The first Monday of every month I deliver capsule reviews of the latest, if not greatest, new direct-to-DVD titles for a little feature we like to call "Dispatches From Direct To DVD Purgatory". This week I'll be checking out Jeff Goldblum in Pittsburgh, Paul Walker in Bobby Z and a third direct-to-DVD joint of your choosing. What would you, the long-suffering A.V Club reader like me to write about? The horror anthology Snoop Dogg's Hood Of Horror, Rise, a horror movie with Lucy Liu as a sexy vampire lady or Species: The Awakening, a sequel about a sexy killer alien lady or something? Vote for your favorite and I'll spend my evening watching whatever steaming pile of cinematic magic you've chosen for me. Cause I'm masochistic like that.
Pittsburgh (2006): Robert Smigel's short-lived T.V Funhouse spin-off had an amusing ongoing feature called "The Baby, The Immigrant and the Guy On Mushrooms" The thin but resonant joke behind the cartoon was that these demographics are pre-disposed to find just about anything deliriously exciting. I would add to this pantheon of easily impressed souls one of my favorite character actors, Jeff Goldblum. Few thespians register awe and wonder so effortlessly. Goldblum similarly possesses a salacious, hard to quantify sexual energy: I imagine he's the kind of guy who hugs people way too long and hard. It's a goddamned shame that Goldblum and Christopher Walken never appeared in an eighties buddy cop movie with a telltale name like Nutzy & Oddball (I haven't quite decided who should play renegade cop Vincenzo Nutzy and who should play his even crazier partner Edmund Iganatius Oddball).
Jeff Goldblum's eccentric personality takes center stage in the loopy mockumentary Pittsburgh, a goofy lark where Goldblum plays himself as a spacey movie star who leaves behind the bright lights of Hollywood and a four-million dollar paycheck to appear in The Island to star in a regional production of The Music Man in his hometown of Pittsburgh opposite his green-card-craving real life girlfriend Catherine Wreford. It's a measure of what a strange little project this is that reliable old pros Goldblum, Illeana Douglas and Ed Begley Jr. occupy the lead roles yet Moby, (yes that Moby) scores all the big laughs gleefully parodying his image as the kind of sex-obsessed narcissist who breaks up with someone (in this case Douglas) while leading a Mardi Gras parade. It also seems bizarre that Goldblum's romance with his much-younger fiancée–ostensibly the heart of the film and his motivation for ditching Hollywood–is developed far more sketchily than Douglas and Moby's ill-fated and altogether secondary pairing. Pittsburgh is seldom more than mildly amusing but fans of Goldblum and genially quirky fare should find it worthy of a spot on their online queue and there are some funny bits involving an Ed Begley Jr infomercial and the professional ramifications of Goldblum's appearing on Late Night With Conan O'Brien in the dreaded second spot. Oh and Goldblum and Wreford, the gal he was intent on marrying? They've subsequently broken up. That's Pittsburgh for ya.
Just How Bad Is It?Not bad but not great either
Bobby Z: The sordid b-movie Bobby Z hurls itself into the annals of miscasting history in early scenes where Paul Walker swaggers through prison sporting shaggy blond locks and a scruffy beard that make him look like Greg Allman auditioning in the lead role in Jesus Christ Superstar before killing Chuck Liddell (of Ultimate Fighting Championship and awkward cameo as himself on Entourage fame) with a shiv. Though the camp potential of a Paul Walker prison movie is off the charts the heartthrob quickly trades in his prison duds for a buttoned down shirt and smart sweater once conniving federal agent Laurence Fishburne convinces him to impersonate a mysterious drug lord in exchange for his freedom. Fishburne then double and triple crosses Walker by sending an army of lowlifes to eliminate him with extreme prejudice. Here Walker dresses like a preppie undergraduate, looks like a J. Crew model and talks like a surfer. What part of that combination screams ex-con badass or hardass military motherfucker? Late in the film Walker stares into a mirror with a look of, um, anguish or self-doubt or something and delivers the following dialogue with his reflected image: "Hey, you Bobby Z?" "Yeah, man. I am Bobby Z." "Go big or go home. Drop it in balls deep. Balls Deep. You want some of this, friend?" Walker then thrillingly smashes the mirror en route to a ridiculous conclusion where he kills his way out of some scrapes and thinks his way out of others. For better or worse Bobby Z is a glorified pulp paperback of a movie, a sordid time-waster where the men are scum and the women are sexy and decorative. It's not quite the camp riot its premise and cast suggests but it's similarly not without its share of guilty pleasures and cheap thrills either. Just How Bad Is It? It's sleazily mediocre, albeit in a ball's deep, go big or go home kind of way