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.

Betrayal (2003)

Mark Lester is one of the few drive-in era directors still putting out movies. This one — where Erika Eleniak is on the run from drug dealers and comes into the orbit of a hitwoman (Julie du Page) — is one of the many films he’s quietly released to cable and streaming in the past few years.

Also known as Lady Jayne: Killer, this movie also features Adam Baldwin and James Remar, who is always welcome to be in any movie. As always, the simple idea — killer accidentally takes briefcase with mob money, gets a price on her head and kidnaps a family to escape — is much better in the execution thanks to Lester.

You can watch this on Tubi.

The Rainman Twins (2003)

Flo and Kay Lyman were not only bullied for being different, but nearly killed by their mother. Yet they are incredibly special. The only identical twin autistic savant sisters known to exist, Flo and Kay have memorized everything in the world, unable to forget dates, songs, the weather, what they ate or what others wore on that date.

They consider one man their personal savior: Dick Clark.

After his stroke, they get to meet with him and explain what he means to them. Soon, their lives would change forever as they would leave their family behind. This movie really hit me emotionally, as I felt so much for the girls.

I’m happy to report that while Dick Clark is no longer with us, the Lyman sisters are. You can keep up with them with this Facebook group. You can also watch the movie here:

Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003)

The final film to be scored by Jerry Goldsmith, this film sadly bombed at the box office. It’s a fun little picture, all about Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny helping Damian “D.J.” Drake, Jr. (Brendan Fraser) and Warner Bros. executive Kate Houghton (Jenna Elfman) to find the “blue monkey” diamond. If they don’t, Acme’s Mr. Chairman (Steve Martin) will turn mankind into monkeys to make his products. And oh yeah — they also have to save D.J.’s father Damian Drake (Timothy Dalton) who is an action movie star but is actually a spy.

This movie started as a follow-up to Space Jam, which would have featured a new villain named Berserk-O, who was to be created by Bob Camp. Michael Jordan didn’t want to come back, so two movies were planned — Spy Jam with Jackie Chan and Race Jam with Jeff Gordon. Both projects were canceled and Warner Brothers brought in Joe Dante to direct this movie, which he agreed to do as a tribute to Chuck Jones.

Warner Brothers wanted a reinvention of their characters like Space Jam, while Dante and screenwriter Larry Doyle reportedly wanted the film to the “Anti-Space Jam” as Dante hated how that film represented the characters. He referred to this movie as, “a pretty grim experience all around” and “the longest year and a half of my life.”

This being a Dante film, there are some great cameos from Peter Graves, Roger Corman, Marc Lawrence, Ron Perlman and Robert Picardo — things that amuse me, if not big audiences. Plus, Kevin McCarthy plays Dr. Miles Bennell, the same character he played in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The Area 52 scene is packed with monsters from so many movies, like the flying brains from Fiend Without a Face, the Metaluna mutant from This Island Earth, the Triffids, Robby the Robot, Daleks — which were the reason Steve Martin agreed to do the movie, Robot Monster, Marvin the Martian and The Man from Planet X.

I also adore the scene where Porky Pig and Speedy Gonzales talk about how political correctness has ruined their careers. There’s also a great chase scene through some famous paintings: Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte,” Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” and Munch’s “The Scream.”

Oh yeah — if you love wrestling, Bill Goldberg is in this.

It’s a fun film. I’m a major Joe Dante and cartoon fan, however, so you may feel differently.

 

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)

Sean Connery turned down the roles of the Architect in The Matrix films and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He would have made $450 million off that last role, so that led to him taking this movie, even though he didnt understand the script. But hey — $17 million makes things much simpler, right?

He warred with director Stephen Norrington (Death MachineBlade), who was uncomfortable with large crews. It makes sense, as Norrington came up from working with special effects on movies like Split Second and Aliens. For what it’s worth, Norrington did not attend the premiere, and when he was asked where the director was, Connery is said to have replied, “Check the local asylum.”

Jason Flemyng, who played Dr. Jekyll in the film, told Empire, “My favorite bust-up was in Venice. The League had to walk from Captain Nemo’s boat down the street, Magnificent Seven-style. At the end of the take, Sean shouted to Norrington, ‘What? You want us to do that again?’ He replied, “For $18 million, I don’t think it’s too much to ask you to walk down a road.” To which Connery’s reply was unprintable.”

Since this film, Norrington has been attached to several projects but hasn’t made another film, claiming that he would never direct again.

Interestingly enough, Larry Cohen and Martin Poll filed a lawsuit against 20th Century Fox, claiming the company had intentionally plagiarized their script Cast of Characters, which the two had pitched to Fox several times. But wait — isn’t this movie based on the Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill comic book?

Cohen and Poll claimed that the studio bought the rights as a smoke screen, as both their script and the final movie shared public domain characters who did not appear in the comic book series.

The case was settled out of court, a decision Alan Moore told the New York Times  was upsetting, as he had “been denied the chance to exonerate himself.” No wonder the guy hates the movies made from his comic books so much.

In 1899, Fantomas (Richard Roxburgh, Van Helsing) and his army have broken into the Bank of England to steal da Vinci’s blueprints of Venice and kidnap several scientists. To figure out what is happening, Allan Quatermain (Connery) is brought back to for a new team of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, along with Captain Nemo, vampire Mina Harker (Peta Wilson from the TV version of La Femme Nikita), invisible man Rodney Skinner (the production couldn’t get the rights to the original story, so they made up their own invisible person), Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend, Queen of the Damned), Tom Sawyer and the twin form of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde.

Whereas the comic showed the league battling Martians and Fu Manchu, instead of the revelation that M — yes, like the Bond films — is also Fantomas and Sherlock Holmes’ archenemy Professor James Moriarty. Like they say, this is loosely based on the source material.

David Hemmings shows up as Ishmael, which is a nice cameo. The effects are big and bold, while the movie sets up a sequel at the end. That never happened — this is another one of those “even though the movie made $179.3 million on a $78 million budget” movies that still isn’t a success. Hollywood math.

The character of Campion Bond, British Intelligence Director — and the ancestor of James Bond — was supposed to appear and be played by Sir Roger Moore. The character was dropped before filming began to be saved for a possible sequel, which was never made.

Despite only a few references to Tom Sawyer in the comic books, the character was added to appeal to young Americans, which upset many fans of the comic, as well as Moore and O’Neill. That said, Mark Twain wrote two little-known sequels to Tom Sawyer, is Jules Verne-like one called Tom Sawyer Abroad and another where he becomes Tom Sawyer, Detective.

O’Neill would later say that he believed this movie failed because it was not respectful of the source material, such as how Allan Quatermain was changed so much and that Mina Murray was marginalized by becoming a vampire.

The Wold Newton family — a literary concept derived from a form of crossover fiction developed by the American science fiction writer Philip Jose Farmer — is a great concept. The comic takes full advantage of this. The movie ended a director’s career and retired Connery from anything other than voice-over work.