Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Piper Laurie

The Crossing Guard (1995)

Grief makes you crazy. Literally.

After his daughter is killed in a hit-and-run accident, Freddy Gale (Jack Nicholson) is left, unsurprisingly, heartbroken. He drinks a lot, goes berserk, and yeah, patiently waits the day that the driver John Booth (David Morse) is out of jail. It’s something that no one around Freddy can support – not even his ex-wife (Anjelica Huston) – but Freddy doesn’t need their support. He’s grieving and he is in desperate need of said grief to go away, so that when the day comes around to taking care of business, he can do so with a happy mind. Eventually, Booth does get out of prison and he’s come to terms with his accident; he’s apologetic and regretful, and honestly, just wants to move on. He gets a job, starts going to meetings, stays away from bad stuff, and oh yeah, he’s even got himself a girlfriend (Robin Wright). Still though, Freddy doesn’t care. The past six years have been nothing but hell for him and he’s going to let John know it, by any means necessary.

“Yeah, agent? Get me a much louder role next time.”

The Crossing Guard is a tad bit different from Sean Penn’s the Indian Runner, in that it does have a slower, more melodic story to work with again, but this time around, he’s actually developing something about it. As opposed to just giving us something resembling a story, things resembling characters, and issues resembling conflicts, everything matters and is exactly what it seems. There’s conflict, there’s development, there’s characters, and above all else, there’s a drive.

Where that drive ends up may be problematic, but hey, at least it’s going somewhere in the first place.

Where Penn gets the most mileage here is out of the cast, all of whom are terrific. Nicholson’s Freddy is one of the most dramatic and dressed-down performances the man has ever given and it’s a surprise how well he pulls it off, without much of any of the usual gimmicks to be found. His dark persona does work for this character, as we know that there’s something truly upsetting and mean about this character, but there’s also a lot more sadness to him than anything. We see it come out in honest, shocking ways, that show Nicholson can work well, even if he is sort of playing a bit against-type.

Then again, with Nicholson, was he ever a “type”?

It’s a Sean Penn movie from the mid-90’s, so of course Robin will be around, half-naked.

Anyway, Huston gets some solid moments, too, as the ex-wife who, essentially, just yells and hollers a lot. But hey, she does it like a pro. David Morse’s John is also more sympathetic than he would have been in other movies, but it still works to Morse’s skill-set, as we get to see a heart and soul behind the sadness and darkness. We never fully get to know the demons lying inside of this guy, but the ones that we do see and identify, are still interesting. Robin Wright is also fine as his supposed love-interest, who may mean more to the overall story, but mostly, just seems like someone to be there for Morse’s character when all is said and done.

As for the rest of the movie itself, it’s still pretty good, but we also get the sense that Penn himself is constantly growing and learning as a writer/director. Here, with the Crossing Guard, he gets the idea of grief down perfectly and realizes that it’s not us ourselves who make us the most sad in these troubling times, but those around them. Penn doesn’t hide away from the fact that what this Freddy guy is dealing with is some pretty brutal stuff, and rather than trying to sugar-coat as a Lifetime after-school special, he films it in all of its raw, unabashed irony. It’s quite a surprise to get in a movie such as this, and shows that Penn, when he’s not telling a meaningful story, is also not backing down from approaching his story in a much harder manner.

The issues is that by the final act, things get a little screwy. It’s hard to say how, or why, for any of these matters, but just know that the Crossing Guard does eventually dive into thriller-territory and it feels odd. It’s as if Penn himself was so enamored with the character-drama, that he also sort of felt obligated to deliver on the action and supposed violence that a tale like this would promise. It’s a shame, too, because the message it delivers at the end is a smart and meaningful one.

It’s just a shame it had to go through that last act to get there.

Consensus: With pitch perfect performances across the board, the Crossing Guard works as a smart, disturbing look at grief and depression, but also botches its final act.

7.5 / 10

He doesn’t look so bad for a child killer.

Photos Courtesy of: HotFlick.net, Pop Matters

Advertisements

Children of a Lesser God (1986)

Seeing is believing and so is hearing, too. I guess.

Speech teacher James Leeds (William Hurt) runs his class the way he wants to and the kids love him for that. However, his world one day is all mixed up when he meets a deaf custodian, Sarah Norman (Marlee Matlin), and takes his world by storm, allowing for him to not just find love unlike ever before, but hope and happiness, too. As well, of course, anger, too.

It’s hard to do a movie about people with disabilities, as you can sometimes tell when a writer/director is sneering at those less fortunate then them. At the same time, however, it’s also hard to do them justice without ever making people with disabilities seem as if they are ungodly-like saints that Christ himself would have christened, had he the chance to do so. After all, they’re just like you or I, normal people, trying to get by and live in a world that, unfortunately, they need some assistance with.

Swim away, Marlee! Swim far, far away!

Swim away, Marlee! Swim far, far away!

That’s why it’s nice to director Randa Haines work well with the material and show people with disabilities, with a little bit of both. They’re not made out to be walking, talking pity parties, nor are they made out to be later-day saints – they’re just people.

 

But the movie is less focused, it seems, on actually trying harder and harder to delve into the deaf community and those affected by it, and just tell another romantic story, but this time, with more deaf people and sign language. Sure, it’s an interesting avenue that you can do a lot with, if you choose to do so, but for some odd reason, Haines feels perfectly content with just letting the romance play-out throughout the whole flick and leaving it at that. Hardly any shocks, surprises, or ground-breaking moments to be found here – nope, Children of a Lesser God is just your typical piece of romance, but engineered in a way to make you think it’s more than just that.

If anything, it’s a relationship with a “meaning”, or better yet, a “purpose”.

But as it’s easy to predict, the relationship that these two protagonist have with one another starts to fall out of control and they both start to realize that their needs and wants may never be satisfied with one another, regardless of how much time and effort they put into it. That would have been a fine attitude to take about a relationship between a guy who can speak and a girl who can’t, but the film treats it in such a melodramatic and sappy way that it was eye-rolling at points. There is of course the one infamous scene where they’re fighting one second, and the next, they’re on the floor, ripping each other’s clothes off, ready to make a baby or something, that comes out of nowhere, but with good reason. Maybe the movie’s trying to say that “love can, often times, be so destructive, that you will go from doing one bad thing, to doing something great the next?”

That, or the movie’s just trying to say, “Hey, yeah. These two hot, attractive people want to bone, so why not let them do it, right?”

Is nobody else unsettled?

Is nobody else unsettled?

Yeah, I think that’s what it is.

Either way, William Hurt is good here, and he constantly had me wondering about him and his screen-appeal. In the 80’s, he was a big draw for some reason, as he wasn’t particularly good-looking, nor was he all that of a likable screen-presence; granted, that’s one of the things that drew me to him, but it’s interesting to see the trajectory of his career from where everyone was loving him, even if he wasn’t always playing the nice guy. Cause yeah, the guy’s a bit of a creep, he’s rough on the edges, and he seems to be a very honest person with all of the roles that he takes, and that’s why it seemed a bit strange for him to be in the lead role as James Leeds, a guy who appears to be the polar-opposite of that. That’s not to say that Hurt doesn’t do a good job, because he does a very good one of handling his own and getting down all of the right sign-language, but there was something about this character that didn’t really interest me, or even feel right to me. Instead, I sort of just wanted him to leave this poor girl alone and move on with his life since she seemed so settled and happy way, way before he came into it.

Speaking of that poor girl, if there is any reason why I’m giving this film a recommendation at all, it’s only because of Marlee Matlin and how amazing she is in this lead role as Sarah Norman. Yes, Matlin is deaf, but the girl does a better job in this lead role, than I could have ever imagined coming from any Hollywood prissy. Matlin does a nice job conveying all the different types of emotions that go through a deaf person’s mind whenever they want to be treated as an equal and it’s even better to watch as her character realizes a lot of things about life that she wouldn’t have normally noticed, if it hadn’t been for Leeds. This makes her a hell of a lot more interesting character than him and it’s just amazing to watch Matlin work the sign language perfectly, make some compelling facial expressions that never come off as campy or cartoonish, but instead, show us just how one person can be loved by another, even if those words are never uttered. We get a sense of who she is, even despite the fact that she can’t speak well, or be heard from everyone around her and it’s why she’s the heart and soul of the story.

If only someone would have told the creators that.

Consensus: Matlin is great in the lead role, but unfortunately, she’s let-down by a, at times, conventional and odd romance within Children of a Lesser God – a movie that may or may not have something interesting to say.

5 / 10

Yes, Marlee. You are number one, girl.

Yes, Marlee. You are number one, girl.

Photos Courtesy of: Acesspedia

Carrie (1976)

Come to think of it, all of my proms would have benefited from some pig blood.

Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is your typical teenage outcast that has no friends, is a bit weird, a bit shy, and seems behind the curve in terms of her sexuality. However, what separates Carrie from all the other hot-shot bimbos in school, is that she has telekinetic powers, which gives her the ability to move anything or control anything with her mind. That means that anybody that fucks with her, might want to look out next time they go too far. And that warning doesn’t just apply to the kids that pick on her at school, it also goes without saying to her bible-thumping mama (Piper Laurie) who believes everything her daughter does in order to grow up and be apart of the rest of the world, is a sin. She may be right, she may be wrong. Who knows? But once Carrie gets asked to the prom by the studly, popular Tommy Ross (William Katt), well then, her mom settles down a bit. However, once Carrie and Tommy do get to the prom, something happens that not only changes Carrie’s life, but everybody else around hers as well. Remember those powers?

"Have you been out mudering hundreds of your fellow-student body tonight, Carrie? Hmm?"

“Have you been out mudering hundreds of your fellow-student body tonight, Carrie? Hmm?”

With the remake coming out this weekend and looking like nothing more than another cash-grab that Hollywood churns out at least 2 or 3 times a year, I thought now is as good a time as ever to give this one another watch, my 7th altogether. And even after seeing it 7 times, I have to say that I’m more impressed than I’ve ever been before. Not because I realized that Brian De Palma was a great director at one time that was so full of beauty, style and sensibility to spare, but because the movie still freaked me the hell out in ways that I didn’t expect to. Because, in case you forgot, this is the 7th time I’ve seen Carrie by now, and I thought that may have been 7 times too many.

How wrong I was.

But like I was saying about De Palma, knowing all about what he does with his flicks and the sense of style, look and feel he brings to each of them, I appreciated this one a hell of a lot more. Of course every time something scary or shocking happens, we get the same old Psycho, screeching piece of score music he seems to love the heck out of so much that he uses it in just about all of his movies, but the Hitchcock-similarities can only go on for so long until you start to forget about them and just realize that De Palma is really putting all of his might into making this material work more than just your standard, horror movie, and it pays off in the long run.

Take for instance, that infamous opening sequence which yes, seems a little perverted to be mentioning but seriously, all nudity aside, the opening sequence is really something of a beauty. De Palma films it as if it were a dream, or hell, a man’s dream where all of these young high school girls are running around naked, whipping one another with towels and doing every other intimate act that isn’t full-on banging. And then, we get the full show where we see a girl all by herself in the shower, really feeling herself up and getting her rocks off like this is her first time, as it most likely is. For any dude who saw this back when it first came out in ’76, I can only imagine what the hell was running through their minds and their pants at this moments; just like I can only imagine what the hell was running through those same minds and pants when, seconds later, this horny girl’s period-blood starts to come dripping down. This not only ruins the dream-like feel that De Palma gave this movie, but it also ruins any preconceived notion you may have had that this movie is going to play by-the-rules and give you what you want.

After this opening sequence, it’s a full-on terror fest from De Palma who gives every frame an ounce of beauty that sticks with you and makes you feel as if you’re really watching a high school right in front of your eyes. The bullying; the gossip; the hooking up; the underage drinking; the mischievous acts in the middle of the night; the stealing of daddy’s car; etc. It all makes you feel like you’re watching a normal teen, high school movie, except that this one is filled with more horror than any high school I’ve ever attended. And yes, I am talking about the other memorable sequence in this movie: The prom scene.

Once Carrie gets all of the pig’s blood poured onto her, is made a mockery in front of every one, and loses her shit, then this is where De Palma really takes advantage and feeds on our attention. His constant use of the split-screen format during this sequence really gives you a full feel on what sort of damage Carrie is doing to these people and this area, and it really sticks with you. You hear the people shouting, screaming in pain, terror and agony, and yet, you know that there’s nothing you or anybody else can do about it. Their time has come, Carrie has decided so. And in a way, so has De Palma since he gives us all the pleasure of seeing the most despicable characters go out in some of the nastiest, most disturbing ways possible, and yet, we still can’t help but feel a bit bad when it actually does happen. Is this De Palma’s own sick, twisted way of trying to shove all of the hatred we’ve had for these people right back in our faces? Or, is he simply giving us what we want? If he was, then wouldn’t the reward feel much greater, and less depressing?

It’s strange that one could think about this type of stuff with a movie like Carrie, but all of these years later, it still brings up plenty of questions and ideas that may not always get answered or be fully fleshed-out, yet, by the same token, still toy with your mind and have you thinking a lot more than you feel like you should of a movie about a possessed-teenager. However, something also tells me that we the same thought-process won’t be needed for this remake neither, no matter how interesting it sounds to me that Kimberly Pierce is directing it.

But anyway, back to the original. I think what also allows Carrie to stand the test of time is not just De Palma’s approach to the material in terms of his style, but how he approaches the character of Carrie herself. You see her as a bit of a weirdo who can’t socialize with people, and says some weird stuff out of the blue, that only gets followed-up with laughter and more heckling towards her. Yet, you can’t really blame her for being this way since her mom is such a nut-job by the way she raised her, and also, the fellow kids she goes to school with are as evil as she actually is. So, that’s why when she pleads with her mama about wanting to “fit in” and “be normal”, you can’t help but sympathize with the girl and hope her dream actually does come true, even if you already know plenty beforehand that they don’t in fact come true. This makes the movie feel like the classic tale of Cinderella, mixed with Satan, and it makes you feel even worse for Carrie, because all she wants to do is be accepted among her fellow class-mates. Don’t we all feel like that, huh?

Wait for it...wait for it...wait...for....it...

Wait for it…wait for it…wait…for….it…

And you got to give a bunch of credit to Sissy Spacek for going to the extreme lengths she went to in order to make this character, which couldn’t have been all that hard to begin with since you know that she’s the one you should care for the most, despite her “ability” to do bad things. However, she does those said bad things to bad people, so that ain’t so bad, right? Right! Anyway, Spacek is really good in this role by the way she just carries herself from scene-to-scene without saying too much at all, yet, totally demands your attention, especially in that iconic prom scene. Once those eyes open-wide and you see the real demon within her come out, then you know its payback time and it adds even more insult to injury to the that whole sequence. As if that was even humanly possible in the first place.

Then of course we have everybody’s favorite (or not-so favorite) bible-preaching mama, played so terrifyingly by Piper Laurie that it will surprise the heck out of you when you realize that this was her first performance in a movie in 15 years. However, what’s so shocking about that fact is that she doesn’t show a single bit of rust and commands the screen every time she shows up on it. Of course it definitely helps that all she has to do is be all over-the-top, shout and be irate about any decision that her daughter makes, but she still makes it compelling, as if this lady really is THIS nuts, and does love her daughter THIS much. The last scene she gets is very, very odd and may scare people, but for all of the wrong reasons. You be the judge of that.

It’s also nice to watch this movie to see all of the young and familiar faces that would soon become big stars that would stand the test of time, whereas others, well, they have a solid couple years or so, and then fade away once time simply forgets about them. As poorly-acted as he was in his role, it was still fun to see John Travolta play the hick behind the whole “pig blood” fiasco, who also doesn’t like to be called “dumb shit”; Nancy Allen is less annoying than usual and makes a high school you love to hate, especially since you know that there were so many like her at your own school; William Katt is a bit corny as Tommy Ross, but I think that was kind of the point, I could be wrong; Amy Irving is good as the most sympathetic one out of the catty-girls club who actually cares for Carrie and wants her just to have an “experience worth remembering” (needless to say, she gets what she wanted); and Betty Buckley was also good as the gym teacher, Ms. Collins who cares for Carrie and looks out for every step of the way, even though we’re never quite sure if she’s totally on her side by the end. Overall, great cast and it’s nice to see where most of them got their foots in the door. Except for Nancy Allen. I could have done without her.

Consensus: May be dated in some spots, but overall, Carrie is a horror flick worth seeing not just for the numerous slayings of every kid you ever wanted to teach a lesson back in high school, but because De Palma gives this movie all of his creative-power and it pays off well in the end, and in a way, for Carrie herself as well.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!! There it is!!!

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!! There it is!!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

The Faculty (1998)

Don’t we all think our teachers are body-snatching aliens?

A geek (Elijah Wood) finds a small mollusk on a football field. He thinks it’s a new discovery until the school’s teachers start behaving very Children Of The Corn ish and become obsessed with the element of water. This is where many of the teenagers band together, all cliques aside and find out just what the hell is up with their teachers, why they’re acting so funny, and just hope that they don’t become like one of them. Because let’s face it: No high school kid wants to be a teacher, and if they do, they don’t want to be like THEIR high school teacher.

If you look up the term “slasher movie” in the 90’s dictionary, you’ll probably find a picture and a short bio of writer Kevin Williamson, who basically re-invented the horror movie franchise back in then with both Scream and Scream 2, among others. Then, if you look up “movie genius” in the same dictionary, you’ll probably see a picture and a short bio of Quentin Tarantino, but a synonym would probably be Robert Rodriguez. Putting them together for one, big horror movie seems like a pretty awesome idea full of wacky, zany fun and originality, right?

Only due to a supposed alien-invasion are they even considering being around one another.

Only due to a supposed alien-invasion are they even considering being around one another.

Well, it saddens to me say this, but disappointment ensues. But how?

In case you haven’t been able to tell, this is a lot like The Invasion of the Body Snatchers mixed with the kid from The Breakfast Club. It may not sound like the coolest idea ever, but Williamson and Rodriguez at least do a good job of making it entertaining with a couple of actual thrilling moments. This follows the same formula of your usual horror movie with the constant jumps and scares that we have come to know (and sometimes love) with the genre, and they work pretty effectively here. You can’t go into this expecting anything you haven’t ever really seen before, nor can you really expect something that breaks down the whole horror movie conventions, because not only has Williamson done that many times before, but he’s practically perfected it by now that it’s become somewhat predictable. You just got to go into this expecting an exciting and sometimes, funny ride that comes from two geniuses like Williamson and Rodriguez.

However, that’s the exact problem with this flick: Most have come to expect more from these two talents just because of what they have been able to do in the past, and to see them collaborate on a feature that’s anything but awesome, is really sad. With Williamson, we get some moments where these kids talk in a very self-referential about how they know that aliens exist, why they exist, and what they can do just to stop them; as well as a lot of references to other sci-fi flicks out there like Men in Black, E.T., and even The Invasion of the Body Snatchers itself, but it sort of comes off as a cheap rip-off because it’s so damn obvious that Williamson is basing this plot off of those flicks, so he thinks by referencing them in his own movie will give it some sort of gratitude and make it seem like less of a rip-off. So instead, it comes off just exactly like that and it’s sort of one of the golden rules where it doesn’t matter if you reference the film or not, if you are ripping it off, plain and simply, you are ripping it off! Bam!

As for Rodriguez, seeing what he can do with an ordinary story and take it in all of these different twists and turns, it’s pretty disappointing when he gives us a flick that’s not only pretty predictable from start to finish, but one that seems like it could have been directed by anybody. There’s no turtles, no Antonio Banderas, no Mexicano music playing somewhere in the background, and no vampires getting their heads blown off by George Clooney. Nope, instead it just seems like one of those typical horror movies that seems like it could have gone somewhere magical with this premise, but goes exactly to where you would expect it to go, which, given the talent that’s involved behind-the-camera, is a bit of a bummer.

Gosh, teachers!! You're so annoyingly weird!!

Gosh, teachers!! You’re so annoyingly weird!!

What makes this movie a little more appealing is the young cast, and deciphering who has had the biggest star out of all of them is now. And to be honest, I can’t really say since everybody seems like they’re on the somewhat same page. Elijah Wood is here as the typical geek that obviously knows something is up with all of the teachers and faculty at his school, and plays up that whole nerdy act with him very well. However, how many times have we seen this guy do that act before? Yeah, so it does kind of get old after awhile, no matter how early in his career it was. Josh Hartnett, being the stud that he is, plays the slacker who gets held-back, sells drugs and quite possibly gets it on with his very hot teacher. Hartnett’s good for this role and it’s a real wonder why he doesn’t do more with his career, although I feel like the novelty of a young, hot, charming dude has sort of worn-off and been thrown over to Channing Tatum.

Shawn Hatosy plays the jock that just wants to be known for being smart, and he’s pretty good at it. It’s a shame that he hasn’t really been showing up in much, except for Alpha Dog, where he played a total dick, but in a good way. Jordana Brewster plays the bitchy, high school newspaper-editor that seems to always be on everybody’s case about lord knows what, but she’s fine with it and I think she still deserves more hits at drama because I think this gal can really make it work, if given the chance. There’s a whole bunch of other peeps in this cast that’s worth talking about, but really, I don’t want to be here forever so just check the film out yourself and see all of these familiar faces who may, or may not be, showing their faces around anymore.

Consensus: Though it can be a lot of fun with some goofy references to other horror flicks that inspires it, The Faculty never fully comes through on its own as an original or different kind of horror thriller, and more as a carbon-copy of the movies it can’t help but crack jokes at and about.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Okay, well I don't think he counts as anything.

Okay, well I don’t think he counts as anything.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

The Hustler (1961)

I really got to work on my pool skills.

“Fast Eddie” Felson (Paul Newman) is a man that knows how to play his game of pool, win, and while he’s at it; hustle some peeps in the long-run. However, his shenanigans eventually start to catch up with him once he decides to get involved with a lady of his (Piper Laurie). But it only gets worse once his desire to prove himself the best player in the country is by beating legendary pool player “Minnesota Fats” (Jackie Gleason).

“Cool” is a word that fits plenty of films, but not as well as it fits this one. In fact, I never quite thought that a sports movie about pool would actually be considered “cool”, but there’s just something about those old school billiard lounges, filled with smoke, brewskies, and jazz music that are just able to get you in the mood for some cue-balling. Oh, and some gambling too. Can’t ever forget about that fun activity.

Actually, I wouldn’t even consider this a sports film, but more of a character-study that gives us a character, a dilemma, and a reasoning, and uses the game of pool as a background. Most movies of this nature have been using this idea for centuries, but this flick shows it in a different light that isn’t all hurrah hurrah about it’s sport, or the people partaking in it. That’s right, no Kurt Russell speeches here. Cue the tears.

This film is surprisingly very dark but it never lost me and it was pretty intriguing to see where this film went with Felson. We get to see him through all of the thick and thin where we see him at his highest, as well as his lowest. We also get a chance to see him for his flaws, as well as the aspects that make him so likable and charming, upon first-sight. Felson could also serve as the protagonist for this story, but he’s not an underdog, there’s no valiant loser, no witty old-timer that is getting the young buck for his next big match, and there is no training-montage let alone, any scenes of training whatsoever. This is what separates this sort of movie from all of the other sports movie and it’s a risky move that director Robert Rossen takes with this material, but makes it work no matter what.

Aw yeah! Strike that pose, Paul!

Aw yeah! Strike that pose, Paul!

But no matter how dark this film may actually be, there is still a certain type of coolness about it that just lingers underneath everything else. There’s all of these countless themes about greed, addiction, love, hustling, and the fear of being lonely, that could get any sports-junkie on the suicide watch list, but do more than you think. It adds a certain brooding sense of feel and style, but also enhances the mood in which you feel like the way these games of pool are set-up and played, are definitely not the type of ones you just decide to play around with, while you and your bud are drinking before the big fight. Nope, there’s more to it than that, and I have to say that it’s a bold move that I can’t see many other sports movies taking nowadays. That is, unless they didn’t want to earn any money or fans with the popular, movie-going crowd. Because honestly, let’s think about it: which person wants to see a sports movie, only to find out that it’s a whole two hour flick dedicated to one person crying, and swallowing in his own misery? Maybe this guy over here, but sure as hell not the type of people I know who want to see movies like these. Hence why it was made in 1961. A much simpler time where people had standards. Sort of.

Paul Newman is known as being cool in almost everything he does, and “Fast Eddie” Felson is the perfect personification of that. Newman brings so much cool wit and charm to this character that in almost every shot, you can just feel them both oozing out of every line he speaks. Whether he’s doing it with his eyes, his lips, or his physical-stature, the guy’s always got something to say and whether or not the other person across from him is going to like it, is wholly on their asses. The character of “Fast Eddie” isn’t a particularly likable one, considering the guy always acts like his shit doesn’t stink when he wins two games in-a-row, but Newman keeps him grounded and always worth a cheer. You never know where this dude’s story is going to lead into next, but Newman keeps you guessing and wondering just how he pulls off these acts of desperation, but still seeming to be “cool”, underneath it.

Then, on the total and complete opposite side of him is Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats. Fats rains supreme as a totally different character than Felson, for the sole-fact he is just the intimidating guy you do not want to fuck with if you see him across the bar. But yet, Felson loves to do that and does just that, many ‘a times. Fats is a character that reminded of one of those old-school, big guy mob types that you can just feel the tension of. The only difference here is that this guy isn’t part of the mob (or at least so I think), he’s just regular, old-school pool shooter that just so happens to be one of the best in the country and Gleason plays this up so perfectly. Fats isn’t really in the film that much but whenever he is, it’s easily some of the best parts of this whole flick and his presence is always there throughout the whole film.  No matter where “Fast Eddie” goes with his game, with his money, with his dame, and with his high-life; Fats will always be there ready to play again.

"Come on, kid. You got it all fucking wrong."

“Come on, kid. You got it all fucking wrong.”

But I can’t just talk about these two without talking another two that absolutely knock their roles out of the park as well. George C. Scott has probably never been as dirty or greedy as he is here as Burt Gordon, one of the main guys that takes Felson under his wing, but strictly for money purposes. Scott is so damn detestable but you can’t take your eyes off of him throughout the whole movie because you know he’s going to screw Felson over, one way or another, and it’s going to hurt big time. Piper Laurie is also amazing as Felson’s love interest, Sarah, but be warned; she isn’t your normal romantic love interest all of these sports movies have. This chick has problems, BIG, BIG problems, actually. Sarah is a very interesting character because she just seems like one of these chicks that is always so drunk all of the time, that it’s easy to underestimate her, but after awhile you realize that she knows what’s up with everything that Felson is doing and what could possibly happen to him. Laurie is great with this character and makes her watchable the whole damn time, even if the ride between her and Felson isn’t always enjoyable, nor is it all that believable once you see how they act with one another, once they get drunk, wild, and rich. Bad combination right there, no matter who you are.

Being that this is an older film and a lot of the people in it talk all hip, sly, and witty, in the way that they probably thought was hip, sly, and witty back in 1961; some of it does feel dated. Not all of it, but some. Some performances go a bit over-board and I couldn’t help but feel like a lot of these dude’s who’s reactions are filmed, weren’t just because they were talented actors, but because they were the only actors around to take part of filming at the time. It’s been almost 40 years and one sequel later, so maybe my main-beef is all but idiotic, but it’s just little problems like that, that usually get to me. Don’t know why, it’s just the way I am. Go home if you don’t like it.

Consensus: The Hustler isn’t your quintessential sports movie that’s all about the happy cheers, beers, and winning championships, but more about a loner of a dude that makes money a cheap, but sly way, and gets caught-up doing so. And sometimes, in more ways than one.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Hustler3

“If I beat him now, it’s still breakfast at Mickey D’s. Hmm…..”

Hesher (2011)

You know that metal head loner who rocks out to Slayer and Metallica all by himself? Well, you should definitely take some life lessons from him some day.

TJ is 13 years old. Two months ago, his mom was killed in an accident, leaving TJ and his grieving dad to move in with grandma to pick up the pieces. Hesher is a loner. He hates the world and everyone in it. He has long, greasy hair and homemade tattoos. He likes fire and blowing things up. He lives in his van until he meets TJ. Hesher is the story of a family struggling to deal with loss and the anarchist who helps them do it in a very unexpected way.

During some of the more angry and I hate “mom, dad, and everybody else around me” periods of my life, I actually found some solace in music that made me want to break down the wall. So with this concept, I could see the cool use of “metal music for therapy” as something new but instead, it just ends up being weird.

Writer/director Spencer Susser does a good job with this film in keeping it weird, a little sad, a little humorous, but never sentimental which is something I can easily say that I appreciated. Right from the get-go, we notice that there has been a death in the family for this father-son combo and there is a lot of really sad and miserable shit that actually happens to this kid, but the film barely ever makes us feel like we have to cry over it all. Instead, he just shows us Hesher being a complete and utter asshole, popping in just whenever he feels like it and doing degenerate things such as lighting a diving board on fire, or even changing the TV channels so he can get porno. It sounds weird I know, but it’s not all that sentimental which I liked considering it was a lot more of a mean film that I thought I was going to get.

Despite the title, this film is actually less about Hesher himself and more about a father and son getting over a death in the family with Hesher popping in just to eff things up more for them. I think it’s cool that they made him the title, but it sort of makes all of the other characters seem like just a bunch of bores when it comes to him. Let me also not forget that this film is incredibly weird which isn’t so bad considering there were a lot of weird and goofy moments that started off pretty strong in the beginning but then it just started getting really weird. Really weird to the point of where I actually wondered if everything I was watching just a part of this kid’s imagination.

The problem with this film is not just the film itself, is more or less just the main character himself, Hesher. To be honest, I don’t know what to really make of this dude other than the fact that he comes into this kids life, with no explanation or reason and even when it seems like he’s asked, nothing is ever said and he just shoots it off to the side. However, if you honestly don’t know how to label Hesher for yourself, just check out the tattoo of the middle finger on his back. That is definitely sure to give you some insight onto who he actually is.

Hesher is also a dude that sort of just keeps to himself but you still never want to eff with him because you know that he will definitely kick the hell out of you right away. Hesher, in his own effed up way, actually ends up slapping a lot of sense into this father and son just by telling them really vulgar metaphors, that he actually compares him losing a nut the same as the dude losing his wife. Yeah, that’s a really bad choice of comparisons but then again this character is not someone who’s normal. Regardless though, the guy is pretty solid because he’s able to give some good insight, provide some dark laughs, and make us feel terribly scared of even messing with him.

However, every time Hesher was working for me the film started to really steer him in the wrong direction I believe. It’s harder and harder to like him considering he does dumb shit like making some joke about Kermit the Frog’s finger that I’ve heard 100 times to this old gal, light this bully’s car on fire but leave the kid there, ask the kid if he has had some sexy time while he fingers the mashed potatoes, and etc. Hesher really can do a lot of cool things and where he can be vulgar and repulsive, some people may find humor in that but for me, I just cringed a lot by how far this guy was pushing the boundaries.

When it comes to playing Hesher though, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is great and I think what makes this character watchable in the first place considering JGL seems so flawless with this performance. It may be hard to actually like him but JGL actually helps that a lot here as well. The rest of the cast here is pretty good too with Rainn Wilson playing a very seriously saddy daddy role; Devin Brochu is angsty but also very realistic as the little kid, T.J.; and Natalie Portman does a good job as well but she seems a little out-of-place with a lot of her scenes. I mean the cast is good but when they are compared to Hesher, you don’t really care nor think about them much at all.

Consensus: Hesher has its moments where the dark humor makes you laugh and some of the touching moments also hit well too, but the problem is just like its lead character. We never understand anything about this character, he can be a total dick at times, and he just makes everybody feel uncomfortable without any real rhyme or reason.

5/10=Rental!!