Film Review: Went to Coney Island On a Mission From God… Be Back by Five (1998)

Release Date: April 18th, 1998 (Los Angeles Independent Film Festival)
Directed by: Richard Schenkman
Written by: Jon Cryer, Richard Schenkman
Music by: Midge Ure
Cast: Jon Cryer, Ione Skye, Rick Stear, Rafael Baez, Frank Whaley, Aesha Waks, Dominic Chianese, Norbert Leo Butz

Evenmore Entertainment, 94 Minutes

Review:

The reviews for this film seemed pretty even but I remembered first reading about this movie in one of Leonard Maltin’s books where he gave it some pretty solid praise.

Since I noticed it streaming on one of my many services, I decided to finally check it out. Plus, I’ve always liked Jon Cryer, since first seeing him in Superman IV when I was just a kid. So I wanted to see this because it was a more serious role and because he wrote the story.

I’ve got to say, this is pretty good and it really hit me in the feels, as I have had close friends that have gone off the rails, so to speak, since my youth. So I didn’t find this hard to relate to and in a lot of ways it sort of mirrored many of the emotions and sentiments I’ve felt over the years trying to help people that didn’t really want it.

The story is about three childhood friends but it’s primarily about two of them, on a search for the third, who kind of lost his marbles after the death of his little sister. As the film rolls on, the two friends are really challenged by each other and how they’ve grown apart. However, ultimately, they do come together in an effort to help their friend in need.

As the movie progresses, we see the third friend reluctantly try to accept their help and with that, we learn more about the events that led to him disappearing from their lives and the lives of his family.

This is a very human and really emotional movie. But within its story, which is really just the framework, it explores the human soul and our relationships with one another while searching for the meaning and the purpose to it all.

This picture is a much deeper journey that it might appear to be on the surface and maybe that’s why it wasn’t as critically well received as it probably should’ve been. 

Jon Cryer and Richard Schenkman, who also directed, wrote a meaningful story. So much so, I kind of assume that this was based off of something in their own lives.

I love indie movies like this. There’s just something genuine and real about the very personal indie films of the ’90s. This one is no different and it may have barely been a blip on some people’s radar but it’s definitely worth experiencing. 

Rating: 7.25/10

Documentary Review: The Last Blockbuster (2020)

Release Date: December 15th, 2020
Directed by: Taylor Morden
Written by: Zeke Kamm
Cast: Lauren Lapkus (narrator), Kevin Smith, Doug Benson, Ron Funches, Adam Brody, Samm Levine, Paul Scheer, Brian Posehn, Jamie Kennedy, Ione Skye, Lloyd Kaufman, various

September Club, Popmotion Pictures, 1091 Pictures, 86 Minutes

Review:

I stumbled across this on Netflix and I was definitely interested in checking it out but it had Kevin Smith’s mug all over it and in the 2020s, that’s a big turnoff for me. That dude’s usually crying and drooling these days and it’s creepy and f’n weird. But luckily, he wasn’t a weeping, insufferable asshole in this and he’s also not in it too much. He’s just one of about a dozen celebrities who popped up to tell their personal stories about Blockbuster Video.

So this is a film about the last Blockbuster store in existence, which runs independently now, and it’s also about the history of video stores in the US from the original mom and pop shops to the mega chains like Blockbuster. In just under 90 minutes, this surprisingly covers a lot.

As I stated in the first paragraph, this also features about a dozen celebrities who talk about what Blockbuster meant to them and a few of them worked in one or simply spent a lot of time in the store.

Overall, this was a solid, fun and positive experience. You come to know the woman who runs the last store, her family, her employees and what the store means to its community and the community’s history.

You also see what it takes to run the store in an era where it’s not as easy to acquire DVDs and Blu-rays because we now live in an age of streaming. We also learn that to use the Blockbuster name, the store has to get permission, annually, from the large corporation that still holds the trademark on the brand.

I think the real highlight for me was hearing the stories from the dozen or so people that were interviewed. For those who visited the last Blockbuster, it was great seeing them overcome with joy, stepping into a legitimate time capsule.

Whether you were a big fan of Blockbuster or just video stores in general, this will definitely give you a hearty helping of warm nostalgia.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other recent documentaries about retro pop culture things.

Film Review: Kitty (2016)

Release Date: May 20th, 2016 (Cannes)
Directed by: Chloe Sevigny
Written by: Chloe Sevigny
Based on: a short story by Paul Bowles
Music by: Brian DeGraw
Cast: Edie Yvonne, Ione Skye, Lee Meriwether

First Generation Films, 15 Minutes

Review:

Kitty is the directorial debut of the great actress Chloe Sevigny. It also truly feels like an extension of her soul and hits all the right notes. Frankly, this is a really exceptional short film that was endearing, enchanting and pretty damn emotional.

The film stars Edie Yvonne, who has more acting chops at her young age than the majority of adult actors that rake in the big bucks for mediocre blockbusters, year after year. I can’t recall a time where I was as impressed with a young actor, as I was with Yvonne in this short.

The next paragraph may spoil the story but not the magic. Skip over it though, if you don’t want to know anything going into this fifteen minute short.

Edie Yvonne plays a young girl who feels neglected by her mother (Skye). As the story progresses, she sprouts whiskers but her mother just brushes it aside. Then she sprouts pointy ears, claws and eventually turns into an actual kitty. Arriving home, she can’t get into her house but she sees her parents crying as they are talking to the police. The kitty is then cared for by the neighbor (Meriwether), who invites her in and gives her a saucer of milk. Later on, the kitty returns home again to see her father alone and it is assumed that the mother has left. She later finds her mother on a swing set and gets her attention. The sad and broken mother picks her up and takes her home.

Sevigny’s visual style is magnificent and impressive. She took this fantastical story, put it in a normal setting but made it look fantastical in her visual approach. It is a beautiful piece of work to look at and her two decades of starring in some of the great independent films of her day have taught her a lot, as far as how to work behind the camera.

Kitty is sweet and sad but it still carries hope with it along the way. There is a lot happening in the film, emotionally, but everything just works and it excites me for what Chloe Sevigny can do, as a director.

Rating: 8/10