Is there anything more damaging than an ill-considered impersonation? Some viewers might think the only image problem Michael Chiklis ever faced was explaining why The Shield was wearing Fred Flintstone's bedroom paneling in Fantastic Four. (The verdict: He got out with his rocky butt intact, but only because Jack Kirby was no longer alive to do any retaliatory clobberin'.) What they don't remember is that Chiklis' career was nearly stalled at the gate when he took on the role of John Belushi in Wired. That unfortunate mimicry was rejected both by audiences and the late comedian's outraged friends — all of them understanding that offensive Belushi impressions are best left to Bob-Horatio MoyniSanz or whatever fatass loser is doing the synchronized farting on any particular season of SNL.
These days, we have the case of Kevin Farley (brother of Chris, another SNL casualty), who has chosen to introduce himself to the public by playing the Michael Moore—esque documentarian Michael Malone in David Zucker's An American Carol. Now, Farley's CV is hardly as thin as Chiklis' was circa Wired: His résumé goes all the way back to — um, Tommy Boy. But the Malone role is his first substantial outing as a leading man. How's it working? Well, we heard a great story the other day about a rock-ribbed conservative who had seen the ad spots for Carol and registered no interest in it whatsoever. A paraphrase: "I've never paid money to see one of that man's movies, and I'm not about to start now."
And who, pray tell, was "that man" in this dismissive scenario? Zucker, maybe? Guess again. Farley? Certainly not. It was Michael Moore. Apparently, our keen observer had spotted a becapped Farley waddling around Washington, D.C., and deduced that the real Moore had elected to spend his latest movie getting smacked around by Bill O'Reilly. Classic. Some might call that mix-up a sad postmortem for the age of nuance, but we like to think of it as poetic justice — and a lesson that little-known actors should be careful who they ape. Because Jack Kirby only created so many characters.
Opening Friday, Oct. 10
The Duchess The international crisis known as Keira Knightley refused to get a boob job to play Georgina Spencer, ancestor of the late Lady Di. Smart move: She gets to preserve her wholly fictitious image as a "serious actress" while keeping alive her obvious ambition to one day play Huckleberry Finn. (PG-13)
The Express This inspirational sports drama tells the true story of Ernie Davis (Rob Brown), the African-American college football star whose achievements were said to outstrip even those of Jim Brown. (Oh, yeah? Was Davis in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka?) Spurring his success is coach Dennis Quaid, who takes Davis all the way to winning the Heisman Trophy and later helps him get the thing back at gunpoint in a Vegas hotel room. We're pretty sure we've got that right. (PG-13)
Body of Lies More manly entertainment from manly-man filmmaker Ridley Scott, who teams phone-throwing alpha dog Russell Crowe with the moderately bankable Leonardo DiCaprio and puts them on the hunt for an international terrorist. Hey, every time Crowe books a flight with Expedia, he qualifies as an "international terrorist." (R)
I Served the King of England A Czech ex-con reflects on his zany past, including a personal quest to become a millionaire that just happened to coincide with World War II. Among the scenarios the movie allegedly mines for unlikely comedy is our hero's marriage to a Nazi. Or, as we call it in English, "his marriage." (R)
Quarantine A TV news crew and a bunch of cops investigate a horrific outbreak in an overrun apartment building, only to find themselves cut off from all outside aid by the CDC. Heckuva job, Brownie. (R)
City of Ember The fantasy book series comes to life, with Bill Murray playing the king of an ornately illuminated realm that's running dangerously low on power. Saner heads prevailed before the movie could be released under its working title: Drill Here, Drill Now. (PG)
Available Tuesday, Oct. 14
The New World: The Extended Cut Terence Malick's mammoth retelling of the settling of Jamestown was actually trimmed for its theatrical release. This latest version augments the existing 135 minutes with more than half an hour of heretofore-unseen footage. Whew! We're so glad Alaska and Hawaii are finally getting their due.
Available Tuesday, Oct. 14
American Prince: A Memoir Twentieth-century heartthrob Tony Curtis looks back on a lifetime spent on camera and in the public eye, chronicling all the "invincible highs and debilitating lows." Yay, debilitating lows!
Steven Spielberg and Philosophy: We're Gonna Need a Bigger Book
A cadre of experts dissect the philosophical underpinnings of the fabulously successful filmmaker's oeuvre. Yes, it took these eggheads 304 pages to explain the concept "All's well that ends well."firstname.lastname@example.org