STATEN ISLAND - Fifteen years after making a major name for himself in A Bronx Tale, Chazz Palminteri has conquered another New York title in Yonkers Joe. He’s a hustler who lurks at low level gambling functions fixing Poker and dice games with his slimy crew. He doesn’t believe in chance when he can sneak a pair of loaded bones into his hands. His life gets complicated when he’s forced to take care of his teenage son, Joe Jr. (Tom Guiry). The son has Down Syndrome so he’s not as controllable as a marked deck of cards in Yonkers Joe’s hands. He’s got to make a big score to support the kid.
Chazz Palminteri called up the Party Favors hotline to discuss Yonkers Joe. The movie has just been released on DVD by Magnolia Home Entertainment. He’s a soft spoken guy over the phone.
What attracted him to the role of a man who wasn’t a gambler, but a pure cheater?
“It’s really a guy who is like a magician with his hands,” Chazz said. “These types of guys came out of World War II. They didn’t have jobs so a lot of them became hustlers. They started learning this trade. They were a sub-culture. They weren’t robbing Las Vegas. They were going around to dice games and clam bakes.”
Had Chazz ever been victimized by these hustlers at friendly Poker games? “If I did, I wouldn’t know about it,” Chazz declared.
Unlike the Poker players that have become superstars thanks to ESPN and NBC, the cheaters can’t be so high profile. Chazz was drawn to this element of gamblers who can’t brag about their feats. “The interesting thing about these guys is that they live these lives by themselves. They can’t tell anyone what they do. If they do, they’ll be killed.”
The third act of the film has Yonkers Joe conceiving an amazing way to cheat in a casino. The big scam was shot at the Plaza Hotel and Casino on Las Vegas’s Fremont Street. You might know this location from Cool World. What did the real hotel security think of the scheme?
“They thought it was incredible,” Chazz said. “They thought it was a pretty amazing how the writer thought up the scheme.” Now that it’s been exposed in Yonkers Joe, can a cheat pull it off without the eyes in the sky catching them? “It would be tough. You take some licenses in movies. Can some of these things work? The dice thing could work. But it’s still risky.” Chazz does not recommend you losing a hand to Cheater’s justice. It’s always best to gamble according to the house rules.
Besides acting, Chazz was an executive producer for Yonkers Joe. He helped in selecting the talent. “I like working with certain people,” Chazz said. “I’d talk with the director and he’d ask me what I’d think about certain people. I really liked working with Christine Lahti. I directed her in a movie called Women Vs. Men. It’s a great feeling when you can just look at an actor and direct them. You kinda tell them what you want and they just do it. You don’t have to explain.”
The toughest work in the film belonged to Tom Guiry in the role of Joe Jr. He had to pull off the physicality of the son with Down Syndrome. He was recently on NBC’s Kings and The Black Donnellys. He spent months living with a family with a Down Syndrome child to understand the character. The research paid off according to his co-star.
“I thought he did a great job,” Chazz said. “That’s one of those roles that if you don’t do your homework, you come off looking like a cheap suit. A lot of people thought he really was that way.” Did Guiry’s ability to look realistic in the role help Chazz get into his role? “Yeah. He made my job easier by doing such a great job.”
The movie takes Yonkers Joe from Atlantic City to Las Vegas. What does Chazz think is the difference between these two gambling capitals? “In Las Vegas, it’s about the shows and the gambling. In Atlantic City, it’s just the gambling part. Vegas is showy. The glitz is not there in Atlantic City. In Vegas, it’s all about the glitz.”
Chazz will be bringing a little glitz to the land of Monopoly when he performs his A Bronx Tale on Atlantic City’s Harrah’s stage from July 1 to August 9. He’s also going to be doing it in the fall in Las Vegas. This one man show elevated his career. “This is what Robert De Niro saw,” he said. De Niro decided to make the play his directorial debut. Not only did he have Chazz write the script, but co-star with De Niro. Robert was the good dad while Chazz played the mobster fighting for the soul of the kid. How hard was the adaptation process from stage to screen?
“If you saw the show, you’ll see that I did the movie on stage,” Chazz said.
The script is the most important part of why he accepts a project. In the case of Yonkers Joe, writer-director Robert Celestino got the script to Chazz’s agent. The actor laid out the process that gets him excited about a project.
“I read the script first then look at my part. If my part is good and it’s a great story; I say let’s meet the director. I meet the director and ask who else is in it. If that’s good than we have a shot for something good to happen. A shot…doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to happen. But at least if you’re happy with all those elements, you have a good chance to make a good movie.
“The script has to be good. You can’t make chicken salad out of shit. You got to have a good script.” But what happens if a script isn’t great? “Usually the agent knows if it’s bad. He’ll say, ‘Look, the script ain’t great, but they’re offering you a ton of money.’ Then you have to decide.”
Chazz does improve scripts that aren’t quite up to snuff. “I get paid to ghost write.” He still works on original scripts. “The writing is harder because you have to have time to sit down and do it.” Being a busy actor does cut into the alone time.
After A Bronx Tale, Chazz was cast in Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway. His role as a mobster who rewrites a play earned him an Oscar nomination and an Indie Spirit Award. Chazz appreciated working with Woody Allen. “He is hands off,” Chazz described. “He knows what he wrote and he casts the right people. That’s it. You just do it.”
Perhaps the strangest thing about Chazz’s long list of productions is two things that you’d expect on his filmography. While he’s worked with Robert De Niro on a few projects, he’s never been directed by Martin Scorsese. “I haven’t,” he admitted. “I want to, but I haven’t. I know him, but I haven’t.” Perhaps the upcoming Frank Sinatra bio-pic will finally team him up with Scorsese.
Another oddity is that he didn’t appear in The Sopranos. Did he deliberately avoid being cast on the show? “I don’t think so,” Chazz said. “I think it’s just one of those things. I think there’s only two Italian actors that weren’t in The Sopranos: me and John Turturro.”
As our conversation wrapped up, we came back to Yonkers Joe. “What’s really nice in the film is that we stay away from the cliches,” Chazz said. “At the end of the film he says, “Dad, I love you” a few times. I don’t say I love you back. A few people commented on that. How come I didn’t say, “I love you back?” Because you saw it. This guy, who had lived his life as a stranger to everyone, is just finally starting to get there. He’ll get there.”
Bad news always travels fast and there’s nothing worse than hearing “NO!” over the mouse hotline. Recently Disney wanted a new show to teach the counting and numbers to kiddies. We came up with Roscoe the Pimpopotamus. The colorful large animal in bright suits instructed toddlers on counting to 20. The Disney snobs had an objection to the scene where a pre-schooler passed off 16 as 20. Roscoe cut him 4 times to illustrate the difference. Our production got slashed. These educational people are so ignorant when it comes to giving a lesson that won’t be forgotten. Children need to learn the consequences of bad math skills.
As much as I want to watch Pitchmen, I’m not willing to risk my marriage. The wife barely take Billy Mays’ voice for a minute. Asking her to sit through an hour of the show is not an option. This means my only shot for watching episodes is the 1 a.m. repeat. I have to wear headphones for fear that Billy Mays’ voice will wake her up. Propane gas leaks are less overwhelming than him.
The addictive nature of the show is seeing the upcoming product line from “As Seen On TV.” Where is the Pocket Crab Repeller? It was amazing to see Billy Mays chumming the water while Anthony Sullivan tests out a shark be-gone device.
FOR YOU CONSIDERATION
If somehow you vote for the Emmys, the Golden Globes or the Mack of the Year awards, please give a little nomination love to Jim Parsons. His role of Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory is a pure geek comic masterpiece. He’s the offspring of Tony Randall’s Felix on The Odd Couple and Leonard Nimoy’s Spock on Star Trek. Parson’s work will be remembered for decades.
Star Trek Motion Picture Trilogy only focuses on what most consider the best of the movie series featuring Kirk, Spock and McCoy. The Wrath of Khan, The Search For Spock and The Voyage Home are bundled here. As pointed out in the review of the Star Trek: The Original Motion Picture Collection, The Wrath of Khan is the best when it comes to the picture quality. The others aren’t bad, but Khan got the major restoration treatment. Even in 1080p, you can’t see Kirk’s toupee weave in the close ups. Plus there is nothing more impressive than Ricardo Montalban’s massive chest in Blu-ray. He’s got Fabio action as he terrorizes Kirk. The Search For Spock has Kirk and Bones attempt to reunite with Spock in an unorthodox pursuit. The Voyage Home brings the crew back to the 1980s in a survival mission involving whales. I was hoping we’d have Kirk being chased around by T.J. Hooker, but there would be no Shatner alternate universe in this time travel plot. Each movie comes with plenty of dedicated bonus features. The best is Shatner pondering if Nimoy kept swearing not to do Spock in order to get his paychecks improved. Or course is Shatner held out, they’d just replace him with Robert Pine. This selection is perfect for folks who aren’t completionists and don’t want to pay for Shatner’s Final Frontier weirdness. Khan looks the best on the big screen. But all three play so nicely together that you’ll swear it’s a real trilogy.
Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy - Blu-ray brings the webisode cartoons to your big TV screen. The jokes play like the cutaway moments from MacFarlane’s Family Guy. There’s no framing device for the minute long shorts. You get the title card and then the action for nearly an hour. Because of the blitz rate of the jokes, some of them work better than others. There’s a long piece about what happens to the Coyote when he kills the Roadrunner that’s exceptional. A really gross moment has Fred Flintstone using the toilet. Repeating the fat Jesus sketch will take you off your grandmother’s Christmas card list. A farmer shearing a sheep will make you bust a spleen. Unlike the version shown on the internet, there’s no bleeping or blocking of graphic image. There’s even animated naughty bits including Kermit the Frog’s schlong. This is Seth uncensored. The Blu-ray will give you a resolution better than streaming. The big bonus feature is the star studded premiere party. Ever wonder what it’s like to party with Seth Green and Seth MacFarlane? Here’s your answer.
3 Days of the Condor - Blu-ray is a masterpiece of paranoia. Robert Redford is a CIA agent assigned to an office that reads novels to see if state secrets are being exposed. They’re not a big thing in the agency. He’s a bit of a loose cannon who doesn’t play by the uptight rules of the unit’s director. It’s this attitude that allows him to be the only one in the office not mowed down by a hit squad. He’s fleeing for his life while trying to figure out why Max von Sydow wants to blow him away. The CIA isn’t too much of a help at bringing him in from the cold. His only “help” is an unwilling Faye Dunaway. Of course she warms up after a while since what woman can resist the charms of Redford? 3 Days of the Condor gritty New York look remains stunning in 1080p. The only bonus feature is the original trailer.
THE DVD SHELF
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: The Centennial Collection is our Raymond J. Regis Pick of the Week. Jimmy Stewart is a politician who made his career when he shot down Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). But was he really the gunman? Is his career based on legend? John Wayne plays an important role in the outcome. Vera Miles is Stewart’s wife. This is a great film for it’s ability to show how a Western myth can evolve and elevate the characters. The bonus features illuminate the film’s already legendary status. Peter Bogdanovich does a commentary track which splices in his archival interviews with director John Ford and Jimmy Stewart. There’s a fresh documentary that explores the creation and impact of the film.
El Dorado: The Centennial Collection has John Wayne and director Howard Hawks take another lap around the Wild West. Ed Asner (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) is an evil rancher wanting take control of the town. John Wayne turns down Asner’s offer to fight Robert Mitchum. But Asner won’t back off from his power plays. Wayne has to get involved in this battle to help Michum. They also bring along a very young James Caan to even up the fight. This is just a great badass shoot ‘em up with Wayne, Mitchum and Caan dragging out the hardware. The bonus features include a documentary that addresses the final years of Howard Hawk’s career behind the camera. Ed Asner contributes to the commentary track. A.C. Lytes remembers working with John Wayne.
The Mod Squad: Season 2 Volume 2 continues my lust affair with Julie Barnes (Peggy Lipton). She’s part of a groovy undercover police unit with Pete Cochran (Michael Cole) and Linc Hayes (Clarence Williams III). There job is to find out what evil middle aged folks are messing with the kids. “The King of Empty Cups” demonstrates the dangers of shooting speed. A cop’s daughter runs off to be a groupie for Noel Harrison. His Hollywood mansion is a druggie pleasure dome. Can the Mod Squad save her from the dangers of bad message rock? “Survival House” brings back Sammy Davis Jr. However he’s not the priest from season one. He’s a half-way house guy getting his life back on track. “Return to Darkness, Return to Light” brings back the blind woman that Linc protected in the first season. She invites him over for a party. He gets a shock to discover she’s engaged to Ivan Dixon (Hogan’s Heroes). What happens with Linc meets Kinch? The season finale is more star studded than a Love Boat. The Squad ends up with Martin Sheen, Marion Ross (Happy Days), Harold Gould (Rhoda) and David Cassidy (The Partridge Family) in “The Loser.” The series is the coolest cop show ever.
Gunsmoke: The Third Season, Volume 2 is 20 episodes of Dodge City action when the series was still a half hour long in black and white. “Sunday Supplement” has Werner Klemperer (Hogan’s Heroes‘ Col. Klink) as a reporter starting an Indian revolt in order to get a scoop. “The Cabin” is a trip with Harry Dean Stanton (Big Love) and Claude Akins (Sheriff Lobo) as two loco bandits. Matt Dillon (James Arness) takes shelter with them in the middle of a snow storm. “Dooley Surrenders” stars Strother Martin (The Wild Bunch in the title role. He’s a hide skinner who thinks he might have killed someone during a drinking bender. “The Gentleman” has Jack Cassidy (David Cassidy’s dad) protecting Miss Kitty from Timothy Carey (Paths of Glory). This is another great batch of Westerns guaranteed to keep your father on the sofa during Saturday afternoon. The bonus is feature is the original L&M Cigarette ad.
Eden Log is a really creepy SciFi film from France. This is like Resident Evil without being too viewer friendly. You have no idea what’s going on as Clovis Cornillac awakens in a mucky mess. What is the situation in this post apocalyptic subterranean world? Who are the people chasing him? What are the strange noises in the dark? Who is the girl? This is like a video game come to life without the cute single shooter moments. Under no circumstances should you watch this film with the guy who always asks, “What’s going on?” Eden Log is a tense and confusing futuristic pursuit.
Action Packed gives the pilot episodes of Mission: Impossible, MacGyver, Walker Texas Ranger and NCIS. Walker Texas Ranger spends more time kicking ass than giving us a true representation of police work in the Lone Star State. Chuck Norris is the man with the badge who doesn’t mind letting his boots do the heavy work. The pilot film has him getting revenge on the robbery crew that took out his buddy. Mission: Impossible has Wally Cox (Mr. Peepers) appear as a safe cracker. The crew must swipe a set of nukes. Remember that the first season has Steven Hill running the show. It wouldn’t be till the next go around that Peter Graves accepted the mission. MacGyver goes underground to rescue scientists. He makes up some special devices to save the day. NCIS starts with a case at the top when a man is poisoned to death while eating with the president on Air Force One. It’s cool to see David McCallum (Man From UNCLE) back on the case.
Forever Funny offers the pilot episodes of The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy, Frasier, The Brady Bunch, Taxi and Cheers. This is a fun night of how memorable sitcoms kicked off. The Odd Couple’s “The Laundry Orgy” reunites us with the actresses that played the Pigeon sisters on the big screen. Jack Klugman and Tony Randall owned their roles instead of merely dressing up as Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. Cheers reminds us that it all started when Diane dropped by the bar with an ill-fated romance. The big problem with this set is that the producers didn’t notice that the audio on The Honeymooners’s “TV or Not TV” is horrible. You’ll have to crank it up all the way. The other 38 episodes on the complete boxset have better levels. The only sitcom that isn’t available completely on DVD is Taxi. They need to finish up this show soon. In these troubled times, we need more Tony Danza.
The Best of Star Trek The Original Series is the perfect sampler for anyone who enjoyed the new Star Trek movie, but haven’t experienced William Shatner as Captain Kirk. The four episodes on this compilation are prime choices. “The City on the Edge of Forever” has Dr. McCoy overdosing on a drug and turning into a madman. He passes through a time traveling portal and alters the course of Earth’s history. It’s up to Kirk and Spock to follow him into the past to put history right. An almost young Joan Collins is a woman running a mission in the Great Depression. Kirk ends up getting frisky with the star of Dynasty. “The Trouble with Tribbles” reminds us that cute things can get out of control and irritating. In this case it is the Tribble, a fuzzy ball that makes a sweet cooing sound. This predicts the rise of the Furby. “Balance of Terror” introduces the Romulans as a menace that’s worse than the Klingons. It’s a high pursuit episode as Kirk uncovers the weakness to the Romulan ship’s cloaking device. “Amok Time” takes the crew to the planet Vulcan. While the Vulcans seem to be logical folks, their dating rituals are extremely violent. Spock’s fiancée orders him to fight Kirk in order to get to hitched. It’s a brutal battle between two friends. The episodes are taken from the new enhanced versions so the models have been replaced by CGI spaceships.
The Best of Star Trek The Next Generation has three adventures from the second go around on the Enterprise. These are the journeys of Picard and Riker at the helm. “The Best of Both Worlds” is a two parter with the Borg assimilating Picard. He looks extra creepy with the bio-mechanical accessories. The second episode has the crew looking to free their leader from the grip of the Cube folks. “Yesterday’s Enterprise” has the ship time travel. They discover the older Enterprise and Denise Crosby. The Klingons of the past want a piece of them. Is Denise Crosby bound to bite it again? “The Measure of a Man” has Picard fight to keep Data from being scrapped. Can he prove this robot is not state property? This is a fine primer for anyone wanting to know about the better adventures of ST:TNG without picking through 178 episodes.
We’ve got a double contest this week. How lucky can you get?
CBS DVD has given us 5 copies of The Mod Squad: Season 2 Volume 2 to give to very special Party Favors readers. In order to win, answer this question: What character returns from the pilot movie to get his revenge on the Mod Squad in this boxset? Send your answer, name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put “Mod Squad” in the subject.
CBS DVD has given us 5 copies of Gunsmoke: The Third Season, Volume 2 to give away to Party Favors readers who like Westerns. In order to win, answer this question: What’s the freaky connection of Harry Dean Stanton’s name in “The Cabin?” Send your answer, name and address to email@example.com. Put “Mod Squad” in the subject.
Both contests end May 30, Good luck.
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