Sunday, May 27, 2012

Super Mario Brothers Revisited

In theaters no less!  After writing this original post way back in 2011, one of the kind folks at The Super Mario Bros. The Movie Archive found it, reached out and asked if I'd like to post my article on their site for their followers, since they're all big fans of the movie.  Even though it wasn't exactly a glowing review, they appreciated the overall idea of the post.  It took us a while to get around to it, but eventually it made it onto their message boards.

Not long after that, they told me about a screening they were having here in Los Angeles, with special guests, and kindly invited me to come.  I agreed and dropped in to see the movie in the theater, a totally new experience from my original viewing on cable at home in the early 90s.

It wasn't a completely sold out show, but the number of fans that turned out was pretty impressive.  And the movie definitely has its fans, some of whom I chatted with in line.  They all said, or I overheard, that the movie is part of their childhood.  Some were more gamer types than others, but I did meet one other person who had a hard time connecting the fungus shown in the movie to the mushroom power ups in the games.  Also, a fellow girl in line noted that she had a John Leguizamo crush when she saw the movie too.  See, it's not as weird as some people might think!

The organizers at The Super Mario Brothers The Movie Archive were also able to score some props and costumes from the movie for the lobby displays.  It's always fun to see that stuff up close.  Check out the pictures:

 A King Koopa T-Rex mold

Princess Daisy's dress from the film.  Seems short here on the mannequin, but it was average length on the actress in the movie.

One of the final King Koopa transformations.  Scared the life out of me as a kid.  Slightly less intimidating in person, but still impressively detailed.  Check out the drool!

The jumping boots!  Apparently better known as Thwompers or Thwomp Stompers.  They look like tricked out moon boots to me, but they let you fly, so I'm not going to judge.

After some vintage, probably 70s era no smoking and no talking ads (Tarantino would have loved them!), we got to the intros from Ryan Hoss and Steven Applebaum, explaining a little how their site came together and how, though the movie isn't widely known as a cult classic it in the traditional sense, it's got a good sized fan base. 

Then they introduced our special guest, production designer David L. Snyder, who has also worked on other movies like Pee Wee's Big Adventure and Blade Runner.  He commented a little on how, even though creative control and concepts changed hands a few times up to and including Disney's involvement, most of his designs stayed the same.  He added that, even though it was "flawed...At least they made the movie."  And really, when you work in TV and movies, sometimes you just want to know it gets made.  He also added that he doesn't always like watching his own movies because when he sees them at first, he just thinks of all the things he would have done differently or changed, but he was ready to see it now for the first time in ages.

And with that, we were off and running with the movie!

I, obviously, had forgotten a lot of details that happened in the movie, like just how silly some of the puns or one liners were.  But the best, most ridiculous thing that I forgot was Dancing Goombas!  Mario and Luigi take an elevator to find Daisy, but it fills up with Goombas, the lizard people security guards in the movie.  I'm still not sure I understand the logic, other than it serves as a distraction, but Luigi gets them all swaying back and forth to some elevator music in just about the weirdest scene in the movie.  I mentioned that I was going to see this movie again to a friend, and his reaction was "The dancing Goombas!"  Check out the link to see what we mean:

They even have a follow up gag at the end with someone radioing in to Dennis Hopper, "Sir, the goombas are dancing again!"  Very silly, and the crowd whooped and cheered for the scene in the theater.

I also forgot that John Leguizamo takes his shirt off when they're stuck in the desert outside the dino-people city, and he looks pretty good.  That one was, clearly, for the ladies.

There's even more, so let's run through the list real quick like:

-They did indeed play Walk the Dinosaur during the dance club scene.  This song is fantastic, no matter what context you hear it in.

-Daisy and Luigi go on a double date with Mario and his girlfriend, and neither dress up AT ALL.  She's still wearing her palentologist gear, and he's in his t-shirt and hoodie from earlier.  Meanwhile, Mario is rocking a suit and his date is in a (for the 90s) nice dress.
-Maybe it's because it was just goofy, but Daisy and Luigi run in on Mario in an undershirt and boxers asking for help with a major plumbing problem.  He gets deathly serious and says, "Let's do this!" or something along those lines, and it just struck everyone in the audience as hilarious.
-Dennis Hopper's Koopa was a huge germaphobe.  Never understood why, just some weird character quirk
-Yoshi, the pet dinosaur in the movie, was creepy-cute! 
-Not creepy-cute, but just plain creepy?  Dennis Hopper hitting on Daisy.
-The two goofy thugs, one of which is played by Fisher Stevens.  They start off stupid, get a brain upgrade, and then speak intelligently, but are still more or less dumb.  I forgot they were in the movie, but I liked all their silly business.
-It has literally nothing to do with anything else going on, but Dennis Hopper orders a pizza at one point in the movie, and it actually comes up again a couple times.  First, he demands to know where his pizza is, and then before he's defeated, someone radios in "Sir, your pizza's here!" and he yells, "Not now!"
-Everyone died laughing at this, but at one point Luigi sees a little mushroom sprouting from the fungus that kind of turns to follow them as they're passing by.  He says, "I think it's trying to communicate with us!"  And then he YANKS it off the wall.  Look, Luigi, it can't keep communicating with you if you KILL IT. 

Did my overall opinion of the movie change?  Not really.  But I have to credit the guys at The Super Mario Bros. website for putting together a really fun evening and bringing an old childhood favorite for many to the big screen again.  There's nothing better than having the right crowd at a movie screening because it becomes such a great communal experience.  Everyone's sitting in the dark, reacting to something onscreen, laughing, cheering, screaming, and crying.  And it's always a fun opportunity to see something on the big screen that you haven't seen there in years, or that you've only ever seen on TV.  Watching something at home definitely has its perks, but seeing it in the movie theater is always better.  This movie hasn't been on screen in theaters for 19 years, so it was a great chance for fans to to relive their memories or enjoy a whole new viewing experience.

The guys at the Super Mario Bros. Movie Archive site are taking the show on the road with screenings in Wilmington, NC (where they shot some of the movie), and Seattle in the very near future.  Check their site for more information:  

Up next, the most obscure movies I've ever seen on HBO, including another one starring John Leguizamo!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

And I'm Victoria!

Well, I've been running a little heavy on horror movies these past few posts.  Let's get a little lighter and talk about something really fun: Spice World!

Is Spice World the best movie of all time?  Of course not.  But is it damn fun?  Absolutely!  It's so silly in that British way that I just love, and the movie knows it's not out to accomplish anything grand.  It's of course a retread of A Hard Days Night with the Spice Girls running around London, singing, dancing, and trying to be good friends while enduring the pressures of fame.

I used to really love the Spice Girls when I was a kid, but I think everyone did.  Come on, when you hear the start of this, doesn't it just brighten your day a little?

I remember my best friend and I wanting to see it in theaters really badly, but somehow we never got around to it.  Or rather, our parents never got around to getting us there.  But after the movie came out on video, my dad got me some kind of advanced copy from a work associate of his, which is especially impressive because he didn't even work in entertainment (nice string pulling Dad!).  The only problem with the video was, because it was some promotional advanced copy, a watermark message would scroll across the screen from time to time with dire warnings about not copying or distributing it.  But it didn't matter because you could still see the movie, and I got to see it early on beautiful VHS.

Spice World is just campy as all get out, full of celebrity cameos, and really fantastically silly moments, plus Spice Girls music (which may or may not be your favorite thing).

This is, easily, my favorite part of the movie though:

Victoria, aka Posh Spice, is actually suprisingly funny in this movie.  She'll never be a great comedienne, but she nails whatever they give her here.  She does her goofy stuff with a straight face, and the mash up between her "Posh Spice" cool, aloof persona and the wacky goings on around her make her a sort of straight man, but a disdainful, idiotic one.

Someone helpfully did a super cut of all her moments (this person also has too much time on their hands).  Among the "highlights," I think I like it best when she refuses the obstacle course at the 2:00 mark and prissily walks past it in her heels and tiny dress (which is so short, you'll notice she has to keep yanking it down).

(Skip the bus scene at the end of the clip for the moment, there's more on that later)

My second favorite part is the capper to a running gag they had going.  In the movie, the Spice Girls manager, played awesomely by Richard E. Grant, is hearing movie pitches from two Hollywood guys, played by Mark McKinney (of Kids in the Hall Fame) and George Wendt.  Each pitch has been increasingly ridiculous, such as suggesting a movie where Sporty Spice would try to win a skiing championship to save the girls if she could just get over her crippling fears of heights, skiis, and snow.

The final pitch they deliver is a self aware tie in with the plot of the movie, which is essentially that they have to get to the concert in time, but of course there are Hollywood "rules" they have to follow and a chase ensues.  Richard E. Grant listens to the insane description of everything happening (while we viewers see it as it's happening), and then when they don't rush through the door as promised in the pitch, he shouts "YOU LIED!" and tries to choke Mark McKinney.  The unexpected intensity of his reaction is what sells the joke for me.

Long story short, watch the first three minutes of this clip to get the idea.  You can also stick around and watch them perform "Spice Up Your Life" while everyone dances, including Roger Moore.  I know I just did.

The movie serves as a silly time capsule of 90s fashion and pop culture, and captures a moment when the group was at the absolute height of their fame.  They must have known they wouldn't be around forever (brief reunion tour not withstanding), so why not preserve some of that in a way that includes Meat Loaf making a less than timely "I Would Do Anything For Love" joke?

The movie never takes itself seriously, and it was never meant to.  Some of the jokes are simple or even lame, but I think the more unexpected ones (like the few shown above) are really fun and keep it from being completely terrible.  It's a ridiculous movie with a ridiculous premise, a slip of a plot, and no major character development, but that's not the point.  It was never going to be a grand cinematic outing, it was going to be a fun movie about a fun group of girls with stock personalities driving around in what appears to be Dr. Who's TARDIS disguised as a double decker bus (remember, it's bigger on the inside) getting into vignette adventures with the likes of Hugh Laurie, Alan Cumming, Stephen Fry, Bob Hoskins, and Elton John.  And damn it, I like it.

Plus, Richard O'Brien, better known as Riff Raff from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, appears as a nefarious paprazzo.  I'm not saying he didn't do it for money, because let's face it they all did, but if you have the creator of probably the best known camp movie ever showing up in your campy version of A Hard Days Night, well I think that serves as an unwritten seal of approval.

So, if you're feeling a like watching something light and want to do the equivalent of dumping cotton candy on your brain, revisit Spice World.

And remember, there's always room for wacky photo shoots!