Jon Lovitz

Southland Tales

Year: 2006
Directed By: Richard Kelly
Written By: Richard Kelly

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie has been at the center of controversy in our home for nearly ten years. It is one of the greatest disagreements Amber and I have about a film. I think this is a brilliant though complicated movie while she calls it the worst movie she has ever seen.

Richard Kelly called this his “misunderstood child” and I think that pretty much sums it up for this movie. It’s an entirely misunderstood movie that doesn’t even have the support of some of its cast members. It’s a big idea with a low budget and I think that took away from the attention it received. Had it gotten a bigger release I think it would be the center of much greater controversy and conversation even today.

I won’t deny this movie is weird but I like that about it. I like the actors cast in strange roles, I like the randomness of it all and the ultimate point behind the film. I think this movie takes a strong stance against the current events in the mid 2000s and it was during that time that I saw the movie and connected with it. It’s an interesting vision of the future where America actually suffers consequences for its actions. The world has moved on from that time with a whole batch of new and interesting problems but what of the events following 9/11? The world got crazy in the aftermath but kept on turning nonetheless. There were plenty of movies that examined the situation but this one to date has probably been my favorite. A beautiful satire that never really found its voice, or audience for that matter.

Richard Kelly’s first film, Donnie Darko, became a cult classic and I was one of its biggest fans at one time. I thought it was so interesting and ahead of its time. I feel like Richard Kelly is too smart for his own good as a filmmaker. If I remember correctly his father worked for NASA and I have always thought that had to have some kind of influence on his films. There is always something highly scientific about his films. Whether it’s worm holes or fluid karma he has something thrown in there that will befuddle the masses. I myself do not know anything about the science in his movies, it could be all made up as far as I know, but I think it all sounds good enough to work in a movie. I have enjoyed all of Kelly’s movies but this one is by far my favorite.

I think the cast that was assembled for this movie was nothing short of spectacular. I am not really a fan of the actor Dwayne Johnson, but I think he is perfect in this movie. The Rock has climbed out of the ring and into the big arena but I don’t always like what he’s cooking these days. I’m not a fan of the Fast and Furious franchise, and despite all his success I just can’t ever take him seriously as an actor. I think this is one of the most interesting roles he has played and I really liked him in the part. His character is even more interesting upon multiple viewings of the movie because so many of the weird ticks make sense when you understand.

On the other hand, I have always been a big fan of Seann William Scott, which sucks because his career tanked after this movie. American Pie was my generation’s high school classic and Stifler will always be a character I tune in to see. Like The Rock, he too has a really interesting part in this movie that gets better the more you watch it. While I think Scott does well in this movie I tend to think his performance gets lost among the others because some were truly able to shine in a short amount of time.

My favorite stand out in this movie is Cheri Oteri. I used to love her on SNL and the excitable personality she brought to the comedy. Seeing her in this movie as a ruthless and violent villain has always appealed to me. In fact there were several actors in this movie cast specifically contrary to their known personas. Others include John Lovitz and Amy Poehler playing villains. Lovitz particularly is impressive as the cold and silent hitman.

I think Justin Timberlake is fantastic in this movie and love the drug induced scene that plays out like a music video. It’s so randomly placed in the movie and I love that about it. As a teenager I had a natural dislike for Timberlake, and anybody else involved in the boy band phase, but he has long since won me over with shear talent. I am amazed by any celebrity that can do it all. Timberlake is an incredible performer and has made a smooth transition into a good acting career. He has impressive range as an actor and continues to be a successful artist in the music industry. When I mention that this movie didn’t have the support of its own cast it was Timberlake I was referring to, who said something along the lines of having no idea what this movie was about.

Since I was a teenager I had a thing for Sarah Michelle Gellar. Not because of her popular television show but just because I was a horny teen who thought she was really hot. So naturally I liked her in the role of the sexy porn star with the aggressive business plan. I think Mandy Moore was really good as the WASPy wife of Boxer Santaros. It was interesting to see these two actresses of the same popular teen era to play adult roles and do so well.

Beyond the big names there are several pop culture icon actors hidden within the film. Such as the “inconceivable!” guy from The Princess Bride, the little medium from the original Poltergeist, and even Kevin Smith pops up for a small role. These three, among others, make up a rich cast of supporting characters. I always think the cast of any film can make or break it and say what you want about this one but it has a really cool cast.

This movie is not for everybody and I can’t recall finding anybody else who has even seen it, let alone liked it. I like it though and I think it stands out for several reasons. I’m not going to get overly political because those days are long behind me now but when this movie came out things were different for me. Back in the days when I was more opinionated this movie stood out to me because of its message and I still like that message today.

Due to the nature of this movie’s controversy within my own home I won’t say whether it is worth your time or not. The battlelines have long since been drawn and opinions are dug in despite my efforts to force conciliation. If you can look past the low budget and the weirdness within then I’d be really interested to know what anyone else thinks about this movie. If you’ve seen it before and you are still with me in this review leave us a comment or send a message and share your own thoughts. If nothing else this is an interesting movie that deserves a bit of discussion. 

NEXT MOVIE: South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut (1999)

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Movies By Request

The Great White Hype


Year: 1996
Directed By: Reginald Hudlin
Written By: Tony Hendra Roy Shelton

There are more movies made about boxing than any other professional sport.  I think there is a very good reason for that and it is simple.  Boxing movies are awesome, even if they are all the same. I have said as much before in my post on Cinderella Man but I think deep down we all have an instinctive desire to see fights. The men that choose to spend their lives as fighters always have interesting stories to tell as well.  Yet all boxing movies seem to follow a similar template, and this movie is no different.  It covers many elements of the boxing world that we see in others films, but the redundancy of boxing story lines somehow never seems to be a problem. I often find myself realizing this is the same thing I have seen before but still loving it in all boxing films, and or TV shows in the case of Lights Out. I was a really big fan of that show and disappointed to see it cancelled.  My main point here is that while they all might be so similar they are usually interesting in other ways.

This movie specifically makes fun of the racial element in the sport.  I despise racism but do enjoy the humor that can be found in stereotypes across the board.  We all fall into stereotypes, it doesn’t necessarily always have to be about race, but it is funny so long as it is in good humor.  There is a big difference between making a joke about a stereotype and making a racist joke.  I think this movie made fun of racist behavior albeit in a crude manner at times.  One of the times I laughed the hardest was when Samuel L Jackson accused a reporter of being racist.  He responds by saying he is Jewish to which Jackson then accuses him of being an “Uncle Tom.” The reporter says Jews can’t be “Uncle Toms” and Jackson turned to look at his cronie Jon Lovitz playing a Jewish man and puts the question to him.  Lovitz defensively says “we can be!” and it is just such a funny exchange.  This movie is about race all the way through and I did think it was really funny, but these kinds of films watched by the wrong people always send the wrong message.  I have found in my experiences that racist tend to feel validated by comedies or tragedies about race when in fact they should be humbled by them.  I don’t understand the disconnection but it is a disappointing reality about some people.  Racism at the root is a product of ignorance and people who embrace it are often not clever enough to see the error of their ways.

I remember always wanting to see this movie during my Action Video days but somehow never getting around to it.  So I was pleased when a co-worker brought it in among a stack of other films the other day.  I had completely forgotten about the film altogether and was glad for the opportunity to see it.  I was even happier to have liked the movie as I anticipated I would long ago.  Samuel L. Jackson has a charisma that reaches out to everyone and I am no different.  I have thought he was awesome for almost twenty years now since I first saw him in Die Hard with a Vengeance as an eleven year old. I had yet to see Pulp Fiction, that one was off limits for me until I was old enough to seek it out myself.  Nevertheless I have thought he was great since then and he has done nothing to dissuade me from that opinion.  If anything he has only made his image greater in my eyes as he has now become such a key figure in the Marvel movies as Nick Fury.  As to this film he is what would easily be expected, awesome.  As the key figure of a really large cast he does great with a powerful and commanding presence at all times. He is funny in this movie while playing a really flamboyant and enigmatic boxing promoter; he is exactly what he should be in that role.

Of this large cast that includes many notable actors I think the best one playing a supporting role was Jamie Foxx.  He is another actor that is very charismatic and good in most of what he does.  He plays someone kind of stupid in this movie and pulls it off well.  As a big and lifelong fan of The Shield I also really enjoyed seeing Michael Jace in a movie. He played Julian Lowe on the show and I thought he showed great range as an actor throughout the series.  The rest of this cast is made up of other notable actors who do a great job.  Among them are Jeff Goldblum, Cheech Marin, John Rhys-Davies (Gimli from Lord of the Rings), Jon Lovitz, and Damon Wayans (the first one).

I am glad that at long last I have finally seen this movie and I really enjoyed it.  It was a fun and funny movie that didn’t let me down after I had waited so long to see it I had actually forgotten about it.  I am grateful that my co-worker lent it to me to see and I would recommend it to anybody looking for a fun boxing comedy to see.