Hidden Netflix Gems: ‘Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie’

It’s Saturday night and you need something to watch. Never fear, Hidden Netflix Gems is a new weekly feature designed to help you decide just what it should be, and all without having to scroll through endless pages of crap or even leave the house. Each choice will be available for streaming on Netflix Instant, and the link below will take you to its page on the site. Look for a new suggestion here every Saturday. 

This week’s Hidden Netflix Gem: “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” (2012)

Everyone who’s kept up with Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim comedy block over the past few years has heard of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, the masterminds behind “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” And everyone who’s watched the show knows that after seeing it you’ll a) never be able to watch commercials the same way again, and b) notice how much influence these two fellas have had over what is now considered “mainstream” comedy.

“Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” was a sketch show that ran from 2007 to 2010. It was freakin’ weird, to say the least, and its surrealistic, satirical humor mocking advertisements, public-access television, and everything in between has since spawned a spin-off, “Check It Out with Dr. Steve Brule,” which stars John C. Reilly, and the full-length feature “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” (B$M).

Here’s the thing about Tim and Eric: you seriously don’t understand what I mean when I say “weird” until you’ve seen their work for yourself. Their brand of humor takes some getting used to, and there’s a reason each episode of the show only ran for 11 minutes. I’m about to wow you with a brand new saying, but sometimes, less is more. As a result, I’m somewhat skeptical of recommending “B$M” as your first dip into the T+E pool. You really should get your feet wet first with sketches like “Griddleman,” “Prices,” “Free House for You, Jim,” Tairy Greene’s Acting Seminars for Children, and some of Brule’s Rules, and maybe even watch a few full episodes of the show (there are always a couple streaming on the Adult Swim website) before committing yourself to 94 minutes of this stuff. That said, there’s a reason Tim and Eric were the best kept secret in American comedy for so long. And a lot of the best-known names in the genre, guys like Ben Stiller, Paul RuddWill Ferrell, John C. Reilly and, Zach Galifianakis, made appearances on the show (the last three went on to star in the movie). The full list of cameos is certainly jarring, you might look at it and wonder how the hell you’d never heard of a show with that many big names before.

Tim and Eric are hilarious, but certainly not for everyone, and their humor is almost unexplainable until you experience it firsthand. If you watch a few sketches and find yourself enjoying them, then check out the trailer for the “Billion Dollar Movie.” But their stuff is often hate it or love it, so don’t say I didn’t warn you if 30 minutes in you feel like you’re watching the worst film ever made. The thing is, anti-humor is part of the shtick. Tim and Eric’s work (but the film especially) is meant to provoke a strong reaction one way or the other. They were actually trying to repulse just as many people as they entertained. And in that, they’ve inarguably succeeded. Just look at the Netflix user reviews, they’re nearly all five stars or one, with very little in between.

“Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” was released earlier this year through on-demand TV and web services—which I believe is the future of movies, why pay $10 each to sit in an uncomfortable theater when you can pool the money together without leaving the couch? But that’s a story for a different day. Anyway, I’ll give you the synopsis, but it’s really irrelevant. The fact that the guys could even string together a semi-coherent plot line to go along with their “jokes” is nothing short of amazing. What you need to know is this: It’s Tim and Eric. It’s a movie. Great job!

Tim and Eric are given a billion dollars to make a movie, but squander every dime… and the sinister Schlaaang corporation is pissed. With their lives at stake, the guys skip town in search of a way to pay the money back. When they happen upon a chance to rehabilitate a bankrupt mall full of vagrants, bizarre stores and a man-eating wolf that stalks the food court, they see dollar signs-a billion of them.

Follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman.

  

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Blu Tuesday: Vampires, Gremlins and Shrim, Oh My!

I’ll admit that I wasn’t very eager to write my column this week due to the lack of quality new releases, but because I had to skip doing one last Tuesday for personal reasons, it seemed irresponsible to miss another week without a better excuse. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really make these movies any better, so let’s just get on with it, shall we?

“Underworld: Awakening”

As a fan of the first “Underworld” movie, I really wish that Screen Gems would stop making these horrible sequels already and just let the franchise die a quiet death. While it was natural for the studio to want to continue the story after the breakout success of the original, every successive installment has been shoddier than the last, and “Underworld: Awakening” is no exception. Not even the spandex-clad return of Kate Beckinsale can save the film from being as bad as it is, because it simply has too many problems to overcome. Although I enjoyed the addition of series newcomers Charles Dance and Theo James as a father/son pair of vampires with conflicting ideas on how to save their race, the story is generic, the dialogue isn’t much better, and the CGI is incredibly inconsistent. But above all else, “Awakening” is just plain dull, and that’s probably the worst thing you could say about any action film.

Blu-ray Highlight: There’s quite a bit of bonus material packed onto the disc, but as you might imagine, the standout extra is creature related. By far the most detailed of the included featurettes, “Building a Better Lycan” covers how the suits were designed, the performers that wore them, and the improvements made from the previous three films.

“Gremlins 2: The New Batch”

I’m not as crazy about Joe Dante’s “Gremlins” as most people my age, but the movie is still an amusing, family-friendly spin on the classic creature feature that holds some nostalgic value. Believe it or not, it took Warner Bros. six years to release the inevitable sequel, and although it contains a handful of laughs, “The New Batch” is mostly a campy cash-in that goes way too far with its wackiness. The idea to transport the titular creatures to New York City definitely had potential, but the movie quickly devolves into a hodgepodge of random ideas that feels more like than an excuse to dress up a bunch of Gremlins in different costumes than anything else. Dante does have a bit of fun satirizing movie sequels as well as the original “Gremlins” with some clever references that are sprinkled throughout, but despite trying to avoid rehashing the events of the first film, “The New Batch” feels oddly familiar. Plus, it’s surprisingly short on screen time for its furry star Gizmo, and that’s just not cool.

Blu-ray Highlight: The audio commentary with director Joe Dante, star Zach Galligan, writer Charlie Haas and producer Michael Finnell isn’t particularly entertaining, but there’s enough good information here about the making of the movie to interest fans.

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