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"Summer of Sam"

Directed by Spike Lee.
Written by Spike Lee, Michael Imperioli and Victor Colicchio. 
Starring John Leguizamo, Adrien Brody, Mira Sorvino and Jennifer Esposito.
Release Year:  1999 
Review Date:  7/9/99 


Yesterday afternoon, Mark "The Captain" Vagnetti, "Money", and myself went to catch "Summer of Sam" at one of the worst theaters in the DC area, AMC Skyline in Alexandria.  One of the truly idiotic designs in history, Skyline has 12 theaters, but for some really dumb reason, there are six at one end of the mall, and six at the opposite end of the mall--and you can't find out where your movie is showing until you walk to one end or the other.  Luckily, the mall isn't all that big, and it has some of the worst restaurants ever created--making Subway look like Ruth's Chris Steak House.

(Quick note about "Wild Wild West":  when "Hummer of Doom" Prenoveau read that review and questioned this movie's place in bad history, asking "Is it really as bad as 'Batman and Robin?'", I had to think to myself for roughly 1.4 seconds before I said yes.  I want to repeat:  this is quite possibly the worst movie ever made with A-list talent.  KENNETH BRANAGH, for Christ's sake!  The man is Shakespeare incarnate!  He is the mold for a theater-trained actor, and he's no good in this movie!!  Avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs--even if you can see it for free!)

Anyway, I'm usually a Spike Lee fan, so I figured that this one couldn't be all that bad.  I was half right and half wrong.  Like Spike's recent basketball drama "He Got Game," this movie strays from the general topic of the story often and it runs a little too long at 140 minutes.  Although it features a lot about the "Son of Sam" killings during the summer of 1977, the film is supposed to be a telling of what it was like to live during this time in New York City--the Yankees' championship run with Reggie Jackson's masterful World Series, riots during a major power outage in the city, the nightlife at the 54 club in Manhattan, etc.

Unfortunately, all that I'm really sure of during that time was that in fact yes, this Berkowitz guy was one sick puppy, "f--- you" equates to "hello", and everyone who went clubbing liked to hit orgy bars on the way home.  While I liked some of the main characters that Spike follows around for the course of the movie--John Leguizamo and Adrien Brody are two former friends that undergo the most change during the movie--Spike has so much going on that the audience does not get to know some of the sidekicks in the gang, the local mob boss, the cops on the trail of Sam, so it made it tough to get into anyone else's personal story.  And, many of the Italian-Americans in this movie fall into that lovely "Goodfellas" stereotype of loud, woman-abusing guidos who will beat the hell out of you with a garbage can at the first provocation.  But, the good definitely outweighs the bad here, as the story includes a good balance between Sam and the rest of the characters, lots of good 70s music, strong acting from the lead characters (even if you don't get to know them all), and of course:  Yankee footage!

Speaking of "Goodfellas", the language in this movie is pretty oppressive.  Both Gordon and I felt that the language equaled, if not surpassed, “Goodfellas”' rate of fire, which "Hummer of Doom" Prenoveau has confirmed is the most cursing ever heard in a motion picture according to the MPAA.  "South Park" has roughly the same amount of cussing, but it's only 85 minutes long--when the movie goes for almost an hour longer, the cursing starts to lose its effect.  And, there are a bunch of just thrown-in sex scenes, although that isn't always bad--just that none of them are as good or funny as the infamous assistant coaches scene in "He Got Game."  Just be prepared.  And, I know that some of you don't like implied homosexual sex scenes, and there are a couple of those thrown in there too.  Spike doesn't miss a beat!

But overall, I thought that the movie's running time and lack of focus were the downers for me.  And, if you don't like watching people's heads get blown off at close range, you may want to skip this one--there's a lot of that in this movie.  Next week, I will be doing my annual cartoon review on "Tarzan"--yep, I don't see more than roughly one cartoon a year—and "American Pie."

Rating:  Matinee


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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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The "fine print":
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