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Stealing Sinatra (2003)
This movie isn't for everybody, but I enjoyed it thoroughly. It probably helped that I grew up in the L.A. area, and the San Fernando valley in particular (I've been to Canoga Park, and driven down Sherman Way!). I loved the way they evoked the Southern CA surf culture, and especially the surf music, of the early 60's. I've always been a big a fan of that era. And has anyone noticed how prevalent 60's surf music still is today? You hear it constantly on TV commercials and in the media. The pre-counterculture 60's period detail in this movie was excellent: clothing, cars, houses, hairstyles etc. It's an almost overlooked time in our history and culture. (As a former valley-boy, I was amazed to see on the end credits that this was filmed in Vancouver B.C!). The real-life story here is no secret. The fun of this movie is in the journey, not the destination. I'm glad they chose to make it as an almost surreal, truth-stranger-than-fiction comedy. This is serious subject matter, but it would have been a total flop as a straight ahead drama. The thrill was in getting to know the perpetrators and in the realization that they were really just regular, likable guys (guys I might have hung out with at one time) doing incredibly stupid things and getting in deeper and deeper. Of course the glue that held the whole thing together was David Arquette. You can have fun just watching him think. I've followed him, on and off, since the Scream movies, and he just gets interestinger and interestinger. I was mesmerized watching him go from friendly to scheming to salesman to wounded in the time it took to light a cigarette. Bill Macy also added depth and dimension to the whole affair and provided a solid foundation for Arquette to stand on. For me, this is an excellent low budget gem, and a movie I never get tired of watching.
Totally Rockin' Movie!
I've seen the original, and this one is 1000% better. This movie has no shame and no boundaries. You simply won't see no-holds-barred love (and sex) scenes like these in a mainstream movie anymore. It's wall-to-wall fun and excitement and an awesome date movie. It brought me back to the 80's L.A of my wasted youth. I loved the sights, sounds, colors, the neon, the crummy neighborhoods, the classic cars (somehow, Jesse always manages to find some one-of-a-kind classic to steal whenever he needs a ride) and the junk man's pinwheel hat! Richard Gere has never been more exciting, before, and definitely not since (since he became Saint Richard). Here, he's expanding on his hustler character in Looking for Mr Goodbar. Where are the great exploitation movies? Fun, stupid movies have become a dying art, ever since the end of the Roger Corman era. Nothing made today approaches this kind of fun and insanity. No one in today's conservative Hollywood would have the guts to produce something like this. Just because this film isn't heavy or meaningful, doesn't mean it isn't totally awesome! And the Rockin' soundtrack is worth having all by itself: Jerry Lee Lewis, The Pretenders, X and 50s and 80s classics you won't hear anywhere else (I was amazed to hear Link Wray's "Jack the Ripper", a cult classic instrumental). I saw it when it came out, and then again recently, twice. The one and only criticism I have is Valerie Kaprisky. As an actress, she makes a wonderful model. She's beautiful, but has next to no acting talent. She delivers her lines in a monotone. Too bad there was no Eva Mendes or Sophia Vergara at the time. Still a great movie.
The Incident (1967)
I was amazed last night when it showed up on AMC. What a cast! What a subject! Martin Sheen played a scarily convincing street punk. A precursor to "Badlands", and for that matter to Charlie's "Boys Next Door" and Emilio's "Repo Man" twenty years later. Attitude definitely runs in that family! There's no doubt this film gave birth to the "Death Wish" films, and many other action movies (imagine the same scenario with Steven Segal, only the movie wouldn't last longer that the time it would take for Steven to waste the two punks with his bare hands).
How come I never heard of this movie before? Why isn't this a cult classic? You might say it's the "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" of the 60's, with all the as-yet undiscovered talent.
Eddie and the Cruisers (1983)
A love letter to Rock 'n' Roll
How can anyone who loves Rock 'n' Roll not love this movie? It created a feeling of yearning and nostalgia that is still with me. Yes, it's cheesy and flawed in more than a few places, but it all comes from the heart. It's a slightly melodramatic story of a Morrisonian (without the drug abuse) rising rock star with dreams of greatness that are too big for the industry he's in.
If the dialogue is melodramatic and the movies sensibility is somewhat on the adolescent side, this is the place for exactly that. This is the place for dreams, anger and passion. Everything that is at the core of Rock 'n' Roll, all the pure emotional turmoil and conflict.
Excellent overlooked little thriller.
I was quite surprised to see this as a made for TV movie on daytime, network television. It definitely breaks the mold. You never see this kind of subject matter in this format: Satanic rituals and devil worship. When I turned it on, I expected a standard, formulaic TV movie. Instead it kept me fascinated and guessing from beginning to end. They also got all the details right regarding the rituals, paraphernalia, symbols and incantations of the coven and that a key part of their worship of Satan revolved around the seasons, fertility and sex. If you read anything about Pagan or satanic rituals, you know that a critical part of Miranda's enslavement of the hero was that she have sex with him. All this was originally from Pagan religions, which the church condemned, falsely, as satanic. Very effective, spooky and tragic. I think the most effective portrayal of horror is to show it as part of our everyday lives.
Helter Skelter (2004)
Excellent, thorough, good attention to detail.
I was eight when the Tate killings took place and grew up in Sherman Oaks approx' five miles from the Tate house on Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon. Our family used to go hiking and picnicking at Chatsworth park right next to the Spahn ranch. I remember seeing a lot of hippies and street people hanging out there.
This is an excellent, well made version of the Manson case. Better than the 1976 movie although Steve Railsbach in that version was a better Manson. Jeremy Davies here was outstanding although slightly one-note. He "gets" Manson and has the moves, the looks and the theatrics but not Charlies vibe, menace and especially not his eyes.
The movie gets all the details right, right down to the misspelling of "Healter Skelter": the sequence of events during the killings, life on the ranch etc. It could easily have been a two parter and ended too abruptly. They didn't need to waste so much time on Roman Polanskis bereavement.
Clea DuVall as Linda was awesome. She was beautiful, sensitive and mature and has really come into her own as an actress since "Girl Interrupted". She carried the film here right alongside Davies.
For some reason, Leslie Van Houten got almost no screen time and there was no Danny DeCarlo, the biker who was a key informant. I think he was supposed to be the "Jerry" character. They also did away with the boys discovery, in his backyard, of the long barreled Buntline Special gun use to kill Frykowski.
I'm still waiting for the big budget, big screen version of the movie to come out and really do the story justice. My personal choices for Charlie: Tom Sizemore or Willem Dafoe (but, alas, it'll never happen. Too many skeletons in too many Hollywood closets).