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The Truth About Dogs and... People. No, It Isn't.

Posted : 7 years ago on 24 July 2010 07:27 (A review of Dog Park)

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.


I'm happy (and grateful) to say that "Dog Park" eschews a few clichés--where him and her start out hating each other, then fall in love. Like a lot of goofy prat-falling slapstick.


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?


No.


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.


Natasha 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. You bubble up when she smiles those pearly whites, but when she speaks...


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- 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. Even in "Dick," he wasn't around long. 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.


Wilson, Henstridge, Garofolo, Lehman, Currie and Williams. 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.


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.


And to all of you who have a respectable film industry in your country--Now brace yourself for this. I mean really, really summon yourself. Prepare for this earth-turning, shaking shock.


This shoddy blueprint of a script (yes, courtesy of Brucio himself) got nominations for Best Original Screenplay for the Canadian Comedy Awards and the Genies. Fellow Kid McKinney won Best Supporting Actor.


OK. McKinney's win was a little more understandable, but if this was a major motion picture in America, it might have swept the Razzies. Competition must be lean, lean up north.


Canada is wonderfully under-populated. There's not a lot of money in the Canadian system. The movies made by the Canucks are all independents. They don't have a film industry--no Hollywood or Bollywood of their very own. So cut them some slack for their inability to make good movies. All the Canadians with any talent for film are working over here in America--that's true for any Canadian entertainer as the Canadian entertainment industry, as the low populace means jobs in show business up north are in short supply.


It might have been alright for his skits, but not one person in this whole damn thing... comes off as believable. Or really all that insightful. A lot of these lines could have been used for a big spoof! Maybe even "Date Movie." If only they were funny somehow.


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, "Dog Park" isn't about to inspire faith into the world as good movies are made in "The True North--Strong and Free."


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.


No bark, no bite, no charm, no life. Stay away from this stray.


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 does...


--A Long-Time, Long-Term, Life-Long Dog-Lover, Dane Youssef



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"The Truth About Dogs and... People. No, It Isn't"

Posted : 7 years ago on 24 July 2010 07:13 (A review of Dog Park)

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.


I'm happy (and grateful) to say that "Dog Park" eschews a few clichés--where him and her start out hating each other, then fall in love. Like a lot of goofy prat-falling slapstick.


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?


No.


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.


Natasha 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. You bubble up when she smiles those pearly whites, but when she speaks...


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- 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. Even in "Dick," he wasn't around long. 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.


Wilson, Henstridge, Garofolo, Lehman, Currie and Williams. 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.


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.


And to all of you who have a respectable film industry in your country--Now brace yourself for this. I mean really, really summon yourself. Prepare for this earth-turning, shaking shock.


This shoddy blueprint of a script (yes, courtesy of Brucio himself) got nominations for Best Original Screenplay for the Canadian Comedy Awards and the Genies. Fellow Kid McKinney won Best Supporting Actor.


OK. McKinney's win was a little more understandable, but if this was a major motion picture in America, it might have swept the Razzies. Competition must be lean, lean up north.


Canada is wonderfully under-populated. There's not a lot of money in the Canadian system. The movies made by the Canucks are all independents. They don't have a film industry--no Hollywood or Bollywood of their very own. So cut them some slack for their inability to make good movies. All the Canadians with any talent for film are working over here in America--that's true for any Canadian entertainer as the Canadian entertainment industry, as the low populace means jobs in show business up north are in short supply.


It might have been alright for his skits, but not one person in this whole damn thing... comes off as believable. Or really all that insightful.
A lot of these lines could have been used for a big spoof! Maybe even "Date Movie." If only they were funny somehow.


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, "Dog Park" isn't about to inspire faith into the world as good movies are made in "The True North--Strong and Free."


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.


No bark, no bite, no charm, no life. Stay away from this stray.


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 does...


--A Life-Long, Die-Hard Dog Lover, Dane Youssef


danessf@yahoo.com

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"The Story About the First Lady of Ballet"

Posted : 7 years, 9 months ago on 3 November 2009 02:17 (A review of Natasha - Natalia Makarova)

by Dane Youssef


It's often been said many times by many people that the defining name in professional ballet is Mikhail Baryshnikov. Somehow after seeing him dance, I can't help but agree. And if Misha himself is in fact the God of Ballet, than Natasha is Ballet's Goddess. The finest ever to put on tights and toe shoes.


A woman who may not only rival this icon, but perhaps... even stand above him.


As I write this, the prima ballerina absolutta is 68 years of age. She is further evidence (as if we honestly needed any) that the greatest ballet dancer of this generation or any other will always be a Russian.


Vaslav Nijinsky, Rudolph Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Natasha Makarova, Alexander Godunov and Vladimir Malakov. All the best of the best. Native Russian bastards, all.


The truckload of statuettes she got for, including the Tony itself are all certainly deserved. As is the title of "prima ballerina absolutta" she was awarded, along such fellow ballerina monuments as Dame Margot Fonteyn, Pierina Legnani and Galina Sergeyevna Ulanova.


Natasha has always seemed the girl who was born for the ballet. With her long willowy tree-branch body and limbs, precise hands and feet, fine-boned features, prominent eyes and cheek-bones, full pouty lips... she's always had an almost impossible connection with the music.


The film chronicles on her brief partnership with Royal Ballet Brit extraordinaire Anthony Dowell, who did as much Britain's ballet as Dame Margot Fonteyn did. They even dance the legendary "Romeo & Juliet" together that was tailored for Nureyev and Fonteyn. They dance divinely, with Dowell being less graceful and more strong and prominent than those in the role before him, including Nureyev himself. Dowell expresses the kind of strength, stature and passion we'd expect from a classical leading man. The ideal partner every girl in ballet class fixates herself on. A true "ballerino."


As great as her partners are, they're pretty much just assistants. They can barely hold their own around Natasha. The ballerinas are usually the stars in this craft. They've dominated it and owned it even more than the Russians have. But Natasha is so damn breathtaking, so light, so with the music... she almost makes the men around her unnessicary. Only Dennis Ganio seems to really come close to matching that kind of majesty Natasha herself has. The two often seem like they're about to float away.


The film mostly chronicles recorded events of her best and most popular work.


The only time we actually hear any talk in the whole thing comes from prima ballerina absolutta goddess herself. She may be lighter than air, but her accent is as thick as the snow in Siberia. It's no wonder the dear lady prefers to let her dancing speak for itself. I myself personally was astonished to hear her say, "Take off pointe shoes, put high heels and dance...."Dancing en pointe is one thing... but heels?


I've heard a lot of horror stories about those pointe shoes.


Compared to Chinese foot-binding. To walking on hot coals. To tap-dancing on tacks and broken glass. But with an especially beautiful outcome. Women like to wear heels when they want to feel confident and sexy, but to dance in them? But of course, Natasha pulls it off. In "On Your Toes" and "Begin the Beguine," sure enough--the little lady's in heels. Dancing ballet-ballroom style in heels, with grace and style not even Ginger Rogers ever pulled off.


Strangely missing in action is fellow prima donna ballerina extraordinaire and Russian native Mikhail Baryshnikov. The man is not only the quintessential name in ballet, he was one of the best to partner Natasha. They brought a fire and triumph to dance that only such Russkie angels such as they could.


It's true, this isn't as probing and as revealing about the overall life of it's subject like Nureyev's "I Am A Dancer" or Margot Fonteyn's "Margot" or the film about their collaborative work "The Perfect Partnership."


"Natasha" doesn't do any deep digging and just shows it's starlet's highlights. But Natasha herself is so damn great at what she does, that... "Natasha" is still worth seeing. For any fan of "Natasha" or ballet itself.


"Natasha" is a well-made film, beautifully shot and put together with the kind of professionalism and respect deserved for a ballerina deity such as Natalia Makarova.


It follows her, her on-stage career not limited purely to her ballet. For a ballerina to make it professionally, to make it to a principal. To make it into the history books. To make it as "prima ballerina absolutta."


Natasha herself has clearly earned such a tribute.


--For The Russia Prima Ballerina Absolutta, Dane Youssef


SPECIAL NOTE: Stay all the way to the finale.


After the final curtain call, Natasha decides to show us what a sweetheart and class act she truly is. She meets a pre pubescent ballerino and finds him cute and sweet as a puppy and suggests a potential partnership in the near future. She even gives an inspired callback from "On Your Toes." We remember her and Tim Flavin.


She shows encouragement to the very next generation. It almost seems like next coming of the Fonteyn-Nureyev partnership.


After watching this movie, you feel like you might just feel blessed beyond words... to meet her.


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"A horrible sit-com... REDEEMED!"

Posted : 7 years, 11 months ago on 24 September 2009 09:21 (A review of Married to the Kellys)

by Dane Youssef


“Married To The Kellys” is a reportedly autobiographical sit-com about a professional New York City novelist who moves out to the Midwest of Kansas to please his small-town bred wife (and her family).


Starring the older brother from Clueless and one of the losers from Road Trip (they're both the same actor, I mean), the whole thing centers around a family of yokels and Breckin Meyer trying valiantly and effortlessly to please them.


Seems to be a re-hashing of the Green Acres plot. Except with an “Everybody Loves Raymond”-like “fish-out-of-water” twist to it.


The show’s principal theory is that one about how just as boy/girl from the sticks will get taken advantage of and eaten alive in the big city, vice-versa, the same logic applies.


(THE FIRST TWELVE EPISODES)

His wife is also a yokel who leans on him to please her family and gets smarmy with him when she wants to. She's supposed to be the brains and resourceful one of the whole family. At least that's the way the show wants us to see her.


Not really. Her husband is emasculated and her family is composed of cartoon character small-town stereotypes that wouldn't seem out of place in one of David Lynch's movies.


She's not that smart. Really. Everybody is just that stupid. For some reason, sit-coms these days employ very stupid characters and situations so everything is so easy to follow. If anyone had any thought process at all, the whole show would implode. God willing…


Married to the Kellies is yet another sit-com featuring ballsy, scheming women, an emasculated husband who is basically a side-kick and the butt of so many jokes and a Rouges' gallery of Addams Family-like realities. The worst part is that the lead has no spine and no depth and is a pushover, so his embarrassment is not funny, challenging or even very interesting. If he would just dish it out a little. Yell at the family once in a while. Grow a pair. Bicker. Rebel. Do something. Piss them off a little. He's a member of the family now, he might as well start acting like it.


Bad sit-coms usually have one really flamboyant character that is supposed to steal the show. Think of any sit-com, really, and you'll know what I'm talking about. The show is designed to be so bland that anyone coming in and hamming it up instantly becomes the whole show. If you look at a blank white screen for enough period of time and you suddenly see a little black dot moving around, of course your eye is going to follow it. SOMETHING has to have your attention. Hell, you're almost grateful for that little black dot. Anything to slow down the monotony.


Guys, either re-model and rentavate or tear the damn thing down.


(THE NEXT THIRTEEN EPISODES)

In my early synopsis of the less-than successful Married With Kellys, I complained about the show's lack of edge and humor. But the show's weakest link was the character of Tom (Breckin Myer). The show was weak... mostly because it's lead was weak. The Tom character was bullied, humiliated, castrated, kicked aside... by his whole inbred, hick and hayseed family... even his own wife. ESPECIALLY HIS OWN WIFE!


Despite Tom's valiant attempts to win over the family, they despised Tom for being from the Big Apple and for being a big-shot novelist (instead of a dirty blue-collar working man like the rest of the family).


My closing line in my first review was: Guys, either re-model and renovate or tear the damn thing down.


Thankfully, my prayers were answered and they chose to do the latter. IMDb readers, I am pleased to report that Married to the Kellys is finally on track. I guess they just needed some time to find their voice. Did the creators get my message... or maybe I wasn't the only one protesting.


I have to admit, I thought this show was head for the sh*tter. But thankfully, ABC must have gotten my request and finally did some renovation on Kellys.


Or (more likely) maybe I wasn't the only one who felt this way. The cheerfully castrating yokel wife and her proud hayseed family... torturing her city-boy husband every step of the way. And he seemed to be sadomasochistic ally enduring it. I kept waiting for his pair to drop... and push back.


Well, it finally, finally happened. Thank you, God. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, ABC.


It's a miracle!


Perhaps the shows producers read my review. Or perhaps (much more likely) maybe I wasn't the only one who felt this way.


Meyer's character is now more sharp-tongued and edgy... and it was such a relief and high to hear him fling crap back at his henpecking wife and her self-glorifying sister Mary, at Mary's award ceremony, at the family Oscar party. When Chris stand up to Mary and starts defying her. And when Tom finally calls Mary on her delusion and silliness. And no one is talking about that stupid doghouse board again. Or at least taking it very seriously.


(For those of you wondering--and who haven't seen the show-- the doghouse is a bulletin board in the family kitchen. You see, whenever someone does something bad, a card with that person's name written on it--goes in the doghouse --signifying that person is in trouble hence, in the doghouse).


The show is finally watch able! Hell, more than that... funny! If only the ill-fated Good Morning, Miami had been smart and courageous enough to break it's formula and work with it, instead of just following it slavishly, GMM might've had a longer run.


But GMM crashed and burned as big and as bad as the Hindenberg. There is a lesson in all this. And it was almost as if the makers of this show had learned it and GMM didn't.


I ask--nay, PRAY... will others out there in the TV-show universe learn from this? It doesn't have to be this way. Take heed of my wise old words, children. Take heed.


(Note: As I publish this, Married To The Kelly's is also off the air. Go figure, huh? What a world, what a world....)


--For The Late Kellies, Dane Youssef


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"DOESN'T DARE TO BE DIFFERENT. OR EVEN VERY GOOD"

Posted : 7 years, 11 months ago on 24 September 2009 09:08 (A review of Good Morning, Miami)

by Dane Youssef


Ah, yes. The weather nun, the hispanic cariacture co-anchor and the dirty old grandma weren't great... or perhaps even very good.


But they're gone now. So now does the show have a chance?


It's not what's on the show that's the problem now. It's what's not there. "Good Morning, Miami"'s current biggest problem is it's generic, bland and flavorless.


Is that the worst thing a comedy can be?


Mark Feuerstein (TV's "Loving" and "Caroline in the City" and the films "Woman on Top" and "What Women Want") as Jake is not terrible by any means, just bland and flat--like Feuerstein was in his first lead "Conrad Bloom."


Mark is at times, not interesting enough to hate. He's not awful, you don't feel irritation watching him---just indifference. He's effective and perfectly cast when he plays the too-young, too-wide-eyed, too-youthful, too-excited love interests ("Caroline in the City," "West Wing" and "Once and Again"), as well as sidekicks ("What Women Want" and "Woman on Top") and lawyers ("Rules of Engagement," "Muder by Media," "West Wing")--and he's very effective there, which explains why NBC continues to employ him.


But as a lead, he's stilted and uncharasmatic. He's charming and has some nice physically expressive comedic moments, but he doesn't have the tall stature or confidence to carry a whole show. Not a bad actor, just not a LEAD actor.


Ashley Williams (TV's "As the World Turns" and "Dawson's Creek") seems to suffer from the same problems. I love her personally, but her Dylan character just leaves me feeling heavy disinterest.


She smiles, delivers a scripted on-liner, but not much more. People clamored the adorable little girl charm Ashley gave the show (when she just smiled) but her character is window dressing and plot device. Becoming wise, stupid and smiling whenever the plot requires her to. All Ashley is allowed to bring to her character is a sweet grin.


No wonder the viewers (the few fans of the show) seem to clamor for Penny. Constance Zimmer ("Warm Blooded Killers" and TV's "My Guide to Becoming a Rock Star"), well at least, she gets more to do and say as the lazy, worthless, dead-weight, yet sharp and caustic secretary with a wardrobe right out of the marked-down bargain-section of the flea market. The only who subscribe are virtually penniless, mentally deficent, have virtually no taste of are aspiring for a "bridge-and-tunnel dyke" look.


But yeah, we've all seen this character in almost every workplace sit-com ever made (TV's "Suddenly Susan," "NewsRadio," "The Larry Sanders Show," etc). Pretty much evey time a sit-com or sit-com-like movie sets foot in an office building, we'll run into one of these characters.


It's as if NBC was scraping the bottom of the bin and found all this stuff and just tried to assemble a show out of what was left.


That worked with Max & David when they put the magnificent "Will & Grace" together, but not here. Not at all. Not remotely.


"GMM" just takes the cliches' and assembles them, rarely at any point making any kind of attempt to re-vitalize them. Were Max & David exhausted and/or too busy from "W&G"? Or did they just not care?


The Penny character, although as unoriginal as it gets, is at least able to give the show some much-needed life and color. I looked her up here on IMDb and read that she is one of the older cast-members on the show. She hasn't had a great deal of work and fame, sadly. "GMM" is her break-out. That's good. She's been waiting a while. Too long, I think. It's about time. She has her own fan-site now. She's waited long enough for it.


The foppish, boorish blowhard of an anchorman, well-played by Lecshter, also has some nice moments. As Gavin Stone, he's the very empitime of the conceited jack-ass. Leschter makes his character spew insulting banter and insults like a machine and smiles a phony grin like he's trying to sell you a used car on cylinder blocks.


When he butts heads with Jake, it's funny, but "GMM" never takes real advantage of that. Like a lot of it's promise and potential, it squanders it, taking the cheapest and easiest shots imaginable. Shooting itself in the foot and trying to jerk us back and forth like a arcade game joystick---without any real skill or style.


Instead of having the characters all tear into each other (which would be really funny and entertaining), they all just tear into Jake. They all push him over and steamroller over JUST him. While something like that COULD, once again, BE funny---it's not here because Jake is just too easy a target. He's a sitting duck. He's just a big push-over. It's funny to take away a character's dignity IF THEY HAVE IT. But if just no challenge, it's just NOT FUNNY. It's just bullying. And comes off as kind of cruel. Humilating Jake is basically just like shooting dead fish in a shotglass.


It might be funny to give Jake some more edge. Some more banter. More one-liners. More put-downs. He doesn't humiliate himself without a fight. Give him some dignity. That's why it's much funnier and better when Gavin and Penny get hoisted by thier you-know-whats. It's just more entertaining to watch all the air get let out.


What lurks benath Penny's nasty, hostile and badly-dressed surface? Who is the real Gavin? In-jokes about the secret of Frank's sexuality have existed since the beginning? What's there? There's so much potential for a great series and it jumps and dodges all the potential for a better show. Why?

The realtionships, the unrequited love, the workplace war-zone, the relationship between Jake & Penny? Frank's sexuality? And more. The opportunity is here for another gold-mine like "W&G." But it's unmined for some reason. Why?


Perhaps because with "W&G," Max & David were sriking it out on their won. They were making their mark. Now that they're at the top, they're afraid to rock the boat. Afraid to say something significant. Or maybe it's NBC that wants to play it safe?


The cast mostly seems ideal. I just wish they were all at the service of a show that's just better. "GMM" plays like all the left-over cliches' "W&G" didn't want to bother with. Is that the real problem? Lack of inspiration and imagination? Or nerve?


Or is "GMM" just too scared?


--Good Luck Miami, Dane Youssef


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"THIS ONE COMES UP SHORT" by Dane Youssef

Posted : 7 years, 11 months ago on 17 September 2009 11:34 (A review of Fantasy Triple (Princess Bride, Willow, Legend) )

by Dane Youssef


This one wasn't much when it first came out. The budget was extravagant and the box-office returns just barely covered the big fat price tag. And as measly as a movie as this was for it's day on it's own merits, it's dwarfed even further by the immortal "Lord Of The Rings" saga.


"Willow" is the film the impish Warwick Davis is renown for his participation in the never-ending Horror-movie stories, the "Leprechaun" movies.


This was his first lead role and he brings a likeable and earnest charisma to the role instead of just trying to be little and cute like so many child performers and other midget actors. Thankfully, he proves himself as to be more than just a cheap gimmick like so many other "bit-players." He allows himself to really give a true performance and the film itself doesn't go for the cheapest of shots with any of the height of it's little people.


As a filmmaker, George Lucas is and has always been a homage-payer. He's one of those filmmakers who always tries to re-make those old films he loved during his own adolescence. With space operas: "Star Wars," With Matinee Adventure flicks: "Indiana Jones," With futuristic sci-fi adventures, "THX 1138."


And now with "Willow," he attempts to do the same for the sword-and-sorcery genre.


Notice I use the word "attempts."


The whole universe is derived from the whole medieval sword-and-sorcery genre. And it's a full bar and buffet smorgasbord here: We've got "Lord Of The Rings," "The Story of Moses," "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves," "Sleeping Beauty" and "Gulliver's Travels" just to name a few.


Val Kilmer is pound-for-pound one of the great heavyweight champion actors from here to Timbaktu. Perhaps even Pluto. But he even he and the rest of this considerable cast can't make it's movie as special and magical as it's title character is supposed to be.


The 20th century and the 21st saw few better thespians. He truly delivered an Oscar for his re-birth as Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone's "The Doors."


Here, anyone could have done the same job he does. It's his most unremarkable performance to date. They didn't need the great Kilmer for this one.


Any stock actor with a Screen Actors Guild card or with one year of high school drama class experience could have done as good a job.


Jean Marsh does a good job as Queen Bavmorda, but just about any random British actress on the planet could have done the same and gotten the same results.


Sadly, this one just stands toe-to-toe with the He-Man "Master Of The Universe" movie from 1987.


Even though Ron Howard Opie Cunningham was at the helm for this one, just about any hack with access to a tripod (that tilts low) could have done the same and gotten the same results.


The real problem with "Willow" is that it's totally unremarkable. It's about a likeable little guy with a big heart for his family. He has a magical gift and uses it to make a name for himself. He meets a great warrior with a shady record who may find love along the way.


They do battle with a wicked queen who happens to be a powerful witch with a great army, a two-headed dragon, a menacing lieutenant General who wears a mask scarier than his own face, yada yada yada yada. Do you even care?


There are two little like the 3-inch tall people in "Gulliver's Travels" called Brownies named Rool and Franjean with helium voices and ethnic caricatured French accents that would have been considered embarrassing in the '30's. They irritate and confuse, but never amuse. Unlike R2D2 and C3PO or Marcus Brody, they never provoke as much as a smile.


Lucas planned for this to be something of a series saga of films. But since this one barely made any return whatsoever, Lucas wound up scrapping the film "trilogy" and continuing the story in books. Hey, anyone out there ever actually so much as read a copy of the continuing "Willow" story?


With "Star Wars," "THX 1138" and "American Graffiti," Lucas swung for the fence like a dominant male gorilla. He pulled out all stops and then some. This one is on-par with your average episode of a Saturday Morning TV series, even for the day.


With Lucas' legendary "Indiana Jones" saga, we all remember one key gruesome scene in each movie---like the "false grail" scene in "Last Crusade" or the "Ripped Heart" in "The Temple Of Doom." In "Willow," there's a similar sequence inspired by the "Bay Of Pigs" from the Greek tales of "The Iliad and The Odyssey."


Lucas story pretty much recycles the whole outline plot of the "Star Wars" saga (episodes IV, V, and VI). Unfortunately, Lucas and Howard don't really feel like they're trying to have the last word of the genre as they did in many of their earlier efforts.


You can see anything just as good and inspired/thrilling/etc. every Saturday morning on just about any network.


Unlike "Star Wars," "Indiana Jones" or "Cocoon," this is not a product of theirs that defines the genre it's from.


And what is it with the baby Elora Danan? She's so much of the damn plot and yet, all she does really is smile and cry on cue. There are babies in diaper commercials who have characters with more depth.


I like the two-headed dragon. It doesn't look like the traditional fire-breathing dragon. It hardly even looks like a serpent. This one is kind of inspired. As a change of pace, it has more of an ugly look to it with long and furry serpent necks, almost like an ostrich. It's really weird.


Although, it's one of the few inspired touches in this routine medieval epic.


It's a Lucasfilm Ltd. production, so the special effects are (as it goes without saying) in the Oscar nomination territory. Enthralling for the day, some even by today's standards still shine. Lucas has made a bigger name for himself as a innovator of special effects than as a filmmaker.


While it was a defining role for actor Warwick Davis and it employs more midgets and dwarves than any other production (and respectively), for anyone else, "Willow" is never anything special, nor does it attempt to be.


Even for it's day "Willow" was unremarkable. Seriously, how many tales of swords, sorcery, kings, queens, dwarves, dragons and trolls had we seen in movies, TV shows, books, fairy tales and what-have-you before this came along? Yet another case of, "Too little, too late."


Nearly 20 years later, that old axiom proves even more true.


--Best To You, Willow Ulfgood, Wherever You Are, Dane Youssef



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"THIS ONE COMES UP SHORT" by Dane Youssef

Posted : 7 years, 11 months ago on 17 September 2009 11:33 (A review of Willow / Legend / Ladyhawke [1988])

by Dane Youssef


This one wasn't much when it first came out. The budget was extravagant and the box-office returns just barely covered the big fat price tag. And as measly as a movie as this was for it's day on it's own merits, it's dwarfed even further by the immortal "Lord Of The Rings" saga.


"Willow" is the film the impish Warwick Davis is renown for his participation in the never-ending Horror-movie stories, the "Leprechaun" movies.


This was his first lead role and he brings a likeable and earnest charisma to the role instead of just trying to be little and cute like so many child performers and other midget actors. Thankfully, he proves himself as to be more than just a cheap gimmick like so many other "bit-players." He allows himself to really give a true performance and the film itself doesn't go for the cheapest of shots with any of the height of it's little people.


As a filmmaker, George Lucas is and has always been a homage-payer. He's one of those filmmakers who always tries to re-make those old films he loved during his own adolescence. With space operas: "Star Wars," With Matinee Adventure flicks: "Indiana Jones," With futuristic sci-fi adventures, "THX 1138."


And now with "Willow," he attempts to do the same for the sword-and-sorcery genre.


Notice I use the word "attempts."


The whole universe is derived from the whole medieval sword-and-sorcery genre. And it's a full bar and buffet smorgasbord here: We've got "Lord Of The Rings," "The Story of Moses," "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves," "Sleeping Beauty" and "Gulliver's Travels" just to name a few.


Val Kilmer is pound-for-pound one of the great heavyweight champion actors from here to Timbaktu. Perhaps even Pluto. But he even he and the rest of this considerable cast can't make it's movie as special and magical as it's title character is supposed to be.


The 20th century and the 21st saw few better thespians. He truly delivered an Oscar for his re-birth as Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone's "The Doors."

Here, anyone could have done the same job he does. It's his most unremarkable performance to date. They didn't need the great Kilmer for this one.


Any stock actor with a Screen Actors Guild card or with one year of high school drama class experience could have done as good a job.


Jean Marsh does a good job as Queen Bavmorda, but just about any random British actress on the planet could have done the same and gotten the same results.


Sadly, this one just stands toe-to-toe with the He-Man "Master Of The Universe" movie from 1987.


Even though Ron Howard Opie Cunningham was at the helm for this one, just about any hack with access to a tripod (that tilts low) could have done the same and gotten the same results.


The real problem with "Willow" is that it's totally unremarkable. It's about a likeable little guy with a big heart for his family. He has a magical gift and uses it to make a name for himself. He meets a great warrior with a shady record who may find love along the way.


They do battle with a wicked queen who happens to be a powerful witch with a great army, a two-headed dragon, a menacing lieutenant General who wears a mask scarier than his own face, yada yada yada yada. Do you even care?


There are two little like the 3-inch tall people in "Gulliver's Travels" called Brownies named Rool and Franjean with helium voices and ethnic caricatured French accents that would have been considered embarrassing in the '30's. They irritate and confuse, but never amuse. Unlike R2D2 and C3PO or Marcus Brody, they never provoke as much as a smile.


Lucas planned for this to be something of a series saga of films. But since this one barely made any return whatsoever, Lucas wound up scrapping the film "trilogy" and continuing the story in books. Hey, anyone out there ever actually so much as read a copy of the continuing "Willow" story?


With "Star Wars," "THX 1138" and "American Graffiti," Lucas swung for the fence like a dominant male gorilla. He pulled out all stops and then some. This one is on-par with your average episode of a Saturday Morning TV series, even for the day.

With Lucas' legendary "Indiana Jones" saga, we all remember one key gruesome scene in each movie---like the "false grail" scene in "Last Crusade" or the "Ripped Heart" in "The Temple Of Doom." In "Willow," there's a similar sequence inspired by the "Bay Of Pigs" from the Greek tales of "The Iliad and The Odyssey."


Lucas story pretty much recycles the whole outline plot of the "Star Wars" saga (episodes IV, V, and VI). Unfortunately, Lucas and Howard don't really feel like they're trying to have the last word of the genre as they did in many of their earlier efforts.


You can see anything just as good and inspired/thrilling/etc. every Saturday morning on just about any network.


Unlike "Star Wars," "Indiana Jones" or "Cocoon," this is not a product of theirs that defines the genre it's from.


And what is it with the baby Elora Danan? She's so much of the damn plot and yet, all she does really is smile and cry on cue. There are babies in diaper commercials who have characters with more depth.


I like the two-headed dragon. It doesn't look like the traditional fire-breathing dragon. It hardly even looks like a serpent. This one is kind of inspired. As a change of pace, it has more of an ugly look to it with long and furry serpent necks, almost like an ostrich. It's really weird.


Although, it's one of the few inspired touches in this routine medieval epic.


It's a Lucasfilm Ltd. production, so the special effects are (as it goes without saying) in the Oscar nomination territory. Enthralling for the day, some even by today's standards still shine. Lucas has made a bigger name for himself as a innovator of special effects than as a filmmaker.


While it was a defining role for actor Warwick Davis and it employs more midgets and dwarves than any other production (and respectively), for anyone else, "Willow" is never anything special, nor does it attempt to be.


Even for it's day "Willow" was unremarkable. Seriously, how many tales of swords, sorcery, kings, queens, dwarves, dragons and trolls had we seen in movies, TV shows, books, fairy tales and what-have-you before this came along? Yet another case of, "Too little, too late."


Nearly 20 years later, that old axiom proves even more true.


by Dane Youssef


danessf@yahoo.com

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"THIS ONE COMES UP SHORT"

Posted : 7 years, 11 months ago on 17 September 2009 11:31 (A review of Willow)

by Dane Youssef


This one wasn't much when it first came out. The budget was extravagant and the box-office returns just barely covered the big fat price tag. And as measly as a movie as this was for it's day on it's own merits, it's dwarfed even further by the immortal "Lord Of The Rings" saga.


"Willow" is the film the impish Warwick Davis is renown for his participation in the never-ending Horror-movie stories, the "Leprechaun" movies.


This was his first lead role and he brings a likeable and earnest charisma to the role instead of just trying to be little and cute like so many child performers and other midget actors. Thankfully, he proves himself as to be more than just a cheap gimmick like so many other "bit-players." He allows himself to really give a true performance and the film itself doesn't go for the cheapest of shots with any of the height of it's little people.


As a filmmaker, George Lucas is and has always been a homage-payer. He's one of those filmmakers who always tries to re-make those old films he loved during his own adolescence. With space operas: "Star Wars," With Matinee Adventure flicks: "Indiana Jones," With futuristic sci-fi adventures, "THX 1138."


And now with "Willow," he attempts to do the same for the sword-and-sorcery genre.


Notice I use the word "attempts."


The whole universe is derived from the whole medieval sword-and-sorcery genre. And it's a full bar and buffet smorgasbord here: We've got "Lord Of The Rings," "The Story of Moses," "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves," "Sleeping Beauty" and "Gulliver's Travels" just to name a few.


Val Kilmer is pound-for-pound one of the great heavyweight champion actors from here to Timbaktu. Perhaps even Pluto. But he even he and the rest of this considerable cast can't make it's movie as special and magical as it's title character is supposed to be.


The 20th century and the 21st saw few better thespians. He truly delivered an Oscar for his re-birth as Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone's "The Doors."


Here, anyone could have done the same job he does. It's his most unremarkable performance to date. They didn't need the great Kilmer for this one.


Any stock actor with a Screen Actors Guild card or with one year of high school drama class experience could have done as good a job.


Jean Marsh does a good job as Queen Bavmorda, but just about any random British actress on the planet could have done the same and gotten the same results.


Sadly, this one just stands toe-to-toe with the He-Man "Master Of The Universe" movie from 1987.


Even though Ron Howard Opie Cunningham was at the helm for this one, just about any hack with access to a tripod (that tilts low) could have done the same and gotten the same results.


The real problem with "Willow" is that it's totally unremarkable. It's about a likeable little guy with a big heart for his family. He has a magical gift and uses it to make a name for himself. He meets a great warrior with a shady record who may find love along the way.


They do battle with a wicked queen who happens to be a powerful witch with a great army, a two-headed dragon, a menacing lieutenant General who wears a mask scarier than his own face, yada yada yada yada. Do you even care?


There are two little like the 3-inch tall people in "Gulliver's Travels" called Brownies named Rool and Franjean with helium voices and ethnic caricatured French accents that would have been considered embarrassing in the '30's. They irritate and confuse, but never amuse. Unlike R2D2 and C3PO or Marcus Brody, they never provoke as much as a smile.


Lucas planned for this to be something of a series saga of films. But since this one barely made any return whatsoever, Lucas wound up scrapping the film "trilogy" and continuing the story in books. Hey, anyone out there ever actually so much as read a copy of the continuing "Willow" story?


With "Star Wars," "THX 1138" and "American Graffiti," Lucas swung for the fence like a dominant male gorilla. He pulled out all stops and then some. This one is on-par with your average episode of a Saturday Morning TV series, even for the day.


With Lucas' legendary "Indiana Jones" saga, we all remember one key gruesome scene in each movie---like the "false grail" scene in "Last Crusade" or the "Ripped Heart" in "The Temple Of Doom." In "Willow," there's a similar sequence inspired by the "Bay Of Pigs" from the Greek tales of "The Iliad and The Odyssey."

Lucas story pretty much recycles the whole outline plot of the "Star Wars" saga (episodes IV, V, and VI). Unfortunately, Lucas and Howard don't really feel like they're trying to have the last word of the genre as they did in many of their earlier efforts.


You can see anything just as good and inspired/thrilling/etc. every Saturday morning on just about any network.


Unlike "Star Wars," "Indiana Jones" or "Cocoon," this is not a product of theirs that defines the genre it's from.


And what is it with the baby Elora Danan? She's so much of the damn plot and yet, all she does really is smile and cry on cue. There are babies in diaper commercials who have characters with more depth.


I like the two-headed dragon. It doesn't look like the traditional fire-breathing dragon. It hardly even looks like a serpent. This one is kind of inspired. As a change of pace, it has more of an ugly look to it with long and furry serpent necks, almost like an ostrich. It's really weird.


Although, it's one of the few inspired touches in this routine medieval epic.


It's a Lucasfilm Ltd. production, so the special effects are (as it goes without saying) in the Oscar nomination territory. Enthralling for the day, some even by today's standards still shine. Lucas has made a bigger name for himself as a innovator of special effects than as a filmmaker.


While it was a defining role for actor Warwick Davis and it employs more midgets and dwarves than any other production (and respectively), for anyone else, "Willow" is never anything special, nor does it attempt to be.


Even for it's day "Willow" was unremarkable. Seriously, how many tales of swords, sorcery, kings, queens, dwarves, dragons and trolls had we seen in movies, TV shows, books, fairy tales and what-have-you before this came along? Yet another case of, "Too little, too late."


Nearly 20 years later, that old axiom proves even more true.


--Still With Love For Lucas and "Opie Cunningham," Dane Youssef



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"DISAPOINTING, BUT STILL MOVING LOVE LETTER"

Posted : 7 years, 11 months ago on 16 September 2009 11:40 (A review of Bobby (Widescreen Edtion))

by Dane Youssef


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...


--For Bobby, Dane Youssef


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...



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"THIS NUTCRACKER SHINES BRIGHTEST, LIKE THE SUN"

Posted : 7 years, 11 months ago on 15 September 2009 03:59 (A review of The Nutcracker / Baryshnikov, Kirkland, Charmoli)

by Dane Youssef


Perhaps the best interpretation of "The Nutcracker" ever made. Baryshnikov's finest hour. And as even the most ballet-ignorant know, that barre' is set pretty high.


I have seen Mikhail Baryshnikov dance in the much-praised chick-flick "The Turning Point." And I have seen him dance his own interpretation of "Don Quixote." Good. Great, even. But not as much as fellow Russkie ballerino Nureyev's stab at "Quixote." And I have seen much more of him dancing. The man defies gravity, as well as many other laws. A ballet dancer, in the country of America, has been treated like a movie star. But this may very well be his best work, artistic-wise.


Mikhail Baryshnikov is man who hardly needs an introduction, as he is a man who is synonymous with ballet. The man is a household name, Baryshnikov is at his best here, which is more than difficult, even for him. Celebrated USA ballerina Gelsey Kirkland (who was a regular partner and even girlfriend of dear Misha at the time) actually proves to be a credible match. And even takes it to a higher level than he does in HER solo scenes.


This was the first "Nutcracker" I've ever seen. I have seen several interpretations of "The Nutcracker" since then, and this one still stands as the best of the lot. There are no real children in this cast. The children's roles are played by adults in adolescent-looking wigs.


The idea to make this a movie rather than a live stage piece kind of works. It allows for more visual effects than a straight live piece would have.


There is a moment where Ms. Kirkland dances a solo all by herself, that sequence actually left be breathless. When she shakes her pointed feet like bells, the music jingles in pitch-perfect sync. She doesn't seem to be following the music at all. The music seems to be following her.


It's so beautifully and perfectly done, that as someone who takes ballet and has danced on the stage, that it actually hurt to watch.


The day that I can move as gracefully and exquisitely (on her worst day, I mean) may never come. Kirkland actually, in that one scene, manages to steal the movie away from Baryshnikov. Baryshnikov's leaps, turns, jumps and pirouettes are as breathtaking as always, and somehow never seem to get old. Misha's striking presence and Peter Pan-like mobility just.. well, makes you want to get up and dance. Or just jump around. He doesn't so much leap as much as soars.


Baryshnikov puts some little touches of humor here and there. There's a lovable old man at the Christmas Party who attempts to dance and hurts himself, as well as a toy soldier who stubs his toe. Baryshnikov has always seemingly had the soul of a child and the heart of a clown.


The Arabian Coffee Dance has been deleted for running time, I'm sorry to say. As has Mother Gigogne. Not to mention The famed "Waltz Of The Snowflakes" is a powerhouse, the ballet corps sway to the music so beautifully, for the briefest moment, we actually forget about Baryshnikov and Kirkland.


Is Baryshnikov trying to give himself more screen time, Clara or the ballet itself? Alexander Minz proves to be invaluable as a supporting player in the role of Drosselmyer. I was reminded of Fred Astaire. He moves around with his long, willowy limbs in a way that seemed almost inhuman. I seriously doubt ever got half the credit he deserved throughout his life.


He had an effective, amusing cameo in "The Turning Point." Baryshnikov continues to prove time and time again what we already know--the greatest ballet dancer of any generation will always be a Russian.


The choreography is riveting, some of the best I've ever seen. Although, the honor for "World's Greatest" go to "Singin' In The Rain." Maybe the Russian could put dances together now. He's reportedly a great teacher of dance as well.


While many of the special-effects look a bit outdated, it remains a riveting experience. After all, most ballet movies are just filmed dancing and this one takes the effort to actually be something of a movie.


The acting is not much, nor is there as much plot as is traditional, a as this "Nutcracker" focuses more on the dancing and music. The pyrotechnics (the dancer's rapidly-moving muscular limbs and the way they and the music truly gel).


Despite Mr. Baryshnikov in the title role and given prominent first billing, the star of "The Nutcracker" is Gelsey Kirkland as Clara, as this is all Clara's story.


Many movies have attempted to translate this legendary dance story to the screen, usually with disastrous results. For example, the mistake the 20th Century Fox movie "George Balanchine's The Nutcracker" made was if they were going to made the ballet into a movie, they should have done something for the movie that they couldn't do for a live production. Alas, they did not. It moved so slowly and the whole movie was so badly-lit, it looked like somebody boot-legged the whole thing with a camcorder.


The solo duets are just as enjoyable. The dancers, are in fact, so good that they almost threaten to outdo the leads.


It's a beautiful story, more with flair and style in it's depth. It's a revised fairy tale.


When Misha and Gels prance together, their body movements almost in perfect parallel... it's beautiful and breath-taking. They seem to be connected internally somehow. These are two people... brought together by dance. It's every little girl's dream... and that's exactly what the "Nutcracker" should be.


--For Baryshnikov, "The Nutcracker" and Ballet Itself, Dane Youssef



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