No, not fiction movies. That could be anything. This week, the Roundtable goes meta, as we look at the best fictional movies that only exist within other movies or TV shows.
Since Dick came up with this brilliant topic, we’ll let him lead things off:
- ‘Terminator 2’, Starring Sylvester Stallone – The Stallone version of the Terminator appears in ‘Last Action Hero‘, when our hero Danny tries to prove that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a movie star and not just a regular guy. It’s a little confusing. Danny takes Arnold to a video store and shows him a poster for ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day‘, only to find Sly Stallone gracing the artwork. Not only is it a funny moment in the film, it’s a really interesting casting suggestion. I’ve grown tired of the self referential governor and the flurry of awful movies he’s responsible for. If we could just take the good, or even the decent, movies he was in and recast them, I think I’d find them far more watchable. Stallone in ‘Terminator’ may be heresy, but at least the man can act! Even taking my dislike of the buff Austrian into account, I fully approve of his role in the highly underrated ‘Last Action Hero’. If nothing else, I’d like to hold it responsible for helping us, as a people, grow out of our muscle-bound action man phase.
- ‘Mant!‘ – My favorite movie-within-a-movie has got to be ‘Mant!’, the phony 1950s horror film depicted in Joe Dante’s underrated masterpiece ‘Matinee’. What makes ‘Mant!’ so wonderful – besides the fact that it stars Cathy Moriarty as a woman who falls in love with a man who has (thanks to the atomic-age threat of radioactivity) changed into a half-man/half-ant monster – is that it isn’t a spoof so much as a loving homage. ‘Matinee’ is fashioned as a kind of unauthorized biography/celebration of schlock film producer William Castle, who gave us the original ‘House on Haunted Hill’ and ‘The Tingler’, among other gems. ‘Mant!’ falls perfectly into that wheelhouse. Not only is it an arms race allegory, but it also serves as a combination of two classics from the period, ‘The Fly’ and ‘Them’. Oh, and in perfect William Castle fashion, at every showing of ‘Mant!’ the theater rumbles and a man dressed as the titular character stumbles through the aisles, scaring impressionable teens mid-embrace. ‘Mant!’ may be silly, but Dante and his collaborators were very serious in their love and appreciation for all things William Castle.
- Patrick Stewart’s “Exhilarating” Dream Project in ‘Extras’ – I was pretty disappointed in Ricky Gervais’ follow-up to ‘The Office’, but the short-lived series did provide one of my favorite TV moments related to a fictional film project. During a scene in which Gervais’ desperate wannabe actor slips into Patrick Stewart’s trailer to hustle his way into the business, we get a glimpse of Stewart’s seldom-seen deadpan comic side. As the famous ‘Star Trek’ captain discusses the importance of writing your own material, and describes his own dream project – a script in which he’s able to make random women’s clothes fall off so he can “see everything” – the gleeful look in his eyes as he imagines the real world possibility of telekinetic clothing removal is pure comic gold. Check it out for yourself!
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
- ‘Action Doctor‘ – I just finished watching ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World‘ for the eight-hojillionth time, so my pick is one of the flicks featured in that: ‘Action Doctor’. “The good news is…you are going to live. The bad news is he is going to kill you. Check your pulse on May 19th.” Maybe I’m just a cheap date, but between that and a shot of a guy with a stethoscope outrunning an explosion…? They could count on my eight bucks.
- ‘The Dueling Cavalier‘ – I’ll start out with some classics I’d like to see, such as ‘The Dueling Cavalier’ from ‘Singin’ in the Rain’. Of course, I’d like the first version with the Lina Lamont voiceover saying things like, “I canned stan it.”
- ‘Aged in Wood‘ – Another standout would be ‘Aged in Wood’ from ‘All About Eve’, just because I’d love to see another Bette Davis movie.
- Various ‘Extras’ Movies – For modern, I’ll take my picks from the TV show ‘Extras’. I can’t recall whether any of the movies they worked in had titles. I’d like to see the holocaust film with Kate Winslet playing a nun, a performance that was destined to win her an Oscar. I’d also like to see Samuel L. Jackson star as an American cop in England – or it could be played by Laurence Fishburne, as Maggie couldn’t tell the difference between them. Perhaps it could have been called ‘Fish out of Water’. I’d also be interested in an Orlando Bloom courtroom thriller.
There are so many, many possibilities here. Where do I even start?
- James Cameron’s ‘Aquaman’ – ‘Entourage’ spent the better part of two seasons following pretty-but-vapid leading man Vincent Chase hit the big time in a mega-budget superhero action epic directed by none other than Mr. ‘Titanic’, James Cameron (appearing as himself). Cameron was very game to make fun of his reputation as a control freak perfectionist, and his obsession with underwater filmmaking. This story arc is the high point of the entire series. And I’d still rather see Cameron make an ‘Aquaman’ movie for real than the damned ‘Avatar‘ sequels he’s actually working on now.
- ‘Dragonfly‘ – Not the (real) Kevin Costner supernatural flop of the same title. I’m talking about the super-cool ’60s spy/sci-fi adventure flick featured within Roman Coppola’s ‘CQ’. The meta-movie’s a campy retro homage to Euro cheesefests like ‘Barbarella’ and ‘Danger: Diabolik’, complete with bouncy jazz score and silly special effect models and miniatures. The DVD of ‘CQ’ offers a bonus feature that assembles all the snippets of footage seen in the feature into a short reconstruction of ‘Dragonfly’. The story is too fragmented and doesn’t make a whit of sense, but then I seriously doubt the full-length movie would have either.
- ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo‘ – “Isn’t that a real movie?” you ask. Well, yes, but Woody Allen’s existential fantasy takes its name from the film-within-the-film, a Depression-era “White Telephone” drama about fabulously wealthy socialites that our heroine Cecilia (played by Mia Farrow) wishes so hard could be real that they actually step out of the theater screen and become real for her. That sounds like a ticket price well spent to me.
- ‘Rochelle, Rochelle‘ – ‘Seinfeld’ is a treasure trove of fake movies. A pretentious indie art film about, “A young girl’s erotic journey from Milan to Minsk”? I’m pretty sure that John Duigan has directed this for real a couple times over, hasn’t he? Other great ‘Seinfeld’ gems include ‘Prognosis: Negative’, ‘Checkmate’, and ‘Ponce de Leon’.
We know you’ve got some great ones too. Throw them at us!