American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987)

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Although “much better than the first one” is a legitimate thing to say about a movie, it’s not like if you’re the sort of person who’s going to willingly view a film called “American Ninja”, you’ll be too worried about sequel quality. But let’s discover what’s fun about this together!

Oh, hold on, it’s subtitled “The Confrontation”. That’s pretty much described every film ever made! Confrontation is the meat and drink of motion pictures, but I would like to see “American Ninja 5: The Friendship”. But luckily good ol’ Michael Dudikoff wants confrontation and we get to see more of his ninja skills.

Improvement reason 1: fighting
Despite some ropey fight scenes right at the beginning, and the fact the main villain doesn’t appear to have ever seen a sword before, they’re still better than the fight scenes from part 1, with room for improvement in parts 3 and 4 too!

Improvement reason 2: sidekick
Steve James is back as Joe’s sidekick Jackson, and it’s much more of an equal partnership now. Although you’d describe him as a cut-price Carl Weathers, his presence guarantees a good time (he was present in a lot of 80s action movies), and he’s a huge improvement on Dudikoff in the acting and charisma stakes. And I’m sad now, as I discovered when looking him up he’s been dead since 1993, when he was only 41.

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Improvement reason 3: stunts
Lots of jumping from rooftops, but most memorably of all, the ninja who gets dragged along behind our heroes’ car, taking some truly hellish looking knocks along the way. Hope he was alright!

Improvement reason 4: plot
Although the plot is, it must be said, quite similar (Joe discovers a plot involving military people to make money where they shouldn’t), it’s more fun. The location is better (a Caribbean island of some kind, plenty of neon coloured beach wear), the baddie is better (a guy who wants to create a genetically engineered race of super-ninjas) and it all just feels better put together.

Improvement reason 5: comedy
As well as Steve James being great at delivering his lines with a funny inflection, the actual comic relief character is a lot better this time. And with Dudikoff relaxing, a little, everyone around him can be more relaxed too.

There’s still plenty of that low-budget “huh?” factor though. As the camera pans across the super-ninjas, one of the extras clearly lied his way onto the set, because he can’t bend down or do any of the moves, and looks hilariously out of place. The bar described as “the hottest joint in town” without a trace of irony looks like an absolute hovel,. and the way that no matter where they go, they’ll just find a few ninja hanging out on a street corner never fails to make me laugh. The visual of Joe and Jackson fighting ninjas near the beginning is fantastic too, because Jackson is only wearing small red shorts and Joe a surfing outfit.

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So, although it’s still not terribly good, it’s a huge improvement over part 1, and wouldn’t be out of place in the rotation for your “cheesy but fun movie night”, should you and your friends have one.

Rating: thumbs in the middle

PS. There’s a very early variant on our favourite “haha all our friends are dead” and I’ll leave this photo and caption for you to enjoy:

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American Ninja (1985)

USA! USA! USA!

USA! USA! USA!

Michael Dudikoff is perhaps the most 80s of all the action stars. Despite a fairly steady career up to 2000 or so, the only films anyone remembers, at all, are the “American Ninja” series; although 1998’s “Freedom Strike”, co-starring – I can’t believe I’m typing this – Tone Loc, sounds pretty awesome too. Anyway, Dudikoff is probably feeling a little aggrieved he never got a call from the “Expendables” people, and after taking a decade away from acting he’s been making a mini-comeback over the last few years.

But that’s all a long way away to the world of 1985 and “American Ninja”. Dudikoff (how many times was he called “The Dude”, do you think? I’ll go with 10 million) is Private Joe Armstrong, a guy who was discovered unconscious on an island in the Pacific, with amnesia. He bounced around reform schools for a few years before being offered prison or the army, and he picked the army. Sent to the Philippines, he scowls his way round the base before a hijack attempt on a convoy he’s driving in forces him to use his super bad-ass martial arts skills to rescue the Colonel’s daughter.

This was made during, well, probably a few years after, the American fascination with all things martial arts and Oriental. Joe has to fight one of the other guys on the base, Jackson, because he’s a loose cannon who gets people killed, and he does this by not throwing a punch, just using Jackson’s weight against him in a nice basic kung-fu display. The weird reverence the rest of the guys then have for him is way over the top for what he can actually do, but he’s a pretty good fighter all the same.

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If you want something which is thick with good old 80s action cheesiness, then this is the film for you. There’s a plan to steal some stuff from the base which Joe discovers, but who else is in on it? Who can he trust? Why don’t people trust him when, wherever he goes, he kills a few evil ninjas? Was there a reason other than “we need some stuff to crash through” why they had all those fruit stalls on the dock? And how awesome was the scene where the private ninja army was training?

Given that Dudikoff had been acting for a long time before this movie, one would have expected him to be better at it. He stays silent (even when speaking would benefit him) for great periods of the film, and when he does speak he’s got quite a light high-ish-pitched speaking voice, which doesn’t go with his character at all. I mean, it’s not like the rest of the cast is RSC material or anything, but he stands out as weirdly bad. I discover that, far from being a martial artist who converted to acting, he’s a model who converted to acting, his pout at the beginning sort of bearing this out, and then took up martial arts later.

If you think about the ninjas in this film for a second, it gets a bit odd. They wear black to go unseen at night, but if you’re in the jungle in daylight then wearing black is a terrible idea. It’s not a uniform! Chief bad guy ninja has a laser, which is a fantastic weapon but not traditionally part of the ninja’s arsenal; oh, and the explanation for how Joe gets his ninja skills when it’s forbidden on pain of death to teach them to a Westerner is so obvious they might as well have hung a sign round the guy’s neck. There’s a whole thing about ninja magic, and light / dark side nonsense too.

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Alright, it’s not very good. Dudikoff looks way out of his depth, the plot is cheesy, the bad guy’s accent is so bad as to almost be a deliberate joke, and the fights scenes aren’t anything to write home about. But…even though this is a thumbs down movie, if you’re in the right frame of mind you might enjoy this. Cannon Films, run by Golan and Globus, specialised in this thing and it all runs smoothly and fairly quickly. Wow, that sounds like damning with faint praise, eh? Picture that DVD cover – “Runs smoothly and fairly quickly” – Mark, ISCFC.

Rating: thumbs down

House (1977)

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“House” may be one of the most inventive horrors ever made. I’ve said this about other films, but this is genuinely unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, with everything about it, from performances to style to special effects, being weird and unique.

A girl called either Angel or Gorgeous, depending on which DVD you watch (I’ll go with Angel) has six best friends at school – Prof, Kung Fu, Mac, Sweetie, Fantasy, and Melody, all of whom have a defining characteristic that usually ties in with their name. They’re due to go on a school trip but it gets cancelled, so they decide to visit Angel’s auntie, who she’s not seen in a decade, at her big old house in the middle of nowhere. Angel is having problems with her Dad wanting to remarry, so her future stepmother decides to go and visit the girls at the house, as does their teacher.

On that basic plot is built one of the strangest movies you will ever see. The house, as you may have guessed from the title and cover image, is actually a demon that wants to eat virginal girls, and Auntie is…well, in on it? Part of the house? And what the hell is that cat up to?

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Every single editing trick and special effects style you could possibly imagine is used. Director Nobuhiko Obayashi, whose background is in experimental cinema, throws absolutely everything at the screen in this, his mainstream debut. The super-saturation of colour, the effects that were literally painted on to the celluloid, the huge air of unreality that hangs over everything, Auntie’s winking at the camera being both funny and unsettling…my favourite moment was when a character from the next scene leans into the shot and frightens the girls before cutting to him, serving noodles hundreds of miles away. Words like psychedelic and surreal don’t really do this film justice.

Obayashi had a hand in the screenplay’s creation too, and many of the most striking scenes were inspired by his daughter and the sort of things she said were scary, images from her nightmares, and so on. So, decades before “Axe Cop” made having a script written by an infant news, Japanese experimental horror directors were doing it. “House” captures that nightmare logic better than any film I think I’ve ever seen, and that’s just one of the strings to its bow.

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The cast, apart from Kimiko Ikegami (Angel, beautiful and ethereal), was largely non-professional, and although they’re all fine, there’s that naturalistic air that bleeds through from time to time. In what’s a fairly strange tie in, the famous Toho Studios also produced a radio play from the same source material, which would be fascinating (if I understood Japanese). The success of that radio play led to the film being made, too.

There’s a lot of discussion as to what the film’s really about. I think it’s a classic Japanese ghost story mixed with post-WW2 anxieties (Auntie’s fiancee, a soldier who died in one of the atomic bomb strikes, is a major plot driver), but this is used to tell a story about what growing up feels like, with its incredibly bright highs and horrific lows.

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I seriously cannot recommend this film highly enough. It’s a genuine modern classic, a completely out-of-nowhere gem where an avant-garde director, a non-professional cast, deliberately childlike special effects and a script inspired by nightmares came together to produce something unique and fascinating. And surprisingly funny!

Rating: thumbs up

National Lampoon Presents: Surf Party (2013)

Their photoshop guy was off sick that day

Their photoshop guy was off sick that day

I feel like I’m in some sort of Emperor’s New Clothes situation with this movie, where it screams comedy from the cover and promotional material, but it’s just not funny at all. Am I actually in a conformity experiment? If I say “well, it was pretty funny” will a buzzer sound and footage of me be used in a TV show?

For those of you who see “National Lampoon” attached to the front of a film but have never bothered to find out about it, it was a satirical magazine that ran from 1970 to 1998. Genuinely boundary-pushing at its best, it started many great careers and its stage / radio spinoffs featured most of the original “Saturday Night Live” cast. But the films it put its name to is where it probably found the most fame – from “Animal House” to the “Vacation” series.

At some point, a little before the magazine shut up shop for good, the name was sold and then became a thing you could licence for a one-off fee, because those early films were such big hits the effects can still be felt today. This explains the sheer volume of National Lampoon movies – check out these titles and see what past 1995’s “Senior Trip” (which I quite liked) fills you with anything but dread.

All this goes to explain what a thoroughly bizarre experience “Surf Party” was. Past the first five minutes, there’s no surfing and no parties; and not only is not funny, at all, but there aren’t even bits where jokes are supposed to be. It’s a fairly low-key coming-of-age drama, with a couple of OTT performances bolted on, and has the biggest bummer of an ending.

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Yet more not-talking-about-the-film: this is, I discover, a repackaged version of “Endless Bummer”, which was released in 2009. To whoever decided to do this: this is why people pirate movies. Because you, the people who make these films, are awful money-grubbing assholes who deserve to be left destitute for trying to basically defraud movie fans.

The plot? A kid is paying for a surfboard in installments from master board-maker Mooney, and then the first day he takes it out, he loses it on a big wave and then it gets stolen; clearly, he’s been mentioning this board to everyone he meets, because everyone, no matter how tangentially related, asks him “hey man, where’s your board?” So, he and his two friends, Lardo (who’s not fat at all, which might be a joke) and Sparky go to get it back, which they do with relatively little incident, then on the way back the board falls out of the back of their car and is crushed by another car which seems to swerve deliberately to break it. The end.

Top-billed, but clearly just hired for a day to elevate this “film”, are people like Matthew Lillard, Joan Jett, Jane Leeves, Vanessa Angel and Lee Ving. But the performance that clued me in to the non-2013 filming was Allison Scagliotti, from TV show “Warehouse 13”. She’s only 24 now, and looks a great deal younger in this; also, it’s just weird seeing the punky hipster girl from TV as a bikini-clad hottie. She’s very obviously a great deal older in 2013’s “Chastity Bites”, which we loved.

I think this film would have been far better served by dropping the National Lampoon title and selling itself as a little indie comedy-drama about growing up in the mid-80s. It’s the expectation of comedy that’s so jarring; as an example, Sparky is the wild-card best friend, but his wildness is played as a fairly severe mental illness and not normal adolescent over-excitement. Then there’s the ending. Oh my god! As star JD carries his broken board to the beach to throw it into the ocean, we get the 30 years later voiceover which has bored us throughout the film telling us what happened to the characters. Most of them have happy family lives, although why the film feels the need to tell us this in such excruciating detail is never really mentioned. But in the middle of these happy tales, we find out Sparky died a short time after the film was set. What the hell is wrong with these people?

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I’d genuinely like to ask the people who made this what they were going for. Did someone with the rights to the National Lampoon name buy an unreleased surfing movie, sight unseen, to exploit for a few dollars? Was this three-quarters made as a completely different sort of film, then stopped due to lack of funds, and bought up by someone who whacked an awful voiceover on it and just shoved it out into the world? Or did someone genuinely think that “From National Lampoon, the masters of raunchy comedy, comes a summer tale of beers, babes, and bros!” was a realistic way to describe this?

I’ve just got no idea. Even ignoring the lack of jokes or funny situations in this comedy, it’s really not that good a film. The stakes are so low as to be virtually nonexistent and aside from Scagliotti it’s populated by nasty stupid caricatures. Avoid both versions of this at all costs.

Rating: thumbs down

Youtube Film Club – The Resurrected (1991)

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Considering the incredible pedigree of the people involved – directed by Dan O’Bannon, who wrote “Dark Star” and “Alien” and directed “Return of the Living Dead”; starring Chris Sarandon, from “Fright Night”; it’s a bit of a surprise how this film managed to go under the radar. It’s also based on one of Lovecraft’s best stories, “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” so…no, I got nothing. It’s clearly the film’s fault I’d never heard of it before yesterday.

A guy called Charles Dexter Ward has become obsessed with a long-dead necromancer called Curwen who bore a striking resemblance to him, and has abandoned his old life in order to continue Curwen’s experiments. Mrs Ward is distressed by this, so she goes to visit a private investigator, John March (John Terry, aka Hawk the Slayer) and asks him to track her husband down and find out exactly what he’s up to. This gradually reveals how far down the rabbit hole Ward has gone, but it’s when he suddenly develops rotten teeth and a rather bizarre old-fashioned way of talking that things really get strange.

Although this film is very definitely of its era (the PI’s office is bright and ugly) it manages to capture the spirit of Lovecraft remarkably well. Sarandon is fantastic as Ward, that archetypal quester for dark truth, And Jane Sibbett (from “Friends”) is also great as his wife Claire. There’s lots of touches, like the blackboard with maths and occult symbols side by side, and the repeated use of “Saturn Devouring His Son” by Goya, which indicate the people behind this film spent a lot of time on it. Even though the original story is about a doctor investigating Ward, the change to a PI makes sense and the atmosphere is excellent. And the effects! Some of Ward’s failed experiments are incredibly grotesque and look fantastic, right out of a really horrible nightmare.

This scene needs more blood, I think

This scene needs more blood, I think

But, there’s weirdness to it, and to setting the story in the modern day. Ward transports the bones of other dead necromancers to his home in order to perform experiments to create resurrection powder. But, I just get the feeling it would be fairly difficult to both find, steal and transport those bones to the US, and would take a bit more than the < 6 months the film tells us. At one point, the PI just breaks into Claire’s home because he’s had an idea where some old document is hidden – hey mate, you know they have phones, right? Or you could wait til the morning and ask?

O’Bannon was never really a director – aside from a student short, this and “Return…” are his only films, and this shows in the lack of connective tissue to too many scenes. Ward is arrested a little over halfway through the film and locked up in an asylum, but there’s no real indication why the police would suddenly decide to raid his house in such force. Most strangely of all, when the PI visits Ward in the asylum to trigger the film’s climactic battle, he’s able to just stroll into his padded room and be left there unsupervised while carrying a suitcase full of human bones. Really? Also, the PI continues on the case long past the point where the wife would have said “you know what, my husband’s been found and he’s stopped his experiments, bill please”.

Talking of O’Bannon, apparently, he and writer Brent Friedman (now a TV writer, and responsible for ISCFC favourite “American Cyborg: Steel Warrior”) had separately been developing this story for years, and combined their efforts for this. Although O’Bannon isn’t credited as a writer, a lot of his ideas made it into the finished film.

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I really wanted to like this film. It has a great atmosphere, a strong cast, one of the all-time great Hollywood iconoclasts as director…but it just didn’t quite work. You can see O’Bannon knows his horror, just think of all the classic horror trappings – dark / stormy / foggy nights, an asylum, old books full of mysterious diagrams, grotesque paintings, dark cellars and tunnels, torches that keep going out, family secrets, oh and exploded human bodies – but…although it’s only 100 minutes long, it feels a lot longer, and like so many of the Lovecraft-based films we’ve seen so far, it would have benefited enormously from being a TV special, like an hour-long episode of “HP Lovecraft Presents…” (which is fantastic idea, actually, I ought to try and sell it to a TV company).

I’d definitely recommend watching it, though. Available in HD, for free, on Youtube, and if you’ve got a passing interest in Lovecraft or O’Bannon you’ll get a lot from this film.

Rating: thumbs in the middle

PS. While seeing what other reviewers thought (and to see if I missed anything big), I happened upon Video Junkie’s review, and we seem to have had very similar ideas about the “horror trappings” bit, although his flows better than mine. Anyway, please visit his site and read some of his stuff, because it’s great.

Housebound (2014)

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Directed by: Gerard Johnstone

When I was younger ‘Neighbours’ was my soap opera of choice. Mainly because it coincided with my arrival home from school, winding down after double Maths and Food Technology with a cuppa and a few party rings. Aside from Kylie and Jason few actresses and actors had successfully escaped Erinsborough until probably the last five years. You had the ‘lifers’ like Lou Carpenter and Karl & Susan who would serve decades in soap land purgatory; and characters like Paul Robinson and Harold Bishop, who would escape Ramsey Street or even get killed off and yet somehow find a way to return.

When an actor or actress moved on to pastures from ‘Neighbours’ new they either found themselves as average at best pop stars and one hit wonders (Delta Goodrem or Natalie Imbruglia) or they moved on to appearing on second tier UK soaps like ‘Emmerdale’ (Anne Charleston aka Madge Bishop) or Sky One’s ridiculous Football Soap / Drama ‘Dream Team’ (Stefan Dennis aka Paul Robinson).

In recent year’s Australian soap stars, and arguably Australian actors in general, have blossomed in Hollywood, Margot Robbie is the most obvious example, here is an actress who has from drinking milkshake at Lassiters to sipping cocktails with DiCaprio. Perhaps more acting talent will follow Robbie over to the States; on the evidence of ‘Housebound’ perhaps the next actress from ‘Neighbours’ to make it to the big screen might well be Morgana O’Reilly.

‘Housebound’ is a darkly comic New Zealand based horror. O’Reilly plays Kylie, a troublesome twenty-something, who after an attempted raid on a cash machine is hit hard by the sledgehammer of New Zealand law and justice. Kate is fitted with an electronic tag and placed under house arrest. She is forced to live back home with her motor mouthed Mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata), and Miriam’s long suffering partner.

The family home carries some dark secrets within its walls. At night Kylie hears noises and after overhearing her Mother call in to a talk radio station she is reminded that the house is haunted. The director gives us few clues as to what lurks within the house, but at first it seems like a malevolent spirit lurks in the residence. The clever build to the big reveal is innovatively presented and keeps us guessing.

In essence, the story in ‘Housebound’ is held together by Kylie and Miriam’s fractured Mother daughter relationship. Kylie lazes around the house drinking beer and eating all the food. Miriam’s patience is tested to the point when she is unable to sit down and watch her beloved ‘Coronation Street’. There are numerous exchanges between Kylie and Miriam which are adorably hilarious, and the tension carries that deep down they both care about each other, only they’re equally afraid to say it. Kylie regresses to sulky teen mode, and Miriam tries to avoid biting her tongue in half. In the end they fight for their lives and come together at the right time, as Kylie needs someone who believes that she is telling the truth, and that person turns out to be her Mother.

Though perhaps a tad overlong (not fitting in with my own personal criteria that a horror should never go beyond a ninety minute running time) ‘Housebound’ is an original story which provides enough twists, turns and near misses to keep us hooked for a surprisingly gory finale. This is certainly a horror film worth checking out.

– RJW

7/10

Housebound on IMDB

Youtube Film Club – Sorceress (1982)

Weirdly, all this stuff is in the film

Weirdly, all this stuff is in the film

Misleading title alert! While “Sorceress” is a cool enough title for a film, there are no sorceresses in it. There’s a bloke who does magic, and two barbarian heroines, but that’s your lot.

Jim Wynorski is both a hero and a villain for us at the ISCFC. Hero because he made a heck of a lot of entertaining low-budget monster movies; and villain because those entertaining movies stopped around the turn of the millennium and turned into dreck, plus his attitude to women might reasonably be said to be somewhat behind the times – watch “Popatopolis” if you’d like any further evidence. He got his start thanks to the great Roger Corman, this is his first credit of any sort and although he only wrote it, the template for his later career is there.

 
There’s a whole heap of fantasy names at the beginning, so I’ll put them all up here, and you can refer back to this paragraph if you get lost. A guy called Krona is a sort of good wizard; someone called Kalgara is an evil deity; a fellow called Tragon, who looks awfully similar to serial killer Peter “The Yorkshire Ripper” Sutcliffe, is a bad wizard; and there’s a couple of twin babies called Mara and Mira. Tragon wants to sacrifice one of the babies, who he fathered, in order to…definitely something to do with Kalgara.

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After being sure to let everyone know that girl babies are literally the most pointless thing in the world, Tragon gets killed (but he has three lives, because of course) and Krona rescues the children. But not for long! Because he’s got important stuff to go and do, he just gives the babies power to be the most awesome warriors ever – the power of “The Two Who Are One” – and packs them off to his old friend Dorgon to be their foster-dad. The film really kicks off 20 years later, when they’ve grown up into Playboy Playmates Leigh and Lynette Harris, and when their village is raided by the troops of the freshly resurrected Tragon.

I don’t just want to recap the film for you all, but this scene has a lot of oddness about it, so allow me to linger. The troops slaughter all the villagers, but Mara and Mira are saved thanks to their bad-ass fighting powers, plus a very late assist from barbarian Valdar and his satyr sidekick, who had previously been ogling the ladies as they swam naked. Even later is Krona, who turns up after everyone is dead. Thanks for that lifetime of protection you promised them! Tragon is all hot and bothered about “The Two Who Are One” as well, despite all that stuff happening after he died the first time. Unless it just means they’re twins?

Anyway, they swing by the nearest town to pick up Valdar’s friend Erlick, who’s the main romantic lead in the movie – despite being of normal height, Valdar is the spitting image of every fantasy dwarf you’ve ever seen – and then set off for Tragon’s castle. They make half an effort to pretend the twins are boys, but the wardrobe department puts them in skirts and makes sure we can all see their huge breasts, which may have given the game away.

There’s twists and turns aplenty on their way to the castle. The two girls have been brought up totally innocently, so don’t know about the difference between men and women; there’s the jolliest group of sacrificial virgins you’ve ever seen; and…well, another scene I need to describe in a little more detail. One of the twins and Erlick are captured and brainwashed, and there’s a whole thing about how he needs to impregnate her for some sacrifice or other. But the twins are linked, so what one feels the other feels, and while we don’t get the love scene, we see the other twin writhing round on the floor in orgasmic bliss while a dwarf and a satyr look on. Valdar realises what’s going on, and seems incredibly proud of his friend’s sexual prowess – weirdly so, in fact.

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Add on to all this one of the strangest climactic battles I’ve seen in a long time and the battle of the two gods in mid-air, and you’ve got a recipe for huh? It’s a feast of terrible acting (half the cast are dubbed, and the extras seem like they’re working at gunpoint), crappy special effects and exactly the sort of film you’d expect to have two Playboy models starring in it. Oh, and topped off with a wonderfully sexist coda!

The director, Jack Hill, had his name taken off this film after feeling Corman treated him like garbage – refusing his one casting request and drastically cutting the special effects budget- and this was his last ever film. Still, Quentin Tarantino has helped bring his name out of purgatory in recent years and he’s still fondly remembered for his 70s blaxploitation films.

Despite all this, the film was a big hit, although watching it now I’ve got no idea why. It’s a right load of old rubbish, is what I’m saying. If you want a sword-and-sorcery film, heck, even if you want one with Jim Wynorski involvement, then Deathstalker 2 is the way to go. I’d only recommend this if you were some weird completist for every film starring a Playboy playmate.

Rating: thumbs down

That Guy…Who Was In That Thing (2012)

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Xander Berkeley. Zeljko Ivanek. Timothy Omundson. Bruce Davison. Wade Williams. If you know any of these names, then you’re virtually guaranteed to have a great time with this documentary – and even if you don’t, you will have 16 different shocks of recognition as those guys and the rest of the cast tell you exactly what it’s like to be a working character actor in Hollywood.

“That Guy” is a phenomenon in many homes, where you sit and watch a show or a movie and the best friend, or that week’s villain, or the lawyer, is played by one of those guys you’ve seen in a ton of other things…only you don’t remember his name, and thus this film’s title.

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It’s broken down, roughly, into several sections – so you’ll get them talking about how they get recognised on the street (often with a faintly puzzled air); their families (most come from non-acting backgrounds); about how much they hate auditions and that whole process; then onto the actual process of making a show; what to do with all the downtime you have; how you deal with your friends having success; the worst jobs you’ve ever had; the financial insecurity of being a character actor; and, weirdly, how nearly all of them have been in “Star Trek”, often on multiple occasions.

They’re all pretty smart, so you’ll get a lot of interesting thoughts from people who’ve been inside the belly of the beast. Omundson, on studying something else to fall back on: “If I have something to fall back on, I’ll fall back on it”, plus Wade Williams has a master’s degree in teaching acting so he’s very wise to every aspect of the process. My favourite story of them all was JC McKenzie talking about a film he’d done several years previously, and how he’d been treated very badly by a former TV star turned super-diva. At that point, I paused the movie and went to IMDB, and my best bet would be Katie Holmes for the identity of his unnamed villain. That and trying to figure out what the book was that Robert Joy had like 15 identical copies of behind his head adds a whole other layer of detective work!

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By the end of this, you’ll have heard at least three stories you want to immediately go out and tell someone, you’ll have laughed a fair few times and you’ll definitely have a new-found respect for That Guy guys. A really interesting documentary about 16 interesting people.

Rating: thumbs up