"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 3 September 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.




Screw Hallmark, screw Crate &

Barrel, and screw the Gallo

brothers. Nobody wets their

panties at the mention of a

legal holiday like a major

motion-picture studio. As most

of America stumbles into the

shower to scrub yesterday's

crusty Heinz from their fingers,

throngs of Century City movie

execs awake to find themselves

hot and bothered by the official

end of the summertime feeding



[Cyber Cinema]

In observance of this three-day

last hurrah, front-lot wizards

dipped into the


sci-fi well and served up a half

bucket of murky releases. From

the freshly resurrected cock

rock of The Crow: City of

Angels to the sugar-daddy-funded

technofest of Synthetic

Pleasures, the pickings were

exceptionally slim. Perhaps

thinnest of all was an unlikely

competition between Solo and

The Island of Dr. Moreau, delivered to

late-summer audiences like some

back-to-school story problem: if

a movie about a killer robot

with a shaved head leaves the

drive-in at 8:15 and a movie

about a gene-splicing

megalomaniac leaves the cineplex

at 10:35, which one will deliver

to the audience its hopelessly

racist stereotypes first? The

answer, of course, is C: they

both arrive, with dreadful

punctuality, at the exact same

place, at the exact same time.



In Solo, a brazen morph of

Terminator, Predator, Rambo,

and Weird Science, Mario

Van Peebles is an android, the

military's hottest double-secret

disposable weapon. He's HotBot

with Cocked Glock and hey, we

almost forgot, he's black. In

the end, he figures out what he

is and who he does and

reprograms himself to bust a cap

in the ass of those who made




Despite its purebred pedigree,

Dr. Moreau is no less of a

shameless knockoff. The

unfortunate update of H.G.

Wells' 1896 sci-fi classic

should resonate with timely and

chilling relevance. But the tale

of a mad scientist performing

genetic mutation on the animals

of a remote island (in a

Goebbelsesque attempt to build a

better strain of man) simply

feels like a bad remake of

Planet of the Apes with

extensive appropriation from

Jurassic Park and Prisoner:

Cellblock H. From the first time we

encounter their foam latex body

parts, we understand that the

mutants will reclaim their

island in a blur of gnashing

teeth and animal-style

copulation, and it's not pretty

when they do.



On paper, Solo and Dr. Moreau

have but two similarities: the

stars of both films are bald and

both films should have been

released straight to video.

Surprisingly enough, they put

forth alarmingly similar

messages: White folk are

manipulative, genetic-mutating

geniuses, evil creators of

machines of destruction! Black

folk are unthinking, muscular

trigger-happy assassins, fleshy

appliances of violence and

death! Or try this one: teach a

Negro to hunt and he'll have

ribs for a day, teach a Negro to

kill and he'll fuck you up two



[Saty Puft]

As a self-appointed God (a role

Brando couldn't possibly

resist), Moreau is carted around

the island in flowing white

robes and mime-style white face

paint. He is a pudgy, white

nightmare: a Stay Puft

Marshmallow Man for the South

Pacific. He dies, however, when

the animals go apeshit, losing

all sense of place and order,

tearing up and torching the

island as if it were a few

well-vegetated blocks of South

Central. The animal that

catalyzes his peers into

unmitigated wilding differs from

the others who have fur and

horns and the standard

accoutrements of animals. Why,

he's black: he sports dirty

dreads, wears a zoot suit, digs

the smell of barbecue, and lifts

a pistol from his drug dealer.



In Solo, the stereotypes are

wielded far more bluntly. Van

Peebles, a killing machine

created by The Man, decides to

bite the hand that feeds it.

Solo is a bulked-up,

greased-down stepcousin of the

abominable "Panther," and Van

Peebles again aims to whip the

crowd into a fist-in-the-air

frenzy. But instead of the

minister, Van Peebles plays the

minstrel, recalling the queasy

days of his TV launch vehicle

"Sonny Spoon." Plugging the

movie last week on Letterman, he

dubbed himself "Schwarz-a-negro"

and "Ram-bro," playing his

well-sculpted blackness and the

derivativeness of Solo to the

hilt. Like his father before

him, Van Peebles is slowly

building an empire on the lofty

charms of blaxploitation.


A pair of Pier 1 salt and pepper

shakers, Brando and Van Peebles

are perfect together. But alas,

even with a respectable outing

this weekend, the movies will

never fly. As

multimillion-dollar flops, the

studios will look to collect on

their losses, fine-tuning their

prototype for the Seen-It-Before-


rehashed sci-fi classic (The

Empire Strikes Black? Played

Runna?) But even as they fume

over box office receipts through

the sluggish months of fall,

they know where the money is.

Come Christmastime, we'll be

paying them back in spades.

courtesy of Not Joey Enough