In 1998, I thought “Disturbing Behavior” was an elite portrayal of high school as a conformity factory, as that concept was a new discovery for me at the time. While the theme is now old hat, the movie still makes me smile as it meets at the intersection of blunt metaphor and derivative sci-fi warning but comes off as a dark comedy. It features a dizzying variety of performances in a tight 84 minutes, cut down by the studio into almost a trailer of itself. It’s a crystallization of 1998 (flannel), yet it exists in a parallel reality (“razor”). It’s not objectively great – and I can see why some people hate it — but it’s so fun to watch.
Tom Hardy gives one of the best turns in a thankless role you’ll ever see. Known behind the scenes as Sony’s attempt to cash in on a “Spider-Man” character it has under its creative control, “Venom” (2018) is about a journalist, Eddie Brock, who gets possessed by an alien Symbiote. When Eddie is in the throes of possession, the sweat-drenched Hardy is sympathetic and funny; when Venom takes over, the performance is lost in a black CGI blob with white eyes and teeth.
When it came out, I underrated “High Fidelity” (2000) because it’s not as good as the 1995 novel by Nick Hornby. But like its fellow 2000 love-letter-to-music “Almost Famous,” it now stands as an unassailable classic – if you can accept the intense internal focus of Rob Gordon (John Cusack, also one of the four screenwriters). I can see how Gordon’s obsessive self-analysis could be off-putting to some viewers, especially since Cusack (and presumably Rob) is in his mid-30s — unlike, say, Dawson Leery. If you accept the fourth-wall breaking of a man who refuses to grow up, though, “High Fidelity” is an all-time great movie about romantic love as filtered through the male mind.
Iimagine director/co-writer Jake Kasdan and his four lead actors, upon finishing 2017’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” – the surprisingly great sequel to 1995’s dull “Jumanji” – got together and said “That was fun. Let’s do it again.” So two years later we have “Jumanji: The Next Level,” which does give us one fresh angle but mostly coasts by on its proven premise.
Impostor” (2002) is one of those PKD adaptations that turns an idea-driven short story into an action movie, but unlike some others, it doesn’t abandon the core story. Rather, it pads it out with action. Usually, to say a film is “padded” is not accurate; it’s a derogatory term rather than a descriptive term. But “Impostor” truly was intentionally padded out from a short film – envisioned as one of three 40-minute shorts packaged into one feature — into a feature-length film on its own.
2017 featured one of the longest time gaps between an original and a sequel when “Blade Runner” (1982) was followed with “Blade Runner 2049.” That franchise thus overshadowed “Jumanji” (1995) and “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” (now available on home video). But in terms of quality, there aren’t many sequels that have made such a long leap from the original.
“Gone in 60 Seconds” – Typical of a Jerry Bruckheimer production, “Gone in 60 Seconds” is a larger-than-life drama with a sprawling, talented cast. The promised car chases are almost nonexistent until the final act, when Memphis Rains (Nicolas Cage) evades cops and dodges traffic at absurd speeds. Until then, writer Scott Rosenberg delivers an engaging plot — Rains’s team must steal 50 cars in three days – distinct characters, and automobile nostalgia that will entertain even non-car buffs. It will probably be gone from viewers’ memories 60 seconds after it ends, but while it lasts, it’s pure escapist fun. B+
– John Hansen, NDSU Spectrum, Sept. 8, 2000
“Disturbing Behavior” – This is the pleasant surprise of the summer movie season. David Nutter’s film is a powerful treatise on a major problem in society and, specifically, high school: The expectation that everyone conform to the arbitrary rules of the establishment. The film begins as a new student (James Marsden) comes to Cradle Bay Island and befriends two classmates (Nick Stahl and Katie Holmes) who also don’t “fit in.” They soon discover that if you’re not “perfect,” you will be, thanks to Frankenstein-like experimentation on the part of the twisted school counselor. The story may seem a little farfetched, but it works because it is rooted in reality. Observe the final scene and ask yourself what the film is saying about society. “Disturbing Behavior” is a chilling, insightful movie. A+
– John Hansen, NDSU Spectrum, Sept. 1, 1998
ndsu spectrum: movie review
‘Impostor’ does a nice imitation of a classic sci-fi theme
By JOHN HANSEN
Jan. 11, 2002
Cloning is perhaps the hottest ripped-from-the-headlines movie theme of recent years. Schwarzenegger made “The 6th Day,” Van Damme made “Replicant,” the cloned dinosaurs returned for “Jurassic Park III” and in May “Star Wars” will get into the act with “Attack of the Clones.”