Sunday, December 28, 2014

The 1st Annual Mock Films Blog Decembextravaganza! Week Four: The Hebrew Hammer (2003) (R)

Director: Jonathan Kesselman
Starring: Adam Goldberg, Judy Greer, Andy Dick, Mario Van Peebles, Peter Coyote, Nora Dunn, Sean Whalen
Rate: R

On this our final week of the Decembextravaganza! I have chosen a holiday film that has personal meaning to me. When I was a young buck fresh out of film school, hungry for a chance to do anything in the field, I was hired on my second real movie gig as a an Art PA to build and dress sets. Given the script on the day I was hired, I couldn't believe the pitch told to me in the moments following me reading the title. The evil son of Santa Claus named Damien kills Santa in order to monopolize the holiday season by putting an end to Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. The only hope of saving the day is Mordechai Jefferson Carver aka The Hebrew Hammer, the hardest hitting heeb this side of the Tel Aviv (not my words) and his allies at The Jewish Justice League and The Kwanzaa Liberation Front. You dig!

Made as a spoof of the Blackspoitation films of the 70's, The Hebrew Hammer is basically the Jewish Shaft. Part man. Part street. 100% kosher. With offenisvely un-PC jokes aimed at everyone regardless of race, religion or creed, the film is nothing, if not fair, to everyone that it might offend. (and you may just be offended. You're an adult, suck it up!) But that aside, the concept of the film is a solid one. Only held back by it's low budget, but I can tell you from being there, we did the best with we could with what we had and it mostly worked... mostly.

Budget restraints aside, upon re-watching the movie, I noticed that it plays way more like an Adult Swim project than a studio motion picture. Which, in my opinion, shows that this flick has actually aged better over time, finding the audience that may not have been ready for the dry/oddball humor that has become more the norm in these hipster-ish times. With Adam Goldberg in the titular roll, Hammer is played with equal parts cool and neurotic, bringing a Woody Allen-ness to the character. Damien (played cartoonishly evil by Andy Dick) is over the top but at times quite funny. Judy Greer fits beautifully as the bad-ass love interest, Esther Bloomenbergensteinenthal. And most interesting to me was Mario Van Peebles playing Mohammed Ali Paula Abdul Rahim, the head of the Kwanzaa Liberation Front. Knowing that his dad Melvin (who reprises the role he made famous) started the Blacksploitation Movement with Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971), he seemed like a nice choice and Marvin's turn as a comedic actor was pretty solid for a first attempt.  

The Hebrew Hammer is not the greatest spoof film ever made, but in a genre that has been so over-saturated in the past few years, I think that for the most part it holds it's own. Am I bias since I worked on the picture? Sure. Maybe a little. But I will be fair in saying that it could have used a bit more polish in a few places. Comedy is hit or miss and to say it missed would do the film a disservice. The jokes that hit, hit hard. Will The Hebrew Hammer change the way you look at comedy? No. But all and all, the funny is there. Some of the bits, however, may go over the head of the average goyim. (that is a person of non-jewish decent. The More You Know!) But hey, maybe it's time we all learn something new about another culture anyways, right? (You own a smart phone. Use it!) 

Working on the film was both a wonderful experience and a huge pain in the ass, as is the case with every set one works on. But the end result is worth it if you're doing what you love. So, as the Decembextravaganza! draws to a close, I am proud to say that I had a small hand in creating one of the more unique entries in this celebration of holiday cinema. Give The Hebrew Hammer a watch and just groove with it, man. Or don't. Either way, Shabbat Shalom, Mother F@#$ers!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The 1st Annual Mock Films Blog Decembextravaganza! 2014 Week Three: I Am Santa Claus (2014) (UR)

Director: Tommy Avallone
Starring: Mick Foley, Russel Spice, Jim Stevenson, Santa Claus, Bob Gerardi
Rated: UR

I have to admit, when I decided to start the Decembextravaganza! I had a gap in the third week. Straining to find a unique offering in the endless archives of overdone Christmas films, I finally struck gold when I heard a special edition of the Hollywood Babble On Podcast where Kevin Smith interviews director Tommy Avallone and professional wrestler/Christmas enthusiast Mick Foley. What followed was a conversation that lifted me out of the holiday funk that I've carried for many years. I listened as three grown men discussed what it was like to visit Santa as a kid and the magic it instills both in ourselves but also, what it means to the men who keep that magic alive, real bearded Santas.

I Am Santa Claus (2014) takes a behind the sleigh look (mind the pun) at what it takes to become the embodiment of Christmas for wide eyed children every year. Not normally being one for documentaries, I went on nothing more than what had transpired during the interview. And I have to admit, this film is great. If there is an emotion to be felt you will feel it here. Following a one year period in the lives of five Santas as they go through the normal everyday ups and downs, I Am Santa Claus allows the viewer to grow attached to each of its greatly varied subjects on a very emotional level. Included in the festivities is Mick Foley, who decides to follow suit and walk in the big black boots himself.

There are moments of true realness, both joyous and harsh, that paints a portrait of these men each with a different brush. Director Tommy Avallone put a great deal of foresight towards his approach in capturing the essence of all of their situations, struggles, and family lives. At the same time, linking them through the common thread of how being Santa brings happiness to everyone, especially themselves.

The Santas stories run the gamut. The older Santa who depends on the money he earns playing St. Nick because he was laid off from his day job. A Santa who faced criticism of being a homosexual. A Christian Santa with an upbeat look at life. And Santa Claus, himself, a tattooed barbecue cook, who had his name legally changed to said monicker when he realized that being Santa makes him a better person all year long. Rounding out the bunch is Mick Foley, who becomes the perfect anchor point to the film. Being a newbie, he shows a perspective not found with the veteran Santas as he learns the ropes of being Claus. By the end of this one year journey, you see the commonality which links these completely different men once they don the red suit for the masses. That moment of levity puts a bow on this neat little package.

I Am Santa Claus has something for every emotion Christmas tends to evoke. Happiness, nostalgia, loneliness, togetherness, pain, love (feel free to add a few more words at your leisure). Not for younger kids (especially if they still believe in the Big Guy), it's got a few swears from ol' St. Nick and a bit of adult subject matter. Other than that, I cannot recommend this film enough. Being a Grinch during holidays past, it was refreshing to feel a bit of the magic that Christmas held for me in my younger days. I Am Santa Claus made me realize that I never lost the magic, I just had to be reminded that it's still there. So be good, for goodness sake, and watch I Am Santa Claus. You don't want to end up on his Naughty List.

Big night. Santa's gotta carb up!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mad Max: Fury Road- Official Trailer (2015) (NR)

Toecutter, Lord Humongous. Aunty Entity. Master Baster. Now, Immortan Joe and Rictus Erectus. Mad Max villains get the best names. Watch the trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and your vote for favorite Mad Max Villain.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The 1st Annual Mock Films Blog Decembextravaganza! 2014 Week Two: Black Christmas (1974) (R)

Director: Bob Clark
Starring: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Marian Waldman, Andrea Martin
Rated: R

Happy Holidays and good tidings to you and yours. Now that we have the pleasantries out of the way, let me introduce the second film from The Mock Films Blog 1st Annual Decembextravaganza!/Throwback Thursday. This weeks entry is something special. For starters it is directed by none other than the genius behind one of the most beloved Christmas classics in the history of Christmas classics, A Christmas Story (1983). Yes, the man himself, Mr. Bob Clark. I bet you're thinking to yourself, "Self, I bet the movie this week is going to be a sweet, fun filled romp that will transport me back to when Christmas was chock full of magic and wonder." Well, you'd be wrong. Instead, The Mock Films Blog is proud to present the one, the only (unless you include the lack luster remake from 2006) Black Christmas (1974).

Why, you may ask, did I choose a horror film for this joyous holiday season? Well, honestly, if we can call Die Hard (1988) a Christmas movie then we can do the same for this one. (Merry Christmas. On with the blog.) The film revolves around a group of happy-go-drinky sorority sisters getting ready for Christmas break. Little do the naive ladies know, someone other than Santa will be paying them a visit this year.

What makes this film so great is that it's as funny as it is scary. Clark puts his signature subtle humor that we saw in A Christmas Story and applies it to this much earlier work. Margot Kidder as the loose cannon is really amusing, along with the booze hound house mother played by Marian Waldman. But for all of its goofiness, the scares are just as strong. From the creepy POV of the killer wandering through the house unnoticed, the disturbingly graphic prank calls made to the sisters, to the solid gore effects,this is a nasty little jump scare flick. Although, it might be a rough watch for those who are bummed out easily during the holidays (go watch A Christmas Story marathon. Bob Clark thought of you too).

And that's not even the scariest part.

I first saw this was just before the remake came out and I had an oddly fun time with it. Look past some of the more dated aspects such as clothes and dialog and just enjoy. Black Christmas is more than just a slasher film, it's also a movie about Christmas... well, it takes place during Christmas, so I'll allow it. Oh, and if you ever wanted to see Lois Lane give booze to a minor in a movie, you're in for a treat. So, when you're sick of the old classics and want to try something a bit messed up, but a lot of fun, give Black Christmas a spin in the old player.

You better watch out...

Sunday, December 7, 2014

I Know That Voice (2013) (PG-13)

Director: Lawrence Shapiro
Starring: John DiMaggio, Kevin Conroy, Jim Cummings, Tim Kenny, Billy West, Rob Paulson
Rate: PG-13

I hate to say it but I've never been one who watches documentaries. I mean, yes, I enjoy them, though I don't generally seek them out . In this politically heated world that we live in, to be honest, at then end of a long day I'm not in the mindset to watch one of the (what feels like a million) docs out there about how big business is slowly feeding me genetically modified corn syrup that will make me become a gluten mutant of some kind, or whatever the hot button topic of the week is. Don't get me wrong, there's a need for such films and they are important in educating the masses, but like I said, sometimes it's not what you need at the end of a rough day. Then, ever so often, you find a topic that screams 'watch me.' And I have found that documentary my friends.

Yes, that is Mr. Crabs
I Know That Voice (2013) takes a gander at a subject that many of us never give much credence to. No, it's not about how the auto industry is using the tears killer whales to power inefficient hybrids. This film takes a personal look at what it means to be an actor who is never actually seen on screen. I speak of the voice over artists who use their gift of gab to create and bring to life some of the most iconic characters in the world of entertainment. Produced by John DiMaggio (the alcohol fueled robot Bender from the popular series Futurama), this film feels like a labor of love and what unfolds is wonderful.

The movie explains the history of voice artists from the beginning of talkies until present day, peppering in a slew of interviews from some of the most popular talent out there. Weaving a tale of both the struggles and the love of the business, I Know That Voice keeps you interested from start to finish as the actors known for being silly animated characters, show you a side of the process which makes the viewer appreciate what was once looked at as child's fair. Throughout, you meet everyone from Sponge Bob to Roger Rabbit. And these are truly actors, damn fine ones at that.

If anything, the audience will marvel at who actually voices the beloved characters that they have grown up on and the skill that it takes to bring the subject to life. These are the unsung heroes of Hollywood. The men and women who are not front and center, but in many instances, the most important element of a project. Being a fan of the genre of animation, I would have to make this a huge recommend, if only to shine a light on the people who work tirelessly to bring some fun into our lives at the end of the day, who entertain our kids and helped shape our sense of humor as children. If you didn't know them before, you'll never forget them after this. Take time to appreciate the sweat which goes into the art that surounds you every day. You just might learn something.

Meet your childhood

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Terminator Genisys- Official Trailer (2015) (NR)

Terminator Genisys, huh. That's not a typo. This time around they're messing with timelines and proper spelling. Dunno about this one, kids. We've been hurt by this series before. 


(SPOILER ALERT: Arnold says, "I'll be back.")

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Babadook- Official Trailer (2014) (NR)

I kept hearing about this movie The Babadook and curiosity got the better of me. Watched the trailer. Freaked me out and a child builds a crossbow.  'Nuff said. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

The 1st Annual Decembextravaganza! 2014 Week One: Scrooged (1988) (PG-13)

Director: Richard Donner
Starring: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Forsythe, Bobcat Goldthwait, David Johansen, Carol Kane, Alfre Woodard
Rated: PG-13

Oh, do I have a treat for you during this, our final month of 2014 (better known as December). A time of year where people of all nations, religions, races, ect... get together near the warm glow of their flat screens and view the same old holiday films (mostly of the Christmas variety), wondering to themselves, "Is there an alternative to the monotony of watching the once beloved story of a boy and his Red Rider B.B. gun, now reduced to an avoidable Twenty-Four hour marathon?" And today, my friends, I bring you that alternative. Welcome to the 1st Annual Decembextravaganza!... (wait for applause to die down)

That's right, I scoured kinda far and sorta wide to find something other than the same old faire that is thrust upon us each year. And the movie to kick off the Decembextravaganza! (spellcheck loathes me), takes us back to the bygone era known as the late eighties. Scrooged (1988), directed by Richard Donner, takes a darkly funny poke at the classic Dicken's tale of the curmudgeonly miser Scrooge from A Christmas Carol. The hilarious as usual Bill Murray takes on the titular role who is updated to a cutthroat T.V. producer named Frank Cross. A selfish prick who will stop at nothing to make a profit. Unable to see the wicked path he has started down, Frank is visited by the ghost his mentor Lew Hayward (Forsythe), a philandering, dirtbag producer who taught Frank everything he knows (or knew). Seeing the error of his terrible decisions only after his death on a golf course, Lew tries to set Frank on the right path.

What follows is more than just your three ghosts of Christmas, oh no, this flick turns them specters up to eleven my friends. With the likes of David Johanson as a grimy cigar chewing New York cabby aka Ghost of Christmas Past and Carol Kane as the adorably abusive Ghost of Christmas Present, the direction the story moves towards is both familiar enough to evoke sentimentality as well as bring the viewer to a manic and darkly funny place. The new spins on the old favorites hit all of the marks and even for the time the film was released it doesn't feel dated. Although, turn on the closed captioning for the Carol Kane scenes, her dialogue goes by high pitched and fast. Funny, but poorly mixed.

You don't have the holiday spirit until Carol Kane beats it into you
Not for the younger kids, due to some scary moments, violence and language. But let's face it folks, what's a Christmas movie without all of those things. Am I right? So, spike up the egg nog and gather up the family for what is sure to be at least an awkward conversation with grandma after the film. Seriously, though, give Scrooged a watch this holiday season. I love this movie. I love Bill Murray. Heck, I even love Charles Dickens (that little dickens). 'Till next week, stay off the naughty list.

Santa has a very strict Naughty or Nice protocol