The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
Captain Slickpants (2012)
Ben Dietels at BPO Films contacted me about reviewing his film, Captain Slickpants. As always, I love the opportunity to check out a smaller budget film and get the word out-- and hopefully the word that I enjoyed it. This has been an unintended bonus of having this review site, that people have reached out to me to look at their films, and has turned out to be one the aspects of it that I like most. So without further ado, let's look at Captain Slickpants. (And for more information on BPO Films, check out their website, bpofilms.com)
Captain Slickpants stars Dietels as Gregg Henley, an off-beat dude who lives in his late grandmother's house in suburban Pittsburgh, has a thin, adolescent mustache, and lights off fireworks and does aerobics in his spare time. He also has a thing for Vanessa, a nice young lady who works as a waitress at his favorite restaurant, the Bocktown Bar and Grill. Anyway, he decides to finally tell Vanessa how he feels, only to have her leave work early that day before he has the chance. Never fear though, fate is smiling on poor Gregg, as he comes across her wallet lying in the parking lot. Going against his friend Steve's advice, which is to just hand it back in to Bocktown, Gregg looks at this as an opportunity to show Vanessa how great a guy he is. Only problem, some thug on a bike steals it out of his parked car. Now Gregg, with his friend Steve's help, need to track it down for her.
Overall, I really liked this movie. It had some top notch film making elements, in particular the way they dealt with the missing wallet. It was like classic Marx Brothers comedic tension, and had that ability to keep me on the edge of my seat, yet laughing at the same time. I also loved the Gregg workout scene in the opening credits. It was like a goofy Travis Bickle, and really set the stage for what we were in for with Gregg. Gregg's sometimes funny sometimes creepy behavior was offset by his friend Steve, who was equal parts straight man and goofball himself. There were also a couple plot twists that I don't want to give away, especially an expertly executed one near the end, that demonstrated how good these guys are, and makes me want to see what they have next.
Now this movie wasn't perfect by any stretch. The ending, for instance, was predictable, at least for me. In listening to the commentary track, they said they went with the ending they did because they wanted to turn the classic Hollywood romantic ending on its ear. The problem with that though, is everyone, including Hollywood, is turning the classic Hollywood ending on its ear. Irony is the new classic ending, so in trying to be ironic, they became what they didn't want to be. A couple things could've mitigated this. One, they could've gone with the classic ending, only with Gregg existing in it, and that alone would've been unique enough and satirical enough. They also could've just gone with a non-cinematic ending. What I mean by that is, just something that would've happened in everyday life. Maybe Gregg brings Vanessa the wallet, and she just thanks him and shuts the door, and that's it. All that said, I liked that they tried to mock the Hollywood romance film with their ending. Another misstep they had though would've been the death knell for me had I not been watching this to review it. They covered the well-worn "accidentally run over guy and need to get rid of the body" routine. This I've seen so many times, and when I saw it here, I wanted to turn it off, which is important, because I would've missed the best part of the movie in the following scene. Had this movie been full of cliches, it would've been one thing, but so much of this movie was great, so I think these two missteps can be overlooked to some degree.
This is a shot from the outside of the Bocktown Grill, which is in Robinson, just outside of Pittsburgh, and looks like a pretty decent place to grab a beer and some food. Captain Slickpants isn't the first film we've done that took place in Pittsburgh. You may remember, a little over five years ago, when we reviewed Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh. While I don't think this is quite as good as that horror comedy romp, I do like this one much better than the other film I've seen that took place in Pittsburgh, Zack and Miri Make a Porno. As a Patriots fan, I'm not supposed to like the idea of Pittsburgh, but it seems like a pretty nice deal, and maybe I'll visit there sometime-- though I'll leave my Pats jersey at home, just in case James Harrison sees me. Also, I embedded a short on the image page that the guys at BPO Films did about Steelers fans suffering depression after the Tebow game last year, and in it, "Patriots Fan" is used as an epithet. What's funniest about their video, is you could substitute it with Pats fans and guys with Boston accents, it would've been the same film.
Check out Steve's blog. He has a Tumblr! If you don't know, I'm something of a Tumblr addict. Steve's character was interesting because, unlike Gregg's, which was pretty consistent throughout, Steve becomes sympathetic as the film goes on, and almost becomes our conduit through which we experience Gregg. In this opening scene with him, he seems like a jerk, calling his friend out; and when we see him at the Bocktown Grill later, he still seems like a bit of a tool; but it's not until we get to know Gregg better, and see Steve with him more, that we see how much Steve just wants to kick him out of his dysfunctional rut. The lengths to which he does it though gets Steve into more trouble than maybe Gregg's worth, but Steve plays all of these aspects well. With these two guys as the main characters, they needed to carry the film, and I think Gregg's character would've gotten old quick if it hadn't been for Steve's propping him up and giving us someone to relate to.
I'm going to do something a little different here for the next three paragraphs. As with most of the reviews I do for director submitted films, this is a ten paragraph as opposed to the usual 8 paragraph post, so with 7, 8, and 9, I want to discuss the film through a note Ben sent me along with his movie. No, it's not the fact that he used two dots instead of 3 for all his ellipsis-- I know I'm a Grammar Hammer, but not that bad-- but it's what the note said. It gave me instructions to not treat his film like a big budget Hollywood production. That rubbed me wrong for two reasons. First, let me decide how to take the film, and if I didn't get it the way you intended it, if I'm upset that it's not Failure to Launch, that's my problem; and second, and most important, it gives me the impression that the movie isn't going to be any good, that it's just a bunch of kids fooling around with their dad's camera, and that I shouldn't be too hard on it because of that. Either way, the note ends up selling the film short, which, I'm telling you Ben and everyone else at BPO Films, you shouldn't be doing, because you've got a good thing going here.
Before writing this review, I went to the imdb page for Captain Slickpants, and looked at the few external reviews they had up. In one of them, the reviewer said he liked it a lot, but thought the guys should've used better camera and sound equipment. With that review in mind, I can see why Ben would want his disclaimer; but I'm here watching your movie on my laptop, pausing the scenes I want images from, hitting "prnt scrn", pasting the screen print into MS Paint, then cropping out the actual screen image and saving that-- in fact, while doing it for this film, I clicked on something in Windows Media Player that resized the video screen, and I couldn't get it back to the original, meaning the pics for this review are in two separate sizes. With that said, the last thing I'm going to do is get on you guys who are working under an extremely limited budget for not using a high end digital camera and a professional boom mic. And again, if I do, that's my problem for being an ignoramus, not yours for assuming I had enough sense to understand you're working on a micro-budget.
Take the picture above. This is from that fantastic plot twist near the end. Can you see hanging on the wall a picture that reads "If all else fails, ask grandfather"? That's right, this scene was shot in one of their grandfathers' houses. For me, this is what adds to the charm of these no-budget films, just taking what you can get and making it work. Was this sequence any less awesome due to the fact that it was shot in someone's grandfather's house? Absolutely not. Now I understand the fear that a low-budget film maker might have in giving me his or her film, that I could spend three paragraphs lecturing them on how cheesy it was that they couldn't get a decent set-- or even that they didn't just take the picture off the wall--, and a note like that is an attempt to make sure I don't do that; but for me, that note undermines what makes this movie so good, and has the reverse effect of making me hone in on what's wrong-- or even, if I didn't enjoy the film, a place to start from to rant about everything I didn't like. I guess what I'm saying is, don't give me a reason to think your movie is poor before I even see it, especially when it's really good.
All right, let's wrap this up. Captain Slickpants, despite a few areas that didn't work for me, was a fun movie that I really enjoyed, and I think you will too. You can pick up the film for $10 at their website, bpofilms.com. I have a feeling these guys are only going to get better, so I can't wait to see what they have next.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2123919/