Paycheck (2003)

Some rules that I have established of “Is this an ancient future cyberpunk movie?” I will answer some of these to determine the veracity of Paycheck‘s status.

Does it have the title of a Philip K. Dick book but not really have much to do with it?

Yes, it’s based on his story Paycheck which originally appeared in 1953.

Is there a lot of rain?

Not as much as others in the genre.

Does the male hero wear dress clothes and/or a trenchcoat?

It’s a black tie affair.

Do Keanu Reeves, Ben Affleck, Dolph Lundgren or Udo Keir appear in it?

Affleck makes it.

Does the internet do something it can’t do yet, yet look dated AF?

Yes. Also, there’s a discussion of memory sizes, which no speculative science fiction should have, because people brag about their brain holding meg file sizes or less and in 2021, we just say, “Oh. That’s the size of a text message.”

Are Stabbing Westward, KMFDM, Ministry or God Lives Underwater on the soundtrack?

No, but they did have to pay to use “Happy birthday.”

Is it a crappy version of Blade Runner?

Aren’t they all?

Are there numerous Asian-influenced scenes?

It’s less Asian influenced than made by the man who everyone copied by putting a bird on their action scenes, John Woo.

Do people use future terms that make no sense?

Yep.

Are there a lot of whirring sound effects?

Always.

Do people stare at the camera as it moves through a neon-lit strip club?

Often.

Are there rock stars in it?

No, sadly.

Is there a feral child?

I kind of wish there was.

When this was made, Paycheck was Ben Affleck’s biggest check, earning him $15 million. When asked why he starred in the film, he responds “The answer lies in the title.” He also lobbied to change his character from a Yankess to a Red Sox fan.

Woo was trying to make a Hitchcock-style movie and get away from what he was known for and Affleck begged for a Mexican standoff scene and got his way.

Affleck plays reverse engineer Michael Jennings, who analyzes the tech of his clients’ competitors and then improves it. He keeps his clients’ intellectual property safe by repeatedly having his buddy Shorty (Paul Giamatti) wipe his brain clean. Now, he’s stuck in a conspiracy with only clues from his past self to guide him, which is a lot like Total Recall, another Dick story turned film.

Now that he’s made a machine that predicts the future — then made himself forget — past Ben wants future Ben to stop that machine from falling into the hands of CEO James Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart), who is using a fake version of our hero’s love interest Rachel Porter (Uma Thurman) to get him to reveal the secrets he’s learned.

Affleck won a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor for his performances in this movie, Gigli and Daredevil, going on Larry King Live to accept and break the award, which was auctioned off and paid for the hall rental for the following year’s award show.

Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood (2003)

The last Warwick Davis Leprechaun movie, 2003’s return to the urban side of the Irish folklore based horror film series again proves the fact that if you put a movie in my DVD player, give me a Pepsi and a comfy couch, I will watch whatever it is.

This was originally going to be a spring break film, but I guess the lure of seeing a leprechaun get shot in a drive by was too much for some people to pass up.

Sticky Fingaz from Onyx is in this and one day, for one season of a TV show, he would become Blade. So this has that going for it. There’s also a scene where our antagonist tears off a woman’s jaw to get to one of her gold teeth.

So yeah. The leprechaun doesn’t die at the end and they tease he will come back, but fans of the series had to wait until 2014’s Leprechaun: Origins. I always skipped these films and I’ll be honest, outside of the space and Vegas episodes, I don’t know that I was really missing all that much. I realize these films have their fans and tastes differ, but I’m struggling to say anything nice. It’s just, you know, St. Patrick’s Week and these movies seemed like a good idea and I had the box set and…well, maybe the last two in it will be better. Let’s hope.

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘N’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood (2003)

Every few years, I re-read the Peter Biskind book that this documentary was based on, if only to make myself more depressed as time goes on over the fact that the New Hollywood that changed cinema faded so quickly and was replaced by whatever we have now.

Kenneth Bowser directed this — and several documentaries on another of my pop culture obsessions that had a brief period (s) of greatness followed by mediocrity, Saturday Night Live — and it’s the perfect companion to the book, building on the stories there by featuring interviews with most of the people who survived, like Martin Scorsese, Dennis Hopper, Peter Bogdanovich, John Schlesinger, Johnathan Demme, John Milius, Karen Black, Cybill Shepherd, Francis Ford Coppola and more.

Many of the subjects from the book — including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Robert Altman and William Friedkin — declined interviews. That said, Spielberg and Lucas come off the worst in the book, so I can see them not wanting to be part of a movie that was going to blame their blockbusters for being the end of the artistic aims of Hollywood. To be fair, the movie lays a lot of the claim for that at the fact that so many of the New Hollywood auteurs flamed out or had badly recieved films. But Spielberg and Lucas did slam the blockbuster nails into the coffin.

When asked about the book, Robert Altman said, “It was hate mail. We were all lured into talking to this guy because people thought he was a straight guy but he was filling a commission from the publisher for a hatchet job. He’s the worst kind of human being I know.” And Spielberg was reported as saying that every word in the book about him was “either erroneous or a lie.”

As for Friedkin, who was painted as a bully in the book, he said: “I’ve actually never read the book, but I’ve talked to some of my friends who are portrayed in it, and we all share the opinion that it is partial truth, partial myth and partial out-and-out lies by mostly rejected girlfriends and wives.”

I kind of love that Bogdonovich said, “I spent seven hours with that guy over a period of days, and he got it all wrong,” and still shows up in this movie.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Hanai Sachiko No Karei Na Shōgai (2003)

The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai started life as a pink film — a term that refers to any Japanese film that includes nudity or sex — called Horny Home Tutor: Teacher’s Love Juice. The producers allowed Mitsuru Meike to turn it into a full length film that would eventually play at international film festivals.

Make no mistake, this is one of the stranger films you’ll watch. Also, if you don’t watch much pornography, one filled with an obscene amount of body fluids.

Sachiko Hanai (Emi Kuroda) is a cosplay callgirl who often dresses like a teacher. While relaxing at a cafe after attending to a clint, she witnesses a gun battle between a Middle Eastern and North Korean man that ends with her shot in the head. However, instead of dying — for some reason, she was taking selfies in the midst of the shooting — she gains the powers of ESP, advanced mathematical knowledge, deep insight and being able to speak several languages. She also finds the cloned finger of U.S. President Goerge W. Bush that quickly brings her to orgasm and then reveals that she must run, as everyone wants his finger because it unlocks the nuclear payload of the United States.

Still with me?

Somehow, this all leads to a cave that will determine the fate of the world and an ending that echoes losing a game of Missle Command.

I really liked this, as it’s just on the right side of strange, with a call girl acting as a teacher when she really holds the fate of the free world in her hand. Or Bush’s painted and cloned thumb. It also taught me the terrifying “Bush Technique.”

My Life with Morrissey (2003)

“. . . and now I know how Joan of Arc felt.”
—Morrissey

The greats always come in pairs: Johnny Thunders and David Johansen in the New York Dolls (Mona et Moi). Keith Richards and Mick Jagger in the Rolling Stones. Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and Steven Tyler. . . .

And Johnny Marr and (Steven) Morrissey of the Smiths.

How rare is this movie? This is the best one-sheet image we could find.

The Smiths: you either love them or you hate them. There’s no middle ground for this U.K. band that shamelessly—but with integrity—wallowed in self-absorbed self-pity and spiritual anguish. And the songs were all hits—every one of them—from “Big Mouth Strikes Again” to “The Boy with a Thorn in his Side” to “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” to “Girlfriend in a Coma.” Uplifting, dark tunes from a band who gave you albums entitled Meat Is Murder.

So it makes sense that the depression-obsessive lyricist behind that morbid pop-oeuvre would inspire amorous fanaticism. And it comes in the form of Jackie (a stellar Jackie Buscarino, in her acting debut; currently the producer of Cartoon Network’s long-running Steven Universe), an already off-kilter office worker whose cramped flat doubles as a museum-shrine for all things Smiths—and keeps adding to the collection as she obsessively trolls records stores for memorabilia and rare albums by her dream lover. So it follows that she completely unravels (think of a female version of a spiraling Crispin Glover obsessed over Debbie Harry) when she happens to meet her mopish idol: Morrissey.

And when the ephemera wells run dry, Jackie takes the next logical step: stalking her idol’s favorite hangouts in Los Angeles. And she gets the ultimate collectible: his food leftovers. And when Morrissey (Jose Maldondo in shadow and silhouette; his only acting role) assumes she’s homeless and hungry, he takes pity and gives her a ride home. And now they’re a couple—so she thinks.

This is an indie film with low-budget pride. This is an off-the-wall stupid-weird unconventional-demented gem. Even if you loathe Morrissey, you’ll love this movie. No, it’s no Bowfinger. It’s no Being John Malkovich. It’s definitely no Bubba Ho Tep. But this directing debut by long-time Cartoon Network animator Andrew Overtoom is better than most fictional portrayals of a famed musician (or actor) (pick one of the ’80s Elvis “what if’ers”) in comical circumstances. If you dug the off-beat n’ quirky Ed and his Death Mother and Ghost World with Steve Buscemi and its cool ‘n quirky cousins Bartleby, Ed and Rubin, and Twister with Crispin Glover, then My Life with Morrissey will slide nicely into your, well . . . store nicely on your digital shelf hard drive.

The Emptor the Caveats Department: Take into account that Jackie—and her love of the Smiths—reminds me of my former “punk rock girlfriend,” the similarly-named Jessica, in all her granny dress and platformed Dr. Martens Mary Janes, stringy-black haired clipped glory. So the mileage of your particular romantic nostalgia for the movie may vary.

You can stream this on Amazon Prime.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Drive-In Friday: Documentaries About Directors Night

“Documentaries are boring. Who wants to watch a bunch of talking heads bragging about themselves?”
—Eric, purveyor of film quality and all things Sein(feld)suck.

And to a degree, I agree with my running-bud Eric: unless you have an interest in the subject matter at hand. As someone who’s spent his life in radio broadcasting and enamored with the craft of filmmaking, I’ve watched more than my fair share documentaries on the subjects of broadcasting and radio personalities, and film with its related actors and directors. And, even in person, those creative individuals can push self-aggrandizing into the new limits of boredom.

Don’t believe me?

The Snack Bar is Open! Free Dove Bars if you buy a hotdog. Darn freezer’s broke again!

Go to a party or any social gathering. Find yourself an actor or director. And I am not talking about running into a well-rounded, educated fellow like Werner Herzog with whom you can have a meaningful conversation about anything from soup to nuts. I am talking about the (always) one-the-way-up-and-after-one-film-they-think-they’re-Elvis types. But since this is in reference to film: Steven Spielberg. And actors are worse than directors. Christian Bale and Klaus Kinski earned the right to set-rant. You, Mr. DeMille and Ms. Desmond, do not.

Don’t believe me?

Watch The Disaster Artist, the (excellent) dramedy about the making of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. There’s a telling scene in the film where actor Greg Sestero confides his career frustrations to a fellow thespian—and all the other actor can do is drone on and on about how great his career is going. And as someone with lots of “under the tent” experience in holding areas, I’ve seen and heard it all, ad nauseam. Sestero tells it true.

And screenwriters? Well, I’ll spare you that paragraph, but here’s the equation: Director ego x Actor oneselfness = the greatest screenwriter in the world, aka “Listen to me, for I am the lord god of all scribes surveyed.”

And heaven forbid if you don’t like that up-and-coming Elvis-Spielberg’s latest entry to their no-one-has-ever-heard-of-or-seen oeuvre, aka a celluloid nobody and never will be: be prepared for the bowels of hell to rip open and for the lathes of heaven to crash into the fiery abyss and scorch to embers. Yeah, sometimes (almost always) the auteur is just another egomaniacal Billy Walsh (know your Entourage trivia) who blesses you with the distinct privilege of viewing their master(shite)piece—just because it received a set of “Official Selection” leaves from some obscure, off-the-circuit, emo-haughty film festival that won’t be in business next year and mainstream Hollywood doesn’t acknowledge because, well, Hollywood is already full up with more talented haughties than yourself. But thanks for asking! We’ll be looking for that star on the walk of fame, DeMille.

But even the established directors can be a handful, as evidenced in The Man You Love to Hate (1979), about the uncompromising director of silent films, Erich von Stroheim (acted in Sunset Boulevard). There’s Luchino Visconti (1999), about the iconic neorealist behind (the incredible, must watches) The Leopard, Death in Venice and Ludwig. There’s Felini: I’m a Born Liar (2002), Carl Th. Dreyer: My Métier (1995), about the director behind the seminal vampire flick, 1932’s Vampyr, and Pier Paolo Pasolini: A Film Maker’s Life (1971). And you can go on and on . . . with docs about Robert Altman, a couple regarding Woody Allen and Roman Polanksi, along with Orson Wells, Howard Hawks, Bergman, Kurosawa, Kurbick, and even producer Robert Evans. The documentary Easy Riders, Raging Bulls examines the industry and careers of ‘60s “bulls” Martin Scorsese, Dennis Hopper, Peter Bogdanovich, and Sam Peckinpah. And, speaking of Werner Herzog: Burden of Dreams (1982) follows the German (deserving of the noun spoken in the same sentence as his name) auteur as he deals with difficult actors, bad weather and getting a boat over a mountain during Fitzcarraldo.

But this is B&S About Movies . . . and you know us crazy, frolicking lads in the wilds of Allegheny County. We’ve got to go just a little bit deeper into the films—the realm of documentaries about directors. You may not know them. You may know them and hate them. But you know what: they don’t care. They, with a Kurt Vonnegut tenacity, just keep on creating. And that’s cool with me.

Image available across multiple sites; source unknown

Movie 1: The Insufferable Groo (2018)

At the time of the filming of this documentary by Scott Christopherson, Provo, Utah, resident Steven Groo’s resume encompassed 166 films—after its release, his resume grew to 200 films. A lesser documentarian would most likely—as so many internet warriors—slag Groo’s ultra-low-budget tales. Instead—what makes this film so lovely and tragic at the same time—is that Christopherson focuses on Groo’s determination to tell his stories. While Groo can be admittedly abrasive, his tenacity paid off with the patronages of actor Jack Black and director Jared Hess of Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre fame. And Jack Black starred in Goo’s Unexpected Race (2018). In the end, you root for Groo.

You can watch The Insufferable Groo as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTv. You can also watch Unexpected Race on the platform as well.

Movie 2: Neil Breen Movie Magic (2020)

When Tommy Wiseau’s name drops, the name of ultra-independent filmmaker Neil Breen follows. To say he’s a film cult icon is an understatement. Plug his name into You Tube and you’ll discover the rabid fandom of his works.

A licensed architect by trade, Breen self-financed, directed and starred in his debut feature, Double Down (2005). As of 2018, he’s made five films and is in pre-production on his sixth film.

Love ‘em. Hate ‘em. Say they suck, but courtesy of an underground fan base cultivated on You Tube, Breen’s films—in a Wiseauian twist—have been picked up by arthouse theatres and film festivals around the world.

You can watch Neil Breen Movie Magic on You Tube.

And, in a twist: Breen released his own documentary, Neil Breen’s 5 Film Retrospective, in May 2020, which is another must-watch for Breen fans. You can watch Breen’s insights on himself on You Tube, as well.

Intermission!

In lieu of the usual Drive-In advert or trailer, check out the fun article, “Typing at the Drive-In: Celebrating Correspondence,” by Leanne Ricchiuti at CivMix. It’s about the interesting repurposing of the Greenville Drive-In in Greenville, New York, with the QWERTY Typewriter and Letter Arts Festival held from Sept. 14-19. The Greenville is on Facebook.

The next feature starts in five minutes!

Movie 3: Will Work for Views: The Lo-Fi Life of Weird Paul (2019)

Say what you will about Pittsburgh You Tube star Weird Paul—but the dude has 34,000-plus subscribers. People love him. You can’t help but dig him and his unique brand of retro-‘80s video productions, which he’s been posting since signing onto You Tube on Feb 4, 2007. I’ve been a fan of Paul’s ever since. And so should you. He’d make Kurt Vonnegut proud.

You can watch Will Work for Views as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTV.

Movie 4: Overnight (2003)

It amazes me that for as many people that have watched Boondock Saints—and quote the film, wear the t-shirts, and even have Boondock Saints “double gun” lamps on their end tables in their media room—have no knowledge of this documentary shot by writer-director Troy Duffy’s former friends.

You may have heard the stories about Duffy’s meteoric rise and even quicker fall, but here’s your chance to see it all up close and personal. Even if you aren’t a fan of documentaries or have not the need-to-know about what goes on behind a camera, you’ll be fascinated by this document that tells us the story of a (film and music) career that might have been. For bless the “Holy Fool.”

You can watch Overnight as a free with-ads-stream on TubiTv.

“Documentaries suck and are made by people who can’t make a real movie. I’d rather sit through a TBS Seinsuck marathon.”
—Eric

Indeed, Eric. Indeed.

Like I always say: Friends and film, huh? But chicks and film is (always) worse. (A woman who digs Klaus Kinski and knows Paul Naschy’s works is out there, somewhere! I can hope.)

Again, in the eyes of the many: documentaries just aren’t their canister of celluloid. Yes, documentaries—if you’re not into the subject at hand—can be as pedestrian as a CBS-TV 48 Hours segment or as bone-dust dry as a PBS-TV chronicle. But that’s not the case with these four heartfelt, well-made documents of their equally talented, intriguing subjects—each who make Vonnegut proud.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Final Destination 2 (2003)

One year after the explosion of Flight 180, Kimberly Corman (A.J. Cook, The Virgin Suicides), Shaina McKlank (Sarah Carter), Dano Estevez (Alex Rae) and Frankie Whitman (Shaun Sipos) are saved from a multiple car pile-up when her vision keeps all the cars behind her from entering the freeway. As a cop interrogates her, her friends are killed in the eventual pileup. Now, Death is after everyone. Again.

Kimberly finds Clear Rivers (Ali Larter), the last survivor of Flight 180, who is hiding from death inside a psychiatric ward (it’s the same location that was Smith’s Grove in Halloween: Resurrection) after Alex Browning’s (Devon Sawa, who doesn’t even show up) off-screen death. She introduces her to William Bludworth (Tony Todd), who informs her that only new life can stop what Death wants.

Soon, everyone is dying in reverse of the order they were originally to croak and the gore has been upped considerably from the last movie. The car crash at the open of the film is enough to keep anyone from getting behind the wheel.

It was directed by David R. Ellis, who also did the last film in this series and Snakes on a Plane. He was also a child actor with Kurt Russell in several Disney films before becoming a stuntman and second unit director.

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

John Singleton, who directed Boyz n the Hood, stepped into the chair for the second film in the franchise, which loses Vin Diesel and keeps Paul Walker. This is how Roman Pearce (Tyrese) and Tej Parker (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) ended up becoming part of the movie family.

After letting Dominic, former LAPD officer Brian O’Conner (Walker) has left the West Coast behind, living in Miami as an illegal street racer. When the authorities grab him, he’s forced into a deal where he’ll help them stop Argentinian drug lord Carter Verone (Cole Hauser, yes, the son of Wings).

O’Conner has some help, as U.S. customs agent Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes) has been undercover in Verone’s organization for more than a year. He also reconnects with his childhood friend Roman, who blames him for getting arrested.

Taking a page out of the movies that have our true heart, James Remar appears as Agent Markham.

There are also plenty of other racers, like Suki (Devon Aoki, sister of Steve and daughter of Benihana founder Hirokai), who leads an all-girl race team, as well as people with names like Orange Julius and Slap Jack.

As for Diesel, well, he turned down $25 million to come back, instead starring in The Chronicles of Riddick. He’s since stated that he wishes that he’d thought through this decison, but I think we can all agree that he’s done just fine.

Unlike most of the movies in this series, nobody important dies. This will change.

Stealing Candy (2003)

Mark Lester directing a kinda sorta giallo about three cons who kidnap a famous Hollywood actress known for refusing to do nude scenes and force her to have sex on camera for a pay-per-view website, which earns them about $14 million dollars with just an hour’s notice and no social media to sell it. 2003 was an amazing time to be alive, let me tell you.

Are you into that? What if I told you that Daniel Baldwin was one of the bad guys? No? Alex McArthur, the guy who was Madonna’s baby daddy in the “Papa Don’t Preach” video? No? How about Coolio? Yes, now you’re interested. Evil Coolio, threatening our heroine and being incredibly touchy. Yes, now you want to see this.

Jenya Lano does a fine job as said female protagonist. And hey, is that Paul Provenza? Man, where did he go?

The main reason to watch this movie is for the Coolio song “The Party” on the soundtrack, which literally asks God if he’s down with the party. Good news. The Divine Creator is with it.

You can watch this on Tubi.

White Rush (2003)

A group of young adults go on vacation — to Salt Lake City, no less — and run afoul of a drug deal. Judd Nelson is there, so you better be, as they say. He even kidnaps Cylon Number Six, Tricia Helfer. Man, the coke is gonna get everyone killed. I can just feel it.

This is the second Lester film I’ve seen that has Louis Mandylor in it. He once played Nick Portokalos in the My Big Fat Greek Wedding films.

There are plenty of double crosses and everything you come to watch American movies about Mexican cartels for that you could get more of in the legit Mexican narcos films. That said, as always, Lester keeps things moving and never forgets his drive-in roots.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.