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Big Gold Brick is currently available for VOD rental.

DIRECTED BY: Brian Petsos

FEATURING: , , , Lucy Hale,

PLOT: After smashing his car into a suicidal scribe, the driver hires the writer as his biographer.

COMMENTS: This film left me with a weight in my heart. A weight of approximately 313 pounds per cubic foot, when it had aspirations of four times that. To the science-y types amongst you, this clumsy metaphor will come across as modestly clever, albeit markedly pertinent. Big Gold Brick, a recent addition to the Hipster-Com-Core genre (“too”-clever, “too”-stylized mysterious-esque films), has the veneer of a shiny new bauble to be melted down and enjoyed: a cryptical client, ironic soundtrack, eccentrics over every shoulder, and a splintered protagonist. It is only around the half-way juncture that Brian Petsos’ feature debut lets slip that it’s faking it—because its key element is missing.

Samuel is, for reasons of various legitimacy, on the cusp of suicide. His first instincts, kicking into furious gear in an opening montage of heavy drinking and light mess-making, spur him to abandon his apartment (owing five months back rent, no less; that West Coast Sam ain’t got nothin’ on this guy), and travel by bus to “Rockchester,” carrying nothing but his typewriter and his crumpled suicide note. From the station, Samuel walks into on-coming traffic in time for Floyd (Andy Garcia) to aspirate some tasty frozen custard while driving his Cadillac. For surly Sam, a crash, a hospital stay, some possible brain damage, and an offer of a writing gig; for Floyd, the shaggy-dog-story-teller in this shaggy-dog movie, a chance for some validation after a life of near-misses.

“Near miss.” Now that would have been an efficient way to describe Big Gold Brick. But seeing as Petsos takes the long way around, I return the favor. The fact of the matter is, it almost works, largely because of the secondary lead. Andy Garcia’s turn as an ex-military “plastics, lenses, and lasers” scientist is both quirky and endearing. Floyd is a delight, as are the bizarre sequences sloshed around with tasteful abandon. Some are mundanely surreal, as when Floyd is talking with the brain specialist at the hospital. The good doctor lights a cigarette, prompting Floyd to inquire, “Can you smoke here?,” to which the doctor takes a puff and nonchalantly replies, “No, you can’t.” Others are sudden, literal, bursts: Floyd (and an unlucky co-worker) discover that the gun actually does function, despite suspicions otherwise.

Megan Fox makes the most of it in her turn as sex-vixen lawyer wife. Lucy Hale is believably spiky and fragile as the cocaine-pixie-dream-girl. And Oscar Isaac lovingly chomps through every Austrian-accented, hyper-limping, bearded corporate crime lord moment as Anselm Vogelweide. The improbable wash nearly carries the film, except, unfortunately, for another casting choice. The lead. I know from Lords of Chaos that Emory Cohen can be very convincing. But surrounded by this cast of weirdos, his bumbling mannerisms and unconvincing narration fall flatter than a pancake on a sheet of drywall.

Big Gold Brick‘s current abysmal rating of 3.4 on IMDb is undeserved. Except, of course, if one bears in mind what this might have been.


“…begins as a tragedy before veering into a wild, outrageously funny and unashamedly bizarre ride… a bold, wildly entertaining and provocative trip down the rabbit hole. It deserves to become a cult classic in the vein of Donnie Darko.”–Avi Offer, NYC Movie Guru (contemporaneous)



“What I look for in a script is something that challenges me, something that breaks new ground, something that allows me to flex my director muscle.”–

DIRECTED BY: Michael Bay

FEATURING: Shia LaBeouf, , ,

PLOT: Giant robots attack a military installation. Shia LaBeouf buys a muscle car, but it’s actually a giant robot in disguise. A team of good giant robots from outer space battle a team of bad giant robots from outer space for control of a Rubik’s Cube.

Still from Transformers (2007)

  • The movie Transformers was so successful that it launched a toy franchise and a Saturday morning children’s show.
  • Against the studio’s wishes, director Michael Bay deleted thirty minutes of explosions from the final cut, then added an additional hour of character development. A yet-to-be-released director’s cut incorporates all the explosion footage that was shot, and runs for over four days.
  • Jon Voight was once a respected actor.
  • Shia LaBeouf is a pseudonym which roughly translates from the French as “Made-up name the beef.”
  • Within five months after receiving her paycheck for Transformers, Megan Fox declared bankruptcy. Reportedly, she spent all of the money on unlicensed Mexican plastic surgery, including $500,000 for an experimental procedure which would have installed an expression on her face.
  • Stephen “Schindler’s List” Spielberg executive produced, haters.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Oh, how about just a freakin’ awesome muscle car transforming into a bad-ass killer robot, is all.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: One of the basic tenets of Surrealism is its insistence on juxtapositions and transformations of unlikely objects. As poet Pierre Reverdy said, “the more the relationship between the two juxtaposed realities is distant and true, the stronger the image will be — the greater its emotional power and poetic reality.” In Un Chien Andalou, we see breasts that turn into buttocks; is this any stranger or more poetic than souped-up yellow Camaros that turn into giant missile-shooting bipeds?

Original trailer for Transformers

COMMENTS: Although some snob critics disparage the work of Continue reading TRANSFORMERS (2007)



DIRECTED BY: Mitch Glazer


PLOT: A trumpet player discovers a woman with wings at a freak show while hiding out from a

Still from Passion Play (2010)

gangster who wants him dead.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  Because it’s the most predictable and obvious movie about a jazz trumpeter saving an angel from a gangster it would be possible to make.

COMMENTS:  There’s almost nothing that Passion Play gets right, starting with its pretentious, inappropriate title: if Mickey Rourke is a Christ figure, then I’m a sex symbol.  The scenario starts out promisingly enough, positioning itself in a twilight netherworld somewhere between film noir and fairy tale.  Junkie jazz musician Nate, who gets by providing bump ‘n grind accompaniment for strippers in pasties at the Dream Lounge, is seized by persons unknown and taken to the desert for summary execution.  After an incredible escape from certain death, he stumbles upon an equally improbable carnival that has pitched its tents in the middle of nowhere and where yokels pay a dollar to peep at a beautiful “angel” with eagle wings.  So far, your suspension of disbelief is strained but not broken, but then the movie goes too far: 59-year old Mickey Rourke, with his stringy unwashed hair falling in clumps around a face that looks like the beaten-up mug of an ex-boxer experimenting with Botox injections, knocks on Megan Fox’s trailer door, and she asks him in for a drink.  From there the movie just gets worse and worse, as the mobster who ordered Nate’s execution also becomes obsessed with Fox and the pic turns into a conventional, obvious and boring love-triangle that begs us to care whether angelic Megan Fox will choose old, sleazy, poor Mickey Rourke or old, sleazy, rich Bill Murray.  Rourke, whose look and backstory are modeled on Chet Baker in his heroin-ravaged final days, is acceptably gruff, and you’ll believe he shoots junk and sells out those dearest to him.  The fact that there’s nothing sympathetic or likable about his character is a serious problem, though.  Watching the sex scene between Rourke and Fox is guaranteed to make your skin crawl; wondering where she’s going to position her wings as they roll around on the hotel room bed isn’t the only thing that’s awkward about it.  “Happy” Shannon’s laid back, almost emotionless mien may have been a deliberate acting choice by Bill Murray to make his character seem cold and calculating, but in the context of a film this bad, it makes it look like he’s acting under protest.  You feel more sympathy for Fox as an actress than you do for her character; after starring in one awful movie after another, she tries to expand her horizons with an ambitious art film, but winds up in yet another bungled disaster (and this time, it’s not even her fault).  Passion Play‘s target audience seems to be creepy old guys who like to daydream that they’d have a shot at Megan Fox if only she had some sort of easily overlooked physical deformity.  So when I, as a creepy older guy who wouldn’t kick Ms. Fox out of bed if she sprouted wings, tell you that this movie sucks, it should carry extra weight.

Mickey Rourke made waves for openly criticizing Passion Play after its release, publicly calling it “terrible.”  I can’t say I disagree with him, but openly and proactively trashing your own film seems like the kind of classless move Passion Play‘s crummy trumpeter might make.


“…though the movie is both too strange to take seriously and not weird enough to live up to [David] Lynch’s macabre surrealism, you have to credit writer-director Mitch Glazer (co-author of ‘Scrooged’) for being daring.”–Kyle Smith, New York Post (contemporaneous)