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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: LeBron James

Lenny Cooke (2013)

Don’t put all your hoops into one basket.

Lenny Cooke, at one point in the early-aughts, was considered one of the best, most-sought high school basketball players. He was fast, smart, and incredibly athletic. But the one thing that brought him back was the fact that he didn’t really care much about school. Like, at all. And considering that he grew up in poverty, he didn’t believe that having an education would really amount to much, other than just more annoyances in his daily life. So, rather than spending a year or two at a nice college, getting some form of education, and then heading for the NBA, where he would most likely be a top choice, Cooke decides to just skip college altogether and go straight for the NBA where, he hopes, to be the #1 pick of the NBA. Involved with the same draft were players of names like Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwayne Wade, among many others, meaning that while it didn’t look totally terrible for Lenny, it also didn’t look too bright, either. Fast-forward nearly a decade later and yeah, Lenny’s life is a lot different than he could have ever imagined.

Who’s that chump?

Lenny Cooke is probably one of the best sports documentaries ever made, but only because it doesn’t forget that in sports, just like in everyday life, there is above all else, failure. Most sports documentaries that we see talked about and constantly praised, have to do with the underdogs facing all the odds and winning the grand prize – or if not the grand-prize, at least something close to it. But in Lenny Cooke, the documentary, it’s less about achieving that grand-prize, or even working towards it, and more about just watching a person do whatever he can to avoid it, for no real reason other than, well, life.

And in that sense, Lenny Cooke can be a little frustrating.

Both the person, as well as the documentary. Then again, however, I feel as if that may be the point. After all, Lenny isn’t an easy guy to totally pin-point; he’s young, a little brash, and so incredibly talented, he almost doesn’t know what to do with himself. It’s actually hard to sit there and watch as he possibly squanders his future away, due to decisions that he’s just not fully equipped to make just yet. It almost makes you want to shake his head and tell him what to do, but it also has us grow a lot closer to him, as an athlete and as a person who could have possibly been one of the best.

But why didn’t Lenny become one of the best? There’s a lot of ideas and questions brought up about this, but really, there’s no clear answer. There’s a few – like how Lenny’s friends may have influenced his final decision – but not a whole lot to really nail down and have as the final say. In this sense, once again, the documentary can be a tad bit frustrating, while also making exact sense as to why it is frustrating.

So interested.

Cause, after all, in life, there are no clear answers, or solutions. Just moments and certain choices that eventually lead to something happening. And such is the tragedy about life.

And a lot of the credit here deserves to go to the Safdie brothers and producer Adam Shopkorn, who gets a huge deal of footage from the early-aughts, when Lenny was the next best thing in basketball. This footage, while remain gritty and in-your-face, also puts us right there with Lenny, watching his life flash before his eyes, allowing us to see his skill, and just exactly who he was off of the court. The movie never tries to paint him as a hero, a saint, or even a terrible kid – mostly, they show that he’s a kid. Insecure and way-in-over-his-head, like all of us when we’re 18 or younger and, essentially, have the world at the base of fingers.

Which is why when the movie does abruptly shift into a final-act where we see Lenny, in present-day, it’s downright shocking. Not only is he bigger, but the life he lives, is pretty depressing. It’s hard to really say why this is, if you haven’t seen it, but what the Safdie’s are able to capture and get in this final-act, without ever passing judgement whatsoever, is a down-and-out tragedy. It shows you that time can pass you by and even the smallest, teeniest, tiniest decision, can affect the rest of your life for good. It doesn’t matter if you’re great at basketball or not, life is unfair and sometimes, it can bite you right back.

You know, general happy feelings that arise with sports.

Consensus: Smart, affecting, and absolutely tragic, Lenny Cooke is one of the rare sports documentaries that views its failure with an unblinking view and never shying away from getting even deeper.

9 / 10

Ugh. Time flies. Savor it, people.

Photos Courtesy of: CBS Local Sports, IndieWire, Worldstarhiphop

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Trainwreck (2015)

There’s more to life than booze. Like pot.

When she was younger, Amy (Amy Schumer) was always told by her dad (Colin Quinn) that monogamy is nearly impossible. Many years later, she’s seem to taken that note of advice to heart, where mostly every other night, she spends it drinking, smoking, partying, and going home with some guy that she doesn’t even remember the next morning. Her sister (Brie Larson) has turned out for the best with her husband (Mike Birbiglia) and step-son, but Amy just can’t seem to bring herself to want and/or be happy with those sorts of things – she’s already too happy enjoying her independence. That all begins to change, however, when Amy’s assigned a story for her magazine on a sports doctor, Dr. Aaron Conners (Bill Hader). Though it’s not necessarily smart for a journalist to get involved with her subject, Amy just can’t help herself one night and sooner than later, realizes that she’s in something that she’s always fought so hard against: A relationship. But because Amy is so commitment-phobic, she’s finding it hard to not let her personal issues get in the way of something beautiful she and Aaron could have, even if he too struggles with it from time to time.

It’s hard to make a good romantic comedy nowadays. Sure, a movie can try its hardest to spin the genre on the tops of its head so many times, in so many fancy ways, that even the most downbeat and depressed person can find something to be happy about. But sometimes, what ultimately ends up happening is that the movie turns out to be a pretentious piece of bull that’s trying so hard to please you in an ironic way, that it’s downright annoying. I’ve seen many rom-coms in my life that have been different enough to work (500 Days of Summer), I’ve seen many that try to be hip and cool, but just turn out to be gag-inducing (plenty of indies), and that will probably never change.

Cheers up, ladies. You deserve it.

Cheers up, ladies. You deserve it.

However, there’s no denying that Trainwreck‘s a good rom-com.

Even in today’s day and age.

What Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow both do perfectly together here is that they blend their own certain styles of humor that it feels like one, cohesive whole, rather than just a splattering of ideas thrown at the wall like spaghetti. Schumer actually wrote this script and while most of it may definitely seem like the normal kind of banter we expect from Apatow projects, it’s surprisingly mostly coming from Schumer’s pen, paper, and mind. Sure, there’s definitely some improv to be found among the talents on-display here, however, Trainwreck is Amy Schumer’s baby, through and through, and there’s nobody who can get in the way of that.

Which isn’t to say that Judd Apatow tries to sneak in and take it all away from her – in fact, it’s all quite the opposite. Apatow allows for there to be many moments dedicated solely to just Schumer herself, acting, being charming, and building this character, rather than relying on non-stop scenes of people just rambling on and on about whatever comes to their mind first. Though this aspect of Apatow’s movies can still illicit laughs, here, it would have mostly felt unnecessary and random.

Because at the center of Trainwreck, there’s this fully-realized and developed female character who feels as if she was written in a smart way that she’s not only relateable to anyone out there, but still human enough to not be judged as harshly as she herself may want you to. That the movie doesn’t slut-shame Amy’s character, nor make her forget about the errors of her ways, proves that Schumer set out to make a human, rather than just a character that can stand in while everyone around her cracks jokes and moves the story right on along. Like I’ve said before, it’s totally Schumer’s movie and it’s better off because of it – she never forgets what’s driving this story, nor does she ever let herself take over the screen too much.

Which is to say, that when she’s letting others deliver the funny, they more than do so.

You’d think that with a cast as varied and nuts as Trainwreck, that there’d most definitely be some weak-spots to be found among the group, but somehow, that doesn’t happen. Every performer who shows up is more than up to the task of delivering the funny, making their presence known, and then leaving to let the movie get on with itself. And the reason why I used the word “performer” is because it’s a little hard to classify a group of actors, when you’re talking about the likes of John Cena, or Lebron James, or even Amar’e Stoudemire; okay maybe Cena’s more believable as an “actor”, considering his profession, but as for the other two, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen either show-off their thespian skills before.

However, both of them, as well as plenty of others are pitch perfect with their comedy. Especially James, who comes off like the sassy best-friend type that these kinds of movies seem to have, but instead, because it’s Lebron James and the writing’s a whole lot more knowing, it never comes off like a conceit. Instead, it just comes off as Lebron James being very funny in a role that, believe it or not, was written perfectly for him. Sure, he’s playing a heightened version of himself, but at least he can actually “play” around in the first place, yuck it up, and not take himself at all too seriously.

Kobe's not this charming. Trust me.

Kobe’s not this charming. Trust me.

Good for him, because who knows? When that basketball career of his dries up, there may be a bigger, brighter future out there for him in front of the camera.

So long as he doesn’t get stuck with starring in a Kazaam remake.

Anyway, Lebron’s not the only one who gets a chance to shine and show the comedy-world what they are capable of doing, and why you can depend on them some more in the future. Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller (lovely little We Need to Talk About Kevin reunion, if there ever was one), Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Dave Attell, Marisa Tomei, Jon Glaser, Method Man, Daniel Radcliffe, and 100-year-old Norman Lloyd, among others, may or may not seem like the perfect choices for your rom-com, but they somehow assert themselves well enough here that they prove why they are. As usual with Apatow’s movies, some roles tend to lean more on the excessive side (Matthew Broderick, Marv Albert and Chris Evert), whereas other go unseen (Barkhad Abdi and Jim Norton were apparently cast), but there’s no denying that Apatow’s able to draw out some of the most odd, sometimes shocking moments of comedy from these talents, whether you expected any of them to deliver on them or not.

But at the center of all the mayhem occurring with this ensemble, is Amy Schumer and Bill Hader who not only have perfect chemistry, but really give some personality to these otherwise stock characters. Schumer’s boozy, free-wheeling character seems like she’s on the brink of self-destruction, but the movie makes it clear that it’s not necessarily a problem for her, nor is it a problem for us; Schumer’s just so charming and funny about everything, that it hardly registers at all that she’s slowly dying on the inside. Same goes with Bill Hader, who’s Dr. Conners feels like he could be the butt of every joke, yet, turns out to be the smartest character of them all. And even then, he’s got some problems worth solving.

Then again, don’t we all?

Consensus: As is the case with Apatow movies, Trainwreck is a tad overlong, but is still hilarious, well-acted, and insightful enough that it’s maybe his most polished work to date and proves that there’s plenty of room to grow for not just him, but Amy Schumer as well.

8 / 10

People in love - so happy and joyful. It makes me sick!

People in love – so happy and joyful. It makes me sick!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz