Leslie Nielsen

naked gun nothing to see

This week was the third anniversary of Leslie Nielsen‘s death, which also marked the definite end of the most brilliant eras in movie spoof history. The period didn’t begin with his induction into the genre, and he certainly helped usher in a wave of weak entries (he even starred in the first movie written by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer), but he is still the actor most associated with these kinds of comedies, mainly due to his collaborations with the trio of Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker. Following his scene-stealing work in their classic Airplane!, they cast him as the lead on a short-lived TV series called Police Squad!. After it was quickly canceled, Nielsen spent time with serious parts in films and TV series before being brought back for the movie spin-off, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!. Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of the movie’s theatrical release, when it opened at #1 before going on to be among the top-ten grossers that debuted in 1988 (about half its take came following the new year). The success of this action movie parody led to sequels of diminishing quality, but the brand is in its entirety still one of the more celebrated comedy franchises. And this initial installment is still considered one of the top three favorite spoof movies of all time. To adequately honor all its hilarity would be difficult here, as the gags and jokes in The Naked Gun are so abundant, not […]

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly thing about movie stuff. Tonight’s edition features mini-ninjas, talk about naked pictures of Blake Lively, Sly Stallone set to music, an explanation of who Jane Lynch is, a joke about Michael Bay, an even less funny joke about Blake Lively and a profile of Richard Ayoade. That and more, we assure you. Above you will see something I never thought we’d lead with in a Movie News After Dark entry: someone’s grave stone. But there it is, the resting place of actor Leslie Nielsen. Modest, simple and complete with one last fart joke for the road. Nielsen may not have lasted forever, but his penchant for the fart joke will forever stay in our hearts.

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Every day, come rain or shine or internet tubes breaking, Film School Rejects showcases a trailer from the past. In Los Angeles, only one police officers has the guts to solve the worst conspiracy in the history of people plotting to kill people. Someone’s going to kill the Queen. It’s going to happen at a baseball game. And the cop is going to have to impersonate a famous opera singer to save her. Nice Beaver. Did you just have it stuffed? Check out the trailer for yourself:

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Every day, come rain or shine or internet tubes breaking, Film School Rejects showcases a trailer from the past. What started as a peaceful walk in the woods….turns into…one of the most bizarre trailers of the 70s. It’s brilliant because it shows a bunch of footage of animals being normal animals, but drops in a ton of humans screaming bloody murder in the background. If you can’t afford to let animals attack your actors, this is the next best thing. And is that Leslie Nielsen? Why, yes, it is! Think you know what it is? Check the trailer out for yourself:

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Yesterday was a tough day for movie fans, and even after writing a lot about Leslie Nielsen, it’s things like this old (unsuccessful) screen test for Ben-Hur that forces a smile even after devastating news. Nielsen did a great job here in the role that would go to Stephen Boyd in William Wyler’s classic. He may have not gotten the part, but his career speaks for itself. All we can do is sit back and enjoy this visual aid in imagining what could have been. [Roger Ebert]

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Culture Warrior

Had Leslie Nielsen never been cast in Airplane!, he still would have had a decent working career. He certainly never would have gone down as one of the great entertainers, but the man would have had work. After all, he did have a few noticeable (if not entirely notable) dramatic roles in genre fare ranging from Forbidden Planet (1956) to Prom Night (1980, the same year as Airplane!). But Nielsen did co-star in Airplane!, delivering one immortal line after another, which later catapulted his persona into legendary synonymy with contemporary cinematic parody. Jim Abrahams and the Zucker brothers may have been the minds behind what exactly the movie parody came to be, but Nielsen was undoubtedly the face and the voice. There is a reason that Leslie Nielsen happened.

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It’s a rare thing that two films would define a genre, but that’s exactly what Airplane! and The Naked Gun do for spoofs. They are the ultimate in that brand of comedy, simultaneously showing how funny drama can be and how difficult mining the laughter truly is. It’s an even rarer thing that a single actor would so thoroughly define a particular brand of storytelling. Leslie Nielsen made people laugh by not laughing. It’s a trait not shared by anyone else in the comedy world. Yet Nielsen consistently took every absurd situation he found his characters in, treated it with life or death certainty, and delivered punch lines without even seeming to notice them.

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Superhero Movie

Any PG-13 film that can make Stephen Hawking a comedic genius, make references to “2 Girls, 1 Cup” and have a song in its soundtrack entitled “Douchebag of the Year” is okay in my book. [Grade: B+]

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Let’s see how many more genres we can spoof this year…

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