John Bard Manulis

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The L.A. Riot Spectacular Review


Weak
A film that works overtime to offend each and every ethnic group and economic class that makes up the smoggy purgatory of Los Angeles while simultaneously patting itself on the back for being so putatively daring, The L.A. Riot Spectacular is a cynical exercise in erstwhile satire that's all the more frustrating for the wasted opportunity it represents.

Like a series of linked MAD TV skits done without regard to network censors - the humor is about that intelligent - the film presents the 1992 Rodney King beating and subsequent riots as a grand comic opera of greed and stupidity, going after everybody involved with equal vigor. One can get a feel for how writer/director Marc Klasfeld intends to approach his subject a few minutes in, when the car chase and police beating of King (T.K. Carter) is done as a jokey game, with a police helicopter pilot serving as the announcer ("and they're off!"), while the cops themselves, having pulled King over, place beats over the ethnicity of the guy inside. Then Snoop Dogg shows up - serving, appropriately enough, as the film's narrator and chorus - to introduce the film proper, while fireworks go off behind him.

Continue reading: The L.A. Riot Spectacular Review

The Basketball Diaries Review


Very Good
The Basketball Diaries is a gritty film chronicling the adolescent years of poet/writer/musician Jim Carroll (played by Leonardo DiCaprio). Carroll was a star Catholic high school basketball player, presumably headed for the NBA. Unfortunately, his plans didn't quite work out when young Jim fell into the cruel world of life on the street and heavy drug abuse. He kept a vivid journal of his life and times, hence the title.

This is not your typical coming-of-age story. From the beginning, the antics of Carroll and his exceptionally rude punk friends don't help raise a lot of sympathy for their cause. When the boys (including a surprising performance by "Marky" Mark Wahlberg) get into trouble, mugging elderly women and robbing New York shops, in order to raise money for their drug habits, the temptation is to dismiss them as common hoodlums. But the powerfully realistic performance by DiCaprio, full of all the pain and suffering that comes along with heroin addiction and withdrawal, makes this film almost required viewing for any young person not exposed to the drug culture.

Continue reading: The Basketball Diaries Review

The L.A. Riot Spectacular Review


Weak
A film that works overtime to offend each and every ethnic group and economic class that makes up the smoggy purgatory of Los Angeles while simultaneously patting itself on the back for being so putatively daring, The L.A. Riot Spectacular is a cynical exercise in erstwhile satire that's all the more frustrating for the wasted opportunity it represents.

Like a series of linked MAD TV skits done without regard to network censors - the humor is about that intelligent - the film presents the 1992 Rodney King beating and subsequent riots as a grand comic opera of greed and stupidity, going after everybody involved with equal vigor. One can get a feel for how writer/director Marc Klasfeld intends to approach his subject a few minutes in, when the car chase and police beating of King (T.K. Carter) is done as a jokey game, with a police helicopter pilot serving as the announcer ("and they're off!"), while the cops themselves, having pulled King over, place beats over the ethnicity of the guy inside. Then Snoop Dogg shows up - serving, appropriately enough, as the film's narrator and chorus - to introduce the film proper, while fireworks go off behind him.

Continue reading: The L.A. Riot Spectacular Review

Tortilla Soup Review


Very Good
This fairly remake of the Chinese film Eat Drink Man Woman puts the father-and-his-daughters comedy in the kitchen of a Mexican-American family instead. Hector Elizondo lords over his uniquely messed-up offspring with a knowing twinkle in his eye. He's having fun, and so are we. Elizabeth Peña's supremely anal Leticia is a highlight, as is Raquel Welch's vixen putting the moves on dad.
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