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My Cousin Vinny DVD
Your December 2007 UMC Results Are In!

Tagline: Rambo. Terminator. Indiana Jones. Vinny Gambini.

If you don't know what "yutes" are, ask MY COUSIN VINNY for the answer

The Preshow Entertainment was an episode from the 1993 Showtime series FALLEN ANGELS. This neo(?)-noir anthology (I love anthology series!) boasted some heavy actor names like Isabella Rossellini, James Woods, Laura Dern, Diane Lane, and Benicio Del Toro (which I believe means "Benny of the Bull").
Fallen Angels DVD
The stories were from the pulpy pages of writers like Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson, Mickey Spillane, Dashiell Hammett, Cornell Woolrich (see
THE WINDOW), James Ellroy, and Evan "Ed McBain" Hunter. Also on board, directors Jonathan Kaplan, Steven Soderbergh, Peter Bogdanovich, Alfonso Cuarón (who I just sang about for directing CHILDREN OF MEN), as well as a few actors wearing directors' hats like Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and Kiefer Sutherland. The 15 episodes were executive produced by Sydney Pollack.

Gabrielle Anwar as Delia
Our selection, which was the series' bow, was called DEAD-END FOR DELIA and starred Gary Oldman, Meg Tilly, Gabrielle Anwar, Dan Hadeya, Wayne ("Newman!") Knight and Vondie Curtis-Hall (RMC TIP! If you have a desire to smack your forehead until it bleeds, rent GLITTER and watch Sir Curtis-Hall's director's commentary). DELIA was directed by Phil Joanou.

Gary Oldman as Detective Pat Keiley
Now the bad news. We scraped our eyes on this show and it melted us faster than ice cream in the desert. What crap. Here are the five mistakes; 1- The story was okay, but it was written like a Mad Magazine parody of noir. 2- It's in color. 3- The actors chewed way too much of the "shadows of venetian blinds" scenery. 4- Showtime greenlit it. 5- We watched it. Now maybe the remaining 14 eps were decent, so I won't slam the entire series. But I fear this effort was over stylized gloss in noir clothing.


I am changing. So is the world. Mix those two assertions together and somewhere within lies the reason I don't laugh at comedies anymore. Oh sure, I'm exaggerating. Just check out my takes on THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN and KISS KISS BANG BANG. But brother, I remember you could always go to a movie theater and laugh. There always seemed to be a GHOSTBUSTERS, a good Woody, ARTHUR, THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS, TOOTSIE, STRIPES,
HOLY GRAIL, SLAPSHOT, EDDIE MURPHY RAW, THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY....okay, I'll stop, but you get what I'm saying. And perhaps you disagree. Maybe you laugh at BALLS OF FURY and NACHO LIBRE. (Of course, it could be argued that there have always been movies like BALLS OF FURY and NACHO LIBRE around.) But if you do agree, then maybe we agree on this as well - MY COUSIN VINNY is funny.

It all begins when college kids Billy and Stan (a dusky Ralph Macchio and...some other guy), while driving through the deeeeeeeeeep south, get arrested for a murder they did not commit. Their only hope is a lawyer in Billy's family. But Vincent LaGuardia Gambini never practiced trial law, and it doesn't help that he is so Brooklyn he makes Tony Manero look like Henry Higgins.
Marisa Tomei as Lisa Vito
In tow is his equally Kings County-bred fiance Mona Lisa Vito (or Lisa, for short). Please believe me when I tell you that these two characters, played spot on by Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei, own this movie. You could almost smell her hairspray and the leather from his jacket.

And so begins the fish out of water ("
Pesci" actually means "fishes" in Italian) story of these two hardcore Italians as they match wits with the slower, tightly-knit ways of rural Alabama.

But Vinny getting the kids off is not such an easy task. He seems to offend the judge (the wonderful Fred Gwynne) at every turn. Vinny also has car trouble, wardrobe trouble and girl trouble, as Lisa is tired of waiting for them to get married. Grits, yutes (it's how Vinny pronounces "youths", as in "...is it possible the two yutes..."), owls, pre-dawn train whistles, pig squeals and bullies also get Vinny's hackles up, as well as contribute to hampering him from winning the trial. Plus Lisa's feeling left out of the mix, not to mention her biological...(foot stomp)...clock...(foot stomp)...is...ticking...(foot stomp).

Maury Chaykin and Austin Pendleton
There's a delightful cast of character actors as townsfolk, including but not limited to (sorry, the whole courtroom thing has me thinking legally) - Fred Gwynne, Lane Smith, Bruce McGill, Maury Chaykin, and the hardest working unknown actor in Hollywood...James Rebhorn (I've seen over 20 movies he was in, yet still didn't know his name). But it's Austin Pendleton's performance as public defender Gibbons that gets not the most, but the biggest laugh in the movie. Good for him. Austin rocks. I mean, anyone who acted on Broadway in THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK and in Preminger's trippy film SKIDOO is surely a pop culture hero.
Hans Conried, watch out!

If I may repeat myself, Pesci and Tomei are 100% funny here. In fact, MY COUSIN VINNY put Tomei on the map. She even won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Yes this was the movie where (it was RUMORED)...it was announced that she won the Academy Award when (it was RUMORED) presenter Jack Palance didn't have his glasses on (one of many variations...drunk being another), and just said her name, when in fact she wasn't the real winner. But it's just not true. Here: http://www.snopes.com/movies/actors/tomei.asp

Vinny (Joe Pesci) has his day in court
Now don't expect a belly laugh a minute here. Though much of the humor is served to you on a plate, some of it is subtler. It's an eye roll or an extra beat of silence. And sure, a lot of things are telegraphed and overly set-up, but MY COUSIN VINNY is what I call a "forgivable comedy." The kind that's so likable and fun you look the other way at a plot hole here and a logic point there. Like how come Billy and Stan's parents never came down to assist and support their sons? I mean, they are on trial for murder and the penalty is...death.

VINNY was directed with stagey rhythm by Jonathan Lynn (a lawyer himself) and written by Dale Launer at the tail end of his 6 year hot streak (that's a good thing...who wouldn't want a 6 year hot streak?). Together they created one of those rare films that actually gets funnier as it plays out. This movie is everything another Italian fish outta water movie made two years earlier in 1990, MY BLUE HEAVEN, should have been. Both movies feature main characters named Vinny and are about Italian tough talkers who find themselves in Smalltown USA. But MY COUSIN VINNY has the charm, the sincerity and the funny. And it also has the two yutes.

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