Tag Archives: Albert Brooks

The Set of 400: #50 – My Favorite Spectral Comedy Club

Today! Because if you really wanna make this place feel like Earth, you should open a few of those mini-malls –

Defending Your Life (1991)

Directed by Albert Brooks (x2)

Starring Albert Brooks (x5), Meryl Streep (x3), Rip Torn (x4), Lee Grant, Buck Henry (x4), George D. Wallace, Lillian Lehman, Susan Walters, Shirley MacLaine (x2), Ethan Embry (x2), James Eckhouse (x2), Gary Beach, Mary Pat Gleason, Nurit Koppel

Why aren’t there more movies set in the afterlife? This seems like a setting rife with possibilities, given the complete lack of agreement what the hell is sitting out there waiting for us, if anything. Seriously, we’ve got the hyper complexity of NBC’s The Good Place, a bunch of movies dealing with some manner of reincarnation – Heaven Can Wait/Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Down to Earth, Oh! Heavenly Dog – or ghost visitations – Beetlejuice, Topper – but very few actually set in a heaven/hell/purgatory. Is this too troubling for audiences? Was a survey conducted discovering people don’t mind tales of trying to right your life’s wrongs and winning heaven as a prize, but not the actual heaven part?

Defending Your Life, in fairness, doesn’t cover this either – but it also isn’t set on Earth. I guess heaven has no conflicts inherent in it. The Good Place bends over backwards coming up with twists to prolong the story – and to marvelous effect, I might add – but couldn’t we just get a movie set in the great beyond with a parade of CGI guest stars from eons past? You know what, forget I mentioned it – I’ve got whole sections of my long-unfinished Choose Your Own Adventure style book dealing with this very thing. Maybe it’s time to break that out onto its own.

Available for pre-sale now, coming in 2026 (still editing)

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The Set of 400: #172 – My Favorite Tussle

Today! Because this is the dumbest fucking shakedown in the history of shakedowns –

Out of Sight (1998)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh (x2)

Starring George Clooney (x3), Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames (x3), Don Cheadle (x3), Albert Brooks (x4), Dennis Farina, Nancy Allen (x2), Michael Keaton (x5), Steve Zahn, Catherine Keener (x3), Luis Guzman (x4), Connie Sawyer, James Black, Viola Davis, Paul Calderon, Samuel L. Jackson (x4), Isaiah Washington, Keith Loneker

All of the sleek cool on display in #249 Ocean’s Eleven is directly attributable to Soderbergh’s work on Out of Sight – one of the great unacknowledged sequels of all time. There is again a heist at the center of the film, but it unfolds in a completely different way. Where Ocean’s is pretty straightforward, with only some narrative somersaults at the end to heighten the impact of the caper itself, Out of Sight flips in and out of the linear tale, explaining the characters prior interactions in prison (virtually all the guys were in prison at some point), and how and why this grand Detroit house robbery came about.

The cast is first rate across the board, but none more so than Jennifer Lopez as Marshal Karen Sisco, kidnapped while Clooney’s Jack breaks out of jail, plunging them both in the trunk of the getaway car, where the hot, sweaty romance begins to blossom. Ridiculous, right? But it totally works, in that marvelous Elmore Leonard way. I want to emphasize how good Lopez is here, because I don’t think she will ever really get the credit she deserves as an actress. As time went by, she did more and more romantic comedies and middling TV shows, but her career’s start – with Selena and Out of Sight and…Anaconda – signaled her as a major talent, capable of a lot more than she’s done. Sure, her music career always came first, and those Affleck films sure didn’t help things, but I always hoped she’d get back to some great character work. Not too late, JLo!

No reason to get blue about it!

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The Set of 400: #234 – My Favorite Sandbox Escape

Today! Because this book doesn’t have any answers!

The Simpsons Movie (2007)

Directed by David Silverman

Starring Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright (x2), Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Yeardley Smith, Pamela Hayden, Tress MacNeille (x2), Albert Brooks (x3), Tom Hanks (x2), Joe Mantegna

The debt of honor we as a people owe to Tracey Ullman can never truly be assessed. Yes, without Matt Groening and James L. Brooks and Sam Simon we wouldn’t have the decades of merriment and hilarity The Simpsons has given us, but without Ullman’s terrific sketch comedy show on the relatively new FOX network in the late ’80s, they may have never gotten a foot in the door as everyone’s favorite yellow skinned family (and then by extension we never would’ve gotten Futurama, still my pick as one of the top three or four consistently funny sitcoms ever made – The Simpsons has obviously been diluted down by the many years since its heyday).

Congratulations, meat bags!

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The Set of 400: #331 – My Favorite Punchable Child Character

Today! Because he’s got a chip on his shoulder the size of the national debt –

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

Directed by Joe Dante, John Landis, George Miller, and Steven Spielberg

Starring Dan Aykroyd (x2), Albert Brooks (x2), Vic Morrow, John Larroquette (x2), Steven Williams, Scatman Crothers, Selma Diamond, Bill Quinn, Murray Matheson, Kathleen Quinlan, Dick Miller, John Lithgow, Donna Dixon, Burgess Meredith (x3), Abbe Lane, Bill Mumy, Nancy Cartwright, William Schallert, Patricia Barry, Kevin McCarthy, Jeremy Licht, Priscilla Pointer, Martin Garner, Helen Shaw, Charles Hallahan, Doug McGrath

A wildly uneven movie, which is to be expected considering the basis, the highs in Twilight Zone are pretty damn high, while the lows are only mediocre – this is a wall-to-wall watchable movie, even if on paper it seems like it shouldn’t have worked at all. Bringing in the high profile quartet of directors was certainly a good first step – with the only one I tend to skip being Dante’s “It’s a Good Life.” I don’t know, it’s not an episode I particularly enjoy either, so I’m not blaming the way they execute it, I’m just not a huge fan of that asshole kid. It’s pretty meh.

But the other three – pretty solid. The only original story of the group – the Landis directed “Time Out” is a bit heavy-handed, but effectively lead by Vic Morrow (famously killed on the set of this film, requiring a different ending to be concocted). Spielberg’s “Kick the Can” is schmaltzy, but has always been my favorite segment, with its sadly sentimental senior citizens getting one night to be young again. But clearly they saved the stand-out sequence for the finale, as George Miller’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” surpasses the episode it’s based on (the best episode they chose to adapt, too) and gets a dynamite performance from Lithgow as the tortured passenger, seeing a monster on the wing of the plane.

Lithgow is largely not doing well

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The Set of 400: #334 – My Favorite Craps Meltdown

Today! Because if you pick up that keno card, I’ll kill you –

Lost in America (1985)

Directed by Albert Brooks

Starring Albert Brooks, Julie Hagerty, Garry Marshall, Donald Gibb (x2), Michael Greene, Candy Ann Brown, Maggie Roswell

Albert Brooks has had a terrifically acclaimed career, but the path he’s taken is an odd one. He created taped segments for the first year of Saturday Night Live, had supporting roles in notable films like Taxi Driver and Broadcast News, did legendary voice work in a handful of Simpsons episodes and as Marlin in Finding Nemo/Doryand has always managed to hang around despite largely ignoring his true calling – directing movies, which he’s only done seven times.

My second favorite of those is this abortive road trip family disaster, as his ad exec David abandons corporate life and sets off with his wife to see America and live off their nest egg. This is a movie I didn’t notice until I was older – Brooks’ movies can’t much resonate with the younger set – except for the memorable if confusing VHS cover, appearing frequently in young Joe’s life at your Prime Time Videos and Blockbusters. But it is a hilarious, small film with a wonderful script, and terrific lead work by Brooks and the film’s MVP, Julie Hagerty, as his amenable, frustrated, destructive wife Linda. It’s that all-American fantasy of throwing your job in your boss’s face, storming out, and hitting the road to live the way you want – before the reality of this choice socks you and sends things spiraling apart. That being said, it still seems like a pretty fun life plan, right?

No matter how many times I pitch it, Sarah is not supportive of this life plan

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