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One movie theater’s hilarious warning to customers about “The Tree Of Life”

One movie theater’s hilarious warning to customers about “The Tree Of Life” (photo)

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Via Jim Emerson, Editor of RogerEbert.com, and Toronto film critic Christopher Misch, comes this hilarious and depressing photograph of a posted sign from the Avon Theatre Film Center in Stamford, CT. It’s a warning to any customer who might be considering seeing Terrence Malick‘s “The Tree of Life:”

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You can almost see the “Saturday Night Live” sketch right now (assuming “Saturday Night Live” decided for one week to get incredibly niche, and do a sketch about the reaction to a Terrence Malick movie):

INT. MOVIE THEATER – NIGHT.

A confused looking PATRON walks up to the theater’s ticket desk. A dead-behind-the-eyes CLERK waits motionless and emotionless as he approaches.

PATRON
Hi there.

No response.

PATRON
Yes, um, there’s a problem with “The Tree of Life.”

CLERK
What’s the matter?

PATRON
Um, yeah, it’s just…it’s just a little too visionary for me.

CLERK
Too visionary?

PATRON
Yeah. Too much vision. Also the dinosaurs in this are a lot different than the penguins in “Mr. Popper’s Penguins.”

Aaaaand scene. Look, people, I get it. I wasn’t a huge fan of “The Tree of Life” either. But we live in a society. And this is the social contract: you pay your money and you see the movie. You can think whatever you want about it, but you don’t get your money back just because you didn’t like it. When I used to work in a comic book store, every month or two without fail someone would buy a comic then return a few minutes later and say “I don’t like it, I want a refund.” To these people, I would carefully explain that that’s not how it works. “You already read the book,” I would say. “You paid for the experience, not the satisfaction.” And then I would call the police.

I do love that the Avon’s note explains that “Tree of LIfe” is a “uniquely visionary and deeply philosphical film from an auteur director,” as if for some people, reassuring them that it came from an “auteur” and not some hack from East Bumblesville will assuage their anger. If I lived closer to Stamford I would work up a disguise, get a hidden camera and go complain about the auteur theory. “This is not what Truffaut meant when he said there were no good and bad movies, just good and bad directors! I staunchly refuse to expand my horizons!” I can’t wait to see what the Avon says about “Uncle Boonmee.”

Do you think you deserve your money back after a bad movie? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter!

Soap tv show

As the Spoof Turns

15 Hilarious Soap Opera Parodies

Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.

Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

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Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.


2. IKEA Heights

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IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.


3. Fresno

fresno

When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.


4. Soap

soap

Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.


5. Too Many Cooks

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Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.


6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

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Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.


7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV

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Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do  (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.


8. Twin Peaks

peaks

Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…


9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks

invitation

Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.


10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show

stomach

The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.


11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)

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Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.

And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”


12. Acorn Antiques

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First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.


13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show

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In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)


14. The Spoils of Babylon

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Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.

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15. All My Children Finale, SNL

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SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.

The top 10 worst teachers in movie history

The top 10 worst teachers in movie history (photo)

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Cameron Diaz may play the title role in “Bad Teacher,” but many, many terrible teachers have come before her to the big screen. The film, which opens this week, joins a proud tradition of movies featuring educators with questionable intentions.

In fact, Diaz looks like a candidate for a Golden Apple award for teaching excellence when compared with some of the classroom authority figures envisioned by John Hughes and Ingmar Bergman. Any child would be lucky to have her in charge if their alternative involved a psycho from Park Chan-wook’s “Lady Vengeance” or Arnold Schwarzenegger as an undercover cop.

While Diaz may be worthy of the label “Bad Teacher,” these ten characters deserve to be recognized as “The Worst Teachers in Movie History.”

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10. Detective John Kimball, “Kindergarten Cop” (1990)

Male action stars fought bad guys in all kinds of unlikely places and with shockingly mismatched partners during the 1990s. Hulk Hogan had “Mr. Nanny.” Sylvester Stallone starred in “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.” And Arnold Schwarzenegger shook down a classroom of little brats to find a kidnapped child in “Kindergarten Cop.” As Detective John Kimball, he fires off one-liners like “It’s not a tumor!” and “Who is my daddy and what does he do?” that have gone on to become quotable classics.

Despite his success in find the missing child, Kimball fails to keep his class under control in virtually ever scene and even drops a kid, making him a terrible guardian and a potential insurance liability.


9. Mrs. Tingle, “Teaching Mrs. Tingle” (1999)

Helen Mirren certainly ranks as the classiest horrible teacher on this list from her performance in “Teaching Mrs. Tingle.” She’s smarmy, she’s witty and she knows precisely which buttons to push with her overachieving student Leigh Ann (Katie Holmes). Tingle treats Leigh Ann so harshly that the young girl and her friends visit her home and end up careening down a spiral of bad choices that result in a kidnapping situation. Throughout the whole ordeal, however, Tingle remains as charming as she is vicious and unrelenting.


8. Pai Mei, “Kill Bill: Vol. 2″ (2004)

As a kung fu instructor training Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman) in “Kill Bill: Vol. 2,” Pai Mei makes Mr. Miyagi in “The Karate Kid” look like Mr. Rogers. He knows how to turn an apprentice into living weapon, but his teaching strategy involves endless insults and hard labor–and don’t even think about trying to talk to him in Japanese. This is the one teacher above all others that you do not want to mess with, but his tutelage is only for the strong-willed and thick-skinned.


7. The Economics Teacher, “Ferris Buehler’s Day Off” (1986)

Ben Stein set the bar for boring in his emotionless, iconic performance as the teacher calling out Ferris Buehler’s name during an epic act of truancy. He wasn’t necessarily the worst teacher of all time, but his rapport with his class seemed to be totally non-existent. You can’t blame a free-spirited lad like Ferris for wanting to be somewhere else.


6. Diane Marshall, “The Teacher” (1974)

According to the trailer for this bizarre 1974 film (but let’s face it, what wasn’t bizarre in 1974?), teacher Diane Marshall (Angel Tompkins) “corrupted the youthful morality of an entire school.”

“How did she do this?” you may wonder. Well, she likes her male companions scandalously young, and she exercises some extremely poor judgment by using the student body as her personal dating pool.


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Match Cuts: “Bad Santa”

Match Cuts: “Bad Santa” (photo)

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In Match Cuts, we examine every available version of a film, and decide once and for all which is the one, definitive cut worth watching. This week, in honor of Jake Kasdan’s bad teacher movie “Bad Teacher,” we’re looking at Terry Zwigoff‘s bad Santa movie “Bad Santa.”

EDITIONS:
-Theatrical Cut (2003): 91 minutes
-Unrated Cut (a.k.a. “Badder Santa”) (2004): 98 minutes
-Director’s Cut (2006): 88 minutes

THE STORY:
Career small-time criminals Willie “Tugboat” Soak (Billy Bob Thornton) and Marcus “The Prince” Skidmore (Tony Cox) perform an ingenious annual hustle: they get jobs as a mall Santa (Willie) and his elf (Marcus, who’s a little person), then rob their employer blind after everyone else goes home on Christmas Eve. Willie’s a good safecracker and a terrible human being: a cruel, vulgar, self-centered sex-addicted, alcoholic mess. In Phoenix for the holiday season, Willie finds his dark worldview lightening thanks to a Santa-fetishizing bartender (Lauren Graham) and an irrepressible Kid (Brett Kelly) who thinks Willie is really Santa Claus and offers him a place to hide out from the cops. But even if Willie finally gets into the Christmas spirit, he still has to contend with an increasingly annoyed Marcus and a suspicious head of mall security (Bernie Mac).

REASON FOR MULTIPLE VERSIONS:
Though Terry Zwigoff’s contract initially gave him final cut (at least according to this interview), he wasn’t completely happy with the version of “Bad Santa” that was released in the fall of 2003. And he was even less happy with “Badder Santa,” the unrated version that was released onto DVD to capitalize on the film’s popularity and to rake in a few extra bucks in the home video market.

For Zwigoff, “Bad Santa” was always less of an outlandish comedy and more of a darkly comic character study about a truly screwed up individual. But it wasn’t just up to him. Screenwriters Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, executive producers (and uncredited rewriters) Joel and Ethan Coen, and distributors Harvey and Bob Weinstein all had a hand in shaping the finished product of the film. Thanks to the success and continuing popularity of the movie they all made together, Zwigoff got the chance to finally release his own version of the material in 2006, when his Director’s Cut came out on DVD.

KEY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MULTIPLE VERSIONS (SPOILERS AHEAD):
The Unrated Cut of “Bad Santa” is about eight minutes longer than the Theatrical Cut, but really the only major difference between the two is an extended version of Willie’s time in Florida in between his two gigs as Santa. In both the Theatrical Cut and the Unrated Cut, Willie tells Marcus he’s done with their scam: he’s going to take his cash, open his own bar, and live the good life down south. Cut to Florida, where it looks like Willie has improbably made his dream come true…

In the Theatrical Cut, that scene’s quickly followed by one where Marcus calls Willie and tells him it’s time to regroup for another holiday season. In “Badder Santa,” Willie’s adventures in Florida continue a little longer: he steals a car by pretending to be a valet attendant; he breaks into a mansion and steals cash out of the safe; he spends the money on scratch-off lotto tickets he hands out as tips at a strip club. Eventually, after Willie takes one of the strippers home, Marcus’ phone call finally comes.

Most of the other differences between “Bad” and “Badder Santa” are pretty minimal: more vulgarities in Willie’s anti-child tirades, more thrusting in Willie’s sex scenes. The differences between those two cuts and Zwigoff’s Director’s Cut, though, are huge. And they begin right from the opening scene. Here is Willie’s introduction from the Theatrical and Unrated Cuts (and it’s got lots of profanity, so beware NSFWers).

Zwigoff’s version plays out exactly the same way except for one key difference: no voiceover whatsoever. According to the director, the scene was scripted to play silently, and the voiceover was only added in post-production because test audiences weren’t sure whether they should laugh at Willie or be disturbed by him — which was exactly what Zwigoff intended. On his DVD commentary, Zwigoff explains why he took the voiceover out of the Director’s Cut:

“I didn’t think the writing was on par with the rest of the script. The original writers didn’t have anything to do with it. It just told you what to think in a very clumsy, inelegant way… Billy Bob is a good enough actor to tell you what you need to know with just the expression on his face.”

The lack of a voiceover radically changes the scene. Without Willie talking about having to live in “shit-ass Mexico for 2 1/2 years for no reason,” you focus purely on the visual aspects of the scene. And they do convey a lot of information: it’s Christmas and everyone is happily sharing the holiday together except for the one guy in the Santa costume, who is drinking alone and watching the merriment with disgust and sadness. What was a very funny introduction becomes an almost existential meditation on loneliness.

Most of Zwigoff’s changes fall along these lines. There’s less of David Kitay’s original score and more classical music. Gone completely are subplots that lighten or soften Willie’s character (like the Florida bartender gag), along with any lingering whiff of sentimentality. If you’ve seen the Theatrical or Unrated Cuts you’ll remember a lot of schtick involving the Kid’s advent calendar. He first shows it to Willie the morning after he moves in. Willie later destroys it in a drunken rage, and later still when he’s started to take a liking to the Kid, he repairs and returns it. In Zwigoff’s cut, the advent calendar — even the words “advent calendar” — don’t appear once. Nor does the famous boxing scene, where Willie and Marcus teach the Kid how to defend himself from neighborhood bullies. As I recall, this was a big part of the “Bad Santa” television marketing campaign. This whole scene is gone from the Director’s Cut:

Wherever Zwigoff can make things darker, he does. A particularly good example comes during (SPOILER ALERT!) Bernie Mac’s death scene. In the Theatrical Cut, Marcus’s wife kills Mac’s Gin by running him over with their van. in the Unrated Cut, the van doesn’t quite do the job, so Marcus finishes him off by zapping his head with some jumper cables. In Zwigoff’s version, that doesn’t do it either, so Marcus drags a moaning, bleeding Gin behind the van, where his wife backs over his head. The van bounces with an enormous thud and Zwigoff cuts to a bubblegum balloon exploding all over a crying kid’s face. Merry Christmas!

(more…)

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