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.
A rare horror sequel, that actually works.
In the two years that have passed since the fateful events in Woodsboro, newswoman Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) has written a best-seller, which has been turned into a film starring Tori Spelling as Sidney (Neve Campbell). As the movie premiere looms closer, the cycle of mysterious deaths begins again. Dewey Riley (David Arquette) heads straight to Sidney’s college in an attempt to protect her from impending doom.
So awhile back I reviewed an old horror gem, Scream, and let’s just say, I loved the hell out of it. I haven’t seen this one, in quite some time now, and I can’t say that my views on it, haven’t changed really, I still love it as much as the first one!
Of course the best thing about this film is the writing. The first film dealt more with the conventions a slasher/horror film, in this one its more about the conventions, of a sequel, and horror movies themselves. The dialogue is surprisingly a lot more funnier than the first, and there are parts in this film, just like the first, I found myself laughing at, even in the midst of all this violence. There is also a lot of references to the first movie, which at first are annoying, but as it goes on, they sort of move the story along, as you see how both are actually connected.
But the writing, is nothing without it’s bloody violence, straight from the horror master, Wes Craven. This film does a much better with showing great, bloody killings. In the first film, the killings were bloody, but never treated as something great, in this one, you can kind of tell that Craven loves seeing these kids murdered, and that love is soon transferred to us. I know it all sounds weird, and sick, but it’s just how Wes Craven is, that sick sick bastard. There’s also a great deal of suspense with this film, especially one scene in a audio recording room, that had me very very tense.
The problem I had with this film, that I didn’t have for the first one was that I wasn’t guessing at the end who was the killer. By the last 30 minutes you kind of guess who is doing all of this, and it’s because that one person isn’t around for the whole like last hour, so of course its going to be a little bit obvious.
In the first movie, the characters were more of stereotypes than actual people themselves, but in this one, we actually get to know them a little. Neve Campbell is back, and better than ever, doing what she does best. David Arquette, and Courtney Cox, are back, with a lot more sexual feelings between each other now. Jamie Kennedy also is back, with some even funnier insight into just how horror sequels actually work, and as usual, he’s always a riot. Jerry O’Connell, plays the new boyfriend, who is kind of a schmuck. Liev Schreiber has also got some good scenes, where he plays the good guy, and bad guy, at different times very well, and Sarah Michelle Gellar is also in this, with a good scene from her. Must I not forget Timothy Olyphant, who as always, plays his character to the brink of greatness. Also, the film begins with Jada Pinkett Smith, and Omar Epps, and not only is that sequence very very good, but their performances are even better.
Consensus: Scream 2 may not be breaking new ground like the first one, but it still has funny moments, many scary moments, as well as enough blood, to satisfy any horror fan, that wants to be surprised by a horror sequel that actually works.
I never thought that two completely different things could go together so well.
It’s about winning, losing and playing the game. Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps) grow up next door to each other playing basketball, fighting and falling in love. When simultaneous turns in the big leagues throw their off-court relationship off-kilter, the pair discovers that very little is fair in Love & Basketball.
This is a very savvy but mostly warm-hearted sports film that is kind of like the 21st century basketball reaction to Bull Durham. I though that this movie would be a little too African American for me, seeing as it was produced by Spike Lee. But, I had a wonderful time with it and it actually turned out to be one of my favorite romances in awhile.
This is a sports movie that is not how each particular game turns out. It’s about the love and the faith these two people have for the game. It’s about practicing for the game, prepping for the game, and most of all winning the game. Not every film you see about basketball shows the practice scenes where as this one shows them, and the effects it has afterward.
The one thing that was very fresh about this film was that it did not take advantage of the subject they had. Since it is the first film to feature woman playing the game of basketball, it really does focus on how Monica feels about the game and doesn’t use it for more profanities.
This film really does start to shoot itself in its own foot by the end. Almost every scene becomes more cliched than the one before, and it really started to aggravate me and have me wondering how a film so genuine about love and all it’s speed bumps could be so oblivious to what is thought about when thought about Romance films.
This film does feature some real great acting from both of its two leads. I found Epps very smart and believable, and Lathan an absolute sensation, she’s strong, smart, witty, and most of all believable. The chemistry between the two stars is exactly right. They are entirely believable as friends, as rivals and as lovers this is a tricky combination for any acting pair. There are also plenty of side characters that take over this film and do some good jobs at supporting acts.
Consensus: Though it is heavily cliched, Love & Basketball features some fresh writing and direction, along with two very believable performances and unmatched chemistry between the Epps and Lathan.