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The Bottom Shelf #149

02.28.2008

These movies remind me of good times back in my past. Not like the other bad memories. Of bad haircuts and stupid wardrobe choices... aw, crap. Never mind. But these movies are still worth watching.

KRUSH GROOVE (1985)
Directed by: Michael Schultz
Starring: Blair Underwood, Rick Rubin

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

I am a certifiable member of that obnoxiously labeled X Generation. I was a kid when MTV first made its debut and didn't even stay on air for 24 hours a day. I can make that now overly used comment that I recall the days when MTV still played music instead of being the mecca for the trashiest of trashy reality shows. I'm also a California girl who had heard enough of the music that was being produced out here to find it to be passe and became entranced with the rap and R&B music of the '80's emanating from the East Coast. It started with Run DMC, grew with The Beastie Boys, blossomed with New Edition and just plain made me happy when throwing on a Fat Boys tape. That Human Beat Box "Uh-uh-uh-uh" noise could keep me in stitches for hours. So, quite simply, I f*cking LOVE this movie.

Nothing more than a glorified extended music video for the artists who were generally being ignored by the execs at MTV, dismissed because they were considered to be too urban to be understood or profitable with the demographic soaking in the programming, KRUSH GROOVE doesn't have a great deal of story behind it. A fictionalized account of what it was like for Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin to start up Def Jam Records, oddly the film casts Rick the fictional role of his non-fictional prominence (perhaps because he comes off as so intensely charismatic, odd for a man who seems anti-social in recent years) but has Blair Underwood playing the Russell Simmons role. Although if you add in Simmons' ego and his lack of attractiveness and on-screen charm, it makes sense to have him cast himself as a good looking, jive talking, Sheila E. seducing ladies' man.

It's been more than 20 years since the film was released and watching it again brought me right back to being a kid during the holidays at Xmas time at my grandmother's house, when she was the only person who had the cable package which included MTV and my older cousin Paul and I would fight over watching the station and not whichever sports game was on. Clustered closely together on the floor, soaking in the songs, singing along and trying to convince our parents that fighting for our right to party wasn't as bad as it sounded. It would be years before the station caught on enough to create "Yo! MTV Raps!" and embrace the changes that were built on the shoulders of Rubin and Simmons. It is humbling to watch the film and remember how young, how eager, how hungry these now fat with fame or infamy stars have become. It is also just a pure delight to see that a movie could be made about a time when performers were musicians first and just happened to know how to put on a good show. No lip-synching, no pantomiming, no canned smiles. Just talent, substance and goofy threads that we once thought looked fly. Heh... back when saying "fly" was still trendy.

Favorite Scene:

Oh, so very hard to choose. But seeing Rick Rubin attempt to dress up when going into a bank for a loan and having his financial books be on spiral bound notebook paper is a pretty damn good one.

Favorite Line:

"$3.99 for all you can eat?
Well, I'm a stuff my face to a funky beat!"

Trivia Tidbit:

In DOGMA, Bartleby (Ben Affleck) mocks Loki (Matt Damon) by reminding him of a $10 bet Loki made when he said KRUSH GROOVE would be a bigger movie than E.T.

See if you liked:

BREAKIN', CAR WASH, DISORDERLIES

FREAKED (1993)
Directed by: Alex Winter, Tom Stern
Starring: Alex Winter, Randy Quaid

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

My kid recently pointed something out to me that I was unaware of. Apparently, Bill S. Preston, Esquire has been directing stuff targeted at the youth market. It's some movie about a kid who's animated for a portion of the flick and live-action for the rest. It all made me remember FREAKED, a movie co-directed and written by Winter using special effects that most kids would consider laughable, having never grown up on anything other than CGI. After becoming a big BILL & TED freak (har har), I went out in search of this film when it was released back in the day, much to the grimacing dismay of my local video store clerk who took one look at the box and said, "Groooosssss." Which, of course, made me want to watch it even more. And now that I know that Winter is up in the youth market again, I subjected my kid to watching it with me 15 years later.

The story revolves around a popular child turned young adult actor named Ricky Coogan (a nod in the direction of famous child actor Jackie Coogan who was the namesake for "Coogan's Law" which protected child actors from having their parents steal all of their earnings) who makes the decision to be the celebrity spokesperson for a shady company called EES (Everything Except Shoes) and peddle their new toxic chemical to patrons in South America. When arriving in the city of San Flan, Coogan and his buddy Ernie (Michael Stoyanov, that annoying older "druggie" brother from the show "Blossom") the two are met by protesters, one of which is Megan Ward whom Coogan decides to fall head over high-waisted '90's denim for. On a ride out into the jungle the trio stumbles onto a freak show and with some toxic waste and a demented P.T. Barnum-esque Randy Quaid pulling some strings, they are transformed into a part of the freak show rather than being able to watch it.

The movie is taglined as being "A Thinking Man's Stupid Comedy," and really... it is. It's a smart film with a great deal of inside jokes which go largely missed when tossed together with gross-out, dumbed down effects. From the nod in the direction of stop-motion guru Ray Harryhausen (Yeah, because a lot of people would notice the Cyclops in the first freak transformation and know that it was a tribute to Harryhausen) to the hysterical small moments where the hammer is shown being picked up at a craftsman store originally as a wrench (then later dressed up in a milkman's suit as well), a great deal of this movie is going to go over the heads of people who would typically like gross-out humor. In my opinion, it's most likely what killed Winter's career, even though he does have a few credits to his name after this flick (only a couple for acting, the others for directing). There's nothing like being too smart for your own good in Hollyweird.

Favorite Scene:

Watching the FBI come and save the day after reading about the freak story in the Weekly World News (a now recently defunct publishing - Bat Boy will be missed) and understanding that the idea was stolen and used in MEN IN BLACK to search WWN for tips on alien freaks.

Favorite Line:

"Do I seem like a weirdo?"
"Nope. You seem like a regular dumbshit old redneck to me."

Trivia Tidbit:

For those not sharp enough to catch on, yes, Ortiz the Dog Boy is played by Winter's B&TEA buddy Keanu Reeves. Winter agreed to pay Reeves a million dollars for the role which in the end was an uncredited (and incredibly brief) one.

See if you liked:

UHF, RUN RONNIE RUN, ORGAZMO

Keanu was hotter when he had more of a sense of humour. Well, mainly just hot because he was raised Canadian. Lucky man.

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