It would be a fool’s errand to try and argue that Mr. Nielsen’s greatest moments were not in “Airplane” and as Lt. Frank Drebbin in the “The Naked Gun” and the “Police Squad!” series that preceded it. But, with everyone else saluting those amazing deadpan moments now that Leslie Nielsen has sadly left us at age 84, I thought I’d take a moment to take two somewhat less well known moments from his early, less funny movies.
First, before Captains Kirk and Reynolds and Han Solo, there was the not-so-dissimilar Commander J.J. Adams in “Forbidden Planet.”
And here is Nielsen in what honestly really is, in its way, an amazing pre-Zucker Brothers performance by Nielsen. In 1977’s “Day of the Animals” he portrayed an ad man who takes over one faction of an extremely ill-starred group of campers. Below, he indulges in some poor behavior even Sterling Cooper wouldn’t have tolerated.
And, because it’s mandatory, a brief moment of sheer genius from “The Naked Gun.”
There’s a definite feeling of apathy about this week’s new box office releases, but on we go.
Topping this Labor Day weekend’s movie newbies is the Gerard Butler sci-fi action flick from the team who brought us “Crank.” “Gamer” adds a video game twist to such past violent media commentaries as “Death Race 2000” and “The Running Man.” Lionsgate isn’t screening this one for critics, so there’s no reason to assume there’s anything terribly clever or satirical about it, though a capable supporting cast led by Michael C. Hall (Showtime’s “Dexter“) as a villainous game designer as well as Ludacris and Kyra Sedgwick seem to indicate someone, at one point, hoped to do something interesting with this one. As for commercial success, it appears to all be laid at the feet of Butler. Nothing against the very capable Scottish thespian, but I just don’t see this one beating last week’s leader, the gimmick-driven 3-D horror opus, “The Final Destination.”
And that, I’m sure goes double for next of the three new major releases of the week, the Sandra Bullock headlined screwball romantic comedy, “All About Steve.” A film which the nation’s critics might well wish Fox had withheld, it has achieved the still fairly rare honor of a 00% Rotten Tomatoes “Fresh” rating (as in 100% “rotten”). Costar Bradley Cooper’s newfound recognizability via “The Hangover” probably won’t help much here, and Thomas Haden Church doubtless deserves better. Apparently the creators of this one intended Bullock’s character to be a lovable eccentric, but instead wound up with the more usual sort of eccentric — the kind who’s just weird. There’s likely a reason this one’s being dumped at the end of a long movie summer.
It’s in significantly fewer theaters than its competitors at only about 1,500, but Mike Judge’s “Extract” simply has to be better than either of them. At a 55% RT rating, the nation’s critics pretty much reflect the divided reaction of my fellow PH-er Jason Zingale, who calls it “a wildly uneven film that is deftly funny at some points, and just plain dull in others.” Still, though Jason 100% detested Judge’s earlier, barely released, “Idiocracy” that film got better reviews and the portions I’ve seen on cable certainly made me laugh — not that anyone cares what us critics think. As the writer-director of “Office Space” and the creator of TV’s “King of the Hill” and “Beavis and Butthead,” Judge is a knotty figure when it comes to movies. His now legendary workplace comedy was pretty much dumped at the box office only to be discovered later on vide0, and “Idiocracy” got even less promotion than the original release of “Space.” (Jason would say for good reason.) “Extract” star Jason Bateman is a skilled comedian but despite important parts in numerous hits, including “Juno,” he’s a very long way from the film stardom of his onetime TV son, Michael Cera. Still, both Judge and Bateman have a lot of pent-up goodwill. Maybe there’ll be a surprise here, but don’t bet the farm, or even the garden, on it.
That leaves two 100-theater releases. The first is a horror flick being dumped after the demise of Paramount Vantage. “Carriers” seeks to milk horror from pandemic fears. Quarantined from critics, it stars the talented Lou Taylor Pucci and the new Captain Kirk, Chris Pine. Speaking of James Tiberius, the other release isn’t new at all but another chance to catch J.J. Abrams’ hugely entertaining (if oddly filmed) “Star Trek” in Imax, which has certainly lived long and prospered at the box office.