With Michael Bay’s take on the Transformers toy line almost certain to prove a summer smash, Hollywood has lined up a slew of blockbusters to cash in on the nostalgia for other bygone toys. Cultural critics Rottman and Szpirglas have screened advance copies of the latest projects coming soon to a theatre and Toys ‘R’ Us near you.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ThunderCATS
Shameless mashup of the hit musical and defunct toy line proves to be more entertaining than either one by itself. Heath Ledger fills out his tights as Lion-O, and proves he’s got the vocal chops with his virtuoso take on “The Rum Tum Tugger.” The original plot of the musical is somewhat complicated by malevolent Mumm-Ra’s plan to raze the kitty junkyard order to gain access to the Sword of Plun-Darr. Boasts several crossover hit songs, including Jay-Z’s “Do the Snarf,” co-written by Tim Rice. ThunderCATS, Ho!
Taking a cue from Stallone’s recent Rocky revival, Dolph Lundgren reprises his role as the Master of the Universe for one last hurrah. The aged (but still bulked-up) king of Eternia has been sitting on his throne too long. Feeling “something in the basement,” he dons his battle armor and sets out for Castle Greyskull only to find that Man-At-Arms is sheltering Orko’s illegal immigrant family there. Will He-Man find the power … of immigration reform legislation? Frank Langella once again appears as Skeletor, but no longer requires makeup.
Mike Myers dons his most hideous makeup yet to tackle the role of the lovable talking bear with a tape recorder in his back. Light on plot developments (since Teddy doesn’t do much), child co-stars Dakota Fanning and sister Elle Fanning must contrive ways of ejecting Teddy’s cassette and losing it—over a cliff, down a well, stolen by a monkey, stolen by Big Tobacco, etc. Massive appeal for parents who can’t wait to explain cassette technology to their children. Myers learned five new accents for the part.
Harvey Keitel is a tightly wound coil whose drug addiction and gambling debts have left his soul bereft and his day-to-day life a misery of failed trips down ramps. Many somber takes of the naked Slinky weeping. Tour-de-force death scene: guest looks down on Keitel’s tangled metal body, shakes head and says, “Everyone knows it’s Slinky.”
In an effort to appeal to both the multiplex and art house circuit, German maverick Werner Herzog directs this bold adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy. Cy-Kill stars as the wandering king, ousted from power and grappling with madness, who must win his throne back from his conniving children (brilliantly portrayed by the original Cop-Tur and Dive-Dive). Featuring Helen Mirren as the voice of Screwhead.
Micro Machines: The IMAX Experience
Hasbro attempts to bring these diminutive toys to the big screen, with middling results. The IMAX projection reveals the shoddy craftsmanship of the titular cars (paint smears on windows, featureless dashboards). Stunts are unimpressive, save for the climactic scene pitting a Rolls Royce against a Chihuahua (voice of Helen Mirren). Looks far superior when illegally downloaded and viewed on iPod.
What’s that sweet, sweet smell? The Purple Pieman from 129th St. has the finest stable of “underdone pastry” this side of Cookie Corners, and none more beautiful than Shortcake (Jessica Alba). This retro-exploitation flick is a gritty look at life on the streets of Strawberryland—a shocking tale of substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, and layin’ some icing on the man! Steamy love scene between Paris Hilton’s Crepes Suzette and Michael Clarke Duncan’s Pieman is not to be missed (or for the faint of heart).
“Knowing is half the battle,” claim the campaign posters, “The other half is kicking ass!” The Joes are called in to maintain stability in post-Hussein Iraq, in which Cobra Commander and his gang of laser-wielding thugs are revealed to be the cause of political unrest. Lauded by some as a savage satire of the Bush administration, reviled by others as a glorification of it, G.I. Joe: The Movie is anything but subtle. Destro’s metallic visage takes on a chilling, post-modern context in the wake of beheadings and hangings. Original tagline, “A Real American Hero” is dropped in every foreign market.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
A chilling new cautionary documentary from the makers of An Inconvenient Truth. Featuring Helen Mirren as Al Gore.
Michael Rottman does not teach children, but can get one for you cheap. His work has appeared in Opium.print, Grain, and The Fiddlehead, and online at Y.P.R., The Morning News, and McSweeney's.