The Boys & Girls Guide to Getting Down
A night in the life of L.A. club-kids, hipsters and hangers-on gets an almost anthropological breakdown in The Boys & Girls Guide to Getting Down. Writer/director Paul Sapiano undoubtedly lived the life he vividly skewers here.
His L.A. at night is an interracial melting pot of vapid chicks, poser dudes, dorky wiggers, punk rockers and '80s-style rappers. Sixteen chapters, with names like "Pussy Power" and "Fauxmosexual," highlight dos and don'ts for a successful club night on the town. There's even a mock scientific team that intervenes occasionally on a character's behalf. The best parts are the vivid and engaging graphics that illustrate many of the "lessons" taught. Most jokes hit their target like you know you've found a house party if there's a drunk girl crying on the porch. Others are more groan-inducing or tasteless is drunk driving funny anymore?
The flick looks great considering the indie production, and it boasts a terrific score by Dirty Vegas that blends seamlessly into scenes. And any person who has spent nights filling their body with toxins will find the final scene somber, telling and perceptive: When the partyers are driving home in the early morning hours shielding their eyes from the horrible sun, they watch workaday folk who've already begun their day. Nice. Paul Knoll
The Seven Ups
20th Century Fox
If BullitT and The French Connection resonate with you in any way, then 1973's The Seven Ups will be a real treat (all three films were produced by Philip D'Antoni); the movie offers a potent mix of crime and violence, plus an utterly visceral car chase, all in good ol'-fashioned '70s-style.
Which translates into a wonderful piece of gritty filmmaking, a tantalizing view of that decade's loveliness hair, mustaches, vehicles, clothes and more mustaches and realistic scenes of New York City that border on documentary. It's an aesthete's period wet dream, the kind of stuff Tarantino could only hope to re-create.
It's also a first-rate cop thriller. The underrated Roy Scheider leads a gang of rogue cops devoted to dishing out their own brand of street justice. Rest assured, these guys make the LAPD look like a bunch of pussies.
Action fans will be hard-pressed to find a more riveting car chase than what The Seven Ups offers; just to see those big Detroit-made boats careening through the dank, filthy streets of Mayor Lindsay's Manhattan is enough to make you feel downright patriotic.
While not as well known as D'Antoni's other '70s classics, The Seven Ups is a forgotten gem that well deserves a place on the same shelf. Peter Gilstrap
The Black Widow
Once upon a time this 2005 turkey was called Before It Had a Name. But calling a thriller The Black Widow for DVD release is like naming a mystery The Butler Did It somehow you know how the tangled web is going to end but you hope that even the hint of some kind of predictable excitement will generate interest. Going in, you're betting that Willem Defoe, who plays the caretaker of the widow's old lover's house in the country, already has an appointment on the other side of life and he won't wait the customary time to put the moves on the unmerry widow. What's unforeseen and rather unpleasant is the nagging he suffers trying to appease this mousy Italian widow she's constantly giving him the old malocchio, the evil eye. If this was the lovely Isabella Rossellini venting maybe he'd be justified in sticking around. But this is Giada Colagrande, a shrill little lady with the screen presence of a genital wart and emotional range of a Mace canister. Both Dafoe and Colagrande wrote and directed this quickie and the direction must have been "he comes out and she yells at him." If you're a Defoe fan and believe he can act his way out of any poopstorm, grab a poncho and look no further. Serene Dominic
House of Games
What's the deal with David Mamet? Why do critics roll on the floor in drooling paroxysms over his belching dialogue with its tough-guy affectations and the robotic direction he gives his mannequin actors? The first few minutes of House of Games don't promise anything different than the usual chest-beating, but at least there's something magnetic about Dr. Margaret Ford (Lindsay Crouse), a diamond-hard careerist in that mercilessly sexless early-'80s way. She works too hard treating her patients' addictions, but her psychiatric practice takes an unpredictable turn when one of her patients moans that he's deep in debt to a gambling den. For reasons she can't explain, she ventures to the shady House of Games to confront Mike (Joe Mantegna) and ask him to forgive her patient's debt. He agrees, but she has to do something for him. "Do you know what a tell is?" he asks. She doesn't, and that's the first chink in her armor.
The con men at the House of Games live for "tells": The subtle, unconscious indications of what their prey is trying to hide. Margaret is fascinated by the parallel world of the confidence man and thrilled when Mike who, despite his despicable profession, is suave and tender in a way that's worth trusting lets her in on some tricks of the trade. It's all going well until she begs to be brought along on one job too many and suddenly realizes there's a big difference between knowing some sleight of hand and living the life of a scoundrel.
Mamet's best contribution to his cinematic directorial debut isn't the film's appropriately neo-noir look (that's courtesy of DP Juan Ruiz Anchía) or the mechanized approximations of how human beings speak to each other. It's in Margaret (played by Mamet's then-wife Crouse), a female character with a brass-balls presence and zero-Kelvin toughness that's unique in movies where the pretty dame is usually relegated to crying bitter tears. When this woman is scorned, her fury is cool and pragmatic and her revenge pays an amoral dividend that's appropriately and heartlessly pleasing. A complete palette of extras includes a commentary track by Mamet and actor and con-game consultant Ricky Jay, but for best results, ignore the moribund Mamet dialogue and instead sink into the duplicitous twists of the story to experience a worthy heir to the noir throne. Violet Glaze
Dirty Sanchez: The Movie
All the marketing for this movie, based on the British TV series of the same name, has to qualify that it "makes Jackass seem like the TeleTubbies," but these four nutters from Wales were doing their stomach-churning shtick well before Steve-O and company, and for that matter, Fear Factor. But the Dirty Sanchez mooks easily smoke those two shows, combining overt bodily harm and personal shame into one gloriously disgusting if not hilarious package. Where on either American show have you seen a guy getting liposuction without anesthesia and another guy drinking it because he lost the last challenge? Or, somebody drinking a beer enema, vomiting in it and drinking it again. No, I don't think any Yanks would do that, not even for a Hummer. A Hummer with a full tank of gas, even!
Other highlights, or lowlights, depending where on the evolutionary chain you fall, include Japanese (extreme fighting) Sumos wrestling the Dirty Sanchez blokes on broken glass and a pain auction where drunk Vegas revelers get to bid on Dirty Sanchez' discomfort (that is, attaching one guy's foreskin to a fishing reel and casting off).
Each series of stunts is grouped into one of the seven deadly sins. And the movie is bookended by an amusing vignette where the boys get themselves killed doing something customarily foolish and are met in hell by the devil (played with great relish by Motörhead's Lemmy). Note to the squeamish a scene where the dudes eat some residue poo from a rabbit's ass was taken out in Britain so they could get the UK equivalent to an N17 rating. But the PETA-inciting scene that sees a chicken clearly getting killed is in the rated version. Serene Dominic
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