BLOG: YTC_Hollyweird: Episode XVIII: Holy Shat!

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

In the short term, the YTC podcast can currently be found at


The blog below was under an older name of Hollyweird. I have kept the numbering the same so that I could keep track of my posts, but this is where it all begin back in the heyday of 2012…


Throughout my years I, like many of us, have been involved in the ‘Who are you most like from [INSERT TV SHOW HERE]’ conversation. At different cultural stages I have been a Leonardo from TMNT, a Chandler from Friends and a Mike from Spaced. Most recently I am apparently a Leonard from The Big Bang Theory. Aside from the ability to occasionally pick up women out of my league, I don’t really see the comparison myself. Then again, I am not particularly socially inept, Indian or Jewish, so being a geeky four-eyes is all that’s really left.

The success of The Big Bang Theory has helped to present geek culture in a more sympathetic light, presenting the nerds as plucky underdogs with a lot to learn about real life. Clearly The Big Bang nerds are huge stereotypes and loaded with foibles, but for the most part they are a distinctly likeable bunch. A film from over a decade ago attempted a similar such feat, but with decidedly mixed results. In fact, as opposed to the clueless, pleasant nerds from the B.B. gang, 1999’s Free Enterprise presented its own nerdy-protagonists as socially smooth but hard to connect to. Let’s beam on over and take a gander…



The plot for Free Enterprise can be pretty much boiled down to this; two lifelong friends and Trekkies, Mark and Robert, are worried about their lives. They each juggle unfulfilled film careers with disappointing love lives. As Mark approaches 30, he is concerned that his best days are past him with little to show for it except a comfortable lifestyle. Meanwhile Robert needs to learn to accept responsibility or else face a future of poverty and one-night stands.

A chance meeting leads them to encountering Mr. William Shatner. Seeking their heroes wisdom, they slowly realise that Captain Kirk is perhaps not as smart or cool as they had hoped- in fact, he’s pretty much f’n mental. Shatner’s goal is to put on a one-man play of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar as a musical. This, despite the innate challenge of then having to stab himself in the back….

Can the Trekkies learn to grow up via/despite Shatner’s advice? Can Shatner get his project off the ground? I’m sure you can all guess.

Call me Captain, dammit!
Call me Captain, dammit!

The paper-thin plot really does not matter all that much. This is a character-driven comedy, after all. Actually, I don’t believe that I mentioned Free Enterprise is a comedy, but hopefully the summary of Shatner’s theatrical ambition gave it away. Then again, with the real William Shatner any scheme is possible.

Beating the clichés of The Big Bang Theory by a good decade, the two central protagonists in Free Enterprise are not socially-inept misfits at all. Sure, both Robert and Mark have huge life problems to confront concerning those old stalwarts of companionship and finances. But these problems are nothing beyond those that a heck of a lot of the world’s population face. Avoiding stereotyping, Robert is a full on lady killer. He bounces from lover to lover with all manner of different kinky indulgences hinted at. Robert even has a drinking buddy that he shares threesomes with, the too-too-cool-for-school Sean, played by Swingers Patrick Van Horn.

“Superfan 99, on the left”

Similarly, the more grounded Mark is incapable of getting emotionally close to women, but he is not incapable of getting dates with them. Mark may not be a full on party monster like Robert, but he comes across as a believable guy simply too wrapped up in his own ego to love.

In this way the film is somewhat more believable than The Big Bang Theory or films like The 40 Year Old Virgin. Generally the comedy present in Free Enterprise is aimed at laughing along with the character’s dialogue or actions, rather than laughing at them for ‘not getting it’ in the wider world.

Rounding off the core characters is, of course, the one and only William Shatner. Ol’ Shatty plays himself- or at least a heightened, hard drinking, clumsy, porn-reading, parachuting version of himself. Shatner easily has the least screen time of the main characters. In fact he is virtually relegated to occasional cameos. Still, much like Adam West, Shatner has the ability to be astoundingly ridiculous and utterly deadpan within the same breath and consequently steals most of the film. Shatner may be a terrible actor but he sure is a wonderful presence.

Oh, and did I mention that he raps Shakespeare’s Julius Ceaser in it? That should be a golden selling point in itself as far as sheer Hollyweird value goes.

Big Willy Style

Still, if all of this makes Free Enterprise sounds like some fun-filled geek-romp that paints nerds in a glowing light, then you have my apologies. You’ve been misled! (Or is that misread?) Free Enterprise misfires in many areas, and has its enjoyment factor seriously hampered by it.

As refreshing as Mark and Rob’s depiction as nerds is, the surrounding characters are incredibly lazily presented. Mark and Rob’s friends are as follows; black nerd, Jewish nerd, silent nerd, meek nerd and nerd who cannot get laid. I’m not even entirely sure that they have names. Though ‘black nerd’ is played by the vastly underrated comedian and voice actor Phil Lamaar. Lamaar voices one of this author’s favourite cartoon characters, Samurai Jack. Damn good job, Phil, damn good job!

R.I.P. Mako

As lazy as the friends of Mark and Rob are presented, the depiction of women in the film is far worse. With one exception, the women within the film are either reduced to sexual objects or depicted as heartless/thoughtless creatures.

I should note that to my mind Free Enterpriseis not overt or misogynist by design. Woman kind is not directly insulted within the film. Instead it seems to be more of a case of the screen writers not knowing how to present women beyond being dumb, beautiful or bitchy. The worst part about this is that a major part of the film revolves around Rob finding his ideal woman, Trisha.

"Is that a rolled-up wad of Myler bags or are you just please to see me?"
“Is that a rolled-up wad of Myler bags or are you just please to see me?”

Trisha is stunning and nerdy, smart and independent. These traits should make Trisha the most positive character in the film. She should represent a shattering of both female and nerd stereotypes in one fell swoop. Yet instead she is presented as a ‘token ideal’ form of womanhood, and not even remotely realistically as her own person. We never learn what she does or what motivates her, and in fact she repeatedly lets Rob pay for everything despite his established money issues. Finally, she dumps him when he loses his job.

Now in both Trisha’s and Free Enterprise’s defence, Trisha does have a speech about how breaking up with Rob has nothing to do with money and has everything to do with Rob’s attitude. Yet Trisha still crops up throughout the entirety of Free Enterprise as a perfect, sexual fantasy character when the film requires it, and is then subsequently dismissed when Rob is at his lowest.

Once again this is most likely due to paper-thin writing and poor-acting rather than an attempt to present women in a bad light. Unfortunately, by making the one strong female role seem as deep and believable as puddle made of anti-matter, Free Enterprise paradoxically ends up doing a terrible disservice to real female geeks. Regardless of its quite-possible good intention to show that beautiful women can be geeks too, it all it achieves is showing that women are blank slates that look good in their underwear and not worth the time to actually flesh out.

She’s got red on her

(Maybe now is a good time to pint out that the writer and director behind this movie are called Mark A. Altman and Robert Meyer Burnett. Is Free Enterprise just Wish fulfilment at the expense of everything else, perhaps…?)

The secondary major problem with Free Enterprise is that so many of the comedic deliveries are just off. Rafer Weigel, playing Rob, is believably immature and handsome. So his casting as a childish Womaniser is actually strong in a dramatic sense. But he is simply not very funny. Meanwhile Patrick Van Horn seems to be present for stunt-casting purposes. He is almost identical to his character of Sue in Swingers and really has very little purpose here.

Channelling his inner Kirk
Channelling his inner Kirk

In fact aside from the excellent use of Shatner, the only other true saving grace of the film is Eric McCormack of Will & Grace fame. He actually has excellent comic timing which is pretty damn important in a comedy! Sadly even McCormack is let down by the fact that he comes across as so un-likeable for large stages of the movie. The character of Mark puts people down constantly which works for someone like Bill Murray or Woody Allen because their appearance means they need a defence mechanism. Actors like that playing roles akin to Mark’s merely come across as smart but insecure. However, from a tall, good looking actor like McCormick, Mark’s comments just seems cruelly condescending.

Where there’s a Will, there’s a way

As quite the geek myself, I would love to love Free Enterprise more. It is packed with great moments (the Logan’s Run gag is truly inspired) and a lot of the pop-culture dialogue crackles along nicely. I particularly love the times that characters quote other moves with no clarification of where they are stealing from. You either get the line or you don’t, just like in real life geek conversations.

Oh, and of course it has a F’N RAPPING WIILIAM SHATNER IN IT!!!

It is just a shame that Free Enterprise falls apart over teeny-tiny aspects like, um, its casting and characterisation. Regrettably, the success of the few bits are outweighed by the flaws of the many.

Next time we will all laugh whilst we can, monkey men!

Thanks for reading,


BLOG: YTC_Hollyweird: Episode XVII: One Way Ticket

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

In the short term, the YTC podcast can currently be found at


The blog below was under an older name of Hollyweird. I have kept the numbering the same so that I could keep track of my posts, but this is where it all begin back in the heyday of 2012…


This may come as a a shock to any regular readers, but not every film that I write about is lost gem. Nope, it’s true. Not even Hell Comes To Frogtown (Episode XI). Sometimes, my selections are simply films that dropped off the radar yet that I feel are worth revisiting.

Today’s selection falls into a particularly unique area I want to examine- An ‘Almost Movie’. An Almost Movie is one that has all the ingredients to be great, but turns out decidedly average. Palookaville (1995)has the dubious honour of being my first such selection.

Palookaville covers familiar ground to better known films such as Welcome To Colinwood, Small Time Crooks, and a smattering of Ealing comedies. It is a comedy-drama concerned with the aspirations Russ, Sid and Jerry, three low level criminals. Palookaville focuses on each of their shambolic lives as they prepare for a robbery far and away outside of their amateur ambitions. In fact, it is disingenuous to even describe Russ Jerry and Sid as low-level criminals. They are beneath even that. They’re so down the criminal ladder they’d need a step ladder just to reach the bottom rung of the first ladder. Russ, Jerry and Sid are more akin to everyday folk with nothing to lose and flexible morals.


Sometimes I think he looks handsome, sometimes I think he looks like an alien. No wonder he modelled.

Set in mid-90’s New Jersey, Russ lives at home with his overbearing mother, his sister and his despised brother-in-law, Ed. Ed, is a cop which only adds to their natural distrust of one another as well as fuelling extra tensions at home. Russ is motivated by a grand sense of ego combined with a lack of privacy or respect at home. Russ is very much the driving force of the group as he desperately seeks a new life.

In contrast, Jerry is seeking to stabilise his own home life. He is an unemployed carpenter struggling to support his wife Betty and their child. Betty works as a cashier at the local supermarket and is the sole provider which weighs heavily on Jerry’s own mind.

Finally is Sid. Sid is completely broke and lonely. He lives with two dogs that he struggles to feed. Sid obsess over a divorce form a decade ago and pours all his remaining energy into looking after his dogs . Sid is a man in need of anything to remind him what living is really like rather than simply surviving.

At the start of the film, we witness the threes bungled attempt to dig into a Jewellery store. Instead they dig a hole in the wrong direction and end up in a bakery. Crumbs!

Ideal for almost any occasion


After narrowly escaping the police response units, Jerry swears off any more attempts at crime. He wants to be there for his wife, and their son. Forgetting about crime, he and Sid try to get a private taxi company going in a bid to stay legit. However when rival Yellow Cabs get violent, the trio are forced to slam the brakes onto that plan.

Settling back into their desperate lives, Russ, in a moment of affection/foolhardiness, promises a girl that he is seeing a new life together in California. Simultaneously, Sid receives an eviction notice making him almost destitute, and Jerry finds Betty is being sexually harassed by her manager at the supermarket. Jerry takes matters into his own hands and the end result is that Betty is fired. The trio are now in more dire straits than ever when, somewhat serendipitously, they end up saving an Armoured Courier’s driver from a heart attack. The courier’s job is to transport the takings from the Supermarket. Soon a ‘perfect’ plot is hatched to steal money from a deserving victim, but what could possibly go wrong???

Waving his beg red pistol around!
The Three Amigos

Well given this is a comedy about chumps, quite a few things go wrong that involve Ed, a guard dog, and a drill. Ultimately the would-be criminals do not rob the truck. Instead they end up hailed as civic heroes. They never get their riches, but they do gain a little self- awareness about how far they are willing to go ethically. A little self-realization is their sole reward, but it seems the film leaves all three in marginally happier places than at the start of the film.

I bet not too many people try to Car Jack this bad boy

Whilst the plot itself is not particularly original, this is not a problem. Straight away this entire concept of amateur criminals/desperate men is a good set up for any comedy-drama.

The crime aspect allows for both a black comedy in tone, as well as the possibility of broader comedy on its action scenes. This conceit also allows for desperate characters to be placed under immense stress. This can be either dramatic or comedic, depending on what is needed.

With all of this in mind, it would seem that the trick to pull off a good comedy-drama based around low lives would seem to be two-fold; Firstly, have a script that allows for the necessary character beats. Secondly, gather a cast that can bring a mix of pathos and levity to their roles.

This image is both a comedy & a tragedy


Well, sadly for Palookaville it is in this aspect that it becomes an ‘Almost Movie’. Palookaville certainly succeeds with the casting but it fails at the scripting.

The most shocking thing about a comedy named after a famous film quote* is that it does not feature any memorable lines, let alone great barbs of humour. In fact it could almost be a full-on drama except for the constant times that the heavy-handed clarinet score comes in to remind the viewer how to feel.

The most quoted line from this film that I could find between Google, IMDB and Youtube is the line ‘A momentary shift in lifestyle’. This is Russ describes committing a one-off robbery. This is a perfectly good line, but if that is the most featured line in a pop-culture sense then it is safe to say the script does not sparkle off the page. It may seem perhaps a little unfair to base a critique over how quoted a film is online, but honestly the lines themselves do not get any stronger in Palookaville. ‘A momentary shift in lifestyle’ is as strong as it gets. Not bad by any means, but hardly a stinger of a one-line jab.

“Bad Boys/Bad Boys/Whatcha Gonna Do?”

However, for any dialogue or incidents that fail to really pop off of the screen, the casting at leasts get the most out of Palookaville. The core-trio of Sid, Russ and Jerry are played three very respectable character actors. Sid is played by the intense William Forsythe (The Devils Rejects, The Rock, Things To Do in Denver When You’re Dead) Russ is played by the infamous Vincent Gallo (Buffalo ’66, The Brown Bunny, Tetro) and Jerry by working TV actor, Adam Trese (Homicide: Life On The Street, The Sopranos, Rescue Me). Oh, and Oscar winner Frances McDormand (Fargo, Darkman) crops up a few times too.


This trio play to their respective strengths, really giving their parts a sense of life. The character of Russ is a whiny, pushy character who believes he is smarter than those around him. Sid is stoic but clearly depressed, and Jerry is an everyday guy just down on his luck. Given these sorts of characteristics it is no wonder then that Gallo excels at being a frustrated neurotic, Forsythe a strong, silent backbone and Adam is easy to relate to as an Average Joe. I have watched this film a half-dozen times in total. This is down to the cast. Gallo et al make this film completely watchable, but conversely each time I do watch it, it is frustrating to think how much better the same cast would be with a wittier screenplay.

“We’re robbing you, asshole”


It is unfortunate that Palookaville never completely gels. The drama itself is not moving enough, nor the humour biting enough. But make no mistake, Palookaville is still a perfectly solid watch. In fact it is somewhat fitting that the pleasant-mediocrity of the movie matches the notions within the film itself; You don’t always need to excel. Sometimes it is OK to be average if you can truly appreciate all that you do have.


The next Hollyweird can be summed up in two truly glorious words…. ‘Rapping Shatner’!!!!!

Thanks for reading.


* I won’t actually cite the movie quote. Any cinephile should know and anyone else can Google it.

BLOG: YTC_Hollyweird: Episode XVI: Silence Is Golden

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

In the short term, the YTC podcast can currently be found at


The blog below was under an older name of Hollyweird. I have kept the numbering the same so that I could keep track of my posts, but this is where it all begin back in the heyday of 2012…


Spaghetti is an indulgent meal- at least the way that I make it. Oh sure, I use Soya mince and whole wheat pasta, both of which hint towards a healthy diet. But then I load that bad boy with so much cheese it would make a Frenchmen weep with envy.

Now, via the wonder that is the ‘tenuous link’, I will now segue into how Spaghetti Westerns mirror my aforementioned cooking. Spaghetti Westerns can be seen as a sloppy, messy experience that are intended as a simple indulgence. They are not necessarily designed for a more discerning palette.


Yet to underestimate the Spaghetti Western as overly simple is to do it a great injustice. Such an injustice in fact, that Sergio Corbucci would hire a bounty hunter to track you down and kill you just for thinking such a foolhardy thought. You see, Corbucci’s 1968 movie, The Great Silence, is still a piece of schlocky fun but it also dares to be richer. The Great Silence dissects the evils of the law once it becomes just another product to be traded.



The narrative is fairly simplistic; A boy sees his parents killed by bounty hunters, all of whom are all disguised as officer saof the law. Although these bounty hunters are not quite cold enough to kill the boy, they sever his vocal chords to ensure he cannot report them. This boy is our mute protagonist, known forever more as simply ‘Silence’.

Now an adult, Silence has become a bounty hunter himself, and he has worked out a crafty loop hole to suit his profession. The law of the time states that Bounty Hunters can only kill in self defence. Consequently Silence goes out of his way to antagonise his prey into drawing first. he then relies on his tremendous speed and his imported, and highly unusual, semi-automatic pistol to beat the odds.

Fur is murder!

As the film gathers pace, Silence’s latest bounty takes him to a snow blanketed mountain town in Nevada. En route he finds himself sharing a stage coach with the newly appointed Sheriff Burnett, and a rival bounty hunter, Loco. Although from here on in the plot is fairly thin, it is this trio of characters that really bind the theme of The Great Silence together.

Once the trio have arrived at the town, Silence is hired by a grieving widow to kill Loco. Meanwhile, Loco is waiting in town for thieves hidden in the nearby mountains to come out of hiding so that he can claim their bounty. Simultaneously, Loco is also aware of Silence’s intent and so Loco outright refuses to be provoked into a gunfight. Meanwhile Sheriff Burnett wants them both out of town and begins to flex his legal muscles…. naturally being a Spaghetti Western everything comes to a head with some considerable bloodshed.

The twist though, is that it is only the ‘good’ guys that do any of said bleeding- Loco and most of his flunkies get away scot free. Not only that, but Loco doesn’t even break a sweat!

Is this the most bad-ass rabbi ever??

Barely midway through the film Loco easily dispatches the Sheriff with considerable ease. Loco simply tricks him into a frozen lake then breaks the ice. A murder of one of the three main characters with no fuss and no muss on Loco’s part shows just how in control of events he is.

Skipping ahead to the climax of the film and Silence has had his shooting hand crippled by Loco’s thugs. Left with only one hand, Silence is then blackmailed by Loco into a one-on-one confrontation. Loco has captured the wanted bounties from the mountains, all of whom are revealed to in fact be starving people forced to steal food to survive. Loco threatens to butcher them all if Silence does not face him one-on-one.Despite being crippled, Silence heads for the stand-off…

Silence can’t talk as he’s feeling a little horse.

It is- of course- a trap. Loco’s men shoot Silence from a distance targeting his remaining hand. Struggling to even try to lift his Semi-automatic, Loco blows Silence away. Rather shockingly for a Western showdown, Silence doesn’t even get to draw his gun, he just stands there like a human target. Then to add insult to injury, Loco slaughters Silence’s new lover right before Loco decides to massacre of all of the hostages! Poor Silence is not much of a hero. To quote Spaceballs “Evil always triumphs because good is dumb”.

In fact, wait a minute… Silence is literally dumb!!!

Batman vs The Joker, 1885.

As the film prepares to bow out, Loco remains as an un-flustered survivor surrounded by profitable bounties bleeding at his feet. Loco utters the final- and crucial- worlds of the film, “All according to the law”. Evidently there is no room for mercy when the Justice is for sale.

Loco is clearly the most heartless character in the film, but he is also the only character to achieve everything that he sets out to. More than that, Loco even thrives through his cut-throat actions. By the end of the film he is not just the sole survivor of the three main characters, he is now going to be a rich man. Loco is pure capitalism freed of any consequences. He lives a life of profit driven extremes via villainous actions.

In it for the money

Opposing Loco both narratively and figuratively, Sheriff Burnett exists at the opposite end of the moral spectrum. Sheriff Burnett is the sole character driven to uphold the law purely in the name of decency. At one point Burnett even turns down an impressive bribe from Loco. Yet honour aside, Sheriff Burnett is dispatched as bumbling fool. If Loco represents ruthless profit, then Burnett represents ineffectual idealism.

So where does that leave our protagonist, the titular ‘Great Silence’ himself? Well one of interesting tangents within this film is that Silence himself is not much of a hero at all.

Tellingly Silence has dedicated his life to become a bounty hunter, despite that being the very thing that he hates. Acting as a manhunter, Silence even accepts the job to kill Loco for $1000 which is the very same fee Loco was paid to kill the widow’s husband. Silence exists a walking contradiction.

Even more damning of his nature, not only has Silence become a bounty hunter but he has become a manipulative bounty hunter, at that.

He’s a cold one, make no mistake

In his own way Silence is as cruel and sly as those that killed his parents. He provokes outlaws to start fights then disables their shooting hands. In addition, he uses an imported gun that is faster to reload than any of his adversaries more localised revolvers. Silence ‘cheats’ in ways that a more traditional, John Wayne-esque, Cowboy would most likely sneer at. Like Loco, Silence is a character acting for his own gain through a profession of unfair murder.

Still, unlike Loco, Silence does display small pangs of conscience. In certain regards, Silence is more in line with Sheriff Burnett. After all, at the end of the film Silence does attempt to save the hostages despite having no chance of succeeding. His logic is certainly murky as to why he tries. (It could be for revenge or for the sheer hatred of Loco or to actually help the hostages). Yet the fact is that he does actually try to help, which seemingly puts him one step closer to having a social conscience. Silence has the option to escape but does not take it. Prior to his rescue attempt, Silence also stops a rape which is what costs him the use of his shooting hand.

So perhaps Silence represents the muddled marriage of cold economics trying to fit alongside altruistic humanity. He is neither one attitude nor the other. He is never truly at peace with his conflicted nature, and neither are we as the viewers.


We are all at war with ourselves. Good thing we don’t all have guns.


So, if Loco is the cruel Right, Burnett is the soppy Left and Silence is the awkward mid-ground, then Both Burnett’s and Silence’s utter annihilation at the hands of the Loco says volumes about Corbucci’s film.There is an unhealthy link between the law as a concept and the law as a business, and when it is pushed too far the innocent will suffer.

The Great Silence services one key message throughout; The actions of the state and its law are controlled by capital. Conversely the state only protects said property.

Why in this very film the state even rewards the notion of the bounty instead of supporting the needs of people themselves. The expense of privatized justice over social services forces the townsfolk to steal to eat, but then they become wanted criminals. In turn bounty hunters are then used to bring in these ‘criminals’. Thus a vicious circle of the powerful few maintaining their status to the cost of the masses can be seen to take place.

This is an idea still topical in today’s 1% environment. Whilst the current British government keep one eye on Privatization options, clearly The Great Silence is a film still relevant for contemporary consideration.


Now, should today’s piece read as depressingly serious then please check out the Fantoma produced Special Edition DVD of The Great Silence.This version features a rare alternate ending that was designed for an certain Markets whose audience that would not accept such a bleak ending.

The alternate ending features the Sheriff mysteriously surviving his frozen bath, and Silence is inexplicably fitted with a metal hand! Between them, they out-gun Loco and all ends well for the good guys…. don’t you just love a happy ending?!?

A Metal Hand

So if the hidden depths of this Spaghetti Western have piqued your interest at all dear readers, then let me add three quick points as to why The Great Silence is undoubtedly worth a watch.

  1. The score is by Ennio Morricone. Although it may not be one of his most famous soundtracks, to my mind it is one of his strongest. This is less grandiose and more haunting than a lot of his Western work but still makes you reflect on those beautiful landscapes…..
  2. Speaking of which, a snow-covered Western is just an interesting visual change to the genre.
  3. And finally, Loco is played by professional-maniac, Klaus Kinski. ‘Nuff said.



OK, I need a break from exploitation films. As such, next time I’ll be looking at gentle indie-comedy from the Nineties that could have been a contender.

Thanks for reading.