Monday, March 30, 2009

Willie Dynamite

Willie Dynamite (Gilbert Moses, 1974, USA)

It isn't every host of your favorite childhood show that can keep his pimp hand strong and make you believe it but that's what Roscoe Orman did in Willie Dynamite. Yes, "Gordon" from Sesame Street walks the walk as Willie D, the baddest pimp in town.

Dressed in some of the most ridiculous outfits this side of the Players Ball, Willie is a capitalist who bucks under the proposed socialist system of his fellow pimps. When Willie won't join the collective, they vow to take him out. If that's not bad enough, Willie's got a busybody social worker trying to talk his new ho, Pashen (Joyce Walker) out of the life.

A morality play painted in broad swaths, Willie D has been justifiably compared to a filmed Jack Chick tract (one of those funky ones drawn by Fred Carter). But Chick never had the funked out score and Technicolor nightmare outfits.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Choke (Clark Gregg, 2008)

Sam Rockwell stars as Victor Mancini, a sex-addicted con man who spends his days toiling at 1700s-style town with his buddy Denny (Brad William Henke). You'll never think of Greenfield Village the same way again to see the petty infighting and sexual trysts that go on while the tourists think they're in a quaint historical setting. At night Victor spices up his fine dining with a choking act that usually pays for his dinner and for his Mom's exorbitant nursing home bills. The audience gets to experience several extended flashbacks making them privy to Victor's screwed up childhood. Meanwhile, Victor courts a doctor at the nursing home (Kelly Macdonald giving a stilted performance). Yeah, there's a lot of stuff going on in this movie. Like the film's title, there's really too much here to swallow.

This being the second film adapted from a Chuck Palahniuk novel, the comparisons to Fight Club have to be made. Both stories have protagonists plumbing their own depths via self-help groups and feature a big M. Night Shyamalan twist at the end. Unfortunately, Choke is no Fight Club. The latter is a relatively straight-ahead story while the former gets mired in too many "cute" ideas that, while interesting in themselves, don't add up to much. Stick to the book, it's much easier to chew.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Put The Lotion In The Basket

At last -- a video for "Put the Lotion in the Basket" from Silence! The Musical. This is a slightly different version of the song than I'm used to. There's a female doing Catherine Martin's part (and some interesting back and forth with Jamie Gumb) in this one. Good stuff.

The Celluloid Closet

The Celluloid Closet (Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman, 1995)

Kind of a That's Entertainment of homosexuality, The Celluloid Closet tells the tale of gay and lesbian characters in Hollywood cinema. Based on the book by Vito Russo, directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman use a bevy of clips to show open, closeted and "coded" homosexual characters from the early days of silent films up to the early '90s. The bulk of the film deals with the days when the Hays Code forced homosexuality underground, resulting in characters who were not "not quite right" such as Plato (Sal Mineo) from Rebel Without a Cause, Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) in The Maltese Falcon, or Brick Pollitt (Paul Newman) in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Yet, through a look, a prop, a word... audiences who were looking for it could figure out what was really trying to be said.

The Celluloid Closet goes beyond the sashaying dandies and digs deep through a rich past of gay characters. Narrator Lily Tomlin ferries viewers through this world, decoding the tapestry of a cinema forbidden to address the "love that dare not speak its name". The film also includes the highs and lows of uncloseted gay cinema from the '70s and '80s, eschewing the films which continued to castigate gays (Cruising, Dressed to Kill, etc). This fascinating film helps remove the blinders from viewers to look back at the more "innocent" days of film and see a whole new world.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Slamdance Screenplay Competition

The Slamdance Feature Screenplay competition Call for Entries begins today.

Slamdance is looking for unique, independent and creative voices in any and all genres.

Visit the website for details.

Grand Prize $5,000.
Write it up!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

When George Lucas Had Talent

Last week news broke of the Raiders of the Lost Ark story conference surfacing (download it here). I've made mention of this before in my article about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It used to be legend but now it's substantiated with this 120+ page document transcribing a few tape cassettes worth of brainstorming from George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Lawrence Kasdan.

This is the cup of a carpenter...By the time they get together, they have the general idea of an adventure film based on the old Republic serials about an archaeologist pursuing the Ark of the Covenant. The idea of the Ark came from Philip Kaufman, who liked the idea of the Spear of Destiny from Trevor Ravenscroft's book (Ravenscroft loaned his name to Abner Ravenwood and maybe even Lara Croft). Ironically, Ravenscroft would later pursue the Holy Grail...

It's fascinating to read the transcripts and see how Lucas, Spielberg, and Kasdan thought and how their ideas evolved. They travel back and forth in the narrative, working through the major set pieces while touching upon the scenes in between as they go along. It isn't until page 45 that our protagonist has a name; Indiana Smith. This is changed to "Indiana Jones" within moments.

Lucas really runs the show in these meetings and it's remarkable to read just how fertile his imagination and understanding of filmmaking was. Spielberg works to keep Lucas on topic and steers Lucas away from some bad ideas including the one that has been burning up the internet:

Lucas: I was thinking that this old guy could have been his mentor. He could have known this little girl when she was just a kid. Had an affair with her when she was eleven.

Kasdan: And he was forty-two.

Lucas: He hasn't seen her in twelve years. Now she's twenty-two. It's a real strange relationship.

Spielberg: She had better be older than twenty-two.

Lucas: He's thirty-five, and he knew her ten years ago when he was twenty-five and she was only twelve. It would be amusing to make her slightly young at the time.

Spielberg: And promiscuous. She came onto him.

Lucas: Fifteen is right on the edge. I know it's an outrageous idea, but it is interesting. Once she's sixteen or seventeen it's not interesting anymore. But if she was fifteen and he was twenty-five and they actually had an affair the last time they met.

This really puts a point on Marion's line "I was a child!" and makes one wonder if the relationship between Paul Le Mat and Mackenzie Phillips in American Graffiti may have ever been different than the finished film.

Lucas, Spielberg, and Kasdan talk around and through ideas for scenes that have made indelible marks on the minds of millions. They hash out the headpiece for the Staff of Ra for quite a while with Lucas not buying the idea of the sun shining through the piece and giving the location for the Well of Souls due to the way that the Earth has shifted in space over three thousand years as well as how differently the sun shines from day to day.

They play with this idea for pages and pages getting closer and closer to the bullseye when Lucas finally plays upon the earlier idea of the headpiece falling into a fire and comes up with the idea of it being burned into an antagonist's hand. Sure, at this point that person is Chinese but it finally settles the storyline and allows them to move on to what happens in the Well of Souls. Will Indiana Jones drown from some kind of hidden water source? Will he be suffocated with sand? What about bats? Hey, wait... what about snakes?

This isn't to say that every idea that's bandied about is a good one. As mentioned above, the Chinese played a part in the original storyline with an extended stopover between the U.S. and Nepal in Shanghai that ended with Indiana Jones saving himself from a plane crash with a life raft. Then there was the long mine cart race from the submarine landing to the area where the Ark is opened. Of course, these and many other bad ideas were scrapped for Raiders of the Lost Ark but plunked down into the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom script along with the chatty kid -- once the progeny of Sallah (changed from "Sabu").

The most difficult character for the guys to nail down is Belloq. He's several characters for a while and doesn't coalesce completely during the story sessions though Jones's rival finally becomes French before the ideation is finished.

What's most remarkable through all of this is how creative Lucas was back in the day. Perhaps it took hashing out ideas with his peers before his juices got flowing because there's just no way that the George Lucas of January 1978 could be the same hack that gave us Star Wars Episodes 1-3. I want that old George Lucas back!

There's a great look at what script writing lessons can be learned from these session over at Mystery Men on Film.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Movie Reviews - Metro Times Couch Trip

Passion & Power: The Technology of Orgasm
There are two distinct storylines in Emiko Omori and Wendy Blair Slick's 2007 documentary: the history of technology used to aid female orgasms and the story of Joanne Webb, a Texas woman who was actually prosecuted in 2004 for selling vibrators. That's right, prosecuted. READ MORE

The Outrage
While watching The Outrage, you can almost hear a studio exec chomping his cigar and growling, "You know what would make that Rashomon movie better? Will Shatner, that's what." Sure, a little Shat often makes things a whole lot better, but he can't help Outrage. READ MORE

Friday, March 13, 2009

Movie Reviews!

Knock Off
If you're an action star, you should run (not walk) away from Rob Schneider. Only three years after he was the "comedic" sidekick slung like an albatross around Sly Stallone’s neck in Judge Dredd, he teamed up with Jean-Claude Van Damme during the Hong Kong phase of his career.

The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3
If you aren't aware of it, let me let you in on a little secret… Walter Matthau kicks ass. Known more for the Neil Simon comedies he did with Jack Lemmon, Matthau should best be remembered for a trio of films he made in the early '70s.

Prayer of the Rollerboys
There were several rollerblade flicks to grace screens in the late eighties and early nineties (Solarbabies, Rollerblade 7, Roller Blade Warriors), but only one had the vision to cast one of the Two Coreys.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Unwatched Watchmen

I've got a new article up over at -- Unwatched Watchmen where I go over some of the scripts that could have (and were) used for the final film. Luckily, those Unwatched Watchmen never boiled.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

BluRay? Not Me.

I wrote a little screed over at called "The Ain't Gonna Upgrade Blues". I wrote it a few weeks ago and even in that small time I've read more and more about the move to more instant programming on TV via the internet.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Return of Detour is back and promises to be better than ever. Tightening their focus to a more Detroit-centric blog, Detour is a great source of daily entertainment.

Full disclosure: I've got a hand in this latest incarnation of Detour via a spot called "Stick It In Your Queue" where I'll be recommending for (or against) flicks to entertain and delight. I'll also have a few longer pieces as well.

You can keep up with them, too, on Facebook.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Oh Navy!

Hey, Old Navy, we're glad to see that you like The Fuccon Family but the "Oh Mikey!" series is a lot funnier and subversive.