"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
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
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:
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
Comments? Drop me a line at
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
"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 bad...man, 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
"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