This week marks the release of Disaster Movie, the umpteenth genre parody from the Friedberg-Seltzer house of knee-jerk larfs. It should be our cue to bemoan the current state of big-screen slapstick, and to argue that if David Zucker could only get back on his game, he'd show these punks who built the Airplane they're all riding on.

Well, leave it to life to rip that rhetorical binky from our mouths. It seems that Zucker, like Dennis Miller before him, has responded to a career lull by going all wingnut on us. This October, he's rolling out An American Carol, a Dickens-derived fable in which a Michael Moore—like filmmaker (Kevin Farley, brother of Chris) is shown the error of his ways by a trio of real Amurricuns, including the spirit of General George S. Patton (Kelsey Grammer, once again stepping it up for the family-values crowd in between cocaine-induced coronaries). The movie is being pitched as an "alternative" to the lockstep liberalism of contemporary culture. You know, because the right's decades-long stranglehold on all three branches of government, the courts, the press and American industry is negated every time Alec Baldwin takes Sean Penn fly-fishing.

Anyway, the trailer is out, and it's predictably chockablock with racial stereotyping, homophobia, misogyny and (worse yet) Chris Farley's brother. It omits two segments, however, that are already raising some eyebrows on description alone. In the first, which sounds destined to thrill G. Gordon Liddy, Grammer's Patton is said to open fire on a zombie-fied battalion of ACLU members. In the second — and trust us, please, that we are not making this up — Farley's Moore-alike is reportedly shamed into an overdue rendezvous with true patriotism when he is escorted into a room filled with the atomized remains of the 9/11 victims. Yep, there's nothing like a visit to a mass mausoleum to tickle the old funny bone.

But maybe all is not lost. There's always a chance that we'll wake up on the morning of Oct. 3 and find that, instead of opening on approximately 2,000 screens, this entire project had been a dyspeptic hallucination brought on by too much Dinty Moore. We libs are all about the tolerance, Mr. Zucker, so we're still looking for a way to give you an out. In the words of a far better social critic than either of us, we're hoping there's more of gravy than of grave about you.


Opening Friday, Aug. 29

Disaster Movie Um, excuse us … gentlemen? Could we interest you in some Dennis Kucinich campaign literature? (PG-13)

Babylon A.D. When we heard the title of this one, we figured that whoever holds the film rights to Mötley Crüe's The Dirt had grown sick of watching the property languish in development hell, and had decided to tide themselves over by shooting a biopic of Babylon A.D., the Z-grade metalers who recorded the theme song to Robocop 2. Instead, it turns out the movie is a futuristic action drama in which mercenary Vin Diesel plays escort to a supernaturally gifted young woman. As happens 100 percent of the time, we liked our version better. (PG-13)

College In a throwback to the kind of pictures HBO used to love before they discovered David Chase, a bunch of goofball kids visit the den of institutionalized sin and skin in which they're going to be spending the next four years. Working title: I Was a Congressional Page. (R)

Man on Wire In 1974, high-wire artist Philippe Petit walked back and forth between the World Trade Center's twin towers for close to an hour. And he was sufficiently obsessed to amass a library of footage celebrating the planning and execution of the death-defying deed. Critical reaction has been united: 1) The movie itself is a breathtaking piece of work; and 2) acrophobics should thank God it's not in IMAX. (at Enzian Theater, Maitland; PG-13)


Available Tuesday, Sept. 2

Bright Lights, Big City Here's serendipity for ya: The 20th-anniversary edition of Jay McInerney's adaptation hits shelves just as he finds himself back in the news due to his former acquaintance with the summer's hot home-wrecker, Rielle Hunter. Seen her campaign vids? Thank God she didn't direct the thing.


Available Monday, Sept. 1

Mixed Race Hollywood It's a true mark of how far we've come that NYU Press has published an entire collection of essays on the subject of dual ethnic heritage in the movies. And in a sign of how far we haven't come, Jessica Alba is on the cover.

Available Tuesday, Sept. 2

Polanski: A Biography Christopher Sandford profiles the directorial titan who gave the world the spectacle of Faye Dunaway birthing her own sister, and then inexplicably went on to become a sexual deviant.

The Film Encyclopedia: The Complete Guide to Film and the Film Industry (Sixth Edition) We find it reassuring that, even though Ephraim Katz died while working on the second edition of this respected resource volume, the gang at Collins has managed to churn out four more updates in the ensuing 16 years. It warms our heart to think that some intrepid ghostwriter could one day continue the proud tradition of this column, should we ever find ourselves stricken by a massive embolism in mid ….

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