ALPHA DOG (2006)
I saw this film in a theater last week because my son and
daughter were interested in it. It is a barely- fictionalized account of a
murder which took place in 2000 among drugged-out youths in Hollywood. Two
suburban thugs were feuding over some money which one owed the other from a drug
deal. The drug dealer spotted the other guy's 15-year-old half-brother, and
decided to kidnap him for leverage. He soon discovered that kidnapping is
considered a major crime, and that he would soon be looking at some hard jail
time, so he paid some of his cohorts to dispose of the problem - the problem
being the boy, and the disposal method being murder.
The case had several fascinating elements:
The victim hung out with his kidnappers for days, partying
and playing video games with them. The kidnappers were originally treating the
abduction as if it were an internal matter between them and the victim's
brother, ignoring the gravity with which it would be treated by the legal
Something like four dozen people were aware that the boy
had been kidnapped. If any one of them had called the police, the kid would be
The guy who actually pulled the trigger did it to erase a
drug debt for a relatively small amount of money.
The kid who was kidnapped was basically a nice suburban boy
from a good home and had nothing to do with the drug deals of his
When the drug dealer found out how much trouble he was in,
he fled to Brazil and lived there for some years, thus avoiding the manhunt in
the United States, where he became the youngest man ever to make the FBI's
most wanted list. He would finally be arrested by Brazilian authorities almost
five years after the murder.
The film faced legal challenges before it could be released
because the real-life drug dealer, whose improbable real name is Jesse James
Hollywood, is currently awaiting trial in California and his lawyers argued that
the film prejudiced his case and tended to prevent a fair trial, and that the
district attorney had a conflict of interest. Santa Barbara County Deputy
District Attorney Ronald J. Zonen, who has already prosecuted the co-defendants,
opened up his files to the filmmakers and served as an unpaid consultant on the
film. The California Supreme Court is currently reviewing the case to dismiss
Zonen from Hollywood's trial.
Although the characters' names have been changed, the film
stays quite close to the actual events. The only real dramatic license taken by
the screenplay is that the victim's half-brother (the guy who owed money to the
drug dealer) is turned into a much more colorful character than he actually was.
If you're curious about the case, you can catch up on the background here:
Here is Court TV's account of the case, which is thorough.
Here is the
Wikipedia entry for Jesse James Hollywood, the ringleader of the killers.
Alpha Dog was a project with a high enough profile to
persuade some major stars to waive their big fees and check their egos to play
minor roles. Bruce Willis has a few lines as the drug dealer's father. Sharon
Stone has an even less important role as the victim's mother, but her role has a
quirky element to it. She plays the earlier scenes with her normal physical
appearance, but she is all but unrecognizable in later scenes, apparently
wearing a leftover "fat bastard" suit from Austin Powers 2. (The real-life
mother gained some sixty pounds after her son's fate was discovered.)
My daughter, previously unaware of the film's background,
asked me during the closing credits whether it was based on reality. On the way
home, she said, "I didn't think it was a very good movie until I realized that
it all really happened." I liked the film more than she did, but in terms of
summarizing the key point, I think she pretty much hit the nail on the head. If
this story were completely or almost completely fictional, it would likely have
come and gone virtually unnoticed, ala Bully, which treated a similar subject
some years ago. It might even have gone straight to video. As the Austin
Chronicle wrote, it's too trashy to be serious and too serious to be trashy. The
film is fairly slick, but there's not much dramatic suspense and the characters
are all unsympathetic except for the victim. I think one must concede, however,
that the film really does acquire a certain fascinating aura when one knows that
the script is very close to what really happened. I call this the Amityville
Horror Effect, based upon that movie (original version) which became quite a
sensation because audiences thought it was a true story and were curious about
the inexplicable events of the case. Amithville lost all its appeal and became
just another grade-B horror film when the house's owners finally confessed to
having fabricated the story. When one watches The original version of The
Amityville Horror today it is not possible to see how it could ever have been a
hit film. Alphadog isn't exactly in the same boat. Unlike the Amityville
fabrication, Alpha Dog's story really is true, so its appeal will not completely
disappear in the future, but its minor degree of success will probably mystify
some people some years hence, when its topicality has passed.
On our scale, it's a C: the
parallel to reality makes it an interesting mainstream movie which held my
attention. If I thought it were completely fictional, I would probably have said
C-, because it would have a much narrower target
Rotten Tomatoes: 56%
Third-party video clip: Olivia Wilde
THIRD PARTY VIDEOS
zipped avi from Dead End Road,
a DV effort about a serial killer who thinks he's Edgar Allan Poe. One IMDb commenter
wrote: "If you love movies about fruity dudes who prance around with a top hats
and canes while spouting off random lines of poetry while stabbing their victims
- then this is the movie for you!!"
Catch the deluxe version of Other Crap in real time, with all the bells and whistles, here.
Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe). White asterisk: expanded format. Blue asterisk: not mine. No asterisk: it probably sucks.
Witchouse 3: Demon Fire (2001)
Since none of the three Witchouse films are really related,
except that they all include a witch named Lilith, Full Moon Pictures was
going to acquire a film already in the can and simply convert it into part 3
of this franchise. Director J. R. Bookwalter convinced them that it would be
cheaper to start over if the film were shot in HD digital video. Bookwalter
hired a cast of bimbos, reworked the script, and shot what he calls "babes in
a beach house" for $26,000.
The premise is that three friends (Tanya Dempsey, Debbie
Rochon and Tina Krouse) accidentally form a coven. Tanya Dempsey is
bashed by her husband, and escapes to her old friend's house, where she finds
a crew making a documentary on witchcraft. Most of that premise is just
audience manipulation to insure a surprise at the end. At one point in
the film the coven conjures up the recurring character of Lilith (Brinke
Stevens), who then sets about teaching the mortal women the all-important
lesson that "witches burn."
The script is not strong,
and the performances are weak. Add to that that fact that we have fully
clothed bimbos, and there is not much to like about this film. The DVD,
however, is amazingly thorough for such a weak film, with deleted scenes, a
still gallery and three complete commentaries which show Debbie Rochon to be
quite smart and incisive.
IMDb readers say 3.8, which reflects my
feelings about the film.
This is a D or worse.
Sophie Hartley is a successful book writer/illustrator, married to an
architect, and is mom to two lovely young girls. When we meet her, she's
still grief-stricken over her mother's recent death. She's also begun to
suspect that she's being stalked by her husband's beautiful secretary,
Mara. A series of odd, coincidental events happen in quick succession.
Sophie and her husband attend the office party hosted by Mara and her
husband, and she shows up in a silky red dress nearly identical to the
one Mara's wearing. During the party, Mara becomes unusually friendly
with Sophie as well, pressing drink after drink upon the poor,
uncomfortable woman while chatting about personal things. On her
birthday, Sophie receives a large ceramic vase sculpted in the form of
an owl (Sophie's favourite motif) which, unbeknownst to Sophie holds
within its hollow inside something much more than just good wishes.
Younger daughter Elly's stuffed toy, Spotty, disappears all of a sudden,
as do family photographs from her album. Most unsettling of all, Mara
shows up at Sophie's doorstep one day expressing concern about Sophie's
health after a particularly nasty encounter with wasps – and she's
wearing Sophie's favourite frock, which has been missing from her
wardrobe. Unfortunately for Sophie, her architect husband, Craig,
discounts them as merely psychological imaginings stemming from her
grief and insomnia, and denies the possibility of Mara's involvement in
anything (which only makes Sophie suspicious about her husband). It's
only her elderly neighbour's comments that seem to confirm her fears.
Notes and collages
The Supernatural Ladies
Interview With a Vampire
Tom of Tomscaps provided a few more from
Jess Franco's Snakewoman
Jessica Biel is completely covered in
this picture, but it's worth a look for two reasons. (1) Biel keeps
getting more beautiful by the minute (2) You have to see P. Diddy's
A couple more fully-dressed beauties: Olivia
Munn (left) and Tia Carrere
"Hi, Scoopy. I found this on Ragaroo's
site. It is Sally Kirkland in 1983's Double
Exposure (not Double Threat). I have not seen anything of her from
this movie before. The original cap was very dark and not very good
quality. I played with it and this is the best I could do with it."
Scoop's note: Sally really had some rough sledding in the late 1970s
and early 1980s. She took any work she could get. In this film her
character was "hooker," the exact same billing she received
for 1987's Talking Walls. Other credits during this period include
"store cashier" and "photographer."
Pat's comments in yellow
A new hotel, the Curtis, has opened in Denver with a pop culture theme. It's
filled with nostalgic items, from alarm clocks shaped like VW Beetles to TV
theme song Muzak to classic board games and Godzilla statues in the lobby. You
can choose wake-up calls from Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Mr. T or Austin Powers.
And each floor has rooms on a different theme. For instance, the 8th is Sci Fi,
with "Star Trek," "Terminator" and "Matrix" rooms; the 15th is "Mad About
Music," with rooms dedicated to Elvis, Johnny Cash and B.B. King; and the 11th
is "Chick Flicks," with rooms devoted to "Pretty Woman" and "Thelma & Louise."
* Was it wise to put the "Thelma & Louise" room that high
up in the air?
* Here's a tip: if you stay on the Music floor, avoid the "Keith Moon Room."
Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas studied Napoleon
Bonaparte's clinical history and autopsy, compared them to data from 135 gastric
cancer patients, and concluded that he was not poisoned by the British, as
rumored. He likely died of stomach cancer aggravated by French military food,
which was preserved in salt.
* For 250 years, the French naturally assumed that he
must've been killed by British food.
Newsreader Emma Baker of Anglia Television in eastern England didn't know she
was live on the air as she exchanged risqué chat with an off-camera colleague
whom she called "Mrs. Shameless," fiddled with her bra and flashed her tummy.
One viewer told the Metro newspaper that when she was told she was on the air,
she looked as if she'd been "hit by a thunderbolt." She apologized to viewers,
and the TV news bosses have launched an investigation.
* In a related story, ratings for their newscast are up
Nationwide Insurance, whose slogan is "Nationwide is on your side," has signed
Kevin Federline for a commercial that will debut during the Super Bowl. Their
previous ads have starred MC Hammer and Fabio, and the theme is "Life comes at
you fast," so you need protection. A Nationwide spokesman said K-Fed "has a
great sense of humor" and "No one has personified `Life Comes at You Fast' in
the media better than Federline." In the ad, K-Fed goes from starring in a rap
video to working in a fast food joint.
* It's not just a commercial, it's a documentary.