by Dane Youssef
Now here is a film that is designed to preach to the choir. Well, not so much preach as praise. "Detroit Rock City" is a movie that plays out like a throwback to those wonderful days when... you and your friends lived on a steady diet of junk food, teenage smarmy... and great music.
You and your buds had your own band (in the garage, the basement or the backyard) and you had a dream that someday, you'd be up there rocking and rolling for a living.. just like the very bands you worshiped religiously. Some of you made it come true. Made it to that side. Got to live out your dream and was paid the same worship you gave your elders. Most of the others just grew up, and... well...
That's a lot of what "Detroit Rock City" is about. Thankfully, it's really not one of those "topical" movies that just showcase a flavor-of-the-month band in a starring role like "Spice World," "Cool As Ice" or "Crossroads." Films like those feel so passÃ©' and ancient in a week or so. When people go to those movies, afterwords, they just ask themselves, "What was I thinking? God, so dorky! So lame! So embarrassing! Eyecch!"
He's just like me... they're just like my buds. They sound and think just like us... Jeez... some things are timeless.
The cast is first-rate. The look and sound is so flawless, it's... And the music is all there. Director Adam Rifkin gives this an MTV-music video style of cinematography. And Carl V. Dupre' writes like he's about the age of the boys himself. It's almost like one of our heroes wrote it. Well, in a way, maybe they did.
"Write what you know. Tell your own personal story." --- Old Writing rule
The screenplay is the very definition of originality: entirely composed of stolen elements from countless other movies--"American Graffitti," "I Want To Hold Your Hand," "That '70's Show," "Clerks," "The Full Monty," "Footloose," "Dazed and Confused" and probably a lot of others. And the character of Trip is obviously lifted and from the Kevin Smith movies.
Of course, let's face it---there's nothing new under the sun and most filmmakers (at least 9 out of 10, anyway) are making movies just like the ones they grew up with. The movies that made them not only want to be filmmakers, but even before that---made them film lovers.
The scene-stealer's in the film are Sam Huntington as the sweet-natured, weak-willed, yet most lovable of the whole bunch, Jereimiah "Jam" Bruce and Linda Shaye as his God-fearing, bible-thumping, holier-than-all mother.
The usually reliable Edward Furlong isn't nearly as good, and his role is much more on-par with that of the forgettable "Pecker," rather than the stand-out performance "T2." James DeBello is a lot of fun as Trip, but not quite Jay from the Kevin Smith films (which kinda feels like that's what they were going for). And newcomer Giuseppe Andrews unfortunately gives the weakest performance as the pessimistic worry wort Lex (although some of his ad-libs from the original script are nice).
Porno legend Ron Jeremy himself appears here is an amusing cameo as the disco club MC. And Former Playboy Playmate Shannon Tweed has a thin and underdone role as the older woman "Mrs. Robinson" who picks Hawk up at a bar. The type of role she plays in the movie is nothing new for her (and certainly not very interesting), but the original scene (which was cut for length) had a lot more to it, and it really shouldn't have been trimmed out.
The boys (and the cast) feels realistic and genuine. Like the cast of "That '70's Show," they're not just wearing the vintage clothes and hairstyles. They genuinely seem to embody the era. The actors, the clothes, the cars, the music, the lingo, the spirit... this is a movie than genuinely feels authentic.
Although, it's not quite flawless, as precious few movies are (People aren't perfect, life isn't perfect. So why would movies be?) The direction is a bit too much a lot of the time. A little goes a long way, and it seems like Rifkin is indulging himself with fancy camera tricks. And it borderlines on motion-sickness and migraine-inducing at times.
And Dupre's screenplay has a lot of trite', warmed-over and and pedestrian comic material, and kind-of-a cobbled together plot that never feels like it's coming from it's source. The characters are great, and so are most of their lines, as well as some of their moments...
There's a great bit where Trip conjures up a hair-brained (at best) scheme to snake a KISS ticket and gets himself in the worst possible scenario. It's fun watching him try to dig his way out.
This album deserves to go quadruple-platinum and sell more copies than anything Michael Jackson or the Beatles ever did. It's a must-have for anyone who remembers the era fondly or just loves the music. It's retro-cool. The only real problem, as I see it, which kept "DRC" from being a classic in the tradition of "American Graffiti" or "Rock 'N' Roll High School" is that... well, it's never really sends up the decade or that age very much. Nor does it to that for any of it's targets (cruel teachers/parents, disco-fans, over-zealous, Bible-thumping Christians, and any other authority figure).
It really could have used some of that period-lacerating satire that "The Simpsons" or "That '70's Show" does so well. But it's more of a love letter to a time of innocence and wonder. Which isn't all bad, but some more name dropping (and name calling towards that long lost decade) would have made all the difference for the better in the world.
Isn't that always the way? Well, as it should be.
--Full of Timeless, Priceless Adolescent Memories and Nostalgia Himself (among other things--you know what), Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
More dated than a Vanilla Ice album, "Ford Fairlane" was clearly a vehicle for Dice.
Unfortunately, this big loud, tricked-out rock 'n' roll Ford crashed and burned. Figures. It was made in America.
During that fabulous and f*cked-up era known as the '80's, the Dice was atop of the world. Known for his persona as an Elvis impersonator with tackiness and bad vibes to spare, his over-exaggerated mock "Itallian" accent, his trademark studded personalized leather jacket, his chain-smoking and spreading misogyny and prejudice. (sniff, weep, sob. I really miss the '80's).
The whole movie looks like a film that clearly embodies the whole spirit and soul of the '80's.
The tropical mellow melody from "Yello" is great and so is Vince Neil and Sheila E. (although they should have had more time with their numbers), and Tone Loc plays himself as "undiscovered." Getting out only one measly verse.
20th Century Fox distributed this one, and it was the first in what was supposed to be a string of vehicles for the Diceman. But after this one went belly-up, 20th Century Fox shredded Clay's contract into confetti. Like many entertainers who had created a character persona, The Diceman was a soup de' jour that fell of the menu.
Now the Diceman's very presence in a movie or TV show is a red flag. A dire warning that this will go down in flames and crash-land into the ocean. Which is why the Diceman wisely chooses to limit his presence to stand-up gigs.
Can the lovable everyman Andrew Silverman (yes, I am being sarcastic) play anyone besides "The Diceman"? Doesn't look like it. Still, that is essentially what this movie was meant to be him doing his Diceman shtick in a movie lead with a different name.
Some fan on eCritic once described Clay's Diceman character as "Elvis Presley given a fatal over-dose of testosterone." He hit the nail right on the head so dead-on, it was breath-taking. Yes, THAT is the Diceman.
The humor is often beneath the belt-line (natch). But the film is brimming with shots at the music industry and the rest who inhabit America and are slow to evolve. What's wrong with humanity. That's what satire's all about.
But no, that's not what the Diceman's about, is it? Is he capable of being about more? Most of the world says no. Most of the world or at least this country is made up of detractors.
Still, one of the screenwriters is the Ace legend Daniel Waters, who wrote the '80's teenage-angst high school masterpiece "Heathers." So you expect some amount of wicked lines and skewering satire. And you have to admit, we get abounds of that.
Renny Harlin really gives the movie a rich and bright neon look, as well as first rate comic-action sequences. Not to mention a cast as priceless as the original works of Picasso. Some (actually, many) said the movie's one real problem was the casting of Dice. Well, I can kinda see what they're saying. Hey, it's a Dice movie. Deal with it. Well, you can't please everybody.
The movie's chock-full of big name celebrity walk-ons. There are so many names dropped here, you want them to pick some of them up. Gilbert Gottfried is sleazier than he's ever been as a obnoxious, grosser-than-the-grossest-gross-out DJ who's Fairlane's childhood buddy and now #1 in the ratings. He has the face and body for radio, but not the voice.
Brandon Call is endearing as a fatherless little kid who idolizes Ford, follows him around and tries to shadow him. This film takes-off detective pictures, including "Dick Tracy." So just like "Dick Tracy," Ford gets involved with this young little ragamuffin who wants to be just like him and is also dubbed "The Kid."
Priscilla Presley's golden as the femme fa-tale who doesn't even blink at Ford's juvenile behavior. Robert Englund steals scenes from Clay as a merciless hit-man who's more scary, funny and charged than Freddy Krueger ever was.
But while there is a lot of hip music video rock imagery and big name musicians walking through like this whole movie is a big MTV music awards after-party, not too many of them do the music that they're so known for doing.
Wayne Newton seems appropriate as a blow-hard record exec who seems too full of helium, Priscilla Presley as the necessary whodunit femme fa-tale, David Patrick Kelly as a perverted fan.
But the sweetness of the movie comes from Lauren Holly as Ford's girl Friday Jazz (who's the only one with a uterus who calls him on what a s--t-crock he is). "I'd always love Jazz... 'cause she despised me for who I truly am," Fairlane tells us. And Call's "Kid" idolizes and emulates Fairlane the way most boys do superheroes. He is the innocence of the film.
Clay has the looks, stature and self-confidence to play a leading man, but not the charisma. But then again, most of us have just seen his "Diceman" shtick. But can he do any other shtick? Although this movie seems to lean towards 'no,' one has to remember than he was just expanding on his "Diceman" shtick--around that time, it was still hot.
This guy had a hot career all throughout the '80's... and just as his career was really blowing up... it blew up. Still, I love this movie.
Ever since women took over in the late '90's, they censored and repressed us with a de-humanization form they like to call "political correctness." So that's really why I love this movie (and not just me, really), but a lot of other guys, too.
It was made during a time when it was still OK to be a man.
--Having Driven a Ford Vehicle Lately, Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
Rob Zombie is without a doubt one of the most versatile and true-to-his-genre artists out there. "THE DEVIL'S REJECTS" is the kind of movie uptight censors and worried parents always warned you was gonna get made some day.
A movie where the leads are psychopathic murderers, the violence is excess and the gore is so voluminous, that you have to ask: "Does this movie satirize this kind of sadism... or celebrate it? Is it a fun campy parody... or a sign that we may have gone too far with our ultra-violent-based entertainment?" This movie actually defines the term "overkill." Three of the more interesting deranged killers from "House Of 1000 Corpses" get their own spin-off in the "Frasier" or "Jeffersons" tradition. The three, who are a family, actually (a father and his son and daughter) go on a mass killing spree and are racing out of the country to legal freedom on the other side of the border. They seem to echo the Manson Family.
Their sense of humor is the kind of acquired taste like the movie itself has. It stems from the experience you'd get from... watching slasher movies throughout a lot of your life. Like lime green Jell-O, anchovies, fish eggs and black licorice, this is not for all tastes.
The movie is actually a lot smarter and more complex than you might imagine, if you're unfamiliar with what Zombie's movies are about. It's akin to films like "From Dusk 'Til Dawn," "Vulgar," "Desperado" and "Freaked." If you like these types of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Friday the 13th" re-vamping in the video-geek traditions, here is a movie you may hold up as one for the history books. The dialogue is written a twisted brilliant way and the direction has a real retro-'70's homey-quality to it. In a way that doesn't feel contrived.
Sid Haig, Bill Moseley and Sheri Moon are all so perfectly demented in their roles, you have to wonder what they're like in real life. You pray they're nothing like they are here... and hope you never come across anyone remotely like this either.
Sheri Moon, wife of director Zombie, looks more like a typical American model-actress than the degenerate rank-skank she plays here. Moseley is real-life, was actually a columnist and Heig often played scuzzy thugs, but played the judge in Tarantino's "Jackie Brown."
I find it incredibly strange that some people seem to be COMPLAINING that the pursuing cop character (the sheriff, John Quincy Wydell) is as sadistic and mentally unbalanced as the family killers themselves. Why?
Yes, he is. But... why?
Why is that a bad thing? In any way at all?
Look, if there's anything history and government have taught us, it's that it takes one to catch one. Not just in the movies, but in life. And not just in real life, but in movies as well. You see, it's not just an opinion. It's a fact. It's the way of the world.
People... do we all not remember Tommy Lee Jones in "The Fugitive"? His I-Will-Catch-him-By-Any-Means-Nessicary-Law Enforcer way was one of the true milestones in the movie, and it got him an Oscar. Would we want any of the other major characters to be far less interesting than the leads?
When you eat a meal of any kind, you don't just want a rich main course and the side dishes to be as tasteless as styraphone. You want a whole meal you can taste.
And the stuff with the sheriff and the rest of the cops IS something to see. Why? Because he isn't any kind of undeveloped character. Zombie made him (and everything else) just as big, broad, colorful and energetic as the '70's genre that this one stems from.
There's some humor with the Kentucky-Fried Sheriff and the rest of his "Good Ol' Boys" in Blue. It goes without saying that in a small town, the cops are all red-necked. The way the stereotype of the small-town cop in a campy-slasher pic is handled with more laughs than usual. And there's a great moment where they call in a specialist, a film historian (see: uber film geek) to help them with the investigation and this film critic.... well, suffice to say, he insults the name of God in the house of the Lord and that's all I'm gonna say.
We all know Zombie is a neo-talent outside of the music biz. He did the LSD effect in "Beavis & Butthead Do America."
The end may justify the means, in this case. The hick cops and the colorful killers... in the end, it's an ending we all knew we deserved.
Speaking of Zombie, his film debut "House of 1000 Corpses," was a film I found to be embarrassingly bad. I'm a fan of those types of rock-horror camp movies in the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "House Of Wax" vein. SEVERED vein, in this case. But everything was played out so campy, so cheaply, so maudlin, so without suspense... that Zombie, I felt, made a movie that seems to be an insult, rather than a tribute to those horror-show camp classics.
But he's redeemed himself with this one. He's working without a net and it all could have gone horribly, pathetically wrong. So I give him props. BIG, BIG PROPS.
As I'm writing this now, he's currently re-making "Halloween." Though I wish he wouldn't, really. Why re-paint the Mona Lisa? Give it eyebrows, what? Will that REALLY be an improvement?
Brace yourself. Not for all tastes. Procceed with caution. Use extreme care.
NOT FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED, SQUEAMISH, PRUDISH... OR TOO MORAL.
--The Devil's Personal Golden Boy, Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Bill Cosby, Bernie Mac, Darryl Hugley, Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Harvey. What do they all have in common?
They are all stand-up comedians who have had the honor of having their stand-up acts get filmed into movies.
"Dice Rules" is one of the few to actually make it to theaters. And with good reason. Dice is one of those comedians who has a strong persona and stage presence. As a matter of fact, that's stronger than any of his material.
The very beginning of the flick where the Diceman croons is almost worth the rental price. He has such pipes, you kinda wish he actually put more use into them. He did a first-rate job in his first (and only) Hollywood star-vehicle "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane" where he sings "But I Ain't' Got You." He does the same here with an opening bit "Can't You Take A Joke?" But before we're treated to the main course (Dice in a sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden), we get an appetizer. You know, so these things feel more like an actual movie than just some tape-recorded stand-up bit.
The opening clip entitled "A Day In The Life" features a cock-and-bull prologue about who he was (Andrew Silverstein) before he became "The Diceman." Eddie Murphy has a brilliant one in his stand-up movie "Raw," and Martin Lawrence had an effective one at the beginning of "Runtelldat" where the press is airing out Lawrence's dirty laundry and kicking him when he's down on his knees.
That quickie movie in "Dice Rules," is the biggest abomination and folly since Napoleon and Waterloo. Dice has NEVER been this unfunny. Has anyone?
The Jerry Lewis vocalizations are painfully annoying. Not just annoying really, but actual torture. Like bamboo under the fingernails or death by a thousand cuts. I know he's know for that s--t (he's known for breaking into on occasion), but it irritates to the point that we feel like we're being interrogated. The people antagonizing his ass, riding him like a damn pogo stick, until he's ready to break. It's so horribly done. It's not even so bad, it's funny. It's more like... unforgivable. And the payoff (I can't believe I just used that term), is so patronizing, it's the most offensive thing in the whole movie. Not the goddamn stand-up material.
I read right here on IMDb that the whole "Diceman" character was largely inspired by Jerry Lewis in "The Nutty Professor." Fine, but that mock Lewis voice is excruciating. And the other actors are just as bad. Well... almost as bad.
Good Lord, and he wrote this bit? I was so sick, I couldn't even vomit.
Then this mini-colonoscopy ends and we're treated to centerpiece. The minute we see the Diceman pull on his luxurious studded trademark leather jacket, we know something big is happening. As if Elvis himself has resurrected and is performing for one night only. Perhaps for them, it is.
His impersonation of an Itallian accent is so thick, you could choke on it. It's a miracle he doesn't.
The weirdest thing about the film is the audience members in concert. The audience doesn't stay quiet while he tells his jokes and then laugh when the punchline comes. They spend almost every second throughout the film cheering. Every time he opens his mouth, every time he says something---anything--the audience cheers like mad. Hell, every time he finishes a sentence (even before he actually even begins to make a point), the whole damn crowd gives him a standing ovation.
Jesus, throughout the whole damn movie, the cheering never stops. Dice may the star here, but it feels like we hear the damn crowd more than him. I... I must confess, I actually someone to start heckling them. I wanted to start throwing tomatoes at the crowd.
Remember the "Seinfeld" episode where Jerry gets heckled by Kramer's girlfriend, so Jerry, in retaliation, goes to where she works to heckle her? Yeah, I wanted to grab every one of them and scream, "Hey, idiots! You're in awe of the Dice, I can see that, but I can't hear HIM! DAMN!
Oh, and you know that whole "Jerry Lewis" vocal shtick I was talking about? Yeah, he keeps doing it throughout the whole movie. Whenever he's impersonating someone else, especially some woman. Lord, it makes you want to kill. Him.
Dice's usual subjects---women, sex, homosexuals, New Yorkers, the elderly, the ill. Hell, birds and insects, even. I gotta admit, I laughed at that. Damn freaking' birds & insects.
Still, as a stand-up concert film, this one's kind of a strike-out. The opening bit is too dumb and horrible to inspire anyone to do anything, but feel pain. And the rest of the stand-up, well... if you're a Dice fanatic (and you damn well who you are), then well.. hit-and-miss.
Dice is polarizing. You love the MF or you want him dead. There's no middle ground.
So, if you are reading these words right now... this review, and ANY of the other registered user reviews on IMDb for this one... that means that...
A)Youv'e been wanting to see this movie since you first fell in love with Dice. But it's been hard to find, especially on DVD. Not exactly "Casablanca."
B)You already have and you're just curious to see what others had to say about it.
Otherwise, you'll give yourself rabies, beat yourself to death, swallow fire (and more) before you even glance at one frame at anything related to Dice.
Still, "Ford Fairlane" continues to be his best work. I'd like to see Silverman actually cut a whole album full of music with himself on vocals and maybe push back for a while on the possibility of another comedy album anytime soon.
by Dane Youssef
Movies in general are so formulaic that even most independent films are pretty routine and by-the-numbers.
Maybe that's why "Hollywood Shuffle" feels so refreshing, like a much-needed change of pace. Most indies are made almost entirely by hand---one man writing, directing, producing (hey, they need every single spare cent they can get their grubby hands on) and this one is no exception.
Townsend wears all the indie hats here… and he wears them proudly.
This is the film that introduced the world to Robert Townsend. Well, that was it's whole purpose. Like "The Brother McMullen," this star-vehicle was written and directed by Townsend about his dream to make it as a professional actor, trying to break into Hollywood, while at the same time, trying to over-come the cruel limitations mainstream Hollywood has set up for black people who want to act... and actors, in general.
Whereas the '70's was the birth decade of the blaxploitation, so many of them were just cheap, cheesy, corny knock-offs of popular white films. Blaxploitation got more blacks into films, but the films themselves weren't really about anything. "Hollywood Shuffle" is a Blaxploitation film that really has something to say... that has an agenda.
There is so much burning talent, so many struggling entertainers wanting to make something of themselves, that Hollywood can afford to treat the auditioning talent the same way a really strong cleanser treats germs.
Townsend's efforts to make this movie are inspiring--he borrowed every dollar he could, asked for movie footage that was left on the cutting-room floor, called in every favor he could, threw everything he had and more to get this one made.
To tell his story, get his foot in the door... and at the same time, tell a story about what this kind of life is like. For those with talent who dare to dream big.
Greats Keenan Ivory Wayans and John Witherspoon have bit players as people who work at a hog stand in the neighborhood who don't ask for much out of life... and don't get it. They're the kind of cynics who believe, "You're a fool for following your dreams."
When you near the end of your journey in this world, you really fully understand the meaning of the old phrase, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."
Townsend interlocks a variety of skits with this all-too autobiographical tale, all of which are pretty funny and inspiring. You have to admire the way that Townsend wants to put out some legitimate roles for black actors to play and black actors to idolize. But most of his skits go on too long after the point has been made and there are quite a few moments that feel like someone (Townsend obviously) should have punched up. Townsend is a far better actor than he is a writer/director.
Perhaps because he is only a filmmaker by necessity for this one. He's more interested in using this to make up of all those dream roles he never got to play and showing his chops as an actor than really making a great movie.
There's a scene where he takes-off "Siskel & Ebert"--before everyone started doing it. Almost all the skits (where Townsend is fantasizing his dream roles as an actor) go on way too long, probably because Townsend is far less concerned with how funny the skits/movie is and more interested in using this movie to play all the dream roles he never got to before.
Every actor is perfectly cast, especially Townsend himself. It's great to see him playing all these roles you know he's always dreamed of doing (he plays them while his character actually IS day-dreaming).
The movie captures the struggle of the out-of-work actor just right. We see lines and lines of actors warming-up, rehearsing their roles, going into the audition... all to hear, "Thank you, next!" But some blessed, precious few are picked.
But those that are black are given racially-biased drivel to perform. Ethnic caricatures that shame and set back their race. Brothers and sisters who talk like stock characters from the slave era, wearing redneck farm clothes, picking cotton, eating chicken and getting stinking drunk. Townsend tirades many black archetypes, most of which went out of style around the same time as black-face. Lil' Bobby obviously wants to say something about the way the brothers and sisters are treated in the biz. There are some moments here you'll roar with laughter at, as well as put a lump in your throat and a strange feeling of hope and pride.
Like many other breakthrough films, especially independents, "Hollywood Shuffle" was another arrival of a fresh new talent. It happens as often as the rise and setting of the suns, but here is a film where it feels a little more special… because Townsend was really about something. You can see it here, not only in some of his satirist scenes, but some of the quieter moments where real drama in brewing and dreams are at stake.
We see where Townsend is asking himself if he's good enough, if he face the whole world (which is how it is when you're struggling to make it as an entertainer… or in life) and when life-long happiness is at stake. It almost hurts. And at the end of it all, when we wonder for Townsend's character, Bobby's sake… what will become of him? And then we realize we already know. We just found out.
It's like looking in the sky at the stars like you always do… and then there's a brand-new star shining in the night sky, standing out just a little bit bigger than the others. Haven't seen that one before. Hey, is that a new one? Couldn't be, could it? I don't remember… there are so many. Another star is born.
--For EVERY Star Waiting To Be Born, Dane Youssef