Ted Demme

Ted Demme

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The Independent Review


Good
Mockumentary about the movie business? Okay, not original in any sense of the word, but putting Janeane Garofalo in a suit and spray-on tan is simply inspired.

The Independent is Jerry Stiller's show, starring him as Morty Fineman, a Roger Corman/Andy Sidaris-style filmmaker who makes lovingly crafted low-budget, borderline-exploitation films that the world largely dismisses as junk. The film follows Morty and daughter Paloma (Garofalo) as they try to revive Morty's sagging career and reflect on decades of schlocky work like Brothers Divided (about Siamese twins in Vietnam) and Foxy Chocolate Robot (about a foxy chocolate robot). The film uses present-day footage intercut with scenes ostensibly from Morty's body of work, all appropriate in graininess, streaks, and rotten acting quality. Real-world directors like Roger Corman and Ron Howard appear to offer commentary on Morty's oeuvre, all of whom declare him an underrated genius.

Continue reading: The Independent Review

Rounders Review


Excellent
Eighty bucks. That's about how much money I've lost playing poker since I saw Rounders. Not that this statistic is an inherently bad sign for the movie or anything. In fact, the fact that I was so motivated by the movie to put all that money on the table speaks positively of the picture.

Rounders (the name is short-hand for people who make their living playing poker) stars Matt Damon and Edward Norton as poker playing buddies going in different directions. Damon, after losing a very big money hand, has given up his cardsharping ways for law school and a career as a lawyer. Norton, on the other hand, just out of prison, is eager to build a new bankroll at the tables. As you might expect, for a number of reasons, Damon cannot stay away from the table forever, and consequently his budding law career and relationship with newcomer Gretchen Mol are both put in peril. The trouble Norton's character (not so subtly nicknamed "Worm") gets into does nothing to make Damon's life easier.

Continue reading: Rounders Review

A Decade Under The Influence Review


Grim
A lot of myths surround American cinema in the 1970s: That it was a product of the drug culture, that film's been in decline since then, that Easy Rider is in any way a good movie. All points worth arguing, and it makes sense that the late director Ted Demme would want to pursue the matter. His film Blow was a love letter to '70s film, and showcased all of the wonderful things about the era (the open-mindedness, the need to experiment), as well as its flaws (willful overindulgence). A Decade Under the Influence is another love letter, and it has its problems. In its overenthusiastic urge to put '70s film icons on pedestals, it winds up ignoring the fact that the young turks of the '70s played a major role in destroying the film revolution they engineered.

Yet, for the most part, Decade is a hoot for film lovers, showing legendary posters and key scenes from classics like Klute, Chinatown, Bonnie and Clyde, The Last Picture Show, Annie Hall, and scads of others. That underscores the brilliance of performances by Robert DeNiro, Jack Nicholson, and Jon Voight, but the heart of the film are its interviews with the holy gods of '70s cinema: Martin Scorcese, Robert Altman, Dennis Hopper, Sydney Lumet, and over a dozen others. Sydney Pollack comes across as the wisest and most engaging of the interviewees. Early on, he points out how distant young directors felt from the stories they'd see in Hollywood blockbusters produced by the studios, which Schrader calls a "decaying empty whorehouse." Maybe Easy Rider was an awful movie - which it is - but it had a lot more to say to young America than Cleopatra and Hello Dolly.

Continue reading: A Decade Under The Influence Review

Monument Ave. Review


OK
Weird little Ted Demme movie about (what else?) drugs and thugs. Denis Leary plays a low-level gangster in an Irish mob, forced to maintain utmost secrecy when one of his best friends is capped by the boss right in front of his eyes (and in a rather jarring sequence). Curious story, it tells us about loyalty but never says whether that's a good or a bad thing. Not to mention, it's always tough to take Leary seriously in a dramatic role. At least he really is Irish.

Continue reading: Monument Ave. Review

Blow Review


Weak
In the famed cocaine drama Scarface, I remember a lot of gun battles and bowl after bowl of cocaine spilled on the table. I do not remember heartfelt talks with dad, a cancer-stricken girlfriend, and a child custody battle.

Yet such is the world of Blow, the most wildly anticipated drug thriller since, well, last year's Traffic. Welcome to the "based on a true story" tale of George Jung (the inimitable Johnny Depp), just a suburban boy from New England who tires of his conservative life and heads for -- where else -- L.A. Here (in the 1960s, natch), Jung hooks up with the local hair stylist/drug dealer and starts his own small pot distributorship. Soon enough he's running drugs back to Boston with the help of his friends and flight attendant girlfriend (Run Lola Run's Franka Potente). But just as he's made a name for himself, he gets busted and lands in prison.

Continue reading: Blow Review

The Independent Review


Weak

Remember that great Z-grade 1969 protest picture "Brothers Divided," about the conjoined twins drafted to serve in Vietnam?

No? How about the blaxploitation classics "Venus De Mofo" and "The Foxy Chocolate Robot?" Or the tree-hugging girlie biker flick "The Eco-Angels"? Or the midget Gidget movie "Teenie Weenie Bikini Beach"?

Those don't ring a bell? Surely you've seen at least one of the 427 movies directed by schlock filmmaker Morty Fineman over the last 38 years, right?

Continue reading: The Independent Review

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