Thespians Gone Geek!

When it comes to movies, science-fiction, action and fantasy-adventure are my various breads and butters. And when a notable thespian deigns to appear in a movie for fanboys and fangirls -- you get jam with that. Delicious jam. Unless, of course, the movie stinks up the joint. It ain't easy, keeping your finger on the pulse of popular culture. Some notable thespians seem to have a feel for it, while others…not so much.

I've never traced the quote to its source, but rather famously and perhaps apocryphally, Sean Connery explained that he chose to appear in The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen because he felt the pop culture train was passing him by. Apparently, he'd passed on roles in The Matrix and Lord Of The Rings because he "didn't get" the stories, only to see those movies gross millions and allow Sir Ian McKellen -- who apparently was able to grok fantastical or super-powered beings -- to blow up to household name status. Connery's quote was that he didn't particularly understand TLOEG either, but he wasn't going to miss that train again. But as we all know, he did. Sigh.

It's hard to tell about stuff that's out of your element. Do I know from romantic comedies? No, and I wouldn't try to go there. (If, you know, someone was silly enough to ask me.) That Connery, once the epitome of cool, could opt to work on such a dog, got me thinking: What other esteemed thespians have appeared in pop culture movies, and how are their batting averages? Connery has points to spare for his sterling work in the Bond franchise, as does Dame Judi Dench, who exhibited some rather poor taste by rolling up for The Chronicles of Riddick. And actually, Sir Sean hasn't always got it wrong. This is the man, after all, who is Indiana Jones' daddy (The Last Crusade), and who played Agamemnon (Time Bandits), and Draco (Dragonheart).

Now we face the Academy Award jinx, whereby talented actresses, having won their statuette, for some reason decide to go slumming and wind up mired in questionable productions. I'd have thought the spectacle of Halle Berry, following up her Oscar for Monster's Ball by cavorting and slinking around in embarrassing bondage gear (Catwoman), would be sufficient warning to her elite colleagues. Yet here's Dame Helen Mirren, the woman who just played The Queen for heaven's sakes, in the inane National Treasure 2. I can only hope the upcoming Inkheart will redeem her.

But the guy to beat is clearly Sir Ian. He's been in Lord Of The Rings, X-Men, Flushed Away, The Golden Compass (which, while heartily boring, wasn't dreadful either) -- heck, he was even in The Shadow (though that was back in 1994, kiddies).

So why do they do it? What makes a RADA or Royal Shakespeare Company alum take his or her Cantabridgean accent or received pronunciation -- or hell, his Mr. Universe runner-up standing (as Sean Connery was in 1950) -- and figuratively or literally put on tights and a cape?

Maybe movie stars just wanna be cool? Just like everybody else.