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ONE ENTHRALLING PULSEATING TRIP!

Posted : 7 years, 11 months ago on 1 September 2009 04:47 (A review of Very Bad Things)

by Dane Youssef


Well, now here's one that feels like doesn't just feel like another machine-made piece from off the assembly line. Here is a movie that feels like it has it's own ideas, thoughts, edges and all.


The studio execuives didn't dig their claws into this one, sucking all the nerve and originality out of it just to make it inoffensive and more filt for mass consumption.


All the more making this a move that's really worth seeing for those who don't like movies that just connect-the-dots and paint-by-numbers. In other words, a movie that desperately needs to exist. And be seen.


A bizzare combo protein-shake of black comedy, thriller and horror show, this is one of those Slow Saturday Night cult films that the weirdo clerk behind the counter is always personally recommending for those customers who ae kind of like his pals.


"Very Bad Things" is a film that plays out like a worse-case scenerio. One of those movies that puts a group of relative people in a situation where everything that can possibly go wrong... does. Hopefully, with results that translate to a good movie.


I found the movie to work on multiple levels. As an angry, aggressive, and assertive male-bonding comedy. As a thriller. As a white-knuckle, nail-biting action film. As a nightmare.


Writer/Director Peter Berg remarks he came up with the idea for this movie when he was at a bachelor party and saw the rowdy and over-the-top behavior from a lot of the other guests. These guys were looking for trouble, he said. What would happen if they found it? More than they could handle.


The movie is all-over-the-map, but I like that about it. Berg sets up some cynical suburbanites and their rowdy behavior and puts them in several life-or-death situations, which despite what many say, is thrilling to watch.


Christian Slater gives the strongest performance as the devil-may-care Robert Boyd, a man who seems to have no moral threshold. We never doubt his actions for a second. Slater knows how to play this character as plays him to the hilt.


Daniel Stern plays his usual nebbish. From the "City Slickers" movies, the "Home Alone" movies and all his others, he's appropriately nervous and uneasy--especially after what's occurring right now. There's are massive murders bobbing up and the body count is still rising.


Cameron Diaz is also effective doing an evil turn on the wedding-obsessed loon she was in "My Best Friend's Wedding" as a woman who doesn't care about anything else but having her big day. As far as she's concerned, the guests and the groom are secondary. She nitpicks and she bullies and berates. Many guys see this as the epitome of the woman who's about to have her big day.


Jon Faverau isn't as "money" as he's been in other roles, but maybe that's because he's supposed to be the straight man. He's a little too straight. Too stiff. You kind of wish they had spiced him up some more. He appears to just be in shock and going along with the flow most of the time, like a tag-along.


The movie plays out as a dark comedic thriller and at times a morality tale. What I like the most is the anarchy of the film and the performance of Christian Slater and especially the different ways the men and women in the movie react to him.

Watch for his scene with Tripplehorn when they go one-on-one. The homages to "Good Fellas" and "Reservior Dogs" are cute and memorable too.


Like I said before, this is a must-see for anyone who hates generic, paint-by-numbers movies. If this sounds like your cup of tea (and it damn well should), you're someone after my own heart. Then THIS is a must-see.


Next time you're at the video store looking for a movie with huevos that hit hard (but don't worry, not down there exactly)...


Just keep in mind... the next time you think of "The Bachelor Party," you may not think the same way. Not ever again...


--A Very Bad Man, Dane Youssef



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ONE ENTHRALLING PULSEATING TRIP!

Posted : 7 years, 11 months ago on 1 September 2009 04:46 (A review of Very Bad Things)

by Dane Youssef


Well, now here's one that feels like doesn't just feel like another machine-made piece from off the assembly line. Here is a movie that feels like it has it's own ideas, thoughts, edges and all.


The studio execuives didn't dig their claws into this one, sucking all the nerve and originality out of it just to make it inoffensive and more filt for mass consumption.


All the more making this a move that's really worth seeing for those who don't like movies that just connect-the-dots and paint-by-numbers. In other words, a movie that desperately needs to exist. And be seen.


A bizzare combo protein-shake of black comedy, thriller and horror show, this is one of those Slow Saturday Night cult films that the weirdo clerk behind the counter is always personally recommending for those customers who ae kind of like his pals.


"Very Bad Things" is a film that plays out like a worse-case scenerio. One of those movies that puts a group of relative people in a situation where everything that can possibly go wrong... does. Hopefully, with results that translate to a good movie.


I found the movie to work on multiple levels. As an angry, aggressive, and assertive male-bonding comedy. As a thriller. As a white-knuckle, nail-biting action film. As a nightmare.


Writer/Director Peter Berg remarks he came up with the idea for this movie when he was at a bachelor party and saw the rowdy and over-the-top behavior from a lot of the other guests. These guys were looking for trouble, he said. What would happen if they found it? More than they could handle.


The movie is all-over-the-map, but I like that about it. Berg sets up some cynical suburbanites and their rowdy behavior and puts them in several life-or-death situations, which despite what many say, is thrilling to watch.


Christian Slater gives the strongest performance as the devil-may-care Robert Boyd, a man who seems to have no moral threshold. We never doubt his actions for a second. Slater knows how to play this character as plays him to the hilt.


Daniel Stern plays his usual nebbish. From the "City Slickers" movies, the "Home Alone" movies and all his others, he's appropriately nervous and uneasy--especially after what's occurring right now. There's are massive murders bobbing up and the body count is still rising.


Cameron Diaz is also effective doing an evil turn on the wedding-obsessed loon she was in "My Best Friend's Wedding" as a woman who doesn't care about anything else but having her big day. As far as she's concerned, the guests and the groom are secondary. She nitpicks and she bullies and berates. Many guys see this as the epitome of the woman who's about to have her big day.


Jon Faverau isn't as "money" as he's been in other roles, but maybe that's because he's supposed to be the straight man. He's a little too straight. Too stiff. You kind of wish they had spiced him up some more. He appears to just be in shock and going along with the flow most of the time, like a tag-along.


The movie plays out as a dark comedic thriller and at times a morality tale. What I like the most is the anarchy of the film and the performance of Christian Slater and especially the different ways the men and women in the movie react to him.


Watch for his scene with Tripplehorn when they go one-on-one. The homages to "Good Fellas" and "Reservior Dogs" are cute and memorable too.


Like I said before, this is a must-see for anyone who hates generic, paint-by-numbers movies. If this sounds like your cup of tea (and it damn well should), you're someone after my own heart. Then THIS is a must-see.


Next time you're at the video store looking for a movie with huevos that hit hard (but don't worry, not down there exactly)...


--One Very Wild Movie and Satisfied Customer, Dane Youssef


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AH... HOWARD THE DUCK

Posted : 7 years, 11 months ago on 1 September 2009 04:35 (A review of Howard the Duck)

by Dane Youssef


Wow... what can possibly be said about this movie that hasn't already be said a thousand times? It almost seems redundant and tiresome to keep shooting such an already over-satirized target... though this movie took moments off my life I will never have back. I watched it simply to see what all the fuss was about.

I understand now...

Ughhhhhh....

They actually put this movie on DVD? Wow... well...

Easy target as it may be, I must now express my contempt and hatred. After the severe deforming scar it left on my psyche, it's the very least of my

I actually lost seconds of my life as well, dear children. I actually feel like I'm suffering from motion sickness just THINKING about this movie...

Special FX Master George Lucas disowned this film. I know "Willow" wasn't great... and neither was "Radioland Murders" Or "Star Wars: Episode II"...

But here is a movie... that brings us all together... unifying us... in anger, disgust and hate... and annoyance...

Too stupid and lame to be fun and thought-provoking... takes itself too seriously to be campy fun (even by the standards of schlock '50's sci-fi/action movies--now some of THOSE are fun!) But with none of the charm, innocence, sweetness, much grosser, much raunchier... and special FX that even for their time, look cheesy and crummy. They borderline on rolling static.

Too poorly filmed and horribly shot and embarrassingly acted to a fun family movie, too awkward and straight-faced to even be unintentionally funny...

....and the bestiality thing with Thompson and the duck...

well, there's just NO genre for that, now is there?

This was not a good day for film. It's like a full-length version of "ALF...."

No, wait... I LIKED "Alf." I will not smear his legacy by associating it with this interplanetary bird-flu.

The fact that Howard knows a type of martial arts ("Quack Fu," as he calls it) is hurtfully unfunny.

And this came from Lucas, who's special FX company ILM is the finest on the planet? The effects are phony and ugly and hideous and horribly unconvincing... and that's the last thing we'd ever expect from George Lucas. The special effects look like they're from the '50's, like the very same surving production values from "Plan 9 From Outer Space." Including the acting and screenplay. It's like if Jar Jar Binks got his own starring movie... actually, that might have been better.

It's "all too easy" (to quote the great Darth Vader) to point out what a hideously mismade, tacky as can be blunder. One can go on and on about what a monumental waste of film, time, money and other precious human resources. Hell, look at all the time and effort Lucas' other company, Industrial Light & Magic put into this one. Why didn't they just set it all on fire and dump it all into a cesspool? Would've saved time and cut-out the middle-man.

This little piffle was written by Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck, who are no strangers to Lucasfilm projects, having written several Lucas' projects ("American Graffiti," "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" and "Radioland Murders"). They're obviously favorites and friends of Lucas and clearly they wanted to make a special-effects sci-fi extravaganza of their own. And you have to love Lucas for giving them the shot.

But it's a disaster. Willard Hyuck has proved to be necessary and crucial script doctor polishing Lucas' stuff so he seems like a superhuman Greek god of film. But every film he's ever directed is not just bad, it becomes renown for being such a low point in cinema history.

His "catastrophes" include "Best Defense," "Dead People" and this steaming pile. (OK, I'll concede "French Postcards." Hell, I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day).

Kids love taking animal characters, paticularly muppets and the like. Their favorite are the traditional wise-cracking, pratfalling types. Well, I'm sorry to say that Howard lacks humor or charm really of any kind. Honestly, he lacks any kind of interest whatsoever.

Does anyone here remember the scene where Jeffrey Jones as the Dark Overlord in the biker bar... the final showdown where the demons may enter through the portal to our dimension... the scene where Howard brawls with the guy managing the group... all had me shaking my head in disbelief...

I know most of this goddammed review isn't exactly written in a deep, compelling way. But if the filmmakers didn't put any real interest (or much fun) into this one, how can anyone talking about it? Well, maybe at it's expense. That's the best thing you can do with a bad movie.

And for this one, the rolling credits over the musical montage concert at the end... didn't come soon enough.

Former accomplished ballerina-turned actress Lea Thompson has recovered from this abomination thankfully. Though I certainly have not.

It still haunts me...


by Dane Youssef


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"AH... HOWARD THE DUCK" by Dane Youssef

Posted : 7 years, 11 months ago on 1 September 2009 04:34 (A review of Howard the Duck)

by Dane Youssef


Wow... what can possibly be said about this movie that hasn't already be said a thousand times? It almost seems redundant and tiresome to keep shooting such an already over-satirized target... though this movie took moments off my life I will never have back. I watched it simply to see what all the fuss was about.

I understand now...

Ughhhhhh....

They actually put this movie on DVD? Wow... well...

Easy target as it may be, I must now express my contempt and hatred. After the severe deforming scar it left on my psyche, it's the very least of my

I actually lost seconds of my life as well, dear children. I actually feel like I'm suffering from motion sickness just THINKING about this movie...

Special FX Master George Lucas disowned this film. I know "Willow" wasn't great... and neither was "Radioland Murders" Or "Star Wars: Episode II"...

But here is a movie... that brings us all together... unifying us... in anger, disgust and hate... and annoyance...

Too stupid and lame to be fun and thought-provoking... takes itself too seriously to be campy fun (even by the standards of schlock '50's sci-fi/action movies--now some of THOSE are fun!) But with none of the charm, innocence, sweetness, much grosser, much raunchier... and special FX that even for their time, look cheesy and crummy. They borderline on rolling static.

Too poorly filmed and horribly shot and embarrassingly acted to a fun family movie, too awkward and straight-faced to even be unintentionally funny...

....and the bestiality thing with Thompson and the duck...

well, there's just NO genre for that, now is there?

This was not a good day for film. It's like a full-length version of "ALF...."

No, wait... I LIKED "Alf." I will not smear his legacy by associating it with this interplanetary bird-flu.

The fact that Howard knows a type of martial arts ("Quack Fu," as he calls it) is hurtfully unfunny.

And this came from Lucas, who's special FX company ILM is the finest on the planet? The effects are phony and ugly and hideous and horribly unconvincing... and that's the last thing we'd ever expect from George Lucas. The special effects look like they're from the '50's, like the very same surving production values from "Plan 9 From Outer Space." Including the acting and screenplay. It's like if Jar Jar Binks got his own starring movie... actually, that might have been better.

It's "all too easy" (to quote the great Darth Vader) to point out what a hideously mismade, tacky as can be blunder. One can go on and on about what a monumental waste of film, time, money and other precious human resources. Hell, look at all the time and effort Lucas' other company, Industrial Light & Magic put into this one. Why didn't they just set it all on fire and dump it all into a cesspool? Would've saved time and cut-out the middle-man.

This little piffle was written by Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck, who are no strangers to Lucasfilm projects, having written several Lucas' projects ("American Graffiti," "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" and "Radioland Murders"). They're obviously favorites and friends of Lucas and clearly they wanted to make a special-effects sci-fi extravaganza of their own. And you have to love Lucas for giving them the shot.

But it's a disaster. Willard Hyuck has proved to be necessary and crucial script doctor polishing Lucas' stuff so he seems like a superhuman Greek god of film. But every film he's ever directed is not just bad, it becomes renown for being such a low point in cinema history.

His "catastrophes" include "Best Defense," "Dead People" and this steaming pile. (OK, I'll concede "French Postcards." Hell, I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day).

Kids love taking animal characters, paticularly muppets and the like. Their favorite are the traditional wise-cracking, pratfalling types. Well, I'm sorry to say that Howard lacks humor or charm really of any kind. Honestly, he lacks any kind of interest whatsoever.

Does anyone here remember the scene where Jeffrey Jones as the Dark Overlord in the biker bar... the final showdown where the demons may enter through the portal to our dimension... the scene where Howard brawls with the guy managing the group... all had me shaking my head in disbelief...

I know most of this goddammed review isn't exactly written in a deep, compelling way. But if the filmmakers didn't put any real interest (or much fun) into this one, how can anyone talking about it? Well, maybe at it's expense. That's the best thing you can do with a bad movie.

And for this one, the rolling credits over the musical montage concert at the end... didn't come soon enough.

Former accomplished ballerina-turned actress Lea Thompson has recovered from this abomination thankfully. Though I certainly have not.

It still haunts me...


by Dane Youssef


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WELL-PLAYED BODERLINE AFTER-SCHOOL SPECIAL

Posted : 7 years, 11 months ago on 1 September 2009 04:29 (A review of True Colors)

by Dane Youssef


The Brat Pack actors are certainly a talented bunch. Everyone has a favorite. For me, it's a toss-up between James Spader and Anthony Michael Hall.


John Cusack was mesmerizing back in his early-days. He was a teenager, but he looked, sounded and acted very adult for his age. "The Sure Thing" put him on the map and "Say Anything..." made him a household name.


But while Crowe's "Say Anything..." was obviously a great movie, it was both a blessing and a curse for Cusack, who has rarely played anything else in his career. I know, I know. He's been in countless other movies. But "a rose by any other name..." His character, no matter what the movie, is essentially always Lloyd Dobbler.


Spader sometimes played other types besides the oily Steff from "Pretty in Pink." His typecast-breaking turn came when he played the lead in this movie.


But I know Cusack can do more. I keep waiting for him to. Which was one of my guilty pleasures of this movie.


The story and plot are the right out of the old fable about the rich man and the poor man who come together and create something special... and then the rich man betrays the poor man and casts him aside. And the poor man plots to take revenge...


Another big twist that "True Colors" has is it's twist in typecasting. Cusack specializes in playing sharp, calculated, smarter-than-average teenager... who's heartbroken and devastated... and is desperately trying to win back the girl. Here, Cusack plays a character who's as smart as the heroes he usually plays, though here he uses his intellectual gifts for evil instead of good. His goal is usually to win the girl's heart. Here he betrays the girl (and his close friend) in order to get what he wants.


And Spader usually plays blue-blooded, silver-spoon fed, upper-class yuppie scummy villains. Here he's still a rich blue-blooded yuppie. But a hero, who uses his financial connections to right wrongs and do just.


The two meet the first day of law school where there's a fender-bender and brief scuffle. Cusack angrily attacks Spader violently and blames him for the whole thing and the two have to be pulled apart. Later on, things get worse as they discover... their assigned to be roommates. Cusack smooths things over by admitting the whole thing was his fault. You'll see why.


Afterwords, the two form a fast friendship and Spader even uses his financial backgrounds and connections to help Cusack out. Later we find out that Cusack is lying about his background to fit in and the payoff feels lifted out of a soppy, moralizing and insipid sit-com where today's moral is... "If you have to be someone else to get a friend, then they're really not your friend."


Richard Widmark is great as well as the ailing senator who sees potential and ambition in Cusack after he sees what looks like Cusack doing him a favor, little realizing how dangerous Cusack is. Spader girlfriend considers breaking off the relationship for Cusack who can keep her bringing in big cash. She doesn't realize that Cusack is willing to betray her too, in order to get what he wants.


One of the major problems is that their true colors are obvious from the beginning. Cusack is clearly someone not to trust from the start and Spader all but actually walks on water. Another is that the movie is too thin. There isn't enough entry.


The movie... skims too much of the surface. And Spader's big plan and the finale is pretty tacked on.


The movie aspires to be a movie like "Patriot Games" or "Citizen Kane." But everything is routine and predictable and there are precious few new touches to this tired formula. If screenwriter Kevin Wade could've given the script a bit more depth and discovery into these characters and done a little more with the formula, this could have really been something special. The cast does what it can, but inevitably, a good cast can only take a movie so far. Still, it's worth seeing just for Cusack turn towards the dark side and Spader as a yuppie with heart.


Oh, well...


--Always Wearing His True Colors, Dane Youssef



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WELL-PLAYED BODERLINE AFTER-SCHOOL SPECIAL

Posted : 7 years, 11 months ago on 1 September 2009 04:28 (A review of True Colors)

by Dane Youssef


The Brat Pack actors are certainly a talented bunch. Everyone has a favorite. For me, it's a toss-up between James Spader and Anthony Michael Hall.


John Cusack was mesmerizing back in his early-days. He was a teenager, but he looked, sounded and acted very adult for his age. "The Sure Thing" put him on the map and "Say Anything..." made him a household name.


But while Crowe's "Say Anything..." was obviously a great movie, it was both a blessing and a curse for Cusack, who has rarely played anything else in his career. I know, I know. He's been in countless other movies. But "a rose by any other name..." His character, no matter what the movie, is essentially always Lloyd Dobbler.


Spader sometimes played other types besides the oily Steff from "Pretty in Pink." His typecast-breaking turn came when he played the lead in this movie.


But I know Cusack can do more. I keep waiting for him to. Which was one of my guilty pleasures of this movie.


The story and plot are the right out of the old fable about the rich man and the poor man who come together and create something special... and then the rich man betrays the poor man and casts him aside. And the poor man plots to take revenge...


Another big twist that "True Colors" has is it's twist in typecasting. Cusack specializes in playing sharp, calculated, smarter-than-average teenager... who's heartbroken and devastated... and is desperately trying to win back the girl. Here, Cusack plays a character who's as smart as the heroes he usually plays, though here he uses his intellectual gifts for evil instead of good. His goal is usually to win the girl's heart. Here he betrays the girl (and his close friend) in order to get what he wants.


And Spader usually plays blue-blooded, silver-spoon fed, upper-class yuppie scummy villains. Here he's still a rich blue-blooded yuppie. But a hero, who uses his financial connections to right wrongs and do just.


The two meet the first day of law school where there's a fender-bender and brief scuffle. Cusack angrily attacks Spader violently and blames him for the whole thing and the two have to be pulled apart. Later on, things get worse as they discover... their assigned to be roommates. Cusack smooths things over by admitting the whole thing was his fault. You'll see why.


Afterwords, the two form a fast friendship and Spader even uses his financial backgrounds and connections to help Cusack out. Later we find out that Cusack is lying about his background to fit in and the payoff feels lifted out of a soppy, moralizing and insipid sit-com where today's moral is... "If you have to be someone else to get a friend, then they're really not your friend."


Richard Widmark is great as well as the ailing senator who sees potential and ambition in Cusack after he sees what looks like Cusack doing him a favor, little realizing how dangerous Cusack is. Spader girlfriend considers breaking off the relationship for Cusack who can keep her bringing in big cash. She doesn't realize that Cusack is willing to betray her too, in order to get what he wants.


One of the major problems is that their true colors are obvious from the beginning. Cusack is clearly someone not to trust from the start and Spader all but actually walks on water. Another is that the movie is too thin. There isn't enough entry.


The movie... skims too much of the surface. And Spader's big plan and the finale is pretty tacked on.


The movie aspires to be a movie like "Patriot Games" or "Citizen Kane." But everything is routine and predictable and there are precious few new touches to this tired formula. If screenwriter Kevin Wade could've given the script a bit more depth and discovery into these characters and done a little more with the formula, this could have really been something special. The cast does what it can, but inevitably, a good cast can only take a movie so far. Still, it's worth seeing just for Cusack turn towards the dark side and Spader as a yuppie with heart.


Oh, well....


--Always Wearing His True Colors, Dane Youssef


danessf@yahoo.com

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"ALWAYS BE CLOSING!"

Posted : 7 years, 11 months ago on 1 September 2009 04:26 (A review of Glengarry Glen Ross)

by Dane Youssef


A 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 outright blowhard asshole. 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 "Fuck 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." The salesman mantra isn't just for the salesman--it's the way of life: "Sell or Die."


--Choosing To Sell, Dane Youssef



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"WHAT'S ELSE IS THERE TO SAY?"

Posted : 7 years, 11 months ago on 1 September 2009 04:24 (A review of Who Framed Roger Rabbit)

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, fuck 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.


--A Life-Long Fan of a good Roger Rabbit & Baby Herman short, Dane Youssef


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"A GLORIOUS VINTAGE. MAY IT AGE LIKE CITIZEN KANE"

Posted : 7 years, 11 months ago on 1 September 2009 04:22 (A review of Sideways)

by Dane Youssef


“Sideways” is one of those movies that seems to be made entirely for the scholarly and intellectual. The artsy, deep, hip and high-brow. Films about those people going through a turning point in their lives. Mid-life crisis’s and the like. And ones like this in paticular always seem to reap critical praise, a crowd of feverent fans and prestigious award nominations.


"Sideways" has one of those cool quirky titles that sounds really hip and grabs your attention. You know, it'll be an edgy movie. Like "Entourage," "Purgatory," "Angel Eyes" and the like. Something about "Sideways" says it's going to be different. Smarter. Sharper. In a word, better.


But unlike the title for the Johnny Depp-Winona Ryder vehicle "Finding Neverland," this one doesn't pretty much reveal the whole movie in with it's title. "Sideways" is about something--more than just moving in a different direction.


"Sideways" uses wine and wine country as a backdrop, yes, but the movie is about more than just the symbolism of wine and it's drinkers. It's essentially about people who are connected and realize how hard, brief and fragile life itself is and pursue happiness by any means necessary. And they're so true and worthy of it, we want them to find it and thus, assure we will find it ourselves. It has the mixed feeling of life.


It’s stars, Miles Richmond and Jack Lopate have been buddy-buddy since their college dorm years. And have always been (and will be) total polar opposites. Miles is just a sad-sack neurotic nebbish with a bundle of neuroses that seem unwilling to disappear no matter how much therapy or medication he can get his hands on. His book won't get sold, his ex-wife is remarried (not that Miles was happy with her), he seems to be closer to death than life and he hasn't made an iota of the impact he wanted to.


Jack’s a less-than-successful actor who's most respected credit was a short-lived role on a soap opera years ago. Now his more recent stuff is the voice-over who mumbles the warning for the side effects from non-prescription meds near the end of the commercial. Jack is living an ideal life otherwise and Miles has seen better days. In fact, he's borderline suicidal--taking plenty of meds and alcohol himself, usually all at once. Jack is about to get married. He wants to go out to local wine country and bring Miles with him, and hopefully out of his funk.


Miles thinks and feels too much. He's been borderline suicidal for a while now and it's only getting worse. He was unhappy during his marriage which led to him giving his wife the perfect reason to end.


Jack is a self-satisfied animal who enjoys giving in to his baser animal instincts. Jack doesn't give so much as a damn about wine that's "just right." He only wants a drink. And the movie illustrates how that's exactly who he is. A total tomcat who enjoys being "on the edge" and flirting with danger, he sort of enjoys toeing the line. The most outrageous thing about Jack is he often gets off lighter than he should. We all root for Miles and idolize Jack.


Maybe a trip out to wine country is just what Miles needs. We all know some big things are about to happen over the course of this one week.


One of Miles' true passions that does bring him happiness in wine. The right wine. And with great wine, you have to know what you're talking about. You treat it as an art, as yourself. It's not like any other drug. It becomes a way of like, not only as art and a way of life, but as a way of who you are.


Paul Giamatti is simply an actor who never ceases to amaze me. From his breakthrough role as the anal-retentive watchdog station manager in "Private Parts" (he was one of the bigger surprises in that movie. The fact that he was passed over for an Oscar nod for this one (as well as "American Splendor" and "Cinderella Man") borderlines on criminal. On felony.


Thomas Hayden Church, who was pretty much just vaguely remembered for his stock idiot character Lowell, the mechanic on the one of the world's most generic sit-com, "Wings" simply rivets here. He’s eons ahead of Lowell and “Wings.”


As Jack, he has the charm of a stud who's about to peak, but doesn't realize and doesn't care. A serial philanderer, he is literally willing to cheat on his fiancée without second thought or guilt right before the wedding. He has a womanizer charm that doesn't seem lecherous or arrogant. We don't mind him cheating. In fact, we encourage it. Let's see where his libido might lead him. To pleasure, now, yes. But we all know it'll lead him into a hornet's nest eventually. And we're anxious to see how.


When the arrive at their destination, two women come into the picture. A waitress, Maya (Virgina Madsen) and a hostess, (Sandra Oh) come into the picture. We know they’re the ones who are going to put everything into play.


Sandra Oh, writer-director Payne's then-wife, moves us in a big way as one of the wine hostess who falls for Jack and his animal way. They wind up having a fast relationship and one of the most surprising moments comes when Miles realizes how fast their relationship is going. We know Jack is sticking his pride and joy into a hornet's nest and we want him to, because we know he'll have a blast and we'll do the same just watching. She isn't just a hottie, she has a wild spirit we'd all want to get into.


And Virgina Madsen (“The Rainmaker”) plays the kind of angel from above here on Earth, walking as a mortal that Miles seems to have been praying for. And when she's on screen, we all feel that Miles may be finally saved. And is there a chance someone like her will rush down at save us when we really need it?


The film owes a lot to the works of Albert Brooks of Woody Allen, where the most effective comedy and drama comes the ordinary plight of the human condition. It's the kind of movie where you keep thinking, "Yeah, this is life. This is so exactly true to life... right down to every last detail."


Co-writer-director Alexander Payne ("Election" and "About Schmidt") along with co-writer Rex Pickett have fashioned their screenplay in a natural true-to-life way all about the fascination of human nature. The ways of ordinary life--laughter, anger, frustration and brain candy--all translate to a cathartic experience for it's little characters as well as it' audience. Composer Rolfe Kent gives "Sideways" a light, loose jazzy score. Sometimes rocking. Not unlike the works of Ryan Shore. And Payne not only directs beautifully and passionately, but manages to get the right feel in every frame. We even identify with his slapstick scenes.


Like most of the population who saw "Sideways," I was relieved to see that the screenplay managed to walk off with nearly every honor for writing there was: The Oscar, the British Academy Award, the Golden Globe, the Independent Spirit Award, the New York Film Critic Circle Award. And it's cast got it's props as well. Speaking as someone who saw this movie as well as others that came out for '04, yeah.


One of those rare and precious years where the Academy actually got it right.


NOTE: This review is dedicated in loving memory to my grandfather, Arthur Benzie. He had a lot of Miles in him. A schoolteacher with a passion for the written word--especially the well-written word. Life was harder than for him than most and he always seemed frustrated that society was doing it's best to become intellectually sterile and eager to turn back mankind's long evolutionary process as quickly as possible.


It all got to him in a big way. Like Miles, he had a deep passion, an insight. For the highbrow and the savory. The man always appreciated a good drink.


And needed it more than he really should have.


--Salud, Dane Youssef



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