Matt: Remember the Titans director Boaz Yakin got his start with Fresh, a 1994 film about a 12-year-old drug dealer caught in a bad cycle with bad people. Young Fresh is a quiet kid living in a loud world. The housing project where his family lives is packed with people, and out on the street it seems sex and violence won’t leave him alone either. There’s a realness to Fresh that you don’t often see in coming-of-age tales, an earnestness that makes the movie seem less like the idealistic Titans and more like a David Gordon Green film. Fresh’s escape from the prostitutes, dealers and gangster-wannabes comes in the form of his estranged father (Samuel L. Jackson), who plays chess with Fresh every week. Sean Nelson, the 13-year-old kid who plays Fresh, turns in some amazing scenes with the veteran Jackson; their relationship is the core of the film, though the rest of that noise keeps encroaching on their meditative matches. As a whole, the blend of real-world urgency and sincere emotion makes Fresh compelling, distinctive and — sorry — refreshing.
Patrick: Jaco Van Dormael’s science fiction drama Mr. Nobody is not perfect. From a critical point of view, it drags on and seems to lack direction and organization for the first hour or so. But we don’t watch movies because they are perfect; we watch them because they are unique — that is, they often show us something we have never seen before. Mr. Nobody certainly fits the bill as a distinct movie. The film focuses on the pretty-much-always-fantastic Jared Leto as the protagonist Nemo Nobody (for the Latin scholars out there, Nemo is Latin for nobody — a redundant name, no?) at various ages — 9, 15, 34, and 118 — and various different potential life paths. In its ambitiousness, Mr. Nobody dares to ask the question we all have asked ourselves: what if? What if, at a certain significant crossroads in life, we made a different decision? Nemo Nobody has the answer to this elusive question. He can see how his life is impacted by every decision he makes or doesn’t make. In the end, Nemo lives out several different lives, all based on different decisions he makes — starting with his biggest one, which parent to stay with after their separation. Undoubtedly, the film has a solid and intriguing framework, but not one that is pulled off seamlessly. Mr. Nobody is a bit overly ambitious, and certainly not perfectly made. But it is still worth the watch as a unique viewing experience that eventually draws the audience in and makes them think about all the possible “what if”s and different pathways in life.
Oh yeah, and the soundtrack is sweet.
John: In what many refer to as Christian Bale’s masterpiece performance, American Psycho is a twisted and sinister film that will have you cackling nevertheless. You will likely wince, you might even scream, but you will undoubtedly laugh. It’s a black satire, and this black is opaque as one could possibly imagine.
Bale, playing yuppie Patrick Bateman, teeters on the tightrope that has sanity on one side and insanity on the other. Bateman is a hyperbole. He is an exaggeration necessary to make a point. He represents the injustice and greed and debauchery of trust fund baby, white males working on Wall Street in the 1980s. His actions are taken to an extreme, but it’s a necessary extreme. A director cannot expect to really wake people up to the fact that horrible things were happening there at that time by showing a couple of brokers doing blow in a bathroom stall or cheating on their girlfriends and wives with zonked out women they barely know. American Psycho gets inside the mind of one of these guys. Rather than just showing Patrick’s actions, he tells us what he is thinking via first person narration. And his mind is not a happy place. It is dark, it is scary, and it will make you think about who he is, where he comes from, and where he is going.