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Taxi: Out of Commission (1981)
Never a contender
Of the 5 years that 'Taxi' was on the air, season three, in my humble opinion, is its greatest season. And, of the 20 episodes of 'Taxi' that aired in the 3rd season, episode 12: 'Out of Commission', is one of the best in a really great year for the series.
The episode was written by Sam Seder (who would later write a lot for the great animated series 'The Simpsons') and this episode is all about Tony Banta being forced to retire by the NY boxing commission after his latest fight ends abruptly with Tony getting knocked out 20 seconds into the first round.
As a result, Tony is at a loss to figure out what to do with the rest of his life after getting the news that his big dreams of fame and fortune as a prize fighter are officially over. However, Tony is determined to get back in the ring, by any means necessary. Can Tony's friends and coworkers convince him to stop foolishly risking his life as a underground fighter in disguise or, can they convince Tony to hangup his boxing gloves forever? I encourage you to find this episode somewhere online and check it out for yourselves. It's a really good episode in a really strong season 3 of the series.
Police Story: The Gamble (1974)
Slap the cuffs on me Angie, because, I've been a very BAAADD BOY.
Today, TV is where young actors go to get discovered, but, back in the day, TV was where aging Hollywood stars would stop in for a short while before quietly fading away into pop-culture oblivion.
And, like Lana Turner, Barbara Stanwyck and Doris Day who came to television before her, Angie Dickinson was once a major movie star who would have a short lived popular weekly TV series before eventually passing into the land of irrelevancy. This episode of 'Police Story' was the pilot for Angie's television series, "Police Woman".
In truth, I'm neither a fan of 'Police Story', or, 'Police Woman'. In fact, I don't think I have ever watched one episode of either show until lately, after discovering that someone has uploaded the series 'Police Story' on the internet just last month. And, while it's still a mystery to me how the series 'Police Story' managed to last for 5 seasons. It's not that difficult to understand why Angie's, "Police Woman" managed to last 4 years. Can you guess what that reason might be?
If you answered, "Because it is incredibly arousing to watch Angie Dickinson slap the cuffs on a bad guy who is pressed up against a wall, while, Angie is wearing a revealing green V-Neck Cocktail Dress with pearl earrings and a pearl wrist band."? Then you would be absolutely correct, if you said all that.
Angie Dickinson was 43 years old when this episode of 'Police Story' first aired in '74, almost 20 years removed from her Hollywood movie heydays of the late 50's and early 60's, and Angie, still looked stunningly beautiful. If just half the nations Police force looked like Angie Dickinson? Then you would have young men everywhere, turning to a quick affair with the criminal life style, in order to experience the erotic pleasure of having Angie Dickinson take them down by force, if necessary. And, they would all make sure that it was absolutely necessary.
As for this particular episode of "Police Story" itself. Ehhh, like a lot of episodes, it would be instantly forgettable, however, because it became the pilot episode for Angie Dickinson's one-and-only TV series "Police Woman", after being retooled a little bit. And Angie looks absolutely amazing in this episode, then I'm definitely recommending that you try and find episode 21, season 1, of 'Police Story' somewhere on the internet to watch. I think you'll enjoy it if you do.
Take Me Home Tonight (2011)
If John Hughes had adapted 'Less than Zero' into a screenplay and directed the movie? Take Me Home Tonight would be that movie
First, let me begin by stating right up front that, I really enjoyed watching this movie. From start to finish, I felt like it was 1985 all over again, and I was a kid in high school watching the latest John Hughes movie about kids in high school. Except, none of those John Hughes 80's movies about high school came anywhere close to what I (or anyone else that I knew) was actually experiencing while in high school.(but I digress)
Don't worry dear readers of this review, "Take Me Home Tonight" isn't about high school in the 80's, but focuses instead on the lives of a group of LA 20 somethings, who haven't matured very much past their high school and college years. And, are all still struggling to "Define Themselves" in the glorified cocaine fueled hedonistic time that is often referred to now as "The 80's".
Which is one of the main reason this movie is rated a well deserved R, despite being a homage to the family friendly PG-13 feel good movies from the 80's. While most of the cocaine scenes were played for laughs with great effectiveness. However, there is one scene that takes place in the bathroom at a high rolling Beverly Hills party involving cocaine and sex that seemed WAAY too over top for what this film is all about.
I don't believe describing that one scene qualifies as a spoiler as much as it serves as a warning. I mean, for the first hour you're watching a real good 80's parody movie - with a heart - and a killer soundtrack. Then, suddenly and without much warning... BAM!! You're watching a demented 80's soft porno parody involving a 3 way with a drag queen - Shannon Tweed wannabe - and the movies co-star, who are both high on cocaine, while the drag queens sicko' older boy friend gets aroused by watching the other two have rough sex. What!!??!! Where did that come from?(you might be asking yourself afterwards)
Once again, not a spoiler, just an intended warning in case you're thinking about watching this feel good 80's parody movie with your family or young ones. "Take Me Home Tonight" is definitely not the "feel good" 80's movie that you saw as a kid but, more like that "feel good" 80's movie if John Hughes had adapted "Less than Zero" into a screenplay and directed the movie while high on cocaine. And, all the studio executive were so high that they never demanded that all the scenes involving three way cocaine bathroom sex be removed from the final cut, in order to insure a higher revenue generating PG-13 rating. In other words, it's that 80's "Feel Good" movie that never was, until now.
Because, back in the 80's, unless the movie was specifically about drug abuse, then none of the main character did any drugs, accept drink lots of beer and smoke marijuana that is. Yet, cocaine was a multi-billion dollar a year black market product in the 80's. Go figure.
In conclusion, despite that one Beverly Hills bathroom scene, I really enjoyed watching this movie with one other exception. They didn't include any Eddie Money songs, not even his biggest hit "Take Me Home Tonight" with the movies killer 80's soundtrack. I was really surprised about that.
One Fun Main Plot vs Two Poor Sub-Plots(who's going to win?)
The show opens with Smith and Jones deciding to bed down for awhile in the one horse town of Apache Springs. An ex-mining town that's long past its gold rush boom days, and is now just a few shades above a ghost town that has far more lost, and way-ward tumble weeds, than it has merchants and customers. However, before the boys can even get a room, they're quickly approached with a financial proposition inside of the towns hotel and saloon, by a local hard drinking elderly frontier woman, and possibly insane, Caroline Rangely (played by Carmen Mathews) who delightfully steals every single scene that she appears in.
Interested by the opportunity of a huge financial pay day, our two protagonists mosey on up to the hotel bar, and poor themselves a couple of mugs from Caroline's pitcher of morning beer (hey, it's noon somewhere in the world) to discuss more specifically what the possibly insane drunken woman wants them to do for payment, and why.
Eagerly, the wild eyed woman soon begins to narrate a interesting and colorful yarn that started two years ago when she, and her late husband, collected thousands of dollars worth of gold dust from one of Apache Springs old abandoned gold mines. However, they were forced to stash it away in the nearby hills after suddenly being attacked by the Chiwacawa Indians who had recently relocated to the same area after escaping from their reservation, and have remained there ever since.
As it turns out, Caroline's husband was killed in that Indian attack, and she's been unable to return to the hills to retrieve her hidden gold dust out of fear of the Indian tribe. After some contentious haggling between Caroline and the two guys over the percentage of recovered gold dust she's willing to offer, Smith & Jones eventually come to terms with the crazy frontier lady over dinner and a bottle of bourbon. I believe Smith and Jones had a little dinner to go along with their whiskey, while Caroline focused solely on bourbon consumption.
The next morning, Caroline provides them with a map locating several sacks of gold that's sporadically hidden in the nearby hills, and it's off we go to recover lost gold while being harassed by the local renegade Indians.
While the main plot of this episode, and the colorful Caroline are enjoyable to follow along with. Unfortunately, the show gets really bogged down with its 2nd sub-plot involving a young catholic woman that Kid Curry(Ben Murphy) tries to financially assist and advise. Kid Curry's new friend, the young Sister Grace, also recently just arrived in Apache Springs with very little money, and is struggling to pay for room and board while attempting to start a new congregation after becoming disillusioned by the corruption of her last Mission.
What ever potential interest there might have been for the audience in Sister Grace's story line? It immediately died out while listening to her drone on to Kid Curry about the unfortunate reasons that she's currently stuck in the one horse town, and her unrealistic hopes of ever starting a successful congregation in Apache Springs that's practically abandoned by day, only to later erupt into a wild and ruckus drinking, fighting and gambling scene for the local ranch hands at night.
As soon as Sister Grace begins talking with Kid Curry, the whole "trying to rediscover her faith" story line appears to be completely tact on, and doesn't posses a single connective thread to the main story to justify its existence. But, that doesn't stop Kid Curry from advising Sister Grace that she's not a very talented soul saver after just meeting her. And, to put aside delivering the wild west from its own evil ways for awhile, move back to Boston, and to just "have a good time" while she's still young enough to enjoy it. Sort of the, "Tune in, turn on and drop out.", Timothy Leary approach to the problem. This poorly written and under developed story line makes our hero, Kid Curry, seem like he's temporarily freelancing as the Devil's advocate, after a hard day of taking gold from the land of dispossessed renegade Indians.
In the 3rd, and far more organically interesting sub-plot (that never really gets resolved) Smith and Jones are temporarily joined on their golden journey into Indian country by Edward Fielding, who's there to negotiate the fairest terms of a possible surrender and relocation for the local renegade Indian tribe to try and avoid the inevitable blood shed that a military action would cause.
Unfortunately, this story line isn't given the time it deserves, and we're never given much information about how Edward's negotiations with the Indians are progressing or failing, other than Edward suddenly appearing in a few scenes to mildly complain about being shot by the Indians. So, we're left to assume that the times Edward wasn't shot by the Indians was considered a successful pow-wow. Although, it's kind of hard to tell because, Edward doesn't seem to mine very much about getting shot by the Indians.
While the main plot of recovering gold in the hills occupied by renegade Indians for the colorful Caroline makes the episode worth watching. But, overall, I give the episode 6 out of 10 stars, for having too many sub-plots, where the 2nd one about the young Sister Grace needed to be completely tossed out the window, so to allow us more time to follow the 3rd story line about the Indian negotiations.
In closing, episode 7 of season 2, is one of the weaker episodes of the otherwise strong remaining few months that Peter Duel and Ben Murphy continued to star together. The entire episode is currently available on IMDb and YouTube if you're interested in checking it out for yourselves.
Dyan Cannon makes it fun to watch
While there really are no memorable, or "Classic", comedic skits and musical performances in this episode, there are a few skits worth mentioning here like "Anita Bryant attempts to pitch Florida orange juice while being held hostage in Beirut" is probably the best of the show.
A close second is Dan Aykoryd and Dyan advertising pickle jars filled with water that famous people have bathed in. And as crazy as that may have sounded in the 70's, I'm pretty sure there's an actual market today for "Bathwater of the Stars" that's available for purchase over the internet.
In fact, while writing this review, I Googled, "Celebrity Bathwater", and one of the top links was an article posted by the Bleach Report where recently, the 2012 London Olympic swimmer, Mo Farah, is selling his bathwater on the most popular auction website on the internet. I can't mention "specifically" the site, or this review will not be posted on IMDb. But, it's not that hard to guess which one it is.
However, while Mo Farah is the only celebrity that I currently know of who is selling their bathwater for profit. I personally think that there is an endless amount of potential in the "Bathwater of the Stars" market, early on, until all the YouTube and Reality TV celebrities eventually get into the new bathwater market, and wind-up driving down the value of the celebrity bathwater as an investment business for the general public to buy and resell at a profit.(but I digress)
While the episode as a whole definitely had some problems that needed to be ironed out before show date, I think that the best reason to watch this particular episode is Dyan Cannon, who appears to be having a lot of fun working with the crew and cast members. And, reminding us why she was always the very talented and likable co-star for over 50 years in TV and movies. And not just another Hollywood blonde bombshell for a few years before disappearing into the has-been celebrity abyss.
5 Music segments, and none of them are any good
I didn't even know Raquel Welch could sing, or not, until I saw the 18th episode of SNL, and now I'm absolutely convinced that she can't. While Raquel's singing isn't horribly embarrassing to watch, but it's definitely very average at best, and instantly forgettable. Reminding us all why we never bought that "Best of Raquel Welch's Top 10 Hits of the 70's" album, because it's impossible that such a thing could possibly exist.
Which helps explain why Pheobe Snow was one of the 2 musical acts booked for this episode, because Pheobe's music is so annoyingly uncreative that there's no chance that Raquel could possibly be upstaged by the professional musical guest. I mean, Pheobe Snow performance is so bad, that it makes Raquel Welch's cover of Karen Carpenter's "Superstar" actually seem adequate.
Pheobe Snow was introduced as a talented musical genius by Raquel Welch just before her 1st performance, but does anyone remember hearing a single song by Pheobe Snow on the radio in the 70's, or any other decade? I sure don't. Which might help explain why nobody ever bought that "Best of Pheobe Snow" album either.
John Sebatian would've been easily the best musical performance of the episode, but due to microphone technical problems his performance of "Welcome Back" fell flat and was uninspired. I suspect Raquel and Pheobe of intentionally sabotaging Sebatian's microphone.
Other than a running joke about trying to get Raquel Welch to undress in front of the cameras, the comedy sketches reminded me of bad high school talent show routines. Two skits in particular that at least had a pretty good creative idea behind them like, "One Flew Over the Hornets Nest", and, "Howard Hughes new Golden Bra for Jane Russell", but ended up never going anywhere comically, and once again come off as rather amateurish.
In my opinion, there's a reason why no skits from the 18th episode are ever included in the Best of SNL broadcasts or DVD releases, because there are no skits or musical performances in this episode worth remembering.
One of the better episodes from season 1
After watching Episode 19 from season 1 with the late Madeline Kahn guest hosting, you can tell that the original cast and crew from the 1st season of SNL were still struggling a bit to find enough useable material to keep an audience entertained for a full hour-and-a-half on a live late night variety show.
Which makes any episode from the first season interesting to watch whether the episode was good, or not-so-good. Because it's interesting to watch a creative transformation take place that would eventually set a new standard for variety television.
And, of the many hits and misses of the 1st season I think Episode 19 with Madeline Kahn is definitely one of the best, if not the best. After Madeline's really annoyingly unfunny opening monologue, the most memorably best parts of EP19, like Wilderness Comedian with John Belushi, the Baba Wawa with Marlene Dietrich interview, the slumber party, impoverished families in Namibia and The Bride of Frankenstein sings "I feel Pretty", all happened with in the first half hour of the show, leaving a pretty big gap between the strong beginning of the show, and the really strong ending.
The last two skits were the best of the episode, and maybe even the season, where Madeline Kahn and John Belushi turn the movie Chinatown into a light hearted musical. Followed by Madeline Kahn portraying a drunken Pat Nixon writing about Tricky Dicks last days in the White House.
The best skits of episode 19 all seem to have John Belushi either starring, or making some type of contribution in them. John Belushi's 'Wilderness Comedian' was like a cross between Grizzly Adams and Shecky Greene, and a great parody of popular movies and TV programing of the 70's, that were often about people leaving their urban lives behind them, and starting a new life in the great untamed wilderness. Then later, Belushi as Henry Kisinger played the understated straight man to Aykroyd's hilarious Nixon impersonation.
Great episode to watch if you're a fan of Belushi.
Jaws 2 (1978)
The Shark Is Bigger This Time
Before there were Mega Cinemaplexes, we had to stand outside in the hot summer heat for hours just to get the chance to watch a disappointing sequel like JAWS 2. I think for this reason alone, I have been far too harsh in my criticism of JAWS 2 over the years.
And, I'm happy to report today that the memories of the anger and disappointment that I experienced that day has diminished enough now that I can provide a unbiased and objective review of this movie for what it was, instead of what I thought the movie ought to be.
I can finally put behind me, once and for all, my first summer movie blockbuster disappointment that left me permanently cynical of the movie industry, and temporarily sunburned at a very early age.(I was 9 years old at the time)
First, allow me to demonstrate just how far I've come since then by admitting that JAWS 2 was probably the best of the JAWS sequels. Which admittedly is like saying that a kick in the rear is a lot better than a punch in the face. Or, as in the case of JAWS 4, a hammer to the head for that matter. Not much of a compliment to heal the pains of yesteryear, but it's a start anyways.
Unlike the future sequels, JAWS 2 at least started out promisingly enough by continuing the storyline of Chief Brody and his family. And, even made a decent attempt (early in the film) of recapturing a sense of terror from the unseen ocean depths that the original movie magnificently accomplished.
However, JAWS 2 started going horribly wrong when the audience first sees the shark far too early in the movie. Maybe it was impossible for the sequel to recreate that first big scream moment when we first see the shark? But, to show the shark so early, without much build up either, leaves the audience feeling that this isn't the movie they paid to watch.
This idea to show the shark so early proves to be such a major failure for the movie, that it makes you grateful (truly grateful) that the shark in the original JAWS broke down, forcing Spielberg to use the eye of the camera, and by proxy the imagination of the audience as the substitute for the actual shark. Big difference.
Eventually, Chief Brody becomes the lone person attempting to prove that the mystery of the sudden strange deaths and disappearances on the island is the result of another giant shark in the area. Strangely, no one believes Brody that another giant shark is terrorizing the islanders again, and the town counsel becomes convinced that Brody is suffering from some type of giant great white PTSD, or something. Despite the fact that the island was terrorized by a giant great white just three years ago.
The final resolution to the story eventually develops into a teenagers-in-jeopardy movie. In a 70's exploitation flick kind of way. Strangely, the teenagers are being slowly terrorized at sea by a giant shark that has over the coarse of two movies (by my count) already taken down three boats, a Killer Whale and a helicopter. But, can't seem to figure out a way of dealing with these teenagers in tiny broken sail boats for some reason, who have no means of defending themselves.
I mean c'mon! What is the shark waiting for? Is the shark just biding his time, cruelly toying with its intended victims until he makes his final move? What ever the case maybe, the sudden uncharacteristic behavior of the mass murdering giant shark towards the teenagers destroys any sense of suspense and intrigue for the audience. And, you actually end up rooting for the Shark to just attack the teenagers to get the whole thing over with, so we don't have to spend anymore time with these people.
After the movie, I remember walking past a long line of people waiting outside in the hot summer heat in anxious anticipation of seeing the sequel to JAWS for the very first time. Just as I had done only a few hours ago. Somebody waiting in line asked me as I was passing them, "How was the movie?". I turned and replied, "The shark is bigger this time!". Admittedly, it's not exactly a ringing endorsement, but at least it was one good thing I could say about the movie at the time.
North Dallas Forty (1979)
A Retrospective Critique of a Very Good Film, and Ideas for a Sequel
I was 11 years old living in Texas, and therefore a huge football and Cowboy fan when 'North Dallas Forty' was originally released in the summer of '79. So, like a lot of fans of 'America's Team' in Texas, and across the country, I was extremely angered and offended when I first heard that a major Hollywood movie was released that was a scathing indictment of not only the Dallas Cowboy's, but professional football as well. And, I vowed then, to never ever watch that blasphemous film that dared criticized the sacred sport of football and its most important team.
I guess, I was in a rather sacrilegious mood one day when I decided to watch 'North Dallas Forty' on cable 15 years after the movies original theatrical release. And, to my surprise, I became a big fan of the movie. Watching it every chance that I could when ever it was rebroadcasted.
Unfortunately, I think the window for a potential sequel which continues the story line of Nick Nolte's character (Phil Elliot). Or, at least one of the main characters of the original film. Like Mac Davis's colorful character Seth Maxell/Don Meredith for example closed sometime in the mid-late 80's.
Therefore, I'm recommending a 'North Dallas Forty' reboot that's based on ex-Cowboy player Thomas Henderson's '87 autobiographical novel "Out of Control: Confessions of an NFL Casualty" as the main source material for a sequel to 'North Dallas Forty'.
For those of you who don't know? Thomas Henderson was the extraordinarily athletic and media-darling strong side linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys from '75-'79. Who was on the cover of Time Magazine in January of '79 for an article on Super Bowl 13. But, was later released the next season from the Cowboys in November of '79 for erratic play due to drug abuse. Then wound up playing in only a few games with other NFL teams until retiring after a career ending neck injury in '81.
So, in other words, he was at the pinnacle of success in the NFL just 7 months prior to North Dallas Forty's original release in August of '79, and at its lowest depths just 3 months afterwards.
And, let me tell you, the stuff Thomas Henderson covers in his personal account of his experience in the NFL, makes 'North Dallas Forty' controversial indictment of the Cowboy's organization and professional football as a whole, look like a white wash by comparison.
Most of the events in Thomas Henderson's book take place during the mid-late 70's, just before the over-the-top deifying worship of football players and professional athletes in general began in the 80's by means of new cable channels like ESPN and HBO for example. That served to heavily augment the local sports news and talk radio that already existed at the time, along with national magazine articles commenting on games and sports celebrities leading up to national TV broadcasts of the games of the week. Eventually growing into the constant bombardment of sports media entertainment monster that exists today.
So, one can perhaps imagine that the mine field of problems and worldly temptations that players are constantly confronted with, and have to negotiate through to maintain not only an athletic career, but a normal sense of humanity has only increased exponentially as a result of their athletic accomplishments since Peter Gent's or Thomas Henderson's NFL careers in the 60's and 70's.
The cinematic version of Thomas Henderson's "Out of Control" can also serve as an explanation for why celebrated athletes on all levels get themselves caught-up in so many controversial and tragic events ranging from the goofy, love myself behavior of Terrell Owens, to drug overdoses of young athletes in professional and collegiate sports, to murder convictions. That is if the modern mass-media actually had an interest in educating the public about the people and the sports organizations that they worship?(which, apparently they don't)
So, to sum up, I think you could still have a sequel to North Dallas Forty by staying true to the overall theme of the movies scathing indictment of the NFL, its players, coaches and the owners directly involved in putting on the weekly gladiatorial show.
Along with an indictment of the over-the-top mass media coverage that's responsible for over-hyping the importance to gigantic proportions the sporting events, without providing one iota of "REAL" insightful information concerning the actual day-to-day operations of the organizations and athletes themselves.
And, if someone was to use Thomas Henderson's "Out of Control" as the main source material for a kind of sequel to "North Dallas Forty"? Then I imagine the movie beginning with an over middle aged ex-NFL star who played for a franchise in Dallas, TX as the main character. Who, after being the keynote speaker of an anti-drug and alcohol seminar is listening to a sports talk radio program, or watching a TV satellite channel debating (ad-nausem) the most recent "controversial" conduct by the latest and greatest batch of sports celebrities. Causing him in turn, to reflect on his own conduct during his professional career back in the day.
Sort of like, "The Raging Bull" meets "Any Given Sunday". And, I hope that you're listening Hollywood?!? After all, I'm giving away these great ideas for free.
The Wanderers (1979)
A Brilliant and (dare I say?) Important Film
From the very beginning of Philip Kaufman's "The Wanderers", you're immediately transported in an orgasmic explosion of music into New York's Bronx borough of 1963. Just before the audience is introduced to some of the most original colorful characters in cinematic history, whose personal perceptions of the world are limited to the prism of their ethnocentric gang affiliations that rule their urban jungle environment.
In contrast to George Lucas' semi-autobiographical movie 'American Graffiti', that re-created his young life filled with hot rods, cruising the main street and drag racing in a small California town in 62'. Philip Kaufman adaptation of Richard Price's semi-autobiographical novel 'The Wanderers' re-creates the atmosphere of the gritty street gang life of Bronx, NY in 1963.
While George Lucas' American Graffiti enjoyed far more recognition and success than Philip Kaufman's 'The Wanderers' ever did. These two great independent films could serve as bookmarks to one another, with American Graffiti in 1973 being the main inspirational source that launched the whole 50's & 60's nostalgic retro entertainment for the rest of the 70's. While 79's 'The Wanderers' marks the end of the 50's nostalgia era. With one film about the lives of high school kids in 62' on the west coast, and the other about the daily lives of high school kids in 63' on the East coast. Both movies are similar in nostalgic form and independent style, but very different in tone and content.
Because these two movies are so interconnected to one another, it shouldn't be any surprise that Philip Kaufman and George Lucas teamed-up to create the story for a little movie called, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in 1980. Ever heard of it?
While it's more than likely you've already seen 'American Graffiti'. However, if you haven't ever seen Philip Kaufman's "The Wanderers"? Then you definitely want to find it and watch. I assure that you won't be disappointed.
It's truly an independent Philip Kaufman masterpiece, which includes Kaufman's trademark use of captivating cinematography while the great music of 1963 serves the movie by magnifying the films humor, tragedy, gritty realism, with an occasional touch of the truly bizarre, as we observe the daily lives of the young tough high school gang members of the Bronx in 63'. And, Alan Rosenberg's portrayal of 'Turkey' is one of the most original and uniquely funny, tragic and troubling characters that's ever been performed for the big screen.
A must see film. A+