You Don’t Know Jack (6/28/12)

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You Don’t Know Jack is a biopic about Jack Kevorkian’s fight for doctor assisted suicide and the struggles for its acceptance.

Jack Kevorkian (Al Pacino) is a pathologist in Michigan who, along with the help of his sister, Margo Janus (Brenda Vaccaro), and colleague, Neal Nicol (John Goodman), decide to offer terminal patients the right to suicide. Kevorkian encounters numerous detractors along the way and finds himself in legal hot water consistently. Kevorkian does have other people in his corner, notably the Hemlock Society president, Janet Good (Susan Sarandon), and lawyer, Geoffry Feiger (Danny Huston). As Kevorkian struggles with what he sees as basic human rights, he struggles his unique personal and professional issues.

Right off the bat I have to commend Al Pacino on what I can only describe as possibly my favorite performance after Dog Day Afternoon and The Godfather series. He is nigh unrecognizable in this role and nails all of Kevorkian’s mannerisms and personality traits amazingly well. It’s almost a shame Pacino’s performance is so incredible because it outshines the rest of the cast, who is also spectacular.

You Don’t Know Jack is partially shot to look like home video since Kevorkian would always record the conversations he had with his patients about their illnesses as well as their reasons for not wanting to go on. These scenes are remarkably powerful in their realism that at times it is eerie. The film itself sticks to telling the story of Kevorkian during the years when he was in the media spotlight, mostly due to his numerous court battles. There are some hints to his past profession and personal life, but they are not the focus here.

The film sets up the debate of “is this right?” perfectly and doesn’t always take sides. There are times that it seems Kevorkian is leading this crusade for all the wrong reasons and other times when he is completely humanized. He really was an interesting man, regardless of if you believe he was doing the right thing or not. You Don’t Know Jack is also an interesting case when it comes to awards because it was made for HBO, it was not eligible for the Academy Awards, which is an absolute shame.

In spite of its sometimes morbid subject matter, I would highly recommend You Don’t Know Jack for Pacino alone. The debate of physician assisted euthanasia can come later, but for a film to tackle the subject with this much care, it’s something special.

I give it 4 Jack Kevorkian paintings out of 5.

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The Emperor’s New Groove (6/4/12)

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In Walt Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove, a young Peruvian emperor has to learn how to be a better person after being turned into a llama.

Kuzco (David Spade) is the spoiled bratty emperor of ancient Peru that wants to build his summer house on the hill that Pacha (John Goodman) lives on. Soon after, Kuzco’s advisor Yzma (Eartha Kitt) decides to poison him with the help of her assistant, Kronk (Patrick Warburton), to control the empire. Instead of poison, the two use a potion that turns Kuzco into a llama and Kuzco is disposed of. He then has to make his way back to defeat Yzma, right his former wrongdoings, and also turn back into a human.

Say what you will of the quality of Disney’s animated films from the past 15 years, but for me, The Emperor’s New Groove is one of my favorite Disney animated features ever. If you’re wondering why, I would assume that means you haven’t seen it and I can’t say I blame you. Even Hercules and The Hunchback of Notre Dame got more marketing and sustainability while poor Emperor’s New Groove was released and quickly forgotten. I’m sure its troubled development is largely to blame. It’s a simple film that I find pretty hilarious that also has a great artistic style and soundtrack.

While the film is not up to the level of quality of say, Lion King or Aladdin, but The Emperor’s New Groove doesn’t seem to try to be those films. It is unique enough that it’s almost surprising it’s Disney. Even as an almost-thirty year old that has seen it several times, I laugh out loud during multiple scenes. Most of the credit belongs to the amazing cast assembled. David Spade is the obvious weak link, especially since he is in the lead, but his personality and mannerisms transfer perfectly to the character, even if you aren’t a fan of his.

I love proselytizing in the case of The Emperor’s New Groove mostly because no one else seems to. Very few people I know are even familiar with this lost gem of the Disney catalog so I feel it’s my duty to recommend it. There are few films quite like it, even if the story is taken from the tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes, the spin put on The Emperor’s New Groove is fresh.

I give it 4 multi-linguistic “Boom, baby!”s out of 5.

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