Double Feature

August 2006 - If you wanted big-budget blockbusters this summer, you certainly had your pick. X-Men: The Last Stand, Superman Returns and the sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean came to just about every theater near you. If you want quality low-budget entertainment, you have to look a little harder.

Earlier this year, Art School Confidential played on at least one screen around here. The film stars Max Minghella (son of writer and director Anthony Minghella) as Jerome, a suburban NYC teenager who dreams of being a famous artist like his idol, Pablo Picasso. So, Jerome enrolls at Strathmore College because he’s captivated by the female model pictured in the brochure.

Soon enough, he learns that the model's name is Audrey. She thinks Jerome has talent and introduces him to her father, an artist who Jerome admires but who Audrey dismisses as a hack. Other characters include Jimmy, a Strathmore alum who now lives in a rundown apartment, dispensing advice in exchange for vodka. There's also Joshua, a hunky type who's stealing Jerome’s praise and his girl.

In the midst of all this is the hunt for a killer called the Strathmore Strangler.

Overall review: Ehhh, it was OK. To say more about the plot would probably give it away. But, there's a point about 30 minutes into the movie where it goes from being really funny to, I don't know, something else.

As for the actors, there are a lot of fresh faces here. But, the cast also has several familiar faces, including John Malkovich (also a producer of the film), Anjelica Huston, Kate Moennig and Steve Buscemi (uncredited). Their performances are fine. I'm just not sure if I liked the complete picture.

Art School Confidential is rated R. No word yet when it might be out on DVD.

For a better, quirkier movie, check out 2004's Eulogy. The ensemble cast features Hank Azaria, Ray Romano, Debra Winger and Piper Laurie. Mensan Glenne Headly also has a role.

The film tells the story of a family whose feuding members gather when the family patriarch dies. Azaria plays his son, Daniel, whose career peaked at age eight when he starred in a peanut butter commercial. Zooey Deschanel is Daniel's daughter, Kate. It's her job to write the eulogy for her grandfather. Thing is, about the only thing anyone can remember about the man is that he wasn't around much. And, sometimes he called his kids by the wrong names.

Overall review: Loved it! Very funny and engaging. Chances are, at least one of the characters resembles someone in your own family. They may be weird, but they're the only family you’ve got.

Eulogy is rated R. You should be able to find it on DVD.