Ben Affleck’s hotly-anticipated Argo hits theatres this fall. The premise (and it’s based on a true story): in an attempt to save six American hostages, federal agents enter Iran pretending to be a Canadian film crew working on a sci-fi flick named, yep, Argo. Which got me to thinking of the concept of movies within movies. They’re seldom analyzed, much less compiled into a clever-clever top 5 list. Here are a few standouts…
‘Hamlet’ — as featured in ‘Last Action Hero’
Last Action Hero wasn’t a stellar film. In fact, upon its release in 1993, it garnered the distinction of being Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first box office bomb in years (hey, this is what happens when you go up against a little thing called Jurassic Park). Simply put, it was a series of film-related parodies, some stronger than others. One of the best? Arnie as everyone’s favourite brooding Danish prince. Only this time around, he’s finally grown a pair. In fact, Hamlet’s itchy machine gun finger and overall propensity for blowing things up make him the most badass Shakespeare character since Lady Macbeth (trust me, that woman was no slouch on the tough-as-nails front).
‘Don’t’ — as featured in ‘Grindhouse’
When you think Grindhouse, the two names that come to mind — for obvious reasons — are Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. Which would be all fair and good, were it not for the fact the double feature’s unsung hero is actually Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright. Reason being, the diminutive Brit breaks up Grindhouse’s two main films (Death Proof and Planet Terror) with a gothic, 1970s- style trailer for the fictitious flick Don’t. Inspired by the UK’s Hammer House of Horror trailers from 30+ years ago, Don’t captures the look, the feel, and all the frights of the era. Whether its driving up to a haunted house, opening the door, venturing into the basement, or even looking up, this ‘film’ has the best one-word piece of advice to offer up: don’t.
‘Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season’ — as featured in ‘Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back’
Let’s not mince words: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is quite possibly the worst big-budget comedy ever made (with an honourable mention to Austin Powers in Goldmember). Apologies in advance for the adverb parade: it’s really, amazingly, excruciatingly, self-indulgently awful. Fortunately, there is one shining light to emerge from this bog of cinematic poop. Partway through the flick, Jay and Silent Bob stumble onto the set of the wholly unnecessary Good Will Hunting sequel. The scene below reprises the famous Boston bar war of words between Will (Matt Damon), Chuckie (the aforementioned Ben Affleck), and that d-bag guy with the quasi ponytail ( that d-bag guy with the quasi ponytail). Were it extended into a full-length sequel, you can bet your apples I’d be the first in line.
‘Brock Landers — Angels Live in My Town’ — as featured in ‘Boogie Nights’
In P.T. Anderson’s Boogie Nights, Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) is a rising porn star with a rather formidable asset. Ah, but does such an inauspicious place in the entertainment biz preclude him from entering the arse-kicking world of action movies? Not on your life, pal! As the trailer for Brock Landers — Angels Live in My Town clearly demonstrates, Dirk is surprisingly deft at running down thugs, breaking out the sweet martial arts moves, and high-fiving his bestest bro like a super-boss.
‘Satan’s Alley’ — as featured in ‘Tropic Thunder’
Robert Downey, Jr. is Kirk Lazarus: an Australian method actor known to sink deep, deep into his characters, e.g. the pigment-altering surgery he underwent to play an African American sergeant in Tropic Thunder, the film-within-a-film in Tropic Thunder (are you following?). Yet prior to taking on the jungles of the Golden Triangle, Lazarus won hearts — and awards — for his portrayal of a gay 12th century Irish monk in Satan’s Alley. The film’s other gay 12th century Irish monk? Tobey Maguire, naturally. And as you can see from the trailer below, these two have some serious gay 12th century Irish monk chemistry. Although the church may not approve of their star-crossed partnership, we all know true big-screen-within-the-big-screen magic when we see it.