Mad Max's Weekend Movie Guide: 'Burt Wonderstone' & More


"One of the things that Teller and I are obsessed with, one of the reasons that we're in magic, is the difference between fantasy and reality." — Penn Jillette

Greetings from the apocalypse! We managed to hold off the Antichrist by electing a pope from South America who looks just like Jonathan Pryce. That's pretty good work. I say Rome, the Americas and all the rest of us deserve an honest weekend off, and what more auspicious time to do that than a Catholic drinking holiday?

Friday, March 15

We're gonna kick things off at the appropriate time to christen any weekend: 4:20 p.m., since that's when "Curly Sue" is on Encore. I know what you're thinking, "Man, that's, like, John Hughes' worst movie," and you're not wrong, but this ersatz comedy about a father-daughter con artist team who sleaze their way into some rich folks' hearts has a little surprise in store when you're watching and you're all like, "Duuuuuuude, is that Steve Carell?" Yes, that is indeed "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" himself in a silent-but-hilarious cameo as waiter Tesio, and it seems more than fair to suffer through the surrounding 100 minutes of smirking torture to get to … oh hell, I'll just embed it and save you the trouble.

Seemed like as good a time as any to trot that out, since Carell is conjuring more comedy this week as "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" appears from a cloud of smoke into theaters. With all the makings of some very broad comedy, Carell and Steve Buscemi play Siegfried & Roy-esque stage magicians who have to jazz up their dated act in order to compete with a flashy David Blaine-type played by Jim Carrey. It sorta looks like if the Farrelly Brothers made "The Prestige," and it's cool to see Carell playing a bronzed showbiz phony as opposed to his usual nice guy imbecile thing. You can satiate your Steve Carell jones further with the help of The Nerdist Podcast, where this week Chris Hardwick talks to the star about the joys of improv and how awesome "Anchorman 2" is going to be.

After all that Carell-y goodness, I'm gonna prowl the mean streets of Brooklyn in the direction of Bottleneck Gallery, where from 7-10 p.m. they're hosting the opening reception of "The Popular Face of New York." This pop culture-tinged exhibit is their first show focused exclusively on one artist: world-renowned illustrator Raid71, a.k.a. Chris Thornley, whose rock-solid imagery pulses with cool. Woody Allen, "Midnight Cowboy" and Godzilla are just a few of NYC's legendary cinematic inhabitants immortalized in print form, any of which you can purchase to hang alongside your many eviction notices.

Saturday, March 16

[caption id="attachment_169578" align="alignright" width="300"]From Up on Poppy Hill Studio Ghibli[/caption]

This week we're filling up all corners of our "Survivor of Thunderdome" Bento box with the latest nourishing animated meal from Studio Ghibli, "From Up On Poppy Hill." With a screenplay by legendary Hayao Miyazaki ("Spirited Away," "Princess Mononoke") and lovingly directed by his son Gorō Miyazaki, it tells the tale of a 16-year-old girl in Yokohama, Japan named Umi who falls in love with a boy named Shun who may or may not be related to her by blood. The '60s period atmosphere is recreated in immaculate detail in what is a decidedly less fantastical entry from the studio, though just as emotionally powerful.

To catch an early glimpse at Hayao Miyazaki as he evolved into the Japanese Walt Disney, then look no further than his feature directorial debut "The Castle Of Cagliostro" (1979) on Hulu fo free, yo. Rumor has it that when Steven Spielberg caught this flick at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival (the first anime ever screened there), he flipped for it, calling it "one of the greatest adventure movies of all time." It's gentleman thief hero, Lupin III, is a forerunner of Indiana Jones, so go figure.

If it's more castles and quests ye be needin', then why not splurge on the new 25th Anniversary Blu-ray of George Lucas and Ron Howard's fantasy also-ran "Willow," ya dig? More than a decade before Peter Jackson made New Zealand synonymous with Hobbits, Lucas crafted his own little-people quest movie using the country's lush landscapes, albeit one that owes a whopping debt to Tolkien. Until "Game of Thrones" comes back in two weeks, Warwick Davis temporarily replaces Peter Dinklage as our favorite small guy hero, working his magic alongside a pre-potbelly Val Kilmer in swashbuckling scoundrel mode. There's early morphing technology on display, tiny male fairies, a baby and a two-headed dragon named after Siskel & Ebert (I s**t you not, it's called an Ebersisk), which makes this a succès d'estime of the highest magnitude … whatever that means.

Star Wars Corner:

Speaking of George Lucas properties, some of the original trilogy crew will be out in full Force (get it?) for the annual MegaCon in Orlando, Florida from Friday through Sunday. Some of the vets from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away include Jeremy Bulloch (the guy inside the Boba Fett costume), David Prowse (the guy inside the Darth Vader costume) and a giant Rancor carved out of Styrofoam. If you're a competitive Trekkie type, apparently the ENTIRE "Next Generation" cast will be there as well, including some guy named Patrick Stewart who's been in some movies like "Conspiracy Theory." Also, "L.A. Story."

Sunday, March 17

Funny about paying 80 bucks to meet Patrick Stewart yesterday, because today is Saint Patrick's Day, which means whiskey, whiskey and more whiskey as we wallow on our living room couch in a puddle of bad cinema and green vomit. We already had "Willow" to tide us over for the main course from Warwick Davis' filmography: SyFy is running "Leprechaun" and "Leprechaun 2" on an endless loop from 11 a.m. until 3 a.m. There damn well better be a pot o' gold at the end of that schlocky 16-hour rainbow.

[caption id="attachment_169579" align="alignright" width="300"]Green Lantern Warner Bros.[/caption]

Today 'tis all 'bout the wearin' of the green, and I can't think of anybody greener than Ryan Reynolds in the appalling "Green Lantern" on Cinemax at 8 p.m. Come for the cheesy, sub-"Phantom Menace" effects, stay for Peter Sarsgaard's freakishly over-the-top bad guy with gigantism. It's a blockbuster so generic you'd think it was made for TV in 1987, and you'll be in absolute awe when you see the thousands of races among the Green Lantern Corps stand at attention during their darkest hour and do … absolutely nothing but stand there. F**k this movie, but it has green in it, so no one will pinch you.

Even more than getting drunk, wearing green and greedy midgets, St. Patrick's Day is also about remembering the 20th century political strife in Northern Ireland via a thriller about an IRA terrorist falling in love with a pre-op transsexual. "The Crying Game" is on Netflix Instant, and if you didn't know the big twist of this 1992 hit by now then you can shove yer complainin' straight up yer arseholes. It's the 20th-ish anniversary, for crying out loud! For the record, I never thought Jaye Davidson's seductive chanteuse Dil was a convincing woman for even one second, but that didn't make the penis reveal any less shocking/dangly. Forest Whitaker has an awesome British accent, and the great Jim Broadbent is the perfect embodiment of every wise noir bartender character rolled into one surly package.

Annnnnnnd finally, no Saint Patty's would be complete without a little good-natured fisticuffs, and by the luck of the Irish "The Quiet Man" (1952) will be on TCM at 9:30 p.m. The film stars John Wayne as an American ex-pat who goes to claim his birthright family farm in the rolling green hills of Innisfree, Ireland, and winds up conquering the rolling hills of Maureen O'Hara as well. Probably best known to this generation as a memorable clip shown in "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," this is western director John Ford at his most jaunty and romantic, climaxing with The Duke and Victor McLaglen engaged in the silver screen's most epic brawl … until John Carpenter's "They Live."

As I ride off into the distant horizon, here's wishing you fellow weekend road warriors the best outing possible from this burnt-out, blighted wasteland. Enjoy your fast Internet, clean-ish movie theaters, plentiful gasoline and all the comforts of home, for this world lives now only in my memories …

You can follow renegade movie journo and filmmaker Max Evry on Twitter, and check out his bitchin' DeviantArt gallery while you're at it.