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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
If you liked "American Movie", you'll probably like this one too., 11 December 2006

I am a movie addict and recently hit a wall with my massive DVD collection. It seemed that I had purchased every film worth owning. I realized this fact as I shopped Tower Records "going out of business" sale. Then I happened upon the Documentary section and realized that was a category I was lacking in. I bought every documentary that sounded interesting and "Mule Skinner Blues" was the best of the bunch. It's greatness lies in its ability to mix humor with genuine feeling. The movie shows compassion for it's low rent, trailer park dwelling characters instead of contempt. There is plenty of comedy in their drunken and eccentric behavior, but I'm sure the cast of real people are laughing along with the audience.

The film is highly stylized in the Errol Morris tradition of documentaries. It blends scenes of the film's subjects dancing on a surreal set, as well as scenes from other movies (Evil Dead 2, etc.)with actual interviews. The main "plot" is a man named Beanie and a guy named Larry Parrot writing and directing a movie about a vengeful ape-man creature and a guitar showdown between the devil and a man. It's all basically just a showcase to display some truly interesting people who live outside society's fringe. The lead guy could be Mark Borchardt from "American Movie" in 25 years. If you liked that movie, you'll most likely enjoy this one as well. The DUI video during the end credits is worth the rental price alone.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Best horror-comedy out there., 30 October 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There is a moment early in Return of the Living Dead that instantly puts it in a class all it's own. A cadaver in the basement of a warehouse has come to life and has been locked in a walk-in freezer. The guy who runs the warehouse and his two employees are trying to figure out how to deal with a dead man who's come back to life and is throwing a fit in their place of business. One of the guys asks what the people did in the movie "Night of the Living Dead", it being the most famous of all zombie flicks so the best point of reference. The guy says that in the movie the humans destroyed the zombies by destroying their brains. The guys slam a pick-ax through the zombie's head which pins him to the floor, but does not "kill" him. "Well, it worked in the movie," one guy screams and the other guy replies, "Well, it ain't working now!" Sheer cinematic brilliance, if you ask me. Think about it, if zombies did start walking the Earth and attacking us, we would do the same thing. We'd reference a zombie movie simply for the sheer lack of anything else to look to. If a vampire attacked we'd look for some garlic and a stake, and not because we learned it in grammar school, but because we saw it in a movie. A lot of people thought "Shaun of the Dead" was such an original idea, a zombie comedy! News is, people have been making them for awhile, and this one's the best of the bunch. Clu Gulager's performance is wonderful, he's equal parts Jimmy Stewart and Clint Eastwood. He's got that "everyman" quality, but exudes the classic movie tough guy machismo when it's called for. I don't know what other actor could sport a "Members only" jacket for an entire film and still look cool. Don Calfa is also memorable as the bug-eyed mortician who really takes pride in his work. The soundtrack is great, featuring "Surfing Dead" by the cramps and some other eighties underground classics as well. There's good gore and even some frights, despite the comedic tone. The ending is classic horror movie all the way as well. This movie is often referred to as the "punk rock zombie" movie, I guess because of the punk rock kids who stumble into the plot via an excursion to the cemetery. I simply refer to it as the best zombie movie ever made. Watch it with a bud!

Easy Money (1983)
3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
One of the funniest movies ever., 30 October 2006

Easy Money is the most underrated comedy out there. Everyone loves Caddyshack and that movie has many hilarious scenes, but it also has too much unnecessary drama involving the caddy and his Irish girlfriend. Michael O' Keefe's the caddy, a boring character with no trace of comedy to add to the film, and he's got the most screen time! Come on. Back to School is only funny when Rodney Dangerfield is on screen and too much time is devoted to his lame son. In Easy Money you get plenty of Rodney. You also get Joe Pesci in his funniest role ever. The best part of the film is it's realistic characters and situations. This film captures urban Italian Americans better than any film since Saturday Night Fever. The dialog is top notch and Geraldine Fitzgerald as Rodney's mother-in-law is pitch-perfect in her role. The direction is especially tight for a comedy as well. There is a wonderful crane shot of Rodney's daughter's backyard wedding party that captures urban living perfectly. There is also a nice balance of dialog humor and sight gags. A scene where two men try to break into Rodney's house is visually hilarious and Rodney riding an exercise bike into his Christmas tree is as good as sight gags get.

The plot deals with Rodney's mother-in-law dying and leaving him her vast fortune. The catch is that he has to give up drugs, booze and gluttony for a whole year. The movie follows his struggle through that tough year. The plot works fine, but is immaterial for the most part. The film is about older men who may have married and reproduced, but still cruise around with the guys, smoking joints and drinking beers. It's about their easy camaraderie and the ball busting that is actually perpetrated as an endearment. Movies rarely showcase such characters, but there are plenty out there. Rodney Dangerfield and Joe Pesci represent them realistically and of course comedically as well. Look for an especially inspired scene where Rodney and Pesci check out the department store that Rodney will inherit if he makes good. It's one of those scenes that merits at least one rewind on video, believe me. A nearly flawless comedy and I highly recommend it!

41 out of 45 people found the following review useful:
Part war movie, part thriller, part black comedy-Southern Comfort is one of Walter Hill's best films., 13 October 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Southern Comfort captures soldiers in the American army better than any film I've ever seen. I'm not saying the guys that stormed the beach at Normandy or took Pork Chop Hill, but something happened between World War 2 and now that kind of let the air out of American soldiers' sails. I went to Iraq in the army in 1991, and I heard the collective sigh echo through the ranks when we were informed that we were going to war in place of the expected gung-ho cheer. Of course, if you've read Norman Mailer's "the Naked and the Dead", you'd realize that apathy in the American military may have been around for awhile. After all, most people have a survival instinct that takes over in extreme situations that seems pretty self-centered. So start with that instinct and go to war with a bunch of people you're not only unrelated to, but don't even much care for. In the army a lot of beliefs, colors, attitudes etc. collide. That cohesive unit hefting a giant flag and marching up a hill as bombs burst around them looks good in the history books, but in reality it's a little different. Southern Comfort knows that fact well.

The plot centers around a squad of Louisiana national guardsmen who go on a weekend training exercise and become real weekend warriors with ammo-less rifles battling a crafty (even spooky) superior enemy of backwoods Cajuns. They start off with a simple mission of navigational training. Get from point A to B using a compass and a map. Point B is important to the squad, because Keith Carradine's character private Boothe has some hookers waiting at a party for them near point B. This is how these army guardsmen operate and it's pretty realistic.

Somewhere between A and B the route has been flooded and only a couple of canoes tied to a dock offer the soldiers any hope of showing up to their real jobs on Monday. They could walk around, but that would just suck. In the army you have missions. You also have things that arise that suck, and you try to find ways around them. While paddling across the flooded river, Stuckey (the smart ass of the bunch) fires a volley of blanks from his intimidating looking and sounding M60 at some Cajuns on the opposite bank. The Cajuns hit the deck and then blow one of the soldier's brains out. It's as good a "brain blowing out scene" as any I've ever seen, graphic and shocking. The rag tag team of guardsmen flee in panic to the opposite shore and woods. Luckily, Fred Ward brought along some real ammo, enough that each guy gets two whole bullets. The rest is funny, scary and exciting. The acting is great, especially Les Lannom as the dumb sergeant who really means well and Franklyn Seals as the guy who just wants the nightmare to end. The cinematography is great, with many beautiful shots of trees rising out of the bayou and the shadows they make on the water. Ry Cooder's soundtrack is eerie when it needs to be and just plain cool. It's one of his best.

The best part is the script itself. This film is supposedly an allegory to Vietnam, but that is almost immaterial. The writers (Hill included) have fashioned a script with fresh action, great suspense and realistic characterization and dialog. The writers understand that there will be the platoon sergeant that tries to care and follow the mission parameters to the letter, but who will cave if that gets too damned inconvenient. There's the E-5 buck sergeant who ends up in charge and knows he's stupid, even more so than some of the men below him. He also believes strongly that he's the only one who should make decisions because, as he says "I've got the stripes!" There's the private, who may rank at the bottom on the military chain of command, but rises to the leadership position because he actually makes the best leader. The one hardcore corporal who doubles as a football coach in his civilian life and would appear at first glance to be the guy you want next to you when the bullets start whizzing by ends up going plumb loco and being led around on a leash by the others. Thats how things really happen in a war. Everything gets unpredictable and somewhat crazy. Out of the realistic reactions the soldiers display to the war-like situation they get into, Hill finds comedy, drama and thrills. This film should entertain you on every level and I highly recommend it.

16 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
If this isn't the best rock and roll biopic ever made, it's at least the best one I've ever seen., 11 October 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Buddy Holly Story opens on a shot of a yellow neon moon on the roof of a roller rink in 1956 Lubbock, Texas. As the credits start, the camera moves down from the moon to the parking lot, into the roller rink, past the concessions and across the rink to a small bandstand where a small band is doing their sound check. It's a tracking shot Welles and Scorcese would both appreciate. It cuts to Buddy Holly's bespectacled face peering down in rapt concentration as he grips the headphones and talks to a man putting this band on the radio.

A young Gary Busey plays Buddy Holly and his performance is key. He has to somehow show the passion that Holly had for his music to make the film work. This is a rock and roll story without lines of coke chased with shots of heroin and a fifth of whiskey. This isn't about a man with several women to choose between in a sex scandalized, brood abandoned lusty tragedy. This is a film about a nice Texas boy who respected his parents and went to church and had the same girlfriend for 5 years and fell in love with rock and roll. Busey finds that spark and ignites it, his passion is clear and infectious. He really plays the guitar in the film and sings, its not overdubbed with Holly's recordings. Busey was a young guy in Hollywood in the seventies, a struggling actor and as much or more so a struggling rock musician as well. Thus, he gives a great performance, because although he isn't Buddy Holly, he's in a similar situation.

His first song is the old Les Paul classic, "Mockingbird Hill" and he has the country twang to nail it. Next a kid calls out for some bop, and against his two band mates (in reality the Crickets were 3 guys, but the down-sizing works fine for the film's limited narrative)he leads them wailing into "Rocking with Ollie Vee". The kids love it and the parents hate it. The DJ at the rolling rink tapes it and it is later released in New York without Buddy Holly even knowing it was ever recorded. This leads to the funniest scene in a film filled with humorous moments. An amped-up disc jockey from Buffalo calls up Buddy at home. The DJ has been playing "That'll be the Day" for 12 hours and is going for 24. The cops are banging on the station's barricaded door. Holly is confused, but when the dust settles, he is quite thrilled. He tells the boys, and their meteoric rise begins. Dan Stroud as the drummer and Charles Martin Smith as the bassist round out the band nicely and have good chemistry with each other. There are problems but not overblown drama thats found in most rock (all?) biopics. The movie doesn't manipulate you either. Your emotions soar, but they're not manipulated. When the Crickets step onto the Apollo stage in Harlem, the first white group ever to play there, then rip into an electrically charged performance of "Oh Boy" and win the audience over, my rock and roll loving ass got choked up and cried. Next, Busey and the boys make "It's so Easy" sound funkier and more soulful than I would have believed possible.

Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Buddy Holly's story will know where this movie will end. Holly died in a plane crash with Richie Valens and the Big Bopper way too young. We, as the audience know that, yet the movie is so well written, directed and lovingly acted that we forget it almost immediately. The movie isn't about his death, it's about his life and his place in rock and roll history. The film ends with his last performance and it's a good fifteen minutes of Busey rocking out possessed by the ghost of Buddy Holly. I was happy to hear him end it on "Not Fade Away", my favorite of his songs. The film freezes before the end credits with the information about the plane crash, but I hardly noticed it. I was still thinking about how good that last song was.

Mousehunt (1997)
15 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
An overall sweet family comedy with enough comedy for the grown ups and enough cute mouse for the shorties., 6 October 2006

Luna Macwilliams, age 6, Chicago, il.- 10 stars. "I love this movie because there are real people and a real mouse and it's real-ly funny! I also like the mouse's secret tricks that the viewer will wonder-how did he do that? Check out the mouse swinging across a chasm on a light bulb chain! It's amazing!" Kris- I give this movie 8 stars. Luna, age 6, gave it 10 stars and I thought since this is a family film, one I might not have seen without her, she deserved a voice. She gives a lot of kids flicks 10 stars, but not all. I thought the film captured the perfect feel of a cartoon, but done in live action. There are a few films that come to mind from the past that pulled off the cartoon feel, the Coen's Hudsucker Proxy, or more so even, Raising Arizona, Tim Burton's early films and a few others. None may be shot as perfectly in cartoon style as Mousehunt however, and none are as perfectly suited for kids age 3 to 10. Some of its visual delights could be called cinematic bliss, as great as anything procured by Welles or Lean. There is a fade from a white plastic home on a white cake that dissolves into a white home on a snowy white hill that should be shown in every film school. There is use of shadows and water that would make Ingmar Bergman proud. And of course, there is the mouse. The effects and photography are done so well that he convinced the kids he was real, and really smart and acrobatic. Lee Evans and Nathan Lane are perfectly cast as black and white characters. They don't look like they're related, Evan's too nice and Lane is too mean, but hey, it's a kids movie. Their characters work perfectly in the cartoon world they inhibit. They make you laugh, no matter how old you are. Christopher Walken plays an exterminator and it was right before he became overexposed in every other hip movie made. His best dialogue comes off-screen from a tape recorder. Walken could be just as funny on radio I guess, it's all in his verbiage. So rent or buy this for the family. It's one of those few gems that will have you all laughing at the same joke.