DVD Review: Tropic Thunder

Tropic Thunder
Unrated Director’s Cut
Directed by Ben Stiller
Starring Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr, Jack Black, Nick Nolte, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride
Paramount Home Entertainment
Release date: November 18, 2008

Tropic Thunder, the first full-on comedy directed by Ben Stiller since his sublime tribute to airheaded male models Zoolander, is both a love letter and a poison pen middle finger to the increasingly overblown business of moviemaking. It’s a measure of the amount of serious guts and brains that it would take a major Hollywood studio (in this case Dreamworks) to green-light an expensive action-comedy that’s also a savage satire of the industry itself. But a movie like Tropic Thunder has been a long time coming. Having your cake and eating it too has rarely been this hilarious.

Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) is only a few days into the shooting of his directorial debut, the mega-budget Vietnam War epic Tropic Thunder based on an acclaimed memoir of the same name by veteran Sgt. John “Four Leaf” Tayback (Nick Nolte, giving great grizzle), and the production is in an unprecedented state of chaos.

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Box Office Buzz: It’s Still Thundering at the Top

With the end of Summer upon us (or for me, Winter, but whatever), cinemas are seeing less and less profits from their showings. And though Tropic Thunder has once again managed to grab the top spot at the box office, it managed to do so with a measly $11.5 million. The blockbuster summer is definitely over, and who knows how long until we get one like it again.

The highest placed newcomer to this weekend’s box office (I feel like I’m commentating at the Olympics) was Babylon A.D., which itself has been in the news lately due to its directors hatred of the movie. The movie’s director, Mathieu Kassovitz, came out earlier in the week blaming the likely poor performance on Fox, who he blamed for interfering in the process. Nevertheless, it did come in number two, with $9.7 million in takings.

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Box Office Buzz: It’s ‘Thundering’ at the Top

Far be it from me to ignore past inaccuracies in my own predictions, but it looks like Tropic Thunder has managed to hold on to its top spot at the box office for the weekend of August 22-24. Starring Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr., Thunder managed to come away with a $16.1 million this weekend, dropping 37% from last week.

Two newcomers arrived in at spots two and three, respectively, making a complete moron of me and my prediction that The Dark Knight would hit back up to number one this weekend. The House Bunny and Death Race came in respectively at two and three, with $27.3 million between them.

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Box Office Buzz: ‘Tropic’ Thunders Over ‘Dark Knight’

It’s taken over four weeks happen, but The Dark Knight has finally been toppled from its perch atop the box office rankings. Of course, its fall wasn’t too great, dropping only to number two, but its successor Tropic Thunder is surely pleased with itself right now.

With an estimated weekend gross of $26 million, Tropic Thunder opened on top this week, probably thanks in part to Robert Downey Jr‘s involvement and subsequent press hype. The rejuvenated and forgiven actor is definitely keeping his name out there with his comments last week about The Dark Knight.

Nevertheless, given all that, TDK only finished less than $10 million behind Tropic Thunder with $16.7 million, and just over a million ahead of Star Wars: The Clone Wars ($15.5 million), which has suffered poorly from bad reviews. Though, one look through my review points to a complete bewilderment on my part as to why those reviews are so harsh.

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Movie Review: Tropic Thunder

Tropic Thunder
Written & directed by Ben Stiller
Starring Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, Brandon T. Jackson, Jay Baruchel
Rated R
Release date: August 13, 2008

This country loves its parody, doesn’t it? The National Lampoon brand made a career out of it, Saturday Night Live is in its 34th season, and late night talk shows — a staple of which is poking fun at current events — have been around for over half a century. As much as people would sometimes like to turn their nose up and scoff at the audacity of the envelope being pushed, the market has been thriving almost as long as the medium has existed. So it always baffles me when these rights activists get their draws in a bunch over something that, even in the wildest stretches of imagination, was never meant to be taken seriously.

Tropic Thunder is a Hollywood movie making fun of Hollywood making movies. On the set of “the most expensive war movie ever made,” first-time director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) can’t pull his lead actors from their pools of self-absorption, costs are spiraling out of control, and the studio threatens to shut down production for good. He decides that he will set the actors loose in the jungles of Southeast Asia (and into the path of some real local mercenaries) to find their way back, all while the actors think they are still filming their Vietnam movie. The story itself isn’t terribly original or complicated — it tastes almost exactly like a dish I had years ago called The Three Amigos — but the point of the movie isn’t in the premise, which only exists to drive the story, it is in the parody.

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