Street Dogs of South Central (film)

So, you think your life is pretty tough, huh?

“Street Dogs of South Central” is a feature documentary written, directed, and produced by Bill Marin. I happen to know Bill, and am familiar with some of his previous work, which gave me a biased perspective going into this viewing. The two projects I associate with Bill include his comedy “Police Squirrel”, which starred… well, a hand puppet police squirrel. And his other project was a limited release “documentary” featuring an old band mate of mine(Tim Fraser) running around Boston Common in a gorilla suit. The “ape project” basically involved Bill hiding behind some trees with a camera while Tim was pursued, surrounded, and subsequently detained by police on horseback in Boston Common. So, I was taken aback when I found out that ‘Street Dogs’ was narrated by Queen Latifah, distributed through Lionsgate, and took on such a raw and mature topic. While Street Dogs does have some playful and tender moments peppered throughout the film, for the most part, this is some emotionally hard shit to watch.

Elsie is one hardcore bitch.

Don’t take the previous statement to mean that I didn’t like the film. While it did seem to drag a bit in some spots, that may have been more due to the fact that I was struggling on four hours of sleep, and watched the movie while lying down in bed. Given those circumstances, a Gwar music video might have seemed a bit sluggish in pacing. Bottom line : it was well executed. Bill also picked a unique topic, and it proved to be a subject deserving of a real spotlight. Just because human suffering and violence runs rampant in South Central Los Angeles, it doesn’t mean that the plight of the 30,000 dogs who roam the streets in misery is therefore, an irrelevant issue. It’s just a different issue altogether – one that has so far eluded the attention of enough concerned citizens to make a difference. Hopefully, this film can change that.

Yeah, we got it Bill. We know it’s your movie.

We follow one particular group of dogs through the film, with Elsie(a black Labrador) as our central character. I thought this was a good idea. It really helped to convert hours of potentially similar footage into an engaging and compelling storyline. Not to mention it was all quite informative. I really did learn a lot about dog behavior, without feeling like I was in a classroom hearing someone regurgitate a list of facts from a text-book. Keep in mind, there is no dialogue in the film other than our royal Queen’s intermittent voiceovers. So, it’s a tall order to keep a movie flowing with no human faces ever talking on-screen. Even though the film comes in at a relatively short running time of 85 minutes, it still could have proved difficult hour and a half to fill, if it weren’t for the engaging story of Elsie and her extended family and friends.

Extras from the film : “Blindness”

There is one scene in particular where a dog(Jack maybe?) gets hit by a car and mangles his leg. It is absolutely brutal to watch. But, I think the footage served it’s purpose as a sobering reminder of the myriad of perils these dogs face on a daily basis. Would I watch this movie again? Probably not. It was super tough to see these innocent creatures endure a hazardous life, rife with pain and suffering. But, it was definitely worth watching once. Street Dogs delivers on it’s clear mission to be a didactic tool, which can hopefully serve as a catalyst for real change in the lives of these animals. As for how much good this movie can actually do – that seems to be up to Animal Planet and Lionsgate at this point in time. Let’s hope they sack up and give Street Dogs of South Central the wide release it deserves. Beyond just for the dogs’ sake, Bill is a talented guy who made a quality film, and I’d love to see him get proper recognition for his efforts. Not to mention, get him greenlit to make a new, bigger budget documentary. This time, the subjects will be street musicians of South Boston who don ape suits.

Overall Rating : 7.1/10

– JA

Men At Work (1990 film)

I’ve resorted to quantum mechanics to help explain why I find this movie funny.

At the risk of losing whatever miniscule credibility I might have as a critic, I submit a bold declaration for the world to swallow : I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Emilio Estevez tour de force that is “Men At Work”.  I know, I know. I know. How could this be possible?? The truth is, I have no idea. This is precisely what motivated me to review this film. I’d like to understand why the movie is so humorous to me, and almost nobody else. However, this may prove to be a dangerous question for me to posit. My quest for answers may lead me to peel back disturbing layers of my inner-conscience, I’ll wish I’d never uncovered. Or, upon careful examination of the film, I might come to realize that this movie is, in reality, absolutely terrible. And the only truth revealed, is that I have a disappointingly unsophisticated sense of humor. Hmmm, now I’m not sure what option I should be rooting for. Eh, fuck it. Let’s do this!!!

Most of my favorite comedies are ones where the source of the humor is obvious, and the films are generally embraced by the public. This film, on the other hand, has been widely panned. Not just by critics, but general audiences alike. I Googled to see if “Men At Work” has any kind of cult-following(outside of my friend Geoff and I). Since I’m pretty sure two people does not constitute a “cult following”, I would say the answer is a definitive “no”, it does not. Further, just about everyone involved with the production of this movie seems to want to distance themselves as much as possible from it. Even Emilio Estevez, who wrote, directed, and starred in the film, had some pointed remarks in reference to the select few of us who are actually fans of the film, saying : “I do have to question how many movies these people have seen”. Well Emilio, speaking as one of “these people”, the answer is :”enough to know that you should be more proud of this than fucking “D3 :The Mighty Ducks”. When co-star Charlie Sheen hosted SNL, he jokingly offered to give a guy who had seen the film his money back, explaining : “Like I said, I’m not proud of my past”. Wow. They are ashamed of by far the funniest thing either of them have ever done. Apparently, these guys are some kind of comedic savants. There is no consciousness of when they are good or not, they just kind of spit it out unknowingly, and at random.

So, the question still remains, what’s so appealing about this movie to me? I’m definitely not a big Charlie Sheen(Carl Taylor) fan. And I don’t have any strong opinion of Emilio(James St. James), although they are both pretty good in this movie. So, there must be other factors at work. The most tangible suggestion would be Keith David, who plays crazed Vietnam veteran Louis Fedders. Both Charlie and Keith did a different light-hearted rom-com together called “Platoon”, a few years before this. A lot of the military jokes, and even his character’s name are riffing off of this prior relationship. As a side note, I would have LOVED to watch Oliver Stone’s reaction as he viewed a screening of “Men At Work”, with no prep or warning to its content.

Anyway, Louis Fedders is the most amusing character in the film. Despite stealing the “someone threw away a perfectly good white boy” line from “Better Off Dead”(another favorite), Louis has an ass-ton of solid quotes that are chuckle-worthy. Most notably this scene :

The answer for why I enjoy that scene so much, lies in the fact that I can relate to it. That, and having “Pump Up The Jam” playing in the background. There have been many instances in the past where I’ve literally wanted to channel the spirit of Louis Fedders, and protect MY FRIES using the same hand grab/speech combo.

“Mind your business son.” “Ok. Thank you sir.”

Dean Cameron(of “Summer School” and “Ski School” fame) is also a bright spot in the film, with his role as the kidnapped “Pizza Man”. Usually, when your character doesn’t even have a name, you don’t contribute a whole lot to the film. Dean makes an exception here, peppering in some great sarcasm during his degeneration into full-blown Stockholm syndrome. Rounding out the foursome is Darrell Larson(who?), playing mostly a corpse ala “Weekend at Bernie’s”, for the duration of the film. Then there’s Frost and Luzinski, the garbage man co-workers of Carl and James, who get involved in an escalating prank war. A war

High brow humor

that culminates in an air bag filled with feces exploding on them in a locker room. Okay, maybe I’m not building a solid case for greatness here…

I reference this movie at least one time per week. Usually, I’m just talking to myself when it happens, and I feel some sense of embarrassment for even thinking of it. Well, that ends here and now. No more shame! I do not have a disability. I will give someone a golf clap whenever I want. And I will call someone a “stupid little man”, if that’s truly what they are. I know this movie is actually pretty ridiculous. But, at least it’s not just people swearing and partying for two hours, which seems to constitute a bona-fide “comedy hit” these days. It’s true this movie does rely on a series of preposterous mishaps and unrealistic characters, that in no way mirror reality, or make much sense. But, isn’t the absurd where comedy really thrives? I still don’t have a solid rationale for why this movie cracks me up. But, it just does and it always will.

Overall Rating : 8.2/10  and a…

– JA