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A pleasant stroll down Memory Lane
Tommy-51 September 2002
`Half Man, Half Ant, All Terror!,' screams the promotional for fictional film producer Lawrence Woolsey's newest film, Mant. Mant is the film within the 1993 film titled Matinee. Matinee, starring John Goodman as the William Castle-like Woolsey, is director Joe Dante's valentine to all of us who grew up in the middle of the cold war. That he has managed to combine a salute to the science fiction films of the 1950's and early 60's with a warning about nuclear power and human imperfection is quite impressive. The plotline is straightforward. Woolsey and his delightful lover, leading lady and all around Girl Friday Ruth, ably played by Cathy Moriarty, (who shows she could have been a great 50's sci-fi heroine), roll into Key West, Florida for a sneak preview of his latest film, Mant. The weekend of the big event, autumn of 1962, also happens to be the time of the Cuban missile crisis. Here the story gets a little stretched as we try to keep up with all that is going on. Panicky theatre managers, adolescent love and jealousy, and several amusing scenes from Mant are among the many points of interest against the sobering backdrop of the missile crisis, only 90 miles away in Cuba. This film is a bit hard to describe, the best thing to do is rent it and enjoy it for yourself. Much of it takes place in the theatre on Saturday afternoon and is a true trip down memory lane for old guys like me who lived during this era and remember very well what indoor theatres were like in 1962. Mant is a special treat for all of us who love the sci-fi films of that era. It has several un-credited science fiction legends in it (Kevin McCarthy, William Schallert and Robert Cornthwaite appeared with the sultry Moriarty) and numerous insider jokes. McCarthy was `General Ankrum.' Oh Brother! Is there a sci-fi fan anywhere who is not aware that the late Morris Ankrum made a career of portraying military generals in these types of films? This is only one example of a ton of fun in this film. There were other appearances by old time favorites, such as Jesse White and Roger Corman regular Dick Miller. It is obvious that everyone had a good time making Matinee and just about all of the performances are way over the top, especially Goodman's. He held his oversized stogie just like Castle used to. I've heard that there are more Mant scenes in the DVD version of Matinee but I have been unable to locate what has turned out to be a harder to obtain film that I imagined it would or should be. Matinee is a warm-hearted gem. By all means make the effort to see this one if you can obtain a copy. I promise, you will not be disappointed.

The Strand Theatre, where the `action' takes place, has a big Milk Duds ad over the snack bar. Hmm . . . sounds like an idea to me!
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A Very Good Parody and Dedication of Great B Movie Memories
sawyertom22 July 2003
I had just recently watched Matinee for the first time in a few years. I forgot how much fun and how very funny a film it was. Having grown up watching some of William Castle's and Roger Corman's hokey but very entertaining early horror films it was like a stroll down memory lane on my Saturday's. Goodman captured the essence of a movie showman who always had or wanted to have a gimmick to go with his B movie pictures. Cathy Moriarty is excellent as his favorite leading lady. I must be showing my age because I still remember the duck and cover and other little things associated with everyday life and times during the late 1950's and early 1960's that were in the movie. The movie was entertaining and a very nice parody, if not dedication to the men who made B movies as part of our culture. I have to believe this dedication to men like Corman and Castle would have to be a bit of a tongue in cheek parody for it to be a very sincere dedication. The movie does an excellent job of bring back the life and times and the performances as pretty good. Aaaahhhh the memories. The cold war and much simpler times and classic B movies. It don't get any better than this.
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Memorable and funny
lar3ry-imdb29 May 2003
This movie explores the marketing and the premier of a B-movie horror flick by a virtual one-man studio (remember American International?) in, of all places Key West during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I think this was intended to be a vehicle for John Goodman as the B-movie "impresario" Lawrence Woolsey (great casting!), with Cathy Moriarty also excellently cast as the jaded B-movie starlet and Woolsey's companion. Simon Fenton plays a young, wide-eyed, horror movie addict who is also a military kid, whose father has just been assigned to the naval blockade around Cuba. The cast also includes Dick Miller from the Gremlin series, and many other B-movies since the 1950's including the original Shop of Horrors.

Matinee is quirky, and the "movie within a movie," called "Mant" (half man, half ant), is about a silly accidental "mutation" of a man into a rather large insect The movie contains a good sampling of all the plot devices (on screen and off screen) used in these sorts of movies. The now-hilarious atomic horrors depicted in "Mant" are juxtaposed against the real-life horrors of the nuclear missile crisis, with interesting effect.

Matinee also offers a lot of not-so-subtle counterpoints between the atmosphere and common wisdom of the era (anybody remember Civil Defense drills? Bomb shelters? The "four" basic food groups?), and its stark comparison to what we know/think today. When this movie was made, the cold war was just over, and a look back to the pervasive feel throughout the 50's and 60's and its worrying about the "bomb" and anti-commie lingo makes the people of this era look supremely paranoid and silly, until one thinks about how even this has changed since the movie was made (think post 9-11: who's silly and paranoid now?).

The movie is enjoyable on many levels, although I feel the comparisons between the 60's and "today" could have been made a bit more subtle. As a counterpoint, my wife, who was never a fan of the horror movie genre, dislikes this movie--she also disliked "Ed Wood" for the same reason.

All in all, it's a wonderful movie that I'm glad to have in my VHS collection.
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An under-rated gem
a-j-zak20 February 2002
One of those films that deserved to reach a huge audience but somehow slipped away, Joe Dante's affectionate homage to creature features and B-movie king William Castle is a joy from start to finish. This is due to both Dante's direction - and obvious love of the script - and John Goodman's delightful performance (what was he doing in crap like "Coyote Ugly?"). Even the movie-within-a-movie - "Mant!" ("half man, half ant - all terror!") is fun. The only downside is that this rarely turns up on TV and hasn't been released on DVD in the UK. A scratchy vhs is better than nothing I suppose...
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Funny, Purely Cinematic and Fantastic.
Longboat8820 November 2001
This has to be the most under-rated, under-valued and criminally under-seen film of all time. Funny, touching, nostalgic in a good way, a wonderful tribute to the very joy of film itself and, the clincher, a cast of kids that never get on your nerves. And even in any of the Coen Brother's films he has been in, John Goodman has never bettered his performance from this movie. If you love the movies, you'll love this film. See it; then see it again and again. It really is the undiscovered artistic masterpiece of the 20th Century.
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'Matinee' is light-hearted fare, sure, but lots of fun for movie buffs who love b-grade 1950s and 1960s monster movies.
Infofreak6 February 2003
I have a lot of time for Joe Dante. Most of his movies are fairly light-hearted, nostalgic fare aimed at kids or the young at heart, but unlike his occasional collaborator Steven Spielberg he really pulls it off convincingly without getting too sentimental and treacly, and always has enough in-jokes and references in his movies to amuse diehard science fiction and horror film buffs. Dante is a BIG fan of film makers like Roger Corman (who gave him his big break), William Castle (a major inspiration for 'Matinee') and Mario Bava, while one has to wonder if Spielberg even knows who they are. 'Matinee' is a slight, but very entertaining picture, concerning b-grade 50s/60s horror movies, and fans of that era will absolutely love it. John Goodman ('The Big Lebowski') plays flamboyant writer/director Lawrence Woolsey. Woolsey's gimmicks and showmanship are inspired by William Castle ('The Tingler', '13 Ghosts', 'House On Haunted Hill',etc.etc.) though the fictional movie 'Mant' which is part of the plot is quite unlike Castle's output and closer to 50s paranoid monster movies like 'Them!' and 'Tarantula'. Goodman is perfectly cast and loads of fun. I also really liked Cathy Moriarty ('Raging Bull') as Woolsey's leading actress/assistant. The chemistry between the two was enjoyable and made for some nice comic touches. The young kid actors were all pretty good, and Dante regulars Dick Miller ('A Bucket Of Blood'), Kevin McCarthy ('Invasion Of The Body Snatchers'), Robert Picardo ('Star Trek Voyager') and William Schallert ('The Incredible Shrinking Man') seem like they are all having a wonderful time. Trivia buffs note that this movie includes an actor from 'The Thing From Another World' (Robert Cornthwaite) and also one from John Carpenter's remake 'The Thing' (David Clennon'). The movie within the movie 'Mant' is hilarious, but I enjoyed the whole thing. 'Matinee' is another fun movie from the underrated Joe Dante.
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Half Man ... Half Ant ... All Terror! Joe Dante's simply delicious B-movie tribute!
Coventry22 March 2009
This isn't such a very well known film (at least I never heard of it before I watched it) and actually that is a god-awful shame, as "Matinee" is a joyously vivid, versatile and refreshingly imaginative little comedy. "Matinee" is director Joe Dante's ultimate tribute to typically 50's Sci-Fi B-movies and massively promoted gimmick-laden low-budget flicks; particularly the repertoire of the legendary William Castle. In one of his most glorious roles to date, John Goodman depicts the unscrupulous and sleazy horror movie producer Lawrence Woolsey, who is practically the reincarnation of William Castle, what with his sly and shameless salesmanship techniques and continuous wide-mouthed smile. At the highpoint of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, Woolsey jaunts out to Key West – where the Navy and population hectically prepares for a bomb attack – in order to proudly present his newest and supposedly most shocking motion picture named "Mant". "Mant" is a silly shock feature about a man slowly mutating into a gigantic ant after being exposed to nuclear radiation, and for the big premiere Woolsey stuffed the film theater with horrid decorations and gimmicks to raise extra fear in the audience. With the threat of actual bombing attack going on outside the theater, Woolsey bumps into a lot of protest and resistance from the adult population in Key West, but luckily the younger and horror-crazed generation are wildly enthusiast about the upcoming matinée preview. With "Matinee", the still incredibly underrated director Joe Dante delivered another delicious and charming movie. The extended bits and clips from the fictional movie "Mant" masterfully capture the essence of 1950's B-movie cinema, with grotesque ideas and effects, cheesy nonsensical dialogs and wooden acting performances. The real William Castle actually never made such a type of monster movie, but the gimmicks and promotional stunts (like buzzers underneath the seats and guys in rubber suits running around) are right up his delightful alley! But "Matinee" is a terrifically clever movie on other levels as well. Apart from a wonderful homage to horror cinema, it also contains an admirable "coming of age" sub plot and it effectively parodies the mass hysteria going on around the time of the Cold War. Whilst the adult population of Key West practices their duck & cover bomb alarms and prepare their shelters, the teenagers are more concerned about finding a date to go see "Mant" on Saturday. The acting performances are fantastic (like his monster "Mant", John Goodman himself is larger than life!), the decors and atmosphere of the early 60's are marvelously re-enacted and – in good old Joe Dante tradition – there are multiple cameos of horror veterans, like Dick Miller, Kevin McCarthy and Robert Cornthwaite. This is truly a film meant for genuine horror movie buffs, but nevertheless a stupendously enjoyable comedy for all type of audiences.
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Ah, the Cuban Missile Crisis...
lee_eisenberg3 August 2005
Yes, the atomic bomb is terrible. But unintentionally funny were some of the movies about the alleged effects of atomic mutation. Hi, I want to tell you about something that could have happened. Something that does happen in a certain movie. Picture Key West, Florida: your average American town. But, if a movie about the alleged effects of atomic mutation was brought there during the Cuban Missile Crisis...the result would be hysterical indeed. For the result...would be..."Matinée".

This movie is a real treat for any fan of the sci-fi/horror flicks of the late '50s and early '60s. John Goodman plays B-movie producer Lawrence Woolsey, bringing "Mant" (Half Man...Half Ant...All Terror!) to Key West, Florida, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Naturally, the possibility of a nuclear attack heightens the mood in every way.

"Matinee" just may be the perfect movie about the adult world as seen from a youngster's point of view. And I don't just mean the great soundtrack. I think that it's safe to say that this movie has something for EVERYONE. Joe Dante has created another cool movie here. And of course it wouldn't be a Joe Dante movie without Dick Miller. He and John Sayles play representatives of Citizens for Decent Entertainment protesting "Mant" (or are they?). Kudos also to Cathy Moriarty as Ruth Corday, the actress who in the movie-within-a-movie plays the wife of the human-to-formic star; bravo also to Kevin McCarthy, playing the general in the movie-within-a-movie trying to stop the Mant. All in all, this movie shows why the word "cool" was invented.
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One of Joe Dante's most overlooked and underrated films
DavidSim24018321 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Joe Dante is a true enthusiast for classic sci-fi and horror films. His affection for the genre shines through in every film he's made. Matinée may be the best example of that, because this lovingly crafted homage to classic schlock merchant William Castle not only succeeds as an entertaining feature, but also as a knowing commentary on the changing attitudes of our time.

Set in 1962, during the peak of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Lawrence Woolsey (the ever engaging John Goodman), a director of schlocky horror and SF films, has come to Key West, Florida, to promote his latest film, MANT. Undeterred by the looming tension, Woolsey intends to use it to his own advantage to encourage people that MANT is a once in a lifetime experience.

For 14 year old Gene, one of Woolsey's biggest fans, his arrival is a far more important event than the CMC, while most of the townspeople are swept up by the paranoia and increasing tension. Eager to attend the matinée of MANT, Gene goes along with his best friend Stan (Eerie Indiana's Omri Katz) and his younger brother Dennis. But when the gimmicks Woolsey has cooked up for the preview get out of control, the people in the cinema believe World War III has finally broken out, and chaos erupts.

Matinée may be Dante's most good-natured film since Explorers, and also one of his truest to date, because of Dante's own affection for the genre that is clearly mirrored in Gene's character. Gene is a horror/SF aficionado, he collects all the classic magazines, and when Woolsey comes to town, he makes every effort to meet him.

John Goodman gives one of his best ever performances, clearly enjoying himself immensely, chewing on the scenery, he almost seems like a carnival barker announcing his presence to the world. This feeling is perfectly complemented by Jerry Goldsmith's charming musical score.

Joe Dante obviously feels a kinship to Woolsey's character, who in turn was modelled on William Castle. Woolsey may be a bit of a con man, who employs tactics such as wiring electrical buzzers to the seats to make the audience jump on cue, or hiring people to condemn the film when actually they work for him. This works on the level of reverse psychology, ensuring that people will attend the screenings. But Woolsey is also a man who enjoys his work, and takes pride in it. I get the same impression about Dante. He is a man in love with the SF/horror genre, and although his films only do moderate business at best, it is clearly a genre he feels most at home in.

Cathy Moriarty also proves a scene-stealer as Woolsey's long-suffering girlfriend Ruth Corday. She doesn't share his enthusiasm for his films, although she is totally professional when she stars in them. She is also a good sport when asked to pose as a nurse at cinema screenings, having people in the audience fill out health forms in case they suffer heart attacks from the scares on show.

MANT, the film within the film, is a classic example of inspired lunacy. Looking like King Kong blended with The Fly, it shows that Joe Dante really knows his stuff in this field with the cheesy lines, the hammy special effects and the total absurdity they represent. The events on film are also nicely juxtaposed with what is going on in the real world. With the CMC raging out of control, the events of MANT seem to reflect what is actually going on, and is a good trick on Dante's part, tying in his trademark genre in-referencing to the plot.

Most importantly, that despite the building chaos, Dante never loses focus of his characters. Things never become mawkish between Gene and his friends, not even when they're going out on first dates. Matinée also captures perfectly the era, such as the insane Duck and Cover program, and people buying bomb shelters to prepare for the end of the world. Matinée may be the closest Dante has ever come to making a serious film.

But it never loses it's sense of fun. It's quite a touching film really, because it shows how the world has become too cynical for it's own good. Where we can't appreciate anymore the simple pleasures of hired people in monster costumes running through the theatres. Matinée is a film that celebrates the cinema experience, and Dante wants to share that experience with us.

An underrated gem of a bygone era.
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Heartwarming And Lovable Goofy Monster Movie Drama
ShootingShark3 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Gene Loomis is a teenager living on a naval base in Key West in 1962, just as the Cuban Missile Crisis occurs and worldwide tension mounts. At the same time, Lawrence Woolsey, a schlock moviemaker, is premiering his new monster movie, Mant!, at the local theatre. Gene meets Woolsey, who teaches him some tricks of the trade, and Gene and his friend Stan go to the premiere which involves, amongst other things, a mad beatnik in a giant ant costume, Gene getting locked in a nuclear fallout shelter, and Woolsey destroying the entire theatre.

This is a lovely nostalgic movie brimming with funny dialogue and movie in-jokes, brilliantly written by Charlie Haas and featuring wonderfully offbeat characters. It was clearly a great labour of love for the filmmakers and it celebrates not only a bygone age of innocence before the great social upheavals of the sixties but also an unqualified love for the imaginatively nutty fantasy movies of the time. Goodman is simply terrific as Woolsey (loosely based on producer William Castle) - a big kid whose greatest joy is to entertain people but who also has an astute business sense. At one point when he receives a letter threatening legal action over an unpaid bill he says, "Boy this business has changed. These things used to be settled with violence.". Everybody in this movie is tremendous though; all the kids are great, particularly Fenton and Jakub, who make a lovely chalk'n'cheese pair of misfits. Moriarty is a scream as a long-suffering starlet and the great John Sayles (who wrote two of Dante's early movies) has a wonderful little role as a blacklisted writer turned phony morality campaigner. All of Dante's regular stock company have funny bits (Picardo, Miller, Balaski, Hahn), as does writer Haas as a school teacher. Schallert, McCarthy and Cornthwaite are all hilarious and feature unbilled in Mant! (Half-Man, Half-Ant, All-Terror !!), the movie-within-a-movie, which is a lovable and gentle pastiche of the giant ant movie Them. The film also features a wonderful score by Jerry Goldsmith and beautiful Florida location photography by John Hora. There are lots of reasons to like this movie very much, and it's beautifully made, but most of all it simply entertains from start to finish.
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Tribute to those old horror films of the 50's and 60's
AlsExGal6 February 2011
I felt that the advertising for this movie was somewhat misleading. I expected to see a film about John Goodman portraying a loose characterization of showman William Castle. Instead, the main focus of the film is a young boy, Gene Loomis, whose father is a soldier who is dispatched to active duty during the Cuban missile crisis, which is the time period in which this film is set. You have your typical coming-of-age themes revolving around Gene and his friends as they discover their own emerging adolescence, and this consists largely of tired material that has been done to death.

Somewhat in the background we have John Goodman as old-fashioned showman Lawrence Woolsey, a vaudevillian stuck in the age of cinema who wants to put the show back in picture shows. He is tied into the film because Gene enjoys Woolsey's showmanship as a way to forget about the world around him which seems to be on the brink of self-destruction. Woolsey pulls such stunts as having his girlfriend (Cathy Moriarty) dress a a nurse and ask patrons to sign a waiver releasing Goodman's character from liability in case they die of fright during the movie. This is based on a similar stunt by William Castle and his movie "Macabre". Woolsey also wires the seats to produce a mild electric shock during a key moment in a film, which he labels "Atomo-Vision." That antic is based on what William Castle did during the showing of "The Tingler". Then he rigs still another device to shake things up as buildings on the screen are tumbling and calls it "Rumble-Rama." Again, these are all very similar to the showman-like stunts of William Castle during the 50's and 60's.

The best part of the movie is when Woolsey comes up with an atomic-age monster movie entitled "Mant" that is a composite of cheesy 50's horror films such as "The Fly," and "Them!". "Mant" is about a mutant that is half-man and half-ant and is a total riot. Woolsey's schlock merchant displays just the right mix of con-man materialism and childlike glee at his own bogus movie magic. It's too bad that Goodman's character and his showmanship weren't the main focus of the movie - Goodman was truly born to play the part of Lawrence Woolsey.

Watching this movie really made me happy that some of William Castle's films have finally been coming out on DVD in the last couple of years, through both traditional DVD releases and through the Warner Archive manufacture on demand program. At any rate, enjoy.
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Monstrously delicious!
LCShackley22 November 2010
This is a perfectly balanced, consistently funny movie, especially for those who either a) grew up in the early 60s or b) enjoy the campy SF movies of the late 50s/early 60s. I fit in both categories, so this movie makes me laugh out loud every time I watch it.

Joe Dante and his screenwriters do a deft balancing act between a charming teenage love story, a recollection of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, and a spot-on satirical look at old "nuclear monster" movies and the king of that genre, William Castle. The script moves each portion of the story along seamlessly, with a marvelous cast of characters led by John Goodman, the Barnum-like movie showman.

Much of the film actually takes place in a theater, where all the strands of the story come together in a long crescendo that ends in a disaster with a happy ending. Personally, my favorite parts of the film are the black-and-white clips from the feature "Mant," which deftly skewer all the clichés of the genre (down to the scientist who has to explain every big word he uses). Seeing William Schallert and Kevin McCarthy in uncredited roles was a bonus.

A tip of the hat to Jerry Goldsmith for his nostalgic score, and to the music department who put together some old radio tunes for authenticity.

Watching "Matinee" is a delightful way to spend 100 minutes, whether you're a kid, or an old fogy who actually remembers what things were like in 1962.
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Mant- Half-Man, Half Ant All Show
DKosty12327 April 2008
"This is Lawrence Woolsey and ...." starts this movie in great style as a 1960's style of movie promo. The movie starts starts very well and only gets bogged down late in the film when a couple of kids get shut into a bomb shelter by mistake.

This film portrait of the 1960's schlock entertainer Woolsey (as portrayed by John Goodman) continues to be his best film role. Goodman who is now one of the spokes people for Duncan Donuts (quickly putting Starbucks out of business), is perfect for the role of Woolsey. He is surrounded by a lot of old time talent & some younger folks who manage to put over an active film story.

Two coups of this are the film within a film setting which is employed successfully with the cutting between them being made smoothly without losing the plot line and the melding of some old timers into the film in support. William Schallert is used very effectively in the MANT film within the film. Jesse White is just as effective as the guy who is trying to evaluate Woolsey's show.

The film is a send up of lots of themes from Civil Defense, to the Missile Crisis, to movies in general, to sci-fi 1950's films, to spoofing life itself. There are even spoofs of characters within the film including a broad send-up of two Liberal Parents and their attitude towards raising their daughter.

This film is loaded with everything including the theater sign which has now failed, "Fight Pay TV". If you like John Goodman, this is his best role to date outside of Dan on Roseanne, a must see film for the Goodman fan.
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You Gotta Have a Gimmick!
BaronBl00d12 July 2000
Certainly John Goodman portraying Lawrence Woolsey as a film director bent on all kinds of creative devices to lure audiences in to see his sci-fi/horror movies is a homage to the King of Gimmicks himself, William Castle. This movie is not great by any standards, but it sure is a lot of fun. It is a trip down memory lane for many. Although I am not old enough to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis nor William Castle movies premiering, I am given a pretty accurate feel of the times through Matinee. The best part of the movie, however, is the movie within a movie....MANT...the story of a man that is half-man and half-ant. The scenes of this film alone are good enough reason to see Matinee. The one scene where the Mant character throws an ant farm to the ground and yells "You're free, You're free" is hilarious. The movie characters are also made up of old sci-fi stars Kevin McCarthy(Invasion of the Body Snatchers), William Shallert(Hundreds of films it seems), and Robert Cornwaithe(The Thing). Also look for John Sayles and Dick Miller in smaller roles hamming it up. Goodman is larger than life in his portrayal, much the same way that Castle was. And certainly, we in the audience that are great genre fans dream what it would have been like to help William Castle...I mean Lawrence Woolsey...make a picture.
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"We want Mant, we want Mant!"
PredragReviews8 January 2017
All or most of director Joe Dante's films can be considered fun popcorn movies, something that is for both the kids and the adults, for genre fans and for fans of film in general. Dante gained recognition with the huge hit Gremlins, which Steven Spielberg produced. But in 1993, Dante decided to make a rather personal film, a pseudo-biography of filmmaker and 'shock-expert,' William Castle, renamed in the film 'Matinee' as Lawrence Woolsey (played with the perfect amount of schlock by John Goodman). John Goodman has never bettered his performance from this movie. Best thing about this story is Goodman's b&w movie, Mant! It's loaded with bad puns like, (Bill's wife:) "Oh, why can't they see Bill as a man and just put the insect aside?" Bill, who's been transformed into a giant ant panics and says, "Insecticide??!!??" Goodman uses two minor fright film actors to stir up trouble (and publicity) in town by bad mouthing Mant.

Although a point can be made that "Matinee" is just a kid's movie, it's also for us older folks who can remember being a youngster in 1962, the music, culture and movies that enriched our lives but also events like the Missile Crisis, which so vividly reminded us in the words of John Kennedy, "that we are all mortal." Dante is not stupid, so he just does not pay a tribute to the old time gone, but to the old time spirit. That of dreamers, sometimes even naif, like John Goodman's characters. That of a certain cinema that still relied on simple effects and a straightforward way to engage people. That of an audience that still believed in what they saw on the big screen. As usual, Dante's movie manage to be instant-classic, innovative but with an eye looking back to the tradition and a pure independent and movie-fan spirit.

Overall rating: 9 out of 10.
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Great Florida film
rbass41817 November 2009
I was working in Central Florida's budding film industry at the time, and everybody in town was thrilled that this film was being shot on the local stages and at cool locations in the area. The Cocoa Village Playhouse doubled for the Key West 'Strand Theater,' and the last time I was at the Universal Orlando park, John Goodman's beautiful '59 Cadillac (that takes a head-on collision) remained un-repaired and on display in the studio boneyard. People have reported that it's not easy to find "Matinee" on home video, but as of this writing, it's tough not to turn on the HBO Comedy channel and not see this movie repeatedly. Glad it's getting some airtime, because it's a real gem, Joe Dante's true labor of love to schlock B-horror films. Great art direction and attention to detail hits the early 60's nail on the head. Halfway through, John Goodman has a brainstorm about his character's next big film. I'm just sorry we've never gotten to see Lawrence Woolsey's mutant epic, "Gal-igator!!" (in Amphibi-Vision)
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if Dante doesn't film "Mant" before he dies, I'll be very sad.
matthewssilverhammer24 March 2018
Is there anything more satisfying as a film fan than discovering a forgotten gem? How about a forgotten gem that expresses a bleeding heart love for cinema? Matinee is a fantastic nostalgia trip about the Cold War & the opportunity movies provide for anyone looking to escape reality, while coming out more fully understanding it. Dante walks this balance through honesty about the time, & a whole heap of loving humor about suburban paranoia.
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"It's not the Russians… it's Rumble-Rama!"
rooee25 August 2016
When a light-hearted, nostalgic comedy opens with a nuclear explosion, you know you're onto something weird and original. Yet it's also comfortingly familiar. Matinée was made seven years after Back to the Future and is set (in 1962) seven years afterwards. In its style and tone it echoes Robert Zemeckis's blockbuster, but it wasn't embraced nearly so warmly by audiences.

Maybe it's because the backdrop is the harder sell of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Gene (Simon Fenton) is a young teen who lives on a naval base, and he's coming to terms with an absent military father who may never return. Some solace is arriving, however, as the B-movie tycoon Lawrence Woolsey (John Goodman) is coming to town to show off his new half-man/half-ant opus… "Mant".

The film establishes a broad cast of characters to populate Key West, including Gene's buddy Stan (Omri Katz), who's obsessed with the flirty Sherry (Kellie Martin). Gene himself, meanwhile, is courting the CND-conscious Sandra (Mrs Doubtfire's Lisa Jakub). While the parents panic about the impending nuclear annihilation, the schoolboys bicker and talk about girls.

The first half of the movie focuses on establishing the many characters, while the second half is dominated by the premiere of Mant itself and the (mostly) orchestrated chaos surrounding it. Suffice to say, the build-up – which does suffer slightly from minor character overload – is justified by the pay-off. The kids must sign a waiver before entering the theatre, and with good reason. "This crowd is turning into a mob," the producer yells at Woolsey – "congratulations!"

Writer Charles S. Haas has a brilliant ear for taut, funny dialogue that doesn't rely on punchlines, and the teenage dynamics are brilliantly observed. (The boys, anyway – the girls are more thinly sketched.) At the core of the film is Woolsey, whom we first see in Hitchcock-style silhouette, warning the audience about "atomic mutation". Goodman absolutely relishes his role, gleefully feeding his "AtomoVision!" and "Rumble-Rama!" to an audience hungry for event movie gimmicks.

Woolsey sees a business opportunity in the lightning-in-a-bottle moment of the Missile Crisis, keen to capitalise on the heightened national anxiety. Yet rather than making him the monster, the film skilfully presents Woolsey as a hero. Through him the film puts forth its paen to cinema as entertainment, and also a philosophical argument for the cathartic value of movie monsters as a way of exorcising a society's demons.

As with Tim Burton's masterpiece Ed Wood, director Joe Dante displays total affection for his subject matter, namely the monster flicks of the 1950s and '60s. Every period movie you can think of is referenced, but particularly Kurt Neumann's The Fly. We see plenty of footage of Mant and it is entirely convincing (by which I mean appropriately unconvincing), and avoids mocking its myriad sources.

"Put the insect aside!" one character begs the half-man/half-ant, to which he replies, "Insecticide? Where?!" Meanwhile, in the world of Dante's film, Woolsey is hurling special effects around the auditorium, spilling smoke and rumbling seats, literally bringing the house down. When the Mant cast start directly referencing the Matinée audience, who are in turn being watched by us, it feels like Amblin's answer to Inception.

For those who enjoy the smart satire of The 'Burbs and the frenetic farce of Gremlins, this is a similarly genre-dodging yet relatively overlooked Dante classic. It's a film about films they don't make anymore – and, in our less kind-spirited age of comedy archness, they really don't make them like this anymore.
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A great thing that may never be again!
gemussman15 February 2009
This seems to be one of those movies that might be somewhat overlooked. If that is the case for some, that is sad. In fact, this movie evokes a time in movies that simply does not exist anymore.

John Goodman plays a moviemaker that specializes in making cheap garbage movies that only appeal to kids. To build interest in the premiere of his film, he employs actors who are themselves imposters to add to the hysteria.

A real life event that adds to this is the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Despite the silliness of what is happening, everything in this movie seems to be something that could have gone on at the time.

The character that John Goodman plays, Lawrence Woolsey, seems to have come from the same mold as Ed Wood or Roger Corman. They were directors who specialized in the cheap. The tricks used by Woolsey, to intensify the interest in his film, are fun to see! I seriously recommend this film. It is a delight of a bygone time!
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Who was the original of the John Goodman character, Woolsley?
kbrower20 June 2004
Other commentators have likened producer Woolsley to Roger Corman and Ed Wood perhaps in connection with intent to shock and low-rent operation, but the John Goodman character is really based on William Castle, producer of The Tingler. Castle invented the scheme of wiring some theater sets with electric buzzers to provide a tingle at appropriate moments.

I think Matinee succeeds wonderfully in attaining two objectives: recreating the atmosphere of the Cuban missile crisis and satirizing the shocker drive-in movies of the period. I laughed so hard it hurt. Cathy Moriarty deserves high praise for her supporting role as second in command and as special "nurse" for ministering to patrons overcome by fright.
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More Woolsey & '50s Horror Schlock Would Have Made This A Big Winner
ccthemovieman-120 February 2008
I would have liked this movie if they had stuck to the main story instead of getting bogged down in some stupid young teen romance story.

John Goodman was interesting as a Grade B movie director of the early '60s, a kind of William Castle/Roger Corman/Ed Wood of his day. Goodman is good at playing a loud, obnoxious guy. He looks the part with his big stogie hanging out of his mouth and his clever ways of getting kids to come to the theater. He winds up in Key West, Fla., trying to promote his latest celluloid bomb.

With the aid of the real-life Cuban Missile Crisis happening just 90 miles away, and some teenage kid in the area, "Lawrence Woosley" (Goodman) attempts to get some good PR and put those bodies into the movie seats.

With that premise, I was settling in for a very enjoyable film - and I did enjoy quite a bit of it, but overall it got a little stupid and the story totally breaks down in the second half of the film. How many times have you seen that?

For instance, the teen violence at the movie theater was absurd, as was the supermarket-panic scene. In fact, most of the scenes with the teens are either poorly done or of poor taste and take away from the fun monster/sci-fi movie- story aspect that was there in the first half.

The movie-in-a-movie, "MANT," was a real hoot to see. I love some of those old '50s monsters-horror films. For giving them such a good plug in this film, it pains to me to say negative things about "Matinee." I loved the premise; it just should have been better, especially the ending.
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Half A Good Movie
whitesheik6 June 2011
Joe Dante just doesn't know when to stop. That's always been his problem and most likely always will be. So, half of Matinée (the William Castle half) is fun and affectionate mostly, and the MANT scenes, although a little too smart aleck for their own good, are beautifully done. But trying to shoehorn that plot into a cliché-ridden Cuban missile scare story just doesn't work - it simply sucks the energy out of the film, and the climax is truly terrible - they didn't need the drama of the balcony collapsing - it's like Screen writing 101 - "Oh, we need one more really dramatic obstacle here." It's awful and I'm quite certain that it contributed in a large way to the movie's box-office failure.

And for those of us who grew up back then, I cannot name you one single occurrence of sitting in a brightly-lit movie theater watching a film. Sorry, Joe, didn't happen. Ever. What would have been so difficult to have it dark in the theater but lit so that you could see everyone. Hundreds of films have done it without much of a problem. That alone keeps taking you completely out of the film.

Nice Goldsmith score, well edited, well shot, but, as with a lot of Mr. Dante's films, despite enjoyable parts misses the mark.
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Goofy and fun.
MartinHafer29 September 2012
While "Matinee" might not be the very best history lesson, the film is lots of fun and focuses on some events you really don't hear a lot about today. The film is set during one of the tensest times during the Cold War--during the Cuban Missile Crisis. To make things worse, everything in the film takes place in Key West--which is only a short distance from Cuba. So, not surprisingly, everyone is tense--wondering if maybe the world is soon coming to an end.

Into this scary times arrives a weird showman (John Goodman)--a man obviously strongly inspired by William Castle. His film, "Mant", is a typical early 60s monster film--complete with atomic radiation and giant bugs. And, like Castle, he's installed all the many silly gimmicks in the theater--like having ALL of Castle's films rolled into one. There's the fake nurse (Cathy Moriarty) in the lobby having folks sign off on a form releasing the theater from responsibility of their deaths from fright, the guy dressed up in a 'mant' costume running through the theater, the electrified seats...and more. It's all amazingly silly but also quite fun and nostalgic. My only reservation is the character of the girl who rebels against this hysteria--she just seemed very anachronistic--like putting a child of the late 70s or early 80s into the early 60s. Still, I could let go of this and just enjoy--and I am sure you will. The movie did a great job of capturing the flavor of Castle's odd sort of genius.

A few final notes: John Goodman was great, it was nice to see Dick Miller (from MANY Roger Corman films) in a bit role as well as Omri Katz (from "Eerie, Indiana") in the film.
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Comedy & Tragedy
mermatt23 January 2001
This is a delightful film which portrays the same timeframe as the much more serious THIRTEEN DAYS when the world was on the brink of nuclear disaster. John Goodman is wonderfully funny as the movie pitch-man who resembles William Castle and other cinema con-men of the 1950s and early 1960s who drew the audiences away from TV and into the theaters with all sort of hokey gimmicks.

As a background to the comedy, the potential tragedy of disaster looms. The film is set in Key West (only 90 miles from Cuba), and the main character is the son of one of the men who is on the blockade line, ready to do battle with the Russian missile-carrying ships. This film is an interesting companion piece to THIRTEEN DAYS.
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Fun, but I expected it to be better
zetes17 October 2010
Not really a horror movie, per se, but a family comedy that revolves around B-horror movies. John Goodman plays a William Castle-like horror filmmaker who is premiering his new movie Mant (half-man, half-ant!) in Key West during the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Goodman has imagined Mant as a very interactive experience, with rumbling seats that can give the audience light shocks, pyrotechnics and a man wearing a Mant suit who wanders into the audience at certain points. The movie mostly revolves around the children who are going to see the movie. The film has a lot of problems. The kid characters are all pretty uninteresting, and the main plot of the film, which is about Simon Fenton, a horror fan, missing his father, who is in the military on a boat outside of Cuba, reeks of grade C Spielberg. And the screenwriters figure that they can't have a movie where people are just sitting around watching another movie, so there are a whole bunch of subplots where the kids wander off during the movie to do other stuff. Ironically, the parts where we're watching Mant are by far the best part of the movie. I've heard so much about how good this was for years, and been wanting to see it forever (it was out of print on DVD for years), so I have to say it's a pretty big disappointment. Still, I think it's an okay movie.
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