Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

'Almost Hollywood' is almost funny

Almost Hollywood (1994)
Starring: Don Shot, Greg Scott, Rachel Dyer, India Allen, and Scott Apel
Director: Mike Weaver
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

Tony (Shot), a sleazy producer of direct-to-video "erotic thrillers", finds himself under increasing pressure when an angry starlet (Dyer) reveals their affair to his wife, and the owners of his studio decide they want to make "classy" movies and hire a Playboy Bunny with pretensions (Allen) to be the lead in their next three pictures. Things go from bad to worse when the starlet is murdered after a wrap-party, and everyone is willing to believe Tony killed her because they all dislike him so much.

This film is a misfire from beginning to end. While it's conceptually a decent satire about low-budget exploitation film-making in 1990s L.A., with the expected assortment of stereotypes and all the usual digs and truisms about the industry you find whenever low-budget filmmakers turn the a fictitious and satirical eye on themselves, it's not funny enough during the humorous bits, its not suspenseful enough during the scary bits, and it unfolds at a pace that is for the most part far too slow. Frankly, there's nothing here that's all that good; the film is mostly a collection of jokes and characters that are used to much greater effect in other movies (like in "Hollywood Boulevard" and the more recent "Shoot or Be Shot"), and by the time the film reaches its conclusion and offers up a curious little coda, you get the feeling that the creators of the movie knew there was nothing here that's all that good.

The only thing that makes this movie interesting to watch is the character of Tony, the sleazy producer. This character is usually the villain in pictures like this, and he starts out that way here, but as the film progresses, I found myself rooting increasingly for him. He is the only character in the film who is honest with himself and others about who he is (excluding any actor he happens to be talking to--he considers lying to actors just part of the job, something he's not shy about explaining to any non-actor who will listen), and he's the only character who is happy with what he does in the movie business. "I like my movies," is a line he says several times during the film, not to convince himself that they're good, but just stating the fact that he likes them and that he enjoys his role in making them together and getting them to market. Every other character in the film is either a hypocrite or a self-deluded windbag and/or hack... Tony, in the end, emerges as perhaps the most moral character of them all. A desire to learn his ultimate fate was the only thing that kept me engaged with this movie, because, even though he was the creator of the mess he was in, I wanted to see him get out of it. (The identity of the killer became obvious early on, and it will be to all but the most dense viewer; and director Weaver must have thought he was making a movie for some REALLY dense viewers, because he telegraphs the killer's identity even before the second murder happens. And if anyone but me cares why I put reviews on the blogs I do, this approach to the film's murder mystery aspect of the film is why I'm covering it here instead of at Watching the Detectives.)

As the low rating implies, I can't give this movie a strong recommendation. It is carried almost entirely by the fact that Tony is a different sort of character for this type of movie, with even the funniest of jokes being predictable and the plodding pace at which it unfolds making it even harder to sit through. However, if you can't get enough of filmmakers and actors making fun of themselves of the public's perception of them, or if you have REALLY fond memories of the kind of fare that was typical on "USA Up All Night", it might be worth seeking out. If nothing else, you can consider it a "bonus feature" if you pick up one of the several DVD multi-movie packs in which it is present.

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