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"" and Visions Bistro

Directed by Chris Hegedus and Jehane Noujaim.
Release Year:  2001 
Review Date:  6/5/01 


This review is two-fold:  a quick review of the new indie documentary "" and a quick review of the theater that is one of the "cool" places to check out a movie here in the lovely DC area.  Well, maybe lovely is kind of strong.


What a film.  This documentary chronicles the rise and fall (don't all dot coms rise and fall?) of the company that was born in mid-year 1999, only to die 18 months later.  Khalil (whose name I will intentionally butcher, as many others do in the film) and Tom, best friends from high school, decide to get together six other people to start the site, which provides a way for consumers to interact with their local government through paying their bills or taxes or whatever online.  Luckily, the film doesn't bog us down with technical details, as it concentrates mostly on how the two men lead the company through its startup phase, raising money through venture capitalists, giving pep talks to employees, and growing the staff from its original eight to over 250 employees.

The directors of the documentary--one of whom lived with Khalil as a roommate when they got the idea for the documentary--do a great job of giving the viewer access to some of the backroom conversations that the two men have about everything, from the company's pitchline to buying out the third founder of Govworks, to the family life of Tom and his almost-too-cute-to-believe daughter.  Of course, when things start to go south, they REALLY go south, and where many fictional movies lose it during this part of the story (the "fall"--think the last half of Scorsese's "Casino", and you have an idea of when good pets go bad), "" gets more interesting because all of it is real-life.  Granted, the film could have done a better job of showing us how that 250-employee base gets whittled down to just 50 in six months, but that is getting picky.

A great film that, despite its dot com nature, is oftentimes absolutely hilarious.  You should check this one out soon, especially if you are here in DC since it won't be at Visions for too long.  And, as part of a special screening that I saw tonight, three staff members from the real spoke about the film for about 20 minutes for the audience.  Very interesting commentary on how accurate the film really is (which is to say, the directors hit a home run).

Rating:  Opening Weekend

Visions Theater

Sadly, the theater is not nearly as good as the film I got to see tonight.  More poorly designed than a route from Baltimore to Seattle on Southwest Airlines, the layout is atrocious.  There is no box office; apparently, the other idiots that run movie theaters don't know what they are doing!  So, you have to wait in the same line as the food lines (because, ahem, this is a *bistro*, rebel scum) to get your ticket.  This would be perfect, if I was hungry.  Normally, when I see a 9:45 film, I am not, but I didn't major in Logic like these fools did.

Tonight, though, to sample the food, I went ahead and ordered some pizza.  And, although it had enough grease to line my palette for the next four months, it was pretty tasty, and the Coke was some good shit.  Mmmm.  The popcorn tasted good and featured some of that good movie butter that you can't ever seem to get your hands on in the store.  Again, some good shit.  I would have liked the food more, but I had to bend myself into a pretzel in order to put two hands on the pizza.

The bathrooms are tight space-wise, although, they do not feature Autoflush--or, as I like to call it, AutoSplash--technology, which is a plus.  The seats within the theaters are real tight (not cool tight, like "That joint is tight!")...I'm not fat (not phat, like "That joint was phat!"), but my ass hit both armrests on the way down into the seat.  Riddle me that!  The sound could use a little work; I'm not coming there to see "Star Wars", but I struggled many times to hear what the characters were saying.

And, with its location on Florida Avenue near Dupont Circle, parking is TOUGH.  You could ante up the $5 for the garage, but you always want to at least look for a free spot first...and, look, you will do.  Metro to Dupont Circle--Q Street exit--instead.  Not an ideal place to see a film, but then again, the films that Visions usually get offer the only chance to see that particular film here in DC, so you usually have no choice.  Try and come on a Monday or Tuesday and you should be alright.

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09