by Dane Youssef
"When an actor asks you to read his script, your heart sinks. The number of scripts I've been given by actors that are so unbelievably terrible! It's well known that actors are lousy writers." --Richard E. Grant.
Words to live by. Especially in Hollywood.
I was kind of looking forward to this one. I enjoy Eddie Murphy and I love it when a star hand-makes a vehicle for themselves or when someone who writes decides to mark their own directorial debut. But when the star's head gets too big for the rest of his body, there's always a danger of a big-budgeted Hollywood vanity production.
Will the filmmaker keep it realÃ¢ï¿½Â¦ or will he just waste amounts of money (the studio's and ours) and time (the studio's, our and his own) patting himself on the back for an hour in a half? Sadly, it's the latter here.
Another thing I really like is when someone breathes new and fresh life into an exhausted and dried-out genre. None of that here. The warring nightclub movies have become so worn-through that even the parodies of it are dreary and done to death.
Murphy does neither. He does the most clichÃƒÂ©d: He plugs into a routine conventional formula gangster picture and plays it as seriously as if it were "The Godfather." It's like a script where the next draft, they put in the jokes and the new ideas. But it seems like someone with clout just looked at it and went: "NoÃ¢ï¿½Â¦ this is fine."
Probably Murphy. He is credited all over this. In the opening shot of beautiful white satin sheets, his name headlines across the credits about five times.
THE PLOT: A young orphan saves Pryor's life and Pryor adopts the little ragamuffin.
20 years later, Pryor's dump has become a first-class hot spot. They're pulling down big money and a gangster wants their action. He's even got a dirty cop in his employ. But Pryor comes up with a scheme, a la "THE STING."
Murphy's screenplay plays like an unfinished first-draft that nobody had the pair to call him on. The actors aren't really allowed to stand-out much, if at all. Even the almighty Murphy seems to be on auto-pilot.
Pryor shows class and gentlemanly manners as Sugar Ray (perhaps it would have been better to name his character BROWN Sugar RayÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½further evidence that this one needed a polish), but everyone here is basically just on vacation.
The Oscar-nomination the movie received is richly deserved (Joe I. Tompkins' Best Costume Design), but the production values are the only part that makes the '30's feel authentic.
Some sets look somewhat fake, but this is supposed to be a comedy of sorts. It's rare one movie gets nominated for both a Razzie and an Oscar (unless it's one of Lucas' new "Star Wars" chapters).
It's 1938 and everyone is talking like it's 1988, particularly the comedians. This is a prehistoric white man's formula. And with all these black comedians and satirists, you expect them to skewer the genre or at least bring new life to it. Nope. Murphy is pretty much just coasting here.
The great Roger Ebert summed it up perfectly when he remarked in his review: "Murphy approaches his story more as a costume party in which everybody gets to look great while fumbling through a plot that has not been fresh since at least 1938."
Jasmine Guy is perfectly cast and seems to be indulging herself in her role and Michael Lerner has all the looks, evil and mannerisms of the prototypical mob boss down pat. And there are moments where Pryor gives you an idea of what a more interesting leader and authority figure would sound like. He gives every scene he's in a feeling of dignity.
Would it have been too much to ask that Della Resse sing? Or at least quit embarrassing herself with all her "Kiss My Ass talk?"
And the late Redd Foxx doesn't get to leave much of a swan song here. He has some back-and-forth with Resse which could have been some great stuff. Nope. Murphy wastes another opportunity again here.
Murphy's Quick is charismatic and likable. But those moments are few and far between for sure. Murphy has never looked better and never been duller. His character made me laugh twice throughout the whole movie.
Stan Shaw's boxer with a horrible speech impediment isn't just painful and embarrassing, it's annoying. There's more to comedy than simply showing something taboo and offensive. You have to incorporate some kind of light touch and funny situation. Watching him strain even the some of the easiest words just makes us feel sorry for him and annoyed with Murphy.
Can Murphy write a good screenplay? WellÃ¢ï¿½Â¦ there was "Raw," but that was really stand-up material. He wrote the outline for "Boomerang" and "Coming to America" for sure. But he didn't have the last word there.
Does Murphy think he's a writer? I don't mean a great writer. I mean a writer--period. Maybe a team of ER-like script doctors could've revived this one.
Murphy's direction is so slow and quiet, you'd swear he was asleep at the wheel some of the time. He has too many static shots and doesn't seem to know how to build and release suspense. On some level, I think Quick is the real Eddie Murphy. Angry, young, hot-headed and ambitious. But occasionally charming. Now if he were only funny sometime.
There's a scene in which Murphy has a femme fatale in bed who plans to make love with him and kill him. You can probably guess how it turns out. Like everything else in the movie, this could have been better, butÃ¢ï¿½Â¦
"Surprisingly," Murphy has not directed another movie since (he got a Razzie nomination). And he no longer writes the finished draft for his films either (he WON the Razzie for writing this!)
It's great to look at and the music is beautiful, and there are a few really nice scenes. But that just falls under the category of "gems among all the junk." Not enough of them.
Could've been. Shouldv'e been. Wasn't.
--For Those Beautiful Dark Nights in Black Harlem, Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
Oh, I'm sorry. I fell asleep. Did something happen... ? What, no... ?
Was this supposed a comedy? Hell, I have no idea.
Hell, was this even supposed to be a damn movie?!
It must have been trying to be one.
Watching this one is like looking at a blank screen. It features talented high-caliber name actors, but they never seem to really be acting in a movie. They're just up there on the screen killing time with their monotony.
The plot is basically something for a fun Saturday-night buddy movie. But there's no energy, no spontinety, no drive... no life. "Stealing Harvard" doesn't even have a heartbeat.
The movie stars the riveting and charismatic Jason Lee ("My Name Is Earl," "Dogma," "Chasing Amy," "Kissing A Fool") as John Plummer, a home-care worker at home health-care corporation called "Homespital," not unlike the hospital founded by Patch Adams.
Lee's engaged to and just looking for a house to settle down and have a family with. His fiancee's father is also his boss.
He's a bland, ordinary "John Everyman" who engaged to a sweet, cheerful woman (somewhat deranged, of course) named Elaine (played by Leslie Mann).
His boss as "Homespital" is going to be his father in law and naturally hates John as any true father-in-law should.
"Have you slept with my daughter?" John practically swallows his whole throat.
He smiles and says with too-friendly a tone, "If you have, I'll give you immunity and that if he have slept with her, he should tell him there and now and they'll let it go."
And John himself goes blank.
Then, looking like some kind of animal caught in oncoming headlights, John wisely lies.
Mr. Warner smiles and responds: "Good! Godammit, that's good! Because if you had, John, I was gonna kick your balls up into your head and let them rattle around in your skull like dice in a Yahtzee cup!"
He and his fiancÃ¯Â¿Â½e Elaine Warner (Leslie Mann from "George of the Jungle" and "The Cable Guy") have managed to scrape up $30,000 to buy a new house. But when his scholarly niece actually manages to get into a college, an old promise that John comes back to bite him in the ass.
This is the third movie directed by former "Kid In The Hall" Bruce McCulloch ("Dog Park" and "Superstar") and it's his third misfire. His films are always dull, flat, incapable of generating any energy.
Or maybe he just refuses to let them. He always has one really flamboyant character to generate some energy into an otherwise lifeless slog. Here, it's Tom Green.
TV shock-Meister (and expired flavor-of-the-month) turned day-actor Tom Green plays his best friend Walter Duffy, a landscaper who has his own business. with an angry, obnoxious personality and a single digit IQ. He's basically just Tom Green if he went into landscaping.
His style as a landscaper is to rip up fresh green, colorful and replace them with old, dead, ugly-looking tacky ones. Well, it's a look, I guess.
At one point, his boss takes him aside and asks him the same burning question that every consumes every father to the core and to the point of hysteria:
How to get a butt-load of money really, really fast? John's comes to his longtime buddy, Walter "Duff" Duffy who suggests... a robbery.
The kind of movie you round up your weekend buddies, go to a bar and have a few and go to see during the late-showing.
The film has all the energy of a 70-year old snail on an overdose of sedatives. Jason Lee, an actor I have the utmost respect for ("Chasing Amy," "Almost Famous" and "Vanilla Sky") who combines the best of Jimmy Stewart and Adam Sandler, is so cheerful and likable, he's boring here.
Now you can say all you want that Tom Green is a bad actor. Let's face it, he is. His Golden Raspberry Award for "Worst Supporting Actor" of 2001 speaks for itself (he won many other "worsts" that year), but his performance gives the film the lion's share of what little energy it actually has. If it wasn't for Green's obnoxious Duff character, we'd all be going to sleep.
The worst part, I'm afraid, is that despite Mr. Green's inability to act, he does not give the worst performance in this movie. That comes from director McCulloch himself as an attorney near the end of the film.
Rest assured, he's not there for very long, but his acting is so bad, I was amazed at how much worse he made the film simply by entering it.
Megan Mulally appears in a supporting role as Lee's sister, who's trailer-trash through and through. She has different sex partners every night... er, hour of the week. She and John have never really been close. They have a moment together. It's more deep and interesting than any other part of the movie.
Chris Penn pops up in a brief bit as a thug who is recruited by John and Duff to pull off a robbery, which leads to a scene that could have been funny, but just plain isn't. Like the rest of movie, it's so dead and flat-lined, you wish there was some doctor to put electrical pads over the chest of the film and go "Clear!" to bring it to life.
Here's a movie that could have been just big-fun disposable Saturday Night weekend entertainment like "Meet the Parents" or "Stuck on You." But this film needed a team of script doctors straight from the ER.
The brief gags from the supporting performers aren't much either. Big names with nothing to work with. John C. McGinley (TV's "Scrubs") is particularly embarrassing as a hard-nosed detective who's hot on their trail and trying to find out who's responsible for that mini-mart stick-up and is not above breaking the law.
He plays an almost completely unfunny version of his hard-ass cop role from "Point Break." I won't even get into the scene involving Richard Jenkins as the man of one of the houses they break into looking for money, suffice to say it didn't make me laugh and it hurt to watch. So does a scene which made me feel bad that John has had sex with Elaine--she cries during cotis. Good Lord.
Boring, when not irritating. It could have been so much better. So much funnier. With a script doctor, a director with some sight and some energy... well, Que se ra....
"There is nothing sadder than wasted talent" ---Robert De Niro as Lorenzo Anello in "A Bronx Tale."
--Hoping To Steal Some of His Own Happiness Somehow and Someway, Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
And in the film industry. But the movies about the stripping game don't seem to. They never seem to be well-made, or even much fun. Why not? What's going on here? The characters and plot are so non-existent, they fall under the category of pornos without sex.
And who wants to see that?
Such cinema on the art form as "Showgirls" and "Striptease" made one wish the makers had followed pornography by example and not tried to have a plot. Multi-Razzie-winning schlockola only to be enjoyed only on the late-night UHF channel 93 super-cheese corn Ed Wood, Jr. level.
Good readers, take a deeeeep breath of relief that "The Players Club" has a slightly higher-quality of strip than glitzy dives like "Showgirls" and "Striptease." Not quite the British Oscar contender level of "The Full Monty," but not quite a "Striptease."
Written and directed by old-school rap superstar Ice Cube, "The Players Club" is a posh, yet harsh feature dealing with women needing big money really fast and undergo a whole lifestyle change in order to get it. Stripping changes who they are all over.
But hey--everybody needs money. Everyone wants to make more. That's the point of money. Even if you're Donald Trump, every single dollar there is... just isn't enough. We've all heard of the girl who turns trick in order as a last resort.
There are women who get into stripping 'cause they want the worship, the adoration. To control every man in the room--and her career.
But there are those who just need to make a lot of money really, really fast. When we meet Diana (LisaRaye), she's just had a fight with her father over which college she should go to. He throws her out. She leans on a guy for support. He gives her more than that. He gives her a child. Then he leaves with nothing.
A single black woman raising a baby on her own with no means. Such a sad, familiar story. So familiar, it makes it all the sadder.
To make ends meet, she gets a job at a thrift shoe-shop. Some strippers come in and tell her there are ways of making more money--much, much more. And in high demand. You're in charge of your career, your clientele, yourself. Diana is suddenly in charge of her own life--and may have all the means she needs.
The club that comes recommended by the strippers is "The Players Club," a ritzy posh gentleman's club it Atlanta, run by a pimp daddy named Dollar Bill. The place is always hopping like a hornytoad on hop with the kind of people you would like to get to know.
"Players" has a lot of the same gimmicks as "Striptease." One can only wonder... did The Ice Man see that movie... just before he wrote up this?
Big black contenders, buddies of the Iceman pop up. The reliable likes of Bernie Mac, Jamie Foxx, John Amos, Fazion Love, A.J. Johnson, Terrence Howard, Big Boy, Tommy 'Tiny' Lister and Michael Clark Duncan.
A lot of this is pretty warmed-over. But despite the blaxploitation roots and intentions, "Players Club" boasts and A-list cast and production values, thanks to the powerful status name of The Ice Cube and New Line Cinema.
LisaRaye gets a C-plus in her lead debut. Cube is quoted as saying he hired some fresh-face newbie actress so as his debut as filmmaker would be the important part, not a big name star-vehicle where the star names get all the notice.
Also green is Chrystale Wilson, making an ideal villainess as Ronnie. In scene after scene, she defines the "dominatrix." And as it goes without saying, the dominatrix dominates her every scene. Now THIS is blaxploitation.
Ronnie is another grand larceny scene-stealer that falls under the old movie saying of "the villains have the most fun--and ARE the most fun."
Bernie Mac takes this comic relief and makes it a plum. In the rich role of Dollar Bill, here is a man who is a club owner dressed like a pimp Don King (which is redundant), speaking like with a lot of philosophical wisdom that one picks up on the street, from the school of hard knocks. Business-wise, deep, yet ghetto.
Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx of "Ray" fame got his start in the biz as a stand-up comic and here as the solid supporting man love interest, the club's DJ Blue, it might've served him (and the freakin' movie) had he had dug up some of his archive bits from his "Def Jam" days.
You wouldn't think the DJ at a strip club would be especially important (Bill even tells Blue that to his face at one point), but he proves to be the very thing that Diana needs--even pulling it all together in the final act.
John Amos and Faizon Love are a buddy cop-pair have that Mutt-and-Jeff shtick going with Amos playing it straight and Love going for laughs. Amos as the ultimate hard cop, never coming close to smiling.
I really did enjoy this more than the last two "Friday" movies and Cube's "All About The Benjamins."
The Iceman himself has a running bit part as Reggie, a one of the regulars at "The Player's Club"--a hired thug and dabbles in some recreational crime for his own sake, like soliciting sex. He's friends with Clyde and Ronnie's brother, Junior.
Though there are times when Cube's stuff feels tired, his stuff underdeveloped. He's credited also as executive producer, which I think means he green-lit his own project. Sometimes, it pays to have an objective eye. Couldn't Cube's old director from "Boyz 'N' The Hood" John Singelton have come on down to give his former "Doughboy" some sage filmmaking advice?
The best thing "The Players Club" does is make a lot of its characters colorful and eccentric while keeping a lot of them fairly human. Cube tries to juggle, not making it a specific genre--but a "life film." His movie is comedy, drama, thriller, and action flick...
"Players" has Mr. Ice donning the solo hat here--as screenwriter, executive producer, director and supporting actor. The likes of Charles Chaplin, Orson Welles, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch did all this. What made them so special? They could.
No classic, no picture belonging on the AFI's 100 Best, no one's absolute favorite of all time. But still worth seeing.
If no else, after seeing this one, you're sure of two things: stripping is a profession that pays big for a reason--there are rites of passage and perils.
You may never think the same again when you hit the strip joints, offer up that dollar you're waving into the air... and just who it goes to.
Despite it's blaxploitation roots, "Player's Club" mostly tries to sidestep a lot of opportunities to exploit or go for the really campy crap that helped earlier "white-stripper" movies get some viewers. But there's some camp here and there--all unintentional, I'm sure. The Cube ain't Spike Lee.
I wish Cube's partner-in-crime Chris Tucker from "Friday" would've popped-up at some point. Tucker is on par with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence as a comic presence.
He's such talent, he's can bring even the deadest scene to life. Ol' Smokey nearly made "Friday" a must-see, he could've made this all the better.
There are times when Cube doesn't capture the energy he needs to. As director, he sometimes seems to be just recording. The camera is on auto-pilot rather than capturing a mood.
And blaxploitation is still alive, still thriving...
--A Believer in Big, Bad Black Cinema, Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
For those precious few of you who are reading this and don't know--I know I'm preaching to the built-in choir here, but there's always a few who may be a little unclear, vauge or just got the wrong address.
"THE WIZARD" isn't any moniker or fun new twist on the classic story of a little girl from Kansas who gets caught in a tornado and finds herself not only over the rainbow, but in a wonderland of technocolor and strange characters.
Well, at least not exactly.
This "Wizard" dealt with kids in peril, feeling trapped in where they were. Video games were their outlet. One boy so disturbed, he had become mute and later committed after witnessing the death of his sister. The older brothers living with the father after the divorce. When a child is lost, a family is too.
"The Wizard" open with a small, determined soul walking along a long stretch of road in the pursuit of something. Some goal, some destination. Some form of escape.
There's something... he's looking for. He's on his way... somewhere. Somewhere special, somewhere important. Somewhere he needs to be. It fades in like a sunrise... where is he going? We don't know. We don't even know who he is, but we want to go with him. This boy's name is Jimmy. And he has a goal. He tells us, "California..."
Jimmy is in an institution and has been ever since he lost his sister. Yet he seems to break loose again and again like the family cat. Is there some unlocked door sans security at this loony hatch?
One day during a visit, big brother Corey takes little Jimmy and the two break loose--together. At an arcade, Corey first-hand witnesses Jimmy is Bobby Fisher's unacknowleged love child at Nintendo. They use his skills to play for money. And because it's a road trip movie, they have to pick up a woman along the way.
It's a PG flick for little kids (once again, Nintendo fans), so it has to a preteen like them--and they have to be just friend. Her name is Haley, an adolescent drifter. She claims to know the score... and she can raise the money to get them where they need to go.
They're hard-up for money. But Halley is one sizzling hustler. Wait 'til she's old enough to develop sex appeal to add to the mix. Looking back on all this, I was expecting Halley to try raising money by "tit-for-tat." You give us a ride, and I'll give you..."
It was my mother who recalled that old song from the "He's A Pinball Wizard" by The Who and suggested, well.. maybe that's where the movie got its namesake. The catchy little pop ditty of some soul who had nothing else in his life but was a wonder at that one arcade game. It was his world. Whoever he was.
Well, if anyone could relate to that....
'Would've liked to hear that on the soundtrack at maybe some point.
A lot of the world said that the "Wizard" is stuffed to the gills with commercials. But no, they were wrong.
"The Wizard" WAS a commercial. For Nintendo and the Universal Studios Tour.
If we'd gotten some scenes where we see Jimmy's connection to these games, how he becomes Zen with them, there might have actually been some real significance. We're just watching video games being played. And... that's all we as kids wanted when this thing came out.
Not so see a really poweful piece of cinema, but to just see kids like us running loose without parental supervision and Nintendo being our outlet source of rebellion. Children as resourceful as can be doing incredible things with the toys we played with and loved.
Screenwriter/producer David Chisholm seems to have cobbled this thing together out of a lot of spare plot threads and gimmicks. Usually filmmakers do this when they're just doing the obligator rush hatchet job and don't have their heart in the project they're working on. And you can tell--Chisholm doesn't love this screenplay of his. This is not a personal project for him. This is just a Hollywood crowd-pleaser designed to feed the cult masses.
"The Wizard" was written out of scraps of other movies, like the Oscar-winning "Rain Man"--which still remains one of my all-time faves. And the pumped-up showdown finale is right out of "Rocky" and nearly every sports movie ever made.
The choir (us) loves video games, lives for them, thrives on them. But the makers of this movie don't. They don't care about any of this except--"Here, buy this. Spend your money on..."
For all of those who belonged to the mass cult of Nintendo, this was the third coming.
Seeing it again now with older, more experienced eyes like an old man going back into his childhood home, the bedroom we once lived in, the bed once ours, looking over our own toys and photos... and, and... what the hell was I thinking? Was that even me? Who was that guy?
What is "The Wizard"? A film of our adoration for this piece of cinema from or childhood, which weaved together our love of movies featuring us kids as the heroes and our undying love of the video games.
... Jesus, what were we thinking?
"Wizard" claimed itself later once released on home video (B.D.D.--before DVD) as a "warm-hearted family" film. But no, no, no, no, no and no. God, no. Hell, no. F--k, no.
It was anything but. It was specifically for the children--the children who wanted to leave the home and burden of their families and go play Nintendo somewhere. And the kids were astoundingly resourceful, like they had their own little underground black market.
The adults were the utmost of bumbling fools, almost mentally retarded--as they tend to be in a lot of kiddie movies.
Fred Savage stands as one of the finest child actors there ever was. Shirley Temple and Macaulay Culkin had more fame, but the Savage was just that--even better. And Luke Edwards is all right for what this role calls her--acting terminally shy at all times. Jenny Lewis as the "mover and shaker"... Good Lord, I don't even think I believed when I first saw it. But maybe we're not supposed to. I think the whole dramatic plot point of Haley is she's not what she pretends to be.
For a movie all the kids and their toys, "The Wizard" holds some surprisingly good adult performances. Steven Grives as the electrified Video Armageddon Announcer who's like a British Christopher Lloyd as the charged-up Master of Ceremonies. And Will Seltzer as an especially scummy bounty hunter who tracks down runaway kids.
Beau Bridges, commendable--but he has that role that literally ANY ACTOR could sleepwalk through. Christian Slater himself, a fine actor, very fine. Like fine china. People make too much of his resemblence to Jack Nicholson--but he's no celeb impersonator. He's solid gold on his own. And he's given virtually nothing to do in his "eldest brother" role.
Hey, the kids don't care about Bridges or Christian Slater--they care about Nintendo. Well, there's not much Nintendo either.
For some strange reason, after seeing "The Wizard" again with older eyes, I just somehow didn't feel like video games for the time being. I wanted to get out and physically do something. Take some real action with my life. It was a few days before I picked up a Game Boy.
And as I was playing my usual round of "Tetris" and was trying to break my old record, I was singing quietly to myself, "He's A Nintendo Wizard..."
--Still A Game Boy, Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
"NIL BY MOUTH" is the very first film written and directed by the great Gary Oldman, a seasoned veteran actor who has still yet to give a bad performance. Oldman grew up in the poorest ghetto of South London, where this film takes place.
And while this movie has been rumored and believed to be a semi-autobiography of Oldman's childhood and family (who wouldn't watch this movie and believe so?), Oldman himself has said that this is not him or his family.
Hey, I believe him. Although he grew up in this environment, he was not directly in the line of fire, if you follow me.
The film sets itâ€™s sights on a South London family that defines the term â€œdomestic unrest.â€ A woman, her husband, daughter, brother, their mother and grandmother. As well as the people outside their family who they are connected to.
"Nil By Mouth" represents many of the other families in South London, not Oldman's. The colorful cockney ways of the Great Britain. But more than anything, itâ€™s problem of casual brutal urban violence.
We've seen many abusive types in movies--usually one-dimensional and sanitized. But "Nil By Mouth" refuses to white-wash. The fact that this is not a big-budget Hollywood star-vehicle allows this to be a real film-going experience.
This movie wishes to illuminate. Not entertain or delude. This is "slice-of-life," not escapist fantasy. I've told members of my family about it and they've given very mixed reactions. My father and sister disliked the dime-store production values and no-name actors. They asked me why I would rent such a bitter and hateful film. My mother says she has spent her life shunning this type of humanity and burying her head in the sand, living as if it does not really exist. "The Way Of The Ostrich."
This is one of those frightening on-screen performances in recent memory. Ray Winstone deserves high praise and immortalization for his acting here in the role of Ray. He seems to be one of those unsavory, brutal characters in movies that stay with us. Like Hannibal Lecter in "Silence Of The Lambs," Like Frank Booth in "Blue Velvet," Like Norman Bates in "Psycho," this performance haunts us like a ghost. The scorned ghost of a murderer...
There is a cringing moment in which Ray answers his wife's question as to why: "I do it because I love you." We cringe because his answer feels more familiar and common than it should.
Ray is not merely an abusive drunk; he is a horrible bastard, always prone to violent outbursts. When his wife hangs out with a casual male acquaintance, he suspects that she may be having an affair and damn near kills her.
Ray Winstone delivers a powerhouse performance in the role of Ray, a working-class man who loves his family, especially his daughter. But this man has demons. Demons that are so numerous and deep, they cannot be repressed. He can be a likeable, laid-back guy, like everyone else.
But we see that without serious provocation, he instantly becomes raving and homicidal. A side that most movies (and people) tend to shy away from. He will make your blood run cold and near the end, make you cry.
Kathy Burke, best known for her role on â€œAbsolutely Fabulousâ€ takes an enthralling dramatic turns as Valerie, Rayâ€™s wife whoâ€™s sole purpose seems to be to keep the family strung together while putting up with her husbandâ€™s monstrous outbursts, almost sadomasochistic ally. This is an unforgettable performance.
Whenever thereâ€™s someone like Ray, there's almost always someone like Mark. Mark is sort of a sidekick or cheerleader for Ray and his violently domestic antics. He seems to be something of a drama queen, hitching his trailer up to the pain in Ray's life. It perhaps gives him an excuse to explode and go ape-s**t the way he does. It's mentioned at one point that Mark himself was worked over by Ray's father---maybe this explains the tie that bond these two.
Jamie Forman is effective as Ray's little right-hand man. Apparently, Forman himself is the son of a real-life legendary London gangster who caused mayhem in the '60's.
There are scenes where he shows the true symptoms of a violent criminal. I wonder... is the caustic streak of the father burning through the son? Jamie, unlike his old man has apparently chosen a more legal profession. If so, kudos for him.
Is he just a great actor? Jamie may actually have some demons himself that he's trying to release.
And while Ray may be the black sheep of this family, all that really means is he's the blackest of the black. No one here walks on water. Valerie smokes and drinks despite knowing full-well she's pregnant. No one around her really speaks up in protest about her indirect poisoning of her child.
Valerie's little brother, Billy is a severe heroin addict. Despite the fact that he's occasionally allowed to sleep over at Ray and Valerie's, Ray even feeds him and gives him a banknote here and there, Billy steals a score of dope from their flat.
You can only imagine how Ray takes to this. Billy is scorned, but although he is cast out, he still stays with his side of the family and even retaliates against Ray, stealing an irreplaceable family heirloom.
After this, Billy is not really in trouble. He is all but dead.
Billy is a severe junkie and spends a lot of time with his friends. And since Billy is a junkie, there's only one kind of clique of friends he can afford: more junkies.
One of his pals, Danny is one of the movie's strangest characters. Danny is literally covered from head-to-toe with tattoos and body-piercing. He defines the term "body art." His whole body is like a big collage explosion.
But he's not the one-dimensional freak/weirdo/thug we'd expect just by getting a quick glance at him. He shows compassion and even sweetness at time like all the other characters, even Ray.
Nearly everyone drinks and smokes. Nearly everyone says "f**k" and "c**t" on a far more-than-regular basis. And their endless stream of profanity and brutal violent mistreatment of one another is like a sad testimony to how tragically pathetic they are.
You can almost hear the violins playing on the soundtrack to each of their lives. They are the victims of their life, their family, their environment, each other and themselves.
Oldman films using the now-traditional and all-too-common (but at the time, novel) hand-held camera technique and 16mm film, thus giving "Nil By Mouth" not the look of a polished, slick and lavish film, but raw, unkempt footage of very real life.
The movie looks like a true documentary, the herky-jerky camerawork makes it look as if we're seeing everything from our own P.O.V. As if we're "there, in the heat of the moment."
And we can't help but think about the little five-year old daughter and the unborn second child of Ray and Val, how their parents impact will undoubtedly shape them. It is an endless, vicious cycle of evil that shows no signs of breaking. And it is running rampantly throughout the world.
This is just one of those movies thatâ€¦ after itâ€™s over, you want to do somethingâ€¦ something to make things better.
LITTLE TRIVIAL NOTES ON "NIL BY MOUTH":
Unless you're somewhere in the European climate or at least Australian, you'd best hit "closed captioning" or "subtitles" if you want to understand so much as a damn line of dialouge. The thick cockney accents are almost indecipherable. They're so thick, you could choke on them. For me, it was almost like hearing morse code. The characters might as well have been speaking Chinese.
The title comes stems from a medical instruction in the hospital not to give a patient food or drink as they're about to go into surgery. The connection in that this movie makes with that title is poetically heart-breaking, like the rest of the film.
----With Open Arms and An Open Mouth, Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
Well-played, well-written look at the bottom rung on society--salesman. Real-estate, exactly.
Yes, it's a "photographed play." Like just about every other play adaptation to the big screen... but it's so well done, you don't care. Like "The Odd Couple" or... "Lost In Yonkers..."
The actors thankfully move outside the office a bit (outside the building, in cars, phone booths, restaurants... and at one point, over to someone's house)
This movie could have been called "Life of A Salesman." Men who dedicate their lives to selling real estate. Land and so forth. It's not as easy and as coast-worthy as it all seems.
God, what a racket. These people are all so cynical, bitter and desperate. They're claustrophobic and turning on each other. Their whole source of income and life rely on these little cards. "Leads." Little cards with names, numbers and addresses of people who want to buy land. But some of them are so old...
A red-hot salesman from downtown (Alec Baldwin, in a role written especially for him) comes down to motivate, drill and berate everyone into bringing their numbers up. When another salesman makes the mistake of protesting against all the abuse and calling Blake on his rant, Blake decides to put him in his place.
He flashes his watch. He shows off his car. "I made $970,000 last year. How much you make? Mitch & Murray asked me to come down. To help get the numbers up. As a favor. I told them that the real favor would be to take my advice and fire you. Because a loser is a loser."
Then Baldwin shows the 'Glengarry Glen' leads. He holds them and shows them off to the other salesman like he's holding the royal crown jewels. The hope diamond. The holiest of holy grails. Well, to these guys... they are. Baldwin remarks smugly, "These are the new leads. These are the Glengarry leads. To you, these are gold... and you don't get them. Why? Because to give them to you is just throwing them away." I like when Ed Harris starts to protest of this guy's dressing-down and Baldwin snaps back. He shows no mercy. Drills right through him. This is some of the best Baldwin has ever done.
"You see this watch? You see this watch? That watch costs more than you car. I made $970,000 last year. How much you make? You see pal, that's who I am, and you're nothing." He goes on and on, but I won't spoil it here.
Then he FINALLY drops the bombshell. "We're adding a little something to this month's sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired."
And there are more than three salesman in the office. One way or another, a lot is going to be trimmed. Not necessarily fat. Just... trimmed. A lot. To save money.
The characters are sharply drawn and in a story that is intertwined and sown together with skill and surprise. The all-star cast does the best with Mamet's angry, fierce and realistic speak (the adaptation is by Mamet himself, from his Pulitzer-Prize winning play). Pacino is (as always, blistering) as the star salesman who's landed the top of the board with his fresh catch James Linsk (Alan Arkin).
Ed Harris as Dave Moss is good as an angry, self-righteous salesman who's just such a jerk. An arrogant S.O.B. A great moment is when someone finally deflates him. Pops the big bag of hot air. Shows him to be scared and insecure underneath it all. His repeated cries of "F-ck you!" just reveal how truly desperate and insecure he truly is...
The buttoned-down office manager John Williamson (Kevin Spacey) who's "by the books to the core" and has never been out there, selling it, in the sh*t a day in his life. He's just a company man. "A secretary... and white bread" as some of the salesman in the office call him.
But the true breadwinner is the touching elderly Jack Lemmon as Sheldon "The Machine" Levene. Once the office golden boy, he was ahead and selling big week after week after week... reigning the very top of the board. The owners used to say things like "That car, that trip to Bermuda... you bought that for me..." Now he just can't sell. He sounds so grandfatherly and princely on the phone... you want to trust him so much. He's like Santa Claus.
But Shelley cannot find anyone who wants to buy. All the name and address cards ("leads," they're called) are older than Lemmon. Many have moved on and found better service elsewhere. The machine is longer up and running and Lemmon does a magnificent job of painting him a portrait of a burned-out star. A has-been. It's painful to look into those big sad dog-eyes of his...
He at one point goes to the house of someone who just doesn't want to buy. That's understandable, isn't it? Hey, how many times have you met a salesman who just won't get it. But Shelley's desperate. He bargains. He pleads. He drops his price. No sale. His heart seems to be breaking when...
There are many a great moment in "GGL." Where Baldwin drills the troops, when Harris is hoisted on his own petard, when Lemmon works his old time magic with potential customers... and when a salesman pulls a hustling con on a customer... all to have one misunderstanding--a split second blow the deal.
It would be unfair to go on with how the rest plays out. Suffice to say that it is worth watching again and again and again. The whole movie. It's a hard-boiled classic. Look for it wherever you can.
Ask for it by name... "Glengarry Glen Ross."
--For The Working Man, Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
"COONSKIN" is a film, by the one and only Ralph Bakshi, is reportedly a satricial indictment of blaxploitation films and negative black stereotypes, as well as a look at life black in modern America (modern for the day, I mean--1975). Paramount dropped it like a hot potato that just burst into flame.
Since "political correctness" is very enforced in this country to the point of fascism--freedom of speech is being blacked-out of the Bill of Rights as I write this... the makers have re-dubbed the movie "Street Fight." It's a more family-friendly inoffensive title, yes.
Sadly, it's almost misleading as to what the film is all about. With the original "Coonskin" moniker, at least the movie makes good on it's threat.
But this is a Bakshi film, contraversal, thrilling, and a must-see almost by definition alone. Not just another random "shock-jock" of a movie which tries to shock for the sake of shock. It's by Ralph Bakshi. Anyone who knows the name knows that if HE made a movie, he has something big to say...
Although it's roots are based in cheap blaxploitation, "Street Fight" isn't just another campy knock-off of mainstream white film or any kind of throwaway flick. "Street Fight" wants to be more. It aims it's sights higher and fries some much bigger fish.
The movie doesn't just poke fun at the genre. Nor does it just indict black people, but actually seems to show love, beauty and heart in the strangest places.
"Street Fight" tells a story out of some convicts awaiting a jail-break. The fact that it's even possible to break out of a prison in the "Street Fight" world alone makes it old-fashioned.
One of the inmates tells a story about a trio of black brothers in Harlem named Brother Bear, Brother Rabbit, Preacher Fox who want respect and a piece of the action and are willing to get it by any means nessicary. The Italian mob is running all the real action.
A lot of the film is inspired by, paralleled and patterned after Walt Disney's most controversial film "Song of the South," which hasn't been released uncut in the U.S. due to political correctness and activists who still look at this as a bigger blunder than the 1992 disasterous "Newsies" musical. "Song of the South" make box-office return, even got a Special Oscar. But most of Disney Corp. still looks back on that one with shame. And as racially charged as that movie was, Bakshi takes it several quantum leaps farther... Which is exactly what he should do, what he's best at...
Big name black musicians star: Barry White and Scatman Crothers, as well as Charles Gordone, the first black playwright to take home the Pulitzer. Something big is happening here obviously.
The movie plays out like a descent into this world, this side of the racial divide. From an angry, hip, deep, soulful black man with a hate in his heart and a gun in his hand.
Bakshi's films never know the meaning of the word "subtlety." This one looks like it's never even heard of the word. But maybe a subject like this needs extremism. Real sledgehammer satire. Some subjects can't be tackled gently.
Bakshi is god dammed merciless. Here, no member or minority of the Harlem scene appears unscathed.
The characters here are "animated" to "real" all depending on what the mood and situation are. The animated characters and the human ones all share the same reality and are meant to be taken just as literally.
Bakshi never just shows ugly caricatures just for shock value. He always has something to say. Nor is blackface is gratutiously. Here, unlike in Spike Lee's "Bamboozled," he seems to be using it to try and really say something.
Like 99.9% of all of Bakshi's films, this one incorporates animation and live-action. Usually at the same time. Bakshki isn't just being gimmicky here. All of this technique is all intertwined, meshing together while saying something.
Somehow, this one feels inevitably dated. Many of these types of films (Bakshi's included) are very topical, very spur of the moment. They reflect the certain trend for the day, but looking back of them years later, there's just an unmistakable feeling of nostalgia (as well as timeless truth).
Even though the music, clothes, slang and the city clearly looks like photos that belong in a time capsule, the attitude, the spirit and the heart remain the same no matter era. Anyone who's really seen the movies, the state of things and has been in company of the people know what I'm talking about.
Even some of the of the black characters are a bunny (jungle-bunny), a big ol' bear and a fox. One of the most sour and unsavory racist characters is a dirty Harlem cop who's hot on the trail of these
"n----ers" after the death of a cop. But for him, it's not just business. Nor is it for the rest of the brothers who wear the shield. It's just pure sadistic racist pleasure of hurting blacks.
The sequence involving the Godfather and his lady is one of the most moving pieces in the whole film, of which there are many. It plays out like an opera or a ballet.
The promo line: WARNING: "This film offends everybody!" This is not just hype. Proceed with extreme caution.
--In The Name of Bakshi and The Now "African-American" Folk, Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
ONCE-time "KID-IN-THE-HALL" Bruce McCulloch has one good-as-gold nugget of an idea here. 'Cause speaking from personal first-hand experience, the dog park is one special, magical place. The true place for any dog, dog owner and dog lover.
The dogs are given some amount of room to roam and socialize, good or bad. And so are their owners.
And you know.... movies are filmed all the time in Canada, American movies even! For the sake of wide roaming space and less cost. There are Canadian movies... made in Canada. But so very, very few.... But... this does.
Ah, at last! A movie shot in Toronto that takes place in Toronto. In Canada, even.
Bruce McCulloch has been a of the Canadian talent-troupe "The Kids In The Hall," helping define the term "big-name popular Canadian humor." He's cut out two very inspired albums. He made sketch comedy to be what it is in his native country. He's done several big-selling one man shows.
And here, he makes his debut as a filmmaker. In this pittance-budgeted, largely self-reliant feature. Here, he's screenwriter, director and co-star telling a story that's very near, dear and personal to his heart. In the tradition of such as "Joe the King," "Nil By Mouth," "The Kid & I" and "Hollywood Shuffle." Bruce has made short films. Can he hold his own for 80 minutes?
Well, not here at least.
Bruce's "Dog Park" wants to be a relationship comedy about people and their desire to just love and be loved. And they begin smothering their dogs when they just can't to seem to connect with their fellow man.
"Dog Park" tells us a tale, or rather a shaggy dog story of several different people who are having trouble finding love, or keeping it.
Andy is a 30-something who writes classified ads. His girlfriend has moved out, left him and taken the dog with her. She's dating a flashy guy who, looking at his hair--you hope he's in a band.
After the break-up, Andy goes back and rather than try to put his life back in order, looks to just hook up with someone new. This is what he's been doing his whole life. He meets a new woman, she's likewise just been dumped--and is very vulnerable and defensive. With some drinks in 'em, they go back to her place and wind up doing more than they both should.
Andy's smitten. The woman--Lorna is embarrassed. She blows him off. He looks elsewhere. She's always alone 'cause love doesn't like her. He's always with someone who's a stranger to him 'cause he needs the company. Andy and Lorna's ex's are now dating each other. Huh. Toronto is a small town.
Andy and Lorna clearly belong together. But do we pine for them as they do for one another?
Well, I didn't. I wasn't on edge for this love connection. There is no real reason for us to root for him or her. Or believe in them as anything. They never even comes across as any kind of real character.
I like Luke Wilson, seriously. He has the look and charm of a love interest, but this role poisons him. He has that young modern Jimmy Stewart way about him, but no Frank Capra director way has tossed any work his way.
The man's boyish charm to spare, but that's not enough to help as Andy is less interesting as plain white bread. Not terribly charismatic, or especially witty. And in a romantic comedy, that's dead-serious.
Poor Andy, he's a dull droopy hangdog. He's just broken up with someone. He's the "nice guy who gets taken advantage of." And worst of all, he's given nothing of interest to say or to really do. But he's so boring and without merit, why get behind him or this movie? But... the same can be said of a lot of these people. And their dogs.
Henstridge--capable of acting. But you'd not know it from looking at this. She's so bad here, she comes across as the definitive example of the belief that models cannot act and should never even try. Henstridge's Lorna--so bland, without personality; if not for Henstridge's beauty, she would just disintegrate from the screen.
God Help us all, Natasha's character--even less interesting than Wilson's.
Other Canadian folk like Harland Williams isn't anything special and is especially awful. He plays the neo-weirdo Lorna goes out with after she reaches that point when a woman gets so lonely and dying from cabin-fever, she rushes to go out with the first guy she sees. But after the date... he calls her back with a message she desperately, desperately needs.
But yes, Bruce and co. I agree wholly that Andy 'n' Lorna are made for each one another. These two, so boring--without any personality or interest--that you'd have to go the morgue to find people who are less alive. These two were made for each other. Two big fat empty non-existent zeroes.
Janeane Garofolo pretty much just phones in the stock-type Janeane Garofolo role, knowledgeable about relationships and life with the usual sardonic wit. Except her usual genuine humor here is gone, thanks to her un-character and lines due to the "script" courtesy of McCulloch. She might have been better cast in the Lorna role. But no, Janeane has too much of a pulse.
Bruce actually gives himself a substantial supporting role as the "his" of a pathologically married "His and Hers" couple with Garofolo. She still seems almost human, almost possible. She seems to persevere through this incompetence.
He's always been a bad actor, but in his skits, it's easier to forgive. And with this unfinished first draft of a script and butterfingers monotone direction, all the actors more or less sink. These actors can act. But his movie manages to convince you they can't. So really, Bruce's horrible thespian attempts actually fit right in.
They're all good actors and we know they can do better--we've seen it. But they're all bound by rough draft outline and direction that could have done better by a first-year film student at a community college.
Every ounce of blame goes to the man who half-conceived this big ball of half-considered, unfunny awkwardness-- McCulloch. The characters, duller than dullest. Nearly every single line of dialogue and scene feels awkward and mishandled.
Not one person in this whole damn thing... comes off as believable. Or really all that insightful.
All throughout, McCulloch seems to lack the ability to write a decent romantic scene, a full-fledged written character or a line of dialouge that hears well. When it comes to writing personally, he should well-stick to skits.
Or maybe just checks--if any of them are any good. Better than this thing.
"Dog Park" has no mood to it. Every scene is badly staged. It was so bad, I damn near expected this thing to have a laugh track.
While many of these types exist out there in the world (the sad-sack jilted lover, the cynical sage advisors, the seemingly perfect couple, the superficial couple, the weird oddball, the nypho and the love-scorn pessimist), the movie takes these stock-types and injects no humanity into them whatsoever. No one feels authentic, or even interesting.
Over the years, McCulloch has developed one tin cauliflower ear for dialogue. It seems at times like somewhere between a rough draft and someone random guy off the street trying to improv movie scenes half-heartedly.
Well, this is a Canadian-based film. Maybe the humor just doesn't travel well.
As been said by pretty much every other on the planet who saw this, the only performance, character and scene of fellow "Kids In The Hall" brethren Mark McKinney as Dr. Cavan, an insightful and bizarre dog psychiatrist who is fluent in dog tongue. There's even a brilliant monologue about how and why people treat their pets like their children and where canines truly do and should stand in the natural order of things.
Some sparse insights here and there, but nothing too entertaining. Which could be said about the movie overall. There's just no reason to make a real effort. No special insights about dating, relationships, nature--human or canine. Lacking interesting people, philosophies about relationships or anything resembling a good movie-going experience.
Go to your own local dog park with your dog, make small talk with your own local dog wielding folk, your own friends at work and at the end of day, rent something like "The Truth About Cats and Dogs" or a "Lassie" movie.
Now if you'll excuse me, as I write this, it's 7:30 on the dot. The dogs are at the door, with Christmas morning-like anticipation. Tails wagging, eyes fixated on the door. Why?
It's time for our evening constitutional, the high point of our day. Why?
Why, as we dog owners know, the local dog park is a treat. They're like late-night singles night clubs up in the city after hours. Anything goes, and often does...
--A Long-Time, Long-Term, Life-Long Dog-Lover, Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
Well... what is there?
Gee... What can I say?
What can be said that hasn't been said a zillion times about this movie before? By film critics, film buffs, the other user posters on IMDb and every other person who saw this one?
But you know what? I'm not here to really promote this movie, or analyze it... I'm here to write my love letter for it. We're all here to share our movie-going experiences, aren't we? Well, f*ck it, here's mine.
I still remember being a little prepubescent boy sitting in the theater watching this movie, totally amazed and astounded by what I saw. Seeing this wacky cartoons going through a routine Tom-and-Jerry-type episode... and then... it was amazing how these movie actually tricked you, convinced you to believe that human and cartoons can exist in the same universe and dimension of reality.
There are many a great pleasures and moments in this movie, one of them is the duet at a "toon" night club called "The Ink & Paint Club" where Eddie goes to get information about Roger's wife, and the opening act is a dueling duet on the piano featuring two great legends, Daffy Duck and Donald Duck (I doubt there's any biological relation there) together at last. Why did it take so long for these two to get together? Well, they are rival entertainers for rival studios, so...
But of course, the dueling duet ends in an all-out war. Come on, we both know the hatchet wasn't going to stay buried very long.
The whole movie is worth renting just to see the two great legends, Daffy and Donald, put their differences aside for one memorable dueling piano duet ALONE.
"Roger Rabbit" pioneered not only animation and film-making style, but acting, writing, directing and a meshing together of different genres.
Imagination, luck, brilliance, skill... it's all been blended so perfectly here... just like the animation and live-action.
Funny, sharp, satirical, smart, thrilling, skillful, bright, bold, hard-boiled, colorful... at even at times, a little scary.
It one three Oscars, not to mention an Honorary Award for it's Technical Advancements.
Hell, it deserved every single Oscar it got! And a few it didn't. It should've won every single Oscar that year. Maybe some from others...
God, you know, I still remember finding my little Rescue Ranger toy in my pocket and running in back-and-forth through my fingers... I remember being very careful not to loose it as I watched this. And it was hard, damn it, all of what was going up there on the screen.
There's the best of the everything here. Everyone should see it, pure and simple. It's a movie... for pretty much everybody. A masterpiece in more ways than one.
So help me God, I cannot think of a better actor for the role of the classic, hard-boiled, rock-bottom, not-too-smooth P.I. than Bob Hoskins. I don't think he's ever played a better role in his whole life. He seems to be a strange collision of Sam Spade and W.C. Fields, in some strange way.
Christopher Lloyd proves yet again (as he does in all his roles) that he's one of the most underrated actors in the business. He's known for playing the bizarre, the crazy, the wired. But his ability to play villains, particularly more sedate and low-key ones, is overlooked so much, it's grounds for a discrimination lawsuit.
Kathleen Turner is damn perfect as Roger's Mrs; especially considering that all she does here is a voice.
"Roger Rabbit" pioneered not only animation and film-making style, but acting, writing, directing and a meshing together of different genres. Literature purists and scholars (yes, I mean geeks) will note that this movie is adapted from a novel by Gary K. Wolf, who specializes in science-fiction.
For those of you who are enamored with this movie and just learning this, are actively considering dropping this review right this instant and running to your nearest library and bookstore to pick up a copy to read as an addition to the movie or just out of curiosity, I should warn you that the movie is completely unfaithful to the novel.
Oh, both are clever and well-written spoofs of the whole "hard-boiled private-detective mystery noir genre," but the two are so completely different, in writing-style, character dialouge, plot, theme, even ending, you wonder why they even bothered to get Wolf's permission and pay him a royalty. Gee, usually these Hollywood types are a little more snaky and know how to exploit all these loopholes.
You've no doubt heard the old saying, "You can't please everyone, so don't even bother." Because when you try, you wind up ultimately pleasing no one. Least of all, yourself. It's strange, this movie seems like an exception to that one little rule. I mean, I know there's an exception to every rule, but this is one you're sure is completely iron-clad. This is a movie for everyone. This is a movie that will please everyone. And you know what else? It never got the credit for that. Think about what a big train-wreck this movie could have been. How many things could have gone wrong.
How many years Disney and Warner have been at war, all this time, money for a experiment that could have gone worse than than the killer bees and the atomic bomb. And yet, glory be, it didn't. We all live for days like this, filmmakers, film critics... and film lovers.
The best part? After it was all over... Roger and Baby Herman went on to star in several of their own cartoon shorts before the movie for real ("Dick Tracy" and "Honey, I Shrunk The Kids").
Good for them.
--Looking Forword To Roger's Next Film, Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
Now here is a movie that wants to be something successful by combining everything successful.
"Kissing A Fool" wants to be too many things. Can you mix successful ingredients and get the best of every world? "Kissing..." tries to be a '40's-style romantic comedy, a modern sex comedy and a sit-com at the same time.
Co-writer/Director Doug Ellin is a friend of Schwimmer's and Schwimmer has gone on and on about exactly how great it feels to shed his Ross-image and play the complete anti-Ross.
Jason Lee stars as Jay Murphy, a sensitive nice guy who's a romance novelist and is recovering from his latest breakup with a model named Natasha (played by TV's "Weird Science" Vanessa Angel). He has a sweet boy-next-door demeanor about him and his real problem is he's too nice and sensitive for his own good.
The worst part about being sensitive is that the world is so full of
sh*t and garbage, people are such *ssholes that your feelings get hurt too often, too easy, too much. Better to be as cruel as the world or even more so and give worse than you get.
Believe me, I know of what I speak of.
David Schwimmer co-stars as Jay's best friend Max Abbitt, a sportscaster who's a womanizer who plays the field more than the teams reports on. A total creep and always with a dumb expression of his face, a self-satisfied drawl and his own cool-guy salutation: "What' up?" Always a toothpick and a "too cool" drawl dangling from his lip.
Mili Avital is unfortunately given the second-to-weakest developed character in the whole film. She's sweet, perky and photogenic... but nothing else, really. She and Lee could have some great chemistry if only the film allowed it. But this movie is written in a way that's so made-to-order, it's embarrassing.
Bonnie Hunt plays the narrator that is publishing Lee's book. She's also the narrator. Why does this movie need a narrator? The narration actually manages to make the movie even less suspenseful, if that's possible.
And Vanessa Angel, who broke through in TV's "Weird Science" and almost stole "Kingpin," is given the least interesting character. She plays a model and Jay's heartless ex-girlfriend who has dumped him and left him a pathetic neurotic mess. Hers is not a character, but a plot device. The heartless b---h who is so cruel and horrible to the sweet-hearted hero so more of our sympathy goes to him. I groaned at her scenes.
The movie's dialouge is not always plot-driven or cutesy-poo, like most romantic comedies are (although there are sometimes when it is).
Most of the script is written in an observational sit-com kind of way. Like "Seinfeld" or "Mad About You" (or yes, even "Friends"). But the dramatic/romantic scenes are embarrassingly maudlin.
Is it just me or has the entire cast of "Friends" been in movies that were all trying to mimic Kevin Smith's highmark rom-com "Chasing Amy?"
* The Object of My Affection
* Kissing A Fool
* Three To Tango
Smith's groundbreaking romantic comedy "Chasing Amy" was revolutionary, insightful... and made big waves for Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, Lee and Smith himself. A romantic comedy, a sex comedy and a relationship story. Not merely a love story, but a life story.
Lately, Hollywood has been trying to make Smith-like slick Hollywood movies. So far, they failed terribly. Smith's movies are great because they are daring and avoid formulas. And they master the art of sparkling conversation. This film does neither.
Nor did any of the other Kevin Smith-wannabes.
Lee's character has been through the ringer and things are looking bleaker. I really liked him here and felt for him. And identified with him more than I wanted to.
I knew guys like Max in high school, but in the outside world? Who knows? I was kind of like the Lee character myself. In a way, I still am. Too sensitive. Too easily vulnerable. Such a whipping boy. I did understand what Jay meant when he said, "You know, I wish I had your heart. Then I wouldn't have spent so many sleepless nights...."
The plot seems cruel and creepy, yet too sit-com-like at the same time. "Test my fiancée''s fidelity?" Almost seems like a sick ploy to throw Jay & Samantha together, doesn't it?
Oh wait, it is...
Anyone who has ever seen a movie will know what the ending will be. It's almost like waiting for the coyote to fall off the cliff.
Schwimmer's Max Abbit character seems to dumb and dull and annoying to be interesting. He must be sick of playing the same type ("The Pallbearer," "Six Days, Seven Nights" and TV's "Friends"), but this movie will do nothing for him. Still, at least he tried.
I kept (back in 1999 when I first saw this movie) seeing a mad Ross trying to be bad whenever I looked at him, but now looking back on it and putting Ross out of my head (I really dislike the show anyway), Schwimmer does an effective job... however he doesn't really have dimensions and depth.
He's just not an interesting womanizer. Apparently, a lot of Schwimmer fans felt confused by his role here.
It feels like Schwimmer wants to play someone completely different without risking losing his hard-core audience.
Schwimmer does do a much better job breaking typecasting in the forgettable "Since You've Been Gone" and the memorable "Band of Brothers."
MEMO TO Hollywood: If you're gonna keep making bad Kevin Smith-knockoffs, at lest quit putting "Friends" actors in them.
--Forget This Attempt At Romance and Comedy, Dane Youssef