Two interesting obscure flicks I caught on Cable. One gets a qualified thumbs up and the other gets a guarded thumbs down.
Let's start with the bad news... Smiley Face.
This was a bizarre comedy flick staring Anna Faris. She plays a girl who just got WAY too high and has trouble getting things done, like pay the electric bill and go to an acting audition. She winds up stumbling through a strange and desperate series of events. She actually does a really good job at playing a girl who is completely and utterly stoned. Her paranoia, forgetfulness, severe munchies, and all around dopiness is performed masterfully. There's also some very entertaining camera angles, special effects, and some clever writing. Also a few guest appearences by recognizible, if not A-list, actors including Mrs. C from Happy Days, Harold from Harold and Kumar, and the big tall creepy comedian guy who pusehed the mail cart in Mad About You (and was one of he gay guys in Sarah Silverman Show).
The main problem with this movie, which just ruins the whole thing, is that the gag is worthy of a short subject... not a whole movie. It wears thin early on, and they keep milking it and milking it. If this was a half hour piece, it would have been a raging success in my oppinion. But an hour and a half of this is just WAY too much.
On a tangent note, I couldn't help but notice the last thing in the credits actually gave credit to the owners of the happy face symbol, a company called Smiley World.
Next up is... What We Do Is Secret
This is the Punk Rock equivalent of Oliver Stone's "The Doors". It tells the whole story of the rise and fall of The Germs, the seminal but short lived Los Angeles punk band fronted by singer Darby Crash. Chances are you never heard The Germs. They were one of the sloppiest and noisiests acts around... unlike the tight Ramones or the more Rock and Roll oriented X or the melodic The Damned. However, their T-shirst are still a staple among the alternative rock scene of the 90's and into this decade. You may also have seen their omnipresent logo either on shirts or as graffitti, though you would never know it... it was simply a blue circle.
Ironically, after their first gig, one of the chicks makes it clear that she is not and never was officially part of the band. She says that she would never want to be on stage with all those people looking at her. However, a few years later, young Belinda Carlisle would find herself in the limelite.
Darby Crash is played by TV star Shane West (of ER fame), and there's a good performance by Bijou Philips. IMO, the lesser known Rick Gonzalez steels the show as the guitarist Pap Smear.
The movie covers all the important fixtures of the early LA punk scene from around '75 - '80. This includes mentions of the clubs like The Whiskey and The Orphium, and the characters who owned and opperated them. Also they show the inception of Slash Records. They were sure to include the Rodney Bingenheimer character, a DJ sometimes known as The Mayor of the Sunset Strip, an obscure character who was influential in the scene. They also included the appearence of Penelope Spheeris who was making her documentary of the scene, "The Decline of Western Civilization".
Most important, they show the early punk for what it was, a bunch of low down dirty street hustlers making a statement. These were not posers, they lived the life and lived the scene.
If you have any interest in the punk rock scene, either musically or just as a social phenomenon, this is well worth seeing. If you don't care about punk, and can't stand the music, then avoid at all costs.