Tag Archive: Film

The Best of Brooks

Mel Brooks certainly rode a blazing saddle. With a Grammy, Tony, Oscar and Emmy under his belt and the honor of having three of his films ranked in the top 20 on AFI’s 100 comedies of all-time, it’s safe to say this guy knows funny. After rewatching the musical mash-up of his work at the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors, I decided to put together a little list (in no particular order) of my favorite Mel Brooks comedies. LISTS!

Spaceballs (1987)

Brooks’ Star Wars spoof is packed full of ridiculous gags that’ll make you roll with laughter and slap your forehead sighing, “wow he actually went through with that one” (gotta love that jammed radar joke). With Rick Moranis, John Candy and Mel Brooks himself at the helm of this satirical ship, it’s a must see for any comedy fan. May the Schwartz be with you.

Blazing Saddles (1974)

The movie that gave us the famous campfire fart scene, Blazing Saddles tells the twisted tale of a corrupt political boss who convinces the dim-witted Governor (cross-eyed, paddle ball enthusiast Mel Brooks) to elect a black Sheriff in hopes that he will be lynched leaving it unprotected for bandits. With Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn and Cleavon Little, this movie satirizes the obscured racism of Cowboy movies…but more importantly it’s hilarious.

Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)

As the tagline states, “the legend had it coming…”. Mel Brooks retells the Robin Hood mythos with his own comedic, satirical twist in his parody of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Robin Hood leads his men in tights (tight tights!) to steal from the rich, give to the poor and yadda yadda you know the story already. Cary Elwes, Dave Chappelle and Richard Lewis front this film and deliver a stream of gags that will most likely leave you more entertained than the recent Russell Crowe adaptation.

The Producers (1968)

Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel, need I say more? Brooks’ most ambitious project is about a pair of Producers who realize you can make more money with a flop than with a hit, and then go on to produce “Springtime for Hitler” (a supposed sure-fire flop) only to have audiences fall in love with it. While most critics at the time hated this film, it’s garnered a significant cult following due to the musical adaptation’s success (also written by Mel Brooks) and the fact that it’s amazing.

High Anxiety (1978)

Have you ever thought that Alfred Hitchcock was too dark and just needed to lighten up a little? Well apparently so did Mel Brooks and so he created High Anxiety an homage to the Master of Suspense, parodying “The Birds”, “Psycho” and “Vertigo” to name a few. The film stars Brooks staples Madeline Kahn and Harvey Korman and is a laugh a minute.

Young Frankenstein (1974)

Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle and Cloris Leachman lead this classic horror movie spoof about a young Dr. Frankenstein (that’s Frankensteen, thank you very much) who travels to his Grandfather’s castle for scientific research, ultimately ending in reanimating human life! Brooks is at his best with this movie and the scene where Dr. Frankenstein and Igor discuss a werewolf is so stupid that it’s amazing.

The Producers (2005)

Yeah, yeah I know, I already have “The Producers” on my list, but this one is the musical adaptation and is significantly different than the original. So there. With Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell, the musical version tells basically the same story as it’s predecessor but with enough changes for it to be a completely different experience. Mel Brooks further proves his comic genius (as if that needed proving) by writing all of the songs in this musical, and you’ll be singing “keep it gay” weeks after watching.

History of the World: Part I (1981)

What Mel Brooks movie list is complete without “History of the World: Part I”? This film gave us the famous Brooks line, “It’s good to be the king” as well as an assortment of jokes and gags that you’ll recognize even if you haven’t seen the film. It’s one heck of a movie and if you’re a Mel Brooks fan who hasn’t seen it (which is doubtful) change that now!


Heading In A Backwards Direction

Might Get Loud (2008)

Director: Davis Guggenheim

Starring: Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White

First off I’d like to apologize for the lack of quality posts on The Shpitz recently, most of us have either been too busy or too lazy to put stuff up more frequently and so consider this my promise to put up more stuff more often!

Well now that that’s out of the way, it’s MOVIE TIME!

It Might Get Loud is a documentary directed by Davis Guggenheim about guitar legends Jimmy Page, Jack White and The Edge. There is no significant connection between these three other than they are deeply passionate about their music and the electric guitar, and the documentary is simply a conversation with these three about their influences in artistic style and their experiences in making music. While listening to three guys ramble on for two hours may sound like a pretty boring documentary, I couldn’t have been any more entertained when watching this movie. Click more to find out why!

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Down The Rabbit Hole

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Director: Tim Burton, Starring: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Stephen Fry, and Alan Rickman

Tim Burton’s latest film is adapted from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll. The original stories were a bizarre dream world full of contradictions, witty wordplay and smiling cats. Carroll’s work is littered with craziness and when translating this onto film, it’s only fitting that the director be someone just as strange as Carroll…and who’s a better choice than Tim Burton?

Now, I think it’s important to note here that I am a HUGE Lewis Carroll fan. I’ve got this big ass book (courtesy of Tyler, thanks hun) full of everything he’s ever written. Letters, poems, riddles the whole sha-bang. What attracts me to his work, in particular the Alice stories, is just how strange they are. They are devoid of any real plot (Alice just wanders from place to place until she wakes up) but what makes the stories so good is the weird conversations the characters have and how one event just sort of blurs with another, without any sort of transition.

The books force you to stop trying to make sense out of things, if you think you’ve got “the deeper meaning” figured out, Carroll throws something twice as crazy at you, just to screw with your head.

When I went to see the movie I was excited to see how Burton would handle the nonsense of the books and if he would tweak it to his signature dark style. I wasn’t impressed…

The movie’s main problem was that it tried creating a plot (fools) and a rather weak one at that. Basically, Alice returns to Wonderland (which is actually called Underland) to find the whole gang of fairytale creatures and talking animals waiting for her to explain how she has to slay the Jabberwock on the Frabjous day because the Compendium that predicts all events past, present and future says so. You follow?

Curiouser and curiouser...

The movie tried justifying everything that happens like it was hold the audience’s hand and walk them through the story. A small example would be giving names to the little cakes that Alice eats to grow bigger, or providing a whole back story on why the Mad Hatter is so…mad. It lost all of the strangeness and dream like flow wherein nothing is explained that made Carroll’s work a classic.

Despite this, the movie did have some high points, mostly the overall look of the film and the acting. Johnny Depp played a great Mad Hatter. The tea party was great at showing just how crazy all the characters are, and Depp’s random slipping in and out of a Scottish accent was one of the few small ways the movie included something that they don’t explain.

I've often seen a cat without a grin, but never a grin without a cat!

Stephen Fry did the voice of Cheshire Cat perfectly, delivering his lines with a small air of menace, as if he’s hiding something sinister behind that giant smile of his.

Helena Bonham Carter played the tyrannical cross between the Red Queen and the Queen of Hearts. While her performance was stunning her character’s relationship with the Knight was a little odd because it tried to create some sort of sympathy for her character as if she wasn’t evil after all but just misunderstood.

Mia Wasikowska stood out above the rest. Her portrayal of Alice was just as rebellious and curious as her Victorian counterpart and she played the role beautifully.

Tim Burton created a unique take on the Alice in Wonderland story, but it lacked a significant amount of the strange, nonsense, dream like feel that made Carroll’s stories so much fun to read. It’s a movie you’ll watch once and then never have the desire to watch it again which, unfortunately, I did.

Oh and bonus points for whoever can come up with the most original explanation for why a raven is like a writing desk.

Those Bones Aren’t So Lovely…

The Lovely Bones (2009)

Directed by Peter Jackson and starring Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Saoirse Ronan and Susan Sarandon.

Seeing as how I do not have that much to talk about (I do not play WoW or have a vendetta with fences) I decided I’d post some stuffs about movies or plays and the like up here.

The Lovely Bones suffers from a bad case of multiple personality dissorder. On the one hand it tries to be a very dark, crime thriller but on the other it’s a fantasy tale of a young teen’s journey through limbo. Had the film stuck to just one of these tones, it may have actually been watchable, but seeing as how it didn’t, it made for an unbearable two hours.

The movie tells the story of a 14-year-old girl, Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) that is murdered by her neighbor George Harvey (Stanley Tucci) and that’s really where it should’ve stopped. However it goes on to show us Susie’s spirit running away to Limbo where she observes how her family and Mr. Harvey cope with her death. 

Don't go into the light! Don't go into the light!!

This is where the movie quickly goes down in a spiraling ball of fire. We follow Susie around in her own personal Dayglo Limbo, full of giant rainbow balls floating in front of mystical mountains, and we sit and watch as she plays dress up and dances on giant Vinyl records with some random Asian girl (who’s character isn’t actually explained AT ALL until about 15 minutes to the end of the movie). These sequences don’t capture any sort of confusion or apprehensiveness that Susie is feeling but instead portrays Limbo as like this totally awesome place where like, teenager girls can like totally have an awesome time like!   

Now hold on a second, ok so the sequences didn’t do it for you but at least they looked good right? WRONG! The CGI used in this movie seemed incredibly out dated and nothing amazing or ground breaking was done with the effects, leaving them not only confusing but unattractive. The best of both worlds.    

"Man I miss the Funky Bunch..."

Meanwhile back on Earth, Susie’s parents are mourning over her loss and as time goes by they begin to handle their emotions quite differently. Marky Mark plays her father, Jack who becomes obsessed with finding Susie’s killer, completely consumed with rage and bringing the killer to justice, pushing himself further and further away from his family. Or at least, I think that’s what was going on, it was hard to decode Mark Wahlberg’s blank staring. 

Having said that, Mark gave a better performance than I thought, significantly better anyway than Saorise Ronan, who’s dreamy, innocent narration came across as bored and nearly put me to sleep. It’s hard to stay interested in a film when the main character obviously would rather be dancing around on rainbow clouds than taking the time to tell us about her life-I mean death-I mean…you get it.

Abigail (Rachel Weisz) is Susie’s mother and is quite possibly the most bizarre character in the entire film. Instead of taking solace in visualizing the bashed-in skull of her daughter’s killer (like her husband Jack) she wants nothing to do with finding closure and is so engulfed with grief, or one of those other crazy emotions, that she leaves her family. It would be an interesting dynamic if it wasn’t so rushed that it just seemingly popped out of the blue in an “oh by the way I’m leaving all of you to become an apple picker, see ya!” sort of way.

The one diamond in this very, very rough movie is Stanley Tucci who plays Susie’s murder Geroge Harvey. Tucci does an amazing job of playing the obsessive, serial killer George Harvey and really steals the show. George is a man full of internal struggle, constantly trying to ignore that hunger to kill again until it eventually consumes him and he targets poor Susie. Tucci was fantastic at embodying the character physically, and he was able to communicate so much just by walking around in a room or standing, he never needed to say a word. In an absolutely spine-tingling performance his stare is creepy enough to give you the shivers. Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough of him in this flick, it spends way too much time on Susie in Limbo instead of sticking to its much stronger character, Harvey.       
If I was forced to recommend this movie to anyone it would be solely for Stanley Tucci’s performance. However, seeing as how he’s only in the damn thing for about half of the movie, I’d go tell them to watch Julie & Julia.

So, in short do not watch this movie. Oh, and remember, if a forty year old man that lives alone and builds doll houses for a living asks you to come and check out his super cool underground club house … turn around and run away as fast as you freaking can. 

On second thought, he looks like a friendly guy