Rome Is Burning (2003– )
Making the trek from Internet series to theatrical proposition, Last Stop for Paul takes the form of an ambitious travelogue about two office buddies who go on a whirlwind tour of the world, encountering the sort of colorful characters and unexpected obstacles that go with the territory.
By also serving as the production's primary cast and entire crew, director Neil Mandt and his cameraman Marc Carter certainly keep things cost effective, but the extended film version -- which opens in two Southern California theaters this weekend followed by a national rollout -- also serves as a handy example of getting what you pay for.
Even with new-media hybrids, there's no substitute for such old-school basics as a solid script, convincing performances and the unifying vision of a strong director.
Here we have TV producer Mandt (Jim Rome Is Burning) and Carter playing a pair of average Joe bathroom supply salesmen in Los Angeles who take a one-month globetrotting vacation accompanied by the ashes of Carter's recently deceased buddy.
Their destination is the wild Full Moon Party in Thailand by way of Jamaica, Chile, Germany, Greece, Tokyo and Vietnam, with accommodations along the way provided by the hotels believing them to be "Frommer's Guide" writers.
The trip has its inevitable share of misadventures, including a costly visit to the Vietnamese equivalent of the Playboy Club, where the guys get hit with an exorbitant second bar tab for the privilege of chatting with their pretty hosts.
There's definitely a workable, reality TV-based angle at the core of Last Stop -- something along the lines of No Reservations but with scattered human remains instead of Anthony Bourdain.
Carter captures plenty of seductive scenery, but thanks to stilted line readings (and not just by those for whom English is a second or third language), clunky dramatic re-enactments and bland narration, those backgrounds ultimately prove more intriguing than the foreground.
The six-episode weekly reality show features Josh Gates, described as a world adventurer and "eager truth-seeker," visiting a different destination every week with his small crew of production buddies. Each destination is said to be home to supernatural, mysterious stories -- such as the Fire Worm of Mongolia and the Chilean Chupacabra -- that Gates will set out to either prove or debunk by talking to witnesses and experts and immersing himself in the local culture.
The hourlong series is executive produced by Neil and Michael Mandt for their Mandt Bros. Prods., whose credits include ESPN's "Beg, Borrow & Deal" and Jim Rome Is Burning, Pax's Speed Dating and E! Entertainment Television's My Crazy Life. The Mandt brothers were repped by Rebel Entertainment Partners and attorney Todd Stern in the Truth deal.
Truth is in production for a second-quarter premiere. Sci Fi had originally said that the show was in development as part of an overall slate unveiled in April.
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