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The Bottom Shelf #90

01.11.2007

I went to a live comedy show recently. The last comic was a Canadian, something I picked up on after listening to the way he pronounced "about" and "sorry." Being that it was a bizarre crowd, I decided to jump in on the opportunity to ask him about his origins, discovered he was indeed a Canuck and then demanded that he say "tomorrow" for me as well. After telling him that he said it wrong, he asked me, "Why? How are Canadians supposed to say 'tomorrow'? 'Yesterday'?" Seeing as how this story in no way relates to the selections for this week, I think I'll stop there.

2 DAYS IN THE VALLEY (1996)
Directed by: John Herzfeld
Starring: Danny Aiello, James Spader

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Movies containing ensemble casts can be dangerous adventures. Some actors are going to be of a greater caliber than others and run away with the flick. Other pieces of cinema will contain a relatively unknown who steals the picture away from a cast full of bloated egomaniacs. Most are just deplorable excuses to spend too much money on a caterer in the hopes of drawing in an audience based on the supposed star power of certain well known names. (OCEAN'S THIRTEEN, anyone? And no... I don't need to actually see it to know that it's not going to be worth throwing money away on.)

2 DAYS IN THE VALLEY is an interesting venture into ensemble cast territory. The majority of the cast is filled with well known character actors, men and women who have made their careers traipsing along beside bigger names, stealing the show from under them. But what happens when you have a cast full of well known "what-was-his/her-name-again?"s? You get a strange little piece containing murder, love, comedy and suicidal desires. Oh, and the first shots of a young and naked Theron. Thank Awesome for statuesque blondes in metallic catsuits, I always say.

You might be asking yourself what the point of the movie is. Nothing in particular, really. This isn't some expose trying to unmask the brutal tendencies of a city drenched in unnecessary wealth. Nor is it one that heralds the underdog winning and the big, bad "man" seeing his demise. It's somewhat of a character study wrapped up in action and sealed tightly with a few dark laughs. If I could have handed it more focus, the magic of its irregularity would have faded away. The charm lies in its inability to pick a concrete direction and stick with it. I suppose that could be why I like it so much; I relate to it.

Favorite Scene:

Hands down the catfight between Charlize Theron and Teri Hatcher, although I wish that a little more of Hatcher's blood could have been spilt.

Favorite Line:

"It's been my experience, more often than not, that a loser has more honor than a winner."

Trivia Tidbit:

This was the first credited role for Theron and boy does she make the most of it.

See if you liked:

U TURN, JACKIE BROWN, FARGO

TOY SOLDIERS (1991)
Directed by: Daniel Petrie Jr
Starring: Sean Astin, Louis Gossett Jr

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

If I were to choose a picture to put in the dictionary next to the term "underrated" it would be one of Sean Astin. Overlooked for most of his career first for being just another spawn of famous acting parents and later overlooked for not fitting into a leading man mold (he's short, he's stocky and let's face it - that Hobbit role was fitting as far as his aging facial features are concerned). People are fond of Astin for mainly three roles, Mikey, Rudy and Sam. Trouble is that Astin has worked throughout his lifetime creating interesting and noteworthy characters. Even with homo-erotic teen action tales like TOY SOLDIERS, you can always relate to the guy.

The plot revolves around a group of students at a private prep school, the majority of which are entitled youths from wealthy or noteworthy families. When a Columbian drug lord's son takes the school hostage to attempt to negotiate his father's release from an American prison (Ah, the good old days! When the brown skinned terrorists were from South America!) the students plot to get out of harm's way. Lead by Astin's Billy Tepper, your typical rich kid with discipline/authority issues, the teens manage to pull off what the military and the FBI can't seem to manage.

The sheer fact that Louis Gossett Jr is the school's dean is enough to make me smile. Every hotshot white kid needs a supportive black man in his corner, and Gossett never fails to fill that role with the dignity that most actors couldn't accomplish. The film never panders to the teenagers, although it does follow the cliches of having the token black and token Hispanic students (along with a constipated-looking Wil Wheaton playing the mobster's kid) as well as feature scores of shots where the young men are wearing not more than t-shirts and tighty whiteys. Considering that this is quite possibly the best that Sean Astin has looked in his lifespan, I'll take it. TOY SOLDIERS is frivolous, meaningless and a little silly. But it's also damn entertaining.

Favorite Scene:

I'll admit it... I still got a sick little thrill over seeing Astin's rear assets as he's tearing off his pants to hurry and get to head count.

Favorite Line:

"Now this object I'm holding here is call... well some of you may have seen one before, it's called a book. You may have seen one on television."

Trivia Tidbit:

Of the 5 lead "teen" actors, not one of them was still high school aged at the time that the movie was filmed and released.

See if you liked:

HACKERS, RED DAWN, IRON EAGLE

Sometimes in life, you've just got to taunt a Canadian. Even if they claim they've been living in the States for years. I think there's a law about it somewhere. And if there isn't, there certainly should be. JoBlo note: But I'm Canadian!! (sniff, sniff!)

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