by Dane Youssef
"Tired of brainless, star vehicle, rom-com candy-coated Hollywood crap? So am I! And here's why!"
The premise of "America's Sweethearts" sets us up for an inspired, lacerating, in-your-face send-up of Hollywood and silly rom-com star vehicles. Then it turns into one of them. Like a young mind full of bright ideas, originality and vision, it sells out and becomes the very type of evil it was speaking out against.
Although John Cusack isn't as great as he certainly used to be, you could always count on him to sign up for only the highest-caliber projects. But this shows strong signs of a dry spell. I'm guessing the flowing river of scripts sent to him is beginning to run dry.
Ever since Lloyd Dobbler in "Say Anything," Cusack has pretty much been type-casted into playing the same role: The smart, calculated, neurotic and love-sick guy who has just been dumped by the love of his life (Better Off Dead, Being John Malkovich, High Fidelity), and seems too smart and adult for his age). Cusack has always seemed so advanced for his age, but now he seems to have grown into his age and now, he's just another routine pedestrian actor.
Now I enjoy Crystal in his movies (although his steady-fire Jewish borscht-belt shtick is wearing thin). And here he does his usual bit here as a fluent veteran c**k-and-bull, scam artist, fast-talking PR agent. This is the role Crystal was born to play. And he's been playing it since he was born.
But the movie (which was co-written and co-produced by Crystal) has to make Crystal into a sweetheart. Billy Crystal has always been more of a Borscht-Belt comedian than an actor, which is why he always plays himself in any movie he does, and here he does his usual Oscar-night banter as the PR Lee Phillips who flashes a showbiz smile and orchestrates at lot of routine Hollywood BS and cover-ups.
Catherine Zeta-Jones does a good job doing a stereotype caricature of a rich, spoiled, over-rated, over-egotistical mega-movie-star bitch who's obviously supposed to remind us of Julia Roberts. Reportedly, the Gwen Harrison role was offered to Julia Roberts, but she turned it down out of fear that people would think that was the real Julia Roberts. Hmmmmm.....
Yes, you have to admit--people are very gullible and easily leaden. They need to believe that this unnaturally perfect life exists. Otherwise, what would their escape from the dreary and depressing, soul-and-bone crushing society be? If anyone ever believe Roberts to be a over-egotistical-pumped-up monster like Gwen in this movie.... her fan-base would dry-up and so would her career.
With all the flavor-of-the-month celebrities out there, Roberts is one of the few, precious to have any real staying power. Don't rock the boat, Jules. The only actress I could imagine could pull the villainous heartless bitch movie-starlet off as good as Roberts would be Amanda Peet, who's sort of become a staple of weird, bizarre, off-kilter romantic comedies ("The Whole Nine Yards," "Saving Silverman" and "Whipped"). Maybe she would have been better than Zeta-Jones. Perhaps it would have been best to not sign Roberts up, as she seems unbelievable as a wall-flower-turned-blossomed rose.
But there is an entire mainstream religion of mindless moronic lemmings who would leap off a cliff onto jagged rocks down below if anyone like Roberts had a life that was anything but wine and roses... and red-carpet Oscar-night bliss. Christopher Walken can always, always take a nothing movie... and suddenly make it all seem worth-while. And he actually manages to nearly resurrect this thing back from the dead as the Oscar-winning borderline psychotic-director Hal Weidmann (who seems to echo Kubrick).
Seth Green, usually a fiery actor, like everyone else, is dampened here. I remember thinking how much better this damn movie would be if lived up to all to the foreplay. The flick opens brilliantly. We're promised a satirical anti-dote to the brainless, bland, formulaic crap that Hollywood is dispensing. And they give us more of it. Practically, a love letter to it. We get screwed. We feel more cheated than Eddie. We're expecting some clever, well-written, merciless biting satire against Hollywood, mindless rom-coms with big-name stars in them, the film critics and journalists, and the fans who watch this garbage... And what do we get? Not an assault on the idiocy, but more of the idiocy itself. A golf ball hitting someone in the head, someone jamming a phone into a chair, a dog sniffing at someone's crotch, a guy falling onto a cactus crotch-first, fat people, etc.
Cheap sit-com crap you can see on the ABC Wedensday night family line-up or on any other sitcom on regular network television anytime. I kept asking myself: How could such talented people with such an inspired, brilliant premise be so bad... and boring? I went to"box office & business" on IMDb and got my answer: The film's budget was an estimated $48,000,000. It grossed a whopping $93,607,673, and that's just in the US. Is it just me, or is everyone is this cast wearing a leather jacket? Actually, Zeta-Jones wears leather pants in one scene and so does Billy. Was there some kind of dress code on the set? How many cows were slain for this? How much time, talent and resource was wasted?
SPECIAL NOTE: This death-threat of a review has more interesting writing than anything that occurred in "America's Sweethearts."
--Still Hoping To Find Something Worthwhile in Tinseltown, Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
DO YOU LIKE SCARY MOVIES? NO, NOT ANYMORE.
"Scary Movie 3" marks the end of an era. The first was a funny romp, worthy of the Zuckers (and Abrhams) and the Farrelys.
The entire Wayans clan coming together, roasting popular movies like franks on a bonfire. Gay, s**t, d**k, pee, cum and r*tard jokes galore. It was near brilliant.
The best part of it was that it was a collage of stupidity, cleverness, goofiness, vulgarity and pop culture, like the Wayans' "In Living Color," the first "Scary Movie" proves that the Wayans' are a tribe of talent.
The second in the series, "Scary Movie 2" (after promising there would be no sequel-- Marlon was quoted as saying, "We sold out. The offered us money and we jumped at the chance"), opened with a premise so brilliant and so hilarious, the movie could never live it down.
The ingenious opening on "The Exorcist" before the opening credits with James Woods and Andy Richter was a legendary moment in comedy. "The Exorcist" has been spoofed countless times before (many, many times before... but I can honestly say, never this well. The way it's written, the way it's directed, the way it's played, the way it's planned... this movie achieves some kind of feat for building so much out of such an over-worked premise. That one opening sequence almost makes the movie at least worth renting.
"Scary Movie 3" is largely a fault of the studio. The house has been brought down, the curtain calls have been had... but Miramax just won't find a new franchise. It's just so sad. Everything, EVERYTHING that was once good and pure is no long gone. Even the Wayans themselves. Zucker is just back doing what he does best... or maybe just often. This is his invention and no one does it better than him, but maybe the problem is the machine-gun spoof (called so because jokes fire on automatic like out of an automatic gun) has just been run into the ground. Maybe the problem is that this movie just wants to goof and imitate and and laugh to itself whereas the original "Scary Movie" (and a lot of Zucker's earlier stuff) was directly there to attack.
You can tell from the ads alone that this will not be a funny movie. Everyone steps up, references big hits and then makes fun. Not in an attacking sort of way, but just acts goofy and silly. They're all just having fun, not making fun.
And because it's directly from the co-inventor of this entire genre, he brings his own people to the table. Leslie Neilsen, Jenny McCarthy and many of the instruments that he used since he started out.
You know, it's so funny and strange. MAD magazine can do this forever. SNL... well, USED to be able to do this, but it now it seems like SNL should close down itself. For some reason, some spoof artists can just keep going till' the drop. Others should just cash in their chips and quit while they're ahead. No sense in beating a single note together.
The problem with "Scary Movie 3" is the same thing that's wrong with Miramax and perhaps even David Zucker. These people don't seem to realize it's time to move on. That it's over. They're beating a dead horse. Trying to milk a dead cow. The Wayans have moved on. Zucker, Miramax and we should, too.
I look foreword to their next endeavors in art and life, whatever they may be. Their stretching, but this is like an old once-hipster jacket that has been worn down to a few threads.
Enough already. Remember when the Itallion Stallion didn't know when to throw in the towel.
"Do you like 'Scary Movies?'"
SPECIAL NOTE: Legendary screenwriter Kevin Smith, rumored to be one of the finest scribes in all of Hollywood is credited with this screenplay. What a dent in the armor. He's rumored to be difficult to work with. Maybe he just works better alone. I hope he sticks to solo projects, this and "Coyote Ugly"... no wonder he doesn't work well with others.
by Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
"IF THIS IS THE COLLEGE EXPERIENCE... CONSIDER TRADE SCHOOL"
Roger Avary's "The Rules Of Attraction" is a look at the "experimentation" of college life. Alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide and sexual escapades.
That's not to say that the movie is all about--oh wait, it pretty much is. There are a few moments of outside "experimentation," but it is mostly an orgy party. This is the kind of film Avary is best at. He showed this with his style and energy in movies like "Killing Zoe" and "Pulp Fiction." He's been gone for about a decade working on this and has claimed that the "unfilmable" novels by Brett Eastern Ellis ("American Psycho" and "Less Than Zero") had been horrid adaptations because they strip EllisÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s storytelling style (told through accounts of multiple narrators giving their fuzzy testimonies).
In this new film, Avary tries to get that confused feeling down with different style techniques: rewind, fast-foreword, split-screen and multiple narratives.
It sometimes works and it sometimes doesn't. Perhaps this movie directed more like Christopher Nolan's "Following" and "Memento" and Steven Soderberg's "Full Frontal" instead of Fisher Steven's "Just A Kiss."
The performances are pretty strong, the best from James Van Der Beek ("Dawson's Creek," "Varsity Blues") playing the lecherous and sexually and neurotically charged Sean who's pastimes include anonymous sex and the use of every narcotic known to man. He has a creepy glare made famous from most Stanley Kubrick films and a sardonic and uncaring nature. An "emotional vampire" he calls himself.
Shannyn Sossamon plays a college student who has eyes for her boyfriend, Victor (Kip Pardue) and is saving her virginity for him. She looks at gruesome books about STD's and other vaginal diseases to keep herself out of having sex.
What Lauren doesn't know is that Victor is in Europe and perhaps having sex with with the entire Continent. He narrates a capsule summary of his incredible escapades and is one of the best sequences in the movie.
Poor Lauren. She plans to lose her virginity to Victor, but as we see in the movie in the opening, that doesn't quite pan out.
Ian Somerhalder, model and all-around pretty boy plays the now openly-gay Paul who has eyes for Sean and tries to get him to succumb to his side. In the original novel by Ellis, Sean is a bisexual who sleeps with Paul. In the film, the two are seen kissing and making out in Sean's room. But is it real or is it all in Paul's head? The split-screen makes it all so confusing.
Jessica Biel ("7th Heaven") plays Laura's promiscuous roommate who's libido is running non-stop and drug intake is piling up. She gets a nosebleed ("rusty pipes") and sleeps with the men important to Lauren.
Eric Stoltz, Faye Dunaway and Swoozie Kurtz play the only adults in the movie who are really no better than the kids. A bit of Mr. Avary's creative license kicks in here (Stoltz's foppish teacher, Mr. Lawson) was not in the original novel. He states he cannot deflower Ms. Hyde because he is married with children and she is an undergraduate.
But oral doesn't count, right Mr. President?
Avary's technique sometimes works with the opening's bungee-jumping narrative, as well as a split-screen shot approach showing how two characters on completely different paths walking along and minding their own business meet up at the same location. And once a character's shades come off, the shot completes--indicating love at first sight. Really nice, Rog.
And the back-packing trip to Europe with the mysterious Victor who hosts and stars in this orgy of FF>. Some characters are kinda fun, but it feels too much like Avary is indulging himself too much to dig a little deeper into these characters.
In Ellis'es book, they let us get inside the characters. Right into their heads in a way we did in "Memento." A more style like "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and insider feel like "Memento" I think would have been a better approach.
Still, Avary is a stylist first and foremost. He gave "PF" and "KZ" it's hyper-kinetic juice. So it's not a bad movie, not at all.
Still, it is commendable, if not a lot more. For a great inside feel of these characters heads, read EllisÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s novel. For a wicked orgy-rush film with a college backdrop, check out Avary's film.
"Rules of Attraction" is worth a look any way you cut it.
By the way, last I heard Avary was working on... Oh yeah, another Ellis novel.
Anyone out there know what Avary is up to now?
by Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
"LIKE A HISTORY LESSON... BUT NOT QUITE AS INFORMATIVE"
Many sequels suffer from repeating and rehashing the majority of the material from the original. Some suffer from not being enough like the original. Some are lucky and...
Sometimes movies are bad because they are simply moving at a slow pace with little to no interest or substance. Sometimes sequels just have too much to live up to.
This is an example of just about every bad quality I've mentioned. It doesn't outright stink and suck, nor does it leave you cross-eyed with perplexion or indifference, either. But it doesn't really inspire any particular feelings for you at all, really. Positive or negative.
"Gods and Generals" is a movie that might be perfect for recovering war veterans in trauma wards. A movie that moves on a quiet, comatose pace. "Gods and Generals," a prequel to the famed and magnificent "Gettysburg" has little or no energy. Everyone just appears to be back to set things up for "Gettysburg."
This whole movie is a 2 1/2 hour set-up for a punch line we've already seen---with nothing happening or really going on here.
Oh, I'm not saying it's horribly made. It's put together with skill---the whole look and sound of the civil war. It might be the kind of movie that would be shown in a history class.
It's complete with big-name actors like Jeff Daniels and Robert Duvall in full civil war garb and giving famous and poetic quotes as if they're striking a pose. They appear to be posing throughout the entire movie. It's a civil war re-enactment.
But they're just goofin' like any other group of men doing a civil war re-enactment.
There is one real battle sequence where everybody lines up and charges to die and to kill. The body count begins to pile up---like ANY war movie worth it's salt should.... but it doesn't capture the true stink and ugliness of war in a "Saving Private Ryan" or "Braveheart" sort of way, or even the original "Gettysburg."
Perhaps because all those were R-rated movies and this movie doesn't want to lose it's PG-13 movie, it's more about poetic stories and makes the civil war a backdrop for all this.
At least in my opinion, the actual problem with the fact this movie runs at the pace of a comatose snail. Still waters run deep? Not here.
The movie moves so slowly at times that these people seem to have started the civil war simply out of sheer boredom and so they could say thing that would become historic. This is part I to a III-part series ("Gettysburg" was part II). I look foreword to the next in the series.
"Gods and Generals" all felt like set-up where "Gettysburg" delivered the actual punch-line. I hope the final in the series (these are all adapted from books) doesn't just tie up loose ends.
Let's all hope, shall we?
On the film scale--every scale--"GODS AND GENERALS" rates as two stars out of four, 3.5 out of 10, a dozing viewer in his seat (that's the rating system from the Chicago Examiner"). Eh...
SPECIAL NOTE HERE: Matt Letscher, a really good actor ("Gettysburg," TV's "Good Morning, Miami" and "The Mask of Zorro") at least is given more to do than his nameless and bit character in the original movie--but it's still just not a good movie, I'm afraid.
by Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
"RALPH BAKSHI'S CLASSIC WITH A DIFFERENT MONIKER"
When adults-only animation pioneer Ralph Bakshi first made "Coonskin" in 1975, it created quite a storm--not for it's contraversy mind you, but for it's subject matter by people who hadn't even seen it. Bakshi had touched such a sore spot that the film was protested against by plenty of unseen protestors who had just hated the whole idea.
Since "political correctness" (another term for censorship) has just gotten worse over time, "Coonskin" was re-released on home video with the less touchy moniker "Street Fight"
So "Coon--" uh, "Street Fight" 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.
"Coonskin" 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 Itallian mob is running all the real action.
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 what fucking ear it is. 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 "dirty niggers" 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.
You have been warned...
by Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
"IF THEY OUTLAWED CHILD ABUSE AND THE SODOMY OF TODDLERS, THEY SHOULD OUTLAW THIS"
Here is a movie so wrong-headed, wrong-hearted, wrong-made... so worng, you'd think the old axiom of a broken clock that's right twice a day would prove. But nope. It doesn't. Not by a long shot.
One of my most depressing experiences as a child was seeing Rob Reiner's "North." In fact, as extensive internet research has shown me, it was a painful experience for many as children and stayed with him throughout adulthood.
One of the worst movies of the year. One of the worst movies of the decade. One of the worst movies ever made. One of the worst ever. And when I say "worst", I'm comparing it to thinks like the Black Plague, the Holocaust, World Hunger, AIDS and Leperocy.
Elijah Wood is a wonderboy who is constantly ignored by his parents despite his best intentions and efforts that make most parents beam like the sun with pride. He spends a lot of time feeling ignored and sits in a chair in a furniture store at the mall to think. He decides he deserves better parents than the ones he's got (who doesn't?) and divorces them.
His folks are comatose from shock, but who cares? He's already in search of better ones.
He travels all over the globe and finds surrogate folks which are not right for him. Not loving, caring, nuturing... or very funny or interesting.
His best friend from school is enthusiastic about the divorce and gets the word out to all parents that children deserve better and thing better change or else.
I was actually in physical pain watching how badly the film's plot is handled.
While it is a thrill to see Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus together as a married couple and action legend Bruce Willis in an easter bunny suit... believe me, it doesn't last. The bad outweighs the good. Oh, HOW the bad outweights the good.
The big-name celebrity bit-players are many: Dan Aykroyd, Reba McEntire, Jon Lovitz, Bruce Willis, Graham Greene, Abe Vigoda, Richard Belzer, Ben Stein, Alexander Godunov, Kelly McGillis, John Ritter, Scarlett Johansson, Lauren Tom and Alan Arkin. Films with a big-name cast doing walk-ons is kind of tricky. Often this leads to a bunch of actors embarassing themselves in bit throwaway roles for a quickie paycheck and "the sake of work." It all really depends on the film itself--the screenplay and the director.
When a film with such a high pedigree of actors and filmmaker, Mr. Rob Reiner, you have to wonder why this whole damn thing went so incredibly wrong. And then kept going. And going and going. I am reminded of the legendary quote, "Only those who dare to fail greatly, can achieve greatly." And just about all who flaunt this picture have achieved greatly at one time or another. So... there you go. The ying to the yang.
The result can be "Traffic" or "Gosford Park." And the result can be "Even Cowgirls Get The Blues" of "Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas."
You know, it's funny. When I first saw the trailer for "North," I thought to myself, "Wow. This looks like a good movie. I'm gonna see this one." And yes, the trailer damn well made this look like a good one. It just goes to show you... advertisements can make anything look appealing. Hey, remember "Babe: Pig In The City?" The ads didn't make the movie look like much. But the movie was... wow.
Hey, come to think of it-- I would like to advise to eveyone who was unfortunate enough to see any more of this one that what they used for the trailers (so much as a frame more) to go out and rent "Babe II." It's an ideal antidote.
Of course, you may need a few days of bed rest and antibiotics right after seeing "North," but after that... please... don't let this one put you off movies. Or any of the truly gifted people who were associated with this abomination.
Wood is one of the most talented actors ever to grace the business and the man seems unable to do a bad job on screen. Just check out "Radio Flyer" or " for evidence. But hey, like I need to tell you, right?
But while his acting is on-par with Brando, Guiness, Hopkins and Kilmer, not every movie to come his way compliments his talents. Just after the disastrous misfire "The Good Son," this one floated it's way into theaters like a chunky, nutty, crooked turd after a whole year of improper diet. Adding further insult to injury.
It is perplexing--to the point of going cross-eyed and your whole head exploding "Scanners"-style--trying to figure out what in God's name the filmmakers were thinking.
Seriously, I actually picture Jesus H. Christ himself on the cross, thinking to himself, "I died for this... ? If I'd known, I wouldn't have bothered."
We all make mistakes, even collosal ones. Even the best of us.
Hell, especially the best of us!
Walt Disney was an anti-Semite. L. Ron Hubbard was a pedophile. R. Crumb is a racist and misogynistic sycophant. And I myself...
Well, I could go on, but you get the idea. Honestly, avoid this one about as much as you hepatitis A-through-Z. A sulfur plant leaves he aroma of an autumn meadow perfume compared to this one.
In summary, "North" is a childhood trauma that refuses to be repressed. For many, including myself. Don't let it be yours.
Still, we are all mortal. We are all human. We all make mistakes, we stumble, we falter.
No one of us are infallible. Rob Reiner has delivered us "When Harry Met Sally," "The Sure Thing," "This Is Spinal Tap," "The Princess Bride" and "The American President." Surely, we can forgive "North." Can't we?
"Only those who dare to fail greatly can achieve greatly."
And Reiner has clearly done both. Let us at this as one of humanity's greatest follies... and try to find laughter in it. Not at the movie itself, which is clearly impossible, but at the movie's expense.
Like many Jewish comedians have done with WWII, the Holocaust and the years of slavery they were subjected to in Egypt, this is just one more thing we have to learn to laugh at. Not with, AT.
OK, Mr. Reiner. You are officially forgiven. Good luck... and let's hope another abomination like this isn't in the works.
by Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
"THE BROWN BUNNY" plays out like an Andy Warhol-inspired exercise that was warped into a vanity project. It's like a home movie on a family road trip where nothing is really going on and whoever has the camera is just killing time out of boredom
Some moments are quietly effective and inspire little musings in our heads. But far too much feels like something little that a brown bunny left behind... that's also brown.
Either the bunny or Gallo. He serves as writer, director, producer, composer and cinematographer. That's right, folks. I think there's more, but I just don't have time.
The film stars Gallo as Bud Clay, a professional motorcycle racer going on one big long odyssey on the road to his old haunts to rediscover himself.
He will uncover a lot of things along the way, particularly that he is trapped inside a movie that just plain isn't very good.
Vincent Gallo's "The Brown Bunny" is a self-indulgent exercise in futility. Although Gallo may consider this a compliment, I mean the making of the film itself, not this hero's story. So masturbatory, I actually wished I was blind before I was even 1/4 of the way through.
But it could have been. If Gallo had cut more of the scenes (and I don't just mean a few), put some music down on the soundtrack, shown more of the beautiful outdoor landscapes... and less of the interior of the car, Gallo himself just sitting there, preening. Striking a model-like pose in long, long, unbroken shots that feel endless. There's no internal monolouge voice-over. We're just staring at this guy for what feels like hours on end.
Like they're a half-hour long. Gallo is a strikingly good-looking European man, but not nearly so that we can watch him for that long without getting itchy and restless.
You kind of wish the filmmaker (and there's only one--Gallo himself) had conjured up more music and put it on the soundtrack. Some more music might have helped pump up a lot stillborn scenes.
My description of the the first 3/4's of the film torturous boredom doesn't even begin to do it justice. Gallo keeps the entire "Brown Bunny" moving at the pace of moss growing on a tree or rock.
There's a lot of flat, still dialouge with a lot of dramatic pauses (in a pathetic attempt to pump it up), the acting isn't much (except for Gallo and Sevigny) and the long, unbroken static shots with Gallo is staring off into the distance (which there are more than TOO MUCH of) inspired me to itch so much, I thought I came down with a horrible rash.
Hell, at one point, I actually wanted to throw things right at the screen. No lie, it actually came to mind--I would rather see some of the lowest points of "Howard The Duck" than look at Gallo's god dammed face for three more seconds.
Yes, that's how bad it got.
I know that the cut of the movie that was screened at Cannes (the film was not finished yet, but Gallo was pushed into releasing it) was indefinitely worse. But although I think that much of the editing was for the better (from what I've heard, it was vital), Gallo still needed to cut a few more scenes out of the movie and lay some more music here and there.
Despite talent on Gallo's part and some ambition to tell a worthwhile story, "Brown Bunny" moves at the pace of moss growing, no one throughout the film as a character is particularly intriguing or well-developed, not even Gallo's own character (the exception is Chloe Sevigny) and there are too many slow spot where we're just waiting for something, anything to happen.
We don't have any idea exactly what Bud is thinking most of the time (or God help us, Gallo even). Maybe we're supposed to figure it out for ourselves. Perhaps Gallo wants our minds to speculate and wander. Is he leaving the thoughts of this odyssey up to our imagination? Or did he just not think this one through.
I was often bored and shifting back-and-forth in my seat, all throughout (except for the ending). I thought the movie needed more scenes of dialouge, more moments where Bud and those he encounters on his journey interact.
Also, much of the dialouge throughout every scene throughout the film was written is so badly recorded, I couldn't understand a word they were saying. I had to turn on the SUBTITLES just to understand what the hell they were saying.
I'm capable of appreciating a deep, slow-paced movie. But this one isn't just slow, it's d.o.a.
Many European filmmakers know how to make a slow movie work like a chess match or a staring contest, so that even when nothing is happening, it FEELS like Hell itself is breaking loose. Gallo obviously hasn't mastered that himself. He should have seen more of their work and studied it before putting "The Brown Bunny" into effect.
The late, great Stanley Kubrick himself defined and cornered the market on quietly brooding, suspenseful films. I would suggest Gallo pop in some of HIS movies in if he ever wants to make another movie in this vein.
But Gallo himself has admitted he is no filmmaker--or artist. In any sense of the word. He is a hustler. A Midnight Cowboy of sorts. He has acted, modeled, directed, wrote, painted... have I painted enough of a picture myself?
He is a man of innumerable talents. But he has no major. He hawks his skills to whatever at any given moment. He may not be a household name, but those that do know his name... look at him as something a little more than mortal.
Ted Curson, Jackson C. Frank, Vincent Gallo are credited for the musical score. At least Gallo admitted he needed some outside help there.
Reformed supermodel Cheryl Diggs doesn't really provide anything else but filler to kill the static. Hey, maybe she serves a vital purpose after all.
Chloe Sevigny ("Kids" and "Trees Lounge") is such a good actress and has such a touching character, it's a damn crime against cinema she doesn't have more scenes. She should have been such a more sustantial part of the film. She is a part of the fourth act where the comatose "Brown Bunny" almost bursts to life.
At the end of it all, there is the smallest ray of hope. Not just for Gallo's character, but for Gallo. And us. And his film. And what of that brown bunny that sits in the cage? That holds the film's prominent title? What of it? What's it's story?
I would have loved to see this world through it's eyes. What would it have to say? Do you wonder... ?
--For "Daisy," Dane Youssef
by Dane Youssef
"FOR BOBBY... FOR RFK... FOR ONE LAST CHANCE... FOR THIS COUNTRY... A DISAPOINTING, BUT STILL MOVING LOVE LETTER"
Emilio Esztevez's "Bobby" celebrates not only one of the greatest political icons to die before his time, before he had the opportunity to live up to even a fraction of his potential, but a seven-year effort to get it on the big screen.
Esztevez is not as renown in the business as his father and brother are. Nor does he have such a sparkling track-record. Let's be honest. Most of the man's movies (paticularly those made after "The Mighty Ducks") borderline on unwatchable. But hey, what about "Rated X"? I heard good things. Somewhere. I don't remember where exactly...
But just because a man has a few "Battlefield Earth" and "Catwoman"-like stinkers on his resume doesn't mean he's totally incapable of putting out anything at all decent. I know we love to skewer a star when they're down. But let's give a poor guy an even shake...
Because of Estevez's experience in the biz, as well as his family's, "Bobby" is chock-full of big-name walk-ons. Yes, it's good to be able to employ the best and biggest names in the business, but I don't know if it nessicarily works here. There are so many familiar faces that pop up like a Jack-In-The-Box and then disapear just as quickly, that it's kind of distracting.
They're all not on camera long enough so that we see the characters, not actors playing a role. We keep getting the feeling that all we're looking at is super-star after supers-star just here to do some temp work, have fun, do a favor and pay respect to a great political icon.
There are so many storylines buzzing in and out in such a condensed amount of time that so many of them feel under-developed (and even pointless at times).
There are some really intriguing ones, yes, but there's also too much that just feels like filler. They're not around longe enough to make us really think or care about them.
There is no accomplished actor in the plum role of Robert Kennedy (a wise desicion on Esztevez' part)--Kennedy appears as himself in archive footage; newsreels and voice-overs. There is an enourmously talented and renown cast for "Bobby," but no real head-liner.
This is an ensemble vehicle, in the tradition of the late Robert Altman's films. Like every ensemble vehicle, the star is the subject matter--RFK himself.
The lives he touched, the inpact he made, many of the goings-on during the time... that appears here. But too briefly. Like an extra that just blends into a massive crowd or a beige wall. Where are they? You want them to stand out, you want more.
As for it's much-touted heavy-hitter cast: Joshua Jackson (who worked with Esztevez in "The Mighty Ducks" films) isn't really given much of anything to do as as Kennedy's campaign manager.
Christian Slater is one of the best working actors out there today, but any schmuck standing in line at "Hot Dog On A Stick" could have done as good a job as he's allowed to do there. Hey, maybe some of that trademark reptillian-like demeanor of his might have helped. He's a racist, but he's as interesting as plain white-bread. Heather Graham is equally ineffective (has she ever given a really great perfomance?)
Ashton Kutcher thankfully sheds his tired "Kelso" scthick as a spiritual drug dealer who introduces to LSD. He wears glasses, has long mop-like hair and a scruffy beard. This is good. We're looking at the character, not Kutcher. Lately, Kutcher has been trying to evolve past the dim-witted prett-boy roles in stupid throw-away rom-comedies. He seems to be in very serious danger of becoming just another flavor-of-the-month like so, so many, many other before him (and after him). With roles in movies like "The Butterfly Effect" and now "Bobby," there may be hope for him after all.
William H. Macy and Starone Stone are some of the best out there. Here they play a married couple who have a rather ugly secret, but the whole thing is under-written. Esztevez' should have kept working on this. It's a nice sub-plot, but their story is thinner than two-ply toilet paper. And we want more.
Lawrence Fishburne almost steals the movie as a veteran cook who works at the Ambassador. He has a deep philiosophical mind and some theories on the way the world is... and how to survive in it. How to make it yours. He sounds so insightful, like an older, seasoned veteran not miles away from Kennedy himself. He talks about how anger is toxic and his admiration and love for Dr. King and how it hurt when King was gunned down.
Legendary Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins appears as the elderly doorman who won't just flat-out retire because the boredom and feeling of uselessness gets to him. His role is pretty unremarkable, although he brings the same grace and dignity he does to pretty much any role he's in. It's nice to see him away from his "Hannibal Lecter" repitore. And "Bobby" is a vast improvement over Ron Howard's putrid steaming green Christmas diarrea log, "The Grinch."
Director Esztevez and Demi Moore appear together as a couple for the first time in Esztevez' nearly unwatchable "Wisdom," which contained none of what was promised. Or anything else worth seeing. They have some worthwhile moments as a showbusiness couple, especially Moore is what's some of the better work she's done in a while. And it's one of the few sub-plots that work.
The only true stand-outs here are Lawrence Fishburne, Sharon Stone, Martin Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. Everyone else seems is just coasting. Because they're all just distinguished veterans, we want them to make an enourmous impact. The kind where the scene and line becomes a legendary
moment and is quoted ad nauseum. But each shot just shows big-name marquee headers doing what just about anyone could have done. Maybe the fact that all these big names are dropped will draw them in.
I do applaud Esztevez for not just hiring some celebrity impressionist to play Bobby--like De Vito did for his "Hoffa." No two-bit actor can ever forge the man. So Kennedy actually appears at himself technically the whole time throughout (except of a few scenes where Bobby's right there with the actors, but we never get a good look, of course. That feels... respectful.
But does it work? The most crippling flaw in "Bobby" is that because of the contemporary faces and their underdevloped characters and underwritten scenes, we're never convinced we're back there during that fatal day. And when RFK walks through the door, onto the stage... we're never really convinced that he's in that room at this moment. RFK and the little people never seem to exist within the same time and reality.
Throughout the whole film, I was aware that they were just using old footage of Bob and the entire cast--er, members of the Ambassador were cheering facing a camera crew.
There are some moments that alone make Bobby worth seeing: A scene where a deception is going on and is revealed--we see the victim's tears and pain, a converstaion that takes place in a kitchen that really stays with you, two suited buttoned-down campaign volunteers who volunteer to embrace something more have than Kennedy, the reporter dying to see the senator in the flesh. All storylines that could have really packed a wallop if they're were written a little more. Was Esztevez on a schedule?
But there are a few too many which are just limp which leave you feeling Esztevez should have pumped them up or simply scrapped them altogether. Maybe leaving them in the bottom drawer and hauling them out the next time he wants to make a movie. As it is, this proudly stands as the best film Esztevez has come out with in over a decade. And it is a sometimes really touching tribute to a man who deseves it. For whatever reason you want to check it out, watch it, afterwards light a candle for Good ol' Bob.
In the end, what truly makes this a movie to see is the passion. The passion that Esztevez has for Bobby and has had ever since dear Emilio actually came in contact with him when he was but five years old.
"Bobby"'s finale (yes, that is the correct phrase) comes to no surprise, but what is so astonishing is how much such an act can still touch us as if we are actually there and then. It helps give the film more of an impact than everything leading up to it did.
What matters really is not when or how Kennedy left, but that he was there. Now that he's gone, it's sad how much it says about us how much we need him now...
NOTE: This review is dedicated in loving memory for Robert Francis Kennedy, the man who at the time was America's last chance after his brother and Dr. King went the same way. Despite this film's shortcomings, I still believe it succeeds as the ultimate swan song FOR BOBBY... FOR RFK... FOR ONE LAST CHANCE... FOR THIS COUNTRY...
--For Bobby Himself (and everyone else who loved him), Dane Youssef