Based on the iconic 1960s television series created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry the new 2008 big-screen incarnation of the show smartly goes its own way faithful in spirit but charting a new course for Maxwell Smart and company. With Steve Carell in the lead this Max is a likeable reliable paper-pushing analyst for spy agency CONTROL who dreams of one day of becoming a top agent out in the field himself. When CONTROL headquarters is attacked and nearly all the other agents identities are compromised he gets his chance. The Chief (Alan Arkin) has no choice but to bench his number one Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson) in favor of Max now Agent 86. Max teams up with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway)--a far more competent and experienced agent--in order to thwart the terrorist plans of KAOS lead by Siegfried (Terence Stamp) and his right-hand man Shtarker (Ken Davitian). This Get Smart is a full-out action-comedy with the emphasis on action. The actors make all the derring-do and wild on-screen antics totally believable.
There is no question that Don Adams and Maxwell Smart are interchangeable. It’s almost impossible to imagine another actor in the role which is why Steve Carell has made all the right choices choosing to take his Max in a different direction. This is no imitation at all but a fully fleshed out bumbling guy with dreams of his own. Carell is very funny trying to deal with gadgets out of his er control--using code language getting his signals mixed up and trying to be a decent partner for the much smarter 99. Hathaway gets to act tough for the first time in her career and makes this 99 a bright woman who is obviously light years ahead of all her male colleagues. Both stars skillfully handle the considerable physical humor required here. After scoring in his surprise family hit The Game Plan Dwayne Johnson continues to show his comic timing as the superstar agent who is grounded against his will. Stamp and Borat’s sidekick Davitian are amusing caricatures but stuck with rather one-dimensional over-the-top villain roles. Arkin is perfectly cast as the beleaguered Chief while James Caan as the U.S. President has little to do but does it well. Bill Murray’s cameo in a tree trunk just lays there. Director Peter Segal’s experience working with comedians like Adam Sandler and Eddie Murphy clearly pays off here as he guides Steve Carell to one of his best screen performances against daunting odds. People always have built-in expectations for pre-sold properties like a Get Smart but Segal wisely uses the source material to make it work for two kinds of audiences: those who loved the TV series and those who have never heard of it. Key to the success of this adaptation is taking the characters and placing them in big action set pieces. What was an amusing weekly sitcom is now suddenly competing favorably with summer blockbusters delivering stunt-filled sequence after stunt-filled sequence. In fact there is almost too much action but fortunately Carell and company know how to bring it down to earth at just the right moments. The screenplay by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember catches the flavor of the old TV series retaining much of what we loved--including Smart’s famous catch-phrases (“Missed it by THAT much!)--but craftily updating it for today’s more sophisticated movie-goers. They got the blessing of the show’s famous creators Mel Brooks and Buck Henry who served as consultants. That can only be a good thing.
According to studio sources, Get Smart (Warner Bros) has the early edge on The Love Guru (Paramount) in industry tracking in next Friday's battle of big studio comedies. It has been 40 years since the television debut of Don Adams and his “cone of silence” on NBC, but Get Smart, created by comedy legends Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, seems to be getting some traction with a whole new generation.
Peter Segal (The Longest Yard, 50 First Dates) has helmed the adaptation of the late '60s TV classic with Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart and Anne Hathaway as Agent 99, and, despite trailing The Love Guru in Un-Aided Awareness four percent to three percent and Total Awareness 80 percent-78 percent, Get Smart holds a decisive advantage in the Definite Interest and First Choice columns.
Get Smart checks in with 36 percent Definite Interest while the Mike Myers created Guru is softer at 27 percent, although a healthy chunk of its appeal is with the 25+ crowd. The 2 movies are basically even in Definite Interest among under 25’s, but Males 25+ lean toward Get Smart 31 percent to 18 percent and Females 25+ choose Carell and company 36 percent to 15 percent, indicating some nostalgia for familiar characters.
My sources report that at the moment the Warner Bros comedy has a seven percent First Choice compared to three percent for The Love Guru, so Get Smart looks like the best bet for next weekend. There are still plenty of ad dollars to be spent, and this week alone, Justin Timberlake will hit The Tonight Show Tuesday, Mike Myers will appear with Leno Thursday and Ben Kingsley is on Letterman Thursday as well. But, as of today, I am predicting that Get Smart will get to $30-$35M while The Love Guru seems more like $25M-$30M.
The first Santa Clause had a somewhat clever premise on how an ordinary guy can become Santa Claus just by putting on the red suit while the second Clause was about finding a Mrs. Claus. What’s the third clause? The Escape Clause which allows anyone who is Santa the option to give it all up and become a mortal man again. Of course Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) aka the current Santa has no intentions of leaving the job. But his lovely wife Carol (Elizabeth Mitchell) is expecting their first child and missing home a great deal so Scott has to juggle having his in-laws (Alan Arkin and Ann-Margaret) come to the North Pole--which he has to disguise as Canada to keep the “Secret of Santa” alive--with getting ready for Christmas. It’s kind of hectic. And throwing a huge wrench in the whole deal is the envious Jack Frost (Martin Short). Relegated as the “opening act” to Christmas Frost wants his own gig and sabotages Scott at every turn in order to steal the job away from him. There’s no nipping at your nose with this guy; it’s all-out war. Allen makes no apologies for his career. Why should he? He’s been moderately successful playing everyday dads in Disney comedies displaying the right mix of milquetoast-iness and humor. Plus as Scott/Santa he also gets to be sentimental. I just wonder if he still wouldn’t like to do something more cutting edge? Short on the other hand never could find the right kind of starring vehicle for himself but instead has created some hilarious supporting characters (if you don’t believe me rent The Big Picture). Jack Frost is another one to add to the list. The comedian has way too much fun playing the nasty ice man with steely blue eyes a smart--if frosty--three-piece suit and who gets to say lines like “I invented ‘Chill!’” Mitchell (TV’s Lost) reprises her role as the sweet-as-pie Mrs. Claus and has some nice moments with Scott. And what a surprise to see Alan Arkin and Ann-Margaret in this! They are perfect as the meddling in-laws especially Arkin who finds everything wrong with Scott and his “toy factory.” Buena Vista didn’t feel it was necessary to pre-screen Santa Clause 3 for critics. They probably believe the audiences for this franchise is already built in and they don’t need jaded critics slamming the film for being silly and meaningless. Smart. But as much as it pains me to say it Santa Clause 3 directed by Michael Lembeck (who did Santa Clause 2) really isn’t that awful. Yes it’s all terribly predictable with the schmaltz so thick you could cut it with a knife. But there’s also something surprisingly endearing about these movies. They have always provided a sort of warm family-friendly feel without too much forced circumstances—and most importantly they are legitimate Christmas movies--even its being released just as we are putting away the Halloween decorations. Honestly I’d take a Santa Clause 3 over a Christmas with the Kranks (sorry Tim Allen) any day.
Idealistic Jerome (Max Minghella) heads to the Strathmore Institute to fulfill his lifelong ambition of becoming the next great artist like his idol Picasso. He falls hard for the beautiful art class model Audrey (Sophia Myles) certain she’s the muse he’s always waited for. But Jerome also finds an unlikely nemesis--the clean-cut Jonah (Matt Keeslar)--whose painting style wows everyone including Audrey. Jerome has to find a way to get her attention and make a splash like Jonah. A subplot about a series of murders by “The Strathmore Strangler” hijacks the last third of the film and feels grafted on. Minghella is appropriately sullen as shy underdog Jerome but lights up whenever Audrey is around--and as his golden girl Myles is indeed captivating. But it’s Confidential’s supporting cast that is surprisingly high-profile. John Malkovich is a hoot as Jerome’s laid-back art professor who’s more concerned about getting his own works shown than nurturing young talent. Jim Broadbent rants effectively as a bitter alcoholic failed painter. Anjelica Huston is serene and above it all as an art history professor and Steve Buscemi is the colorful local whose cafe serves as a launching pad for Strathmore grads. Some of the biggest laughs are courtesy of Ethan Suplee (TV’s My Name Is Earl) as a Kevin Smith-esque filmmaking student whose films are funded by his grandfather anxious to see shoot ‘em ups. Director Terry Zwigoff and writer Daniel Clowes previously brought Clowes’ quirky comic Ghost World to the big screen--a terrific heartfelt film with a stellar star turn by Thora Birch. Now Clowes and Zwigoff are team up again to bring another Clowes’ comic Art School Confidential to life. They certainly capture the same tone as Ghost World telling the story with the same hip deadpan wit. But unfortunately Confidential pales in comparison. With a less than appealing protagonist the story just isn’t as engaging. It might be better to wait until Confidential comes out on DVD with all the fun extras.
Don Adams, star of the 1960s TV spy spoof Get Smart, died of a lung infection
Sept. 25. He was 82.
Adams, who provided the cartoon voices of the leading characters on Tennessee
Tuxedo and Inspector Gadget, had been in ill health for a year, since breaking
At the height of the James Bond craze in 1965, Adams played Agent 86 Maxwell
Smart in the comedy Get Smart, which was created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry.
The show led to him winning three Emmy Awards as comedy actor in a series.
Born of Hungarian Jewish extraction in New York City as Donald James Yarmy,
he worked as a drill instructor in the Marines. He became sick overseas while
serving in Guadalcanal and had returned to the US.
Adams began doing standup in New York nightclubs after World War II, trying
out material at night while working as a commercial artist by day. In all,
Adams had three wives, and three divorces. His last marriage, to Judy Luciano,
ended in 1977, after seven years. He had seven children.
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Dodgeball is the classic big guy vs. little guy
can-do tale featuring your least favorite P.E. activity. Peter La Fleur
(Vince Vaughn) is the irresponsible manager of Average Joe Gymnasium a
low-end workout center that is losing business to Globo Gym America Corp.
run by former fatty food fetishist White Goodman (Ben Stiller). Peter
discovers that he has 30 days to come up with $50 000 of payments or else he
will lose his gym to Goodman. With the help of the bank's lawyer Kate Veatch
(Christine Taylor) and a ragtag team of gym regulars Peter plans on
winning the Las Vegas International Dodgeball Open and its first place
prize money. Yes folks all of your favorite sports clichés are here: the
salty experienced coach (Rip Torn) with his inspirational
non-sequiturs the nerd with a girl to impress a love triangle between the two
rivals and of course pirates. What? You were expecting a high concept and clever plot twists perhaps? C'mon.
If you want character development go see the folks at Merchant-Ivory. This
is irreverent comedy folks. And truth be told it's nothing we haven't seen
before. Vince Vaughn hones his too-cool-for-school good-guy persona against
Ben Stiller's lycra-covered over-the-top overachiever with a '70s porn
moustache. Stiller's performance is colored with shades of the dim-witted
Zoolander and the granny-thrashing nurse from Happy Gilmore but it
works. The two actors play off of each other and their co-stars quite well.
(Stiller's codpiece alone deserves its own screen credit.) But like a good drummer carries a band the movie's costars are what keeps the audience's attention. And as always Rip Torn does crazy
like no one else as dodgeball manager Patches O'Houlihan. He
chews the scenery spouting nuggets of wisdom such as "If you can dodge a
wrench you can dodge a ball" before heaving a tool at one poor kid. As for the team of Average Joes Stephen Root Justin Long and Joel Moore keep the gags rolling as do the actors who make cameo appearances. This laugher has more guest stars than a
two-hour Love Boat special. With a list that includes David
Hasselhoff Chuck Norris Jason Bateman Hank Azaria I was almost expecting
Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise to show up in a red Ferrari. The
highlights? Well Gary Cole shines in his bow to the great Vin Scully but
nothing could beat Lance Armstrong who laid down the best guilt trip I've
seen since I moved to the dorms.
This is Rawson Marshall Thurber's first time out playing with the big boys.
Quite a burden for a Tinseltown newbie but Thurber pulls it off agreeably.
All of your favorite sports movies will be mocked and you will enjoy it.
Thurber uses everything he can to get a laugh. Whether he's clowning Tony
Robbins parodying '50s instructional videos or using pizza in a perverse
and unholy manner Thurber keeps his audiences attention with enough
breakneck shtick to make Mel Brooks proud. But most importantly he never
forgets the fundamental rule to slapstick comedy: hitting people with stuff
is very very funny especially if it's in the nether regions or some area
of the human body that could potentially hurt or bleed a whole lot.
In this latest doomsday pic Earth's inner core has stopped rotating a situation that will eventually cause the planet's electromagnetic fields to collapse. If it isn't fixed pronto static charges will create "super storms" that will generate hundreds of lightening strikes per square mile and cause microwave radiation to ultimately cook the planet. Government and military officials conjure up a team of scientists led by geophysicist Josh Keyes (Aaron Eckhart) to travel to the planet's core and get it spinning again. Accompanying them are geophysicist Dr. Zimsky (Stanley Tucci) atomic weapons expert Dr. Levesque (Tchéky Karyo) "terranauts" Major Childs (Hilary Swank) and Commander Iverson (Bruce Greenwood) and Dr. Brazzelton (Delroy Lindo)--the renegade scientist who built the subterranean vessel. Their mission is to travel to the center of the earth to detonate a nuclear device that will hopefully jump-start the core and save the world. Like the "terranauts" grinding their way through Earth's layers to get to the planet's core The Core laboriously plods through the storyline to get to its climax--and both are equally uneventful.
Despite a really corny scene in which he demonstrates what will happen to the planet by torching some sort of fruit on a fork Eckhart (Possession) is believable as the sensible Keyes. Co-star Swank (Insomnia) meanwhile brings intensity to the role of fledgling astronaut Childs. It is Tucci (Big Trouble) however who creates the film's most interesting character the arrogant Dr. Zimsky. The diva-esque geophysicist heads to the center of the earth in style with his Louis Vuitton monogrammed canvas bag and an endless supply of cigarettes--making him politically--and refreshingly--incorrect. You'll love how he pompously records the mission's progress in a Carl Sagan-style narration. Back at mission control D.J. Qualls' computer-hacking character Rat mirrors a recent report describing the characteristics of computer virus writers: Male. Obsessed with computers. Lacking a girlfriend. Aged 14 to 34. Capable of sowing chaos worldwide. Qualls (The New Guy) couldn't be more suited for this digital graffiti artist role.
Director Jon Amiel helps define the film's main characters by weaving vignettes of their everyday lives throughout the first half of the film but so much effort is devoted to exploring their individual backgrounds that relationships among the team members are never established. The minor characters are like extras in a Star Trek episode--they're just onscreen to die. The Core also fizzles as a believable disaster movie because of its flimsy scientific reasoning even if you try to suspend your disbelief for the sake of cinematic "escapism." While I can make myself believe for example that a government-created weapon of mass destruction is to blame for the planet's imminent annihilation I cannot buy into the notion that this high-tech vessel was built by a renegade scientist in his backyard and is able to withstand the rough trip to the center of the earth. Although the film's original November release date was delayed because more time was needed to complete the special effects don't expect to be visually dazzled by the voyage. Most of what we see is what the "terranauts" see on their screen: spotty black-and-white renditions of sharp jagged rock. Scenes of the Roman Coliseum getting zapped by lightening and San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge melting aren't convincing either.