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BY ADAM WAJNBERG
& JACOB ZHIVOV
APRIL 8, 2004
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Last year's Undercover Brother proved that you CAN take
a good idea for a spoof movie and make it unfunny. 'Brother' had everything
one could expect from a professional attempt to gently rib the black
exploitation films of the 1970's- knowing in-jokes, over the top stereotypes,
and a ridiculous plot. Yet somehow, despite the potential, Undercover
Brother never really delivered. And the same can, unfortunately, be
said for 'The Hebrew Hammer'.
Hammer's setup is pretty good- young Mordechai Washington
Carver is teased mercilessly by his classmates because he gets a crappy
dreidel for Channukah, while the other kids are playing with their
fantastic Christmas presents. The boy grows up to be The Hebrew Hammer,
a certified circumcised dick, a champion of his people, complete with
beard, long, pimpin' black coat and groovy theme music. In the extended
opening, we get the pleasure of seeing Hammer (Adam Goldberg) walking
through his lower east side of New York neighbourhood, with everyone
yelling "Go Hammer" and other such admonitions, while he
blows kisses to three young Jewish maidens underneath a sign blaring
"100% kosher meat". If you're hoping to see good visual
gags, this one's full of them. It's also full of fairly standard "don't
worry, I'm Jewish too" stereotypes (the meeting of the Jewish
Justice League has a chair for the International Jewish Media Conspiracy,
and a vacant chair for The Committee of Jewish Athletes) and contains
almost no plot whatsoever.
Basically, Hammer used to work for the JJL until they
kicked him out because they didn't agree with his methods. But now,
Santa's evil son, Damian (Andy Dick) is planning to destroy Channukah,
and the JJL has to stop him. So their chief, the very Moshe Dayan
looking Chief Bloomenbergansteinthal (Peter Coyote, with a bewildering
German accent) reluctantly brings Hammer back into the fold, assigning
his comely daughter Esther (Judy Greer) to keep an eye on him.
Do I really need to tell you that Hammer saves the day
and gets the girl? No. Do I need to tell you that there's more Jewish
references and in-jokes here than in all of the Mel Brooks movies
put together and translated into Yiddish? No. But what I will mention
is that despite some fairly good production values and cameos by Melvin
and Mario Van Peebles, what 'Hammer' really lacks is a decent script.
The jokes will be completely lost on about 99% of the population,
and the ones that do work are pretty much all done in the first 5
minutes. Jews might find this stuff funny, but the novelty wears pretty
thin, pretty quickly.
That being said, it's still better than can be rightly
expected from a first time director (Jonathan Kesselman), and Goldberg
('Saving Private Ryan', 'Scotch and Milk') gives his usual solid performance.
I just wish there had been, like, y'know, some jokes in this movie
about how neurotic Jews can be. I'm all neurotic about it. Get it?
Because I'm Jewish. Ha.
The Hebrew Hammer- 6/10
Undercover Brother- 5.5/10
Bongy Fong! The Wacky Chop Socky Adventures of Johnny Chi-nee- 9/10
I've apparently been really harsh recently on kid's
versions of adult films like Agent Cody Banks 2. The reason for this
is that I would like to see film makers treat kids with some form
of intelligence when making films for that demographic. So not knowing
much about Catch that Kid other than is was supposed to be like Mission
Impossible or even Ocean's 11 for kids I went along to see what if
it really was.
The plot is quite simple really. 12-year old Maddy (Kristen
Stewart), with the help of two friends Gus (Max Thieriot) and Austin
(Corbin Bleu), decide to rob the state-of-the-art bank where her mother
(Jennifer Beals) works to acquire the cash needed for a costly operation
to save her dying father (Sam Robards). During the heist, the kids
need to overcome a high-tech security system, some guard dogs, and
a nasty (and slightly annoying) head of security to get to a bank
vault suspended 100-feet above ground. Also, Maddy is an excellent
mountain climber, Gus is a computer genius who can crack security
systems and Austin is a mechanical wiz who can build anything and
both of the guys are in love with Maddy, go figure.
Ok so this is not entirely the most realistic plot but
if you want realism look out your window not at a movie screen. Surprisingly
this film doesn't try for the cute humour or out there laughs like
other films I have bagged out lately but what is does do is quite
a good job at putting over the heist in a believable way, it is well
planned and thought out, something that most kids films don't do.
Also, the "bad guys" like the security chief and bank manager
are only used to move the plot along and not entirely the main reason
for this heist.
Catch that kid is quite a good film and it will make
kids want to have fun and try to rob a bank with a ludicrous security
system when they walk out.
Stephen King adaptations are usually quite well done
but like Michael Crichton his book always seem to follow the same
format. So don't be surprised by Secret Window.
The plot is thus, successful author Mort Rainey (Johnny
Depp) is in the midst of a painful divorce and everything about the
breakup has turned messy and unpleasant. It has sapped his energy
and siphoned away his creativity, leaving him with a monumental case
of writer's block that renders him incapable of even stringing a simple
sentence together. Then, a psychotic stranger named John Shooter (John
Turturro) shows up at his doorstep, accuses Rainey of plagiarising
his story and demands satisfaction. Despite Rainey's efforts to prove
to Shooter that he did not plagiarise his story, Shooter becomes increasingly
insistent and hostile.
Seems pretty simple huh but wait for it there's a twist
that you'll probably see coming, like all Stephen King stories. Despite
this, Secret Window is a quite enjoyable film. It uses humour to defuse
some very tense moments and Johnny Depp is very good as Mort a very
arrogant writer (maybe some auto biography there Mr King?) It scared
some people on either side of me at points so it may be good for that
first date movie where you want to the prospective other to jump in
your arms or other areas.
Oh yeah people who work for the Triple M promotional
team really should learn how to use a microphone, the guy who introduced
us to the screening made footy player look smart.
Matthew (Michale Pitt) is pursuing his education abroad
in Paris in 1968. He becomes involved in the film going community
and makes friends with a French brother, Theo (Louis Garrel), and
sister, Isabelle (Eva Green), Around them the May 1968 Paris student
riots (which eventually shut down most of the French government) is
The Dreamers can only be described as very French. It
uses the sexual games between the three main characters to almost
mirror the tension building outside. Theo and Isabelle have an almost
sexual relationship. What really made this film interesting was the
way director Bernardo Bertolucci splices in the old footage from films
in the 30s in with his footage.
The only thing that distracted me from this movie was
the amount of nudity in it. Yes seeing newcomer Eva Green naked was
enjoyable but it wasn't entirely necessary. Don't worry ladies you
also get to see full frontal nudity from both of the male leads as
well. Overall, The Dreamers is an interesting film.
THE HEBREW HAMMER stars Adam Goldberg. It's rated M.
CATCH THAT KID stars Kristen Stewart, Corbin Bleu,
Max Thieriot, Jennifer Beals, Sam Robards, John Carroll Lynch, James
LeGros & Michael Des Barres. It's rated G and runs 92 mins.
SECRET WINDOW stars Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria
Bello, Charles S. Dutton & Timothy Hutton. It's rated M and runs
THE DREAMERS stars Michael Pitt, Louis Garrel, Eva
Green, Jean-Pierre Kalfon and Anna Chancellor. It's rated R and runs
Opens April 29th.