Monday, August 31, 2009


Written by Hombre Divertido

In 1980 Robert Zemeckis co-wrote and directed a film starring Kurt Russell as a cheesy care salesman out to sell a bunch of cars in a short period of time to save a dealership. Used Cars was full of outrageous characters and cheap laughs that appealed to a teen audience, as is The Goods starring Jeremy Piven.

Piven plays fast-talking, gun-for-hire Don Ready, who may be one of the most enjoyable characters, albeit one–dimensional, to hit the screen since Ron Burgandy. Unfortunately, this review has already referenced a superior film on the same topic and a superior self-absorbed character, and we are not even out of the second paragraph.

Piven is surrounded by an outstanding, but completely wasted supporting cast including Ving Rhames, David Koechner, Ed Helms, Kathryn Hahn, Ken Jeong, Ron Riggle, Alan Thicke, James Brolin, and Charles Napier, just to name a few. Unfortunately this collection of outstanding comedic talent, all of whom have proven their ability to play solid characters in other endeavors, is given little to do, as writers Andy Stock and Rick Stempson provide muttled motivation and trite storytelling. Koechner is wasted as a car salesman with little to do throughout this tired 89 minutes other than to ward off the homosexual advances of dealership owner Ben Selleck (Brolin). Rhames is given even less to work with and stands around for the first 30 minutes of the movie. Napier gives the most enjoyable performance, simply because it is clear what his crusty old salesmen is about.

The story is overwritten and gets bogged down in ridiculous plot choices that make what should be a simple “good guys beat the bad guys” tale into a convoluted mess. Our talented cast is left standing around trying to sell the audience a product that just doesn’t get the mileage it should.

The Goods is not without laughs. The commercial produced to illicit sympathy and bring people to the dealership generates big laughs, as does a scene, that appears to be improvised, with Will Farrell (in an uncredited cameo) falling to his death, surrounded by sex devices.

Recommendation: This is a B-movie reminiscent of the late seventies and early eighties. There is one solid character backed by a well-intentioned performance by Piven, and some good laughs mostly based on foul language and raunchy themes. It’s fun for a while, but the script eventually falls flat, and all that talent can’t fix bad writing. Used Cars may not have the all-star cast, but it does have a far-superior plot. Wait for The Goods to hit DVD shelves and have a Saturday night double feature.


Written by Hombre Divertido

In Taking Woodstock Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee tries to give us roughly two hours of light-hearted antics in what is essentially a fish-out-of-water tale as hundreds of thousands of hippies descend on White Lakes New York in 1969 for a concert that would define a generation. Unfortunately the screenplay by James Schamus based on the book by Elliot Tiber only provides seventy-five minutes of interesting storytelling, and like a VW bug running out of gas, Taking Woodstock sputters and stalls.

Though Demitri Martin has limited emotional range as Elliot Teichberg, the young man who brings the powers that be behind Woodstock to his small town in hopes of boosting business for the locals, which include his parents and their rundown motel, Martin does manage to give the audience what it needs as a young man with genuine innocence who is smarter than those around him. In certain scenes Martin says nothing but manages to communicate much with looks worthy of Bob Newhart standing behind the front desk at the Stratford Inn.

As we watch young Elliot go through the challenges associated with such a monumentous undertaking, and dealing with a zoo full of eccentric characters, we certainly find him endearing and root for him to get over every roadblock, but the eventual lack of development of the supporting characters and story as a whole begins to test the patience of the audience.

The supporting cast does well with what they are given, and certainly creates some wonderful moments, but, as the movie gets sidetracked along with Elliot on his way to the concert, the audience finds itself longing for more of the characters we have come to appreciate, and seeing them experience the actual concert may have been a more entertaining choice.

Like Elliot, the audience never really gets to the concert, and the footage that we see of the general area surrounding the concert looks far too sparse and open compared to documentary footage seen over the years, and thus fails to generate the feeling of being in the crowd accomplished by other projects. Despite the disappointing footage of the concert area, the film does manage to put you back in the sixties with costuming, sets, props, and character portrayals. The soundtrack on the other hand falls a bit short considering the library of influential music available.

Recommendation: Watching Elliot come of age and begin to find himself, while surrounded by fun characters of that era, Taking Woodstock is certainly enjoyable, but the storytellers become conflicted as to which story to tell, and eventually fail on both fronts. It will make a pleasant DVD rental, but is not worthy of your summer-movie-going dollar.