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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 11/5/99

Special Edition - 1997 (1999) - Walrus Films/Overseas Filmgroup, Inc. (Image)

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

Godmoney: Special Edition Film Rating: D

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A/A-

Specs and Features

99 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, dual-layered (movie on one layer, extras on the other), Snapper case packaging, 2 commentary tracks (one with director/co-writer Darren Doane, and the other a "spoof" with Doane and producer Ken Daurio), three deleted scenes, four music videos, "making of" featurette, gag reel, location walk-through with Doane, commercial for soundtrack album, 17 minutes from the original Godmoney filming attempt, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (18 chapters), language: English (DD 3.0), subtitles: none

Godmoney is one of those "must see" DVDs. But I don't think it's a "must see" because it's a great movie. Frankly, it's not. It's "must see" based on the disc's being a curiosity -- a conversation piece if you will. Godmoney as a DVD is a mystery, wrapped in a riddle, shoved up inside an enigma, with a crisp, crunchy chocolate conundrum layer on the outside. Godmoney is one of the most thorough DVD special editions ever created... and yet I don't even know why it would deserve being one in the first place.

As a film, Godmoney is mediocre at best. The story follows a young man named Nathan, who is transplanted from gritty New York to sunny Los Angeles. Nathan, as we first see him, ran into some trouble with the law. Or did he? All we really know, is that he had some problems dealing drugs, and tasting the samples a bit too often, and now he wants to leave that part of his life behind. As it is slowly revealed to us, however, whatever happened to Nathan in New York may have been of his own doing -- and with Nathan, everything isn't always what it seems. In LA, Nathan delivers pizza -- poorly. He doesn't have a vehicle, and when you work in the Valley, you need a car. He's continually late for work, and his pestering, spoiled roommate is not much help, with promised rides that never happen. As it turns out, Nathan is late with (and coming up short on) his rent. In comes Matthew, a trust fund kid/small time drug dealer with high hopes of becoming a modern day kingpin of suburbia. As portrayed by Bobby Field (write that name down, because you'll never hear it again), Matthew is about as charismatic as his haircut. Hearing Nate's money woes, Matthew dangles a few carrots in front of Nathan, and as much as he wants to fight it, Nathan ends up needing what Matthew has to offer. He takes the bait -- hook, line and sinker.

What ends up happening storywise, is completely laughable. We are forced to accept that Nathan, in a span of a few weeks, would need so much and change so little, that he'd be willing to throw every ounce of his moral fiber out the window, and screw up his life to the point of... well, I don't want to give away the ending. Suffice it to say, they stick it right on the screen with a giant pink Post-It note. I truly dislike independent films with no soul. With their empty dialogue and bad acting, they don't go very far with me. You can brood, pose with a gun, and spout the F-word all you want, but in the end, it's just not very impressive. Godmoney is one of those movies that's pretending to be filled with sound and fury, but in the end, proves that's it's just a bad case of gas.

BUT... (you knew that there was going to be a big "but' somewhere didn't ya?)! Godmoney does present a pretty remarkable "directing" talent. I'm using the word "directing" loosely here, because lately the word "director" is defined as someone who knows how to use cool camera angles, editing techniques, and lighting gels. Darren Doane knows those things and more, even if he doesn't show himself very resourceful with actors (based on the performances he gets in this film). Also, if he picks up a pen to write a story or dialogue again, we should all collectively slap his hand until he drops it. Godmoney tends to look really cool and interesting, and with a good script, I really think this guy could turn out to be something to be reckoned with. Not that he isn't something now -- not at all. Doane is a huge force behind alternarock videos on MTV, and several long form performance videos for bands like Pennywise and Strife. His control of the camera is intense, but also, in a way, cliché. I hate to say something good and then punctuate it with something bad, but this film needs it. On one hand, Doane shows great potential, but then again, he isn't very original either. He gets into a grind that ends up being repetitive and very MTV. Shakycam and jump cuts, over saturation and poetry shots -- all are appropriate and watchable at 3 and 1/2 minute intervals. But at 99 minutes, it's yawn inducing. Still, it's more a problem with the story and the script. Doane has no other way to show his stuff, other than to make this film nothing more than an extended video. And that video feel is helped immensely by the film's soundtrack.

Let's get off the negative and jump on something positive -- Godmoney has some killer music. Doane pulled in his client roster, and showcases bands like Pennywise, Blink 182, Strife (who's lead singer, Rick Rodney, plays Nathan), Rollins Band and MXPX. It's pretty killer (and the soundtrack is available by itself, and is definitely worth picking up on its own). I really enjoyed the music in this film, and it's presented reasonably well (even if sometimes the entire song gets played). Doane knows how to put images with music, which makes him a great video director.

So what do we know now? Let's look: the movie is weak overall, but looks pretty neat. Its look is burdened by its "too-MTV-looking" camera style, but with a good script, Doane could probably put a really cool flick out. The soundtrack pretty much rocks, but ends up making the film look like a long video. The question begs to be asked: what's it look like on DVD? Well, it looks pretty good, but again, we're entering into another ring of hell.

Image does a great job with their DVDs. This one is no exception. The source print is grainy and that shows through, but it's also clean and well controlled. The disc looks really good for what it is -- a very low-budget film. Sound-wise, with a DD 3.0 surround audio mix, you get a pretty good feel. The music pumps, the special sound effects ring out, and you won't have any question that you're listening to a good DVD. There is not a damn thing wrong with the video and sound on this DVD.

Where my eyebrows raise is with the extras. My first thought was, "why have 'em in the first place?" I mean, don't get me wrong -- extras are great. But it's hard to understand why such a blah film deserves this huge special edition treatment. But here it is, and for the most part, it's pretty good. Among the good, is a commentary track with Doane about the making of the film. He goes into great detail about its origins, and all the different hoops he jumped through to get it made. It's all the standard "first film" stuff, but it's always a good thing to hear. Next, there's a "walk-through" of the locations with Doane, showing where things in the film actually took place, in a neighborhood in LA. It's a fun extra that doesn't pop up much (if at all) on DVD. We also get a nice look at the original version of the film, which originally starred Christian Bale from Empire of the Sun. Wow -- what a difference a few years will do for your style. The box lists the footage at 12 minutes, although it's really a bit over 17, and you can tell Doane had a long way to go. Eventually, he ran out of money -- once you see the footage, you'll agree that was a good thing. Once the money dried up, Doane started cutting his teeth on music videos, before planned to go back to Godmoney. The footage is poorly set-up, badly blocked, and is very grainy (but digitally clean), and is a curiosity in and of itself. Throw in a trailer, a commercial for the soundtrack, and three deleted scenes (hosted by Doane), and you have a nice special edition for a movie that you probably wouldn't care about otherwise. There is more, but I have to present it separately.

On top of all of the above, there is also an additional commentary track with Doane and the producer, Ken Daurio. It's the stupidest thing I've ever heard in my life. Seriously. It's dubbed a "spoof", and I originally thought that it would be a track where they make fun of the film (a laMystery Science), and do all sorts of goofy stuff, which might have been silly fun and worth listening to, maybe once. Instead, it's a real honest to goodness "spoof". The two filmmakers sit there and, for 99 minutes, pretend that they had a budget of 100 million dollars, and make fun of every commentary track that's ever been done for a big budget film. "See that tree? I made it with toothpicks, fiberglass and epoxy. Cost about 300 thousand dollars, but it was worth it to get the shot." That's not an actual quote, but it's just about the same thing. This track is not funny. What IS sort of funny, is a "gag" reel, which also isn't what one would expect a gag reel to be. It's not bloopers or cut footage -- it's scenes from the film, with someone doing silly dialogue, making fun of it. There's also a 12 minute "making of" thing, that goes over, well, the making of the film. For six or seven minutes, it's really neat. Then all of a sudden, it goes into some religious rant by Doane, that had me thinking of Andy Kaufman. Apparently Doane is now a born-again Christian because of the film, and what it took to get it made, and he goes on about his new convictions. If it's real -- great for him. I just got the feeling that it was yet another spoof. In the context of a DVD extra, it makes no sense whatsoever. Lastly, there is a collection of what I guess are Doane-directed videos, for what I think are bands playing what I'm assuming are songs from the soundtrack. I don't know any of that for sure, however, because there isn't a track listing, introduction, or even credits for the videos. All I do know, is that there are four videos, and I think the first one is Strife (because the lead singer looks like Nathan). The videos and songs are pretty good, and I would have liked to have known what bands they were, so I could go out and pick up more of their music. The bands are really good, and the videos are neat. Go figure.

Maybe now you see why I think Godmoney is a "must see" DVD. This disc is one weird monkey. It may not be anything you'd normally want to buy, but it's still something worth checking out, just because of the fact that it exists like this. Why it exists, is a question for Image and Darren Doane. The whole thing is quite bizarre and slightly confusing -- but it does have its moments. Some of the extras are textbook examples of what to do right, and others are examples of what never to do. I think fans of DVD special editions owe it to themselves to take a look at this DVD, just to see what I'm talking about. After you do, drop me a line and let me know what you think. Maybe someone out there will love the film, and all these supplements, and be able to explain why it kind of rocks. I doubt it, but I'm always willing to listen.

Todd Doogan
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