Friday, November 8, 2019

Worth Mentioning - There's Something Perfect Tonight

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Comedy, sports, and martial arts.


Jeff Anderson brought to life one of the greatest cinematic characters of all time, as far as I'm concerned, when he took on the role of Randal Graves in Kevin Smith's Clerks. Anderson wasn't an actor before he worked on Clerks, he was a guy Smith knew from high school, and he hasn't done a ton of acting in the twenty-five years since. He has played Randal again in a few other projects and appeared in a couple stray Smith films where he didn't play Randal, but for the most part acting has not been his vocation. Even when he has done some acting, there have been pay disputes that have caused a couple falling outs between him and Smith and seemed to have killed the possibility of a Clerks III for a while. So it's notable any time Anderson takes a step into the entertainment industry, but especially noteworthy was the time soon after Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back when he wrote and directed a movie. Yes, Anderson made a movie of his own. Now You Know.

If you're familiar with Anderson from his work in Smith's movies, you'll probably like Now You Know, because it is very in tune with the Kevin Smith style. It's about guys in New Jersey trying to figure out their lives, and it delivers a lot of laughs while displaying a lot of heart.

Jeremy Sisto and Rashida Jones star as Jeremy and Kerri, whose relationship has fallen apart during the week before their wedding - and Jeremy doesn't even know why. After Jeremy reluctantly goes through with his bachelor party (where Kevin Smith and his wife Jennifer Schwalbach make cameo appearances) in their current home of Las Vegas, the split couple returns to their hometown in New Jersey, where the wedding was supposed to take place. And where their friends and loved ones will now just be comforting them about the mysterious break-up.

While Kerri pours her heart out to her pal Marty (Heather Paige Kent), and Marty confides in her in return, Jeremy spends some time hanging out with his goofball friends Gil (Anderson) and Biscuit (Trevor Fehrman), who work as landscapers during the day - but you really don't want these guys working in your yard - and spend their nights drinking and breaking the law. Gil and Biscuit's criminal escapades were the first idea Anderson had for the story; when he started writing the script it was titled Fun Loving Criminals. The crime Gil and Biscuit regularly pull off is to break into people's homes at night just so they can rearrange furniture while the homeowners sleep.

Of course, with his marriage having crumbled Jeremy is in just a bad enough mindset that he makes the poor decision of going along with Gil and Biscuit on a couple of their mischievous break-ins.

Anderson did a great job writing the relationship drama side of the story, and also wrote some very funny lines of dialogue. The actors all do well, with the major standout being Fehrman as Biscuit. He's hilarious as that weirdo character. Fehrman acts even less than Anderson does, which is shocking because he should be getting offered a steady stream of comedy roles.

Anderson got Now You Know made on a budget of $380,000, and proved to be a good filmmaker in his own right. On the DVD special features he seems ambivalent about whether or not he would want to make a second film, some comments are hesitant while others are enthusiastic about the idea. As a fan, I would love to see more movies written and directed by Anderson and think it's a shame that eighteen years have already passed since he shot his first one without a second one being made.

Now You Know wasn't released on home video until the end of 2006, coming out the same day Clerks II was released on home video. I got to see it almost five years before the DVD release date, though. My first viewing of Now You Know was in the perfect setting; at a Vulgarthon movie marathon that was hosted by Kevin Smith in New Jersey in January of 2002. That was my second Vulgarthon, as I had also attended one in 2000.

I don't remember a whole lot about that Vulgarthon screening, but I know Anderson was in attendance for a Q&A and that the movie went over very well with the audience.

SIDE OUT (1990)

Side Out seems to have faded into obscurity, and that's understandable. There's nothing exceptional about this sports drama that would make it a draw for the average movie-watcher to go back to almost thirty years down the road. Still, it's a movie that will always have a place in my mind. Side Out, that beach volleyball movie that was on cable regularly throughout my childhood, starring C. Thomas Howell, Courtney Thorne-Smith from Summer School, and Children of the Corn's Peter Horton - who in the six years between Children of the Corn and this movie had grown out a glorious lion's mane of hair. That hair haunted my early years; if Side Out wasn't on TV, then previews for the series Horton was in, Thirtysomething, were.

I couldn't tell you how many times I sat through bits and pieces of Side Out when I was a kid, but it certainly feels like a lot. So, of course, since I live with a constant nostalgia for my younger days, I had to return to the film and watch it again recently.

Howell plays Monroe Clarke, a young man from Milwaukee who aspires to become a lawyer like his uncle Max (Terry Kiser of Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood and Weekend at Bernie's). Monroe heads out to California to spend the summer working for his uncle, who is in real estate law, going around and handing out "pay or quit" notices. He's basically evicting people, so they don't usually react well when he shows up at their door. He hasn't been doing this long before he gets lured away from his duties by a game of beach volleyball.

Monroe is an athlete, but his game is basketball. He decides to give volleyball a try at the urging of his new friend Wiley (Christopher Rydell), the taxi driver who picked him up at the airport when he arrived in California. Wiley's taxi is a hearse, because his main gig is taking people on tours of the Gravesites of the Rich and Famous. As turns out, Monroe and Wiley make a good volleyball team and soon they're aiming at earning money from this game.

Horton's character is Zack Barnes - and when I heard that name again, it hit me like a bucket of water. Zack Barnes. It took me right back to childhood. Zack is the local legend they say "practically invented beach volleyball", but he left the sport in disgrace a while back. His shot at redemption comes when he decides to start coaching Monroe and Wiley, even though Monroe served him one of those "pay or quit" notices. He becomes more than a coach when Wiley breaks his arm; he has to step in and become Monroe's new partner. Soon enough they're competing in the big-time Jose Cuervo tournament. Yes, even though Monroe just starts playing volleyball at the beginning of this movie that's set over the course of one summer, by the end he has climbed his way to the top of the sport.

I don't know anything about volleyball, I don't even fully understand what "side out" means, but Side Out is a fun movie to watch and it serves as a time machine that takes the viewer back to 1990. Or 1989, which is when it was filmed. The sights and sounds hit that nostalgic sweet spot, as Monroe's new beach-centric life gets a soundtrack that includes The B-52's, Paula Abdul, Inner City, and Kenny Loggins. The Loggins song used is "Playing with the Boys", which has to be a nod to Top Gun, which famously featured a volleyball scene set to "Playing with the Boys".

And if you can get through a viewing of Side Out without getting composer Jeff Lorber's song "Something Perfect", which has vocals by Monalisa Young, stuck in your head... well, I don't know how you did it.

Between games of volleyball, Monroe and Zack both deal with relationship issues as well. Monroe gets off to a rocky start with future marine biologist Samantha (Thorne-Smith), and Zack gets into quite a messed up situation with his ex Kate (Harley Jane Kozak).

Side Out was the only feature directing credit for Peter Israelson, who seems to have worked primarily as a music video director. Screenwriter David Thoreau mostly worked in television, but unfortunately he never wrote an episode of Thirtysomething.


I was a wrestling fan when I was a little kid, but drifted away from it before too long. I haven't watched wrestling with any regularity since the early '90s, and on the couple occasions when I have caught a few minutes of it in the last twenty years I got no enjoyment out of it at all. But that didn't make me immune to the charms of writer/director Stephen Merchant's wrestling movie Fighting with My Family, a biopic about the life of former WWE champion Paige.

I don't know much about the real Paige that I didn't learn from watching this movie, but I quickly became a fan of the character as she's presented here, where she's played by Florence Pugh, who delivers a very solid, endearing performance. Actually named Saraya, Paige was raised in a wrestling family - her parents, played by Nick Frost and Lena Headey, are both wrestlers, as are her older brothers. Saraya's brother Zak (Jack Lowden) dreams of making it big in WWE, and that's a dream Saraya comes to share as time goes on.

Saraya and Zak audition for WWE side-by-side, and only she is chosen to move forward. The film then follows Saraya's ascent to championship while also showing the negative impact the rejection has on Zak. Zak is crushed that his sister is living the dream instead of him, but Saraya doesn't have it easy herself. She is flown away from her native England for training in the U.S. under former wrestler Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn, doing good work as the typical tough coach type), she feels like her goth style doesn't fit in with the models and cheerleaders she's training alongside, and she is also hurt that her brother wasn't chosen.

While there is some impressive wrestling on display here, that's not the most important element. Saraya could have been getting into any sport, because the characters are the point, and Fighting with My Family is an amusing, touching, engrossing drama. I won't be getting back into watching wrestling, but I will be watching this movie again.

If it dealt with any other sport, though, it might not feature a cameo by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who also produced the movie. He learned about Paige's history when he caught a documentary about her family (a documentary also called Fighting with My Family) on television when he was in London filming Furious 6.


The 1993 Cynthia Rothrock action vehicle Honor and Glory has been given the Rifftrax treatment, and it's easy to see why when you watch this movie. It's so ridiculous, it's like it was begging to be mocked by professional comedy writers. The absurdity begins with the pre-title sequence, which offers nothing more than Rothrock doing a sneak attack on a fellow called Dragon Lee (Robin Shou) in Hong Kong... and this guy happens to be a friend she wants to have dinner with. They go off to eat - so cue the title sequence!

Rothrock's character is FBI agent Tracey Pride, who has been called back to the states from Hong Kong so she can keep a stolen nuclear trigger from falling into the hands of a villain who turns out to be bank president Jason Slade (John Miller). Coincidentally, Tracey's Washington DC-based TV newscaster sister Joyce Pride (Donna Jason) happens to be digging into Slade's shady dealings. The fact that the story centers on both Pride sisters is how we get the title of the film, as Joyce tells Tracey, "You chase honor, I chase glory."

Joyce is introduced while shooting a segment on the streets, and when a woman sipping on a Dr. Pepper wanders into the frame in the background and starts yelling at the reporter it felt so natural (and the movie feels so cheap) I wasn't sure if this was supposed to be happening or if it was just something that actually did happen and director Godfrey Ho (a.k.a. Godfrey Hall) decided to keep it in. After all, this is such a low budget, slapped together movie that it features a moving truck borrowed from a company called "Rentals Unlimited", but they altered the name on the side of the truck to look like it says "Bentals Unlimited". Since that makes sense.

When the woman throws the Dr. Pepper can at Joyce and she kicks it back into the woman's face, I was assured that we were still in the film's wild and wacky version of reality.

Although second billed, Jason is really the star of the movie, as Joyce's investigation is what carries the story forward. Jason didn't have the career Rothrock has had, but she has the martial arts moves and handles herself just fine in fight scenes. Rothrock pops in and out, as she shot of all her scenes in just one week. Of course, when she does show up she's usually kicking somebody's ass. Or multiple asses at once.

The screenplay by Herb Borkland, who has never written another film, devotes way too much time to interactions between Slade and his goons and business partners, and those scenes drag the film down. Another questionable choice is the addition of family drama into the mix, as we see that Tracey and Joyce have disagreements over the merits of their father. The subplot-loving film also gives us the rare "lackey with a conscience", following Slade's bodyguard Jake Armstrong (Chuck Jeffreys) as he realizes that Slade is not a good person to be working for.

Borkland did sneak one of the all-time greatest villain monologues in there, with Slade telling someone who warns him he's in over his head, "I have arrived at the top of the world. No man has control of more money. No man can fight me and live. No woman can share my bed and not be mine for life. I'm like a god! Piss on you... from a great height."

Honor and Glory isn't very good, and it looks so low quality that it almost could have been part of J.R. Bookwalter's shot-on-VHS Cinema Home Video "six pack", but it's bad in a charming, entertaining way.

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