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Golden Shadow Pictures presents
Johnny Famous (2002)

"At some point in life, we all have to go away."
- Mrs. Miller (Joan Newmark)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: July 08, 2003

Stars: Jon Jacobs, Dawn Kapatos, Joan Newmark, Peter Janosi
Other Stars: Laura SalemJoey Cedron, Jean Hamilton, Mary Jasionowski, Darlene McMillan, Pete Punito, Arkadi Shifman, Árpád Varga, Raisa Yakovich
Director: Gergely Fonyó

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (Brief nudity, sexuality, language)
Run Time: 01h:23m:12s
Release Date: June 01, 2003
UPC: 823931001522
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-C+B+ C-

DVD Review

After a standout performance in Sophie Pegrum's inaugural effort, Dogstar, prolific indie star Jon Jacobs returns in another character piece from first-time writer/director Gergely Fonyó. The winner of the Grand Prize at the Hungarian Film Festival, Johnny Famous casts Jacobs as a mentally-challenged young man faced with a major transformation in his living situation.

For all of his thirty-something years, Johnny Miller has lived at home with his mother. Johnny is a special child—while not outwardly handicapped, he has never fully developed mentally into adulthood. Each day, he heads off to Venice Beach under the guise of going to a day job, when in fact he simply wanders through the crowds, imagining a world in which he belongs. Whether she believes him or not, his mother caters to his whimsy, but the life Johnny has become accustomed to is about to change. His mother is dying, and she is making arrangements for her son. To smooth the transition, she hires a live-in care-giver, who is instructed to look after him until his mother is gone, then use the proceeds from the sale of her house to pay for institutionalizing him.

Amy Jo's arrival and friendliness sets Johnny off on another imaginary adventure, one in which the girl becomes his mate; this illusion is shattered when she brings home a new boyfriend, a local musician that Johnny idolizes. However, Johnny isn't the only one living a fantasy, as Amy Jo's new lover turns out to be far less admirable than she could have expected. As Johnny's jealousy deepens, Amy Jo sees only one solution to the problem, one that will set off a sequence of events that will leave a wake of devastation.

The film progresses at a slow, measured pace, perhaps taking a bit too long to get going in the beginning. There is a good mix of drama and humor and the story is involving, although I found the ending, while not necessarily predictable, somewhat on the clichéd side in hindsight. The principles work well, with Jacobs providing another strong and interesting character role, giving Johnny enough strangeness to make the point without overdoing it, and Dawn Kapatos holds her own as the naïve care-giver, blind to the intentions of the two men in her life. It was easy to sympathize with Johnny and his feelings for Amy Jo, even though his world was a fairy tale, and the unpleasantness of his eventual discoveries was palpable enough to build resentment for the other characters. While it does have its flaws, Johnny Famous is a fine debut for its director, and another feather in Jacobs' performance cap. A worthy addition to the independent Zero library.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Johnny Famous is presented in a nonanamorphic, 1.85:1 widescreen transfer. Image quality is similar to other titles in the Zero library, which I suspect is mostly to do with the low-budget nature of the picture and limitations in the available elements. Colors are decently saturated though tend to bleed, especially in the reds, and contrast levels look okay. The image is soft, and there is a fair amount of grain and analog noise throughout, and a few scenes are on the dark side. Overall this is entirely watchable, though not up to DVD standards.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Stereo audio is generally clear and well defined. For the most part, dialogue is easy to discern, though having been recorded on location, there are a few places that require a bit of work to understand. The musical soundtrack comes across well, and the frequency spectrum is well covered. Any shortcomings are in the source, and not that unexpected.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
12 Other Trailer(s) featuring Lucinda's Spell, Dogstar, The Invisibles, The Wooden Gun, Pheonix Point, Hero Lover Fool, Mic and the Claw, Welcome Says the Angel, The Girl With the Hungry Eyes, The Blue Door, Rage, Prometheus Bound
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Extras include a 5m:26s advert for Project Entropa, the 10m:19s featurette on the Zero Story, plus trailers for Lucinda's Spell, Dogstar, The Invisibles, The Wooden Gun, Pheonix Point, Hero Lover Fool, Mic and the Claw, Welcome Says the Angel, The Girl With the Hungry Eyes, The Blue Door, Rage, and Prometheus Bound.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Johnny Famous is a solid first time effort from its director, Gergely Fonyó. As a whole the films works, but there are some rough edges and pacing issues that often appear in these lower budget features. If you can forgive the lack of glitz and gloss, there is a good story delivered by a capable cast.


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