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Are there people who actually live like this?
10 October 2004
Chris Mazzei's Devious Beings turns on itself like a Moebius strip-the story arc is actually a series of orbits. Think of each character as an electron circling a dense nucleus in which self- preservation vibrates the whole. All the performances are strong and discrete-Mazzei somehow manages to navigate his actors through a complex, violent landscape that's dark all day long. It's not absolutely perfect, but he takes two or three movies worth of typical Hollywood clichés and stacks them with both style and skill. Andre B. Blake is the conflicted protagonist who plays and gets paid, but Robert Gossett is the main reason to check out this movie. His performance as the villain Damone is diabolical.
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Born to Win (1971)
truths moviemakers tell themselves
13 May 2004
George Segal's career encompasses a large body of work, spanning decades. I've seen only a few of his movies. "The Hot Rock" was a great ensemble comedy. "Terminal Man", timely and dark, pegs the other end of the spectrum. It's safe to say the 1970s were about challenging the Old Guard. In Hollywood, this meant reinvention and the search for Truth begun anew. From industry insiders all the way down to you and me it's understood "truth in film" is synonymous with or defined as risky and unprofitable, something other than standard fare. And though overused, the phrase 'they don't make 'em like that anymore' is applicable here, because "Born to Win" was produced for reasons other than profit. Its story is roughly drawn and its characters hunger for a pure, painless resolution that you know will never come by the end of the first scene. George Segal is at the center as J, a heroin addict who spends his time visualizing new plans for his next fix. All other characters within his orbit advance his desparation. There's a very palpable truth in the uncertainty the characters feel. They live, but have no lives. Segal's character has never called a shot in his life, yet he knows from years of experience how it will turn out, with him behind the 8-ball. Karen Black plays the love interest who extends to him the hope of salvation, only to be swept under. Hector Elizondo, Robert De Niro, Paula Prentiss and JJ's main junkie pal Billy (Jay Fletcher) exist to keep the downward spiral swirling. A refreshing and enjoyable film for people who feel a nostalgia for challenging, resonant stories that strike a chord as pure as a tuning fork.
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Harvey Keitel-Bad Filmmaker
14 December 2003
If you have a dark world view and a great deal of patience,

Dangerous Game might be the flick for you. It made me think

about the individual scenes that make a film, and the performances therein that elicit a particular response in the viewer. The whole movie is difficult to watch-at times I had to look away.

On the surface one might dismiss it as Crackhead Cassavetes.

But Keitel's character Eddie Israel and real-life director Abel

Ferrara's intentions run parallel-both men lead their actors on a

descent into a personalized hell. The script on occasion seems

ponderous and repetitive-at some points it seems as though

director Eddie Israel's film-within-a-film consists of only one

scene. James Russo (always creepy to watch) is a tightly-wound

sickening knot as Burns, and Madonna's portrayal of Sarah as

victim is an equally punishing one, both for the actress and the

viewer. And when Keitel hits you with the signature half-whine,

half-howl we hate to love him for, the fat lady has sung. There isn't

one weak performance in this film, but it's not fun at all. You

wonder why this is called entertainment. It's entertaining in the

same way watching two strangers nearly come to blows is

entertaining-you end up feeling good because it's not happening

to you.
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The "Pushing Tin" of Japanese monster films
12 November 2003
Words cannot adequately describe the genius of a film that is certain to be

critically examined by afficionados of the genre for years to come. Look for the inevitable Hollywood remake with Cameron Diaz cast as the female lead.

Spotlight on Guilala (pronounced GOO-LA-LA) and his agonizing struggle to

determine his/her/its own destiny, perceptible through the translucency of the classic "alien monster run amok" thematic device. Groundbreaking special

effects underscore Guilala's haunting portrayal of a space monster who is both hunter and hunted, his fate resting in the hands of one solitary American

heroine who places herself in harm's way for the greater good-the preservation of man-and more importantly-woman-kind. Peggy Neal's performance as Lisa is

astonishing, crystalline in its sensitivity. Her coif remains perfect throughout. Fans of the novel are of course among the film's harshest critics-others applaud director Kazui Nihonmatsu's unique interpretation of the original tome, myself among them. The film is more than a visual feast-it reminds viewers that the key to the centuries-old mysteries of life on Planet Earth may lie somewhere beyond the stars.
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American Pimp (1999)
Pimpin' ain't easy
3 May 2002
As it is with the priesthood, so it is with the pimp game-many are called, few are chosen. I unequivocally recommend "American Pimp" to those select few "squares" who seek to broaden their knowledge of "the game". It should also be required viewing for all "players" or erstwhile "macks". Quite often, documentaries inevitably reveal the filmmaker's personal views, at which point the myth of objectivity dissolves. Not so with the Hughes brothers dissection of pimpology. Most if not all myths surrounding these gentlemen of leisure are exploded within the flick's first few frames. It doesn't matter how much the Hughes brothers show you- it's obvious they've just scratched the surface. If the pimp game was Disney World, all of us squares would be snapping Polaroids on a tourbus rolling past the parking lot. And there is an ironic symmetry in the knowledge that both square and pimp are outsiders to each other's worlds, overlapping through hoes, cash, and the law. Pleasure is the business of a gentleman of leisure, and a suitcase full of classic tunes on the soundtrack smoothly transports one into the life of "yac" and custom-fitted suits. But for all the glory, there is also exile and regret. The inclusion of archival film and television footage is strategic and precise, lending an historical perspective to the Pimp of the Now. Wake up and smell the cologne. Pimpin' ain't no joke.
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Game show contestants kill or be killed
20 April 2002
I was flipping channels (mercifully) when I ran across this "drama". There were no Cynthia Rothrock movies on, and "The Omega Man" wasn't scheduled to start on TNT for another hour or so. The over-saturated video color and shaky sophomore student film project camera handling caught my attention. I knew this movie was supposed to be important, so I stopped flipping to check it out. Now, I know you're probably saying to yourself, this guy didn't even see the whole thing-how can he accurately comment on it? Well, because I've seen breast-augmentation formula infomercials with more sincerity. The script is so overwrought that it's impossible to tell if the actors are capable of acting at all. I especially feel bad for Brooke Smith, whom I believe appeared on the Rosie O'Donnell show to hype this flick. She delivered such a convincing pitch that I made a mental note to check it out as soon as I could. "Timecode" this is not. "Witness to the Execution" this is not. Though the basic premise could have been operable, writer-director Minahan's own voice emerges from the mouths of every character. The experience of watching "Series 7" is that of driving from point A to point B in a jalopy needing major repair-you find yourself just praying for the anxiety and embarrassment to end, whether you arrive at your destination or not.
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Visually rich experimental vehicle risk for Hollywood staple
10 November 2001
The 60's were skinny ties and lapels, three-martini lunches, Chrysler convertible pavement yachts and Brylcreem, if you were lucky. If you were somehow less satisfied, it was protest or dogged acceptance that the game had been fixed long before you appeared on the scene, or more politely, you simply hadn't been invited to the party. James Garner (Rockford, Support Your Local Sheriff, They Only Kill Their Masters, etc) portrays a once successful but displaced everyman who has to wallow in the mire to face long-buried demons. A string of attractive women appear and vanish, like identifying a catchy tune by its chorus, each providing shards of who Buddwing is and why he tried to run. A barely recognizable New York is Supporting Actor, and the visual style leaves one feeling an effect similar to liberal dosages of NyQuil. It will strike you, however briefly.
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