FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| David Lean |||
David Lean

Honored with the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award in 1990, Lean’s body of work (ranging from the intimate film to the grandiose epic) demonstrates an obsessive cultivation of craft and a fastidious concern with detail that has become the very definition of quality British cinema.

Adapted from Noel Coward’s one-act play, Lean takes a potentially boring story of middle-age flirtation and tenderly creates one of the most enduring and poignant romance films ever made. Brilliantly underplayed, two happily married strangers meet by chance in a railway station and fall desperately in love, but never physically express the undercurrent of passion that exists between them, even during their final gut wrenching separation – if your heart doesn’t ache, you’re just not human!

Demonstrating moments of intimacy through gigantic display, Lean sets up the greatness of Pip’s expectations with the magnitude of his frightful encounters; one with an escaped convict, whose emerge into the frame reminds us what it’s like to be a child in a world of oversized, menacing adults, and another with the meeting of mad Miss Havisham, in all her gothic splendor.

Peter O'Toole made an enigmatic and lasting impression in his debut role as British officer T.E. Lawrence, who helped Arab rebels fight the Turks in WWI, and Omar Sharif has perhaps the greatest cinematic intro of all time as he magically appears through the ghostly waves of the desert heat, achieving Lean’s compulsive drive to create the perfectly composed shot. Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jose Ferrer, and Claude Rains round out this incredibly talented and magnetically charged cast.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

Advertisement

Underclassman

By BrianOrndorf

September 1st, 2005

There have been other Nick Cannon comedies in the past, but nothing sells his toxic charms quite like “Underclassman.” A lame and deeply unfunny action comedy, the film always wants to put Cannon front and center, which is the last place this untalented actor should be.


Tracy Stokes (Nick Cannon) is a second-generation cop, stuck on a lousy bike patrol detail. When the murder of a high school investigative journalist requires an undercover assignment to find the killer, Tracy pesters his captain (Cheech Marin) for the chance to prove himself. Sent to an elite private school, Tracy hunts for clues as he befriends the students (including Shawn Ashmore, “X2”), soon blurring the line between friend and suspect as he gets closer to solving the case.

“Underclassman” isn’t a movie; it’s a visual and aural test on how much Nick Cannon a person can possibly endure before they explode. A vanity production (Cannon produces and gets a story credit), “Underclassman” serves no higher purpose other than to show off Cannon’s comedic skills, which is like watching amateur night at small town coffee shop. To the person who once told Cannon he was funny, I wish I could jump into my DeLorean, travel back in time, and enthusiastically administer some Irish kisses to this individual.

Starting with a flat-out rip-off of the “Beverly Hills Cop” truck chase opener, “Underclassman” pretty much admits at the outset that actual storytelling isn’t what the experience is supposed to be about. Loosely built around a cop vs. crime plot, the picture quickly dissolves into a series of Cannon’s one-liners and profoundly unsettling reliance on hack facial gestures. Cannon has a quip for everything, revealing that director Marco Siega (“Pretty Persuasion”) had no control over his film and simply allowed Cannon to steamroll his way through every scene. As proven in “Drumline” and “Love Don’t Cost a Thing,” Cannon is Eddie Murphy lite, trying frantically to emulate his idol, yet failing to possess even one similar attribute. “Underclassman” is like watching somebody’s kid brother make a film about how funny they are.

Also disconcerting is Cannon’s overwhelming need to point out his skin color in every scene. I kid you not, Cannon points out his African-American heritage whenever he can, I assume trying urgently to get the urban audience on his side. “Underclassman” is filled with this dreary material, including a nerdy Caucasian “wannabe thug” classmate of Tracy’s, and a portly cop, who (of course) is a slob, and in the film’s most insulting sequence, has trouble defecating in a bush. This is the material that “Underclassman” seems most proud of.

Cannon strokes himself further with the inclusion of a subplot that has Tracy flirting with his Spanish teacher (a wasted Roselyn Sanchez), who actually considers returning the affections. Only in the movies would there be a teacher who looks like Sanchez, and only in Hollywood would she consider throwing her life away for Nick Cannon.

Seiga and Cannon attempt to pay off the story by adding an insanely ludicrous plot twist, and completing the lobotomy on the audience by staging needless explosions for the finale in an effort to cover up the rest of the nonsense. I guess “Underclassman” is a good showcase for Cannon’s talents: now there’s actual proof that he doesn’t have any.

My rating: D-