In the hierarchy of relative acting skills, you've got Broadway, then you've got Off-Broadway, then you've got Off-Off-Broadway, and then you've got community theater in the Midwest, which we could call Off-Off-Off-Broadway -- or just merely intense pain inflicted on you by your seventh-grade teacher who makes you sit in a metal folding chair and watch the night staff at the Dairy Queen do "The Fantasticks."
But thanks to cheap digital video, that experience can now be transported to any location on the planet, and Mark Adams of Great Bend, Kan., has set out to be the Sol Hurok of that movement.
Don't get me wrong. Mark is a good filmmaker. But it never ceases to amaze me when independent filmmakers fail to use actual professional actors, who are so plentiful they'll usually work for free or for food and gas money, instead of friends who have trouble memorizing their lines and can't show emotion when a gun is thrust in their faces.
That's the only thing wrong with "Something," his flick about a gang of goofy amateur criminals who break into a military base to find out what's really going on at Area 51.
The script is OK -- it's sort of a "Police Academy" for geeks -- and the camera work is fine, but the scenes have so much dead air in them you wonder whether the actors are dyslexic, hard of hearing, or just plain unaware they're in a movie. (They seem like such swell people, too. One of them is Mark himself.)
At any rate, I have to give them credit for a classic bait-and-switch to sell the movie. The poster has "JOE ESTEVEZ" billed above the title, but he's not really in the movie. He does a little four-minute intro at the beginning, something he appears to have spent TWO minutes preparing, and that's it.
Now. This is exploitation at its best on two levels. First there's the simple fraud of saying Joe Estevez is in the movie. But the underlying premise of the original fraud is that somebody would buy the movie JUST TO SEE JOE ESTEVEZ in the first place.
(For those of you who have been in a cave, Joe Estevez is the black-sheep brother of Martin Sheen who has about a hundred acting roles that are as obscure as those of his brother and nephews are famous.)
So with all legal warnings out of the way, I can now report that this is the old familiar story of the amnesiac hitchhiker in rural Kansas who's kidnapped by an estranged married couple who have been forced to work for a sinister conspiracy theorist named Kramen who is intent on breaking into a military base in a 1991 Geo Storm so he can hack into the base computer and find out where all the space-alien technology from Area 51 is being redistributed.
Meanwhile the kidnapped amnesiac keeps trying to remember who he is and where he came from while going through Rambo-style guerrilla training with the bickering couple, until all hell breaks loose at the base and the entire cast ends up being pursued by the U.S. Army, a vicious kung-fu artist, and a spy from the Hershey Chocolate Factory.
Sure we've seen it before, but have we seen it with a four-minute monologue by the filmmaker about his true love for an imaginary British princess he thinks is his girlfriend?
I think not.
Absolutely no plot to get in the way of the story. The finest movie ever made with equipment borrowed from Barton County Community College.
One dead body. (I think.) No breasts. One kidnapping. One bomb diffusion. Four fistfights. Endless obstacle course sequence. One thermo-genetic incubation chamber. One six-pronged thought eraser. Gratuitous treeless prairie. Multiple Kung Fu. Gratuitous Geo Storm.
Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Chris Aytes, as the clueless hitchhiker who says, "All I know is that I'm looking for something;" Kristy Koelsch, as the Tootsie-Roll-Pop-sucking kung fu mama with a firearm and childhood abuse issues who says, "Money is not the ultimate truth," and, "Love is at the root of who we are as a society;" Mark Adams, who produced, wrote, edited, directed, and played the lunatic who says, "You're the grunt, you're expendable, and if you survive, you're the scapegoat;" Brock Allen Roesch, as the soldier who says, "I can't wait to show you what the U.S. Army does to terrorists as stupid as you;" and Sam Wright, as the reluctant computer hacker who knows his kung fu.
One star. Joe Bob says check it out.
"Something" Web site: angelfire.com/ks3/americantards/.
(To reach Joe Bob, go to www.joebobbriggs.com or e-mail him at JoeBob@upi.com. Snail-mail: P.O. Box 2002, Dallas, Texas 75221.)