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The five most kick-ass R. Lee Ermey movie roles

R Lee Ermy in Full Metal Jacket

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If there’s a character actor on the planet that’s better at yelling loudly at people onscreen than R. Lee Ermey, I’d be very surprised. The retired United States Marine Corps Drill Instructor-turned actor has been around for a long time and has racked up some of the most easily recognizable performances in cinematic history. In honor of Ermey’s most famous role (as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman) in Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” hitting Blu-ray this week in a fabulous 25th Anniversary Digibook Collection, we decided to run down the actor’s top five greatest, and most memorable, performances. Company…. Halt!


“Willard” (2003)

Glen Morgan’s 2003 re-imagining of the 1971 rat-loving film “Willard” is easily one of the most underrated horror films of the last decade. A true slow burn of a film, “Willard” boasts amazing performances by the ultra-creepy Crispin Glover, R. Lee Ermey, Laura Elena Harring, and hundreds of rats both real and CGI. And while Glover’s offbeat performance as the eccentric outsider tasked with taking care of his sickly, cantankerous mother is often praised as the film’s greatest asset (and for good reason), R. Lee Ermey’s turn as Willard’s jerk of a boss is nearly as impressive. If there’s anything that Ermey does well, it’s berate people, humiliate them, and play up the mean old crank in his characters, and Frank Martin is no exception. By the time he eventually bites it, at the hands of many an angry rat, the audience is thrilled to see him go. It’s a testament to Ermey’s performance that he not only effectively gets under the skin of his fellow characters, but he also drives the audience equally as mad. Bonus points goes to “Willard” for an ingenious and absolutely perfect use of Michael Jackson’s classic song “Ben.”


“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (2003)

Nobody really wanted to give Marcus Nispel and Michael Bay’s remake of Tobe Hooper’s horror classic “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” a shot, and I don’t really blame them. The 1974 original is a seminal film in the genre and one that is nearly possible to replicate. What audiences didn’t count on, however, was that Nispel’s vision would actually be pretty interesting. His version of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” might not be the original, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s a fun re-imagining of the film and one that stands on its own pretty well. And much of that success is due to R. Lee Ermey’s turn as the no-nonsense Sheriff Hoyt. He’s loud, angry, and obnoxious but he’s also one of the highlights of the film. Ermey makes the character evil to the core and, again, it’s a relief when he’s finally dispatched (this time via the hulking mass of a car being driven over his body repeatedly).


“Toy Story” Series (1995, 1999, 2010)

And so we come to the softer side of R. Lee Ermey. Since the film “Toy Story” film in 1995 until the most recent entry in the series hit theaters in 2010, Ermey has played the leader of the plastic Army men, Sarge, to perfection. It’s not nearly the biggest part in a huge ensemble of excellent voice actors (the Army men don’t exactly have a ton of screen time in the series), but it’s a memorable one that helped introduce the grizzled voice of the character actor to a whole new generation of kids raised on Pixar awesomeness. Imagine an extremely toned-down version of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman and you’ll have a good idea of what Ermey is doing here. Fun stuff.


“Se7en” (1995)

Probably one of the most overlooked roles in Ermey’s illustrious career is that of the police captain in David Fincher’s 1995 hit “Se7en.” Ermey takes the limited role and makes it his own in a way that only R. Lee Ermey could do. The captain is quick-witted, impatient, and smarmy in a way that’s completely unique and captivating. He’s a no-nonsense guy that doesn’t want to deal with all the B.S. and just wants to close his cases – something that neither Mills (Brad Pitt) nor Somerset (Morgan Freeman) are making easy for him. Ermey’s role in “Se7en” is another one of those character actor parts that might make audiences say, “Hey, I know that guy! He’s that guy from that movie!” but it’s also an important one that’s help make the Fincher thriller a classic.


“Full Metal Jacket” (1987)

R. Lee Ermey’s role as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 film “Full Metal Jacket” is easily the actor’s (and, I would argue, cinema’s) most memorable characters. The foul-mouthed, sharp-tongued Marine is the piece of the puzzle that keeps the first half of Kubrick’s film together and has become so ubiquitous in pop culture that it’s been parodied, copied, and even turned into an Internet meme numerous times. What is perhaps most amazing in all of this, however, is the fact that Ermey wasn’t even supposed to play the drill instructor role when Kubrick was first putting together his classic. He was simply a technical advisor on the film until the legendary director heard the actor going on a drill instructor tirade and knew he was perfect for Hartman. So impressed, Kubrick even relinquished some of his storied control of the product by letting Ermey write and ad-lib much of his own dialogue. We’d say it worked. Ermey’s scenes in “Full Metal Jacket” are some of the most recognizable in cinematic history.


What’s your favorite R. Lee Ermey movie role? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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The Nutty Professor Eddie Murphy 1996

Weird Science

10 Weird Movie Substances That Had Hilarious Consequences

Catch The Nutty Professor this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal Pictures/Everett Collection

If you’ve ever opened your refrigerator to find some seriously gnarly days-old potato salad, then you know that sometimes the most harmless-seeming things can turn freaky. Movies have conjured up some truly bizarre stuff, often the work of crazed scientists. Before you catch The Nutty Professor on IFC, check out some of the icky-est, gooey-ist and just plain weird substances on the big screen.

10. Flubber

Flubber
Walt Disney Studios

Professor Brainard’s “flying rubber” increases its speed every time it bounces, and increases the chaos, destruction and unlikely basketball-dunkage of anyone who uses it. Thankfully the movie ends before its thermodynamic impossibility cause the incineration of the entire universe.


9. Quantonium, Monsters Vs. Aliens

Monsters Vs Aliens
DreamWorks

In Monsters vs. Aliens, both action-packed parties are battling over Quantonium, an exotic material which massively empowers anyone who holds it. Literally in the case of Susan Murphy, whose exposure turns her into Ginormica and enables her to fight against Gallaxhar’s invasion force.


8. Sustengo, Little Fockers

Sustengo
Universal Pictures

After finally finding favor with his hard-bitten father-in-law, Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) finds himself strapped for cash and starts promoting Sustengo, an erectile dysfunction drug. Which means leaving boxes of ED drugs lying around a family who can’t even use a toilet without triggering a series of hilarious misunderstandings.


7. Iocane, Princess Bride

Iocane
20th Century Fox

Iocane is a deadly poison with no odor or taste that dissolves instantly in any liquid. The perfect tool for murder isn’t usually hilarious, but The Princess Bride makes everything funny. Hero Westley (Cary Elwes) tricks cunning Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) into drinking the poison in a game of wits. Vizzini lost, not knowing that the answer is “Don’t drink anything offered by someone who just talked about how awesome their poison is.”


6. PX-41, Despicable Me 2

PX41
Universal Pictures

The mutation compound engineered by PX-Labs turns anything into a purple, fluffy, indestructible killing machine. And when Despicable Me‘s famous Minions are dosed with it, look out. Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) crafts an antidote, PX-41 Antidote, proving he’s much better with chemicals than he is with names.


5. Mood Slime, Ghostbusters II

Mood Slime
Columbia Pictures

When the Ghostbusters came back for their 1989 sequel, the slime they encountered was sillier and scarier. The “Mood Slime” was a special form of ectoplasm utterly saturated in the emotions of everyone and everything around it. And while our heroes energize some positive vibes with Aretha Franklin tunes, the entire city of New York’s psychic outpourings are filling the sewers with something distinctly less positive.


4. The Stuff

The Stuff
New World Pictures

A science fiction soft-serve satire, The Stuff is about an oddly organic treat which is utterly delicious and zero calories. In fact it’s negative calories, because if you eat enough it’ll take over your brain and hollow you out from the inside.


3. Miracle Weight Loss Serum, The Nutty Professor

Buddy Love
Universal Pictures

The core component of The Nutty Professor‘s plot is a miraculous weight loss serum, a simple fluid which re-engineers human DNA all by itself. This allows sweet but sizable Sherman Klump (Eddie Murphy) to transform into the tight, toned and turbocharged Buddy Love (Murphy again). The serum is revealed to be fatally dangerous, but anything which allows Eddie Murphy to play himself cranked up to the max is pure comedy gold.


2. Cobalt Thorium G, Dr. Strangelove

Dr Strangelove
Columbia Pictures

Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb is about a bomb built with Cobalt Thorium G. It’s a doomsday device designed to annihilate all human civilization and is, slightly worryingly, based on the least fictional materials on this list. Cobalt and thorium both have applications in nuclear weapon design. Luckily we haven’t got them up to G yet.


1. Ectoplasm, Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters
Columbia Pictures

The Ghostbusters live in a world where ghosts are real but physics is still in charge. So while the ghouls are flung around with proton packs, they get the boys in grey back with their appalling ectoplasm, or slime, trail. As Venkman says, getting covered in the stuff will make you feel all funky.

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Fast Times Jennifer Jason Leigh

Retro Grades

The 11 Best Movie Comedies of the ’80s

Catch Fast Times at Ridgemont High during IFC's '80s Weekend.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

The ’80s gave us so many great things (Tab, anyone?), but when it comes to movie comedies, the Reagan years were a golden age of funny. In honor of IFC’s ’80s Weekend, we’ve selected the best big screen comedies from the decade that gave us Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy and other comedy greats. And like one of the movies featured below, this list goes to 11.

1. Back to the Future

“A high school slacker goes back in time, takes his mother to a dance, and gets dangerously close to becoming his own father.” The elevator pitch for Back to the Future doesn’t sound so charming, but the 1985 flick starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover is declared by many as being the perfect movie. (Though we can’t officially say if the Eric Stoltz version would’ve been better.)


2. Ghostbusters

The sheer number of childhoods that were professed to be ruined by the recent reboot should tell you how beloved the original film is. A perfect blend of comedy, horror and fantasy, Ghostbusters has an indelible cast at the top of its game and a heap of one-liners worthy of countless casual references. They have the tools, and they have the talent.


3. Airplane!

Speaking of one-liners, it doesn’t get much more quotable than the 1980 Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker classic Airplane!. Almost a one-to-one parody of the 1957 disaster film Zero Hour!, Airplane! works so well because of how straight faced the zaniness is played — which is something its many imitators fail to notice.


4. This Is Spinal Tap

Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer created the de facto mockumentary film with the hilarious 1984 rock diary This Is Spinal Tap. Heralded as one of the most accurate depictions of backstage life by actual real-life bands, the movie showcases an aging glam metal band struggling for the spotlight while keeping the group intact (especially the spontaneously combustible drummers).


5. National Lampoon’s Vacation

While Caddyshack and Fletch are quintessential Chevy Chase films, nothing beats the bumbling patriarch of the Griswold clan losing his mind en route to Wally World, America’s favorite family fun park. Yes, the sequels saw diminishing returns (aside from Christmas Vacation), but the one that started them all is endlessly watchable. Amen, let’s go!


6. Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Director Amy Heckerling and writer Cameron Crowe managed to capture exactly what high school life was like in the early-’80s. The awkwardness, the frustrations, the scares, the search for purpose and gratification, Fast Times presents its young characters as fully fleshed-out individuals (even the designated stoner shows nuance) and doesn’t talk down to its audience like many teen movies do. (Click here to see all airings of Fast Times at Ridgemont High on IFC.)


7. Beverly Hills Cop

A reminder of the days when Eddie Murphy was the edgiest comedian in showbiz, the one-two punch of Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hrs. set the template for modern action comedies. We wouldn’t have the Rush Hour franchise and every Kevin Hart film without Axel Foley.


8. Trading Places

A treatise on the Nature vs. Nurture argument at the height of Reagan-era excess, Trading Places depicts the lives that are held in the balance when the mega-rich make friendly $1 wagers and just how joyous the retribution can be. Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Lee Curtis are terrific as the leads, the Duke Brothers are delightfully evil, and in all seriousness, that is a nice purse.


9. Better Off Dead

This 1985 Savage Steve Holland movie is teen angst at its most surreal and affably goofy. John Cusack stars as Lane Meyer, a high schooler still reeling from the loss of his girlfriend to a cocky champion skier. (Is there any other kind in an ’80s movie?) With bloodthirsty paperboys, foreign-exchange street races and stop-motion hamburger interludes, Better Off Dead doesn’t let realism get in the way of accurately portraying pure teen heartbreak.


10. Midnight Run

Of all the critically acclaimed pairings that actor Robert De Niro has had through the years, few are as entertaining as his reluctant team-up with a persnickety Charles Grodin in 1988’s Midnight Run. Perfect foils, the bounty hunter and mob accountant race against time, the Feds and mafia hits until mutual Stockholm Syndrome kicks in and the partnership stops becoming merely professional. (The counterfeit bill scene alone is worth the watch.)


11. Heathers

Heathers is the kind of pitch-black comedy that would never get a major release in 2016. Unflinching in its satire of school shootings, teen suicide and the tragedies that come with the need to fit in, the movie remains relevant to the kids currently growing up in a cruel and judgmental world. And the fact that it’s laugh-out-loud funny while also making a sharp point about youth culture is a testament to how great the movie really is.

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Bill Hader in Conan Star Wars Audition Sketch

Acts of Wars

Watch Bill Hader, Melissa McCarthy and More Audition to Play Young Han Solo

The Documentary Now! star shows off his best Han and Chewie.

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Photo Credit: TBS/YouTube

Thanks in large part to The Force Awakens not sucking, the Star Wars universe is about to get a lot more expansive. Sequels, spin-offs, TV shows, and more are underway — which means a helluva lotta casting calls. Fortunately, Conan O’Brien got his hands on a few audition tapes of celebrities trying out for a role as a young Han Solo.

Check out Documentary Now!’s Bill Hader, Melissa McCarthy, Portlandia favorite Jeff Goldblum, Todd Margaret star Will Arnett and other funny folks offering their takes on what that younger, brasher space swashbuckler would be like.

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