Tag Archives: will ferrell

Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie

Roger Ebert made it clear that Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie doesn’t even make it into his most hated canon of flicks (a hard enclosure to gain access to as the guy was a pretty fair critic right to the end). A small part of me sees the exasperation in a guy who took his cinema seriously. But most of me, especially the parts that enjoy humour so off the wall and bizarre that I’d be labelled just as far on the spectrum as the two demented wunderkinds behind this ninety minute freak show, loves it. You have to be a special kind of deranged to enjoy Tim and Eric’s brand of humour; the words abstract, surreal and extremely bizarre come to mind, but that doesn’t begin to cover the maniacal parade they’ve whipped up here. One thing does fascinate me though: since the very beginning when they first got their show rolling (Great Job!), they have been a magnet for some of the most prominent and prolific talent in Hollywood’s comedy arena, scoring cameos from the likes of Will Ferrell, Jeff Goldblum, John C. Reilly and more. That tells me that a lot more folks than you might think have an innate affinity for this extreme brand of shock humour and madness than would care to admit, and that when it comes down to it, humans organically produce their own humour in this weird, abstract fashion that’s much more natural than most scripted, constructed comedy we see in film. The humour here is so far into the stratosphere of weirdness that it understandably made a lot of folks uncomfortable, but that just makes the whole thing funnier. The ‘plot’ is just a series of running gags loosely connected by Tim & Eric owing a billion dollars to the Schlaaaaang Corporation (run by William Atherton and Robert Loggia in one of his last movie roles). They skip town and decide to take up Will Ferrell on his offer to be caretakers of a giant dilapidated shopping mall, after a few back to back viewings of Top Gun. The mall is host to a whole array of weirdos and insane people including slightly retarded Taquito (John C. Reilly), snarky sword salesman Allen Bishopman (Will Forte), a man who sells used toilet paper, Bob Ross, a bunch of hobos, oh and a wolf too, among others. Don’t expect it to make much sense, that’s not the Tim and Eric way. Just expect to be shocked, disgusted, disoriented, appalled, and if you’re tuned into the right frequency, to laugh your ass off. Their outright deliberation in pushing boundaries of taste and coherency no doubt had people running from the theatre and demanding money back in droves, but as Mia Wallace iconically put it, don’t be a 🔲. The real endurance test is when Ray Wise (Twin Peak’s Leland Palmer) shows up as a nutso self help guru whose brand of treatment (Shrim!) really goes to some gag-worthy places. Other notable cameos include Jeff Goldblum as (wait for it) ‘Chef Goldblum’, Johnny Depp, Zach Galifianakis, Mark Cuban and Bob Odenkirk. It’s a weird world, and in a genre that routinely isn’t weird enough, plays it safe and sticks to the often bland script, we need guys like Tim and Eric to shake shit up, open their bag of tricks and assault audiences with their very specific, certifiable brand of comedy. Buckle up.

-Nate Hill

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SEMI-PRO – A REVIEW BY J.D. LAFRANCE

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Semi-Pro (2008) proved that Will Ferrell is no longer bulletproof at the box office. The film was not well-received by the critics (nothing new for Ferrell) but failed to connect with his fans like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) and Talladega Nights: The Ballad or Ricky Bobby (2006) did. On paper, Semi-Pro must’ve seemed like a sure-fire hit: mix the dumb guy humor from Anchorman with the underdog sports team of misfits from Slap Shot (1977) and sprinkle all sorts of popular culture references from the 1970s. So what went wrong?

Jackie Moon (Ferrell) is the ever-confident, terminally clueless owner, head coach, and star player (if you can call him that) of the Flint Tropics, an ABA basketball team that might be dissolved when the league merges with the NBA. Only the four best teams will make the cut, which is not good news for Jackie’s team. They are awful, averaging an attendance record of 91 people a game. The lone exception on the team is Clarence “Downtown” Malone (Andre Benjamin) who actually has a shot at making it to the NBA. The Tropics are so bad that one of the local commentators reads the Classifieds section of the newspaper during one game.

In order to improve the team’s chances, Jackie trades their washing machine for Ed Monix (Woody Harrelson), a physical player not above punching out his opponents. The Tropics certainly have their work cut out for them. Not only do they have to start winning on a regular basis but they also have to average 2,000 people every home game. So, Jackie thinks up all kinds of hair-brained schemes to fill seats, including jumping the team’s cheerleaders on roller-skates and wrestling a grizzly bear.

For the first half of Semi-Pro, the comedic beats, or rhythm, is just not there. At the very least, it is inconsistent. Many jokes fall flat and are just not funny. The two color commentators Lou Redwood (Will Arnett) and Dick Pepperfield (Andrew Daly) steal every scene that they are in with their raunchy repartee (much like Jason Bateman and Gary Cole did in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story). Then, a funny thing happens in the second half. The film actually gets better. There are a few serious moments, mostly dealing with Monix and his ex-girlfriend (Maura Tierney), and once the Tropics get their act together, the film picks up momentum.

Will Ferrell plays the same type of character we’ve seen in countless films – the clueless confident guy with a touch of arrogance. To be fair, he’s got it down to a science now, but it is getting a tad predictable. One gets the feeling that Ferrell is trying to recapture the magic of Anchorman, complete with the 1970s setting. Unfortunately, Semi-Pro is nowhere near as funny despite an excellent premise. Aside from Will Arnett as his usual snarky self, Woody Harrelson is quite good as a washed-up former NBA player looking for redemption and hoping to rekindle his relationship with an ex-flame.

Semi-Pro isn’t a total train-wreck by any stretch and it does have its genuine moments of hilarity but doesn’t quite deliver as well and as often as it should. If you can make it through the first half of the film, where the filmmakers struggle to find the right mix of humor and drama, you’ll be rewarded for a much more satisfying second half that pays off your patience for sticking it out.

A Chat with Actor Mark Acheson: An Interview by Nate Hill 

  

Very excited to bring you my latest interview, with actor Mark Acheson. Mark has played countless distinct characters in film, including the mailroom guy who befriends Buddy in Elf, the thug who attacks Rorschach in Zach Snyder’s Watchmen, Moses Tripoli, the head of the North Dakota mob in FX’s Fargo, and more. He has also appeared in John Mctiernan’s The 13th Warrior, Reindeer Games, The Chronicles Of Riddick, Hot Rod, She’s The Man, 3000 Miles To Graceland, Crossfire Trail and more. Enjoy! 

Nate: When did you first know that you wanted to pursue a career in acting?
Mark: My first play I performed in grade 7 at age 11. My school loved the bad boy character and suddenly I was popular. I was hooked from then on.

Nate: Some actors/films/filmmakers who have inspired you in your own work?
Mark: I always loved movies and television and my idea of the perfect actor is Daniel Day Lewis who I think is unrecognizable from role to role. That to me is true acting.

Nate: Fargo: How was your experience with that show? Any stories from set?
Mark: Fargo was perfect. I remember the incredibly talented Noah Hawley who wrote the script always on set polishing constantly. I was very proud that our episodes won three Emmys including best miniseries and best casting by Jackie Lind who is truly a force of nature.
Nate: Watchmen: your experience working with Snyder, and on the film?
Mark: Zach was the youngest and possibly one of the most gifted directors I have ever had the pleasure to work for. He was relaxed and made the set even more so.

Nate: Some of your favourite roles you have played so far in your career?
Mark: So many great projects I have been lucky enough to be in but working with Will Farrell in Elf had to be the best. I have been recognized all over the world from that one small part. Director Jon Favreau let us ad lib everything. Will is a genius!!
Nate: You went to Langara College’s Studio 58. I myself went to their somewhat new subsidiary program called Film Arts. How do you find that theatre training has affected your work in film? Do you still do any stage work? 

Mark:  I entered theater school at age 15 and it changed my life. To play Lenny in Of Mice and Men. Gave me my start as a pro and my first agent. I miss the stage very much especially Shakespeare which I enjoyed so much. Sadly these days stage is too infrequent and too much of a time commitment.
Nate: The 13th Warrior: excellent, underrated film with a notoriously troubled production. How was your experience working on it?

Mark: This was originally titled Eaters of the Dead. Difficult set. Schwarzenegger was originally booked but fought the studio about shooting in Canada. He was getting ready to run for governor. Best part was to meet and work with Omar Sharif. Such a film legend and an even nicer man.
Nate: Your dream role?

Mark: After acting for almost 50 years my dream is just to keep working. I love it all especially the variety.
Nate: Any upcoming projects, cinematic or otherwise, that you are excited for and would like to talk about?

Mark: I currently have 4 projects in the can including Lewis and Clark for HBO airing this Christmas but I am barred from any pics or descriptions until they air. July I will start another movie that looks like alot of fun but as usual I will be killed like I was on two shows last week. Just making a living dying.

Nate:  Thank you so much for your time, and the opportunity to chat. Best of luck in the future!
Mark:  Thanks again Nate. All the best. Your interest makes all the struggle and auditions I didn’t get worthwhile.