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A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Alfred Hitchcock |||
Alfred Hitchcock

This is perhaps an obvious choice, however, most people tend to overlook the Master of Suspense’s early work as well as the relevancy of his last film as a key element in the continuing transition and development of the genre he defined.

One of Hitchcock's early triumphs, this predecessor to the mistaken identity man on the run scenario Hitchcock turned to time and again, stars Robert Donat as the innocent wrongly accused of murder and pursued by both the police and enemy spies. This is the first example of Hitchcock’s mastery over the suspense tale, giving us a glimpse of the greatness to come.

Considered to be one of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest works, this story of two men who meet by chance on a train and frivolously discuss swapping murders is a prime example of a common Hitchcock theme of the man who suddenly finds himself within a nightmare world over which he has no control. You can easily see how this film lays the ground work for the more popular “North by Northwest”.

Alfred Hitchcock's final film is a light-hearted thriller involving phony psychics, kidnappers and organized religion, all of which cross paths in the search for a missing heir and a fortune in jewels. Here, Hitchcock has brilliantly developed his signature form to include the now common, and often overused, device of plot twist, after plot twist, after plot twist. Widescreen!

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The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard

By BrianOrndorf

August 13th, 2009

Neal Brennan is perhaps best known for his work as a driving force behind the Comedy Central smash "Chappelle's Show."

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard

A student of sketch comedy, Brennan brings his bite-sized mindset to the silver screen with the awkwardly titled feature, “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard.” It seems Brennan’s instincts for comedy gold are either limited to the three-minute format or require the participation of Dave Chappelle. On his own, Brennan offers little in the way of an inner-monologue, executing a lewd comedy that has no middle speed between agreeable stillness and cringing vulgarity.

Fearing the loss of his suburban California car dealership to bankruptcy, Ben Selleck (James Brolin) has decided to call in the experts to save his business. Enter Don Ready (Jeremy Piven) and his team of gifted car salesmen (including Ving Rhames, Kathryn Hahn, and David Koechner), who barrel into the dealership with a game plan to turn misfortune around. Spinning the lot into a party, Don creates a tornado of consumer buzz, giving a willing throng of buyers a chance to overpay for their used cars. Don also comes into contact with Ben’s daughter, Ivy (Jordana Spiro), hoping to pry her away from her idiotic fiancée, Paxton (Ed Helms).

“The Goods” is zany, wild stuff, and there’s nothing mean-spirited about the material. It’s a broad farce, a play on snake oil temperaments of used car salesmen who spend their lives in perpetual hustle. However, that’s giving the film credit for a big idea, which is poison to Brennan’s sensibilities. “Goods” is a scattergun of throwaway jokes and non sequitur humor, snowballing like a movie that was made up on the spot, with every new production day a stunning surprise for the cast and crew. There’s really no plot to speak of here, and the characters are loose “SNL” cocktail napkin doodles infused with improvisational gymnastics to give them life. Brennan is laser-focused on punchlines, not the overall impression of “Goods,” which leaves the film an afterthought, squeezing the joy out of the shenanigans quickly after takeoff.

Brennan isn’t much of a director, and “Goods” reinforces its amateur-hour atmosphere by encouraging the cast to immediately sprint to vulgar humor once their leashes are removed. The raw humor is portioned out by the shovelful, overused to a migraine-inducing degree. It’s not the actual coarse comedy that I have a problem with, it’s simply that Brennan doesn’t understand when the needle hits red, pushing the talent further into pointless cursing just to keep the audience awake. It seems like such a waste to assemble a solid B-list cast of comedians and give them only shock value to work with. The juvenile nature of “Goods” feels heavy and unnecessary, especially when it never lets up. Equally as pathetically insistent are the topics for ridicule, including homosexuality, the mentally challenged, and boy bands.

Yes, there’s a subplot in “Goods” that follows Paxton and his quest to form the most successful boy band around, topped off with jokes about O-Town and the Backstreet Boys. Either “The Goods” was scripted in 1999 and nobody bothered to update the references or Brennan is holding the daughter of a Paramount Vantage executive at gunpoint in his basement until release day, because there’s no reasonable explanation made as to why we’re forced to sit through 'N Sync jokes in the year 2009. On second thought, maybe it was better to have the cast curse their way into a shtick coma.

“Goods” leaps for absurdity (Craig Robinson plays a besieged strip club DJ who refuses to take requests, Don promotes a concert by Bo Bice’s brother Eric for the eager customers), slapstick, and plenty of performance volume, yet nothing rouses a smile. Even a requisite cameo from producer Will Ferrell is largely humorless due to a banal presentation. “The Goods” swings spastically for guffaws and jolts, but it’s more successful at eliciting blank stares or, during certain sequences, complete disbelief that something this jumbled and directionless could find a theatrical release.

My rating: D