September 1st, 2008


There are fewer things more sacred to a man than the Holy Trinity:  His wife, his movies, and his car.  What better way to combine all three by taking your better half and tossing her in your ride to see some quality flicks under a beautiful summer night sky? 


Sadly, two weeks ago, some jackass rear-ended the beloved Cavalier and totaled it.  While it was making it’s way up to that great junkyard in the sky, I’ve been dealing with whiplash and physical therapy and haven’t had the time (or the car) to get up to the drive-in and see Clone Wars.  (Dammit, I missed my opportunity to see Star Wars under the goddamned STARS for Christ’s sakes!)


Anyway, I’m feeling much better now that I got my new ride, a steel blue ‘01 Ford Taurus; or as I like to call her, The Big Blue Bull.  What better way to pop the Bull’s Drive-In cherry than to put the pedal to the metal and make a beeline for the state line to check out the Diamond State Drive-In’s Labor Day From-Dusk-Till-Dawn Show.  This year they had FIVE movies for $10, and better yet, they were all Sci-Fi flicks in one way or another.  The wife wasn’t too sure about the “quality” of the movies being shown, but that didn’t discourage her from performing her marital duties and accompanying her husband to the drive-in for a sundown to sunup Sci-Fi cinema smorgasbord. 


As the sun was setting, the show began.  First they played all the usual intermission trailers from the 60’s that advertised everything from popcorn to candy to soda; my favorite being the immortal “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” ad.  Seriously, there ought to be a federal law that states that theaters both indoor and outdoor alike have to play this ad before the main attraction or face prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.  Of course, the Drive-In also has to play the obligatory modern day commercials for such lame-o products like Ax Body Spray too, but I guess they got to earn a buck somehow. 


After a couple of mediocre previews, it was “ON WITH THE SHOW!”  First up: 


SPACE CHIMPS  (2008)  **


Well, WALL-E it was not


Space Chimps follows a chimp named Ham (voiced by Andy Samberg from Saturday Night Live) who is chosen by NASA along with two other chimps to pilot a space shuttle into a wormhole at the far end of the galaxy.  Once there, they come into contact with a wimpy alien race being menaced by an overweight and overzealous beastie (voiced by Jeff Daniels) who wants to enslave the inhabitants of the planet.  It’s up to the Chimps to put a kibosh on the slimy bastard’s plan and save the day.  Oh yeah and fall and love.  Oh yeah and show that they’re smarter than humans.  You know; the usual stuff. 


The set-up is similar in a lot of respects to Space Cowboys, but instead of a bunch of septuagenarian old farts going in space, it’s a bunch of chimps.  Things go off the deep end once we meet the aliens though; all of whom are fairly grating on the nerves.  You know, when you are thinking of someone to give voice to your evil alien leader, I’m not sure that the name Jeff Daniels would be at the top of your list.  Hell, I’m not sure if he would be on anybody’s list to tell you the truth.  As a villain, he’s a total bore and his one-dimensional line readings wear out their welcome fast.  If the film had focused more on the chimps training for their mission and less on all the goofy alien shit, Space Chimps may have been a good time.  The flick may have had more problems than a math book, but it did manage to eek a few laughs out of me.  Not bad for a third rate CGI animated kiddie movie, I guess. 


Andy Samberg’s likeable performance is really the thing that makes this movie worth a look.  If you loved him in the classic SNL sketch, Lazy Sunday and want watch a G rated movie with your kids that at least keeps a small fraction of his persona intact, then this should fit the bill.


(The wife didn’t care too much for this one as she was completely engrossed with her Nintendo DS during much of the film’s running time.)


Then after all the CGI bull-honky, we got some REAL animated entertainment in the form of a Woody Woodpecker cartoon during intermission time.  The cartoon had Woody putting the screws to his sleepy neighbor by making as much racket as possible (including doing his infectious trademark laugh).  After that wonderful little gem, next came:


MEET DAVE  (2008)  ** ½


The fact that the trailers for this movie were truly terrible shouldn’t dissuade you from checking Meet Dave out.  The fact that the film reunites Eddie Murphy with Norbit director Brian Robbins shouldn’t stop you from seeing it either.  Nor should the fact that Murphy doesn’t exactly have the best sci-fi track record after the mega-flop, The Adventures of Pluto Nash.  Meet Dave is much better than that turd and while it may be just a middling entry in Murphy’s oeuvre, it’s a damn sight better than say, Harlem Nights or Boomerang. 


Murphy plays an alien spacecraft disguised as a human whose mission is to drain the Earth of its oceans.  Inside of Murphy is a crew of astronauts not unlike the crew from Star Trek, who are captained by… you guessed it, Eddie Murphy.  When the mission doesn’t go as planned, the spaceship (named “Dave”) has to mingle among the citizens of Earth where it learns the value of human life, friendship, and love.  You know; the usual stuff. 


The sole reason I was willing to give this thing a chance is that it was co-written by Bill Corbett, better known as Crow from Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Although the film reeks of Hollywood re-writes, it manages to maintain a lot of Corbett’s wit throughout the flick.  I was actually surprised to find myself laughing sporadically during the course of the movie, often louder than I expected.  Besides, it doesn’t matter if a lot of the slapsticky stuff involving Dave learning to blend in with his human surroundings is groan-inducing.  What matters is that Murphy looks like he’s having fun, especially in the scenes where he shits out a bunch of money, sharpens a pencil with his nose, and comically eats dozens of Nathan’s hot dogs in no time flat. 


Read that last sentence again.  Does that kind of thing sound funny to you?  If not, avoid this movie like the plague.  Otherwise, you might find yourself having a good time, at least half of the time that is. 


(The wife didn’t catch this one, she slept right through it.)


After we met Dave, we were treated to more old timey ads; my favorite being the one for “Rico’s Nachos” that boasted “finely aged cheese”.  Cheesy is right, because this ad is chockfull of 70’s cheesiness.  From the past, we went to the future of: 


BABYLON A.D.  (2008)  ** ½


You know, I hadn’t seen a great Vin Diesel sci-fi action flick since The Chronicles of Riddick came out four years ago.  I know, I know I shouldn’t get my hopes up like that.  I know there will never be another movie quite like The Chronicles of Riddick.  Flicks like that one only come along once, maybe twice in a lifetime.  Babylon A.D. ain’t in the same league as COR, but I still kinda dug it.


Babylon A.D. is all about Diesel trying to smuggle this virgin chick into New York because it’s the future and things are so bad you have to import fine tail over the border on the down low.  Naturally, all the vaguely Eastern European looking bad guys want her dead as a doornail and Diesel has to grudgingly protect her.  Then we learn she’s pregnant.  Then we learn with what. 


Basically it’s Blade Runner Meets Children of Men on a Doomsday budget.  Actually the film is less about all that stuff and really more about how Vin Diesel pays his electric bills in between Fast and the Furious movies. 


You know the advance word on this movie was venomous.  20th Century Fox kept pushing the release date back, which is never a good sign.  Then they drastically re-cut and re-edited the film from a reported 2 ½ hours down to an even 90 minutes.  The director, Mathieu Kassovitz then complained openly that the studio ruined his film and his “vision”.  I don’t know Mathieu, but when your last movie was the godawful Gothika, I have to think you’re stretching credibility by saying you have a “vision” of anything.


Despite all that malarkey, I didn’t think Babylon A.D. was all that bad.  One caveat is that the movie is light in the action department.  BUT… when Vin does bust a move, things get downright wonderfully shitdiculous.  The scene where Diesel hops on a snowmobile and actually outruns a Stealth bomber is zanier than anything he did in XXX.  While the film does show signs of studio meddling (it’s in dire need of a third act), you DO get to see Vin participate in a futuristic UFC style cage match, so to me it’s an even trade off.


I also liked the way the flick didn’t hit you over the head with all the futuristic shit.  At one point, Vin Diesel gets an Army of Darkness style metal hand for no real good reason at all, other than it looks pretty badass.  No one ever explains “Oh, the neuro-tendons will coagulate the this and the that”.  Uh-uh.  Vin just kinda takes the fact that he woke up from a coma wearing a robotic appendage in stride.  (Who wouldn’t?  That thing looked sweet to me!)


Not everything in the film is up to snuff, but Diesel is the bomb and really owns in this movie.  All of his dialogue is of the clichéd macho tough guy variety, which is to say it’s pretty awesome.  Like the Riddick movies, his opening narration is great (“Save the planet?  Every time I see that bumper sticker I have to laugh.  Save it for who?”), and he gets all the best lines like “In this business you need two things, balls and brains and you don’t have either one!” and “I only have one rule:  DON’T FUCK WITH ME!”


(Interestingly, the wife tried to stay up for this one.  About five minutes into the film though, this exchange could be heard from the confines of the Big Blue Bull:


WIFE:  So, where’s the cavemen?


ME:  Cavemen?


WIFE:  Yeah, don’t they fight wooly mammoths or something?


ME:  Uh, honey, that was 10,000 B.C.  You know B.C. as in prehistoric times.  This is Babylon A.D. as in like, the future.


WIFE:  Oh.  So… no wooly mammoths then? 


ME:  No.


Five minutes later.




After the credits rolled on Babylon A.D., we got another intermission.  This one was one of those 10 minute deals where the juggling popcorn and jumping hotdogs countdown the minutes to showtime.  Next up was: 




Watching a 3-D movie in two dimensions is kinda like wearing a condom during sex.  You go through all the motions but you’re missing the sensation. 


We unfortunately couldn’t watch the new Journey to the Center of the Earth in three dimensions as God had intended, so we had to settle for two dimensions instead.  Even if you were lucky enough to see the movie in 3-D, it probably seemed pretty flat. 


What we got here is Brendan Fraser grabbing his teenage nephew and going to Iceland to look for the titular center of the Earth with the help of a hottie guide.  Once to the core, they encounter luminescent birds, giant mushrooms (“Humongous fungus!”), flying prehistoric piranhas, man-eating plants and a Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Then they got to figure out how to get back home.  The way they do it is… no, I’m sorry, it’s just too stupid to describe and I just couldn’t bear to go over it in my mind again. 


The big problem I had with this flick is that like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the main characters are never once in any real “danger”.  (There’s even a mine cart scene blatantly stolen from Temple of Doom that seems more like a prototype for a theme park ride than anything else.)  I mean Fraser is running from a T-Rex for his life and he still has time to make inane wisecracks.  Worse still is the scene where the trio literally stumbles into a hole and fall thousands of miles down into the center of the Earth and don’t go splat when they reach the bottom.  (I didn’t quite get the physics of that one either.)  Another odd thing about the movie is the jailbait guide who is obviously set up to be the nephew’s love interest, but bizarrely enough ends up locking lips with Fraser at the end of the movie.  Weird. 


I guess if you saw this in 3-D, it MIGHT have been more fun, what with all the yo-yos, birds, rocks, fish, tape measures, and mouthwash (that’s right, you heard me, mouthwash) constantly being hurtled at the audience.  In 3-D, I’m sure it’s really something.  (Give it an extra half star if you do catch the 3-D version.)  In 2-D, not so much.  Still when’s the last time you saw Brendan Fraser duke it out with a carnivorous Venus Fly Trap?


As 3-D movies go, it’s no Spacehunter:  Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, but there are certainly worse Brendan Fraser movies out there that you could waste your time with. 


(The only dimensions the wife saw were the dimensions of the back of her eyelids.)


The final intermission ad was just the intermission clock letting you know how long you had to take a three-dimensional piss before the final flick started up, which happened to be…


THE HAPPENING  (2008)  **


Let me go on record by saying that I was not looking forward to this one at all.  You all may know of my unabashed hatred for M. Night Shymalamadingdong’s work.  I was there for the very first show of The Sixth Sense, where I successfully predicted the “twist” ending that everyone subsequently went gaga for.  I sat through Unbreakable, which really should’ve been called Unwatchable.  I was the first to notice the real sign that Signs was going to go down the shitter when Shymalamadingdong gave himself that hilariously extended egotistical cameo.  (Not to mention the fact that the aliens could master space travel but couldn’t figure out how to open up a damn door.)  I tried to give him one more chance with The Village, but it only gave me another reason to hate the son of a bitch (not to mention hippies who like to live in turn-of-the-century Quaker communes). 


After that, I swore off Shymalamadingdong movies.  I skipped that Lady in the Water shit PDQ (It looked like it should’ve been called Splash but with Ugly People) and would’ve bypassed this flick altogether, had it not been playing at the ass end of the quintuple feature.  I had already been behind the wheel of the Big Blue Bull for eight hours straight, so why not ring in the dawn with Marky Mark running around Pennsylvania while crazy people hari-kari themselves underneath of John Deere tractors? 


I will give this to Shymalamadingdong:  He had me for a little bit. 


The plot:  Nature is Angry.  So trees produce a toxin that makes people kill themselves in order to tip the balance of Nature.  The thing is, you can always tell when someone is about to go plum loco and off themselves because they always give you this funny little look, as if they’re trying to do long division in their head or something.  Then, blammo, either they’re sucking on a service revolver, sticking hatpins in their jugular or feeding themselves to the lions. 


Actually for the first 2/3 of the flick, The Happening ain’t half bad.  Shymalamadingdong finally dropped all those PG-13 shenanigans and finally went R rated on us, and the results are fairly decent.  I got to give Shymalamadingdong credit for evoking a Romero-esque feel and a handful of quality kills (including the outright butchering of a couple of young kids). 


But just like every other one of his flicks, M. Nyquil screws the pooch in the third act.  The flick completely jumps the rails once Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch of People Who Haven’t Killed Themselves Yet stay at the bizarro Betty (Carrie) Buckley’s Bed and Breakfast from Hell.  Sure, bunking up with senile senior citizens is scary and all, but it just doesn’t make for a satisfying climax to your preachy, ecological horror flick. 


Another thing that irritated the shit out of me during this flick:  Everyone says the word “happening” about 75 times throughout the movie.  Seriously, if you play a drinking game while watching this flick and take a shot every time that someone says “happening”, you are guaranteed to suffer from alcohol poisoning before the credits roll. 


Kudos must be given to Marky Mark for acting all kinds of sincere and earnest and shit.  There’s this one great scene where he talks to a potted plant and begs for it to spare his life.  Seeing him emphatically plea for mercy to a goddamn geranium is a hoot and the flick as a whole is a heck of a lot better than that “I see dead people” crap. 


(The wife actually stayed awake for this one.  She didn’t like it much neither.) 


So let’s review.  What did we see tonight?  Chimps in space, Eddie Murphy shitting out a bunch of nickels, Vin Diesel being fitted with a robotic arm, Brendan Fraser sucker punching a Venus Fly Trap and Marky Mark talking to potted plants and begging for his life.  All in all, a wonderful night of entertainment.  While none of the films were singularly great, they at least had their moments and seeing them all together at the Drive-In, the greatest place on Earth to see a movie, certainly didn’t hurt.