In a World…
Lake Bell faced a tricky promise in her new movie "In a World." The movie stars the writer/director/actress as an up-and-coming voiceover artist who accidentally lands the biggest gig of her career. She's going to be the voice behind a science fiction trilogy based on a popular Young Adult Fiction series. Fame and fortune are a given.
Bell's film premiered at Sundance and it's a low-key effort — lots of situational comedy, a healthy mix of drama, recognizably human characters, and an occupational landscape that's both vivid and previously unexplored. But she makes a promise with her setup and even her title, both of which nod to the great trailer voiceover artist Don LaFontaine. The movie, Bell's story insists, has to include a trailer. An epic trailer. And we have to see it.
Bell skirts around this indie issue quite well, thanks to the small scope of such YA successes as The Hunger Games. The trailer looks, sounds, and feels legit — worthy of the "In a world…" opener. The director's "fake movie trailer within a movie" for "The Amazon Games" joins a long line of satirical previews that have graced the big screen. Unsurprisingly, most of them are movies we would prefer to see over everything that we're served up on a weekly basis. Here are a few of history's highlights:
"Jews in Space" — "History of the World: Part 1"
You will find many Yahoo Answers pages explaining to disappointed viewers of Mel Brooks' "History of the World: Part 1" that, no, there is not a "Part 2." It's easy to see why they were confused (kind of…) — Brooks' crazed history lesson concludes with a glimpse at the sequel, teasing the world's hasidic future.
"That's Armageddon" — "Kentucky Fried Movie"
Director John Landis, Jim Abrams, and the Zucker Bros.' manic sketch comedy film shotguns every imaginable spoof on to screen. Inevitablely, some hit, others miss. One that continues to resonate — especially in today's destruction-obsessed Hollywood — is "That's Armageddon," a trailer for the ultimate disaster movie. Starring the James Bond equivalent, George Lazenby:
Edgar Wright's "Don't" — "Grindhouse"
Robert Rodriguez turned his fake "Grindhouse" trailer for "Machete" into two feature films; Eli Roth flirted with the idea of translating "Thanksgiving" to feature length; Edgar Wright knew from the get go that his haunted house movie "Don't!" was best served in the minute and a half format, giving the titular maximum impact. DON'T watch this short:
"The Fatties" — "Tropic Thunder"
Debate: His Jack Black's flipping of the bird to Eddie Murphy's clan The Klumps biting satire or indulgent of the same vulgarities that put the "Nutty Professor" remake at the bottom of the low-brow barrel? I choose the former.
"Brock Landers: Angels Live In My Town" — "Boogie Nights"
A trailer for Dirk Diggler's attempt at non-pornographic films provides countless reasons for why the long-donged leading man didn't have crossover appeal. He's wooden — and not in a good way. That said, this short bit of "Angels Live in My Town" is more entertaining than "The Canyons."
"Teresa: The Making of God" — "How to Lose Friends & Alienate People"
No one saw "How to Lose Friends & Alienate People," an adaptation of the popular tell-all of the same name starring Jeff Bridges, Megan Fox, and Simon Pegg. Which means no one saw what might be Fox's best role to date. It's not even the character she plays in the film. Rather, it's her movie-within-a-movie performance as Mother Teresa:
"Gandhi II" — "UHF"
"Weird" Al Yankovic's maligned attempt to translate his musical spoofing to the big screen is criminally under appreciated in the pantheon of sketch movies (it doesn't quite fit into the genre's hard definition). "Wheel of Fish" might be groan worthy, but it's a gleeful groan. Same goes for the film's "movie trailers," specifically the badass sequel to Richard Attenborough's Oscar-winning biopic:
"The Night the Reindeer Died" — "Scrooged"
I know the lesson of "Scrooged" is to sneer at crass commercialism of Bill Murray' TV executive Frank Cross… but I would watch the hell out of an "Assault on Precinct 13"-like movie set at the North Pole. Lee Majors in the leading role is the stocking stuffer:
"Hamlet" — "The Last Action Hero"
Schwarzenegger wants his former career back? Too bad. What he really needs to do is look ahead, grow as an actor. Maybe it's time to finally realize his version of Shakespeare's greatest drama.