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Joe's Apt. (1992) (TV)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
"A Classic. Deserves To Last As Long As The Cockroach", 2 October 2015

By Dane Youssef

THE COCKROACH is said to be the first living life form there was that is still going strong today. They outlasted the dinosaurs, who had a run of 65 million years. They pre- date the world's oldest profession. They may have been around since the big bang. They can live just about anywhere. They clearly know what they're doing.

I strangely couldn't help but wonder what personal connection the film's author John Payson must've had with these little guys. I'm sure they occupied his first place. He probably couldn't bear to lay out a roach motel or set a bug bomb off. He must've had some kind of strange kismet with them.

Now this one really was a classic. A grand milestone benchmark moment in all of MTV Like the "Aeon Flux" shorts or the very first "Cornholio" episode of "Beavis and Butthead."One of those grand short films back when MTV occasionally showed things that weren't music videos. And then realized, "Hey! We can show things that AREN'T Music Videos." And… then stopped showing music videos altogether.

Many fell in love with roaches—-love at first sight as Joe himself must've. We see them before we meet just about anyone else. This place really belongs to the roaches.

And their good friend Joe finally managed to scare himself up a date tonight and odds are, his association with a legion of cockroaches doesn't assure he's got an active romantic life. But… the roaches want to help. And… it's actually kind of sweet how they do.

It worked so well… Maybe that's… why the full-length orchestrated theatrical version didn't do so well. Too much of a really great thing. A really great thing that… To be fair, everybody who saw it… really did love it.

I remember after it was over… I sure wanted more. I wanted to stay at Joe's Apartment. More than that. I wanted to live there. I wanted those little guys as my roommates, my friends. I wanted to be one of them. Pets, not pests.

Somehow, someway… for some damned reason… we walk away having a lot more affection for those little buggers. Them and guys like Joe. Who knows? Maybe someday… there will be peace among all of us. Probably just before the bomb drops. And… then, there will be total peace on Earth. Except for the cockroaches, who I'm sure will stick around well before and after the next stage of life comes around...

--Loving Joe and All His Little Buds, Dane Youssef

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

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
"The Best--Or Worst Way To Kill Yourself? A Caper That Must Have Doomed From The Beginning", 1 January 2014

by Dane Youssef

"Tarantinoesque (adj) – referring to or reminiscent of the work of the American film-maker and actor Quentin Tarantino (born 1963), known for the violence and wit of his films." --Collins English Dictionary

Tarantino never set foot in a film school. He might not even have taken TV Media in high school. But he still changed the genre. With "Reservoir Dogs," he was established. With "Pulp Fiction," he was God.

Hollywood is like high school. When one does something that really gets popular, it sparks... the trend. And all the others follow suit-- following the leader like cult lemmings. And in film, influence can be essential. Or just sad and embarrassing. Tarantino inspired many--a lot of particular imitators. Some good. And... as for this one?

"SUICIDE KINGS" dares to spin a yarn of a quartet of wealthy privileged youngsters who dream up... and then try the most desperate and daring of schemes...

The reformed mobster is on his way home one night after an invigorating evening out. There's an ambush, he's attacked. He comes to... only to find himself bound-and-gagged in a chair somewhere. What the hell's going on?

A hostage film. A mob-crime flick. And also eventually... kind of mystery "whodunnit?" thriller, the plot twists and turns--especially in the last quarter of the picture.

Just a bunch of boys having fun. Bein' boys--not unlike "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction."

"The Godfather in question" finds in a cabin somewhere surrounded by rich collegiate in nice suits who seem to fancy themselves their own independent Mafioso. He sees red--on someone's shirt, as it's covered in the Goodfella's blood. The whole plan goes as wrong as we'd expect and the spoiler richies panic--and then these dumb rich silver spoons all turn on each other.

"SUICIDE KINGS" boasts one of those casts that we'd expect from the latest Tarantino picture. Christopher Walken, Laura Harris, Jeremy Sisto, Brad Garrett, Jay Mohr, Johnny Galecki, Sean Patrick Flanery, Henry Thomas, Laura San Giacomo and Dennis Leary.

OK, not quite the highest-of-profile names for the most part. But still, everyone does a worthwhile job. Only Walken, Leary and Galecki only really stand-out.

Walken confirms the belief that any scene he's in--just flat-out works. Even when the screenplay gives him the most ludicrous insights: "But I come from out there, and everybody out there knows, everybody lies: cops lie, newspapers lie, parent's lyin'. The one thing you can count on - word on the street... yeah, that's solid." Uh-huh. That's why so many schoolyard and water-cooler rumors are considered holy fact.

Walken sees how nervous they all are (who wouldn't be?) and attempts to get them to turn on each other. Seeing as it's a typical hostage situation with the victim being tied to a chair--he tries the usual of divide-and-conquer. "There's an inside guy. A mole," he tells them. "But who?" When they do finally start playing poker, Walken reads them easily.

Leary has the most fun in his role doing what I suppose can best be described as "the quintessential Denis Leary role." He's "Denis Leary in the mob." Ranting about his wife and his expensive footwear. Doing a good deed and then bring down his usual Biblical wrath.

Galecki is kind of fun as the rich worrywart nebbish whose family owns the place and seems a lot more concerned with mud being tracked on the floor, what happening to his father's favorite chair than the fact that a mobster is bound and he know everyone's name...

All the other actors--they get a passing grade, but they don't quite stand out. "SUICIDE KINGS" is like that--hit-and-miss.

The whole abduction is so badly planned--the movie itself even takes notice of this. At one point in the movie, Walken's character says to his captors: "You guys didn't think this through too good, did you?" Anyone with a handful of working brain cells will be thinking the same thing. I kind of wanted to ask the filmmakers this. The amount of obvious mistakes these guys make. Oh, they're clearly not professionals.

The movie's screenwriters Josh McKinney, Gina Goldman and Wayne Allen Rice take Don Stanford's original short story "The Hostage" from and heavily "Quentin Tarantino-ize it." Some thought they paid homage real proper. Some thought all this seems like something at best he might have in the bottom of his drawer--and forgot about forever.

Director Peter O' Fallon has real flair and style. He certainly films this thing with a lot of energy to spare. The kind we've seen best in... well, you know where. He gives a lot of wild-child style and so does everyone else involved.

Heist/kidnapping movies that deal with "inside jobs" just gotta have that moment where the ship's going down in flame and the rats all turn on each other.

"SUICIDE KINGS" is still worth a look for a slow night. Better than a lot of the merde being crapped out of Hollywood's big uncreative anus. "SUICIDE KINGS" doesn't beat the house and take the pot, but like poker, it's not a bad way to spend a slow night with your friends.

And in the end... Well... This is all pretty unbelievable. The ending however, is inevitable. And makes all the sense in the world.

See, for me--The Suicide Kings seems more like Jon Favreau's "Swingers" than the Reservoir Dogs. Hey, maybe that was another source of inspiration!

You might have to see it more than once to really get it all straight. Take notes, if you have to. Not to give anything away at all, but just to close it all on this one poetic line: "Sometimes the ends really do justify the means. Or at least define the meaning of the words 'karma' and 'justice'".

--Having Really Enjoyed It, Dane Youssef

6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
"In The Eye Of The Beholder, This Remains An Important Piece With Crucial Messages", 18 March 2013

by Dane Youssef

If there is truly any and all episode that best sums up what "THE ZONE" is all about, it's this one. Serling told us at the end of last week's episode to tune in for this episode as he remarks: "... It's called 'The Eye of The Beholder' and it comes

This time, Serling takes us to an anonymous hospital which could probably be anywhere. He takes us right away head-first into room #307 where a woman with a grotesquely misshapen face is awaiting her last attempt at corrective surgery. Her whole life is just lying in that bed, bandaged from the neck-up like a mummy they've just started work on.

The rest of the medical staff talk about what a poor soul she is. The nurses try their best to accommodate her with the best "bedside manner" physically possible. They certainly sound sympathetic. The doctor asks why such prejudice seems to exist in a society. Aren't we supposed to all be on the same team? Isn't that the purpose of civilization? Our heart breaks right along with hers--and Doctor Bernardi's in one touching speech that takes place in the employee break-room.

Janet Tyler sounds like such a tender soul. The kind of decent person there just isn't enough of in this cold, cruel world. And this world seems more fascist than our own. We hear of "The Apparently this time, Serling has brought us to a hypothetical land where Hitler won. There is only one world leader, one way, one regime. We hear him on the early flat-screen TV's praising "the glory of conformity. The delight of our unified The whole world is one giant united annexed totalitarian dictatorship. We all know what it's like to want to belong, to flourish. To be part of humanity. And we want that for her.

It's true that opposites tend to attract more than they repel. And we do tend to attack and destroy that which is different to us. Even as children. Even this day in age. But as those who opposed fascists like Hitler knew... doesn't conformity limit our humanity rather than strengthen it? Is this form of oppression and de-humanity the only way there will be total world order and peace?

And it's true that anyone with a working brain cell can see the trademark "Big Rod Serling Twist" coming a hundred thousand miles away... from space even, it isn't about whether or not we can guess what the big ironic or karmic ending is--it's about the whole journey there and what it all means. And pop culture has only made the finale more known.

And in the end... what's really ugly and frightening... is how much this world isn't really galaxies away from our own.

Still in the end, Serling's message still remains as relevant as it did about half a century ago.

And this was one of the episodes that was re-made for the re-incarnation of the series in 2002. Technology had improved, particularly the make-up and the TV flat screens. And believe it or not, the re-make followed Serling's original script more faithfully--and the "surprise" (notice that's in quotes) was a little less obvious. The acting was terrible however, with few exceptions.

The cast here is all solid and the acting rarely comes across as campy, with a few exceptions. The two actresses doing "Ms. Janet Tyler," the "Before " and "After" play it for all it's worth. Maxine Stewart does a better job that Donna Douglas, but Donna does exactly what she was meant to. Douglas and Edson Stroll have a moment right out of "Gone With The Wind" that seems appropriately turned on it's director Douglas Heyes does a fine job of capturing the right mood, playing with the light and camera angles to establish the right feel... as well as making the conclusion pretty clear. The make-up is pretty silly and unconvincing by any standards, but in the end--the point remains intact.

One thing's for sure... You'll never think of the labels of "beautiful" and "hideous" the same way again...

--For Rod Almighty... God Serling Himself... And All That Ever Happened In His Almighty Zone, Dane Youssef

NOTE: This review is dedicated to Rodman Edward Serling, a man who not only fought to protect our country and our way of life in WWII and took a fair amount of injury for it. But also fought the censors on TV twice as hard to make sure his vision was seen and heard. When TV was about shows like "Leave it to Beaver" and "Donna Reed," here was a man who wanted to use the box to illuminate serious problems like the cold war, racism, anti-society, paranoia and other destructive elements that come from within us. He was buried with military honors. I hope television honors as well. All he wanted was to remembered as a writer.

Well.... I remember....

Dog Park (1998)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
"The Truth About Dogs and... People. Hmmm, Might Have Been Nice. But... no.", 14 May 2012

by Dane Youssef

ONCE-TIME "Kid-In-The-Hall "Bruce McCulloch has one good-as-gold nugget of an idea here. 'Cause speaking from personal first-hand experience, the dog park is one special, magical place. The true place for any dog, dog owner and dog lover.

The dogs are given some amount of room to roam and socialize, good or bad. And so are their owners.

And you know.... movies are filmed all the time in Canada, American movies even! For the sake of wide roaming space and less cost. There are Canadian movies... made in Canada. But so very, very few.... But... this does.

Garofolo's pretty much just phones in the stock-type Garofolo role, knowledgeable about relationships and life with the usual sardonic wit. Except her usual genuine humor here is gone, thanks to her un-character and lines due to the "script" courtesy of McCulloch. She might have been better cast in the Lorna role. But no, Janeane has too much of a pulse.

Bruce actually gives himself a substantial supporting role as the "his" of a pathologically married "His and Hers" couple with Garofolo. She still seems almost human, almost possible. She seems to persevere through this incompetence.

He's always been a bad actor, but in skits, it's easier to forgive. And with this unfinished first draft of a script and monotone direction, all the actors more or less sink. These actors can act. But his movie manages to convince you they can't. So Bruce's horrible thespian attempts fit right in.

Every ounce of blame goes to the man who half-conceived this big ball of half-considered, unfunny awkwardness-- McCulloch. The characters, duller than dullest. Nearly every single line of dialogue and scene feels awkward and mishandled.

Not one person in this whole damn thing... comes off as believable. Or really all that insightful.

All throughout, McCulloch seems to lack the ability to write a decent romantic scene, a full-fledged written character or a line of dialouge that hears well. When it comes to writing personally, he should well- stick to skits. Or maybe just checks--if any of them are any good. Better than this.

"Dog Park" has no mood. Every scene is badly staged. It was so bad, I damn near expected this thing to have a laugh track.

While many of these types exist out there in the world (the sad-sack jilted lover, the cynical sage advisors, the seemingly perfect couple, the superficial couple, the weird oddball, the nypho and the love-scorn pessimist), the movie takes these stock-types and injects no humanity into them whatsoever. No one feels authentic, or even interesting.

Other Canadian folk like Harland Williams nothing special and especially awful. He plays the Neo-weirdo Lorna goes out with after she reaches that point when a woman gets so lonely and dying from cabin-fever, she rushes to go out with the first guy she sees. But after the date... he calls her back with a message she desperately, desperately needs.

But yes, Bruce and co. I agree wholly that Andy 'n' Lorna are made for each one another. These two, so boring--without any personality or interest--that you'd have to go the morgue to find people who are less alive. These two were made for each other. Two big empty non-existent zeroes.

Over the years, McCulloch has developed one tin cauliflower ear for dialogue.

As been said by pretty much every other on the planet who saw this, the only performance, character and scene of fellow "Kids In The Hall" brethren Mark McKinney as Dr. Cavan, an insightful and bizarre dog psychiatrist.

There's just not much about the movie overall. Just no real effort. No special insights about dating, relationships, nature--human or canine. No interesting people, philosophies about relationships or anything resembling a good movie-going experience.

Now if you'll excuse me, as I write this, it's 7:30 on the dot. The dogs are at the door, with Christmas morning anticipation. Tails wagging, eyes fixated on the door. It's time for our evening constitutional, the high point of our day.

As dog owners know, the local dog park is a treat. They're like late-night singles night clubs up in the city after hours. Anything goes, and often does...

--A Long-Time, Long-Term, Life-Long Dog-Lover, Dane Youssef

5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
"The Player" meets "Office Space." The Inside Dope On Hollywood Off Of The Red Carpet., 21 September 2010

by Dane Youssef

Now here's a movie for those looking for an attack on white-collar corporate office life, the spinning gears of Hollywood.

"Swimming With Sharks" seems to owe more than a little something to "Dilbert." The movie is more about Corporate America than Hollywood. There are a lot of white-collar touches that apply to offices, cubicles and other such rather than the Hollywood spin machine. Like Robert Altman's "The Player," this is one of those thrillers about people in "the biz" who are driven to the breaking point by how cruel L.A. can really be.

The film's writer/director George Huang himself was a former personal assistant to some of the biggest names in Hollywood, has described the movie as "20% autobiographical." Much of this one is said to be based on his experience working for noted mega-mogul producer Joel Silver for Columbia Pictures. So it should come as no surprise what-so-ever that his first crack at film was his own life story.

Surprise, surprise, huh? Well, more or less.

Despite Kevin Spacey being the big name in this movie and him getting first-billing, Frank Whaley ("Career Opportunities") is the star of this one. Most of anything with him head-lining is a sign of a bad movie ("Cold Dog Soup" and "The Jimmy Show"), but this is one of those where he shines because he's allowed to. He's not the most versatile actor, the best-looking or the most charismatic. He's had a rep as being something of the life-long "bit player." But when he's given a movie, script and part which allows him any headway, he damn well manages to make the most of it.

Spacey, being one of Hollywood's finest and renown, is able to pull off the screaming antagonistic drill-instructor and the restrained, tortured hostage here pitch perfectly.

Whaley effectively plays the green, naive wide-eyed rookie to the Hollywood roulette wheel with his usual perfection, but when the other shoe drops, he doesn't quite pull off the scorned, disgruntled employee seeking revenge. His Jekyll isn't as convincing as his Hyde. He doesn't scare us. He never seems truly unhinged. Maybe that's why Whaley sticks to the youthful deer-in-the-headlights. Whaley doesn't really seem as demented and unhinged as he should in his captor scenes. He's best as a whipping boy--which is why he plays so many.

1994 was the official year for Spacey. He got his breakout with the TV series "Wiseguys," and made the big screen transition with worthwhile fare like his Oscar-winning supporting role in "The Usual Suspects," "The Ref," "Se7en" and this. Spacey monopolized himself in the '94 as "absolute talent" (my term).

Benecio Del Toro, the "Brad Pitt of Mexico" (someone else's quote, believe me, I never dubbed him such) has a quickie cameo as Spacey's assistant who's given his three weeks' notice and is on the way out, making way for Guy. But not before giving Whaley some final parting words of wisdom. "Protect his interests, serve his needs. What you think means nothing. What you feel means nothing. You have no brain. He yells all the time. It's a lose-lose situation." This job is a fast-track shortcut to the top and if Guy does right and keeps his mouth open wide to catch all of Buddy's crap, he may very well be someday on the same mantel as Buddy and his former assistants. Everything Guy'll ever need to know about his job, he learns on day one.

Enter Dawn Locklard (Michelle Forbes of "Guiding Light" and "24"), another powerful Hollywood producer who Guy doesn't have the best first meeting with. She doesn't show a lot of warmth, which explains why she's a producer.

She herself is angry and cynical, and throughout the course of the film, we will see why. She eventually warms up to Guy and asks him out. Guy is stunned. But she needs Buddy on her side and is interested in him getting behind her new project. Guy sees this as an opportunity. Her new project for the studio, "Real Life" may just be Guy's window of opportunity. She seems to be interested in Guy because he's the most real thing she's seen in the Valley for the longest time. But does she really feel something for him or is she just using him? Is Buddy two- faced and back-stabbing or is Dawn? Guy no longer knows what's real and what's what?

Although when Guy starts to show some spine after a lot of Buddy's tantrums, the payoff is almost evenly matched with the faux-sugar scene. Buddy gets to emotionally, verbally (and at times, physically) abuses Guy (and apparently all his assistant's) on every possible occasion. He also gets to skewer just about everyone who crosses his path.

"Swimming With Sharks" is no featherweight comedy for a slow night about a bullying boss like the trailer lead you to believe. It's a film which deals with white-collar office comedy and torturous drama. Shifting from a lightweight comedy to a torturous thriller. It's sort of schizophrenic thing. We're laughing heartily one minute and horrified the next. A lot of time, this one keeps us guessing as it criss-crosses from Buddy torturing Guy to vice-versa.

But there's a lot (maybe too much) about this one that rings too-true to life. A lot of moments filled with the harsh insights and disillusioned truths that one learns from living an uncharmed life. And so there's illuminating light and lessons, as well as laughs. Not to mention some great heavier moments where ugly secrets about Buddy and... well, surprisingly Dawn are revealed.

The plot is over-developed and the ending is more poetic than anything else. But most of the movie really does work and really does sticks with you... like all the great ones do.

--Hoo-Ray For Corporate Hollywood, Dane Youssef

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
"Blaxploitation, Still Alive And Thriving...", 20 August 2010

by Dane Youssef


But movies on the stripping game don't seem to. They never seem to be well-made, or much fun. Why? What's going on here? The characters and plot are so non-existent, they fall under the category of pornos without sex.

And who wants to see that?

Such on the form as "Showgirls" made one wish the makers had followed pornography by example and not tried to have plot.

Good readers, take a deeep breath of relief that "The Players Club" has slightly higher-quality of strip than glitzy dives like "Showgirls" and "Striptease." Not quite the British Oscar contender level of "The Full Monty"... but not quite a "Striptease."

Written and directed by old-school rap superstar Ice Cube, "The Players Club" is a posh, yet harsh feature dealing with women needing big money really fast and giving themselves over to this way in order to get it. Stripping changes who you are all over. Inside-and-out, Diana says.

But hey--everybody needs money. Everyone wants more. Even if you're Trump, every single dollar... just isn't enough. We've all heard of the girl who turns trick in order as last resort. There are women who get into stripping 'cause they want worship, adoration. To control every man in the room--and her career.

But there are those who just need to make mad money mad fast. When we meet Diana (LisaRaye), she's just had a fight with father over college. He throws her out. She leans on a guy for support. He gives her more than that. He gives her a child. Then he leaves her.

Single black woman raises baby on her own, no means. Such a sad, familiar story.

To make ends meet, she gets at a shoe-store job. Some strippers come in and tell her there are ways of making more money--much, much more. In high demand. You're in charge of your career, your clientèle, yourself. Diana, you're suddenly in charge of life.

The "The Players Club," a ritzy men's club it Atlanta. The place is always hopping like a horny-toad on hop with the kind of people you'd like to know.

"Players" has a lot of the gimmicks as "Striptease." One can only wonder... did The Ice see that movie... just before he wrote up this?

A lot is pretty warmed-over. But despite blaxploitation roots and intentions, "The Players Club" boasts an A-list cast and production values, thanks to the powerful status name of The Ice Cube and New Line.

Bernie Mac gives in his plum of the "Players Club" owner "Dollar" Bill. A eccentric cartoon who dresses like a pimp, promotes himself like Don King with that philosophical wisdom that one picks up on the street, from the school of hard knocks. Business, yet ghetto.

John Amos and Faizon Love are a pair of sorta dirty-cops who frequent. They got that Amos and Andy-shtick with Amos playing it straight and Love going for laughs.

Oscar-winner Foxx of "Ray" fame got his start in the biz as stand-up and here as Blue, it might've served him (and the freakin' movie) better had he done some of his act. You'd think the DJ at a strip club wouldn't be important (Bill even tells Blue that to his face at one point), but he proves to be the very thing that Diana needs--even pulling it all together in the final act.

Looking at all this, I kept waiting for Pam Grier to pop up in some cameo (where she at least keep her clothes on).

"Players Club" does make a lot of its characters colorful and eccentric while keeping a lot of them fairly human. Cube tries to juggle, not making it a specific genre--but a "life film." His movie is comedy, drama, a thriller, and action flick...

As a filmmaker, Ice dons the indie hat here--as screenwriter, executive producer, director and bit-player.

Though at times, Cube's stuff feels tired, underdeveloped. He's credited also as exec producer, which I think means he green-lit his own project. It pays to have an objective eye. Could Cube's old director from "Boyz 'N' The Hood" Singelton have come down to give former "Doughboy" some sage advice?

Despite it's blaxploitation roots, "Club" mostly tries to sidestep a lot of opportunities to make the whole thing really, really campy, going for the "so bad, it's good" laughs that helped the earlier "white-stripper" movies get some viewers. But there is some camp here and there--all unintentional, I'm sure. Cube ain't Spike Lee.

He doesn't make all the women into the kind of creatures they seem to be in their act. He doesn't make all their customers into crazed rioting monkeys. Oh, no. No, no. The Ice has more respect for this than all that. And doesn't just fall back on the easy crutch of just peddling shots of naked flesh from near beginning-to-end.

I wished Cube's partner-in-crime Chris Tucker from "Friday" had popped- up. Tucker is on-par with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence as comic presence. Such talent, he's can bring even the deadest scene to life. Ol' Smokey made "Friday" a must-see, he could've made this all the better.

There are times when Cube doesn't capture energy he needs to. As director, he seems to be just recording. The camera is on auto-pilot rather than capturing mood.

No classic, no AFI's 100 Best, no one's absolute fave of all time--no. Still worth seeing.

And blaxploitation is still alive, still thriving... somewhere in this world. Not thriving like the stripping game, or the world's oldest profession.

But yeah, it's there...

--A Believer in Big, Bad Black Cinema, Dane Youssef

The Wizard (1989)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Universal Presents "Nintendo 1989: The Movie", 19 August 2010

by Dane Youssef

"THE WIZARD" isn't any new moniker or fun new twist on the classic story of a little girl from Kansas who gets caught in a tornado and finds herself not only over the rainbow, but in a wonderland of Technicolor and strange characters.

Well, at least not exactly.

This "Wizard" dealt with kids in peril, feeling trapped where they were. Video games were their outlet. One boy so disturbed, he became mute and later committed after witnessing the death of his sister. The older brothers living with the father after the divorce. When a child is lost, a family is too.

"The Wizard" open with a small, determined soul walking along a long stretch of road in the pursuit of something. Some goal, some destination. Some form of escape.

There's something... he's looking for. He's on his way... somewhere. Somewhere special, somewhere important. Somewhere he needs to be. It fades in like a sunrise... where is he going? We don't know. This boy's name is Jimmy. And he has a goal. He tells us, "California..."

Jimmy, in a major institution, yet breaking loose again and again like the family cat. One day during a visit, big brother Corey takes little Jimmy and the two break loose--together. At an arcade, Corey first-hand witnesses Jimmy is Bobby Fisher's predecessor at Nintendo. They use his skills to play for money. And because it's a road trip movie, they have to pick up a woman along the way.

It's a PG flick for little kids (once again, Nintendo fans), so it has to a preteen like them--and they have to be just friend. Her name is Haley, an adolescent drifter. She claims to know the score... and she can raise the money to get them where they need to go.

And Halley is one sizzling hustler. Wait 'til she's old enough to develop sex appeal to add to the mix.

It was my mother who recalled that old song from the "He's A Pinball Wizard" by The Who and suggested maybe that's where the movie got its namesake. The little ditty of some soul who was a wonder at that one arcade game. It was his world. Whoever he was. Well, if anyone could relate to that...

'Would've liked to hear that on the soundtrack at maybe some point.

A lot of the world said that the "Wizard" is stuffed to the gills with commercials. But no, they were wrong. "The Wizard" WAS a commercial. For Nintendo and Universal.

If we'd gotten scenes where we see Jimmy's connection to these games, how he becomes Zen, there might have actually been some real significance. We're just watching video games being played. And... that's all we as kids wanted from "The Wizard."

No really powerful piece of cinema, but to just see kids like us running loose without parental supervision and Nintendo being our source of rebellion. Children as resourceful as can be doing incredible things with the toys we played with and loved.

Screenwriter/producer David Chisholm seems to have cobbled this together out of spare plot threads and gimmicks. Usually filmmakers do this when they're just doing the obligated rush hatchet job and don't have their heart in the project they're working on. And you can tell--Chisholm doesn't love this screenplay of his. This is no personal project for him. This is just a Hollywood crowd-pleaser designed to feed the cult masses.

The choir (us) loves video games, lives for them, thrives on them. But the makers of this movie don't. They don't care about any of this except--"Here, buy this. Spend your money on..."

For all of those who belonged to the mass cult of Nintendo, this was the third coming.

Seeing it again now with older, more experienced eyes... like an old man going back into his childhood home, the bedroom we once lived in, the bed once ours, looking over our own toys and photos... and, and... what the hell was I thinking? Was that even me? Who was that?

What is "Wizard"? A film of our adoration for Nintendo from our childhood, which weaved together our love of movies featuring us kids as the heroes and our undying love of the video games.

... Jesus, what were we thinking?

Fred Savage stands as one of the finest child actors there ever was. The Savage was just that--even better. And Luke Edwards is all right for what this role calls for--acting terminally shy at all times.

For a movie about the kids and their toys, "The Wizard" holds some surprisingly good adult performances. Steven Grives as the electrified Video Armageddon Announcer who's like a British Christopher Lloyd as the charged-up Master of Ceremonies. And Will Seltzer as one scummy bounty hunter who tracks down runaways.

Beau Bridges, commendable. Christian Slater himself, a fine actor, very fine. Like fine china. And he's given virtually nothing to do in his "eldest brother" role.

Hey, the kids don't care about Bridges or Christian Slater--they care about Nintendo. Well, there's not much Nintendo either.

For some reason, after seeing "The Wizard" again with older eyes, I just somehow didn't feel like video games for the time being. I wanted to get out and physically do something. Take some real action with my life. It was a few days before I picked up a Game Boy.

As I was playing my usual "Tetris" round and trying to break my old record, I was singing quietly to myself, "He's A Nintendo Wizard..."

--Still A Game Boy, Dane Youssef

9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
What Do You See When You Look At Me?, 2 January 2010

by Dane Youssef

"The Twilight Zone" was a turning point in television because of its entirely human characters, its situations, its usage of the supernatural and the astronomical and it's perplexing surprise endings which were a study in divine poetic karma.

But what's really made so much of this series stand the test of time and the measuring stick for what the quality of "quality programming" is measured is the fact that the show was a lot like a fairy tale. Or the Bible, or any religious tome.

This time, the "Zone" shines it's twilight on an elderly wealthy man on his last gasp. His doctor tells him how critical his situation at this point. He may not have years or even months... he may not even have more than days or minutes.

This particular rich elder still has a few more tasks and loose ends to tie up before he shuffles off this mortal coil. one final task His family is downstairs. But Mr. Foster is not fortunate enough to be embraced by the bosom of a warm embrace full clan when he makes his way down the stairs. His kin is not there to spend the holiday of Mardi Gras with someone they care for deeply in his last few moments.

They are only there to assure they will inherit everything of value once Jason passes. He is not entirely pleased to see them. He knows why they are all there.

The family are the type who have not only character faults, they wear them quite prominently. The family almost seem to be living embodiments of the seven deadly sins. But they all withhold two precise to heart--greed and absolute evil.

After a magnificent meal, he tells everyone he has a surprise for the whole family. He presents a collection of masks hand-made by an old Cajun.

He informs the family that a custom of Mardi Gras is to wear masks that are the exact opposite of a one's true self. Thereupon, he says sarcastically that these masks are just that. The family refuses. He threatens to disinherit them. They agree.

The masks almost seem inspired by the seven deadly sins. When the masquerade ball itself ends and the masks themselves are to be removed...

This is one of Serling's most famous episodes. And with good reason. There isn't a lot of action and topical subjects such as the Cold War and conformity to be had here. It deals with a timeless subjects such as family and love.

Actors are all fine here, they all seems as big as life--flesh-and-blood. But the show of course belongs to one Robert Keith who plays the terminal Jason Foster.

But of course, the real star of this one is as always the teleplay of one Rodman Edward Serling. The man not only penned the bulk of what was seen on "The Twilight Zone," he raised the bar for what was seen on the tube and what "well written" really meant. He took home six Emmys, more than anyone had in history back then. After him, scripture for television became a respectable pursuit.

NOTE: This review is dedicated to Rodman Edward Serling, a man who not only fought to protect our country and our way of life in WWII and took a fair amount of injury for it. But also fought the censors on TV twice as hard to make sure his vision was seen and heard. When TV was about shows like "Leave it to Beaver" and "Donna Reed," here was a man who wanted to use the box to illuminate serious problems like the cold war, racism, anti-society, paranoia and other destructive elements that come from within us. He was buried with military honors. I hope television honors as well. All he wanted was to remembered as a writer.

Well.... I remember....

--Accepting The Devil's Rejects, Dane Youssef

Sideways (2004)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A Glorious Vintage. May It Age As Well As "Citizen Kane.", 2 April 2009

by Dane Youssef

"Sideways" is one of those movies that seems to be made entirely for the scholarly and intellectual. The artsy, deep, hip and high-brow. Films about those people going through a turning point in their lives. Mid-life crisis's and the like. And ones like this in particular always seem to reap critical praise, a crowd of fervent fans and prestigious award nominations.

The movie uses wine and wine country as a backdrop, yes, but the movie is about more than just the symbolism of wine and it's drinkers. It's essentially about people who are connected and realize how hard, brief and fragile life itself is and pursue happiness by any means necessary. And they're so true and worthy of it, we want them to find it and thus, assure we will find it ourselves. It has the mixed feeling of life.

It's stars, Miles Richmond and Jack Lopate have been buddy-buddy since their college dorm years. And have always been (and will be) total polar opposites. Miles is just a sad-sack neurotic nebbish with a bundle of neuroses that seem unwilling to disappear no matter how much therapy or medication he can get his hands on. His book won't get sold, his ex-wife is remarried (not that Miles was happy with her), he seems to be closer to death than life and he hasn't made an iota of the impact he wanted to.

Jack's a less-than-successful actor who's most respected credit was a short-lived role on a soap opera years ago. Now his more recent stuff is the voice-over who mumbles the warning for the side effects from non-prescription meds near the end of the commercial. Jack is living an ideal life otherwise and Miles has seen better days. In fact, he's borderline suicidal--taking plenty of meds and alcohol, usually all at once. Jack is about to get married. He wants to go out to local wine country and bring Miles with him, and hopefully out of his funk.

Jack is a self-satisfied animal who enjoys giving in to his baser animal instincts. A total tomcat who enjoys being "on the edge" and flirting with danger, he sort of enjoys toeing the line. The most outrageous thing about Jack is he often gets off lighter than he should. We all root for Miles and idolize Jack.

Maybe a trip out to wine country is just what Miles needs. We all know some big things are about to happen over the course of this one week.

One of Miles' true passions that does bring him happiness in wine. The right wine. And with great wine, you have to know what you're talking about. You treat it as an art, as yourself. It's not like any other drug. It becomes a way of life, not only as art, but as a way of who you are.

Paul Giamatti is simply an actor who never ceases to amaze me. From his breakthrough role as the anal-retentive watchdog station manager in "Private Parts" (he was one of the bigger surprises in that movie. The fact that he was passed over for an Oscar nod for this one (as well as "American Splendor" and "Cinderella Man") borderlines on criminal. On felony.

Thomas Hayden Church, who was pretty much just vaguely remembered for his stock idiot character Lowell, the mechanic on the one of the world's most generic sit-com, "Wings" simply rivets here. As Jack, he has the charm of a stud who's about to peak, but doesn't realize or care. A serial philanderer, he is literally willing to cheat on his fiancée without second thought or guilt right before the wedding. We encourage his cheating. Let's see where his libido might lead him. To pleasure, now, yes. But we all know it'll lead him into a hornet's nest eventually. And we're anxious to see how.

When the arrive at their destination, two women come into the picture. A waitress, Maya (Virgina Madsen) and a hostess, (Sandra Oh) come into the picture. We know they're the ones who are going to put everything into play.

Sandra Oh, writer-director Payne's then-wife, moves us in a big way as one of the wine hostess who falls for Jack and his animal way. They wind up having a fast relationship and one of the most surprising moments comes when we realize where all this is going. We know Jack is sticking his pride and joy into a hornet's nest and we want him to, because we know he'll have a blast and we'll do the same just watching. She isn't just a hottie, she has a wild spirit we'd all want to get into.

And Virgina Madsen plays the kind of angel from above here on Earth, walking as a mortal that Miles seems to have been praying for. And when she's on screen, we all feel that Miles may be finally saved. And is there a chance someone like her will rush down at save us when we really need it? The film knows the most effective comedy and drama comes the ordinary plight of the human condition. It's the kind of movie where you keep thinking, "Yeah, this is life. This is so exactly true to life... right down to every last detail."

The filmmakers have fashioned this into a natural true-to-life way all about the fascination of human nature. The ways of ordinary life--laughter, anger, frustration and brain candy--all translate to a cathartic experience for it's little characters as well as it's audience. Composer Rolfe Kent gives "Sideways" a light, loose jazzy score. Sometimes rocking. Payne not only directs beautifully and passionately, but manages to get the right feel in every frame. We even identify with the slapstick scenes.

One of those rare and precious years where the Academy actually got it right.

--Straight, Dane Youssef

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