LAFF 2007: Robots ‘N’ Dese Guys

Categories: Film, Main

After the claustrophobic overcrowding of Broxton avenue for the LAFF opening night party, I wasn’t expecting the Transformers premiere bash to be as well-run as it was. Adjacent parking lots were opened up, and food and drink were so prevalent that, if you actually ventured all the way in, it was possible to get plenty of both with no waiting.

Half the food was Burger King, which was a letdown, despite the presence of that creepy King guy from the ads. But there was plenty of other stuff too, including a make-your-own chili-cheese dog buffet line with gourmet chicken sausage, Caesar salad shakers, roast veggie wraps, and fancy low-carb pizza. Cotton candy and churro stands were also in effect.

And if you wanted to find a bar -- look up. Each booze-stand was adorned by one of the movie’s Autobots (only in vehicle mode, though a Bumblebee robot was spotted in the street outside). Optimus Prime was in the exclusive press area, but other than that, said area had nothing the rest of the party didn’t have, except too many people.

Celebrities spotted: Jon Voight, Andy Samberg, Seth Green and his hot date who I think was the girl that plays the spoiled rich teen on Jericho, a couple of the kids from On the Lot, Hiro from Heroes (I had to be told about these last few, since I rarely have time to watch prime-time TV).

I’m not going to review the movie here, because we have to save something for the paper. Suffice it to say that it is what you think it is.

Conversation I had with a really talkative filmgoer who had just seen the movie:

Me: “They have Optimus Prime over in the press area; that’s the only cool thing.”
Her: “Who’s that?”

Pink flier spotted all over Westwood:

“For Sale - Slightly Used Rubber Fist. Had too many premium margaritas at Pink Taco, Los Angeles. Woke up a few hours later with a rubber fist I really don’t need. Minimal stains. One size fits all. Serious buyers only please. 310-358-1703”

I suspect a marketing ploy, but am afraid to call that number. Maybe a reader would like to give it a shot, and post in comments below what happens?

Aside from the big robots, I got to one other movie, the David Gordon Green-produced GREAT WORLD OF SOUND. It was a gem.

The success of Borat really seems to be inspiring people to do their own hybrid-reality movies -- as mentioned, I saw one like it the other day, and now this, a movie about “music producers” who hold auditions for their record label that are a total scam. Though most of the film is scripted, the bulk of the auditions are real -- ads were placed, bands were heard, and the two lead actors tried to hustle them and get them to sign. Afterwards, told what was up, the musicians pretty much got it and agreed to be in the movie anyway. What’s striking is that they could just as easily all be character actors, since they hit the same acting tone as the actual cast.

The movie opens with hopeless nerd Martin (Pat Healy) getting a job interview for what seems to be a radio job, but turns out to be music production -- sort of. The idea is to audition new talent, and sign them, but not just the good ones. See, part of the pitch is that while the company, “Great World of Sound,” pays certain studio costs, etc., the artist has to pay a percentage themselves, upfront. And it soon becomes clear that everything beyond that is a con, all to get the checks, which are to be made out to “GWS,” the company acronym but also the president’s initials.

Healy teams up with a black guy named Clarence (Kene Holliday), which allows them to play good cop/bad cop with black singers (Clarence pitching them the idea that his white boss doesn’t get their music, but he does, etc.). The actors mostly improvised their pitches, and come up with some great lines, like “When Jesus walked on water, the first thing he did was get out of the boat!” Holliday, it turns out, was both the voice of Roadblock in the G.I. Joe cartoon, and Matlock’s sidekick Tyler. I wouldn’t have guessed, but his performance here is one of the year’s best. Healy’s role is less flashy, but he’s no slouch -- deadpan delivery of dialogue like “I’m not gonna drink because I just brushed my teeth” is his forte.

With David Gordon Green’s name attached, you might expect a Southern flavor, and you get it...the action mostly takes place around Charlotte, NC, and there’s an overwhelming sense of rural economic desperation as a backdrop. And it doesn’t subside. This may be a comedy, but there’s no guarantee of a happy ending.

At one point, Martin says to a would-be critic, “I’m self-deprecating. All you gotta do is watch.” That applies to the movie as well. Before it’s done, it goes to surprisingly dark places -- nothing violent or anything, just really questionable moral choices that don’t get answered in a tidy fashion.

But beyond all that, it’s really freakin’ funny. So go see it when it opens this fall.


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