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
by Dane Youssef
The Canadians approach to film-making is either bland, campy or downright blood-and-guts (usually in the "campy" gory vein, of course). Most Canadians are as good at the art of film as mimes are at capturing the art of sparkling conversation.
Ever hear the expression, "it was halfway decent? Comes up halfway? Meet me halfway?" I had that thought stuck at the top of my head after viewing this one.
That's about the perfect way to describe "Drawing Flies," a Canadian-based indie featuring a sprinkling of an American-based cast and crew.
The first half of the movie starts out as a variation of the whole "Dazed and Confused" or "Slackers" genre, where we see some contemporary socially-relevant slacker types in Canada living on steady welfare. Then we see them go on the big self-discovery trip that's the big turning point of their lives.
The Canuck Government cuts them off and they take the last bit of money they have in the world, pool it together and instead of paying the necessary monthly rent check, they blow the whole damn thing on a cover-charge at some party and dope.
Now totally and completely bankrupt, they move out of their place (they're living four to a single apartment) and hit the road. They then exile themselves to the deep, deep woods where they plan to make permanent residence. Thus, this is where the real journey-theme of the movie kicks in. This is where the part of their lives that has worthy interest to be a movie kicks in.
Or should anyway.
Jason Lee (as always) proves that any movie with him in it alone is worth seeing (OK, except for the unforgivably bad sedated-comedies "A Guy Thing" and "Stealing Harvard"--well, hey, if Tom Green's in it). His performance starts out earnest with life-affirming optimistic hope and child-like charm, but then U-turns into angry, road rage and his long-repressed dementia kicks in. It's the type of character he's played in damn near everything, but it's still thrills and shakes.
Mewes' performance here is kind of uneven. I mean, he's not really an actor--he's basically just a friend of filmmaker Kevin Smith who plays himself in movie after movie. Like Julia Roberts, he's not really an actor--he's more of a TV talk-show personality. Jason Mewes stretches (somewhat) as a welfare-starving slacker who curses and smokes the dope, but not nearly at the level that his legendary Jay character does. He (like most of the cast) seems to have trouble swallowing the overwritten and unrealistic dialogue.
He doesn't talk so much about getting laid and eating out pussy as much, either. Mewes' Az character is more of somewhat-more-down-to-earth regular Stoner than a near-cartoon comic relief.
Carmen Lee (they were married at the time of this one) does the worst job in this one. Every word, every facial reaction, every moment from her sounds horribly unconvincing. She is here, beyond a doubt, not only the absolute worst performance in the film, but the worst acting I've ever seen. Hopefully, Carmen will stray from acting and find almost any other day job. She would be more adept to make a living donating sperm.
The movie's plot echoes "The Blair Witch Project:" A group of friends go on a long, long trip in the deepest woods on earth and into the great unknown. Then, a hidden agenda is revealed. One that may bring wealth and legendary status. It sounds (of course) to everyone else like s collision of insanity and stupidity. But doesn't every ground-breaker at first? Everyone sneers and turns against each other. It's all sides divided. Bedlam, as always. The Loch Ness Monster. Sasquach. The Boogeyman. They're all just good old fashioned monster folklore stories, aren't they? There's always evidence (of course) that tilts to the contrary.
Like I said from the start of this review (where you came in), "Drawing Flies" is a "halfway decent" film. If you only see half the movie, you'll walk away having a better cinematic experience than you would if you saw the whole thing. Just see half. That FIRST half.
The movie starts off in one frame of mind, then shifts jarringly in another direction at the final quarter, practically derailing the entire picture. Because damn it all, the two just don't mesh. They clash wildly like yogurt and broccoli. Just imagine for a second that resulting, lingering taste.
Doesn't draw much attention... or even much interest.
(WARNING: THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS A MILD SPOILER--It does not reveal the entire film nor does it give away the ending, but it does reveal a brief surpriseâ€¦ that disappoints) Indie-idol Kevin Smith (the fat hairy one himself) pops up in a bit part that feels like an extra.
He's at the party scene, he doesn't have so much as a word of dialogue, and he's dressed just like wellâ€¦ Silent Bob. And I mean SILENT BOB. He wears the same clothes he's worn in the first three movies.
And it's not like there much here to distinguish this bit part from his legendary Silent doppelganger. Smith dons the same outfit, same mime facial expressions. He even sports the exact same beard. What, the budget was so low, he couldn't afford a shave or at least a trim? Or time to get another set of clothes from out of his closet? Hey, it's a no-budget film, they couldn't afford a wardrobe department as his character is referred to as "John." You kind of wish there was just a little more of a punch line or pay-off, butâ€¦.
But this time, there is no moment where he breaks the silence. The only difference between "John" and "Silent Bob" isâ€¦ one is something, one is not. Like the movie...
--Still Looking For A Good Movie Like People Are Searching For Sasquatch and The Lochness Monster, Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
Writer/director Christopher Kublan's independent romantic comedy (a rarity in the indie field) "GIVING IT UP" is a movie which is scarce in the indie field. A romantic comedy, rumored to be the worst, sloppiest, unentertaining and most formulaic of the entire genre.
Originally titled "Casanova Falling" before it's DVD release, it was later re-christened "Giving It Up" when it was released in 2003, I'm not sure why. Because that's the name of the song that plays it one scene. I assume the distributors thought it made for a more alluring title.
But very surprisingly, "Giving It Up" is a smarter, more-thinking person's romantic comedy. A movie that seems to have filtered out the obnoxious slapstick, trite plot points, dumb characters, monotone dialouge and Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan's routines.
Oh, there are quite a few clichÃ©s' in this movie, all right. The playboy who's tired of the game and wants to settle down and develop as a person, the bookish love interest who has no patience for his antics, the sexist supporting characters, the geeky best friend, the unobtainable finally obtained... only to realize that...
And although it sounds like the storyline from "What Women Want" (which also featured Feuerstein), no two movies could possibly be more polar opposite.
But "Giving It Up" is more than that. It doesn't rely entirely on that as so many other rom-coms do.
"GIU" is a well-played, thoughtfully-written, smartly conceived look at men, women and their views on sex and relationships.
In "Giving It Up," a New York advertising executive who specializes in selling sex to sell products is living the "almost ideal existence." He has devoted his life to attracting the opposite sex.
And it seems to be working. He has a new stranger in his bed every night. He's making fat cheddar. His hard-nosed, sexist boss (Dabney Coleman "9 to 5," "Tootsie," "Recess: School's Out" and "You've Got Mail") loves him. His apartment is lavish and full of cosmetics to polish his vessel and keep it clean. And his superhuman libido fuels his creative fires.
Enter his new boss, Elizabeth, who has heard of him and his reputation. She's smart and genuinely attractive. And quite down to earth. Ralph (Mark Feuerstein "Woman on Top" and "What Women Want"), the playboy in question is instantly smitten with her. But she's heard the word on the street and smiles, giving him the brush off.
Ralph is obsessed. He wants her. He can have every woman except the one he truly wants. Ain't it always the way? Ralph's less-lucky-in-love buddy, Peter (Ben Weber--"Twister" and TV's "Sex in the City") asks Ralph why? Why does he want to give up the life? Apparently, Ralphie boy feels empty. He decides to "give it all up."
He's the falling Casanova. He tries to go celibate. He meets up with Elizabeth and informs her of his newfound desire to live a life with something besides sex and even tries to win her over with his outside sex-interests. Like his joy for Billy Wilder's Cary Grant-Audrey Hepburn classic "Love in the Afternoon."
Kublan's script is smart in a "Sex in the City"-type of way. Full of realistic conversations between men and women about dating, relationships, sex and their own views and look at it all.
The cast is particularly strong for an independent film. Feuerstein is a real charmer, Weber and James Lesure (From "For Your Love") are convincing and likable as his best friends. Ari Larter as the foul and lecherous super-supermodel Amber is also good for a few laughs. Amy Redford is really 100% believable as a smart, intelligent, confident (and beautiful) businesswoman who hates her self a bit for falling for this falling Casanova.
See it alone for the near Oscar-worthy performance of the magnificent Dabney Coleman, more hard-nosed, sexist and snarling than ever.
It's worth falling for....
--Keeping It All Up, Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
"AFTER HOURS" is a surrealistic experience. It's also one of Scorsese's lesser-known gems and as far as I'm concerned, everything the man has so much as ever sneezed on is a gem. I know that sounds very sad and slavishly faithful, (but keep in mind that the man has a great reputation for spinning cinematic gold with about everything he does). I know I sound like some kind of medication and therapy, but to that, I simply ask you all: Has the man ever made a bad movie?
Many have complained that pretty much all of his movies are kinda the same. "Mean Streets," "Raging Bull," "Casino" and "Taxi Driver." In an era where more than 9 out of 10 of everything getting cranked out of Holly-weird is “more of the same.” Stupidity being mass-cranked in an endless cycle.
That’s why films like “After Hours” feel like such a prescribed dose of relief.
In “After Hours,” Griffin Dunne is Paul Hacket, a computer programmer who is just going through the motions and has an empty social life. He strikes up a conversation with a nice lady named Marcy (Rosanna Arquette) at a local restaurant over a novel they've both read. Words are exchanged. So are looks. She seems interested. He's hooked.
And from the split-second he gets into that cab, the nightmare begins. The cab blows like mad through the busy streets of downtown SoHo. And after his transportation money literally goes out the window, so do Paul's chance of getting home. He has no idea how deep he's in. At first, it just seems like he's the victim of some bad luck.
He encounters a lot on those dark streets after hours. Unpleasant night owls, severe misunderstandings and eventually the next thing he knows, poor Paul is running for his very life.
He encounters a lot on those dark streets after hours. Unpleasant night owls, severe misunderstandings and eventually the next thing he knows, poor Paul is running for his very life.
Now many of you may be asking, "Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? Is a thriller? Is it a horror show?"
It's... it's like a dream about something that really happened to you. It all plays out like a dream about "the strangest night of my life...." And everyone's had that one long, weird night where they were stranded somewhere.... just stuck. No money, no ride. And all the weirdos and sickos all come out from their hiding-places.
"They only come out at night," as they say.
I don't want to give too much away because this is a movie where surprise after surprise.
There's a whole domino effect here as everything leads to a big final act where we fear for Paul and his safety, and our own. Because it feels like we have become Paul.
The movie features a first-rate all-star cast. There are more stars here than there are in a pitch-black night sky: Rosanna Arquette, Verna Bloom, Tommy Chong, Linda Fiorentino Teri Garr, John Heard, Cheech Marin, Catherine O'Hara, Dick Miller, Will Patton, Robert Plunket and Bronson Pinchot. Who was responsible for rounding up this talent, Robert Altman?
This is the most surprising thing to come from Martin Scorsese. Scorsese has been somewhat pigeon-holed as a director, making usually historical bio-pics about true-life Jewish/Itallian Immigrants growing up in the Bronx and embarking on a life of crime. Always operatic, always rich with detail. "After Hours" is the arrival of a new Scorsese. One who shows a frightening "what if?" story in the Big Apple involving anyone with a big-city nightlife.
If it wasn't for Scorsese's name in the credits, you'd never guess he was at the helm. You'd never imagine in a million years he ever had anything to do with the project. He uses a quiet, subtle feeling the movie has when it's... "too quiet" and the pumped-up feeling during the more intense dramatic scenes.
Scorsese is a master of suspense, mood and timing. The fact that the Academy continues to pass him for an Oscar time and time and time again is not only annoying. It's downright offensive. We all know too damn well that the Academy bases Oscars all on politics. Well, as far as I'm concerned, Scorsese has played by all the rules. His films are very well-made and intellectual. They have a graceful operatic feel to them. They are often all-too historically accurate bio-pics.
And it uses it. Every actor is perfectly cast. Everyone is allowed to stand out in a big way without being too contrived or too cartoonish to be real.
And Scorsese, who's name stands for quality above all others, makes the most of it.
Joseph Minion's screenplay (which he collaborated with Scorsese on) is used for all it's worth. All the characters are quirky, colorful, yet realistic. The dialouge is written in a way that has that feeling of life. It's smart and honest without sounding unnatural. Too "written." A commn habit of the over-compensating screenwriter.
And 9 out of 10 New Yorkers who see this movie will smile and nod, "Yep. That's NYC at night to a T." Everyone else will be sure to avoid New York like a severe audit. Most people who live outside New York fear the city and plan never to go there.
I imagine this movie will do a lot to complete the trend.
My only real complaint is that Minion should have gotten more credit for his original, winning screenplay. He should have gotten maybe a few more nods from other academies, I'd never seen anything so intriguing and elaborate before. It's not just new. It's smart, fresh, well-crafted and all-too believable.
I know the American Academy would give an Oscar nomination to a film like this, but that's almost a sign of it's greatness. Scorsese gives it a realistic, yet outrageous feel and knows how to let the suspense draw out and build skillfully and Joseph Minion has written himself a little bitty treasure. I just wish he'd write so much more.
Still, this is a home run on every account. I say this and mean it: YOU ALL MUST SEE THIS MOVIE. Ask for it by name: "After Hours."
Find it if you can. Anyway you can.
--One Of The Freaks That Come Out At Night, Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
"ONE OF THE YEAR'S BEST. ONE OF THE DECADE'S BEST. ONE OF ANIMATION'S BEST. AND BAKSHI'S BEST."
This is rumored to be animation-pioneer Ralph Bakshi's favorite among all his projects. And no wonder. This is his story!
A 22-year old Jewish-Italian teen spends his time playing pin-ball non-stop and drawing cartoons about the degenerated environment he's living in. They seem to be his only sanctuary. He still lives with his parents, an Italian man who cheats on his wife and a Jewish woman who's so emotionally torqued up--such a drama queen, that when Angelo comes home after a night with his lady, she hits him over the head with a frying pan and sticks his head in the oven.
There's always domestic unrest in any family, particularly with interracial married couples who lived in the Bronx around this time. But they're so wound-up, so ready to snap--they come to blows and sharp instruments a little too quickly.
Way too quickly, in fact. Angelo and Ida's Punch-and-Judy relationship--coupled with the problems that reside outdoors in the Bronx--Michael seems doomed to have some of it rub off on him. "You hang around garbage long enough, you start to stink," as they say.
But Michael has an outlet for his angst and confusion. Rather than fall into the trap many around him seem to, he vents himself at the drawing board. He draws a lot of the people and places in the Bronx. Although he seems to dislike many of them, they're so broad and colorful and wired, they translate easily to caricatures.
Bakshi takes us to all the usual haunts we visit in his movies--trashy ghetto neighborhoods with buildings that look condemned, dirt-cheap apartments, behind the wheel of cars, rooftops, nightclubs, bars, brothels.
The lives of all of the Bronx inhabitants: Jews, Italians, blacks, drag queens, junkies, vagrants, hookers, cops, thugs and the like. And by using animation, Bakshi (and Michael) sort of illustrate their world and their eccentricity, which is so dangerous, it borderlines on insanity.
I wasn't particularly crazy about the disco remix of "Scarborough's Fair." What can I say? I fell in love with the original.
But I suppose it does fit in with the nature of the film. Bakshi uses a lot of shots of Michael playing pinball. He's a big pinball fanatic. It's obviously a metaphor, perhaps for the hectic universe in which Michael bounces from one scenario to another, for which he's constantly out of place.
Carol is a black woman who works at a local bar where Michael draws on the roof. She's loud, she's opinionated, she's passionate. And she really seems to be about something. She's not just an ethnic joke.
Like all bars, there are lots of colorful locals there, plenty of dangerous ones to be sure.
Michael tries to score free drinks with his art. But that's all he tries to score Michael's no ladies' man and he knows it. He's a deep, sensitive, skilled artiste. And a sitting duck for some of the louder, tougher guys who make up the city.
It doesn't help matter that he's a virgin and everyone knows it. At one point, some greasers try to hook him up with a loose woman who's eager to have it with a guy who's so fresh and green. Although this leads to a disaster. Even his own father tries to hook him up. Now there's a true loving father for you.
Michael has an eye for Carol (many people at the bar she tends do), not because he's dying to get laid like nearly every other male. But he seems to genuinely feel something real for her. When she offers it up to him in gratitude for a favor, he faints. He wants her, but he's just not ready.
Ida is fussy and over-protective of her son, just like a mother hen. Or rather a Jewish mother. Angelo wants his son to be more of a "man's man."
Like all of Bakshi's films, this contains a lot of graphic violence and sexual images, as well as caricatures in the ethnic vein.
But surprisingly, in the strangest way, it contains real heart, as well as some sweetness. The relationship between Michael and Carol has to be seen. Bakshi could've made her just an archetype like everyone else and he didn't. She's just as developed and human and relative as dear Michael is. These two deseve one another.
"Heavy Traffic" is wildly imaginative and thrilling in all it's glory. Like "Being John Malkovich," we actually feel like we're inside the author's head rather than his film. This truly ranks as Bakshi's best. He deserves more credit for this than "Fritz The Cat."
How much of all this take place in Michael's mind and how much of it takes place in his reality? Maybe they're one and the same. Maybe not. Maybe we're supposed to figure it out. It up to us. Just like Michael's life is up to him.
The characters in the city are so damn cartooniSH and erratic already, they transfer them into cartoon characters without losing anything in the translation.
Bakshi doesn't paint a pretty picture of the city and it's locals. But then again, he never has, has he? That's one of the things he's known for.
But that's not the only thing. Let's hope that when he goes... he'll be remembered for a lot of things.
Especially this one. It is... not only his best, not only one of the year's best... but of the best.
-- Proud To Be Caught In The Jam of The Heavy Traffic Himself, Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
This one wasn't much when it first came out. The budget was extravagant and the box-office returns just barely covered the big fat price tag. And as measly as a movie as this was for itâ€™s day on it's own merits, it's dwarfed even further by the immortal "Lord Of The Rings" saga.
"Willow" is the film the impish Warwick Davis is renown for his participation in the never-ending Horror-movie stories, the "Leprechaun" movies.
This was his first lead role and he brings a likeable and earnest charisma to the role instead of just trying to be little and cute like so many child performers and other midget actors. Thankfully, he proves himself as to be more than just a cheap gimmick like so many other â€œbit-players.â€ He allows himself to really give a true performance and the film itself doesnâ€™t go for the cheapest of shots with any of the height of itâ€™s little people.
As a filmmaker, George Lucas is and has always been a homage-payer. He's one of those filmmakers who always tries to re-make those old films he loved during his own adolescence. With space operas: â€œStar Wars,â€ With Matinee Adventure flicks: â€œIndiana Jones,â€ With futuristic sci-fi adventures, â€œTHX 1138.â€
And now with â€œWillow,â€ he attempts to do the same for the sword-and-sorcery genre.
Notice I use the word â€œattempts.â€
The whole universe is derived from the whole medieval sword-and-sorcery genre. And it's a full bar and buffet smorgasbord here: We've got "Lord Of The Rings," "The Story of Moses," "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves," "Sleeping Beauty" and "Gulliver's Travels" just to name a few.
Val Kilmer is pound-for-pound one of the great heavyweight champion actors from here
The 20th century and the 21st saw few better thespians. He truly delivered an Oscar for his re-birth as Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone's "The Doors."
Here, anyone could have done the same job he does. It's his most unremarkable performance to date. They didn't need the great Kilmer for this one.
Any stock actor with a Screen Actors Guild card or with one year of high school drama class experience could have done as good a job.
Jean Marsh does a good job as Queen Bavmorda, but just about any random British actress on the planet could have done the same and gotten the same results.
Sadly, this one just stands toe-to-toe with the He-Man "Master Of The Universe" movie from 1987.
Even though Ron Howard Opie Cunningham was at the helm for this one, just about any hack with access to a tripod (that tilts low) could have done the same and gotten the same results.
The real problem with "Willow" is that it's totally unremarkable. It's about a likeable little guy with a big heart for his family. He has a magical gift and uses it to make a name for himself. He meets a great warrior with a shady record who may find love along the way.
They do battle with a wicked queen who happens to be a powerful witch with a great army, a two-headed dragon, a menacing lieutenant General who wears a mask scarier than his own face, yada yada yada yada. Do you even care?
There are two little like the 3-inch tall people in "Gulliver's Travels" called Brownies named Rool and Franjean with helium voices and ethnic caricatured French accents that would have been considered embarrassing in the '30's. They irritate and confuse, but never amuse. Unlike R2D2 and C3PO or Marcus Brody, they never provoke as much as a smile.
Lucas planned for this to be something of a series saga of films. But since this one barely made any return whatsoever, Lucas wound up scrapping the film "trilogy" and continuing the story in books. Hey, anyone out there ever actually so much as read a copy of the continuing "Willow" story?
With "Star Wars," "THX 1138" and "American Graffiti," Lucas swung for the fence like a dominant male gorilla. He pulled out all stops and then some. This one is on-par with your average episode of a Saturday Morning TV series, even for the day.
With Lucas' legendary "Indiana Jones" saga, we all remember one key gruesome scene in each movie---like the "false grail" scene in "Last Crusade" or the "Ripped Heart" in "The Temple Of Doom." In "Willow," there's a similar sequence inspired by the "Bay Of Pigs" from the Greek tales of "The Iliad and The Odyssey."
Lucas story pretty much recycles the whole outline plot of the "Star Wars" saga (episodes IV, V, and VI). Unfortunately, Lucas and Howard donâ€™t really feel like theyâ€™re trying
to have the last word of the genre as they did in many of their earlier efforts.
You can see anything just as good and inspired/thrilling/etc. every Saturday morning on just about any network.
Unlike â€œStar Wars,â€ â€œIndiana Jonesâ€ or â€œCocoon,â€ this is not a product of theirs that defines the genre itâ€™s from.
And what is it with the baby Elora Danan? She's so much of the damn plot and yet, all she does really is smile and cry on cue. There are babies in diaper commercials who have characters with more depth.
I like the two-headed dragon. It doesn't look like the traditional fire-breathing dragon. It hardly even looks like a serpent. This one is kind of inspired. As a change of pace, it has more of an ugly look to it with long and furry serpent necks, almost like an ostrich. It's really weird.
Although, it's one of the few inspired touches in this routine medieval epic.
It's a Lucasfilm Ltd. production, so the special effects are (as it goes without saying) in the Oscar nomination territory. Enthralling for the day, some even by today's standards still shine. Lucas has made a bigger name for himself as a innovator of special effects than as a filmmaker.
While it was a defining role for actor Warwick Davis and it employs more midgets and dwarves than any other production (and respectively), for anyone else, "Willow" is never anything special, nor does it attempt to be.
Even for it's day "Willow" was unremarkable. Seriously, how many tales of swords, sorcery, kings, queens, dwarves, dragons and trolls had we seen in movies, TV shows, books, fairy tales and what-have-you before this came along? Yet another case of, "Too little, too late."
Nearly 20 years later, that old axiom proves even more true.
--For All The Little Nelwyns (including Lucas) and Everything They Stand For, Dane Youssef