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Why Does It HAVE To Be Seen? Well..., 25 September 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

by Dane Youssef

IT'S THE KIND OF THING that happened all the time back in those days. And by such, I mean that they had these sort of tales in books, movies, magazines and tales around a roaring campfire. They were everywhere at the time. The whole "It's A Wonderful Life" gimmick applying to some product or device. Ordinary average people cursing the frustration of some product—and wished it away with all their heart.

A man in the glorious year of 1940 is simply tired of looking at springs when he has to fix the busted couch in his home. He misses a golf game with his buddies. Fed up with even so much as the sight of springs, he utters those words that a lot of the folk in these things would utter: "I wish I'd never been born—er, I mean I wish this particular substance doesn't existence anymore!" Then right on cue, a little Jiminy Cricket-like cartoon conscience-like character pops up — obnoxiously cheerful and perky. He's literally a cartoon spring—goes by the moniker of "Coily the Spring Sprite." Why bother wishing upon a star?

And we then have to witness how every product that uses this substance just instantly falls apart. He wishes that "I never have to look at a spring as long as I live." And… every product with a spring in it… now… simply doesn't. Little "Coily the Spring Sprite" casts a spell… sending all the springs in the dear man's life away. Forever and ever… Well, no. Just until our hero wises up. Not even a full minute, I think.

Our hero, after getting the inevitable good fortune to un-wish a world free of the burden of springs, is a changed man. He is now over the moon that springs exist. And when he's finally able to play a game of golf with his buddies, he kills on the golf course. His game puts theirs to shame—while he bores and irritates them to tears by talking about the importance and usage to springs. His pals p It's like he just had a near-death experience. He becomes the spokesman for spring use. Well, thanks Mr… Hey, you know… they never gave us his name.

Jam Handy made a nice little string of films to let you know how important and life-crucial the products he and his company was cranking out were.

Jam Handy wants you to know damn well they're making a product that's as important to life on this planet as water—as oxygen itself. OK, OK, OK. Springs serve a vital purpose. Point made. But we knew that already.

How good it is? Oh, it needs to be seen. Why? Because the good people at the affiliate of "Mystery Science Theatre 3000" gave it a good once-over. Now we've all heard that immortal expression metaphor more than one point in our lifetime: "You can't turn a sow's ear into a silk purse." I mean… how do you do that? Well, you can turn literal you-know-what into grade A+++ fertilizer. And that's what "MST3K" always did. Hell, it's what everyone seems to be doing nowadays. Huh. We're all living in a very good time.

"A CASE OF SPRING FEVER" is pretty much pure camp… entirely laughable all by itself. We might not even have needed our beloved angels of salvation from "MST3K" to roast it at the stake. But… I say we should be grateful they showed up anyway. Hell, no one in this day and age would have seen this now- embarrassingly tacky educational ad newsreel if the "MST3K" band hadn't had their way with it. God Bless them. And everyone else bless them too.

But… our beloved friends, our guardian angels… the boys at MST3K give it the essential treatment it deserves.

--Now Fully Realizing The Importance of Springs, Nostalgia and Spoof, Dane Youssef

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
What a weird dream... experience? What...., 21 August 2005

by Dane Youssef

"AFTER HOURS" is a surrealistic experience. It's also one of Scorsese's lesser-known gems and as far as I'm concerned, everything the man has so much as ever sneezed on is a gem. I know that sounds very sad and slavishly faithful, (but keep in mind that the man has a great reputation for spinning cinematic gold with about everything he does). I know I sound like some kind of medication and therapy, but to that, I simply ask you all: Has the man ever made a bad movie?

Many have complained that pretty much all of his movies are kinda the same. "Mean Streets," "Raging Bull," "Casino" and "Taxi Driver."

Griffin Dunne is Paul Hacket, a computer programmer who is just going through the motions and has an empty social life. He strikes up a conversation with a nice lady named Marcy (Rosanna Arquette) at a local restaurant over a novel they've both read. Words are exchanged. So are looks. She seems interested. He's hooked.

And from the split-second he gets into that cab, the nightmare begins. The cab blows like mad through the busy streets of downtown SoHo. And after his transportation money literally goes out the window, so do Paul's chance of getting home. He has no idea how deep he's in. At first, it just seems like he's the victim of some bad luck.

He encounters a lot on those dark streets after hours. Unpleasant night owls, severe misunderstandings and eventually the next thing he knows, poor Paul is running for his very life.

He encounters a lot on those dark streets after hours. Unpleasant night owls, severe misunderstandings and eventually the next thing he knows, poor Paul is running for his very life.

Now many of you may be asking, "Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? Is a thriller? Is it a horror show?" Yes.

It's... it's like a dream about something that really happened to you. It all plays out like a dream about "the strangest night of my life...." And everyone's had that one long, weird night where they were stranded somewhere.... just stuck. No money, no ride. And all the weirdos and sickos all come out from their hiding-places.

"They only come out at night," as they say.

I don't want to give too much away because this is a movie where surprise after surprise. There's a whole domino effect here as everything leads to a big final act where we fear for Paul and his safety, and our own. Because it feels like we have become Paul.

The movie features a first-rate all-star cast. Rosanna Arquette, Verna Bloom, Tommy Chong, Linda Fiorentino Teri Garr, John Heard, Cheech Marin, Catherine O'Hara, Dick Miller, Will Patton, Robert Plunket and Bronson Pinchot.

This is the most surprising thing to come from Martin Scorsese. Scorsese has been somewhat pigeon-holed as a director, making usually historical bio-pics about true-life Jewish/Itallian Immigrants growing up in the Bronx and embarking on a life of crime. Always operatic, always rich with detail. "After Hours" is the arrival of a new Scorsese. One who shows a frightening "what if?" story in the Big Apple involving anyone with a big-city nightlife.

If it wasn't for Scorsese's name in the credits, you'd never guess he was at the helm. You'd never imagine in a million years he ever had anything to do with the project. He uses a quiet, subtle feeling the movie has when it's... "too quiet" and the pumped-up feeling during the more intense dramatic scenes.

Scorsese is a master of suspense, mood and timing. The fact that the Academy continues to pass him for an Oscar time and time and time again is not only annoying. It's downright offensive. We all know too damn well that the Academy bases Oscars all on politics. Well, as far as I'm concerned, Scorsese has played by all the rules. His films are very well-made and intellectual. They have a graceful operatic feel to them. They are often all-too historically accurate bio-pics.

And it uses it. Every actor is perfectly cast. Everyone is allowed to stand out in a big way without being too contrived or too cartoonish to be real.

And Scorsese, who's name stands for quality above all others, makes the most of it.

Joseph Minion's screenplay (which he collaborated with Scorsese on) is used for all it's worth. All the characters are quirky, colorful, yet realistic. The dialog is smart and honest without being too unnaturally "screenwriter-ishly clever."

And 9 out of 10 New Yorkers who see this movie will smile and nod, "Yep. That's NYC at night to a T." Everyone else will be sure to avoid New York like a severe audit. Most people who live outside New York fear the city and plan never to go there.

I imagine this movie will do a lot to complete the trend.

My only real complaint is that Minion should have gotten more credit for his original and winning screenplay. He should have gotten maybe a few more nods from other academies, I'd never seen anything so intriguing and elaborate before. It's not just new. It's smart, fresh, well-crafted and all-too believable.

I know the American Academy would give an Oscar nomination to a film like this, but that's almost a sign of it's greatness. Scorsese gives it a realistic, yet outrageous feel and knows how to let the suspense draw out and build skillfully and Joseph Minion has written himself a little bitty treasure. I just wish he'd write so much more.

Still, this is a home run on every account. I say this and mean it: YOU ALL MUST SEE THIS MOVIE. Ask for it by name: "After Hours."

--Proud Not To Be A Night Owl, Dane Youssef

5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
When criminals get put in the line of police fire. When Actors get behind the cameras., 9 February 2004

by Dane Youssef

A gang of crooks. The perfect plan. It all goes wrong. They're in trouble. The police are outside. They're cornered. What are they gonna do now?

Sound familiar?

The movie seems like it's trying to be a combination of the acting workshop, the "indie" film and the theater.

It's the kind of things that actors love--it's kind of like a workshop or a play because it mostly consists of tight focusing on the actors acting... acting angry, tense, scared, conversing, scheming, planning--giving the performers a lot of free range to really ham it all up.

A trio of crooks, one leader, one goon, one brother, come up with a big heist scheme... and a monkey wrench is thrown into the works. To top things off, there's a bit of a "fender-bender" and one of the crooks in flung through the back of the windshield.

The cops are on their tail and they stumble into a bar named poetically (and leadenly) "Dino's Last Chance."

Spacey, as a director, tries to keep the focus on the actors' performances and delivery of dialouge. He pans over to a bright passion-red cigarette ad of a smoking and smoldering Bogart. And he keeps all the violence off-screen, really.

I think that was a mistake. Focusing on the intensity and gruesome violent scenes would have given the movie some edge.

The problem with the movie is that it moves too slow and suffers from miscasting in almost every role. Matt Dillon ("Drugstore Cowboy" and "Wild Things") seems too young and too idealistic to be the leader of this gang.

Gary Sinese seems to brooding and deep in thought to be a spineless tag-along with these guys and Joe Mantaga is effective as the traditional routine foul-swearing mad-dog police lieutenant who's all thumbs, but he isn't given anything to really do here.

William Fischter is the only actor who is believable in his role as a brainless grunt who just wants to spill blood.

And the crooks are in a tense situation where they either go to jail or they try to think of some way out of this.

Spacey lacks the ability to create a lot of tension and keep it going. The characters are mostly chatting away, trying to think of a plan... and they're to calm and too articulate. There's even a scene where the crooks are playing pool with a whole swarm of armed cops right outside, ready to strike. At one point, one of the crooks even call the police who are right outside the bar. Oh brother. Oh bother.

These cops are going to either blow them away or going to lock them up. Shouldn't the holed-up crooks be a little scared, a little uneasy? Meanwhile, all the real action is happening inside.

Someone whips out a gun, a baseball bat, which leads to an ugly confrontation off-screen and there's one more casualty that happens that's... well, kinda sad. But...

Faye Dunaway also should have spent more time with a dialect coach, improving on her New Orleans accent. Skeet Ullrich is fine in a smaller part.

A cop listening in reaches for a pack of matches at the absolute worst time is a nice look. And so is a scene where someone goes right through the rear windshield.

The dialouge is obviously trying to go for a David Mamet approach and it's as profane, but never as realistic or as insightful. I'm guessing Christian Forte is a fan Mamet fan.

The movie feels like too much of what it really is... a really low-budget movie with an actor behind the camera for the first time directing other actors from a script that's "not bad, but needs a few more re-writes." Spacey shows he's not a terrible director, but he lacks a sort of feel for "shaping a movie" and it feels like he's just filming actors act.

These actors are all talented and could work with the material, but they all feel out of place. As I said before, the movie really suffers from miscasting.

I don't mean that the wrong actors were cast. I think they found just the right cast, but placed them in all the wrong roles. I think switching some of the roles would've helped immensely.

Having veteran mob actor Joe Mantagna play the leader of the pack, Gary Sinese as the angry police lieutenant outside on his bullhorn giving orders and barking at his troops, keeping Fischter in his "bloodthirsty goon" part and Matt Dillion as the sacrificial lamb. That would have been a big improvement.

When some actors direct, it works. They can even win Oscars for it. But a lot of the time, when actors direct, they have a tendency to just focus on the performances. Just shoot the actors acting.

Sometimes it works... but they need a good showcase for it. An excuse for it.

Hostage situations are all pretty much the same in real life just like coming-of-age stories so it's only natural that movies about them will go from point A to point B as well.

There are a few really great entries into this genre.' Spacey himself appeared in a similar movie about hostage situations: "The Negotiator."

This certainly won't become a cult classic, let alone one of AFI's 100. Still, it does have a few nice moments and personal touches, but in the end, it's instantly forgettable and the kind of movie that would play best on regular TV. It's just not worth going out of your way to see.

I give a 3 out of 10.

Spacey's other directorial credit, "Beyond The Sea" was reportedly a better effort. Hmmm... maybe it's true. You need to fail before you succeed.

--One Bad Alabaster Crocodile, Dane Youssef

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Tired of brainless, star vehicle, rom-com candy-coated Hollywood crap? So am I! And here's why!, 2 July 2006

by Dane Youssef

The premise of "America's Sweethearts" sets us up for an inspired, lacerating, in-your-face send-up of Hollywood and silly rom-com star vehicles. Then it turns into one of them. Like a young mind full of bright ideas, originality and vision, it sells out and becomes the very type of evil it was speaking out against.

Although John Cusack isn't as great as he certainly used to be, you could always count on him to sign up for only the highest-caliber projects. But this shows strong signs of a dry spell. I'm guessing the flowing river of scripts sent to him is beginning to run dry.

Ever since Lloyd Dobbler in "Say Anything," Cusack has pretty much been type-casted into playing the same role: The smart, calculated, neurotic and love-sick guy who has just been dumped by the love of his life (Better Off Dead, Being John Malkovich, High Fidelity, (and seems too smart and adult for his age).

Cusack has always seemed so advanced for his age, but now he seems to have grown into his age and now, he's just another routine pedestrian actor.

Now I enjoy Crystal in his movies (although his steady-fire Jewish borscht-belt shtick is wearing thin). And here he does his usual bit here as a fluent veteran cock-and-bull, scam artist, fast-talking PR agent. This is the role Crystal was born to play. And he's been playing it since he was born. But the movie (which was co-written and co-produced by Crystal) has to make Crystal into a sweetheart.

Billy Crystal has always been more of a Borscht-Belt comedian than an actor, which is why he always plays himself in any movie he does, and here he does his usual Oscar-night banter as the PR Lee Phillips who flashes a showbiz smile and orchestrates at lot of routine Hollywood BS and cover-ups.

Catherine Zeta-Jones does a good job doing a stereotype caricature of a rich, spoiled, over-rated, over-egotistical mega-movie-star bitch who's obviously supposed to remind us of Julia Roberts. Reportedly, the Gwen Harrison role was offered to Julia Roberts, but she turned it down out of fear that people would think that was the real Julia Roberts. Hmmmmm.....

Yes, you have to admit--people are very gullible and easily leaden. They need to believe that this unnaturally perfect life exists. Otherwise, what would their escape from the dreary and depressing, soul-and-bone crushing society be? If anyone ever believe Roberts to be a over-egotistical-pumped-up monster like Gwen in this movie.... her fan-base would dry-up and so would her career.

With all the flavor-of-the-month celebrities out there, Roberts is one of the few, precious to have any real staying power. Don't rock the boat, Jules.

The only actress I could imagine could pull the villainous heartless bitch movie-starlet off as good as Roberts would be Amanda Peet, who's sort of become a staple of weird, bizarre, off-kilter romantic comedies ("The Whole Nine Yards," "Saving Silverman" and "Whipped").

Maybe she would have been better than Zeta-Jones. Perhaps it would have been best to not sign Roberts up, as she seems unbelievable as a wall-flower-turned-blossomed rose. But there is an entire mainstream religion of mindless moronic lemmings who would leap off a cliff onto jagged rocks down below if anyone like Roberts had a life that was anything but wine and roses... and red-carpet Oscar-night bliss.

Christopher Walken can always, always take a nothing movie... and suddenly make it all seem worth-while. And he actually manages to nearly resurrect this thing back from the dead as the Oscar-winning borderline psychotic-director Hal Weidmann (who seems to echo Kubrick). Seth Green, usually a fiery actor, like everyone else, is dampened here.

I remember thinking how much better this damn movie would be if lived up to all to the foreplay.

The flick opens brilliantly.

We're promised a satirical anti-dote to the brainless, bland, formulaic crap that Hollywood is dispensing. And they give us more of it. Practically, a love letter to it.

We get screwed. We feel more cheated than Eddie. We're expecting some clever, well-written, merciless biting satire against Hollywood, mindless rom-coms with big-name stars in them, the film critics and journalists, and the fans who watch this garbage... And what do we get? Not an assault on the idiocy, but more of the idiocy itself.

A golf ball hitting someone in the head, someone jamming a phone into a chair, a dog sniffing at someone's crotch, a guy falling onto a cactus crotch-first, fat people, etc. Cheap sit-com crap you can see on the ABC Wedensday night family line-up or on any other sitcom on regular network television anytime.

I kept asking myself: How could such talented people with such an inspired, brilliant premise be so bad... and boring? I went to"box office & business" on IMDb and got my answer: The film's budget was an estimated $48,000,000. It grossed a whopping $93,607,673, and that's just in the US.

Is it just me, or is everyone is this cast wearing a leather jacket? Actually, Zeta-Jones wears leather pants in one scene and so does Billy. Was there some kind of dress code on the set? How many cows were slain for this? How much time, talent and resource was wasted? This death-threat of a review has more interesting writing than anything that occurred in "America's Sweethearts."

--Love For Hollywood and Hate For The Sweethearts, Dane Youssef

Bobby (2006)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A disappointing film, but a moving love letter..., 29 February 2008

by Dane Youssef

Emilio Esztevez's "Bobby" celebrates not only one of the greatest political icons to die before his time, before he had the opportunity to live up to even a fraction of his potential, but a seven-year effort to get it on the screen.

Esztevez is not as renown in the business as his father and brother are. Nor does he have such a sparkling track-record. Let's be honest. Most of the man's movies (paticularly those made after "The Mighty Ducks") borderline on unwatchable.

But just because a man has a few "Battlefield Earth" and "Catwoman"-like stinkers doesn't mean he's totally incapable of putting out anything at all decent. I know we love to skewer a star when they're down. But let's give a poor guy an even shake...

Because of Estevez's experience in the biz, as well as his family's, "Bobby" is chock-full of big-name walk-ons. Yes, it's good to be able to employ the best and biggest names in the business, but I don't know if it necessarily works here. There are so many familiar faces that pop up like a Jack-In-The-Box and then disappear just as quickly, that it's actually distracting.

They're all not on camera long enough so that we see the characters, not actors playing a role. We keep getting the feeling that all we're looking at is super-star after supers-star just here to do some temp work, have fun, do a favor and pay respect to a great political icon.

This is an ensemble vehicle, in the tradition of the late Robert Altman. Like every ensemble vehicle, the star is subject matter--RFK himself.

As for it's much-touted heavy-hitter cast: Christian Slater is one of the best out there, but any schmuck standing in line at "Hot Dog On A Stick" could have done as good a job as he's allowed to do there. Hey, maybe some of that trademark reptilian demeanor of his might have helped. He's a racist who's as interesting as plain white-bread. Heather Graham is equally ineffective (has she ever given a really great performance?) Joshua Jackson (who worked with Esztevez in "The Mighty Ducks" films) isn't really given anything to do at all.

Ashton Kutcher thankfully sheds his tired "Kelso" scthick as a spiritual drug dealer who introduces to LSD. He wears glasses, has long mop-like hair and beard. He seems to be in serious danger of becoming just another flavor-of-the-month like those before him (and after him). With roles in movies like "The Butterfly Effect" and this, there may be hope.

Lawrence Fishburne almost steals the movie as a veteran cook at the Ambassador. He has a deep philosophical mind and some theories on the way the world is... and how to survive in it. How to make it yours. He sounds so insightful, like an older, seasoned veteran not miles away from Kennedy himself. He talks about how anger is toxic and his admiration for Dr. King and how it hurt when...

Legendary Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins appears as the elderly doorman who won't retire because the boredom and feeling of uselessness gets to him. His role is pretty unremarkable, although he brings the same grace and dignity he does to pretty much any role he's in. It's nice to see him away from his "Hannibal" repertoire. And "Bobby" is a vast improvement over Ron Howard's desecration of "The Grinch."

Director Esztevez and Demi Moore appear together as a couple for the first time in Esztevez' nearly unwatchable "Wisdom," which contained none of what was promised. Or anything else worth seeing. They have some worthwhile moments as a show-business couple, especially Moore. And it's one of the few sub-plots that work.

The only true stand-outs here are Lawrence Fishburne, Sharon Stone, William H. Macy, Martin Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. Everyone else seems is just coasting. Because they're all distinguished veterans, we want them to make an enormous impact. The kind where the scene and line becomes a legendary quoted movie moment. But each shot just shows big-name marquee headers doing what just about anyone could have done.

But does it work? The most crippling flaw in "Bobby" is that because of the contemporary faces and their underdeveloped characters and underwritten scenes, we're never convinced we're back there during that fatal day. And when RFK walks through the door, onto the stage... we're never really convinced that he's in that room at this moment.

Throughout the whole film, I was aware that they were just using old footage of Bob and the entire cast--er, members of the Ambassador were cheering facing a camera crew.

There are some moments that alone make Bobby worth seeing: A scene where a deception is going on and is revealed--we see the victim's tears and pain, a conversation in a kitchen that really stays with you, two buttoned-down campaign volunteers who volunteer to embrace something more have than Kennedy, the reporter dying to see the senator in the flesh. All story lines that could have really packed a wallop if they're were written more. Was Esztevez on a schedule?

In the end, what truly makes this a movie to see is the passion. The passion that Esztevez has for Bobby and has had ever since dear Emilio actually came in contact with him when he was but five years old.

"Bobby"'s finale (yes, that is the correct phrase) comes to no surprise, but what is so astonishing is how much such an act can still touch us as if we are actually there and then. It helps give the film more of an impact than everything leading up to it did.

What matters really is not when or how Kennedy left, but that he was there. Now that he's gone, it's says sad things about us how much we need him now...

--For Bobby, Dane Youssef

4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Rock is the best stand-up comedian in the world right now. See this movie for physical evidence., 17 January 2004

by Dane Youssef

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 porno. 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.

--For The Rock That Rocks... Hard, Dane Youssef

Coonskin (1975)
6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Don't Let The Title Throw You. This Is Definitely One To See...., 25 October 2007

by Dane Youssef

"Coonskin" is film, by the one and only Ralph Bakshi, is reportedly a satirical indictment of blaxploitation films and negative black stereotypes, as well as a look at life black in modern America (modern for the day, I mean--1975). Paramount dropped it like a hot potato that just burst into flame.

But this is a Bakshi film, controversial, thrilling, and a must-see almost by definition alone. Not just another random "shock-jock" of a movie which tries to shock for the sake of shock. It's by Ralph Bakshi. Anyone who knows the name knows that if HE made a movie, he has something big to say...

Although it's roots are based in cheap blaxploitation, "Coonskin" isn't just another campy knock-off of mainstream white film or any kind of throwaway flick. "Coonskin" wants to be more. It aims it's sights higher and fries some much bigger fish.

The movie doesn't just poke fun at the genre. Nor does it just indict black people, but actually seems to show love, beauty and heart in the strangest places.

"Coonskin" tells a story out of some convicts awaiting a jail-break. The fact that it's even possible to break out of a prison in the "Coonskin" world alone makes it old-fashioned.

One of the inmates tells a story about a trio of black brothers in Harlem named Brother Bear, Brother Rabbit, Preacher Fox who want respect and a piece of the action and are willing to get it by any means necessary. The Itallian mob is running all the real action.

Big name black musicians star: Barry White and Scatman Crothers, as well as Charles Gordone, the first black playwright to take home the Pulitzer. Something big is happening here obviously.

The movie plays out like a descent into this world, this side of the racial divide. From an angry, hip, deep, soulful black man with a hate in his heart and a gun in his hand.

Bakshi's films never know the meaning of the word "sublety." This one looks like it's never even heard of the word. But maybe a subject like this needs extremism. Real sledgehammer satire. Some subjects can't be tackled gently.

Bakshi is god-dammed merciless. Here, no member or minority of the Harlem scene appears unscathed.

The characters here are "animated" to "real" all depending on what the mood and situation are. The animated characters and the human ones all share the same reality and are meant to be taken just as literally.

Bakshi never just shows ugly caricatures just for shock value. He always has something to say. Nor is black-face is gratuitously. Here, unlike in Spike Lee's "Bamboozled," he seems to be using it to try and really say something.

Like 99.9% of all of Bakshi's films, this one incorporates animation and live-action. Usually at the same time. Bakshki isn't just being gimmicky here. All of this technique is all intertwined, meshing together while saying something.

Somehow, this one feels inevitably dated. Many of these types of films (Bakshi's included) are very topical, very spur of the moment. They reflect the certain trend for the day, but looking back of them years later, there's just an unmistakable feeling of nostalgia (as well as timeless truth).

Even though the music, clothes, slang and the city clearly looks like photos that belong in a time capsule, the attitude, the spirit and the heart remain the same no matter what f--king ear it is. Anyone who's really seen the movies, the state of things and has been in company of the people know what I'm talking about.

Even some of the of the black characters are a bunny (junglebunny), a big ol' bear and a fox. One of the most sour and unsavory racist characters is a dirty Harlem cop who's hot on the trail of these "dirty n-----s" after the death of a cop. But for him, it's not just business. Nor is it for the rest of the brothers who wear the shield. It's just pure sadistic racist pleasure of hurting blacks.

The sequence involving the Godfather and his lady is one of the most moving pieces in the whole film, of which there are many. It plays out like an opera or a ballet.

The promo line: WARNING: "This film offends everybody!" This is not just hype. Proceed with extreme caution.

You have been warned...

--Happy Viewing, Dane Youssef

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The first of Allen I saw..., 27 February 2004

by Dane Youssef

"Deconstructing Harry" is the movie that's mostly referred to as Woody's most venomous and mean-spirited movie. Which is true.

So of course, it's one of the best. Of course, that's just one matter of opinion.

Like just about every one of Woody's, it has wall-to-wall celebrity cameos from some of the biggest name stars Hollywood. Most of the Woodman's movies have consisted of old-time vaudeville, Jewish humor, the musings of Freud and stand-up. This is one of my favorites.

Yes, it's one of Allen's more scatological films, as well as his nastiest. I'm saying that right now. F--k, some of the more low-brow humor is reminiscent of "Monty Python And The Meaning Of Life." Remember the projective voluminous vomiting scene? Or the musical renditions of "Every Sperm Is Sacred" or "Isn't It Nice To Have A Penis"?

Allen matches it with a blow-job and anal-sex scene, topped off with a joke about the blind. As well as his envisonment of the very bowels of hell. There's even a fun relationship with a hooker (Allen did good with this in an earlier film of his, "Mighty Aphrodite." Sorvino took home the Oscar).

While this one isn't as touching as many of Allen's others: "Annie Hall," "Manhattan" or "The Purple Rose Of Cairo," it's certainly one of his funniest.

"Deconstrucing Harry" is more of a throwback to his earlier works where Allen was "all about laughs" like "Sleeper," "What's New, Tiger Lily?" or "Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex." This one has some psychological digging and analysis into who Allen is. Hey, all his films do. But this one is really just about making you laugh.

In fact, it's the first Woody Allen movie I've ever saw. It got a well-deserved Oscar nod for it's screenplay (Good ol' Woody gets one every year). But let's be honest, "Good Will Hunting" deserved it a lot more. It's only fair Ben and Matt won that year.

Unlike a lot of Woody's movies, this one is a lot meaner and edgier than most.

Oh, it's chock-full of jokes about masturbate, orgasm, blow job and penis jokes (that's Woody's John Hand-cock). But there's deeper issues underneath. Woody's obvious self-loathing... and how it lead to as his former lover put it... "literary gold." I hurt myself laughing. So did my mother... although not without a healthy feeling of guilt. My sister was horrified. My father made me turn it off. I watched it later... when everybody else was asleep. I laughed even harder. A must-see.

One of the funniest bits in the movie involves Woody going straight to hell and paying dearly for the many, many sins that he has acquired over his nearly 70 year run. To add insult to injury, the Jews don't believe in Hell. Is Hell like the bogeyman? If you don't believe in it, it won't hurt you? The Jews believe themselves that Hell, like Heaven, is place that exists on Earth.

SPECIAL NOTE: This is the first movie that Woody Allen developed with his now-recurring moral about the "tortured man who can function in art, but certainly not in life." Woody's long run is nearing his end. Despite all his talent (and flaws), he is still a man. As mortal as any of God's creatures. He knows this better than anyone. Woody is obviously going to leave something special behind. Many of his movies have become cinematic landmarks. Will Woody's best movie be his last? I'm sure the French will gobble it up. And so will we... because it's last. Many will have nothing but good things to say about Woody when that eventual day comes (Woody has always been self-lacerating, but he wont be able to interject obviously....)

Let's hope that his last is his most revealing... oh, and of course, best... I'm on board and my fingers are crossed.

--For The Wood, Dane Youssef

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Full of timeless nostalgia. Precious adolescent memories., 21 June 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

by Dane Youssef

Now here is a film that is designed to preach to the choir. Well, not so much preach as praise. "Detroit Rock City" is a movie that plays out like a throwback to those wonderful days when... you and your friends lived on a steady diet of junk food, teenage smarmy... and great music.

You and your buds had your own band (in the garage, the basement or the backyard) and you had a dream that someday, you'd be up there rocking and rolling for a living.. just like the very bands you worshiped religiously. Some of you made it come true. Made it to that side. Got to live out your dream and was paid the same worship you gave your elders. Most of the others just grew up, and... well...

That's a lot of what "Detroit Rock City" is about. Thankfully, it's really not one of those "topical" movies that just showcase a flavor-of-the-month band in a starring role like "Spice World," "Cool As Ice" or "Crossroads." Films like those feel so passé' and ancient in a week or so. When people go to those movies, afterwords, they just ask themselves, "What was I thinking? God, so dorky! So lame! So embarrassing! Eyecch!"

He's just like me... they're just like my buds. They sound and think just like us... Jeez... some things are timeless.

The cast is first-rate. The look and sound is so flawless, it's... And the music is all there. Director Adam Rifkin gives this an MTV-music video style of cinematography. And Carl V. Dupre' writes like he's about the age of the boys himself. It's almost like one of our heroes wrote it. Well, in a way, maybe they did.

"Write what you know. Tell your own personal story." --- Old Writing rule

The screenplay is the very definition of originality: entirely composed of stolen elements from countless other movies--"American Graffitti," "I Want To Hold Your Hand," "That '70's Show," "Clerks," "The Full Monty," "Footloose," "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," "Dazed and Confused" and probably a lot of others. And the character of Trip is obviously lifted from the Kevin Smith movies.

Of course, let's face it---there's nothing new under the sun and most filmmakers (at least 9 out of 10, anyway) are making movies just like the ones they grew up with. The movies that made them not only want to be filmmakers, but even before that---made them film lovers.

The scene-stealer's in the film are Sam Huntington as the sweet-natured, weak-willed, yet most lovable of the whole bunch, Jereimiah "Jam" Bruce and Linda Shaye as his God-fearing, bible-thumping, holier-than-Jesus mother.

The usually reliable Edward Furlong isn't nearly as good, and his role is much more on-par with that of the forgettable "Pecker," rather than the stand-out performance "T2." James DeBello is a lot of fun as Trip, but not quite Jay from the Kevin Smith films (which kinda feels like that's what they were going for). And newcomer Giuseppe Andrews unfortunately gives the weakest performance as the pessimistic worry wort Lex.

Porno legend Ron Jeremy himself appears here is an amusing cameo as the disco club MC. And Former Playboy Playmate Shannon Tweed has a thin and underdone role as the older woman "Mrs. Robinson" who picks Hawk up at a bar. The type of role she plays in the movie is nothing new for her (and certainly not very interesting), but the original scene (which was cut for length) had a lot more to it, and it really shouldn't have been trimmed out.

The boys (and the cast) feels realistic and genuine. Like the cast of "That '70's Show," they're not just wearing the vintage clothes and hairstyles. They genuinely seem to embody the era. The actors, the clothes, the cars, the music, the lingo, the spirit... this is a movie than genuinely feels authentic.

Although, it's not quite flawless, as precious few movies are (People aren't perfect, life isn't perfect. So why would movies be?) The direction is a bit too much a lot of the time. A little goes a long way, and it seems like Rifkin is indulging himself with fancy camera tricks. And it borderlines on motion-sickness and migraine-inducing at times.

And Dupre's screenplay has a lot of trite', warmed-over and and pedestrian comic material, and kind-of-a cobbled together plot that never feels like it's coming from it's source. The characters are great, and so are most of their lines, as well as some of their moments...

There's a great bit where Trip conjures up a hair-brained (at best) scheme to snake a KISS ticket and gets himself in the worst possible scenario. It's fun watching him try to dig his way out.

This album deserves to go quadruple-platinum and sell more copies than anything Michael Jackson or the Beatles ever did. It's a must-have for anyone who remembers the era fondly or just loves the music. It's retro-cool. The only real problem, as I see it, which kept "DRC" from being a classic in the tradition of "Animal House" or "Rock 'N' Roll High School" is that... well, it's never really sends up the decade or that age very much. Nor does it to that for any of it's targets (cruel teachers/parents, disco-fans, over-zealous, Bible-thumping Christians, and any other authority figure).

It really could have used some of that period-lacerating satire that "The Simpsons" or "That '70's Show" does so well. But it's more of a love letter to a time of innocence and wonder. Which isn't all bad, but some more name dropping (and name calling towards that long lost decade) would have made all the difference for the better in the world.

Isn't that always the way? Well, as it should be.

--For Rock 'N' Roll (meaning KISS) Forever, Dane Youssef

2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Just not funny. Just doesn't work. Just a waste of time. Just a waste of money. Just a waste. HUMAN WASTE., 30 September 2005

by Dane Youssef

I know that "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" is completely immune to critical reviews. This movie... no matter what critic, no matter how scathing, how cruel and cold... when it comes to movies like this... the press is powerless.

Really, who cares what the critics say? This is not the newest political biography by Oliver Stone.

Movies like this are just meant to make you laugh.

And this one does. But Definitely not enough.

I was really looking forward to this one. I was in the mood for a "Dumb & Dumber" or "Kingpin" type of comedy and I saw some of the ads for this one and it looked fairly funny. So when it first came out on video, I rushed out to get it.

I've enjoyed most of Sandler's stuff, the Farrelly Brothers movies and just about every movie from the comic film firm of Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker. So, surely, I'd like this one.

"Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" is a vomit bag of a movie. Granted, that's more or less what I was looking for... but it was the WRONG kind of vomit.

THE PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Goofy, homely and pathetic fish-tank cleaner Deuce (who's also a fish specialist) winds up playing house-sitter and "fish doctor" for a luxurious gigolo. Disaster hits (of course) and in a last desperate resort to raise some much needed money very quickly, Deuce becomes a prostitute. And encounters every misfortune possible.

Sounds funny, doesn't it? And in the hands of some genuinely talented writers and directors, yes, it damn well could have been. But it's handled so terribly, so clumsy, so over-the-top, the humor dies out quickly and at the end, we lose faith and trust in summer gross-out comedies. And we desperately need those, don't you agree?

There's a running joke involving a hard-ass police detective named Chuck Fowler (William Forsythe) who's more or less an unfunny comic take on Tommy Lee Jones in "The Fugitive." David Alan Grier made his work in "3 Strikes," but having him constantly show his penis to Deuce (which is apparently pathetically small.

Or at least thin) is just not funny because no one here seems to know how to make it work. Schneider and co-writer Harris Goldberg ("D3: The Mighty Ducks," "I'll Be Home For Christmas") incorporate a butt-load of funny ideas into this script, but no one here seems to know how to make it work.

Director Mike Mitchell does not have the Midas touch when it comes to comedy. Gold, hell, he can't even settle for a bronze PLATING.

Everything is so obnoxious, so gross, so overplayed, it'll give you a headache.

It wouldn't be fair for me to say that there's no laughs to be had throughout the whole movie and it was totally without ANY merit: Oded Fehr is perfectly cast as the experienced smoldering prostitute. And Arija Bareikis is appealing as the love interest. And Schnider occasionally (early on) does deliver a chuckle with his performance.

There's a funny bit where an aquarium salesman appears to be either gay or a pervert and continuously makes double-ententes to Duece's confusion. And comedian actor Edddie Griffin (of whom my mother is a huge fan of) gets some of the movie's only laughs (belly-laughs) as a pimp named T.J.

T.J.:"I prefer to be called a male madame. Wait, that didn't sound right." He gets (probably) the movie's biggest laugh when he explains the prostitute food chain to Deuce, using Antoine's fish to illustrate his point.

And there are some really funny moments to be had early on and with some of the women Deuce services. Hey, you think the kind of MEN who pay for it are scary. Just imagine the kind of WOMEN who'd have to pay for it. But the movie stops trying less than halfway through and feels like it's on auto-pilot. Not just the director, but everything.

Look, I'm gonna say it right here, right now: Schnieder is just not a leading man, pure and simple. He does not have the looks, the height, the physique and charisma to carry a whole picture.

Even though it seems like this is the kind of lead that's perfect for Schnieder (an ugly, goofy, sexually-repellent man who could never get it for free, let alone be able to charge for it), he just can't quite pull this one off. Although this material (which he's partially responsible for could've derailed anyone).

Even if this one contained the best cast in the world, how much good can it do when you're working from a script you found in a condemned, rotting, stinking gas-station men's room on the urine-soaked floor? Look, Rob Schneider is just not the lead, pure and simple. He's the one joke character ("You con dew eeet!") and a supporting actor ("Judge Dredd, "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York," "Surf Ninjas" and "Knock Off"). He's just not a head-liner, pure and simple. Co-billing, maybe, MAYBE. He should stop writing movies... or at least stop trying to carry them. Maybe a ensemble vehicle would help.

Schnieder was never meant to be an Oscar-contender, I know. But a box-office darling? Now Sandler, I can see, but...

Seriously, really... avoid this one. For good gross-out summer comedies, I recommend the following: "Dumb & Dumber," "Kingpin," "There's Something About Mary," "Scary Movie" and the "American Pie" trilogy. Check out Sandler's "Happy Gilmore," "Big Daddy" and "The Longest Yard."

FINAL WORD OF ADVICE: Avoid anything with Schnieder's name looming over the title.

--Really Paying For It, Dane Youssef

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