, the struggle to establish civilization out of lawless primordial chaos and the mentoring of the next generation's heroic loner with incredible fighting skills who will carry on said fight to maintain law and order.

Eli, played by Denzel Washington, is the heroic loner.  As alluded to earlier, Eli's skills are not with a gun, the traditional Western weapon of choice, but rather with a sword. It is a choice of weapon that suggests overtones of Akira Kurosawa's amazing Samurai take on the Western, Yojimbo (later remade as A Fistful of Dollars starring Clint Eastwood) and its follow up Sanjuro (also later remade as For a Few Dollars More with Eastwood).

The struggle to establish, or re-establish in this case, civilization is against the powerful post apocalyptic warlord Carnegie, played by Gary Oldman. Carnegie wants to re-establish civilization so that he can he can rule over it. The next generation of the heroic loner whom Eli reluctantly mentors (mentoring is always reluctant in these films) is Solara, played by the wonderful yet underrated Mila Kunis. An African-American frontier lawman mentoring a woman to uphold the law of the west? Tremors are being reported around D.W. Griffith's grave as we speak.

The Book of Eli takes place thirty years after an unspecified, possibility religious, war has all but laid waste to the USA and, presumably, the rest of the world. Eli has in his possession a certain mythical book that will help reshape the world into a civilized moral order once again. The powerful Carnegie wants the book as well. He sees it as a means to power and conquest.

If you're like me watching the movie early on, you have no doubt figured out that book is The Bible. To be fair, it's not like the film is trying to keep that a mystery or anything. Personally, I'd make my post apocalyptic Western the other way around: it's the bad guy who has The Bible and the good guy wants to get it away from him so as to prevent more future social, political and cultural strife. I think that's my inner John Lennon speaking.

The Book of Eli is an engaging and well directed movie. The cinematography in combination with some amazing CGI creates a post apocalyptic landscape unlike any we have seen before.

A great cast really helps too.

The Book of Eli is certainly not cinema's first post-apocalyptic Western. It's a genre that at least goes back to the 70's....

Yul Brynner was born in Russia, starred in Broadway musicals and was famous for playing Egyptian Pharaohs and Asian Kings. Brynner is, at best, an unlikely choice to play a gunslinging cowboy in the old American West. Nonetheless, his career in the 60's and 70's was largely defined by the Western. He starred in  the popular Hollywood remake of Akira Kursawa's classic film The Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven and its sequel. He also appeared in the popular yet now largely forgotten Spaghetti Western trilogy, Sabata, as well as a number of other Westerns. In the 70's, Brynner crossed over Western Sci-fi hybrid territory in Michael Chrichton's forgotten classic, Westworld.  He stayed in that mold a little longer to appear in the 1975 action Sci-Fi film, The Ultimate Warrior: an early example of the Post Apocalyptic Western genre.

The Ultimate Warrior takes place in a post global pandemic New York City in the year 2012 (start packing that bottled water and those canned goods now, folks, we're just 9 months away).  The crammed claustrophobic urban spaces of a burned out NYC is not exactly the wide open Western plains of The Searchers or Stagecoach. But wherever there is a world where civilization has broken down and lawlessness reigns, the Code of the West stands firmly in place.

A group of nice, peaceful survivors has set up a small fortified area in NYC. The group is led by Max Von Sydow (who, at the time, was still busy vying for The Most Diversified Actor's Resume of All Time Award by turning up movies like this, The Exorcist, Three Days of the Condor, Flash Gordon and Strange Brew).  It seems that Von Sydow and his crew have come up with seeds for crops that able to grow in the post plague-infested world of one year from now.

A group of ruthless bad guys (led by the guy who played Falcon Eddy and Conan The Barbarian's dad) are keen to get the seeds for themselves. This gang of bad guys are very clear on the function of the villains in the narrative structure of The Western.

Enter Yul Brynner, the silent shirtless powerful stranger in the classic Western loner hero mold or, as the title of this film prefers to call him, The Ultimate Warrior.

Take a look at this scene and tell me that we don't have some classic Western archetypes happening here.

The Ultimate Warrior is a more entertaining than you might expect.  It features a suspenseful game of cat and mouse and some extremely well shot and edited fight scenes. Along the way, Brynner gets plenty of opportunities to show off his ideal-for-the-pre-Schwarzenegger-generation physique.

The Ultimate Warrior has an absolutely unforgettable climatic fight scene that, really, makes the film. It's also a scene that is eerily similar to the quintessential post apocalyptic Western that would follow just four years later. We're talking about a movie that would forever define the genre and at the same time set off a majorly successful action movie trilogy...

Despite the genre's many successors and predecessors, Australian director George Miller pretty much defined the Post Apocalyptic Western with these three films...well...at least in the first two anyway...

The fist film, Mad Max, introduced a young and (at the time) sane Mel Gibson to the world. It takes place in a world where some kind of ambiguous disaster had brought civilization to its knees.

Mad Max is a classic Western story. It's got all those necessary elements: a lawless frontier, ruthless bad guys and the loner lawman trying to settle down and fit it to the society he has always stayed aloof from in order to protect it. Throw in Max's young son, who represents the oft repeated Western theme of the male hero bloodline and we got us a Western, fellas.

Max also exists in a cinematic era that is post Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah and all those 70's exploitation movies that Quentin Tarantino seems to have grown up on. The bad guy's treatment of innocent people in general and women, in particular, displays some of the most sadistically psychotic behavior this side of Straw Dogs.

Almost all of the action in Mad Max takes place out on the road where motorcycles and cars have replaced horses and stagecoaches. Many of the incredible car stunts were -amazingly- shot on remote Australian highways that the production had no permission to film on, let alone permission to perform the extremely dangerous stunts on.  

The movie also boast that Ultimate Warrior like climax that the makers of the Saw movies openly admit to being an influence on their later torture porn series of horror films (notice how I'm carefully not giving anything away here).

Mad Max was a big hit in Australia and internationally but it did not do so well in North America on its initial release. This is most likely on account of the fact that Mel's Aussie accented voice in the film was re-dubbed for US audiences by Lyle Waggoner. Yes. Lyle Wagonner from Wonder Woman and The Carol Burnett Show.

Mad Max's failure to see the kind of US box office success it saw Down Under is the reason why Mad Max 2 is still, to this day, better known on this continent as The Road Warrior.

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (as it is now always listed on the program grids) picks up the story some time after the end of Mad Max.  The Road Warrior ramps up the high octane highway action of the first film big time.

Gibson's Max has now almost permanently settled into the western heroic loner character. The first few scenes of Max and the Gyro Captain are practically right out of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Of course, it's not long before Max comes across good peace loving people who are limited in their ability to defend themselves. 

It seems that there is this gang of super sickos with Mohawks, loin clothes and hockey masks that are determined to take away the nice people's gasoline by force. There ain't much gar around, you see, and everybody needs the stuff in order to carry on with their high speed car chases and stunts.

The larger budget benefits The Road Warrior greatly. Every stuntman in the Australian stuntman's union was reportedly booked on MM2. Miller certainly put them through their paces. There are some stunning stunts in The Road Warrior. 

Once the action hits the road, Miller's camera never stops moving. The film also boasts one of the greatest action movie scores ever. The movie was scored  (oddly enough- like the first Mad Max)  by Brian May of Queen. Why didn't this guy score more movies?

At the heart of MM2:TRW is Max's journey back from the abyss. This Post Apocalyptic western drifts into the classic Western Shane territory. Max slowly and reluctantly regains his humanity. His budding paternal relationship with the boomerang slinging feral child is the restoration of the heroic bloodline. That bloodline, of course, was (SPOILER ALERT) lost with the death of Max's young son at the end of the first film.

The Road Warrior ends, needles to say, with the good guys victorious. The victory comes at a cost. Like John Wayne at the end of The Searchers, Max stands alone in the barren desert; forever separated from the society he risked his life to protect.

Pretty hackneyed stuff, these Westerns, huh?

The next film was unconfusingly titled Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.

I remember when this highly anticipated third entry into the series first came out. It's rare that sequels pull off a consistently good trilogy and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome is no exception. Back in '85, me and some of my pals watched the first two Max films on video and then went to the theatre right afterwords to see MMBT on its opening day. I highly recommend doing this if you want to be sure that Beyond Thunderdome delivers maximum disappointment.

The gladiatorial style fight scene in the Thunderdome of the film's title is the best part of the movie. Actually, correction: the fight scene in the Thunderdome IS the movie (I have friends who still quote the line, "Two men enter. One man leaves." on a regular basis).  The whole film pretty much falls apart after the Thunderdome.

That said, where do I start? 

Firstly, there is a huge premise shift in the world that these films take place in. There are frequent references to a nuclear war with lines like "Where were you when the Big One dropped?". There was never any reference to a nuclear war in the other two films. Such references were specifically avoided, in fact. It could be that the "Big One" was dropped between movies but that makes no sense because no one in the this third installment talks about the Big One dropping as being a recent thing. It is also inconsistent with the series' pre-established internal logic.

However, that's super picky stuff next to Beyond Thunderdome's bigger issues. One such problem is the sudden change in tone of the series. In what was previously a nihilistic, violent, Peckinpahesque series of films, we are now treated to scenes of cartoon-like wacky mayhem. There is a scene where one of the Mohawk loin cloth-wearing thugs comes flying out a massive explosion with a slightly blackened face (not unlike every cartoon you've ever seen in your life). He then lets out his best 70's live action Disney movie "Wwwwaaaahhhhh!".

I'm sorry but at what point did Herbie The Love Bug join The Interceptors and the souped-up Mack Trucks on the post apocalyptic highways of Australia? It's too bad that Dean Jones wasn't available to replace Mel Gibson as Mad Max. And why not recast Tina Turner's role with Suzanne Pleshette while you're at it?

The biggest problem by far with Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is the lack of any kind of engaging coherent narrative. 

Maximum disappointment ensured.

There is a ray of hope for the series.

George Miller has decided to abandon movies like Happy Feet 2, the Babe franchise and the long rumoured Justice League movie to make another entry into the Mad Max series. Miller was supposed to start shooting not one but two new Mad Max movies back-to-back this month. The recent floods in Australia, however, have pushed the production start date back TO 2012.  Most likely, we will not see Mad Max: Fury Road until at least 2013.

While it certainly would have been interesting to catch up with a 60ish year old and now insane Max, Mel Gibson turned down returning the to the franchise that made him a star. I guess the movie didn't have enough insert joke about potential antisemitic plot line here in it for him.

Max will now be played by Tom Hardy of Inception fame. Hopefully, with the  invigoration of a new leading man, Miller will be able to forget the family-friendly-make-tons-more-money approach of Beyond Thunderdome and get the series back to basics.

After all, isn't the Post Apocalyptic Western all about redemption, salvation and rebirth?

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Mashiest Mash-Ups Ever

There's alotta this kinda stuff in mashups
I have said it before and I will say it again: look, even briefly, at some of the stuff on Youtube and you will come to the conclusion that there are some people out there with quite a lot of time on their hands.  The medium of choice for many of the leisurely enabled out there is the mashup. There are many different types of mashups on the 'net these days. 

When discussing online phenomena, stick with the experts: Wikitionary defines a mashup like this: 

Mashup: (computing, slang) A derivative work consisting of two pieces of (generally digital) media conjoined together, such as a video clip with a different soundtrack applied for humorous effect, or a map overlaid with user-supplied data.

So what exactly does that mean?

It means that if you only have a relatively small amount of time on your hands but you've always wondered what the opening titles of Dallas would look like with footage from Battlestar Galactica, you can find it on Youtube. It also means that if you have a lot of time on your hands, you can make that Transformers-Terminator crossover you've always dreamed of seeing and upload it to Youtube.

Mashups are the Football Fantasy League for guys that aren't into sports. Youtube is full of the cross pollination of big mainstream films and TV shows featuring genres like SF, Horror, Action, Spy Thrillers, Gangster,  Frat Boy Comedies, Animation and, occasionally, Westerns. As a general rule, you don't see many mashups, of say, the audio from the trailer for Eat, Pray, Love set to scenes from Sex in the City 2. Nor do you get a many mashups that feature what it would be like if the character of Death from Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal  met up with Antoine Doinel from Francois Truffaut's Let Quarte Cent Coups. Though, really, both of those mashups would be a hoot.

In an era where it's not unusual for new computers to come with video editing software already loaded into them, everybody has the power the make mashups. And it seems like everybody does just that.  Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, an original idea can catch on really fast. No sooner does a trailer of a horror movie recut to look like a romantic comedy get uploaded then are there 70 more just like up the next day. Like many creative endeavours, there are many imitators but only a handful of initiators.

These are my 10 favorite mashups.

10. 10 Things I hate about commandments

Coming in at 1:18, this trailer mashup of The Ten Commandments moves a little more quickly than Cecil B.DeMille's 4 hour epic.

Makes you kinda wish Heston did more teen comedies back in the day, doesn't it?

I've always found that the appearance of Samuel L. Jackson at the end of this mashup comes out of nowhere. However, that's the part always gets the biggest laugh when I show this bit. So maybe that's just me.

9. Nine Inch Nails Trek

Do a search on "Brokeback" on Youtube and you'll get back about 37 different mashups. Who knew that so many of the classic bro's of pop culture are actually gay? Everyone from Batman and Alfred (yes, Alfred)  and the obvious Ernie and Bert to the slightly less obvious Marty McFly and Doc Brown, Holmes and Watson, Captain Picard and Wesley Crusher, R2-D2 and C-3PO and, of course, Kirk and Spock, gets Brokebacked.

To be fair, there is some clever editing in many of the Brokeback mashups. Putting that acoustic guitar based Brokeback Mountain theme quickly and easily suggests just about any two guys are living an "alternative" lifestyle. Personally, though, I've found such "tee hee...they're really, gay...see?" jokes pretty juvenile.

However, I do like this mashup. Not only is not all Frat Boy giggly about its premise but I also get the sense that whoever made this clip is quite earnest about their subject matter.

8. Apocalypse Pooh

Possibly the first mashup ever made. This clip was produced way back in 1987, a time when digital editing was pretty much strictly in the domain of the professionals. It was created by a student in Integrated Media at The Ontario College of Art. I hope the kid got an A+ for inventing a new genre....and somehow coming up with the idea linking Coppola and Disney.

7. Ghostbusters (1954)

Someone who goes by the username of "whoiseyevan" made quite the media stir back in 2009 when he gave the mashup it's greatest innovation since the recut trailer, the premake:

This clip is so convincing that when I posted it on Facebook, I had people making comments like "Where can I see this old movie?" and "Ghostbusters was remake?!". "whoiseyevan" also has premakes of Forrest Gump, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back and even of the upcoming Avengers movie. They are all well worth checking out.

6. Contact 5-0

Many of these mashups have a major "WTF?" factor to them. For instance, there's someone out there who is so totally obsessed with Dallas, that they have done Star Wars, Star Trek, and Doctor Who versions of the opening titles of the classic prime time soap.

This one is also pretty big on "WTF?", but in a good way.

My fave moment as got to be The Borg drone turning his head toward the camera just like the beautiful beach girl in the original Hawaii Five-0 opening titles.  There's also a Star Wars Five-O but it's not quite as well done.

5. Raging Fred

Many film commentators have made the case that seminal American director Martin Scorsese's male protagonists are, in essence, brutish, primordial and even primitive. Nowhere has that argument been made more succinctly than in this mashup.

Making beloved childhood characters swear is a mashup genre of its own.  Just look up all the Muppet/Tarantino crossovers.

4. The Vader Sessions

It takes a special combination of patience and being the world's biggest James Earl Jones fan to pull of a mashup as fun as this one.

George Lucas really ought to hold an annual Best Star Wars Mashup Award ceremony every year. There would be ton of friggin' competition.

3. Dark Knight 1966

Another popular mashup genre is that of the trailer of Christopher Nolan's landmark Batman movie, The Dark Knight. The audio of that trailer has been attached to scenes of everything from  Toy Story 2 to Star Wars to What About Bob? (seriously, check it out).

Another popular take on the seminal trailer involves just about every other screen incarnation of said Dark Knight, including this blast from the past...

2. The Lost James Bond Film

After Sean Connery ditched the Bond franchise in the early 70's, the guy had a helluva time building a career outside to the sphere of MI6. He ended up taking on some roles in really bizarre films. Even then, Connery still had a hard time escaping the ever encompassing influence of 007.

I find that one very satisfying because not only is incredibly well edited but, when you think about it, the original Zardoz is already a mashup in and of itself.

1. Shining

The movie trailer recut to make a film from one genre look like a film from another genre is at the core of what the video mashup is all about. This is the one that started it all. It was originally a final project for an editing class that, as is often the case in the information age, ended up on the Internet and quickly became a sensation.

I'm told that the guy who made this clip was approached by Warner Brothers after it reached, like, 7 billion hits. I've heard unconfirmed rumours that he is currently editing trailers for the studio.

While some may think that the suits at Warner's don't really get what the guy was doing, I maintain that said suits understand exactly what he was up to. In fact, they probably understand it a little too well.

So go ahead,  waste three hours of your life just to find one or two good mashups on Youtube.

I dare you.