"Pork chop sandwiches!"
"Give him the stick! Don't give him the stick!"
"Hey kid, I'm a computer. Stop all the downloadin'."
If you're someone who grew up in Generation Internet, these seemingly nonsensical catch phrases not only make perfect sense to you, but have been part of your lexicon and, after all these years, can still make you laugh. While the big budget action flick G.I. Joe: Retaliation is now playing in theaters and will likely clean up at the box office this weekend, for many G.I. Joe will forever be associated with some low budget, but tremendously creative (if not completely absurd) dubs of the old animated PSAs.
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Back in 2003 Eric Fensler, a writer and the man behind Fensler Film, goofed around with the audio and visuals on those cartoon PSAs and a classic meme was born. Hollywood.com caught up with Fensler to reflect on the humble beginnings of the Internet phenomenon he created a decade ago, in the moments before Internet phenomenons were even a thing.
"I used to watch the cartoon growing up so I was a fan. I found this G.I. Joe: The Movie in a five dollar bin, watched it and on the DVD special features it had all 25 of the PSAs on it," he recalled. Fensler was working in an editing suite in Chicago at the time and in his down time "would put them on my hard drive and mess around with it. I made like four of them and showed them to friends and we were laughing so I said, 'I guess I'll make the rest of them'."
Fensler, who said he did "maybe…half of the voices" then recruited his pals to get in on the action. "I was doing them all at the beginning and then I got sick of hearing my own voice so I would just pull in my roommates or my girlfriend or friends or whoever was around at the house. I'd have them do a voice and then [I'd] pitch it or pitch it down."
Fensler's roommate at the time had provided the voice for the famous "Snow Job" clip. "I think we were drinking whiskey and watching it and just laughing," Fensler recalled, "I remember messing around with the visual, making the kids look at him and then look away and playing with that. He did a really good accent. We were just goofing off." (Watch that video, for roughly the millionth time, below).
In fact, Fensler had no aspirations for the videos beyond just goofing off with his pals and making each other laugh. "I wasn't even going to put them up on the Internet," he admitted. "It was 2003, there was no YouTube, you had to make all these compressed files, it would take forever and then loading them up onto a server using dial-up was tedious. That whole process was hard." He added, "Mainly I would watch them with no sound and then figure out ways to manipulate it visually and then I would look at it over and over again and mold it until it felt like it was done."
Unlike most viral videos of today, Fensler's clips were created and eventually gained traction in a way that's now practically unheard of. "I was passing them around on VHS and showing them around in art galleries and that's how it got around at first. My girlfriend at the time said, 'You should just put them up on the Internet, that way a lot of other people can see them.' She was right. But I was just freaked out by the Internet at that time…I still am, I guess," Fensler said.
While the gallery that had represented Fensler had initially hosted the clips on their website, Ebaums World got their hands on it. "They downloaded the movie files, which is fine, that's what it was there for, but then they watermarked it and put it up on their site and sorta claiming that they had made it in a sense," Fensler said, adding, "Eventually people knew the source of where it was coming from."
But that knowledge proved to be troublesome for Fensler, who received a cease and desist order from Hasbro in 2004 to take the parodies down or face legal action. Fensler obliged, but as evident by its continued popularity on sites like YouTube, it didn't have a permanent effect. "I was...fine with it because it was already on a lot of different sites or people had the original movie files," he said of the cease and desist, "I just took them down and that was that."
While Fensler — who also worked as a writer on Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! — is gracious for the success of his hilarious G.I. Joe PSAs ("Anytime I'm doing something,, the GI Joe thing gets mentioned and everyone seems to respond to it in a good way. It did open a lot of doors") he admitted that he himself hasn't watched the clips in years and he's stunned by their staying power. "It's been ten years since I've put them up on the Internet…and yeah, it's surprising that something could last that long. Nowadays it usually kind of comes and goes and is a flash in the pan." All together now: "You're not cooking!" "Yeah dude!"
[Photo credit: YouTube]
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Heaven. Hell. Us humans in the middle. It's all very complicated. But John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) seems to have a handle on it. Born with a gift he says no human should ever have he has the ability to see what he calls "half-breeds"--angels and demons that walk the earth in human skin (and apparently there are a lot of them). Of course the horror of it is too much to bear and Constantine tries to take his own life. But he fails. Now having been to hell and back again quite literally Constantine is marked as an attempted suicide with a temporary lease on life. He patrols the earthly border between heaven and hell acting as an exorcist of sorts. Of course the guy isn't doing it because he feels empathy for the human race or anything. It's for purely selfish reasons. He hopes that if he sends the devil's foot soldiers back to the depths he'll gain some kind of redemption a free get-out-of-jail card so to speak. Constantine's attitude changes however when a skeptical police detective Angela (Rachel Weisz) enlists his help in solving the mysterious death of her beloved twin sister. They end up uncovering a twisted master plan brewing between the demons and angels which could bring about a catastrophic series of otherworldly events. Perfect.
John Constantine is a little like The Matrix's Neo--an ultra-cool but tormented man of little words with a sardonic fatalistic outlook on life who kicks a myriad of nasty-looking demons (instead of a myriad of nasty-looking machines) back from whence they came. Yes Reeves has done this before but that's because he's good at it. You can't blame him for sticking with something that works. Weisz also holds her own as the devoutly religious Angela who nonetheless has a hard time believing there are actual angels and demons running around among us. That is of course until she spends about 10 minutes with Constantine and sees just how real they are. As far as the rest of the humans in the film Shia LaBeouf (Holes) does a nice comical turn as Constantine's sidekick and protégé while Djimon Hounsou (In America) works his voodoo mojo as a witch doctor who has a long-standing if strained relationship with Constantine. The not-so-human counterparts are equally intriguing. Peter Stormare (Fargo) delivers a somewhat over-the-top but devilishly eccentric performance as Satan. Tilda Swinton (The Deep End) dons the wings of the arch-angel Gabriel to whom Constantine is always asking for a reprieve but who has got her own agenda.
Based on the DC Comics/Vertigo comic-book Hellblazer Constantine is demonic eye candy. Obviously inspired by the many music videos he's helmed in the past director Francis Lawrence making his feature film debut paints a pretty dark and moody world with shadowy wet rat-infested (or cockroach-infested) corners that hide the horrific demon half-breeds as well as all other kinds of terrible baddies. Then when we get into Hades itself where the demons and seplavites--a sub-genre of the damned who are sightless mindless soul eaters--prowl it's an apocalyptic landscape. Lovely place. Unfortunately the script isn't nearly as stimulating. It must be an arduous task adapting a series of comic books so to his credit screenwriter Kevin Brodbin does do a nice job introducing us to Constantine and his world. But Brodbin seems to have incorporated too much. As the action escalates more and more plot points and characters are thrown in complicating matters. By the time the long-winded climax is over you're exhausted.
September 27, 2002 10:25am EST
Ben and JoJo Floss' daughter Diana is gunned down only days before her wedding when she accidentally gets in the way of a violent husband-and-wife dispute at a Cape Anne Mass. restaurant. Her fiancé Joe soon becomes a surrogate member of the Floss family and the three cope with their grief in various ways. JoJo attempts to avoid all the attention that is being paid the family and Ben throws himself--and Joe--into a commercial real estate venture that needs big-time developer Mike's support to succeed. Joe meanwhile combs through big bins of undelivered mail with postmaster Bertie in an effort to retrieve the 75 wedding invitations that had been sent. Bertie who in addition to her postal work also helps out in the local bar owned by her missing-in-'Nam-action beau is also grieving and soon she and Ben are a couple. As writer-director Brad Silberling's gentle drama unfolds it becomes clear that the film is a "hundred-whys" effort. For a start why is the film titled Moonlight Mile a lesser-known Rolling Stones song? It's never explained. And why does the film take place in 1973 when only the film's rollicking soundtrack and a passing reference to the Vietnam War evoke the era? These questions--and the many many other whys in Moonlight Mile--remain unanswered resulting in a film that falls as flat as a bad souffle.
The actors in Moonlight Mile for example are among the choicest of ingredients--three Oscar winners a promising newcomer and an almost legendary comic talent. So why is young Jake Gyllenhaal so bland as the sweet hero-fiancé Joe so opaque and passive suggesting nothing of a background education or professional aspirations? Why did talented Oscar winners Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon agree to star as the parents except for the fact that each actor is given the chance to sink his or her teeth into an 11th hour set piece? Why do Oscar winner Holly Hunter (as the tough prosecuting attorney Mona who warns Joe Ben and JoJo that there's a good chance the perpetrator will get off lightly) and comic virtuoso Dabney Coleman (as gruff real estate developer Mike) squander their talents?
Part of the answer to all the whys Moonlight Mile raises can be found in Silberling's direction. He clearly knows the ingredients Hollywood seems to want these days: nice recognizable characters in emotionally wrenching situations; some resonance of a bygone period; a soundtrack that will help with the marketing; big-name leads and a compelling young star; a dash of unpredictability and feel-good ending. But as Silberling mixes up this all-too-familiar recipe his strokes create a thin watery batter that just refuses to rise above cliché. As a writer he knows the rules but he skirts wit irony humor and convincing raw emotion in favor of the formula raising more questions than he answers.