Thursday, November 27, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
The Pros: Earlier this year, a little film you might have heard of, Hancock, purported the be the anti-superhero film. It claimed to present a hero that was everything a superhero wasn't, to break all the comic book rules and be something truly original. And it was...for about 45 minutes. But if you saw the film, you know that halfway through, the film took an unexpected nose dive into the standard cliche, becoming exactly what it said it wouldn't be. Special is, in my opinion, everything Hancock should have been. I'm not saying the story concept was any better than Hancock's, nor the casting, nor the effects. But Special had one thing Hancock didn't: Consistency. It takes a wholly original concept and sticks with it. It knew where it was going, where it would end up, and it never strayed from that path. If only I could've said the same about Hancock, it could have been one of the greatest superhero films ever made.
The tone of Special is hard to describe. At times it is depressing, and at times it is heartwarming. Ultimately this is a film about self-worth. It follows a wholly ordinary man, more identifiable than even Peter Parker ever was. He's an meek but likable person who feels, as I think most people do, that life is passing him by. He spends his free time reading comic books, and dreaming about how wonderful it would be to be able to do something important, something extraordinary. We instantly acclimate to Les, and his desire to be, well, special.
We've seen this setup before. We've seen Luke Skywalker on the boring Ranch, dreaming about adventures in space. We've seen Rocky Balboa duke it out in the slums, hoping to hit it big as a boxer. We've seen characters long for something better. And we all know what happens next. Something amazing happens that takes them on a fantastic journey where they ultimately get their wish. But not in this film. Here, our hero only thinks that it's happening. It's all an illusion. And that's not a twist, we're told that from the get go. And while it may be at times laughable to watch Les run into walls convinced he's running through them, we're also painfully aware of the last that Les's has merely the illusion of happiness.
But unlike Luke Skywalker, Rocky Balboa, or Peter Parker before him, Les is not a ordinary man who becomes extraordinary. Les is and extraordinary man who realizes that he is extraordinary. He realizes that he doesn't need to be a to fly faster than a speeding bullet, or leap tall buildings in a single bound. He may not have superpowers, but his experience brings out qualities in himself that he never knew he had: courage, determination, selflessness. Les is a caring, compassionate person, with friends who care. And that alone, makes him truly special.
That is the heart of Special. It may be an old lesson, but it's one we need to be reminded of every now and then. It's been pointed out that the old phrase "everyone's special" really means no one is. And the truly exceptional thing about this film is that is actually addresses that. In a way the whole film is about addressing that criticism. There's even a point near the end where you think that's the ultimate message of the film, that no one's special. But without spoiling anything, let me assure you, the film ends one an subtle but uplifting note. Without saying a word, this film quietly gets it's point across, in a way that's the complete opposite of preachy and in-your-face.
As I said before Michael Rapaport is a criminally overlooked talent in film and television, and he really is what makes this film work. He's so believable and real. He truly embodies his character, at times making this audience laugh and cry all at once. On a side note it's good too see Josh Peck in this, doing real work instead of that schlock known as Drake & Josh.
The Cons: The only real faults to be found in this movie were no fault of the filmmakers. As is too often with independent films, the budget here is limited, and it shows. While they are clever enough to keep it from being too painfully obvious, it still is noticeable. Though honestly, depending on you, that may not be a bad thing. There's a certain charm to small indie flicks, and Special certainly has that.
The End: This film deserves more attention, just as it's star does. It more than fills the void left by the failure of Hancock. Not only do I consider this one of the best films of the year, but I'm seriously considering giving it a spot on my top ten list. This is not a money-driven Hollywood blockbuster with all the trimmings, it's something more. It's a true film, a piece of art made by people who love their craft and make do with what they have. And they make it well.
Overall, I give Special a Gold Anarchy Coin.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Yeah, I know this movie wasn't that great. What do you expect when Vin Diesel is your star? But I gotta give this movie credit for at least trying something different. They basically took ever spy cliche in the book and reversed them, kinda like Hancock did for superheroes. Instead of a suave sophisticated British guy, Xander Cage was a crude, anti-establishment American thug. Maybe it's just the anarchist in me, but I had fun with this movie.
7. Mike Myers as Austin Powers in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
The sequels may have been awful, but this first one was pretty damn funny. It's really hard to come of with an original spy spoof, since it mostly all been done before, but Mike Myers came of with the bright idea to mix with usual James Bond parody with the psychedelic vibe of the 60's. It's a bizarre, over-the-top combination, but it works, and Mike Myers performance make it knock-down-drag-out hilarious. Not to mention he gave us a near-nude Elizabeth Hurley.
6. Arnold Schwarzenegger as Harry Tasker in True Lies
Schwarzenegger may not be much of an actor, but man does the dude know how to blow stuff up! Harry Tasker acted more like Rambo than James Bond. Why settle for a pistol when you can sport an RPG? Why drive an Aston Martin why you can fly a fighter jet? And let's not forget that he made the scream queen, Jamie Lee Curtis, do a striptease.
5. Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible
I'm not the biggest Tom Cruise fan, but this movie was just too friggin' cool. So often movies based on TV shows are absolute crap. Mission: Impossible was the exception. And since the characters aren't from the series, the film stands on it's own. Sure, Ethan Hunt became just another American ripoff of James Bond in the sequels progressed, but in it was a thrilling suicide mission story, with a great twist ending to boot.
4. Cary Grant as T. R. Devlin in Notorious
Though not really a spy film, this movie was amazing, and my personal favorite of Alfred Hitchcock's works. Cary Grant is perfect in this movie, as was his adversary, the always excellent Claude Rains. Though Devlin may not actually fight anybody, you know he could kick your ass any minute. Besides, James Bond never nailed a woman like Ingrid Bergman.
1. Clint Eastwood as Frank Horrigan in In the Line of Fire
Honorable Mention: Don Adams as Maxwell Smart in Get Smart, Again!