“Lil Poison”: To the Victor Go the Spoils

“Lil Poison”: To the Victor Go the Spoils (photo)

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12 year old Victor DeLeon III goes by an alias that strikes fear into the hearts of gamers everywhere. In the professional competitive gaming circuit, he goes by the name Lil Poison, and he’s been the youngest pro gamer in the world for the last half-decade. The peculiarity of a tweenager pwning players twice and thrice his age got the attention of the New York Times, ABC News and other major media outlets.

It’s also spawned a new documentary called, fittingly, “Lil Poison,” which just premiered at the New York International Latino Film Festival. Over the last three-and-a-half years, filmmaker Beth Earl followed Lil Poison and his father Victor DeLeon, Jr. — aka Papa Poison — to the Major League Gaming promotion’s tournaments, chronicling the pre-teen’s career. What emerged isn’t just a portrait of a kid’s improbable victories, though. The doc comes upon the DeLeons as the parents’ marriage crumbles and focuses on a tween who’s trying to fulfill his father’s vicarious dreams of fame and success.

That father, Victor DeLeon, Jr., works as a night manager when the film opens and his relationship with his son’s talent forms the crux of the movie’s arc. As he gleefully shuttles Lil Poison from competition to competition, he says, “Tournaments are where I feel respected.” But, of course, viewers will ruefully note that he’s not the one doing the winning. Papa Poison proves to be the worst kind of manager/coach, too, by using threats and guilt to attempt to motivate his son into exhausting practice sessions.

The child’s mother pipes in every so often to voice her displeasure at her son being treated like a cash cow, but the film places her on its fringes. You get to shuddering when she’s on screen because the pattern quickly emerges that what she’s saying won’t be heeded or that an ugly argument with her ex-husband is about to start. More warm scenes of her with Little Victor would’ve gone a long way to girding the film’s emotional structure.

Some of the device Earl uses are way too twee, as well. The grade-school notebook scribbles and earnest voiceover by Little Victor force the issue a bit too much. We know he’s a kid who just wants a normal life; it’s there in just about every scene he’s in. Another of the films flaw.s comes from its overlong gameplay sequences. It’s always been tough to convey the drama and tension of playing a video game on film and, despite some clever graphical tricks on Earl’s part, it remains quite boring to watch gamers chase each other around a Halo multiplayer map.

Even if “Lil Poison” lands on predictable territory sometimes, the raw material still tugs at your heart. The heartache of a boy whose sense of self-worth is tied up in making Dad feel good, the elder Victor’s deep insecurities and the wince-inducing confrontations between Mom and Dad will make you squirm.

Tears well up in both Poisons’ eyes as Little Victor loses a key match in an important tourney, and it’s almost too much to bear when Dad shoots Little Victor in a real-life birthday paintball match, sending him down to the ground writhing in pain. The pain from the somewhat accidental shooting passes quickly but the entire audience will be guaranteed to be thinking, “Haven’t you already done enough?!”

It’s almost enough to make you forget the talent driving all of this. It seems at times that Little Victor’s skills runs at odds to his personality. Here’s a kid who could live every grade-schooler’s dream and play violent video games that he’s not supposed to all the time. But he doesn’t want to. His hamster, Wii Sports sessions and classical music mean more to him.

That paradox puts the lie to the hysteria of video game addiction. Early on in the film, the camera holds tight on the super-intense look of laserlike concentration on Lil Poison’s face. Where the film winds up is in a place that lets you believe Victor DeLeon III’s singular talents may be being nurtured in a baggage-free environment.


Gigi Gets Wasted

5 Ways to Get Ready for Tonight’s Boozy Gigi Does It

Catch Gigi Does It Mondays at 10:30P ET/PT on IFC.

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On tonight’s Gigi Does It, everyone’s favorite yenta gets her drink on at a wine tasting. As the episode shows us, it is possible to have a nice drink with friends without too many tears. Here are five ways to get ready for tonight’s wine-soaked Gigi Does It before it airs at 10:30P ET/PT on IFC.

1.  Learn the proper wine tasting etiquette.

There’s nothing more fun than tasting some fine wine with friends. Just be sure to learn the spitting versus swallowing etiquette.

2. Keep the conversation light.

When chatting with friends over a nice relaxing glass of wine, it’s important to keep things light. Unless you’re Ricky and the very sight of alcohol brings up years of repressed childhood trauma.

3. Support your wasted pals.

Tonight on Gigi Does It, Gigi steps in for her drunken pal Tretchy during an important speech. Gigi truly is a Dionne Warwick song come to life.

3. Hire a makeup crew for all your party selfie needs.

Not everyone can wake up and walk out the door looking their best. So be like Gigi Does It star David Krumholtz and assemble a team of professional makeup artists to give you the attention to bald cap blending and neck fold realism that you deserve.

4. Get some “hot takes” for cocktail hour.

In today’s post-Twitter world, one doesn’t have time to hear “hot take” on the latest trends beyond 140 characters. As such, it’s important to condense your incredulous rants on everything from Trump on SNL to healthy eating into bite-sized, Andy Rooney-esque tidbits. Watch the video above to hear Gigi’s take on Trump’s “cotton candy hair” and get some talking points for your next cocktail party.

5. Crack open Gigi’s book with a nice Chardonnay.

Like most seniors, Gigi knows how little appreciation grandparents receive from their grandkids. Which is why the saucy old broad penned a children’s book reminding today’s youth to call their grandmother. Pop open a bottle of your favorite tasty beverage and give it a read.

Ghostbusters II

Lost Belushi Roles

10 Roles John Belushi Almost Played

Catch Ghostbusters II Thursday, November 12th starting at 5P ET/PT on IFC.

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Photo credit: Columbia Pictures/Everett Collection.

Before his untimely death in 1982, few in Hollywood could match the sheer comedic force of John Belushi. For a brief moment in 1978, he had the number one album (The Blue Brothers’ Briefcase Full of Blues), the number one show in late night television (SNL), and the number one movie in theaters (Animal House). Drugs and the vagaries of Hollywood didn’t allow Belushi to remain on top for long, but at the time of his death, he had several projects in the pipeline. Before you catch the Ghostbusters movies (a franchise literally haunted by the ghost of Belushi) on IFC, check out a few projects that could’ve been different had they featured Belushi’s singular talent.

10. Ghostbusters, Peter Venkman

Columbia Pictures

Ghostbusters had a long, complicated road to the big screen. When Dan Aykroyd first developed the project, he envisioned it as a follow-up to The Blues Brothers about a team of time traveling ghost hunters in the distant future. But then, just as the project started moving forward, its supposed star died of a drug overdose.

From day one, Belushi was envisioned as Peter Venkman, the smooth talking ladies man/paranormal investigator, but his death threw the project into a tailspin. Richard Pryor was briefly considered for the lead role, before it fell into Bill Murray’s lap. It’s near sacrilege to picture Ghostbusters without Murray’s unique persona steering the ship, but it’s fun to imagine what Belushi would’ve brought to the comedy classic. Aykroyd and director Ivan Reitman have always said that lovable ghoul Slimer is basically a tribute to Belushi in slimy, spectral form.

9. Moon Over Miami (aka American Hustle), Shelly Slutsky

Columbia Pictures

Shortly before Belushi’s death, famed French auteur Louis Malle began developing a script based on the FBI Abscam story, a sting operation in the 1970s that led to the arrest of numerous politicians. If that sounds familiar, it’s because filmmaker David O. Russell mined the same true story in 2013 for his Oscar favorite American Hustle.

Moon Over Miami, as the project was known at the time, would’ve allowed both Malle and Belushi to step outside their comfort zone, creating more of a sharp satire than a flat out comedy or drama. Belushi would’ve played Shelly Slutsky, a slobbish conman similar to the role Christian Bale played in American Hustle. Belushi’s partner in crime, Dan Aykroyd, was also being eyed for the role of Otis Presby, otherwise known as Bradley Cooper’s FBI agent on the edge. If all the pieces had come together, this movie had the potential to be a major turning point for the creative partnership of Belushi and Aykroyd. Playwright John Guare, who penned the script, would stage the screenplay years later, but this version of the story would never make it to the big screen.

8. Fatty Arbuckle biopic

Keystone Studios

Belushi was the first of many larger than life comedic actors to explore the possibility of playing the legendary silent film star, who all but invented the idea of the chubby comedian on the big screen. The story of Arbuckle’s rise and tragic fall at the dawn of Hollywood could’ve provided Belushi with a chance to be funny, while also exploring the inherent darkness of being the “fat guy who falls down.”

7. Animal House 2, John ‘Bluto’ Blutarsky


Animal House had the biggest box office ever for a comedy when it came out, so it’s no surprise a sequel was immediately put into development. The story would have followed Bluto, Otter and the boys reuniting during the Summer of Love, but Belushi resisted, for fear of being typecast, and the project never came together. Belushi’s passing thankfully spared moviegoers from what would no doubt have been a lesser sequel to a comedy classic.

6. Noble Rot, Johnny Glorioso

Buena Vista Television

This dark comedy about a dysfunctional family of winemakers was a passion project for Belushi, who co-wrote the script with fellow SNL writer/performer Don “Father Guido Sarducci” Novello. Alas, his death would leave the project in limbo, and we would never get to see what a movie co-written by and starring Belushi would’ve looked like.

5. Nothing Lasts Forever, Cameo

This odd outing, that never saw a theatrical release, came from the mind of SNL‘s resident filmmaker Tom Schiller. After years of churning out shorts for the late night show — like the Belushi classic Don’t Look Back in Anger and La Dolce Gilda — Schiller made a movie that truly defies description.

Set in an alternate universe New York City, where everything has the feel of a 1930s musical, the Lorne Michaels-produced film features cameos from SNL favorites Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray. Rumor has it Belushi was supposed to cameo, but sadly died six weeks before filming.

4. Spies Like Us, Emmett Fitz-Hume

This cold war comedy is a relic of its time. Not the funniest movie on anyone’s filmography, it’s still good for a few laughs. Belushi was slated to play Emmett Fitz-Hume, the role that eventually went to Chevy Chase. Considering Belushi was reportedly no fan of his former SNL cohort, that casting just seems like adding insult to injury.

3. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Dr. Gonzo

A big screen take on Hunter S. Thompson’s novel starring Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi makes so much sense, it’s a wonder it never came together. Aykroyd’s odd, clipped intensity as Raoul Duke, alongside Belushi’s unhinged, swarthy madness as Dr. Gonzo, is pitch perfect casting. Sadly, the project evaporated with Belushi’s passing and the novel floated around Hollywood for another decade before Terry Gilliam finally made his adaptation.

2. Gangs of New York, Bill “The Butcher” Cutting

Martin Scorsese’s passion project was in development for so long, Belushi was the first choice to play the role that Daniel Day-Lewis later made famous. While the film that Scorsese eventually made has its merits, it surely would’ve provided a drastically different type of part for Belushi to dig into. Even more amazing is the fact that Aykroyd was being considered for the part of Amsterdam Vallon at the time. If only we lived in a world where the The Blues Brothers duked it out in period garb in a Scorsese film.

1. Three Amigos, Ned Nederlander

Yet another in the long line of supposed Aykroyd/Belushi projects that were in development post-Blues Brothers, Belushi was set to play Ned Nederlander before he passed away. Martin Short was brought in as a replacement, giving a wonderful performance, but one that would seem to be the polar opposite of what Belushi would’ve done with the material.

The Fan Everett Collection

It's Not Crazy, It's Sports

8 Extreme Sports Fans from the Movies

Cheer on Uncle Chubbys on an all-new Benders Thursday at 10P on IFC.

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There have been countless movies about sports heroes over the years. But every so often those of us whose court is on the couch regretting how many chicken wings we ate on game day get the spotlight. The Benders guys love hockey, but these passionate sports fans from the movies take their team loyalty to some pretty extreme places.

8. Kevin Costner, Field of Dreams

Ray Kinsella (Costner) is such a fan of baseball, he listens to voices in his head and builds a field in his backyard. Thankfully they never made a sequel called “Field of Screams” where the voices tell Ray to murder his family.

7. Dan Aykroyd and Daniel Stern, Celtic Pride

Aykroyd and Stern play Boston fans who kidnap an opposing team’s player in this Judd Apatow scripted comedy. Much like Tom Brady, they never admit to their crime.

6. Robert De Niro, The Fan

Gil Renard (De Niro) loved the San Francisco Giants so much, he actually kidnapped player Bobby Rayburn’s (Wesley Snipes) son. Couldn’t he have just painted his body orange and black and called it a day?

5. The Fans in Major League

The fans stayed dedicated to the Indians even in tough times, which is pretty admirable since the team consisted of a womanizer, an ex-con and a voodoo practitioner.

4. Patton Oswalt, Big Fan

Patton Oswalt is borderline mental in his NY Giants fandom here, which, if you look at their offense this year, you’d have to be.

3. Robert De Niro (again), Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

De Niro’s character has lost it all betting on the Eagles over the years. Nobody tell him about Draft Kings, okay?

2. Toro the Bull, Space Jam

It’s not tough to root for a team consisting of Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny AND Bill Murray, but Toro didn’t just cheer from the sidelines. When push came to shove, he put his horns where the Monstars’ sun don’t shine, and helped turn the tide of the game.

1. Susan Sarandon, Bull Durham

Talk about going the extra mile. Mentor, lover and fan, Annie Savoy (Sarandon) is second only to the jock strap as the ultimate athletic supporter.


Do You Know Jackie?

Test Your Knowledge on All Things Jackie

Take the Jackie quiz, That '70s fans!

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Jackie is the spoiled little rich girl of That ’70s Show, which doesn’t stop her from being right a little more often than her friends might like. But how many right answers will you get in our quiz that’s all about the motormouth of the That ’70s Show gang? Find out below.


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