by Ian Pratt
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STUDIO: MTI HOME VIDEO
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
That Hallmark Thing You Do!
Billy Ray Cyrus, Heather Locklear, Olesya Rulin, and Patricia Neal.
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t take one last shot at the big-time with your old band, you could miss it.
Scholars say a good poem should stimulate as much thought after reading as it does during it. That’s true, but the same can also be said for any art-form. Take films, for example. Would Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond be a seminal sci-fi/horror, were it not for the haunting image of Barbara Crampton fondling Jeffrey Combs? Or Blue Velvet an erotic classic Without Dean Stockwell’s lampdance? ‘Course not. And now to the point of this introduction: Ferris Bueller’s aforespoofed carpe diem catchphrase must’ve made quite the impression on screenwriter/director Jim Amatulli; it sums up Flying By so well it might as well be its subtitle.
“But Mister, if my Mom couldn’t come take me home, why did she ask you to drive me to the abandoned mine?”
George Barron (Cyrus) is not so much stuck in a rut as he is one with it. He ambles through life, oblivious to his argumentative wife, Pamela (Locklear) and increasingly disinterested in his real-estate job [Status Quo.] To shake things up, he attends his 25 year high school reunion. There he runs into his old friends and band-mates. After some cajoling, George, A.K.A. “Lefty” (two guesses why) joins them on stage [Inciting Incident.] To the complete surprise of everyone except those watching on DVD, everything clicks and the crowd eats up the band’s rendition of “Wild Thing.” Things go so well, in fact, that he’s invited to their next rehearsal [First Act Turning Point.] If George wusses out, we have no movie. If he goes, this will propel The Protagonist (or “George”) onto his journey, thus commencing the Second Act.
Unfortunately, George goes, leaving the viewer to experience the cinematic equivalent of a Belfast Handshake*. The unnamed band starts going places and George becomes increasingly engrossed in picking up where he left off. Before long, the dour-faced Pamela sticks her oar in, clambering to find a reason to stop him from enjoying himself. In the end, she settles on the “embarrassment” his actions are causing her and his college-bound daughter, Ellie (Olesya Rulin.) Because busy real estate developers mustn’t do as they please in their spare time.
“Hey Gerry, where does the apostrophe go in the plural students? Before or after the s?”
“What are you talking about, Tiffannii? There is no apostrophe!”
“Thought me that.”
The band performance sequences are, undoubtedly, the movie’s strongest moments. From the opening flashback of George and the gang’s teenage garage roots to their later, more polished shows, the group’s energy and chops provide a welcome respite from all the faux-drama. Amatulli handles these moments with confidence, allowing the giddy youngsters within these grown men to emerge. However, such scenes are marred by an almost unrelentingly dark backdrop of bland rock clubs. And Almost Famous-lite dialogue. And a syncing debacle that often creates a distractingly long delay between sonic cause and effect. And Jenna Maroney-style nationalist lyrics**. This earnest yet bungled attempt at life-affirming fare is compounded by a script set in Soap Land, a universe where people say things like “it was spontaneous… something you seldom experience” and always appear at the right time to learn a nasty secret or find someone acting suspiciously. Want to know who’s about to die? That’ll be the person coughing (in this case, Patricia Neal’s Kooky Grandma, Margie.)
“‘I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe’…those were the last words of my proctologist.”
A lack of drama irrevocably handicaps the movie (sorry, Grandma!) George’s career and his family’s respectability are supposedly jeopardized by his “mid-life crisis.” Consequently, Pamela pops up every now and then to nag him into getting back to unhappiness. A potentially interesting sub-plot, George’s affair with Kate (Mo Collins), a one-time radio chick turned groupie, is also handled poorly. Myk Watford’s performance deserves a better film, though. As Willy, the group’s lead guitarist, he turns what could have been a petulant, one-note manchild into a funny, affecting turn. Willy refuses to mature, accept the difficulty of “making it” at his age, and adapt, yet he’s easily the most enjoyable character. With every broken glare and scowl, it’s clear his dues have been paid. Cyrus “The Virus?” is surprisingly engaging. At first, he appears to be a bland, rather hopeless victim. After all, he lets his obviously disgruntled and manipulative wife wrangle him into a suspect divorce. It soon becomes clear, though, that George, like his band, is “about the music.” To his and the movie’s credit, not everything is as predictable as suspected. If only it had the class to go with its familiar yet potent theme.
If you enjoyed the music on show in the film, there are no documentaries detailing its development, no interviews with those responsible, or Almost Famous “Untitled” DVD style rehearsal footage. Content yourself, however, with the trailer for the film, featuring samples of the same music. Let it act as a reminder of the wasted opportunity that is this disc and, indeed, film.
* If you don’t know, don’t ask.
** Actually rhyming “U.S.A.” with “make them pay” would’ve improved each song featured by approximately 86%.
JONAS BROTHERS CONCERT BLU-RAY
By Brian Owen
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RUNNING TIME: 76 minutes
Day in the Life Featurette
“We’ve been breeding them for years, Mr. Iger. They’ve been rapidly growing in popularity on television, not to mention the record sales and the concert tour. I think it’s time we completely unleash them upon the public.”
“But how can we relate their true majestic glory to such an undeserving audience?”
“Three full dimensions of Jonas, sir.”
Kevin, Joe and Nick Jonas. A man named Big Rob. My dying dignity. Thousands of screaming teenage girls. Do you even care who else? If I told you Orson Welles would you even care? Fine, Orson Welles’ reanimated corpse is in the film. Now is your interest piqued?
Apparently these three kids are an American pop phenomenon, and you get to join them in concert! You also can see them in rare rehearsed moments of levity backstage and in preparation for the concert! For any Jonas Brothers aficionado, I’d imagine this film was a repeat view on IMAX.
The Incestuous Homoeroticism of the Jonas Brothers: Volume One
I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. When I saw this title available for claim I immediately jumped at it on the boards with much mock over-enthusiasm. I expected to get the film, force my roommates to watch it with me and enjoy it all as a large memorable joke of an experience. I’d write about it from the awkward perspective of a 24 year-old college student obsessed with a teenage pop group. Ha ha, we all laugh, right? That joke of over-enthusiasm had a shelf life of about 0 minutes, in all reality. You see, I had never actually heard a Jonas Brothers’ song before, and so I really was clueless as to my forthcoming experience.
Turns out that the music is pretty terrible. It’s not necessarily bad per se, but just really terrible in an innocuous way. It’s not good enough to be both bad and catchy, but not bad enough to be flat-out terrible. Like CBS sitcoms. So after my first attempts at watching the film and being surprised at the quality of what I was about watch I restarted the film. This time, in order to really enjoy the film, I decided to try to put myself in the mindset of a 13-year-old girl. So I poured myself some champagne, popped in a Quaalude and watched Rosemary’s Baby. (Too soon?) Then I watched Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience DELUXE EXTENDED MOVIE. It still didn’t work very well.
Obviously, this poor girl is quite upset over the situation in Darfur.
I don’t know really how to describe it. I thought I could perhaps take it seriously by applying Goethe’s touchstones of critique or something, but I don’t think I even had that in me. So here’s the true lowdown: If you like this music, and boys in varying combinations of Urban Outfitter/Forever XXI attire does it for you, this is a movie for you. If you don’t, then by all means back away, my friends, for you will find nothing here. The film intersperses concert footage with footage of them backstage, meeting fans, rehearsing and just horsing around Ã you know, like regular people. Then it pops back into the concert for some more of their music.
A quick word about the 3D: Every time it cuts form concert to other footage, the 3D goes away. All of the concert stuff is in 3D, whereas the real life stuff is 2D and flat – like a movie ought to be. (Shakes fist in air) So I kept popping the glasses on and off, but to be honest, it gave a nice, brief break to my eyes to be able to drop the glasses. After the opening credits my eyes were already finished with the Captain EO-esque 3D shenanigans. The concert sections in 3D give a feel as if you’re looking through an old-school Playmobil Viewmaster, giving that trippy-flat-layered 3D effect. The requisite “throw stuff at the screen” technique of 3D filmmaking is endless here.
The Incestuous Homoeroticism of the Jonas Brothers: Volume Two
A few young teenage girls that I did not recognize (but who are obviously pop starlets judging by the Scream-o-meter going through the roof) also joined them onstage for a few numbers here and there. I will give the Brothers Jo this much – at a few key moments, between the homoeroticism of their onstage interactions and the terrible falsetto they would reveal themselves to be adequate showmen. Even, from time to time, allowing some charisma to sneak out. A few more years of some maturing and they could actually turn out to be decently engaging performers. Decently engaging performers with poor material, but decently engaging performers nonetheless.
I will also say this: they know how to draw a crowd. Before the first shots of falsified Stendhal’s syndrome arrived, a knock came to my door and three coeds who had heard I was watching the movie came and joined me for the rest of the film. (Good thing the set came with 4 pairs of specially designed Jonas Brothers 3D glasses!) As the humidity in my apartment rose with every costume change (of which there are SEVERAL) I deduced that these Jonas boys must be doing something right: Even that freakishly ugly one has a shot of him being mauled by several girls well within his legal age bracket.
Will I watch this again? Most likely not. But if I end up having a niece that I particularly hate, I know what to give her for her birthday.
Disney knows how to fully load the fans. We’ve got the front cover featuring the JoBros themselves, which is a draw to any prepubescent conformist. The pink-clad hordes will flock to this like sailors to a siren, folks. Once purchased, they’ll find a true treasure trove of wealth. The Blu-ray package comes with the Blu-ray disc, 4 pairs of glasses, (aforementioned!) a DVD copy of the film and a digital copy. Both the DVD and the Blu-ray come packed with extra material such as extra songs not already seen in the EXTENDED MOVIE. There is also a “Day in the life of…” documentary profiling the Brothers Karamizonas. It’s a lot rehashed from what we see in the film. Or at least it seemed to be – things became a bit of a blur there after a while.
Thin Kathy Bates: As always, 10 out of 10
The Incestuous Homoeroticism of the Jonas Brothers: Volume Three
SECRET DIARY OF A CALL GIRL SEASON TWO
by Simon Rowson
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STUDIO: Lions Gate
RUNNING TIME: 176 minutes
“Billie on Belle” Interview With Billie Piper
Ferris Bueller meets Pretty Woman by way of Sex & The City. With 356% less shopping montages.
Billie Piper, Callum Blue, Iddo Goldberg and Ashley Madekwe.
Hannah leads a double life as “Belle”, a high-class call girl, whose day-to-day sexual encounters she narrates to the viewer through risqué into-camera asides. As the season begins, Belle is now a successful independent escort free from the money-grabbing clutches of her madam, and with a new ditzy young protégé named Bambi. After meeting charming doctor Alex, Hannah begins to wonder how long she can keep her career a secret, and whether she’s able to give up escorting for the sake of love.
Perhaps one of the biggest arguments levelled at the first season of Secret Diary was how shallow and slight the series was, offering oodles of hazy-filtered style and nothing resembling substance, without enough plot to fill even a scant 22 minute runtime. Does the second season remedy this? Well, yes and no.
Several seconds and a crippling neck injury later, Belle realised that The Mattel™ Book of Anatomy had lied to her, and
the human head was not designed to be detachable.
Thankfully with the addition of new romantic interest Alex (Callum Blue, who CHUD readers will most likely recognise as Brit reaper Mason in Dead Like Me) comes a wealth of new plot in comparison to the shows first year; while Season One centred each episode on a different aspect of the escort lifestyle (The threesome, the girlfriend experience and S&M, for example), the format has been ditched in favour of a more focused season-long story arc, dealing with Hanna’s burgeoning new non-escort relationship. It’s a welcome change, and one that pushes Belle’s overexposed (no pun intended) and overwritten innuendo-filled 4th wall breaking asides into the background to place more emphasis on actual character. It also certainly doesn’t hurt that Callum Blue is a welcome change of pace to the utter void of personality found in Ben (Iddo Goldberg, blessed with the emotional range of a coat rack and the presence of Hervé Villechaize’s ghost).
With the new focus on Hannah as opposed to escort alter-ego Belle comes more insight into her ethics and choices. Thanks to some shaky writing, by season’s end we’re left questioning our sympathies for her more than ever, and the show’s glossy glorification of high-class escorting feels even more misguided. Though despite the flaws, Hannah at least feels slightly more like a 3-dimensional character than before, and it’s to Piper’s credit that she still remains a likeable one.
While his withered cocknose certainly hurt his chances with the ladies, Gunter found that coming 37th in The Annual Karl Malden Lookalike Contest buoyed his spirits considerably.
Unfortunately, despite never being truly boring, even with the new expanse of plot, Secret Diary struggles to justify its runtime, taking 8 episodes to accomplish what could fit neatly into half that. Still, it’s light, fun and a marked improvement on the first season. There are certainly deeper and more worthwhile shows to be found, but fans of Season One will find much to love here.
Lions Gate maintain the show’s attractive veneer with a crisp 16×9 widescreen transfer.
The cover’s suitably colourful, with a cleavage-centric front cover to attract male viewers, and with a back cover that has Billie Piper doing her best Carrie Bradshaw impression – all smiles as she carries expensive shopping bags in front of a glitzy skyline, evidently aiming for a ‘Handle enough manwang and you too could afford some Jimmy Choos!’ aesthetic.
The extras themselves are sparse; disc one is home to a Lions Gate DVD promo ad for Weeds and Keeping Up With The Kardashians, and a brief and uninvolving Billie Piper interview in which she quickly brushes over the feminist backlash to the show. It’s not only a fluff interview, but her ‘We’re not trying to advocate prostitution’ argument rings hollow in the face of the series itself, whose style and content are all about glamorising the escort lifestyle in a tale of female empowerment.
The second disc has a series of 8 webisodes, all 1-2 minutes in length, focusing on Bambi and Ben, giving each their own 4th wall monologues and attempting to flesh out their characters a little more. The writing displayed in them (and Goldberg’s acting) is unimaginably wretched, filled with double entendres so cringe-worthy that it makes the innuendo in the actual show seem like Oscar Wilde by comparison. However, it’s quite telling of the show’s flaws that Bambi’s segments manage to perfectly condense into 2 minutes plot ideas that Season One took entire episodes to cover.
SHAOLIN AGAINST WU-TANG
Reviewed by Matt Rose
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STUDIO: Tai Seng
RUNNING TIME: Approx 900 minutes
Hey, we found a bunch of really old kung fu movies that are probably in the public domain. We can make a buck or two off of these…
Do you really care? Fine, Gordon Liu is in one of the films.
10 Kung fu movies spread out over 3 dvds.
I’m a fan of those old Shaw Brothers martial arts films from the 1970s. I used to religiously watch KUNG FU THEATER every Saturday morning at 9am, usually with my brother. Bad dubbing, low budget sets, recycled plots…we didn’t care: we wanted to see some cool fight scenes. After a while, we started to recognize some of the ‘actors’ and voice over ‘artists’ and develop some favorites: Gordon Liu, Philip Kwok, Lo Meng…essentially all of what’s generally known as the VENOM clan. If any of them were in the movie, it was going to be OK. We always checked the Saturday listings to see if one of our favorites would be on: 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Five Deadly Venoms, Kid with the Golden Arm, etc.
In short, I was really looking forward to going through this collection of 10 movies.
An example of the quality pan/scan process. The villain on the right is in the middle of a long speech at the moment.
The first bit of bad news: The set consists of 3 DVDs (2 of which are double sided) with 2 movies on each side. I could not get one of the sides to play at all on any of my dvd players (computer, laptop, or home theater), so I cannot comment upon Shaolin Death Squad or Wu Tang Magic Kick. The other 8 films played OK…I guess.
The second bit of bad news: Some of these movies are in terrible condition. One of them, Shaolin Against Lama, is particularly bad: it has huge scratches, slices, and a flicker reminiscent of those junior high school films that your science teacher used to show you in biology class. Don’t expect any of these to have the Criterion seal of approval.
Beware the two-finger ball crunch.
The third bit of bad news: Only 1 of the 8 films that I saw was in widescreen format. All of the others are KINDA in pan and scan…by ‘kinda’, I mean that someone focused the video camera on the middle portion of the frame and left it there. FUCK any kind of composition.
The good? Well, if you can get past the deficiencies in quality, you’ll come across a couple of decent fight scenes and a lot of unintentional comedy. Bad dubbing, dramatic poses, low budget sets, stupid costumes, sped up fight scenes…all of these things are typical of the genre, but they’re all dialed up to 11 here.
You know what they say about a man with big eyebrows, right?
- Unbeaten 28 has some of the funniest dubbing that I’ve ever heard. The voices are so hammy and obviously trying to be funny that it’s hard to take anything that’s going on seriously. This was one of the funniest films that I’ve seen in a while.
- Shaolin Against Lama, the film in the poorest physical condition, looks like they took a camera and some ‘actors’ into a temple and just ad-libbed a story using the confused looking monks as extras. It’s pretty damn funny.
- The special effects, if you can call them that, are at a level of quality that is slightly lower than what was found on Dr. Who in the early 70s. They’re laughably bad. A particularly bad effect in Fight For Survival involves a female fighter who can make her legs grow into stilts.
- Shaolin VS Wu Tang has subtitles AND dubbing. At no point over the course of the film do they ever match up exactly.
The plots are pretty much derived from the following standard kung fu elements:
- You killed my master! I must avenge him.
- My village/temple/clan was wiped out! I must avenge them.
- I’m a wild spirit that craves discipline! I must train.
- My style of kung fu is better than yours! We must fight.
The plots are pretty irrelevant, though. Much like a porn film, the plot is only there to provide a brief connection between the ACTION scenes.
Go-go Gadget Legs!
Look, you’re either into kung fu films or you’re not. This won’t convert any greenhorns to the genre (indeed, it would probably turn them off entirely), but it’s not a total loss. Yes, it’s a cheaply produced, poorly transferred kung fu set, but some of them were pretty entertaining.
As I mentioned earlier, the set consists of 3 dvds. What’s nice is that they managed to fit all 3 of them inside of a standard dvd case. The dvd menus are beyond basic; think of those generic menus that you can create for your home movies and you’re on the right track. It’s a very low budget affair, and you’ll need to be aware of the fact that quality is a serious issue if you actually intend on buying this…2 of the 10 movies wouldn’t even play for me.
ENJOYMENT 5 out of 10
QUALITY 1 out of 10