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"WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO SAY?" by Dane Youssef

Posted : 9 years, 1 month ago on 9 September 2009 06:39 (A review of Beethoven's 3rd)

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.


--Wondering Whatever Happened to Roger and Baby Herman, Dane Youssef


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"WHAT'S ELSE IS THERE TO SAY?" by Dane Youssef

Posted : 9 years, 1 month ago on 9 September 2009 06:38 (A review of Who Framed Roger Rabbit [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC])

by Dane Youssef


Well... what is there?

Gee... What can I say?

What can be said that hasn't been said a zillion times about this movie before? By film critics, film buffs, the other user posters on IMDb and every other person who saw this one?

But you know what? I'm not here to really promote this movie, or analyze it... I'm here to write my love letter for it. We're all here to share our movie-going experiences, aren't we? Well, f*ck it, here's mine.

I still remember being a little prepubescent boy sitting in the theater watching this movie, totally amazed and astounded by what I saw. Seeing this wacky cartoons going through a routine Tom-and-Jerry-type episode... and then... it was amazing how these movie actually tricked you, convinced you to believe that human and cartoons can exist in the same universe and dimension of reality.

There are many a great pleasures and moments in this movie, one of them is the duet at a "toon" night club called "The Ink & Paint Club" where Eddie goes to get information about Roger's wife, and the opening act is a dueling duet on the piano featuring two great legends, Daffy Duck and Donald Duck (I doubt there's any biological relation there) together at last. Why did it take so long for these two to get together? Well, they are rival entertainers for rival studios, so...

But of course, the dueling duet ends in an all-out war. Come on, we both know the hatchet wasn't going to stay buried very long.

The whole movie is worth renting just to see the two great legends, Daffy and Donald, put their differences aside for one memorable dueling piano duet ALONE.

"Roger Rabbit" pioneered not only animation and film-making style, but acting, writing, directing and a meshing together of different genres.

Imagination, luck, brilliance, skill... it's all been blended so perfectly here... just like the animation and live-action.

Funny, sharp, satirical, smart, thrilling, skillful, bright, bold, hard-boiled, colorful... at even at times, a little scary.

It one three Oscars, not to mention an Honorary Award for it's Technical Advancements.

Hell, it deserved every single Oscar it got! And a few it didn't. It should've won every single Oscar that year. Maybe some from others...

God, you know, I still remember finding my little Rescue Ranger toy in my pocket and running in back-and-forth through my fingers... I remember being very careful not to loose it as I watched this. And it was hard, damn it, all of what was going up there on the screen.

There's the best of the everything here. Everyone should see it, pure and simple. It's a movie... for pretty much everybody. A masterpiece in more ways than one.

So help me God, I cannot think of a better actor for the role of the classic, hard-boiled, rock-bottom, not-too-smooth P.I. than Bob Hoskins. I don't think he's ever played a better role in his whole life. He seems to be a strange collision of Sam Spade and W.C. Fields, in some strange way.

Christopher Lloyd proves yet again (as he does in all his roles) that he's one of the most underrated actors in the business. He's known for playing the bizarre, the crazy, the wired. But his ability to play villains, particularly more sedate and low-key ones, is overlooked so much, it's grounds for a discrimination lawsuit.

Kathleen Turner is damn perfect as Roger's Mrs; especially considering that all she does here is a voice.

"Roger Rabbit" pioneered not only animation and film-making style, but acting, writing, directing and a meshing together of different genres. Literature purists and scholars (yes, I mean geeks) will note that this movie is adapted from a novel by Gary K. Wolf, who specializes in science-fiction.

For those of you who are enamored with this movie and just learning this, are actively considering dropping this review right this instant and running to your nearest library and bookstore to pick up a copy to read as an addition to the movie or just out of curiosity, I should warn you that the movie is completely unfaithful to the novel.

Oh, both are clever and well-written spoofs of the whole "hard-boiled private-detective mystery noir genre," but the two are so completely different, in writing-style, character dialouge, plot, theme, even ending, you wonder why they even bothered to get Wolf's permission and pay him a royalty. Gee, usually these Hollywood types are a little more snaky and know how to exploit all these loopholes.

You've no doubt heard the old saying, "You can't please everyone, so don't even bother." Because when you try, you wind up ultimately pleasing no one. Least of all, yourself. It's strange, this movie seems like an exception to that one little rule. I mean, I know there's an exception to every rule, but this is one you're sure is completely iron-clad. This is a movie for everyone. This is a movie that will please everyone. And you know what else? It never got the credit for that. Think about what a big train-wreck this movie could have been. How many things could have gone wrong.

How many years Disney and Warner have been at war, all this time, money for a experiment that could have gone worse than than the killer bees and the atomic bomb. And yet, glory be, it didn't. We all live for days like this, filmmakers, film critics... and film lovers.

The best part? After it was all over... Roger and Baby Herman went on to star in several of their own cartoon shorts before the movie for real ("Dick Tracy" and "Honey, I Shrunk The Kids").

Good for them.


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"ONE OF THE BEST THERE WILL EVER BE"

Posted : 9 years, 1 month ago on 4 September 2009 05:21 (A review of CHRIS ROCK: BIGGER & BLACKER (UMD))

by Dane Youssef


Rock is the best stand-up comedian in the world right now. See this movie for physical evidence.


This is one of the funniest and perhaps greatest stand-up bits ever made. And I have seen more than my fair share.


I had seen Rock mostly from bit comedic parts. Films like "Beverly Hills Cop II" and "Beverly Hills Ninja." Not to mention "Boomerang." But I was unaware to this man genius with a mike for the longest time (too long, in my opinion).


Rock is mostly known as "The angry, loud little black guy bitching how the white man is trying to personally keep him down." But he's so much more. He speaks with such insight and eloquence about humanity and the races and the sexes, I think of him as a superman or some prodigy.


His theories here: Women who want to raise kids without a man's help, respect and appreciation for Daddy, fat black women, people's obsession with the OJ trial and how white people bitch about their current financial status. But given the choice... they wouldn't trade places with a black man. Not even him.


"And I'm rich!" he exclaims.


Not even the poor white trash. Or the one-legged busboy busing the concert. "That's how GOOD it is to be white!"


Maybe he's right.


"When you're white, the sky's the limit! When you're black, the limit's the sky!"


He goes into other stuff. Where guys hide their porn. What women are truly thinking. Perhaps he's the only man who truly knows. He also has some great childhood stuff about being the only black kid at his school at how Robitussin was an all-purpose medicine at his house. Like people use to think leeches were.


This is a gem on film. The man created gold when he's given a microphone and a stage. I bought the tape a year later and a lot of Rock's others. I'm serious. It's so incredible, funny and true to life and painfully on target that at times we flinch when he aims directly at us. It's almost scary.


May Chris Rock be forever immortalized in the same status as Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Bill Hicks. Every generation (just once) every generation... a creature as divine as this is born into this pitiful mortal world... and changes it forever.


Now the black Def Jam comics who have made their own showcase vehicles, "The Original Kings of Comedy" and "The Queens of Comedy." They are very talented and amazing. Like I even need to say so. I'm preaching to the choir, aren't I? But even they're not in Chris Rock's league.


Rock is up there (as far as I'm concerned) with those who redefined comedy and now the modern comics incorporate it into their act, without even knowing where the hell it first came from. Who was the innovator. Who started it all.


Here is a man who deserves the success Seinfeld has had. Maybe if he had a revolutionary sit-com with his own brand of comedy. Who knows?


The sky's the limit for Rock.


I hope he makes another stand-up concert film. I liked his stand-up concert bits in "Head of State." Let's hope he does more.


This concert film is more than a gem, but a treasure. Look for any of his others. One of the best stand-up concert films ever made, if not actually THE best. Worthy of being put-up on par with "Richard Pryor Live On The Sunset Strip" and "Eddie Murphy Raw," this one richly deserves a 10 out of 10.


Enough said.



--Rock The "Chris Rock" Forever, Dane Youssef



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"ONE OF THE BEST THERE WILL EVER BE"

Posted : 9 years, 1 month ago on 4 September 2009 05:20 (A review of Chris Rock - Bigger and Blacker)

by Dane Youssef


Rock is the best stand-up comedian in the world right now. See this movie for physical evidence.

This is one of the funniest and perhaps greatest stand-up bits ever made. And I have seen more than my fair share.

I had seen Rock mostly from bit comedic parts. Films like "Beverly Hills Cop II" and "Beverly Hills Ninja." Not to mention "Boomerang." But I was unaware to this man genius with a mike for the longest time (too long, in my opinion).

Rock is mostly known as "The angry, loud little black guy who pisses and moans about how the white man is trying to personally keep him down." But he's so much more. He speaks with such insight and eloquence about humanity and the races and the sexes, I think of him as a superman or some prodigy.

His theories here: Women who want to raise kids without a man's help, respect and appreciation for Daddy, fat black women, people's obsession with the OJ trial and how white people bitch about their current financial status. But given the choice... they wouldn't trade places with a black man. Not even him.

"And I'm rich!" he exclaims.

Not even the poor white trash. Or the one-legged busboy busing the concert. "That's how GOOD it is to be white!"

Maybe he's right.

"When you're white, the sky's the limit! When you're black, the limit's the sky!"

He goes into other stuff. Where guys hide their porn in the house when they're living with a woman. What women are truly thinking. Perhaps he's the only man who truly knows. He also has some great childhood stuff about being the only black kid at his school at how Robitussin was an all-purpose medicine at his house. Like people use to think leeches were.

This is a gem on film. The man created gold when he's given a microphone and a stage. I bought the tape a year later and a lot of Rock's others. I'm serious. It's so incredible, funny and true to life and painfully on target that at times we flinch when he aims directly at us. It's almost scary.

May Chris Rock be forever immortalized in the same status as Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Bill Hicks. Every generation (just once) every generation... a creature as divine as this is born into this pitiful mortal world... and changes it forever.

Now the black Def Jam comics who have made their own showcase vehicles, "The Original Kings of Comedy" and "The Queens of Comedy." They are very talented and amazing. Like I even need to say so. I'm preaching to the choir, aren't I? But even they're not in Chris Rock's league.

Rock is up there (as far as I'm concerned) with those who redefined comedy and now the modern comics incorporate it into their act, without even knowing where the hell it first came from. Who was the innovator. Who started it all.

Here is a man who deserves the success Seinfeld has had. Maybe if he had a revolutionary sit-com with his own brand of comedy. Who knows?

The sky's the limit for Rock.

I hope he makes another stand-up concert film. I liked his stand-up concert bits in "Head of State." Let's hope he does more.

This concert film is more than a gem, but a treasure. Look for any of his others. One of the best stand-up concert films ever made, if not actually THE best. Worthy of being put-up on par with "Richard Pryor Live On The Sunset Strip" and "Eddie Murphy Raw," this one richly deserves a 10 out of 10.

Enough said.


by Dane Youssef


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"ONE OF THE BEST THERE WILL EVER BE"

Posted : 9 years, 1 month ago on 4 September 2009 05:19 (A review of Chris Rock: Bigger And Blacker)

by Dane Youssef


Rock is the best stand-up comedian in the world right now. See this movie for physical evidence.

This is one of the funniest and perhaps greatest stand-up bits ever made. And I have seen more than my fair share.

I had seen Rock mostly from bit comedic parts. Films like "Beverly Hills Cop II" and "Beverly Hills Ninja." Not to mention "Boomerang." But I was unaware to this man genius with a mike for the longest time (too long, in my opinion).

Rock is mostly known as "The angry, loud little black guy bitching how the white man is trying to personally keep him down." But he's so much more. He speaks with such insight and eloquence about humanity and the races and the sexes, I think of him as a superman or some prodigy.

His theories here: Women who want to raise kids without a man's help, respect and appreciation for Daddy, fat black women, people's obsession with the OJ trial and how white people bitching about their current financial status. But given the choice... they wouldn't trade places with a black man. Not even him.

"And I'm rich!" he exclaims.

Not even the poor white trash. Or the one-legged busboy busing the concert. "That's how GOOD it is to be white!"

Maybe he's right.

"When you're white, the sky's the limit! When you're black, the limit's the sky!"

He goes into other stuff. Where guys hide their porn when they're living with a woman. What women are truly thinking. Perhaps he's the only man who truly knows. He also has some great childhood stuff about being the only black kid at his school at how Robitussin was an all-purpose medicine at his house. Like people use to think leeches were.

This is a gem on film. The man created gold when he's given a microphone and a stage. I bought the tape a year later and a lot of Rock's others. I'm serious. It's so incredible, funny and true to life and painfully on target that at times we flinch when he aims directly at us. It's almost scary.

May Chris Rock be forever immortalized in the same status as Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Bill Hicks. Every generation (just once) every generation... a creature as divine as this is born into this pitiful mortal world... and changes it forever.

Now the black Def Jam comics who have made their own showcase vehicles, "The Original Kings of Comedy" and "The Queens of Comedy." They are very talented and amazing. Like I even need to say so. I'm preaching to the choir, aren't I? But even they're not in Chris Rock's league.

Rock is up there (as far as I'm concerned) with those who redefined comedy and now the modern comics incorporate it into their act, without even knowing where the hell it first came from. Who was the innovator. Who started it all.

Here is a man who deserves the success Seinfeld has had. Maybe if he had a revolutionary sit-com with his own brand of comedy. Who knows?

The sky's the limit for Rock.

I hope he makes another stand-up concert film. I liked his stand-up concert bits in "Head of State." Let's hope he does more.

This concert film is more than a gem, but a treasure. Look for any of his others. One of the best stand-up concert films ever made, if not actually THE best. Worthy of being put-up on par with "Richard Pryor Live On The Sunset Strip" and "Eddie Murphy Raw," this one richly deserves a 10 out of 10.

Enough said.


by Dane Youssef


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"EVERYONE'S GOT ONE TO TELL"

Posted : 9 years, 1 month ago on 4 September 2009 05:15 (A review of Storytelling)

by Dane Youssef


This is yet another "daring and provocative" little "taboo-breaking film" from writer/director Todd Solondz ("Welcome To The Dollhouse," "Happiness," "Fear, Anxiety & Depression," Schatt's Last Shot"), so anyone who picks t his one up should know what to expect. In fact, dollars to diamonds, you wouldn't even think about picking this one up unless you were a fan.


Like fellow contraversal filmmaker Neil LaBute, he likes to shed a great deal of light on the uglier, loathsome, unsavory side of humanity. Is he trying to illuminate us all by showing us the dark matter of our society? How our cold and evil nature may be our downfall? And all the damage it's doing? Or is Solondz more infactuated by these all-too realistic monsters and villains he puts up there on the screen?


Is this weird little man enamored by his loathsome creations? Is he celebrating this callous side of the human race or satirizing it? Normally, he leaves that to us, but althroughout "Storytelling," he seems to be trying to set the record straight.


For those who saw his heavily acclaimed (by critics and audiences alike) "Welcome To The Dollhouse" a movie about the hell almighty on earth that is junior high school.


I was not one of the film's many admirers.


Yes, I felt like just about everybody else that the film did have some poginant truths, but... I pretty much already knew them all. It all felt kinda redundant. I was in high school at the time and every scene I was watching, I thought, "Yeah, no shit" and "God, these people are assholes and idiots."


I mean, I know it's supposed to be a satire, but I felt too much like I was watching what I already knew and thought and what has been said too many times before. Solondz was preaching to the wrong choir there.


His next fim, "Happiness" about three sisters and their lives... and how adulthood is more or less as mentally unbalanced as junior high school. About three sisters and how their lives aren't as well-adjusted as they seem. The seemingly ideal perfect sister is dry, secretly dull and lives such a sterile life that when an obscene phone caller calls her... she starts stalking him.


The best line in the movie "Happiness"... that almost encapsulates the entire film:


Helen Jordan: "I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing with you."


Joy Jordan: "But I'm not laughing."


The film is about two different forms of storytelling: Two seperate chapters, "Fiction" and "Non-Fiction."


"Fiction" is a surprisingly short one. It's about the creative writing process, and it takes place in a creative writing class. Many of the main characters are all writing short stories, most of which are autobiographical.


A woman who has writing aspirations and her cerebal-palsy girlfriend with the same. Her name is Vi, and she breaks up with her boyfriend after his obviously autobiographical story is panned horribly by the school teacher who dismisses it first very crudely and then gets more elaborate.


He especially takes some kind of pleasure in attacking the title: "The Rawness of Truth."

It's the kind of story that leaves you thinking, "Wow, is that in dire need of a rewrite."


Pretty much the whole class warms up to it... except for the star pupil/teacher's pet... and the teacher himself, a Pulitzer-Prize winning author of a novel entitled, "A Sunday Lynching."


Marcus (Vi's boyfriend) is furious with her for not giving it to him straight. Marcus' "Rawness" is about how Vi gave him confidence and made him feel, as he puts it in his story... "completely cerebal."


Vi, stricken, gets hammered, lights up and...


The professor has a poetic line about the writing process that rings incredibly true: "Whenever you write... it all becomes fiction."


After the first story ("Fiction") in the film ends, you can't get but the feeling that although something horrible and tragic has happened, perhaps it was nessicary. And after they take it all in, let in all sink in, lick their wounds, let some time pass... maybe they'll be ready to take the next step.


"Non-Fiction" is about most likely Solondz experience as director and the whole documentary experience. Often at times, those documentarians seem to be roasting and attacking their subjects with great anger and fury... but are they just trying to get heat for their film... or is that how they really see it?


Who knows? Many artists are former victims, grown children with bad experiences and hell-bent on vengeance. "Non-Fiction" revolves around the exploits of a documentarian filmmaker and his desire to make a documentary about teenagers and what they're feeling now.


Have things changed much? Drugs... suicidal feelings... self-loathing... loathing of the world around them... of the way society treats them, pressures them, conforms them and disposes of them... how do teenagers put up with it? What's ahead? Mark Webber is Scooby Livingston, a depressed and moody teenager who's completely lost and like many teenagers, his all-purpose requests to every queston is "I don't know," "I really don't care" and "Whatever."


He always seems deep in thought and in need of answers. He has big goal aspirations... but no idea whatsoever as how to attain them. When asked how he plans to attain his dreams of stardom, he answers: "I don't know, see if I have any connections... whatever..." After a meet-strange with a documentarian named Toby, both seem to think the other may be exactly what they're looking for and maybe their seemingly unobtainable dreams might have a chance of coming true after all.


The family is not enthusiastic about the whole thing... especially the father who doesn't want the family's dirty laundry to be aired out. But after some hard questions and earnest promises, he agrees.


No family wants to be exploited... and this family certainly would provide more than enough of such material. I think the boy represents Solondz as a young teenager (Solondz himself is also a vegetarian) and of course, Giamatti as Toby is Solondz as a filmmaker (Solondz dresses up Giamatti to look exactly like him).


There's pressure all around from every angle and sadly, no way out in sight. College doesn't sound appealing and there has to be a place for Scooby. Since Scooby grew up to be Solondz himself (we can only assume), there must be hope.


But I think Scooby represents all teenagers. He reflects not our generation, but that paticular case, that type. That unfortunate type.


God, how many teens are there out there EXACTLY like Scooby? Actually, I think he represents the teens who are more depressed, desolate and lost. The ones who are always feeling lost... swimming against the tides, always feeling trapped with a feeling of hopelessness.


If you've ever seen a Solondz movie, you really do know what to expect.


Like all of his other efforts, this is about how ugliness and unsettling rage lives in middle class suburbia. You can't watch this movie, see and hear some of these people and not think of someone you know or have met or seen randomly on the street.


Solondz is from Suburbia, New Jersey and is talking about what's going on there.


I like how he talks about things that most movies and people in real life shy away from. He wants to critisize, satirize and get you to ask yourself...


"How many people are really like this? And... is there hope for us? How many of these people exist... and more importantly, are they in our neghiborhood? Not many... hopefully."


Like all of Solondz films, people will either be mesmerized by it or despise it, but it's a movie that many should see.


Perhaps a movie for cynical teenagers and aspiring storytellers. Just know what you're getting into.


--A Natural-Born Storyteller, Dane Youssef


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"EVERYONE'S GOT ONE TO TELL"

Posted : 9 years, 1 month ago on 4 September 2009 05:14 (A review of Storytelling)

by Dane Youssef


This is yet another "daring and provocative" little "taboo-breaking film" from writer/director Todd Solondz ("Welcome To The Dollhouse," "Happiness," "Fear, Anxiety & Depression," Schatt's Last Shot"), so anyone who picks t his one up should know what to expect. In fact, dollars to diamonds, you wouldn't even think about picking this one up unless you were a fan.

Like fellow contraversal filmmaker Neil LaBute, he likes to shed a great deal of light on the uglier, loathsome, unsavory side of humanity. Is he trying to illuminate us all by showing us the dark matter of our society? How our cold and evil nature may be our downfall? And all the damage it's doing? Or is Solondz more infactuated by these all-too realistic monsters and villains he puts up there on the screen?

Is this weird little man enamored by his loathsome creations? Is he celebrating this callous side of the human race or satirizing it? Normally, he leaves that to us, but althroughout "Storytelling," he seems to be trying to set the record straight.

For those who saw his heavily acclaimed (by critics and audiences alike) "Welcome To The Dollhouse" a movie about the hell almighty on earth that is junior high school.

I was not one of the film's many admirers.

Yes, I felt like just about everybody else that the film did have some poginant truths, but... I pretty much already knew them all. It all felt kinda redundant. I was in high school at the time and every scene I was watching, I thought, "Yeah, no s-- t" and "God, these people are a------s and idiots."

I mean, I know it's supposed to be a satire, but I felt too much like I was watching what I already knew and thought and what has been said too many times before. Solondz was preaching to the wrong choir there.

His next fim, "Happiness" about three sisters and their lives... and how adulthood is more or less as mentally unbalanced as junior high school. About three sisters and how their lives aren't as well-adjusted as they seem. The seemingly ideal perfect sister is dry, secretly dull and lives such a sterile life that when an obscene phone caller calls her... she starts stalking him.

The best line in the movie "Happiness"... that almost encapsulates the entire film:

Helen Jordan: "I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing with you."

Joy Jordan: "But I'm not laughing."

The film is about two different forms of storytelling: Two seperate chapters, "Fiction" and "Non-Fiction."

"Fiction" is a surprisingly short one. It's about the creative writing process, and it takes place in a creative writing class. Many of the main characters are all writing short stories, most of which are autobiographical.

A woman who has writing aspirations and her cerebal-palsy girlfriend with the same. Her name is Vi, and she breaks up with her boyfriend after his obviously autobiographical story is panned horribly by the school teacher who dismisses it first very crudely and then gets more elaborate.

He especially takes some kind of pleasure in attacking the title: "The Rawness of Truth."

It's the kind of story that leaves you thinking, "Wow, is that in dire need of a rewrite."

Pretty much the whole class warms up to it... except for the star pupil/teacher's pet... and the teacher himself, a Pulitzer-Prize winning author of a novel entitled, "A Sunday Lynching."

Marcus (Vi's boyfriend) is furious with her for not giving it to him straight. Marcus' "Rawness" is about how Vi gave him confidence and made him feel, as he puts it in his story... "completely cerebal."

Vi, stricken, gets hammered, lights up and...

The professor has a poetic line about the writing process that rings incredibly true: "Whenever you write... it all becomes fiction."

After the first story ("Fiction") in the film ends, you can't get but the feeling that although something horrible and tragic has happened, perhaps it was nessicary. And after they take it all in, let in all sink in, lick their wounds, let some time pass... maybe they'll be ready to take the next step.

"Non-Fiction" is about most likely Solondz experience as director and the whole documentary experience. Often at times, those documentarians seem to be roasting and attacking their subjects with great anger and fury... but are they just trying to get heat for their film... or is that how they really see it?

Who knows? Many artists are former victims, grown children with bad experiences and hell-bent on vengeance. "Non-Fiction" revolves around the exploits of a documentarian filmmaker and his desire to make a documentary about teenagers and what they're feeling now.

Have things changed much? Drugs... suicidal feelings... self-loathing... loathing of the world around them... of the way society treats them, pressures them, conforms them and disposes of them... how do teenagers put up with it? What's ahead? Mark Webber is Scooby Livingston, a depressed and moody teenager who's completely lost and like many teenagers, his all-purpose requests to every queston is "I don't know," "I really don't care" and "Whatever."

He always seems deep in thought and in need of answers. He has big goal aspirations... but no idea whatsoever as how to attain them. When asked how he plans to attain his dreams of stardom, he answers: "I don't know, see if I have any connections... whatever..." After a meet-strange with a documentarian named Toby, both seem to think the other may be exactly what they're looking for and maybe their seemingly unobtainable dreams might have a chance of coming true after all.

The family is not enthusiastic about the whole thing... especially the father who doesn't want the family's dirty laundry to be aired out. But after some hard questions and earnest promises, he agrees.

No family wants to be exploited... and this family certainly would provide more than enough of such material. I think the boy represents Solondz as a young teenager (Solondz himself is also a vegetarian) and of course, Giamatti as Toby is Solondz as a filmmaker (Solondz dresses up Giamatti to look exactly like him).

There's pressure all around from every angle and sadly, no way out in sight. College doesn't sound appealing and there has to be a place for Scooby. Since Scooby grew up to be Solondz himself (we can only assume), there must be hope.

But I think Scooby represents all teenagers. He reflects not our generation, but that paticular case, that type. That unfortunate type.

God, how many teens are there out there EXACTLY like Scooby? Actually, I think he represents the teens who are more depressed, desolate and lost. The ones who are always feeling lost... swimming against the tides, always feeling trapped with a feeling of hopelessness.

If you've ever seen a Solondz movie, you really do know what to expect.

Like all of his other efforts, this is about how ugliness and unsettling rage lives in middle class suburbia. You can't watch this movie, see and hear some of these people and not think of someone you know or have met or seen randomly on the street.

Solondz is from Suburbia, New Jersey and is talking about what's going on there.

I like how he talks about things that most movies and people in real life shy away from. He wants to critisize, satirize and get you to ask yourself...

"How many people are really like this? And... is there hope for us? How many of these people exist... and more importantly, are they in our neghiborhood? Not many... hopefully."

Like all of Solondz films, people will either be mesmerized by it or despise it, but it's a movie that many should see.

Perhaps a movie for cynical teenagers and aspiring storytellers. Just know what you're getting into.


by Dane Youssef


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"EVERYONE'S GOT ONE TO TELL"

Posted : 9 years, 1 month ago on 4 September 2009 05:13 (A review of Storytelling)

by Dane Youssef


This is yet another "daring and provocative" little "taboo-breaking film" from writer/director Todd Solondz ("Welcome To The Dollhouse," "Happiness," "Fear, Anxiety & Depression," Schatt's Last Shot"), so anyone who picks t his one up should know what to expect. In fact, dollars to diamonds, you wouldn't even think about picking this one up unless you were a fan.

Like fellow contraversal filmmaker Neil LaBute, he likes to shed a great deal of light on the uglier, loathsome, unsavory side of humanity. Is he trying to illuminate us all by showing us the dark matter of our society? How our cold and evil nature may be our downfall? And all the damage it's doing? Or is Solondz more infactuated by these all-too realistic monsters and villains he puts up there on the screen?

Is this weird little man enamored by his loathsome creations? Is he celebrating this callous side of the human race or satirizing it? Normally, he leaves that to us, but althroughout "Storytelling," he seems to be trying to set the record straight.

For those who saw his heavily acclaimed (by critics and audiences alike) "Welcome To The Dollhouse" a movie about the hell almighty on earth that is junior high school.

I was not one of the film's many admirers.

Yes, I felt like just about everybody else that the film did have some poginant truths, but... I pretty much already knew them all. It all felt kinda redundant. I was in high school at the time and every scene I was watching, I thought, "Yeah, no shit" and "God, these people are assholes and idiots."

I mean, I know it's supposed to be a satire, but I felt too much like I was watching what I already knew and thought and what has been said too many times before. Solondz was preaching to the wrong choir there.

His next fim, "Happiness" about three sisters and their lives... and how adulthood is more or less as mentally unbalanced as junior high school. About three sisters and how their lives aren't as well-adjusted as they seem. The seemingly ideal perfect sister is dry, secretly dull and lives such a sterile life that when an obscene phone caller calls her... she starts stalking him.

The best line in the movie "Happiness"... that almost encapsulates the entire film:

Helen Jordan: "I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing with you."

Joy Jordan: "But I'm not laughing."

The film is about two different forms of storytelling: Two seperate chapters, "Fiction" and "Non-Fiction."

"Fiction" is a surprisingly short one. It's about the creative writing process, and it takes place in a creative writing class. Many of the main characters are all writing short stories, most of which are autobiographical.

A woman who has writing aspirations and her cerebal-palsy girlfriend with the same. Her name is Vi, and she breaks up with her boyfriend after his obviously autobiographical story is panned horribly by the school teacher who dismisses it first very crudely and then gets more elaborate.

He especially takes some kind of pleasure in attacking the title: "The Rawness of Truth."

It's the kind of story that leaves you thinking, "Wow, is that in dire need of a rewrite."

Pretty much the whole class warms up to it... except for the star pupil/teacher's pet... and the teacher himself, a Pulitzer-Prize winning author of a novel entitled, "A Sunday Lynching."

Marcus (Vi's boyfriend) is furious with her for not giving it to him straight. Marcus' "Rawness" is about how Vi gave him confidence and made him feel, as he puts it in his story... "completely cerebal."

Vi, stricken, gets hammered, lights up and...

The professor has a poetic line about the writing process that rings incredibly true: "Whenever you write... it all becomes fiction."

After the first story ("Fiction") in the film ends, you can't get but the feeling that although something horrible and tragic has happened, perhaps it was nessicary. And after they take it all in, let in all sink in, lick their wounds, let some time pass... maybe they'll be ready to take the next step.

"Non-Fiction" is about most likely Solondz experience as director and the whole documentary experience. Often at times, those documentarians seem to be roasting and attacking their subjects with great anger and fury... but are they just trying to get heat for their film... or is that how they really see it?

Who knows? Many artists are former victims, grown children with bad experiences and hell-bent on vengeance. "Non-Fiction" revolves around the exploits of a documentarian filmmaker and his desire to make a documentary about teenagers and what they're feeling now.

Have things changed much? Drugs... suicidal feelings... self-loathing... loathing of the world around them... of the way society treats them, pressures them, conforms them and disposes of them... how do teenagers put up with it? What's ahead? Mark Webber is Scooby Livingston, a depressed and moody teenager who's completely lost and like many teenagers, his all-purpose requests to every queston is "I don't know," "I really don't care" and "Whatever."

He always seems deep in thought and in need of answers. He has big goal aspirations... but no idea whatsoever as how to attain them. When asked how he plans to attain his dreams of stardom, he answers: "I don't know, see if I have any connections... whatever..." After a meet-strange with a documentarian named Toby, both seem to think the other may be exactly what they're looking for and maybe their seemingly unobtainable dreams might have a chance of coming true after all.

The family is not enthusiastic about the whole thing... especially the father who doesn't want the family's dirty laundry to be aired out. But after some hard questions and earnest promises, he agrees.

No family wants to be exploited... and this family certainly would provide more than enough of such material. I think the boy represents Solondz as a young teenager (Solondz himself is also a vegetarian) and of course, Giamatti as Toby is Solondz as a filmmaker (Solondz dresses up Giamatti to look exactly like him).

There's pressure all around from every angle and sadly, no way out in sight. College doesn't sound appealing and there has to be a place for Scooby. Since Scooby grew up to be Solondz himself (we can only assume), there must be hope.

But I think Scooby represents all teenagers. He reflects not our generation, but that paticular case, that type. That unfortunate type.

God, how many teens are there out there EXACTLY like Scooby? Actually, I think he represents the teens who are more depressed, desolate and lost. The ones who are always feeling lost... swimming against the tides, always feeling trapped with a feeling of hopelessness.

If you've ever seen a Solondz movie, you really do know what to expect.

Like all of his other efforts, this is about how ugliness and unsettling rage lives in middle class suburbia. You can't watch this movie, see and hear some of these people and not think of someone you know or have met or seen randomly on the street.

Solondz is from Suburbia, New Jersey and is talking about what's going on there.

I like how he talks about things that most movies and people in real life shy away from. He wants to critisize, satirize and get you to ask yourself...

"How many people are really like this? And... is there hope for us? How many of these people exist... and more importantly, are they in our neghiborhood? Not many... hopefully."

Like all of Solondz films, people will either be mesmerized by it or despise it, but it's a movie that many should see.

Perhaps a movie for cynical teenagers and aspiring storytellers. Just know what you're getting into.


by Dane Youssef


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"A quirky, re-inventive entertaining romp!"

Posted : 9 years, 1 month ago on 3 September 2009 03:27 (A review of Giving It Up)

by Dane Youssef


Writer/director Christopher Kublan's independent romantic comedy (a rariety in the indie field) "Giving It Up" is a movie which is scarce in the indie field. A romantic comedy, rumored to be the worst, sloppiest, unentertaining and most formulaic of the entire genre.

Originally titled "Casanova Falling" before it's DVD release, it was later re-christened "Giving It Up" when it was released in 2003, I'm not sure why. Because that's the name of the song that plays it one scene. I assume the distributors thought it made for a more alluring title.

But very surprisingly, "Giving It Up" is a smarter, more-thinking person's romantic comedy. A movie that seems to have filtered out the obnoxious slapstick, trite plot points, dumb characters, monotone dialouge and Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan's routines.

Oh, there are quite a few clichés' in this movie, all right. The playboy who's tired of the game and wants to settle down and develop as a person, the bookish love interest who has no patience for his antics, the sexist supporting characters, the geeky best friend, the unobtainable finally obtained... only to realize that...

And although it sounds like the storyline from "What Women Want" (which also featured Feuerstein), no two movies could possibly be more polar opposite.

But "Giving It Up" is more than that. It doesn't rely entirely on that as so many other rom-coms do.

"GIU" is a well-played, thoughtfully-written, smartly conceived look at men, women and their views on sex and relationships.

In "Giving It Up," a New York advertising executive who specializes in selling sex to sell products is living the "almost ideal existence." He has devoted his life to attracting the opposite sex.

And it seems to be working. He has a new stranger in his bed every night. He's making fat cheddar. His hard-nosed, sexist boss (Dabney Coleman "9 to 5," "Tootsie," "Recess: School's Out" and "You've Got Mail") loves him. His apartment is lavish and full of cosmetics to polish his vessel and keep it clean. And his superhuman libido fuels his creative fires.

Enter his new boss, Elizabeth, who has heard of him and his reputation. She's smart and genuinely attractive. And quite down to earth. Ralph (Mark Feuerstein "Woman on Top" and "What Women Want"), the playboy in question is instantly smitten with her. But she's heard the word on the street and smiles, giving him the brush off.

Ralph is obsessed. He wants her. He can have every woman except the one he truly wants. Ain't it always the way? Ralph's less-lucky-in-love buddy, Peter (Ben Weber-- "Twister" and TV's "Sex in the City") asks Ralph why? Why does he want to give up the life? Apparently, Ralphie boy feels empty. He decides to "give it all up."

He's the falling Casanova. He tries to go celibate. He meets up with Elizabeth and informs her of his newfound desire to live a life with something besides sex and even tries to win her over with his outside sex-interests. Like his joy for Billy Wilder's Cary Grant-Audrey Hepburn classic "Love in the Afternoon."

Kublan's script is smart in a "Sex in the City"-type of way. Full of realistic conversations between men and women about dating, relationships, sex and their own views and look at it all.

The cast is particularly strong for an independent film. Feuerstein is a real charmer, Weber and James Lesure (From "For Your Love") are convincing and likable as his best friends. Ari Larter as the foul and lecherous super-supermodel Amber is also good for a few laughs. Amy Redford is really 100% believable as a smart, intelligent, confident (and beautiful) businesswoman who hates her self a bit for falling for this falling Casanova.

See it alone for the near Oscar-worthy performance of the magnificent Dabney Coleman, more hard-nosed, sexist and snarling than ever.

It's worth falling for.


--Keeping It Up, Dane Youssef


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"A quirky, re-inventive entertaining romp!"

Posted : 9 years, 1 month ago on 3 September 2009 03:25 (A review of Giving It Up)

by Dane Youssef


Writer/director Christopher Kublan's independent romantic comedy (a rariety in the indie field) "Giving It Up" is a movie which is scarce in the indie field. A romantic comedy, rumored to be the worst, sloppiest, unentertaining and most formulaic of the entire genre.

Originally titled "Casanova Falling" before it's DVD release, it was later re-christened "Giving It Up" when it was released in 2003, I'm not sure why. Because that's the name of the song that plays it one scene. I assume the distributors thought it made for a more alluring title.

But very surprisingly, "Giving It Up" is a smarter, more-thinking person's romantic comedy. A movie that seems to have filtered out the obnoxious slapstick, trite plot points, dumb characters, monotone dialouge and Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan's routines.

Oh, there are quite a few clichés' in this movie, all right. The playboy who's tired of the game and wants to settle down and develop as a person, the bookish love interest who has no patience for his antics, the sexist supporting characters, the geeky best friend, the unobtainable finally obtained... only to realize that...

And although it sounds like the storyline from "What Women Want" (which also featured Feuerstein), no two movies could possibly be more polar opposite.

But "Giving It Up" is more than that. It doesn't rely entirely on that as so many other rom-coms do.

"GIU" is a well-played, thoughtfully-written, smartly conceived look at men, women and their views on sex and relationships.

In "Giving It Up," a New York advertising executive who specializes in selling sex to sell products is living the "almost ideal existence." He has devoted his life to attracting the opposite sex.

And it seems to be working. He has a new stranger in his bed every night. He's making fat cheddar. His hard-nosed, sexist boss (Dabney Coleman "9 to 5," "Tootsie," "Recess: School's Out" and "You've Got Mail") loves him. His apartment is lavish and full of cosmetics to polish his vessel and keep it clean. And his superhuman libido fuels his creative fires.

Enter his new boss, Elizabeth, who has heard of him and his reputation. She's smart and genuinely attractive. And quite down to earth. Ralph (Mark Feuerstein "Woman on Top" and "What Women Want"), the playboy in question is instantly smitten with her. But she's heard the word on the street and smiles, giving him the brush off.

Ralph is obsessed. He wants her. He can have every woman except the one he truly wants. Ain't it always the way? Ralph's less-lucky-in-love buddy, Peter (Ben Weber-- "Twister" and TV's "Sex in the City") asks Ralph why? Why does he want to give up the life? Apparently, Ralphie boy feels empty. He decides to "give it all up."

He's the falling Casanova. He tries to go celibate. He meets up with Elizabeth and informs her of his newfound desire to live a life with something besides sex and even tries to win her over with his outside sex-interests. Like his joy for Billy Wilder's Cary Grant-Audrey Hepburn classic "Love in the Afternoon."

Kublan's script is smart in a "Sex in the City"-type of way. Full of realistic conversations between men and women about dating, relationships, sex and their own views and look at it all.

The cast is particularly strong for an independent film. Feuerstein is a real charmer, Weber and James Lesure (From "For Your Love") are convincing and likable as his best friends. Ari Larter as the foul and lecherous super-supermodel Amber is also good for a few laughs. Amy Redford is really 100% believable as a smart, intelligent, confident (and beautiful) businesswoman who hates her self a bit for falling for this falling Casanova.

See it alone for the near Oscar-worthy performance of the magnificent Dabney Coleman, more hard-nosed, sexist and snarling than ever.

It's worth falling for.


--Keeping It Up, Dane Youssef


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