Don Clinchy's blog

VOD Review: The Flying Scissors


The Flying ScissorsI've long been a fan of mockumentaries, especially those that skewer deserving subjects while also skewering the sometimes overly earnest art of documentary filmmaking. The Flying Scissors, a mockumentary about the world of competitive rock, paper, scissors, occasionally succeeds at both. But despite an amusing premise and some likeably quirky characters, most of the film's humor falls flat.

The Flying Scissors -- released this week on Austin's Time-Warner Video on Demand, Amazon VOD, and other online VOD sites -- follows a dozen or so competitors in a rock, paper, scissors championship tournament, developing each character via the standard documentary mix of interviews and scenes of them going about their daily lives. Per documentary (and thus mockumentary) convention, the characters are a diverse group of socially inept oddballs, lifelong underachievers, and hyper-competitive types who have little in common except their obsession with a "sport" that no one outside the group seems to appreciate. More importantly, they also share a desire to succeed at something in their lives.

For example, hapless real-estate agent Frank Johnson (Todd Susman) lives in a tiny, trashy apartment but proudly shows off the equally tiny trophy he won at a previous tournament. Emasculated househusband Phil Stevens (Mason Pettit) hopes that winning the tournament will give his pushy wife Amy (Kerry O'Malley) a reason to respect him. Ardent feminist Leslie Hanrahan (Susan O'Connor) wants a victory for womyn everywhere, and vapid Christian beauty queen Anna Carlson (Sarah Wheeler) hopes a victory will somehow jumpstart her nonexistent acting career and/or bring her closer to Jesus.

DVD Review: From Mexico with Love


From Mexico with Love DVD coverOn the From Mexico with Love DVD box cover, E Latino Weekly describes the film as "a modern-day Rocky." The comparison is probably inevitable, as both films are about scrappy underdog boxers. Sadly, From Mexico with Love has as much in common with Sylvester Stallone's poignant masterpiece as Dear John has with From Here to Eternity; both films involve beach-related wartime romance, but that's where the similarity ends.

To be fair, the creators of From Mexico with Love probably had good intentions. The film -- released today on DVD -- attempts to meld a crowd-pleasing sports story with serious commentary about the plight of migrant farm workers living on the U.S.-Mexico border. (Think Rocky meets Lone Star.) Unfortunately, the film delivers its political messages with jackhammer subtlety, and any sincere attempt at social relevance is no match for a thoroughly clichéd plot and dialogue apparently lifted from the lesser works of Dolph Lundgren.

The film's protagonist, Hector (Kuno Becker), is an impoverished Laredo farm worker who supplements his meager income by boxing in unsanctioned and unruly low-rent prizefights. Hector's world includes the expected characters: cynical immigrant smuggler Tito (Steven Bauer), grizzled boxing trainer Billy (Bruce McGill), and the conveniently beautiful love interest, Maria (Danay Garcia). Hector is a devoted son to his ailing mother, who labors alongside him in the fields despite her persistent coughing and wheezing. When the callous farm boss (apparently, there are no noncallous farm bosses, at least in movies about migrant workers) cuts mom's pay because she can't pick the required daily amount of vegetables, Hector brawls with the boss and soon finds himself unceremoniously dumped on the Mexican side of the border.

DVD Review: Amreeka


AmreekaLike many films about immigrants, in many ways Amreeka tells a standard coming-to-America story of survival in an unfamiliar and often unwelcoming new land. But its great script and subtle, natural performances make Amreeka anything but a standard film about the immigrant experience. The feature film is now available on DVD and Amazon VOD.

The feature film debut of Jordanian-American writer/director Cherien Dabis, Amreeka is the story of a divorced mother, Muna, and her teenage son, Fadi, who emigrate from the Palestinian territory to a small town in Illinois.  After years of suffering the daily indignities of life in the West Bank (including ID checks and body searches at Israeli border checkpoints), Muna unexpectedly receives her green card. She and Fadi quickly leave for greener pastures in the American heartland, moving in with Muna's sister, Raghda, and her prosperous family.

The expected difficulties ensue: Despite her years of banking experience, Muna must settle for a job flipping burgers at White Castle, and Fadi has trouble fitting in at his new high school. Further complicating matters are the strained relationships in Raghda's family, as she, her husband, and their three young daughters try to find a cultural balance between the family's Palestinian past and its American present.  All of this happens against a backdrop of all-American xenophobia, as the family deals with anti-Arab bigotry during the early days of the Iraq war. The story is set in 2003, shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

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