What chance does our poor planet have against nature and aliens? Here are ten films featuring the Earth taking a licking (and sometimes not continuing with the ticking).
“Bad Boys” was great, but Michael Bay really got to flaunt his genius in what would be the first of his many large-scale sci-fi action adventures. No giant robots in this one, though; here it’s a giant hunk of space rock that’s threatening to collide with the planet, leaving it up to Bruce Willis and his crack team of oil drillers (including Ben Affleck, Owen Wilson, Will Patton, Steve Buscemi and Michael Clarke Duncan) to hop on the next shuttle and blast the Texas-sized thing into a bunch of much less-threatening smaller chunks. It’s the kind of life-or-death situation and seemingly insurmountable task that calls for at least one Aerosmith song on the soundtrack and a few tears from the lead singer’s daughter as she prays for Affleck’s safe return; luckily, the Ground Control to Willis’ Major Tom is played by Billy Bob Thornton, a fella you’d definitely want to have your back if this kind of crazy shit actually happened. And to think, first contact with the asteroid was established by Eddie Griffin and his dog.
“The Core” (2003)
A bunch of disturbances in the Earth’s electromagnetic field are making birds drop dead and random lightning storms wreck havoc; a geology professor (Aaron Eckhart) concludes it’s because the planet’s core has stopped turning, which launches a top-secret mission to drill into the center of the Earth and blow it to kingdom come, which will (in theory) jump-start its rotation. Stop your own brain’s rotation for 135 minutes and “The Core” is actually a lot of fun, thanks mostly to an enthusiastic cast (including Hilary Swank, Delroy Lindo, Tcheky Karyo, Stanley Tucci and the skinny kid from “Road Trip”) that seems totally game for any kind of preposterous sci-fi nonsense. It’s really too bad about the birds — that little tourist kid is probably going to have nightmares about Trafalgar Square for the rest of his damn life.
“The Day After Tomorrow” (2004)
Al Gore finally gets to say “I told you so” before freezing to death in this environmental disaster flick. Some (okay, everyone) may have quibbled about the non-realism of the ultra-speedy climate apocalypse presented in “The Day After Tomorrow,” but scenes of Mother Nature laying waste to some of the world’s great cities are admittedly simply awesome to watch thanks to the film’s cutting-edge special effects (the initial flood that takes out NYC is especially awe-inspiring). “Day” is also commendable for its rather somber and downbeat tone, a far cry from the rah-rah patriotism of Roland Emmerich’s previous planet-in-jeopardy outing, “Independence Day”; after all, Jeff Goldblum’s laptop — or anything else, for that matter — probably isn’t going to be of much help in fighting extreme climate change. This is the middle — and definitely the darkest — installment in Emmerich’s unofficial “Destroy the Earth” trilogy, between “ID4″ and “2012.”
“The Day the Earth Stood Still” (2008)
It isn’t the threat of nuclear warfare but rather our own carelessness with the environment that prompts an alien race to threaten us with extermination in this tree-hugging update of the 1951 sci-fi film. Keanu Reeves is actually quite good as Klaatu, the extraterrestrial ambassador who comes to Earth with the imposing GORT, here a much more organic (and shape-shifting) menace than the clunky robot of the original; Jennifer Connelly works her two expressions (wide-eyed, vaguely erotic confusion and wide-eyed, vaguely erotic confusion) as the Princeton professor who tries to talk the handsome visitor out of pulling the trigger. Director Scott Derrickson’s big-budget remake never quite comes together, but it’s not without its apocalyptic pleasures, including a GORT (here an acronym for Genetically Organized Robotic Technology) who turns into a swarm of nanomachines that devours everything in its path — especially Giants Stadium.
“Deep Impact” (1998)
1998’s much more serious and somber disaster movie chronicles the attempts to destroy a seven-mile-wide comet (discovered by a teenage amateur astronomer played by Elijah Wood) that’s set to collide with the Earth and cause mass extinction; unfortunately, the nuclear bomb planted on the thing by the spacecraft “Messiah” (a join venture between the U.S. and Russia, notch) only succeeds in splitting it in two, which means there’s now a pair of 3.5-mile-wide comets en route to kill us all. “Deep Impact” was released in May and received praise for its (relative) scientific credibility; however, “Armageddon” had Bruce Willis, Aerosmith on the soundtrack and a Fourth of July weekend release date, so it ultimately made more money. Directed by Mimi Leder, a protege of Steven Spielberg’s; oddly enough, she’s barely been heard from since.
That ’70s Show never missed the chance to make a mockery of major movies and TV shows from the Me Decade. Before you dive into IFC’s Thanksgiving Day Sweatsgiving That ’70s Showmarathon, check out some of the show’s best spoofs of Star Wars, the Superfriends and more.
8. Star Wars
The 1977 release of Star Wars affects the That ’70s gang as much as it affects the rest of society: totally and awesomely. The season one episode “A New Hope” sends the gang to a galaxy far, far away (well, the cinema), leading Eric to star in his own Force-powered dream with everything from Red Kenobi to a R2-D2 vacuum.
When a drunken Jackie makes Fez‘s dreams come true by hitting on him, he faces a superheroic internal struggle starring himself as a tiny Batman and Riddler. Of course, Fez-man hasn’t always been so heroic.
6. The Super Friends
Kelso gets to be Batman in an entire ’70s gang of Super-pals in a super-powered fantasy. Though their battle against Red Luthor — who, let’s be honest, would triumph over the REAL Super Friends — is weakened when all Wonder Twins Hyde and Jackie want to do is make out.
Isaac Hayes, who wrote and performed the original and incomparable theme for the ’70s flick Shaft, provides a significantly less tough “Theme for Fez” in the episode “Spread Your Wings.”
4. The Continental
When Fez tries to get to third base with Big Rhonda in the basement, the camera switches to second-person as she watches him making his attempts in the style of Renzo Casena in the TV series The Continental. (The 1950s series was also famously parodied by Christopher Walken on SNL.)
3. Psycho and other Hitchcock classics
Halloween episodes are always a good excuse for costumes and parodies. “Too Old to Trick or Treat, Too Young to Die” memorably parodied Hitchcock classics like Rear Window,The Birds and, of course, Psycho‘s iconic shower scene.
2. Annie Hall
Eric and Donna took on the roles of Alvy Singer and Annie Hall in a spoof of a memorable scene from the classic Woody Allen and Diane Keaton comedy.
1. I Love Lucy
In a fun take on the Lucille Ball sitcom classic, Fez’s fantasies veer all the way to monochrome, creating an alternate world where he has a relationship and Red might even talk to him for two sentences without calling him a dumbass.
Michelle Monaghan stops by Comedy Bang! Bang! tonight at 11P ET/PT on IFC.
Posted by K Thor Jensen on Photo: Summit Entertainment/Courtesy Everett Collection
Here’s an interesting tidbit you might not know about Michelle Monaghan: when she was growing up, her parents also took in foster kids to their Winthrop, Iowa home. They raised a solid dozen of them over as many years, and we can’t help but think that being exposed to different people from so many circumstances helped Michelle build the empathy and eye for character that has made her one of our favorite actresses.
Shane Black’s demented Hollywood noir is on our short list for most underrated flick of all time. Not only did it bring Robert Downey Jr. back to the big screen as petty criminal turned unwitting detective Harry Lockhart, but it features possibly the best post-Iceman Val Kilmer performance of all time. The third player in the film’s triangle is Michelle Monaghan as Harmony Laine, Harry’s childhood friend all grown up. Harmony is the motor that drives the twisted story of lust and revenge, and she does a bang-up (pun intended) job walking the tightrope between small-town innocence and Los Angeles sleaze.
4. Diane Ford, Trucker
The 2008 indie Trucker might have flown beneath your radar, but you should check it out on Netflix because it’s one of Michelle Monaghan’s finest performances. She plays Diane Ford, a long-haul driver who finds her screwed-up life of getting blitzed and having one-night stands upended when her 10-year-old son comes back into her life. It’s a story that could easily get obvious and cliche, but first-time director James Mottern dodges dramatic pitfalls with the aid of his incredible lead, instead producing a deft character study that is very worth watching.
3. Maggie Hart, True Detective
Season one of the acclaimed HBO crime drama was aided by an incredible cast of actors, including Michelle Monaghan’s Maggie Hart. As one of the key female figures in a very male-dominated show, Maggie has to carry a lot of weight. When we found out halfway through that she’d cheated on her husband (Woody Harrelson) with Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle, it served as a new lens to examine their twisted relationship. It’s a challenging role that Monaghan rises to with aplomb.
2. Christina Warren, Source Code
The premise for the 2011 thriller Source Code is pretty ridiculous — a top secret military project gives Jake Gyllenhaal the ability to travel back in time and re-live the last eight minutes of somebody’s life over and over like the world’s worst Groundhog Day — but the end result is a damn fine film. Michelle Monaghan provides an important emotional anchor as Christina Warren, who Gyllenhaal’s character builds a deeper and deeper connection with every time he loops back. Without her, the whole premise would collapse, and the actress rises to the occasion ably.
1. Julia Meade, Mission: Impossible III
Playing the romantic lead in a Tom Cruise-led spy actioner is a pretty thankless job, but director J. J. Abrams gave Monaghan plenty to chew on as Ethan Hunt’s fiancee Julia Meade in the third Mission: Impossible flick. Initially Julia starts out as a clueless damsel in distress, captured by arms dealer Owen Davian to compel Hunt to steal some Macguffin or other. But by the end of the film she’s up to speed with her fiance’s covert career, saves his life with an electric shock and even pops a cap in the ass of IMF traitor John Musgrave.
No one would ever accuse Todd Margaret of being a good employee. After being assigned to the London office of Thunder Muscle, he ended up blowing up the entire world. It’s safe to assume that Todd Margaret isn’t going to get a raise after those shenanigans, but David Cross, who plays Todd in the series, just got named Employee of the Month.
The comedian is appearing at the live talk show event on November 20th at NYC’s Joe’s Pub which will be recorded for an accompanying weekly podcast. Cross will be subjecting himself to host Catie Lazarus‘ trademark unorthodox line of questioning about how he created such an awesome career, including With Bob and David, Arrested Development, Todd Margaret and so much more.
David will be appearing alongside Speedy Ortiz frontwoman Sadie Dupuis and actress Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha, Mistress America) who finally managed to escape from Portlandia‘s Women & Women First bookstore.
Get tickets here. and be sure to catch the return of a very, very different Todd when the third season of Todd Margaret premieres January 7th at 10P ET/PT on IFC. Check out the trailer for more.
What’s Employee of the Month? Watch the video below.
Just because a band is fictional doesn’t mean it can’t be as popular as its real world counterparts. (Admit it, you still have that Zack Attack album buried in your closet somewhere.) Whether spoofing a famous act, or creating their own inept sound, these fake bands often wear their love of the music world on their sleeves. Documentary Now!‘schronicling of the soft rock giants Blue Jean Committee is just the latest example.
It’s no surprise that the folks behind the show (Fred Armisen in particular) have a long track record of finding the funny in the music industry. (It takes musical talent, along with some serious comedy chops, to pull off the smooth lyrics of “Catalina Breeze.”) So, while Blue Jean Committee, or A Mighty Wind’s The Folksmen, could easily have been on this list, it’s not a shock that the folks behind them are. If you love music and comedy in equal measure, you’re going back to that well more than once. Here are some of the funniest fake bands to ever turn it up to eleven.
15. Citizen Dick, Singles
Citizen Dick, the band from Cameron Crowe’s alt rom-com Singles, was both a spoof of, and a turning point for, the Seattle grunge scene of the early ’90s. While many of the bands from that scene were cult hits, the Singles soundtrack helped turn them into superstars. It’s no surprise that the made-up band, fronted by Matt Dillion’s Cliff Poncier, could hold its own with so many grunge standouts, considering 3/4ths of its members were in a little group called Pearl Jam. Heck, Dillion even wore Pearl Jam’s bassist Jeff Ament’s clothes for most of the shoot. Now that’s commitment.
14. Titannica, Mr. Show with Bob and David
With hits like “Try Suicide” and “Try Again,” no one rocked harder than Titannica, the heavy metal band made famous in one of the downright weirdest sketches from the cult hit Mr. Show. But no matter how messed up their music was, the boys of Titannica knew it couldn’t hold a candle to the creep show that was their biggest fan, a chipper kid with the body of a wet cigar. This sketch is a surreal lesson in the power of music.
13. Sonic Death Monkey/Kathleen Turner Overdrive/Barry Jive and the Uptown Five, High Fidelity
You can watch Jack Black become a star in the final minutes of the 2000 cult hit High Fidelity, as his character Barry takes the stage to front his frequently renamed band. While Barry may not be able to decide on a sound for his band, Jack Black knows how to deliver when given the chance. A fun movie about and for music lovers, this scene is the cherry on top. It doesn’t matter what type of music you’re playing, as long as you leave it all on the stage.
12. Dethklok, Metalocalypse
When Metalocalypse co-creator Brendon Small was working on his previous Adult Swim hit, Home Movies, few would’ve guessed that he’d be responsible for one of the most face-meltingly metal bands to ever grace the small screen. And Small didn’t just dream up Dethklok – he writes and performs every one of their songs with co-creator Tommy Blacha. While Dethklok has surpassed mere superstardom on their show, becoming the seventh largest economy in the world, their popularity in the real world isn’t far behind. Small and Blacha have fronted more than one tour as the band, and recently played the comedy/music festival Festival Supreme, created by none other than Barry Jive himself, Jack Black.
11. David Brent and Foregone Conclusion, BBC’s The Office
In The Office Christmas Special, which served as the final episodes of the beloved BBC series, co-creator Ricky Gervais revealed his character David Brent had finally chased his dreams of stardom too far, by recording a cover version of the hit “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” But while the show was wrapping up, this sojourn into music was just the beginning for the former general manager of the Slough branch of Wernham Hogg. Gervais has kept up with his most famous character, recording a song for Comic Relief and creating a series of YouTube guitar tutorials. This all culminated in a tour with the made up band Foregone Conclusion. Rumor has it, he’s even been prepping a movie to cover Brent’s presumably delusional journey through the English music scene. While knowing when to say goodbye is a gift, it’s not something David Brent would be capable of, so why should we expect any different from his creator?
10. Dr. Fünke’s 100% Natural Good-Time Family Band Solution, Arrested Development
Playing in Dr. Fünke’s 100% Natural Good-Time Family-Band Solution was a great excuse for some family bonding time, while promoting a worthwhile product to boot. At least that’s what David Cross’ Tobais Fünke thought on the first season of Arrested Development, forcing his family to play in the pharmaceutical funded family band. More a promotional vehicle than a hit maker, any chance to see the dysfunctional Fünke family interact is worth inclusion on this list. The music may not be worthwhile, but the fury behind Maeby’s eyes is.
9. The Rutles, All You Need Is Cash
The Beatles were no stranger to parody, as you’ll see later in this list. But what separated The Rutles from the legion of spoof bands that plagued the world as the ’60s turned to the ’70s was the guidance of Monty Python Hall of Famer Eric Idle, and a will to not just send up, but really satirize the boys from Liverpool. The band first premiered in 1975 on Rutland Weekend Television, a sketch show fronted by Idle, and immediately took on a cult following. George Harrison was such a fan, he ended up appearing in The Rutles‘ feature film All You Need Is Cash.
8. Ian Rubbish and the Bizzaros, Saturday Night Live
Long before Fred Armisen made his name on Saturday Night Live, he was a drummer for underground punk bands. The Clash in particular was an inspiration, and even with a right turn into comedy Armisen’s love of punk never diminished. That’s evident in this SNL sketch about a very Sid Vicious-like rock star who hates everything…except for Margaret Thatcher. Initially just a one time performance, the bit struck such a chord that Armisen reunited The Bizzaros for his last sketch as an SNL cast member. Still not done with his alter ego, he’s since taken the band into the real world, playing gigs as the foul mouthed punk rocker with a love for the Iron Lady.
7. Wyld Stallyns, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
If your band is responsible for world peace, you probably deserve a spot on this list. While Bill and Ted start off as musically inept, one visit to the utopian future brought about by their sweet jams reveals them to be more than a mere rock band. They’re modern day messiahs, which is most excellent.
6. Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, The Muppet Show
For many of us, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem was the first exposure we ever had to a rock band, real or otherwise. For the better part of four decades the Electric Mayhem has kept at it, managing to cover everything from classical to “Crocodile Rock” with a drummer so wild he has to literally be chained to the set. Even Keith Moon wasn’t kept in shackles.
5. Faith +1, South Park
It’s tough to pick between the two most famous bands to ever be fronted by foul mouthed fourth grader Eric Cartman. While the boyband Fingerbang is for sure a classic, Cartman’s Christian rock band Faith +1 combines his megalomania, cynicism and racism into a beautiful collage of sacrilegious majesty. And considering South Park is far from done, who knows what other bands creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have up their sleeves.
4. PoP!, Music & Lyrics
Hugh Grant is perfectly cast as one half of a Wham!-esque group in this charming rom-com. And he learned from the best — Martin Fry from the new wave group ABC served as Hugh’s vocal coach.
3. Sexual Chocolate, Coming to America
Both “good and terrible,” Randy Watson may not have been the legend he believed himself to be, but to fans of Coming to America, he and his perfectly named backup band were responsible for one of the funniest scenes in this classic comedy. Eddie Murphy was at his peak here, donning the puffy faced prosthetics necessary to truly inhabit the pitchy son of Jackson Heights. And having Morris Day of The Time fame on guitar didn’t hurt either.
2. The Blues Brothers, Saturday Night Live, The Blues Brothers
As the ’70s gave way to the ’80s, The Blues Brothers, along with their creators John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, were forces of nature. The two comedians and friends first premiered their creation on Saturday Night Live, promptly launching a sensation. At one point, Belushi found himself the star of the week’s number one film (Animal House), number one television show (Saturday Night Live), and singing on the number one album (Briefcase Full Of Blues). Belushi and Aykroyd would soon add a hit Blue Brothers movie to that hot streak. Combining their perfect chemistry with a whole lot of soul, Jake and Elwood transcended comedy, and helped relaunch the popularity of the blues genre itself.
1. Spinal Tap, This Is Spinal Tap
If the last two entries show you anything, it’s that the ’80s were the high water mark of fake bands in popular culture. And yet, with all the classics that came out in that decade, there was never any doubt who would sit at the top of this list. Spinal Tap isn’t just a movie. They aren’t just a band. They’re the id of rock music, manifested into reality by the all-star team of Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer. In the ridiculous world of rock and roll, which already operates in a perpetual cycle of self parody, finding the balance of comedy and reality is no easy task. By using the form of a documentary, director Rob Reiner allowed his brilliant cast to improvise their way through the movie, creating the gold standard of fictional bands in the process. The film also introduced the “mockumentary” form to a mainstream audiences, which has gone on to become one of the most popular styles of comedy over the last three decades.