This week at the movies, we’ve got a Southern-fried fairy tale (The Princess and the Frog, with voice work Anika Noni Rose and Keith David) and inspiration through rugby (Invictus, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon). What do the critics have to say?
The Princess and the Frog has gotten plenty of notice for two reasons: it marks Disney’s return to traditional cel animation, and it features an African American heroine. However, critics say that it’s also a rousing, heart-warming, and likable (though somewhat predictable) movie that works on its own with or without the curiosity factor. Set in 1930s New Orleans, the film follows Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose), a beautiful aspiring chef who’s turned into a frog after succumbing to a nefarious spell by Doctor Facilier (Keith David), a voodoo magician. Will Tiana return to human form? Will she be able to rescue the handsome prince? The pundits say The Princess and the Frog is hardly groundbreaking, but it has enough energy, catchy tunes, and excitement to render most objections moot. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down David’s best-reviewed work.)
Sure, Invictus is yet another inspirational sports film, but critics say Clint Eastwood‘s drama about how sports helped heal South Africa is a strong, well-crafted entry in the genre. Morgan Freeman stars as Nelson Mandela, who, in the tense heady days after the end of Apartheid, was looking for a national symbol of unity. He found one in the South African rugby team, captained by Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), who face long odds in the World Cup. The pundits say that Invictus is sometimes too stately and glosses over some of the complexities of the times, but excellent work from Freeman and Damon, as well as a typically assured hand from Eastwood and exciting game footage more than compensate. (Check out The Great Directors: Clint Eastwood for an overview of the star’s work behind the camera.).
Also opening this week in limited release:
Finally, props to Critic Alex Hagani and Alejandro R. for correctly guessing Armored‘s 44 percent Tomatometer, and to Alejandro P. and hatingvindiesel for pinpointing the fact that Transylmania would get a big goose egg.
After a successful run of studio comedies (most recently, 2006’s Beerfest), the Broken Lizard gang is returning to their indie roots with the self-produced Slammin’ Salmon, a restaurant-set comedy co-written by and starring all five members (and directed by Lizard and first-time helmer Kevin Heffernan). Rotten Tomatoes caught up with the Lizards en route to Park City, Utah, where they’ll premiere Slammin’ Salmon at the Slamdance Film Festival, to find out their 25 Favorite Films of all time!
The members of Broken Lizard (Super Troopers, Club Dread, Beerfest) — also known as Steve Lemme, Erik Stolhanske, Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, and Paul Soter — have been friends since their college days, and it shows; when RT sat down to chat with the Lizards about their favorite films, they chimed in over one another with their favorite movie quotes, recollections of man dates past, and of course, plenty of good natured jabs. Slammin’ Salmon, in which a heavyweight champ-turned-restaurateur (Michael Clarke Duncan, letting loose) pits his wait staff against each other in a Glengarry Glen Ross-style contest, marks the Lizards’ return to independent film; they hope to land distribution after their premiere at Slamdance. (And in case you’re wondering, having come face to face with Super Troopers fandom at a live, Rocky Horror-style version of the flick, they are indeed in the scripting phase of Super Troopers 2.)
Below, get to know your favorite Broken Lizards as we hear each member’s five favorite films — making this a very special installment of RT’s 25 Favorite Films with Broken Lizard.
My favorite film of all time is Jaws, for a number of reasons. I think it’s a perfect film; everything about it works. Obviously, the music — there are not many theme songs that actually elicit an emotion. From the floating barrels, the scene where Sheriff Brody’s on the beach, and stuff keeps blocking his view while he’s trying to see what’s going on and you’re in the audience [cringing]…additionally, my dad took me to see it in the theater when I was seven; he’s from Argentina and I guess he didn’t understand the rating system. The R rating meant nothing to him at the time. He bought me a Jaws movie poster afterwards and I stuck it in my bathroom and shut the door, and I didn’t open the door again for two years. I thought that when I opened the door, water and a shark would come pouring out and eat me. For the longest time, I couldn’t go in swimming pools.
[Editor’s note: Jaws is actually rated PG.]
Number two is Braveheart. I choose that as my second because I didn’t sleep that whole night, I was up for 24 hours after seeing it because I couldn’t believe they killed Braveheart at the end.
RT: Movies really mess you up, don’t they?
Erik Stolhanske: You refer to being thrown out of a castle window…
[Pause. Stolhanske “raises the roof.”]
Lemme: That’s a very inside Braveheart joke. And yes, Stolhanske raised the roof, and his face is turning beet red. Braveheart is both a love story and an action movie…and at any moment I thought they were going to rescue him and they never rescued him. Same with his wife: Okay, they’re not gonna cut her throat, they’re not gonna cut her throat — WHOA! They cut her throat! She’s scanning the horizon for Braveheart, any second now Braveheart’s going to come save the day…it’s awful.
Number Three would be The Matrix; I saw it opening day, Friday morning at 10 a.m., then saw it in the final screening that day, and four more times in the theater. It’s just an amazing movie.
Number four would be Grease, which I saw ten times in the movie theater [and recently]; Paul [Soter] had never seen it, so we went to a revival when it came out again.
Paul Soter: I had never seen it! I had three older sisters, so I was like eh, girl movie. But Lemme talked me into going, on a date. [Fun fact: three of five Broken Lizards named a favorite film that they’d seen on a man date with Soter.]
Lemme: I went as the Fonz for Halloween one year and put Vaseline in my hair, which was a mistake, because it took like two months to get it out.
Jay Chandrasekhar: And he couldn’t go to the bathroom because of the shark to wash it out.
And Number Five is a tie [the other Broken Lizards groan]. It’s The Sting and The Natural. And that’s it.
Next: Erik Stolhanske takes it back to the seventies…
I’m going to start with The Wild Bunch. Peckinpah. I kind of like the anti-hero movies. I don’t like heroes, I like anti-heroes.
Why Five Easy Pieces? Also an anti-hero movie. Jack Nicholson is not necessarily a likeable character, but you can’t help wanting to root for the guy. Especially at the end when he goes to the bathroom and hops in a truck and just takes off. For some reason you still like this guy who leaves his girl sitting at a gas station.
Lemme: And that scene in the diner, “stick the chicken between your knees.”
Stolhanske:“Stick the chicken between your knees.” Nicholson giving Sally Struthers the business.
Lemme: Sally Struthers naked!
Stolhanske: Wild sex, too. Bouncing off the walls.
Chandrasekhar: We stayed in Sally Struthers’ house when we came out to L.A. We were struggling actors and she let us stay in her house, for like a week.
One summer, they were doing a ’70s movie revival at the Film Forum in New York, and Soter and I would go see double features; you pay for one, you see two. All ’70s movies. It was great, so we’d go there all the time. One of my favorites was John Cassavetes‘ Husbands. That was a great, funny movie; first of all, it was cool because a lot of it was improvised. There’s Peter Falk, Ben Gazzara, John Cassavetes…one of their buddies dies, so they basically decide life’s too short and they’re going to go get drunk one night and reflect on life. So it’s one night of these guys going out and drinking, but then they end up going to London.
Soter: What’s cool is that was our introduction to Cassavetes and the idea of movies like that, that are so cool and funny, but maybe warm and all over the place. That was the point when we realized that he made those really cool, guy movies.
Stolhanske: Yeah. I mean, it really seemed like they were actually sitting around a table and drinking and improvising these scenes. It felt incredibly naturalistic.
I love Being There — Peter Sellers‘ Being There. Big Peter Sellers fan, love Hal Ashby.
I think my last favorite film would be The Empire Strikes Back. Tough, between Star Wars or Empire Strikes Back, I love them both.
Lemme: Empire had more dangers. It had some cliffhangers, too. Han Solo going down — I didn’t sleep after that one. How do you end a movie like that? What a revolutionary ending for a movie.
Next: Broken Lizard vet, first-time director and erstwhile Farva, Kevin Heffernan
One of my all-time favorite movies is The King of Comedy, which is a Martin Scorsese movie. I think it’s a very different movie — there’s so much great De Niro; it’s a different kind of character for De Niro, which I loved watching.
Lemme: I like how De Niro would study animals to research roles, and the animal he studied for The King of Comedy was the crab. If you know that, go back and watch him, and his movements are all symmetrical — he moves sideways.
Definitely one of my all-time favorite movies. Here’s the guy who directed Spartacus, and Dr. Strangelove is very different. It’s got great political satire, and at the same time that kind of crazy, great Peter Sellers comedy mixed together, which is really amazing. And it looks awesome.
I like that it’s very similar to Slammin’ Salmon, in the sense that it takes place all in one place. That’s what I loved about that movie. It’s so interesting the way they made it dynamic, and not boring, and it’s all in this one warehouse. I really loved that about it. It’s cheaper to shoot an indie film that way; what, did they make that for $2 million bucks or something like that? So it allows you to do a little bit more with the dialogue and characters.
Stolhanske: My favorite single-setting film — like Slammin’ Salmon — is The Exorcist.
Chandrasekhar: Oh! I thought you were going to say…Glengarry Glen Ross. (Coincidentally, the server competition in Broken Lizard’s Slammin’ Salmon bears a cinematic likeness to the plot of Glengarry Glen Ross.)
I love that movie. Also a political satire, but done so well. Tim Robbins wrote, directed and starred in it.
Next: Jay Chandrasekhar double dips with a few shared favorites
Reservoir Dogs, I love for the dialogue. I think it’s just unbelievably brilliant and funny. Original, and just strange — the little conversations between Joe and Michael Madsen when they’re in the office, and Chris Penn comes running in and he goes, “I see you sitting there, but I don’t believe it!” I just love every inch of that movie.
Spinal Tap — I think you could make an easy argument that that’s the funniest movie ever. It’s just top to bottom quotable and brilliant, and I guess improvised? I’m curious to know how much of it was improvised. But it’s a tremendous movie.
I think 48 Hrs. is the perfect tough, funny buddy movie. I think Eddie Murphy exploded off of it — he was on Saturday Night Live, but…in his intro when he’s singing “Roxanne,” and going to the hillbilly bar, and Nick Nolte being such a hilarious, racist prick. I loved it. “Sorry about the watermelon joke.”
I think it’s the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. It was supposedly shot in Hattenfield, IL and I lived in a small town in Illinois. I just found it just horrifying. I still, to this day, find it incredibly horrifying; the music gives me the chills. The actual street, though is here in Hollywood right by our Blockbuster. So I always look down there. “I don’t see Michael Myers…”
Heffernan: That’s when he’s at his most dangerous!
There’s a movie called Billy Liar that Tom Courtenay is in, which I saw with Paul. It’s this guy who’s a daydreamer, and the movie goes deep into his daydreams and it’s so hilarious and bizarre.
Soter: It’s an older movie that is not dated at all, in terms of the comedy. I’m jumping in here because it’s on my list and I have to take it off —
Soter: Jay and I were like, they’re showing this revival of this old movie we’ve heard good things about, and we go and the both of us are screaming through the whole movie, laughing our asses off. I can’t believe it was made in 1963; it was such a revelation, the idea that a very British, black and white movie would feel very immediate and hysterical.
Next: Last but not least, Paul Soter wraps up with his favorite flicks
I don’t know that any other movies — for me — defined what was funny, what comedy was, and how to be funny. Those movies, you get no break from jokes, you get no break from laughter, but they’re also engaging and have drama.
I remember Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid being one of the first movies I saw as a kid. So I’ll also always equate it with discovering what a movie was. Being a young boy, and here’s my introduction to movies — it still feels like the most gigantic movie in terms of how big and beautiful it was, and the cool factor. Two amazing guys to watch.
Breaking Away is one of those movies that I can’t ever turn off. If it comes on and it’s halfway or two-thirds through, I just have to sit in front of it. I want that world to go on forever; you just wish that it didn’t ever end. I would love to be in this location with this people and it go on forever.
Woody Allen movies — now, maybe because I’m older, the movie that I think is perfect is Crimes and Misdemeanors. It does actually have very fun moments, but it’s also got some really amazing, heavy, dramatic stuff to it. I think it’s the best blend of that comedy and drama.
For news and updates on Broken Lizard’s Slamdance adventure, follow the daily updates on their official site. Stay up to date on all the latest Sundance acquisitions, celebrity galleries, and news at RT’s Sundance Film Festival 2009 headquarters here.
The Broken Lizard boys have built a following out of their signature brand of fraternal comedy; RT brings you the scoop on their latest flick, The Slammin’ Salmon, straight from the set!
They’ve tackled law enforcement (Super Troopers); they’ve done horror-comedy (Club Dread); they’ve even tread the sudsy world of underground drinking contests (Beerfest). Now, the quintet popularly known as Broken Lizard — comprised of college buds Kevin Heffernan, Jay Chandrasekhar, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske — have enlisted the help of Michael Clarke Duncan to bring you a comedy about the joys and sorrows of food service. We’ve got your first look at The Slammin’ Salmon here:
In The Slammin’ Salmon, Broken Lizard’s fifth feature film and the first to be directed by Lizard Kevin Heffernan, the fivesome star as employees of a seafood restaurant owned by former heavyweight boxing champ Cleon “Slammin'” Salmon (Michael Clarke Duncan). One night, Salmon inaugurates a competition among his waitstaff: the waiter who makes the most money in one evening wins $10,000; the loser wins a beating by Cleon Salmon himself.
RT visited the set of The Slammin’ Salmon to observe filming and talk to the Lizards between scenes — but we can’t share that with you just yet! However, we can divulge five of the awesomest details about Slammin’ Salmon:
Awesome Thing #5: The Broken Lizards play waiters at the Slammin’ Salmon (with Heffernan as the house manager) and based many of their characters’ quirks on their own real-life jobs waiting tables.
Awesome Thing #2: Michael Clarke Duncan on a horse.
Awesome Thing #1: Michael Clarke Duncan on a horse. (So good it counts twice. See below.)
A release date is still TBA; check out more images in our photo gallery, and stay tuned for our extended set visit report on Slammin’ Salmon.