Jack Slater IV. Chubby Rain. Satan’s Alley. Stab. Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season. You Just Don’t Exist. Do those movie title's sound familiar? Try to look them up in our database. They won't show up because they aren't real, they're fakes from the likes of Last Action Hero, Bowfinger, Tropic Thunder, Scream 2, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Yes, even movie characters get to go to the movies when they aren't doing all the exciting stuff you pay to see them do. For as rarely as you might think about this sub-sub-genre, there's actually a real wealth of them. So how about we kick back with some meta-fictional popcorn and pop in a self-reflexive Blu Ray for a look at some of the most memorable movies-within-movies?
6. “Terminator 2” from Last Action Hero
I’ll keep it brief, because this shouldn’t need any explanation. Just look at the image. Raise your Colt .45 to this flick for finally answering the question of what shape a famous actor’s other films’ take in the “universe” of the movie he’s acting in. You know you've all idly wondered about that.
5. “Werewolf Women of the SS” from Grindhouse
Rob Zombie said he shot 45 minutes worth of footage that got paired down into this three minute faux preview, so maybe it’ll one day make the leap from fake trailer to real Grindhouse-spin-off like Machete and Hobo with a Shotgun have. The real brilliance of this doesn’t lie on the surface of its outrageous title; it lies in just how conceptual Zombie got with the joke. Not only is this meant to be part of the bizarre sub-genre of soft core “Nazisploitation” flicks like Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS, it includes the intentionally-random twist of Fu Manchu to allude to a Z-budget crew improvising with the available stock sets and costumes they had to work with. Now, that’s meta.
4. “McBain” from the Simpsons
It’s hard to overstate how big of a fixture the Simpsons was in my adolescence. It was the show. The one you’d look forward to all week and hold your breath for every Sunday night. The one you’d call your friends about immediately after the credits and insistently quote over the following week until the next episode gave you a new round of material to work from. So it seriously blew my mind when that super-cut disseminated over the blogosphere a few months back. You know, the one that revealed how all the seemingly-random Schwarzenegger parodies actually fit together into a somewhat coherent plot. I can’t think of a more spot-on, note-for-note spoof of cop flicks than this.
3. “The Three” from Adaptation
When it came time to pick something that took direct aim at “Hollywood horseshit” (as William Goldman so fondly describes it,) it was tricky to decide if this or “Habeas Corpus” from the Player was more emblematic. I choose this one because it's the worst nightmare of any aspiring screenwriter: a high-selling potboiler cooked up by a Johnny-come-lately whose inspiration comes from one pap seminar instead of any genuine love, respect or understanding for film. It also makes me smile for singling out split personalties as the most cliche of twist endings, even though people keep falling for it. Plus, “It's like a battle between motors and horses; like technology vs. horse." is a hell of a logline.
2. Samara’s Home Movies from the Ring
Many who have suffered through a nebulous art film have exclaimed that they’d rather die (in some creative fashion, usually) than have to watch another frame of somebody's oh-so-personal sob story. Lil’ Samara’s work of expression? It goes ahead and fulfills that wish for them. I still maintain that the first Ring presented a powerfully metaphoric monster for our times. If Dracula represents forbidden sexuality and Frankenstein represents the dangers of science, then Samara very much embodies the cruel invasiveness of modern media. Ghosts of the past were limited to haunted houses when they wanted to make strangers suffer for their personal torment; "ghosts" of the present project pain all over the world through the vessel of video.
1. “See You Next Wednesday” from All of John Landis’ movies
Call this the mother of all in-jokes. The story goes like this…. Landis was so tickled by a line that was off-handedly spoken in 2001: A Space Odyssey that he made it the title of his first screenplay. Problem is, the screenplay was reportedly awful - - too terrible to film. Still, Landis was taken enough with it the idea of it that he insisted on fitting a marque or poster for the non-existent picture into every movie he made thereafter. It’s alternately been a porno, a creature feature or a melodrama depending on which flick it pops up on in, so think of it as schlock that pollutes every genre conceivable.