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GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: NEW YORK(director/writer/editor/producer: James Ronald Whitney; cinematographer: Neil Stephens; music: James Ronald Whitney; cast: Joshua Coleman, Dani Marco, David Maynard, Sarah Smith, Elisha Imani Wilson, Scott Ryan; Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Neil Stephens; FabiLuce Films/Fire Island Films/Artistic License; 2004)
What goes for comedy, spoof or drama in “Games,” only struck me as tacky and boring.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

James Ronald Whitney (“Just, Melvin”/”Telling Nicholas”) directs this gimmicky reality-like film that looks like the shows regularly popping up nowadays on television, which have become enormously popular and brought television programing down to a new low standard (it seems we have traveled light years away from the early days of television and quality drama shows like the Philco Theater). The intention was to shoot a pilot for a new reality game show where six contestants will compete in a series of hidden camera events for the sum of $10,000. An ad is placed in the New York paper and a cross-section of the population numbering in the hundreds lineup in the street waiting for their opportunity to be chosen. It promises to be the most uninhibited game show ever produced. Reality for the enterprising Whitney means contestants parading around naked, baring their soul, and playing R-rated games Candid Camera-style. If you’re a fan of Oprah, Jerry Springer, Howard Stern, or any of those popular reality TV shows, then you are the target audience. So far I’ve avoided all of those vehicles, and must confess that I’m not into shock theater or titillating smut or tuning into exhibitionists. I would not care to spend a New York second with any of these characters, if I had a choice. My sense of reality runs in a different direction. What goes for comedy, spoof, or drama in “Games,” only struck me as tacky and boring.

The big question asked is, how far 6 people will go for fame and fortune? The aspiring actors chosen as contestants for their 15 minutes of fame are 3 women and 3 men–Dani Marco, Sarah Smith, Elisha Imani Wilson, Joshua Coleman, David Maynard, and Scott Ryan. In this 72-hour shoot they will be judged by talk-show therapist Dr. Gilda Carle and television actor Jim Caruso according to their acting and game playing skills. The participants will be asked to showoff while exposing themselves, tell intimate details about their life, couple off and act out a romantic scene with their fellow contestants, get urine samples for a drug test from strangers on the street, couple off again and recruit a male from the street to sing with them as a naked trio, and the men are to improvise a casting couch scenario with a female while the chicks in the buff are to seduce a delivery boy. The contestants get choked-up and teary-eyed talking about their bulimia, Tourette’s Syndrome, male prostitution, sexual abuse as a youngster, and some ongoing behavior disorders.

The third act comes with a twist, as if this crass soft-core exploitation movie could be explained away as anything but sophomoric entertainment for the masses. The actors depart telling the viewer that I hope you liked the way I played the game. Well if you want to know the truth, I didn’t enjoy how you played the game.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”