A Trip Down Memory Lane And Off The Beaten Path
By Chauncey Telese
Hello I hope you all had a happy Tax Day! Hope none of you had to stand in line all night because you pulled a Homer and assumed that you’re ahead of the curve because you paid your taxes last year. If you found yourself in line, hopefully you knew that you were in line to mail your tax return and not for Metallica.
The best/worst thing about tax day is the man on the street interviews done by local and national news because I had a feeling and I’m sure I’m right in that it’s going to be open season for angry and or crazy people meaning YouTube and “Tosh.0” could have an early Christmas. Anyway, the time is now 12:16 a.m. and my keep me awake album is a personal favorite of mine, Red Hot Chili Peppers “Californication” album. As always it’s been a great pop culture week hasn’t it?
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Donald Trump is making a push towards winning the unintentional comedy award (though he’s already got some stiff competition) but unlike his competitors, he’s seemingly on TV every day trying to make his case. Honestly, if you’re going to run for president (or not, we don’t know yet) as the business guy then run as the business guy not as the guy brave enough to investigate a fake conspiracy.
Today it was revealed that he is now feuding with Seinfeld. Really? Seinfeld? The feud stems from Seinfeld backing out of a charity event for a children’s hospital and to make up for it by compensating the aforementioned charity. Did that make everything ok with The Donald? No, in fact he proceeded to issue a statement blasting Seinfeld and making it all about him. Stay classy, Trump!
Moving on, Colin Quinn conversely made his case last weekend for comeback player of the year with his one man show, “Long Story Short,” which aired on HBO. Snooki made $32,000 speaking at Rutgers University’s graduation, which wouldn’t be a big deal but she made more then Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison.
Sort of a sign of the apocalypse if you ask me, I mean I wonder if they found Snooki passed out on the steps of Phi Beta Kappa and offered her the gig because she’s not my first choice for a commencement speaker. Congratulations to Tina Fey for “30 Rock” making it to 100 episodes I never thought it would happen and I was gladly proven wrong.
Two Mondays ago, I was lucky enough to see “Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair” at the New Beverly Cinema and for those of you not in the know, this was the full complete print that screened at Cannes as opposed to the split version that came out in 2003 and 2004. I must say the complete movie despite being four hours long, didn’t feel that way at all and it actually worked better this way. Also, the old school previews that aired prior were awesome (the highlight being “Coffy”). I highly recommend you go and see a double feature there. The tickets are $7 and you get two movies a night and in this economy, I dare you to find me a better deal.
The Kings lost what was a very winnable game in the Shark Tank, but fear not, we all know that San Jose chokes just like the Caps do, so it’s not like the series is over. Dodger Stadium became the new LAPD headquarters and then the league took over operations because the financial situation got way too toxic. There are five letters to describe what the Dodgers are experiencing – K-A-R-M-A - that’s right the baseball gods are going to punish this team for a long time but to reverse this curse I have two words for Dodger fans: Marc Cuban.
Raylan finally killed Coover, is at odds with Art and thinking about running away with Winona, Boyd is once again trying to be the alpha criminal in Harlan (not to mention he’s finally with Ava), and with three episodes to go there will be more blood I’m sure.
April and Andy got married (by the way big ups to Andy for forgoing a tux and instead rocking the Reggie Wayne jersey. Way to pave the way for men everywhere), Michael Scott met Will Ferrell’s Deangelo Vickers and while it wasn’t nearly as awesome as a Ron Burgundy - Brick Tamland reunion would’ve been, I was entertained. Helen Mirren did a much better job then Elton John (who failed despite having Tom Hanks, Will Forte, and “Laser Cats “ to fall back on) did the week before hosting “SNL” (and the Foo Fighters were their usual awesome selves).
Thirteen returned to “House” and next week is the last week for Masters which is a bummer but oh well the world is a better place with Olivia Wilde back at Princeton Plainsboro Hospital (and Amber Tamblyn is out, which is kind of a bummer, but hey Olivia Wilde’s back). The NFL released its tentative schedule and I laughed at the fact that the one season my Rams get two Monday Night Games (Detroit got one as well), that season may not happen. Thank You NFL. By the way on that note the league subtly punished Jerry Jones for sort of mishandling the Super Bowl by only giving them one Monday Night game (and giving San Diego three) which just seems so odd to me. Okay, that was pretty much it so let’s get down to business.
The three movies I present to you today are three movies that all look ridiculous in their own way, won’t play to the masses (though they have a bright future on demand or DVD), but are movies I encourage you all to leave the confines of Awesometown (or for people older then 13, Pleasantville) to seem because sometimes in life you need to venture out a little bit.
These three movies, while being off beat also found a way into my heart because they all sort of fed into me and how and why I am the way I am (and if I wasn’t, then why would I say I am). I figured I’d enjoy all three movies on different levels but I didn’t think that they’d all tap into my childhood memories and mean more to me then they had any right to do.
See, these types of columns are my favorite to do because while it’s cool to do movies everyone is going to see (mainly because if it sucks the jokes end up being better), the columns that require me to seek out obscure movies are way more fun. My favorite things to do in my pieces are to reference shows that you may not have heard of or forgot were on and to try and expose people to pop cultural aspects that they may not know about. I’m entertained by this stuff and since I enjoy most of it for free, I feel that I’m kind of obligated to at least spread it around and hopefully someone else will read about an album, book, TV show, movie, comedian etc, and look them up and discover something new and exciting.
Our first movie is a future cult classic and a movie that the nerds of the future will show their friends because it is both incredible and bad (or incredibad).
“Super”: Dwight K. Schrute Gets to Tell Crime to Shut Up!
By now there isn’t a whole lot of new ground that has yet to be covered because every superhero property ever has had their chance to become a franchise. We’ve looked at superheroes from every angle and while these movies are great when they work, can pretty much be an amalgam of each other after awhile. Having said that, sometimes it’s possible to take an angle that has been done to death and take it to the extreme and hope to God your audience is on board.
James Gunn has done that by making a movie about two people who are mentally ill from Amityville and make them vigilantes. I realize this premise sounds like a weirder version of “Kick Ass” and yeah it is but even “Kick Ass” didn’t encapsulate the pure insanity that The Crimson Bolt and Boltee exhibit throughout this bizarre film. I saw the panel at ComicCon but missed the footage and didn’t bother to watch a preview so in essence I saw this sight unseen and that’s a good thing because most of the shock that comes with this is not knowing exactly how messed up everything in this movie is.
Our story begins with Frank D’Arbo (Rainn Wilson), a fry cook who lives a very pathetic life and the only good thing he has is his wife Sarah (Liv Tyler). His world is shattered when the shady wannabe drug dealer Jacques (Kevin Bacon, who is in total a-hole mode) takes her from him and gets her rehooked on drugs. Frank snaps and while watching a public access show entitled “The Holy Avenger” (which is the cheesiest show ever and the title character is portrayed hilariously by Nathan Fillion) God tells him (or so he dreams) that his calling is to be the hero to the downtrodden. So Frank finds the most hideous red costume and calls himself the Crimson Bolt. His first outing goes horribly wrong because he realizes he’s useless without powers, so he goes to the hardware store and finds his weapon, a monkey wrench. The Crimson Bolt becomes a local sensation after he beats drug dealers and other low level criminals with said wrench. He meets Libby (a bats*** Ellen Page who, aside from being an Oscar nominee, she has the distinct honor of being my buddy Grant’s irrational celebrity crush) who is obsessed with the Crimson Bolt and eventually figures out who he is and decides to become his sidekick named Bolty. They team up and cause even more havoc before Frank decides to rescue his wife in one of the most badass action sequences I’ve seen all year.
If you’re thinking that this sounds stupid, yeah you’d be right, however it’s also hilarious and heartbreaking. The performances in this movie are all amazing. Ellen Page is the MVP because she is asked to play a character that is so far off the reservation that Charlie Sheen would try to get her help. Rainn Wilson gets to show that he can not only be the lead in a comedy but on several occasions he’s asked to go to some really dark places and he pulls it off without a problem. What makes this movie work is also that it is unapologetically violent, the wrench beatings are exactly how a real wrench beating would look, and there are a lot of gun shot victims, car violence, and some other brutal things done throughout. It definitely won’t have a great run in theaters but could find a nice audience on the home video front. The thing that makes this movie for me is that it is the kind of movie my friends and I would make if we had the money.
In fact, we tried. Between eighth and ninth grade, my friends Bryan, Blake, Justin, and Andrew and I made an awful superhero movie with my Sony Handycam. It was 20 minutes long had no plot, was edited by rewinding the tape until we were two minutes past where we screwed up and we did it again. It was horrible but still managed to play well at parties. Four years later we hated “Spider Man 3” so much so that we decided to make the sequel starring my buddy Wes. This time though we had a story, editing because by then I met Grant and he knew how to use Final Cut, we made original songs, and had visual effects. If Grant’s laptop hadn’t been stolen, we’d have finished it and, while it would’ve been less terrible, it would at least play well on YouTube. Despite all of that, the days where we’d shoot were more fun then the actual movie. I realize that story may not seem to have much to do with anything, but it does. Watching “Super” was like reliving those days because while “Super” had a budget, effects, a point to make, and great acting, it was still made by a person who loves comics and heroes like me and my friends do. This was a movie that tapped into the inner teenage nerd that existed in me and I’m sure everyone else who enjoyed it and that’s why I give it my ringing endorsement. That and the opening titles are hilarious. Anyway, our next movie is another seemingly dumb comedy but in fact, it’s much more to that (to me at least).
“Your Highness”: Dedicated to People Who’ve Seen Every Bad Fantasy Movie Ever Or People Who Frequent Jack N the Box at 4 AM!
Before we continue, it took me a while to compose the above, so our new keep me awake album is Eminem’s “Slim Shady LP.” Anyway, our next movie is one that I’ve been looking forward to seeing ever since I saw the red band trailer online three four months ago. The cast alone was enough to bring me in because it has James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, and Kenny Powers himself, Danny McBride.
But what sold me was the fact that it was a fantasy film that featured the villain saying the line “I’m going to steal your bride with Magic….Motherf-----“ That was enough to completely sell me. To quote my friend Armando, “I’m a simple man.” I’m an only child, but my friends Andrew and Bryan acted as my twin (and in Bryan’s case older) brothers. Bryan and Andrew introduced me to such movies as “Beastmaster” (and later the show), “Highlander”, “The Princess Bride,” “Conan the Barbarian,” “Kull the Conqueror” and two of Bryan’s favorite shows, “Hercules” and “Xena: Warrior Princess.”
All of these movies are the DNA that “Your Highness” extracts and fuses that with some awesome stoner humor (I’m not one myself, but I appreciate the culture) and while it’s not doing well, I can imagine that this could have a very long DVD shelf life especially on April 20th of next year.
Our story begins with Thadeous (McBride) the jerk stoner brother to the future king Fabious. Fabious has just rescued the princess Belladonna played by Zooey Deschanel (every guy reading that name can feel free to no look fist bump the guy next to them) from the evil wizard Leezar (a scene stealing Justin Theroux). Thadeous is jealous of his more successful brother and refuses to attend the wedding. Leezar returns to steal the virgin Belladonna (yeah I know guys feel free to snicker at the irony and for ladies who don’t get the joke Google is always at your disposal) in order to make her take part in a ritual that I can’t print the name of.
Fabious and Thadeous (along with their much-abused page Courtney played by Rasums Hardiker) to find her and the Sword of the Unicorn that acts as the only way to slay Leezar. Along the way they meet the warrior Isabel (played by Oscar winner Natalie Portman) who is also on a quest for revenge and her list is a mile long. Together they meet a stoner Yoda-like creature (who has a sordid past with Fabious), a Minotaur, and are exposed to magic and other elements that you’d expect in a fantasy movie.
I liked “Your Highness,” but I felt that for how dirty the trailer made me believe it would be (and at times it is), it fell short of my expectations. My buddy Wes and I were a little underwhelmed because we felt that it should’ve been up there with the cruder comedies that we would watch on a consistent basis but it just doesn’t get there. I suppose it’s the story, which sounds like an odd problem to have with a movie like this, but it was a little lacking. They don’t really stay anywhere long enough to mine the best jokes possible in a situation and no one really gets to go all out with the material. McBride usually knows how to do stupid comedy correctly but here he just can’t quite reach the level of humor and quotability that he reaches consistently in “Eastbound and Down.”
Despite my gripes with the lack of gravitas in the comedy, the cast overall does a terrific job with the material they are given. David Gordon Green (of “Pineapple Express” fame) creates the kind of movie that I mentioned above and even uses the type of CGI that would’ve been around in the 80’s, which was oddly refreshing. Also, we get to hear Zooey Deschanel sing which, for anyone who is a fan of her band She and Him, knows that’s always a welcome bonus. On it’s own I suppose that it doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things but this should’ve been the type of move Andrew, Grant, Wes, Armando and I would probably watch at my house but as I said earlier it should’ve been better. Oh well it probably will be a movie we end up renting because the rest of our group hasn’t seen it yet. At least it made me nostalgic for a brief period of time.
Okay, now our last movie is one that doesn’t come out until October and I guarantee it won’t make it to Awesometown, I still hope that you all see it. It is made by one of my all-time filmmaking heroes Kevin Smith. I saw it last weekend at the Wiltern and as with every Kevin Smith screening he was there for a Q&A and while that usually means like four questions are asked because his stories are long enough to make a stenographer’s arms look like Carla Gugino in “Sin City,” he was still his usual hilarious and insightful self.
“Red State”: Silent Bob gets Scary!
In eighth grade I discovered the movie “Clerks” that changed my life forever. I knew right then and there that my goal in life was to become a filmmaker (to be fair, my previous lifelong dream was to be a pro wrestler) because before “Clerks,” I hadn’t seen a movie that really spoke to me. I then watched “Mallrats”, “Dogma”, “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” and my favorite of his, “Chasing Amy.”
His first five movies to me were absolutely awesome because they weren’t just funny but really had something to say (yes, even “Mallrats”) that clicked with me. I learned how to write by reading his screenplays (as well as the script to “Good Will Hunting” which he helped produce) and watched all of his Q&A DVDs. He played a huge part in my development. He then tried to venture out from his askewniverse and made “Jersey Girl,” which was doomed to fail because it featured Ben Affleck and J Lo and came out after “Gigli” bombed. He went away for awhile after that and then came back with “Clerks II” which proved that he still had something to say and then he made “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” which, while funny, should’ve been better.
He then became a stoner who became a tad bitter towards bloggers and Southwest Airlines. He seemed to lose his voice and I didn’t connect with him the way that I used to. I always thought that he never really got over “Jersey Girl” tanking and that his movies would never be the same. I was wrong though because Silent Bob proved to me he is very much capable of being the filmmaker I always thought he could be.
His new movie is unlike anything he’s ever done because instead of being a stoner comedy (though at times it’s pretty funny) he’s made a movie that is like a lesser Coen Brothers movie fused with a grindhouse movie Tarantino would’ve screened at the New Beverly. The story behind this movie is equally as fascinating as the finished product that I got to see.
“Red State” is based on Reverend Phelps, the preacher responsible for the “God Hates (Kobe’s $100,000 word)” signs that sadly make an appearance at a plethora of funerals. Smith decided to make a horror movie based on this guy and his equally scary family and when the family heard about this, naturally they protested. When Kevin had this movie screened at Sundance he knew the Phelps family would protest, so he had his own counter protest that featured signs he made reading “Thor hates Straights” and other such things. High school kids even showed up making signs that read “God loves Glee” and “God’s a Gleek,” and my favorite, a sign depicting an ewok inside the no sign from “Ghostbusters.” Kevin’s gay (or to be more specific, grizzly) friend even made a sign that I can’t print but made the Phelps matriarch shake her head and at the screening, Kevin Smith asked if it was because she thought it was disgusting or she was thinking, no it’s not. This is the short version by the way.
The other interesting thing about “Red State” is Smith’s decision to distribute it himself. His announcement of this sent shockwaves through the blogosphere and made him come off as arrogant but as he explains it, would’ve been more arrogant to ask a studio to spend millions in marketing for a movie that wouldn’t play to a large demographic (like when he said his mom called him and said she saw a commercial on Lifetime for “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”).
His idea was to distribute it himself because at least if it fails, it’s all on him. I’ll get back to the stories in a minute, but let me review the movie itself first.
The story begins like most horror movies do, with high school kids talking about getting some; in this case, Travis, Randy, and Billy Ray (played by newcomers Michael Angarano, Nicholas Braun, and Ronnie Connell, respectively). Randy finds a 40-something year old online who wants to meet all three of them. So they travel out to her rural trailer only to be drugged and wake up in a church where the Reverend Abin Cooper (an excellent Michael Parks who also sings in the movie and is pretty good at it) is giving a fire and brimstone type of sermon to his believers, featuring his daughter Sara (Oscar winner Melissa Leo), her husband Caleb (KROQ’S Ralph Garman, who Smith said has been called the film’s Boba Fett because he’s a bad guy that no one wants to see die), their daughter Cheyenne (Kerry Bishe) and a host of others including Smith’s wife Jennifer Schwalbach. The three boys see Abin’s believers kill a man and they realize that they are next. The local sheriff, Sheriff Wynan (Stephen Root) sends his deputy (“Breaking Bad’s” Matt Jones) to find the boys’ car because, on the way to the trailer, they sideswiped his car, and this causes Wynan to later call ATF agent Keenan (MVP John Goodman) and the whole situation becomes a Waco-like situation. There are shoot outs, carnage, and even at one point signs that the rapture is coming (though what it actually ends up being is downright hysterical).
Does this sound like a B movie? It should, because that’s what it is, a throwback to devil worship movies of the ’070s, except it’s a reverse devil worship movie. The acting is quite exceptional for what it could’ve been. Parks is creepy as Abin Cooper because one minute he’s speaking homespun stories then turns into the grim specter of death, Melissa Leo is outstanding, John Goodman is a badass, and everyone else nails their assignments perfectly. It was a blast to watch with the crowd because you had people rooting for the believers to be shot, the jokes that are somehow weaved into the story are downright funny, and its lack of score makes it that much creepier. The credits are cool because the believers are listed under religion, the ATF agents and law enforcement are listed under Politics, and the teens are listed under Sex because he was taught that those things were never to be brought up in causal conversation so he was going to bring them up.
Smith really outdid himself with this one. As he pointed out during the Q&A, he wanted to make a movie completely different then his usual fare and told the crowd there is not a snoogin to be found. After the movie he was gracious enough to take questions from the audience and while not many people really asked questions he did share some great stories from the set. By the way, he came out saying that seven months ago they were filming and now he was on the last stop of the “Red State” tour so don’t believe anyone who tells you that stoners are lazy. I’ll share only one story because it is fairly quick (the rest are filled with too many tangents and I don’t want to get carpal tunnel at the tender age of 22).
The story is regarding Ivy, the three year old daughter of David Klein (the director of photography or DP) playing a small role in the movie playing one of the children of the believers. Her scene takes place amidst gunfire and Cheyenne telling the older kids that people are coming into kill them. Kerry Bische did a good enough job to convince Ivy that there really were people trying to kill them that her crying was real. After Smith yelled cut and then consoled Ivy. Then he turned to David and said that he feels dirty and David told him that he’d be paying for Ivy’s therapy. Kevin said he wouldn’t use the footage if he didn’t want, but David told him he had to prompting Smith to say that he planned on it anyway. He gave David two hundred dollars to take Ivy to Toys R Us and David told him to put it on the pile because the whole crew drew up a collection plate because everyone felt they were going to hell. Three days later Ivy was fine like nothing ever happened, that is until she ran into Kerry and when Kerry said hi Ivy asked her “You’re not going to act again are you?”
The best part of the night for me was after he had the entire cast except for John Goodman and Stephen Root came out to talk for a little bit. Kevin was asked about his history of fighting with people that would talk smack about him on the internet. This is where things really hit home for me because he said that Scott Mosier told him that if people say that he sucks then they’re right and if people say he’s the greatest ever they are also right because either way they believe what they believe with enough conviction to make it true.
Kevin then said that he’s learned that you can’t try and please everyone because it is impossible to do so and the best thing to do is let your audience find YOU instead of the other way around. He said that he knows he’s only where he is because Miramax had just been bought by Disney so “Clerks” was bought in order to prove that Miramax wouldn’t go all mouse ears with the indie movies they bought. A year earlier or later and he wouldn’t be where he is. He also said that he has no right complaining about anything because he gets to make pretend for a living and the price that comes with that is from time to time people will tell you that you suck and to just surround yourself with why nots instead of whys. Meaning that if you say you want to make a movie make sure you have people saying why not let’s figure out a way to do it instead of saying why would you want to do that.
He then compared bloggers to backseat drivers who can’t drive and filmmakers to people who can drive but don’t always know the way. It was nice knowing that fear of criticism (ironic, I know) on my part wasn’t abnormal in any way shape or form and while his advice was basic it still works. He plans on retiring after his next movie, “Hit Somebody,” which is about the loss of youth and takes place in the world of hockey. I’m sad to see him go (assuming he doesn’t come back because, as we’ve learned from sports and entertainment, retirements have little face value) but I guess I’d rather have him leave with his current filmography then, as he puts it, decide that someone has to make “Mighty Ducks 9.” I at least got to cross something off my bucket list and listen to one of my heroes speak in person before he retires.
The time is 3:00 a.m. and I’ve had to switch to The Offspring’s “Smash” album to bring me home and now I must sleep. Oh wait, before I do that I almost forgot, last week legendary filmmaker Sydney Lumet died at the age of 86. For those of you who aren’t familiar with his work, he helped build Al Pacino’s career giving him two of his most iconic performances with “Serpico” and “Dog Day Afternoon.” He also hit a home run with his first film “12 Angry Men” and the format for that movie has been done on countless shows and been used in other movies. He also made the groundbreaking “Network,” “The Verdict” and later in his life proved that Vin Diesel can actually act with “Find Me Guilty” and his last movie “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” which, to me, was one of the most underrated movies of the last decade.
Thank you for reading and stay tuned as next week I’ll cover HBO’s “Cinema Verite”, I may get a chance to see a movie that is generating a ton of buzz but we’ll see, but for sure I’ll also bring you a movie I’m dying to see, “Fast Five”.
Normally I’d say that you can see these and other fine films at your local Edwards but in this case consult Fandango.