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Monday, April 14, 2014

DVD Review: Junk

Junk is a completely enjoyable, seriously funny and surprisingly sweet film about two guys who must set aside their differences when their movie is accepted at a small film festival. Don’t let the photo on the DVD fool you. This is not a drug movie. Sure, some of the characters do some drugs, but that is not the focus. This is a movie about films and friendship, and while it is often very funny, it also has heart and substance.

The film stars Kevin Hamedani as Kaveh, a man who directed a film titled Islama-rama 2, which has been accepted in a film festival. Kevin Hamedani also directed and co-wrote Junk. Ramon Isao co-wrote Junk, and plays Raul, the man who wrote Islama-rama 2. When the film opens, Kaveh is rehearsing a speech in front of the mirror about changes he’s making to his life. He then goes to meet his ex-girlfriend Natasha, telling her he still loves her and that he’s changed (“I even listen to R.E.M. now”) in an attempt to win her back. This attempt fails, as she is seeing someone new (“Somebody who listens to my stories without needing to take a bong hit”). But it’s interesting to see where this character’s priorities are. His film has been accepted to a film festival, and the first thing he thinks of is using that as a way to win back the love of his ex-girlfriend. That right there lets you know that this is a character-driven comedy, and not a slapstick comedy about silly situations.

Meanwhile Raul, his filmmaking partner, is in New York, in a writing workshop, which is not going well for him. The leader of the workshop tells him, “You’re not a good writer, but you’re a good film thing. So be a film thing.” We also get a truly sweet moment with Raul and his wife, Sachiko.

Kaveh and Raul haven’t spoken in a year, but the two are going to be sharing a motel room together. Their goal is to pitch their next film to a famous producer who will be attending the festival (described as a Japanese Roger Corman). When the two meet up in their crappy motel room, the scene is allowed to play out, which is nice. We see a little of the sources of their animosity (Kaveh can’t be bothered to remember Raul’s wife’s name, or even her nationality for that matter), but also the way they try to hide it with pleasantries. It’s actually a really good scene. Because of the really good performances by both lead actors, it’s believable that they have a history, and their awkwardness is likewise believable. It’s not overplayed for comedy.

As you might expect from a movie about filmmakers, there are lots of great film references – to Jodorowsky, Sam Raimi and films like Fright Night, Critters, Child’s Play, The Karate Kid, and Gremlins (“Rule 16: Don’t ever expose your Mogwai to the German language”). And of course we get to see a bit of Kaveh and Raul’s film. Their first midnight screening is lightly attended, but those there are into it, which is cool. And we see their competition’s film too, which is hilarious. We also see Kaveh and Raul’s ideas for future projects, including sequels to Gremlins and Child’s Play.

This movie made me burst out laughing many times. And a couple of those times, the laughter was of a sort of delightedly shocked variety. I’m so tempted to tell you about those moments, but I don’t want to spoil them. But as I said, while the film has these hilarious moments, it's really a film about friendship, and you come very quickly to care about the main two characters. There are lots of great moments and funny lines. When Kaveh awkwardly hits on a gorgeous girl at a bar, he says this great line: “Will you teach me how to go out with you?” I've watched the movie twice, and for some reason that line made me burst out laughing both times. Kevin Hamedani's delivery is just perfect.

Sure, there are a couple of dumb jokes. The mooning joke early on is one I could do without. And it seems odd that a film producer would have armed guards. But this film is such a delight that it's easy to overlook those few weak moments.

Bonus Features

This DVD has plenty of bonus material. There is a commentary track with Kevin Hamedani, Ramon Isao and Brett Davern, who plays Billy, the filmmakers' festival liaison. They tell some good anecdotes. The peanut butter bit from the beginning is actually based on a real event from Kevin’s life. The song that Cooper sings is one he actually wrote. They talk about many of the actors that they got for the film, including James Hong (from Missing In Action) and George Hardy (whom you’ll remember from the notorious Troll 2 and Best Worst Movie). And that’s George Hardy’s daughter in the scene with him. Ramon Isao’s wife plays his wife in the film, so that explains the easy rapport the two characters have. They point out the presence of one of the grips hiding behind a sign in an exterior shot (which I totally missed when watching the film).

There are approximately fifty-three minutes of deleted and extended scenes, including more of Kaveh’s practiced speech to his girlfriend in the mirror; some funny stuff regarding Billy, their festival liaison, and the reviews; more of their competition’s screening; and some good stuff with Connor talking about what’s good for his voice before he sings. The deleted scenes are not presented entirely in order.

The bonus materials include Making Of ‘Junk’ Featurette, which is approximately nine minutes and features interviews with Brett Davern, Ramon Isao and Kevin Hamedani. There are also two music videos by OK GO (“This Too Shall Pass” and “White Knuckles”), a photo gallery and the film’s trailer.

Junk was released on DVD on March 25, 2014 through Breaking Glass Pictures.

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