Road WarsNot too long ago, in a place not so far, far away, a new road-trip movie joined the five others in this listing.Kings of the Road
The granddaddies of all road trippers, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, are traveling together again on DVD.Intheir seven “road” pictures, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby traveledeverywhere from Singapore to Zanzibar. Fictionally, anyway — thejourneys took place largely on Hollywood back lots. But they weren’texactly typical fare. The road films satirized Hollywood’s biggeststars, studios, and conventions — parodying everything from actionfilms to love stories to Westerns — at the time when movies and theirstars were still larger than life. Only Hope and Crosby could havepulled off this feat with such ease. Stars of the stage first, theyexisted almost outside the industry that would make them megarich. Sowhen Hope goes from fighting a giant squid in Road to Balito talking directly to the audience, warning us, among other things,that Crosby is “gonna sing, folks. Now’s the time to go out and get thepopcorn,” it seems perfectly natural, even if it is highlyunconventional. But that’s where the legacy of the road pictures getsodd. Unusual as they were for their time, they created a blueprint forall road-trip movies to come. Bickering travelers? Check. Wackysituations? Check. Pursuing evildoers? Love interests? Check and check.Of course, the one thing most of today’s movie road warriors can’tpull off is the self-referential feats. When Jackie Chan and ChrisTucker repeat the line, “Do you understand the words that are comingout of my mouth?” in all their Rush Hour films, it’s painful to watch. Not so when in Road to Rio Hope and Crosby enact one of their old vaudeville routines —patty-cake, no less — as a ruse to knock out some criminals. At theend, Hope offers a line we should all remember: “That’s what they getfor not seeing our pictures.” — Rob Gilmour New Road-Trip Movie:Fanboys, to be released later this year. Stars: Veronica Mars’s Kristen Bell and Sam Huntington, who was Jimmy Olsen in Superman Returns. Vehicle of Choice: A van. Purpose of Journey:It is 1998, and a group of friends drive across the country to stealthe print of the first Star Wars prequel before it is released. Geek Alert:Along the way, the pals obsessively drop dialogue from the originalthree Star Wars movies. Also, like their outer-space heroes, they evendive down a garbage chute to escape from guards. Yes, the walls doclose in on them. Double Geek Alert: The archenemy of the fanboys? Trekkies. Apparently, the universe isn’t big enough for both of them. Triple Geek Alert: Not all Trekkies are bad. William Shatner provides the keys for the theft. Best Line: “Nobody calls Han Solo a dirtbag.” Old Road-Trip Movie:It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, 1963. Stars: Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, and just about every other 1960s-era comedy star you can think of. Vehicle of Choice: Cars, mostly, although a biplane is also involved. Purpose of Journey: To secure $350,000 of stolen money. Remember: That was a lot more money in 1963. Best Line:Hackett, who plays the brilliantly named Benjy Benjamin, says to thegroup chasing the money, “We’ve figured it 17 different ways, and eachtime we figured it, it was no good. Because no matter how we figuredit, somebody don’t like the way we figured it. So now, there’s only oneway to figure it. And that is, every man, including the old bag, forhimself.” Old Road-Trip Movie:Easy Rider, 1969. Stars: Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson. Vehicle of Choice: Motorcycles. Purpose of Journey: Self-discovery and a search for the true soul of America. Plus, Mardi Gras. Best Line:Nicholson’s character asks, “What’s dude? Is that like dude ranch?”Fonda, as Wyatt, explains, “Dude means nice guy. Dude means a regularsort of person.” Dude. How could he not know? Old Road-Trip Movie:National Lampoon’s Vacation, 1983. Stars: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Anthony Michael Hall, and Randy Quaid. Vehicle of Choice: The Wagon Queen Family Truckster. Purpose of Journey: A family trip to Walley World. Best Line:Chase, to a hotel clerk after his credit card was rudely declined, “I’mmaking a check out for $1,000. All you have to do is give me $300 incash and keep the $700, all for doing nothing more than acting like atotal creep.” Old Road-Trip Movie:Midnight Run, 1988. Stars: Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin, and Yaphet Kotto. Vehicle of Choice:Trains. Purpose of Journey: De Niro is a bounty hunter chasing Grodin,a white-collar criminal, across the country before a bunch of mobstersfind him. Best Line:
De Niro, as Jack Walsh, says to FBI agent Alonzo Mosely, played byKotto, “Can I ask you something? These sunglasses — they’re reallynice. Are they government-issued, or do all you guys go to the samestore to get them?” Old Road-Trip Movie:Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, 2006 Stars: Sacha Baron Cohen and a bunch of people who probably shouldn’t have signed releases to be on camera. Vehicle of Choice: A mulepowered car and an ice cream truck. Purpose of Journey: Um, for make benefit glorious nation of Kazakhstan. Duh. Best Line: Borat’s buddy, Azamat, asks, “What’s in California?” Borat replies, “Pearl Harbor is there. So is Texas.”
Battle of the Pro Road Warriors
Who’s the best TV traveler? We rate five top contenders.
TV Travel Show
No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, Travel Channel
A chef turned traveler sees the sights and eats the native cuisine while smoking too much and offering constant, cranky narration.
Tuscany, New York City, Paris, Ghana, Beirut, and more
He eats seal in a Canadian Eskimo village. Raw seal. Raw seal eyeball.
Since he’s always visiting “friends” in faraway places who take him well off the beaten path, you’re going to get annoyed when he berates you for being a bad traveler. It’d be nice if we all had a camera crew to take on our trips. Still, Bourdain’s travelogues, when not condescending, can be inspirational.
Globe Trekker with Justine Shapiro, Ian Wright, and Megan McCormick, PBS
Gen Xers, backed by Lonely Planet, travel in rad ways and do their trips to the X-treme, even if they’re far too old to be staying in hostels.
Indonesian islands, New York, rural England, and pretty much everywhere else
Wright, the morning after drinking too much tequila in Mexico, visits a restaurant where beef stomach and fish tripe are on the menu. He chooses not to eat there. Totally bogus.
The travelers may be poorly attired, and the show may get a little too cute at times, but the hosts usually know their history, have respect for local customs, and do an excellent job of making us interested in places we had never considered going.
Giada’s Weekend Getaways with Giada De Laurentiis, Food Network
De Laurentiis sees some sights, eats several meals, and changes outfits a few times.
Miami, New York City, Santa Barbara, New Orleans, Seattle, Charleston, and More
In New Orleans, De Laurentiis has dinner at Emeril’s Delmonico. Now that’s cross-promotion.
De Laurentiis suffers by comparison with other TV travelers because she’s only going somewhere for a weekend. How much can you learn in that short of a time? Still, she could do more than make us watch her eat. One idea: Go talk to the chef instead.
Rick Steves’ Europe with Rick Steves, PBS
Mild-mannered everyman traveler gives detail-oriented tours of European towns and cities.
Rome, Paris, London, Berlin, Madrid, etc.
Steves, in Madrid’s Museo Nacional del Prado, goes on and on about the history of some artist whose name you will not be able to remember (it’s El Greco) because your eyes already will have glazed over. Meanwhile, someone is probably drinking sangria nearby.
Steves scores high for telling you the practical things other travel shows don’t, like how to get a train ticket, how to approach a local in a shop, and how to score an inexpensive hotel room that’s not a hostel (usually). He will not, however, eat seal eyeballs.
The Amazing Race, CBS
Teams of travelers are sent around the globe on a nerve-racking, nailbiting scavenger hunt race.
Dublin, Sydney, Dubai, Sri Lanka, Rio de Janeiro, and so on
A pair of contestants beg for cab money. In Miami. They’d have more luck in Timbuktu.
Yeah, it’s a game show. And, no, you won’t really learn much. But you don’t get this window to the world from, say, Jeopardy! Remember when Paul and Amie were lost in the Sahara? The desert has never looked more beautiful. Plus, no museums!
Homeward BoundWhat to watch when you're not on the road. By John Ross
My Name Is Ponch
If you’re anything like us, you can’t get enough of Erik Estradaon TV — his acting, that is. We’re no fans of his stints (or anyone else’sstints) on The Surreal Life and Armed & Famous. Those are notthe kinds of places you want to see a throwback, hirsute fellow like Estrada,the self-proclaimed King of Hunkdom. Preferably,we’d see Estrada in CHiPs ’08 , but since that project isn’t happening,we have to settle for watching him on Husband for Hire , which will airon Oxygen. In this TV movie, onetime officer Francis Llewellyn “Ponch”Poncherello is the father of My Name Is Earl’s Nadine Velazquez. Shehires Kelly Ripa’s husband, Mark Consuelos, to pretend to be her husband so shecan claim a family fortune. Or something. We are really just watching to see ifEstrada makes any traffic stops.
U2 + 3D = Best Movie You’ll See
There is not a better movie in theaters this month than U2 3D,which, given the quality of most releases this time of year, probably doesn’tsound like much of a compliment. But it is. The film, the first everlive-action movie to be shot, produced, and shown in digital 3-D, captures theband on their Vertigo tour, playing in Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. Thedigital imagery is a true breakthrough. The cameras come in pairs — a right anda left eye, so to speak — that produce a deep image that is almost true tolife. Focusing both “eyes” on the performances was the job of codirectors CatherineOwens and Mark Pellington, who have long relationships with the band.Pellington directed the video for “One,” and Owens, who has served as U2’svisual-content director for several years (we’re not sure if that means shesupplies Bono with sunglasses), has been friends with the bandmates since sheand they were teenagers growing up in Dublin.For U2 3D, Owens and Pellington manage to swing the camera sets — whichare large and not the easiest things to move — from audience to stage to behindthe scenes, giving viewers a perspective on the concerts that’s better than whatyou’d get from a seat. That this latest breakthrough in concert moviemaking comes notfrom, say, Martin Scorsese, who famously captured the Band in The Last Waltz,but from a pair of novice directors is surprising. Just as surprising is thatthe film’s distributor isn’t a big studio but a division of the NationalGeographic Society — the outfit best known for producing undersized (thoughbrilliant) 2-D images. What’s not a surprise at all: Ahead of U2 3D’srelease, there’s already demand for Bono-style 3-D glasses.
The Doctor Is In
In Treatment, HBO’s newest — and very frequentlyaired — show, as told in numbers. 43Totalnumber of episodes HBO has committed to for the series, which stars GabrielByrne as a therapist. 9Number of weeks, in succession, that the show will be on the air. 5Numberof nights, per week, the show will air. (Monday through Friday in its regularslot on HBO. Technically, though, there are more airings on HBO’s other networks.)30Number of minutes each episode will run. 5Number ofpatients Byrne will see each week. (The same five patients will appearthroughout the course of the show’s 43 episodes.) 1Numberof times per week that Byrne’s character will see his own therapist. 6Numberof stars in the show joining Byrne. Josh Charles, Embeth Davidtz, Melissa George,Blair Underwood, and Mia Wasikowska are Byrne’s patients. Dianne Wiest is hispsychiatrist. 28The date in January when the premier episode airs. Mark your calendar— repeatedly.
Great Caesar’sGhost? Maybe Not.
TheTower of London. Haunted. The Roman Forum. Haunted.Paris’scatacombs. Haunted. Right? Well, hopefully we’ll soon find out. This month,Sci Fi is sending a team of ghost hunters overseas to find out if the Continentis as scary as the current euro-dollar exchange rate. The channel is hoping tocapitalize on the success of its Ghost Hunters, a show about skepticswho search for the paranormal mainly in the United States, with Ghost Hunters International, a showin which the skeptics will work exclusively in Europe.Some of the investigators will be familiar to the Ghost Hunters audience.Robb Demarest, Andy Andrews, and Donna LaCroix are among the international teammembers who will apply scientific principles to reported ghost sightings in anattempt to prove that natural — and not supernatural — forces are at work. Wewish them luck. But, seriously, should they see the headless ghost of AnneBoleyn, we suggest they run. Fast.