The Last Shot (2004) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
Tuna's comments in white:
The Last Shot (2004) is a comedy based on the true story of an FBI sting operation in which the Feds pretended to be making a movie in order to incriminate some mob officials.
The bogus film scheme is concocted by an FBI agent (Alec Baldwin) who has been relegated to assignments leading nowhere in minor field offices. He realizes that by posing as a producer with union problems, he can trap some mobsters into accepting a bribe to "persuade" the union to co-operate, thus committing illegal racketeering. The agency approves his idea but he knows nothing about making a movie, so he travels to Hollywood for consulting advice, and discovers that he will need a script. As luck would have it, he discovers the perfect sucker in an aspiring writer (Matthew Broderick), a naive dreamer who is 40ish but still clinging to his show business aspirations by working as a ticket taker at Grauman's Chinese theater. Broderick has written a script called "Arizona" about a woman who is battling cancer and seeking the holy grounds of the Hopi Indians deep within the Grand Canyon. The writer is thrilled that anyone wants his script, and even more thrilled that the "backers" also want him to direct! In fact, he is so thrilled that he offers only minimal resistance when Baldwin tells him that they have to film in Rhode Island, "the Arizona of the East."
Toni Collette plays an actress who had a drug problem after her Academy Award nomination, was blackballed, and did a little porn, but is now clean and wants in the movie badly. Her performance is one of the many highlights of the funniest new film I have seen in a very long time. I do not want to spoil any of the jokes by revealing more of the plot. I have to believe this film could have done well if promoted properly, but it could be that understanding the humor requires more knowledge of filmmaking than the typical mall audience has.
The only disappointment for me was that it was over so quickly.
|Scoop's (Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)'s) note's in
"Dear Dad. A funny thing happened to me on my way to a hit movie ... "
Last summer I saw several comedies in commercial theaters and it seemed to me that almost every film came with a trailer for The Last Shot. It seemed to me that they were building this up as the big comedy hit of the Autumn. The next time I heard about it, it was being released to DVD. In between those two periods, the distributor snuck it into a mere 35 theaters in the entire United States.
The ironic upshot of the situation was that the director of The Last Shot had an experience similar to that of the director character in his film - a lot of excitement about making his first movie, followed by a lot of disappointment. I guess he did better than the character. At least he got to make the entire film, and it's not bad at all, although I didn't share Tuna's unrestricted enthusiasm. I liked it, but I didn't love it, presumably because I have seen umpteen comedies about the film-making process. The actual making of the film takes up a lot of running time, and is basically a recycling of material seen elsewhere. I'm tired of films about making films, and I didn't see any new ideas here.
The FBI portion of the story, however, is original and excellent, made even juicier by the fact that the core of the story is essentially true. Jeff Nathanson, author of the highly praised Catch Me If You Can, made his directorial debut here, using his own screenplay for The Last Shot, which was inspired by "What's Wrong With This Picture?", an article in the February 1996 issue of Details magazine. In real life, the FBI actually duped a pair of screenwriters named Dan Lewk and Gary Levy into thinking they would make a movie.
Nathanson told the Sac Ticket:
For me, the greatest pleasure of the DVD came not in the film itself, but in a very edgy special feature. When the real-life FBI agent pulled the plug on the bogus film, he simply told the two filmmakers that the investors had backed out. He never informed them that nobody ever intended to make their film, and that the entire project was part of an FBI sting. They did not become aware of it until much later when they were surprised to see the the whole story, including their own names, in a law enforcement article in the newspaper. They never again saw the FBI agent who had duped them into thinking he was a producer ...
... until now.
The director of The Last Shot arranged for the FBI man and the two aspiring auteurs to meet again after all these years, and they talked it all through. They were all encouraged to speak freely, and the FBI allowed the G-man to speak candidly and on the record. They were all polite, but the two suckers were obviously still pissed off. Now THAT was some impressive theater, and a great addition to the already excellent DVD package.
As for the film, it does have lots of pleasures. Broderick and Baldwin are excellent in roles tailor-made for them. (Baldwin is even from Rhode Island.) There are some great performances in small roles. Tuna mentioned Toni Collette, but the one that cracked me up was Joan Cusack as a foul-mouthed producer. There are also some funny cameos from such Hollywood stalwarts as Eric Roberts (naked!) and Mr. Myagi (thankfully not naked!)
Bottom line: Tuna loved the movie; I was not as enthusiastic about the movie, but loved the DVD features. Either way, we got a lot of pleasure from this package.
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