If you were a superhero that had a budget to go by, wouldn’t you be a bit sad too?
Les Franken (Michael Rapaport) is having problems with his emotions, his self-esteem, and the way he acts. Therefore, he begins to take these new pills for a scientific experiment in hopes that they will improve his life-style, but his way-of-thinking as well. However, thinks start to go weird for Les as he starts to realize that maybe there’s more to these pills than he initially expected.
Superhero films, no matter who the superhero is or what the superpower may be, are usually always fun and exciting to watch. Even the shittiest-superhero movies are at least entertaining to watch, especially around the Summer time when nobody gives a shit about what they see, but just want to get away from the hot sun, and chill out in a beautifully, air-conditioned movie theater. But what happens when it isn’t the Summa, Summa, Summatime anymo, and you expect some quality to your movies, let alone ones that involve superheroes? Also, what about those little superhero films, that are just waiting to get loved and noticed by everybody? What happens to them? Well, they get put on Netflix Instant streaming and watched by d-bags like me. Hey, may not sound like much but it’s sure as hell better than nothing.
Writing/directing-team Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore obviously have an intriguing story on their hands and start it off pretty well by showing us just how a person like Les would respond to the type of superpowers he ends up receiving with the consumption of these mysterious pills. Most people would have no idea what the hell is going on, while others would probably think of this as their time to shine, go out there, do good for the rest of the world, fight crime, and try their hardest to save others, from whatever danger may be lurking around the corner for them. This is obviously the road that Les goes down and for the most part, it’s pretty entertaining because you don’t know where this story is going to end up and you don’t exactly know what Les is going to do next. I liked that unpredictable-nature of this story but sadly, it went away real, real soon.
With a micro-budget like the one that have at their disposal here, Haberman and Passmore are able to do some lively and innovative things with the plot and the special-effects, but the plot itself suffers from that considering it’s tone is all over the place. At first, it starts off as a comedy where this lovable goof goes out trying to be a superhero and fight evil, but then it turns right into a dark drama that seems to do the same things over and over again. This wouldn’t have bothered me so much because I feel like this certain type of story needed a dark side to it, but the film gets very, very dark and almost a little too depressing for my liking. But it didn’t really feel like it had any reason to be that way in the first place. Yeah, this dude Les is a guy that’s easily picked on and made a fool of, but it’s never to the point of where I felt as if he’s going to go and jump-off of a bridge for that reason, nor did I feel like he was the type of dude that needed a new-direction in his life, as severe or life-changing as this. He’s just a little sad guy: that’s all. That’s why I had no clue why this flick continued to shove down our throats how sad and self-wallowing his life is.
Even at a lean, but not-so mean 82 minutes, the film does seem like it drags in certain parts which sucked even worse, mostly because I was totally on-board for this flick right from the start. There were some moments in this film that really touched me (like when Les and that girl from the market actually have a conversation), but they are only sprinkled throughout, as if they were the only parts of heart this flick had to offer, and the writers/directors decided to throw them in when they found it was necessary. Also, I know that the film was made with such a small budget that they couldn’t do as much as maybe Joss Whedon or Christopher Nolan has been able to do in the past, but I still feel like there could have been more action and violence to convey the sense of reality that Les found himself out of so much. It also would have been more exciting than just watching Les run away every time something bad would happen, because that’s all that he ever did.
The only real reason why I have to give this film any sort of recommendation is because of Michael Rapaport’s awesome lead performance as Les Franken. Rapaport has always been that one guy who stands-out in big ensembles like Cop Land or True Romance, but he’s never really been given his shot to just shine and strut his own stuff. Thankfully, he is given that shot here and nails it by making you feel something for this schlub of a guy. There’s a lot of goofy things going on with Les but you never once feel like he’s going to hurt anybody on-purpose or do it to anybody that doesn’t deserve it already. He’s just a regular guy that’s finally getting tired of putting up with all of the shit he suffers on a regular-basis from all of the people around him. Great performance from Rapaport and I honestly think that if the script and direction knew what to do with him here, he would have gotten noticed more and hopefully be moving his way up the ranks more and more. Also, be on the lookout for a very young Josh Peck as a nerdy stoner. Probably a better performance here, than the one he had in that shit-pile known as Red Dawn. Just saying.
Consensus: Special is nothing all that special (gedd it?) because of its constantly-shifting tone and micro-budget that keeps it away from doing anything miraculous, but at the center of it all, still has a great and dedicated rare lead performance from Michael Rapaport, that is worth seeing if you’ve always liked this guy in the random shite he shows up in.
5 / 10 = Rental!!
We don’t have fans like this in Philly…..
Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt), a hardcore New York Giants football fan, struggles to deal with the consequences when he is beaten up by his favorite player.
What’s pretty surprising about this film right from the get-go, is that this isn’t your ordinary sports film. You know, the big sports epics that are based on true under-dog stories with inspirational themes pouring out of its screenplay. Nope, this is not one of those movies and that’s what probably works most in its advantage.
This is the directorial debut of writer Robert D. Siegel and proves that he can find a great balance between humor and some very dark drama. The one thing that Siegel does here is act as if this film is going to be one lovable loser pic about how this one dude loves his sports team so much that he just can’t hold his excitement, and that there will be laughs a plenty here. In reality though, this film gets very, very dark at points and you honestly have no idea what Siegel is going to pull out next. You never know what these characters will do next because you never know where their heads are at and it honestly seems like this guy could take these characters anywhere. Some of this stuff is funny because it perfectly captures what it’s like to be a die-hard sports fan but then it is also very depressing for that same fact too because we realize just how lonely some of these people can actually be underneath all of the know-it-all stats from last week’s game.
The problem with a lot of this is that I feel like the film takes a huge nose-dive into some pretty grim material that it’s almost too much of a switcheroo from early before. The film doesn’t have the lightest tone you would expect in the beginning, but by about the last act it gets pretty damn dark to where you think that there is going to be some straight-up murders going on around here. Then again, don’t want to give too much away but I just want to say that it may turn off plenty of viewers where this film does try to go with itself.
Patton Oswalt shocked the hell out of me with his perfect performance in Young Adult and his performance here as Paul is pretty much the same thing around, except a little less of the comedy aspect. This guy is one funny guy, which he gets to show at some parts here, but for the rest of the flick, it’s all up to him to basically show what it’s really like to be a total loner that can’t miss a single game of his favorite team. You feel sorry for this dude Paul because you know he’s a genuinely nice dude, but he just gets stuck up at the wrong place, at the wrong time and Oswalt pulls it off pretty well. Yeah, he sort of reminds you a bit of a Travis Bickle-type by the end of the movie, but that gives you a lot more reason to care for him and root him on as he’s going through this crisis of his.
Even though Siegel really writes Paul as a very three-dimensional character, everybody else just seems like caricatures and this is what also sort of bothered me about the flick. I get that Paul’s family is supposed to be full of asshole and morons just to make him look good, but they really shoot low for these characters as if they were in some really crummy sitcom. A Certain character like Paul’s best friend, played by Kevin Corrigan has a certain dimension to him because we see him hang out with Paul and express how he feels about certain things, where half of these morons just do something completely stupid after another just to show Paul how to live. This came off to me as sloppy writing and I can give credit to Siegel for making an interesting plot go on longer and longer, but I have to say that his way of actually having us care for Paul was rather cheap considering how everyone else is so poorly written.
Consensus: Big Fan isn’t your regular sports flick that many are used to seeing, but it features a very darkly comedic feel with a great performance from Patton Oswalt. It gets a little too dark by the end but it’s also one that works by just being different and at least interesting.
Don’t eff with the comic book nerds.
The film tells the story of a novice prostitute Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette) and the adventure with her lover, comic book store clerk Clarence Worley (Christian Slater). When Clarence kills Alabama’s pimp (Gary Oldman), the newlyweds ride off into the sunset — with $5 million worth of cocaine in a suitcase and the police and the mob on their trail.
Since director Tony Scott is in such a slump nowadays, I honestly think he should just go back to having Tarantino write his scripts because he gave him two of the best films of his career. Aside from ‘Crimson Tide’, this is the other one.
The real selling point of this flick is that it’s written by Tarantino himself, and as everybody already knows, this guy is a freakin’ original genius. Tarantino is able to take any situation and make it go from normal to completley insane in about a matter of 5 seconds and it will give you this bad-ass feeling that you could not expect. The story is a pretty familiar but there are people getting killed at every second that you wouldn’t expect, twists and turns, random pop-culture references that somehow fit into the story, and just a whole bunch of other cool moments in this flick that make it ten times more the awesome thrill ride that it is known as today.
My complaint with this script is that even though it is by Tarantino, this is definitely not his best work by any means. Yes, he does get to use all of his trade-marks like funny one-liners, pop-culture references, and tense stand-offs but for some reason it’s not as edgy as you would expect. There was just something that felt like it should have really hit me harder and stuck with me more but instead it just ended up entertaining me and left me with a pretty happy mood. I don’t think Tarantino had full control over his story and that’s why the story may come off as a little more lame than his usual stuff, but it still at least works in a rather medium way.
Director Tony Scott also adds a bunch of fun to this flick by giving it this straight-forward, energetic thrill ride that isn’t filmed with that annoying shaky-came he can’t ever seem to get his hands off of nowadays. Scott is a good director when he’s got good source material, which he definitely has here, and even though it’s not drenched in style like you would expect from him, it still has a fast-paced to it that keeps the story going and the bullets flying.
However, what really had me going for this flick was its whole ensemble cast that is filled with just about every star from the early 90′s. Christian Slater is pretty good as Clarence, a guy that may seem a little strange but after awhile you start to believe and actually hope he comes out of all of this shit alive. Patricia Arquette is also a lot of fun to watch as Alabama, and you can totally feel like this one girl could actually fall in love with this type of dude. Their romance is something you actually care about because we spend enough time to see them together, and to see them be happy with one another so that when they go on this road trip and their lives are in danger, we care not only about them but their relationship as well. Sounds pretty sappy, I know, but it’s something that surprisingly worked here.
The rest of the cast is freakin’ great too, considering that just about every big star this flick had to show is in here for about 5-10 minutes each but totally kick-ass for the time they have. Dennis Hopper is great here as Clarence’s dad, in a non-psychotic role; Val Kilmer is here as “The King” but is still funny and cool, considering we barely see him; Gary Oldman is hilarious and menacing as Drexl, the white boy pimp with dreadlocks; Brad Pitt is also here as our pot-smoking friend, Floyd, and probably one of the best performances of his career, and I am willing to go toe-to-toe with whoever thinks otherwise; and Christopher Walken shows up for about 7 minutes but gives the film’s best scene where its just him and Hopper talking shit to one another and once again, it’s always Walken who steals the show at the end of the day and I can’t say that I expected anything else. Aside from these peeps I already mentioned there are plenty of other familiar faces here such as Samuel L. Jackson, James Gandolfini, Michael Rapaport, and Bronson Pinchot among others. Basically, it’s one of the better casts for a flick that I’ve seen and they all do excellent jobs with what they are given.
Consensus: It may not be Tarantino’s best script ever written, but it still has a great energy to it, with crazy performances from the ensemble cast, and some really kick-ass moments that make this film a fun watch if not as good as you would expect from these Scott and Tarantino working together.
Being snowed in makes me all warm and fuzzy, except I wouldn’t want that feeling all year round.
Willie Conway (Timothy Hutton) returns to the small town he left behind as erstwhile friends, lovers and the scary thought of settling down swirl around him. A friend’s unapproachable cousin (Uma Thurman) and the winsome teenager next door (Natalie Portman) couldn’t be more different, but they afford glimpses of two possible futures.
Those “small-town” films have always been a favorite of mine since I like to feel like I’m right there with the story, and this one did not disappoint.
The script here by Scott Rosenberg is what really has this film clickin’. Rosenberg does a great job of expressing the insecurity’s that men have, and the sexual politics between men and women. Us men, we can sometimes be horny mofo’s and not always do the brightest things, and this film shows that it’s alright because that’s how life is. There is also plenty of comedy to go along here that won’t have you laughing-out-loud, but it will at least give you this breezy feeling throughout the whole film.
Most of the problem with this film that people will actually have is that not much happens here. The whole film is basically conversational, and nothing eventful really goes down and some will be bored by this, but I actually didn’t mind it because they gave us things interesting and witty to talk about.
However, my problem with this film is that it does get schmaltzy at times which sort of took away from the whole cool feel that this film gave me. I didn’t mind the little emotional scenes they had, but I think they were unnecessary especially with that cheesy score they had pop in every once and awhile. Also, I wish there was more viewpoints from the gals here too, but I can’t lie, I still liked what I heard from both sides.
The ensemble cast is good-looking, but don’t let that actually fool you because their all so good. Timothy Hutton is good as Willie and handles the film really well bringing in that coolio charm, and actual “realistic-guy” feel to him. I don’t know if that made any sense but the point I’m trying to make is that he’s a cool dude. Matt Dillon, Noah Emmerich, and my favorite no matter what he does, Michael Rapaport, all do great jobs as the other dudes here. Martha Plimpton, Mira Sorvino, and Lauren Holly are good too. But my favorites out of this cast are from three gals actually. Rosie O’Donnell has a totally hilarious scene here where she talk’s about dudes and our sexual fantasies, and it’s all so true, but the way she puts everything just made me crack up the whole time. Uma Thurman is also awesome as the really cool chick named Andera, who really made me wish I had here as a “fake date” when I needed one the most. But the best performance from the whole cast is Natalie Portman, who at 13, took this little role, and made it so memorable. Her character, Marty, is really quirky and Portman does a great job at bringing out that quirkiness within her character, and make almost every scene she has hilarious but also very interesting. This was a star-making role for her, and with good reason because she’s awesome in this role.
Consensus: Nothing much really happens here other than a bunch of conversations, but Beautiful Girls’ script is so good, that it kind of makes up for that, with it’s themes about men and women, and performances from a great cast, especially Natalie Portman.
If this is what college is like, well I better start taking boxing lessons.
College is a battleground in the hands of writer-director John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood). As several students make their way through school, they find themselves traversing a minefield of race and sexuality. The stellar cast includes Laurence Fishburne, Ice Cube, Jennifer Connelly and Michael Rapaport.
Higher Learning is a very underrated film for many reasons. One of the major reasons is the fact that it’s directed by John Singleton, who everybody considers a one-hit wonder, because of Boyz N the Hood. That is all bull-crap, because he does a good job here as well.
One of the best things about this film is that it’s script really is amazing. Singleton does a good job at combining all these little, inter-twining stories, that each show conflict in every way. There are always problems with sex, race, and heritage, everywhere we go, and we are shown that it can always lead onto something more serious than we originally think it will. Racism is never a good thing, and through this we see how both whites, and blacks, criticize one another, and how that leads onto more serious consequences.
The problem with this film is that Singleton’s direction kind of gets distracted by the middle, and you can see that he doesn’t know what to do with all of this story-telling in one movie. He has a strong message, no doubt about that, but he doesn’t know how to deliver it. He steps into way too much melo-drama, that seems misplaced, and handles bigger issues than he should be. I will admit, he keeps the film interesting, but there are parts in this film that just had my head turned sideways, and too cliche.
I did like Singleton’s style however. He’s a very energetic director in this film, and there are some nice shots that show emotion, like how dark this world can be. The campus he filmed this on seems so real, and adds a lot to the realism this film was going for, especially when you got all these young adults running around, drinking, having sex, and causing havoc.
The performances here are actually quite good. Omar Epps never shines away from being stunning at all. Ice Cube is good with what he does, but doesn’t show up enough, and literally is gone for about 30-minutes of this film, which is odd considering he has top-billing. Laurence Fishburne is very good here as Professor Phipps, and the character is very smart, witty, and true to himself, and Fishburne handles that pretty well. Kristy Swanson is good here, as the shy, naive school-girl, that just wants peace, and Jennifer Connelly kind of got annoying after awhile. She would show up at random times, and then we had no idea why her character was there in the first place. My favorite performance of the whole film was Michael Rapaport, who does a great, and strong job at playing this weird, lonely, and out-of-place dude, that soon follows in with the Neo-Nazis, and you see how he transforms into something more. Every time he’s on screen, you can feel the tension, and presence within him, and it sucks that he doesn’t get much of a credit in today’s world, cause he knocks this one out of the park.
Consensus: It has its flaws, and problems, but Higher Learning has a great message, that is shown with its terrific script job, and acted so well, that you almost forget your watching a fictionalized film.