Newark Hotel Microcinema: Blood and Love (2010) and Once in the Life (2000)

Bobby Guions has yet to find great acclaim as a filmmaker, but one title no one can deny him is this: dude is inarguably Newark’s foremost chronicler of hotel-based cinema. Namely, one hotel: the Divine Riviera (or as the place likes to call itself, in something of a disavowal of its rich if perhaps unprofitable history, simply the Hotel Riviera).

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When I saw his 2005 film Dinner with an Assassin, the historical resonance of the opening scene really grabbed me; I still love this shot so much that I’ll just go ahead and recycle it here:

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Guions’ 2010 follow-up Blood and Love is effectively a remake of Dinner, something of a baffling decision, since I’m not aware of the earlier film having been any sort of runaway smash success, but one that allows us to revisit the hotel and linger at even greater length on its interiors. Continue reading

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Kick Fast, Kick Newark: Moving Target (1999)

Last year, I was impressed by the unexpected historical resonance of Bobby Guions’ 2005 low-budget action-thriller Dinner with an Assassin, with its great opening scene on the roof of the Divine Hotel Riviera. So I thought I’d check out his 1999 debut, Moving Target.

Alas, a seller on Amazon to whom all b-movies titled Moving Target must seem the same sent me this:

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let’s just not talk about Billy Dee Williams being in this, it’ll make us all feel sad

Much love to Michael Dudikoff—as a kid, I loved American Ninja 1, 2, and 4 (the Dudikoffless 3 being redeemed only by the presence of the great Steve James), and I’ll still rep for Albert Pyun’s postapocalyptic Radioactive Dreams, but there’s no denying, by the 90s, Dudikoff was the poor(er) man’s Michael Biehn, cranking out dreary, formulaic dreck, and this Canadian gangster jam appears no exception (I got to keep it, with a refund, but not sure I’ll ever watch it, unless someone lobbies hard on its behalf). Also, this was the wrong movie.

Point being, it took me a while to get my hands on this:

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But wow, talk about being worth the wait: white VHS! I didn’t even know this was a thing (based on a quick google search, I’m not alone—600 people have watched this mystified dude ponder the immortal question “My Destroy All Monsters Tape is white. WHAT THE FUCK”). Is this the video-nerd equivalent of colored vinyl? Continue reading

Newark on film: Dinner with an Assassin (2005)

If you ever want to guarantee that I will love your movie, start it off with a shot like this:

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Writer/director/all-around-entrepreneur Bobby Guions won so much goodwill with this scene that when Dinner with an Assassin later took a turn (or numerous turns) for the ridiculous, I didn’t care, I was on this movie’s side. The Divine Hotel Riviera is a Newark landmark, built in 1922. As the wonderful NewarkHistory.com tells us, Philip Roth’s parents spent their honeymoon there, and after the Depression facilitated a slide into decrepitude, it was later bought (and renamed) by Father Divine, the African American preacher, in 1950. So already in one shot Guions invokes multiple layers of Newark history, and beautifully at that.

Continue reading