Tag Archives: Rip Torn

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: #376 – My Favorite Swamp Gas From a Weather Balloon

Today! Because Elvis is not dead, he just went home –

Men in Black (1997)

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld

Starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Linda Fiorentino, Vincent D’Onofrio, Rip Torn, Tony Shalhoub, Jon Gries, Carel Struycken, Siobhan Fallon, David Cross, Mike Nussbaum, Willie C. Carpenter

Ah, that epic summer of 1997! With mediocre sequels (The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Batman and Robin), fair-to-okay star-driven actioners (Con Air, Air Force One), decently performing kids fluff (Hercules, George of the Jungle), and the okay start to the worst two-thirds of a film trilogy ever (Austin Powers), came the apex of Will Smith, the zenith of his ’90s run, that in reality was only like five movies long. He’d continue with hits for years to come, but would only top the gross of MiB once on his own, ten years later in I Am Legend.

But what a fun film to solidify Mr. Fourth of July’s stranglehold on the holiday (a grip completely lost two years later by the Wild Wild West debacle). Smith and Jones made such a great comedy team that they even buoy the utterly average sequel that followed in 2002. Vincent D’Onofrio is marvelously unrecognizable as the alien in the Edgar suit, the subject of the men in black man/bughunt through New York City. It’s a movie that fully explores the comic angles of aliens living among us, while not getting too bogged down in the nuts and bolts of the whole thing. Light, goopy, and very funny, Men in Black is kind of the perfect formula for a summer blockbuster. Oh, and Men in Black 3 is okay too. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #385 – My Favorite Tournament of Roses

Today! Because he’s not a goodfella, he’s a badfella!

Bee Movie (2007)

Directed by Simon J. Smith, Steve Hickner

Starring Jerry Seinfeld, Renee Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, Patrick Warburton, John Goodman, Chris Rock, Kathy Bates, Barry Levinson, Larry King, Ray Liotta, Sting, Oprah Winfrey, Larry Miller, Rip Torn, Michael Richards, Megan Mullally, Tom Papa, Carol Leifer, Tress MacNeille, John DiMaggio, Carl Kasell, David Herman

Are you as worried as I am that this list could devolve into late ’00s animated comedies? For the second time in three days, here we are! But for an old Seinfeld fan like me, this one had to make the list. Figure, outside of Curb Your Enthusiasm across that decade, there wasn’t much to throw us ’90s fans back into that Seinfeldian vein of yuks, and then came this to scratch that itch. Thanks, Dreamworks! Sure, the actual driving plot is kinda nothing, and the ending works hard to break the reality they’ve built up, but the premise was solid enough to facilitate a ton of Seinfeld-style jokes, and isn’t that really what we were there for in the first place? I mean, what else did we have, American Express commercials? “That was a wicked googly!” is still a great catchphrase, though. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #397 – My Favorite Endless Novel

Today! Because he probably calls everybody Vernon –

Wonder Boys (2000)

Directed by Curtis Hanson

Starring Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Robert Downey Jr., Frances McDormand, Katie Holmes, Rip Torn, Alan Tudyk, Philip Bosco, Richard Thomas

I loved this movie when I first saw it nineteen years ago – That screenplay! Those characters! – but I’ll admit it may not be holding up quite so well anymore. I’m not sure I ever would’ve had this in the top 100, but 200 seems totally reasonable, had I been ranking down that far in the early ’00s. Something resonated with me in Douglas’s writer cranking out a seemingly never-ending book, amidst the spiraling chaos of his academic environs. I especially remember the ending (not to spoil it, but you have had nearly two decades to watch it by now) being one of the most devastating things I’d seen at the time. I really fancied myself a writer back then, so I think that makes sense. Continue reading

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