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Rating History

X-Men
X-Men (2000)
12 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

In my now-archaic review of The Usual Suspects, I postulated that all Bryan Singer films have a confused sense of identity; they "attempt to marry several conflicting elements while never quite deciding what they want to be." Superman Returns can't decide whether it wants to directly follow the campy tone of the early Christopher Reeve films or be a more emo, Smallville-esque story; Valkyrie flits between a serious drama about betrayal and an old-school B-movie about blowing up Hitler; and even his best-known work can't make up its mind whether it wants to focus on the characters or the ornate mechanics of the heist genre in which they find themselves.

The X-Men films have always been at least a partial exception to this rule. Coming after the disappointment of Apt Pupil, this first film in the now-burgeoning franchise finds Singer with very clear intentions with regards to both the key themes of the story and how they should be executed. While it is very much a product of the pre-Christopher Nolan era of superhero films, much of it still holds up extremely well and it is the best of the original X-Men trilogy.

It doesn't take too much brain power to see what would have attracted Singer to the X-Men franchise. As an openly bisexual Jewish man growing up in late-20th century America, Singer's life resonates strongly with the struggle for acceptance and equality faced by the mutants in the original comics. In a BBC interview, he stated that he was drawn to the morally ambiguous world which the comics inhabited at their best, describing them as "a step beyond simple crime-solving, superhero action." Singer has always been fascinated by how evil can manifest itself in humanity, and if nothing else this film does a better job at exploring this notion than Apt Pupil ever did.

One of the main successes of X-Men, and to an extent of all the franchise instalments involving Singer, is that it has political and intellectual heft. While it doesn't put its brain as far front and centre as Nolan's Gotham trilogy, it's still a far cry from the simplistic, adolescent rendering of good vs. evil which we are often forced to endure with summer blockbusters. Even if the ideas are not to your taste, you always get the impression that the film is wanting to use its high-tech, skintight trappings to explore complex notions of identity, alienation, racism and the abuse of political power.

Singer understands that X-Men is less about the powers with which the mutants are blessed or cursed, and more about the people who are trapped within the circumstances of having said powers and how they decide to use them. He brings the theme of alienation to the foreground and keeps it there, focussing on how easily society rejects and turns on those who do not fit into convenient pigeon-holes, or those who refuse to stay quiet.

One of the biggest problems with superhero stories, particularly ones involving Superman, is that they are afraid to show the characters' vulnerabilities, living under some delusion that having any form of fear is cowardly. Singer gives us heroes riddled with insecurities; they feel like people that we could come to know, or who could live among us, not just other-worldly beings playing police with their special, sci-fi friendly weapons.

Proof is this is found in the delightfully naturalistic way in which said mutants' powers are introduced. Superhero films often go to great lengths to draw attention to said powers as something extraordinary, so that it either defines or dominates the character and they risk becoming less three-dimensional as a result. Singer, by contrast, treats the characters' mutations just as he would treat a character's sexuality; it's just something that's there, and we are called upon to accept it. Instead of giving us a bunch of mutants and asking us to care about them as people, X-Men gives us people and lets us grow to accept their more unusual characteristics.

Equally as important is the manner in which X-Men humanises its villains, working hard to show the shades of grey between the differing moral positions of Professor Xavier and Magneto. Singer described their relationship as being akin to the difference between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X: two men who were forged in the same conflict against racial injustice, with one choosing to embrace 'the enemy' while the other turned to violent retribution (albeit, in X's case, disavowing it in the end). Casting Shakespearean giants like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen means that we are unlikely to get pantomime performances from the outset. But both still benefit from a script in which both are utterly convinced that their approach is correct, both for their close circle of friends and followers and for society as a whole.

Sticking with the characters, it was a deft decision on the part of screenwriter David Hayter to focus the story around both Rogue and Wolverine (brilliantly played by Anna Paquin and Hugh Jackman respectively). To the casual observer, the X-Men universe and its fanbase seems to often worship Wolverine at the expense of the other characters; he is one of the most interesting people therein, but it isn't right that every story should be driven by him. Here the script manages to strike a good balance between Rogue's slow acceptance and growth into her powers and Logan's inner conflict regarding his role in the team, his feelings for Jean and his own nature.

The cast of X-Men is pretty strong all round, even if not everyone gets a fair crack of the whip. Famke Janssen is ideally cast as Jean Grey, bringing the same combination of glamour and steely reserve from Goldeneye and dialling things back for a more understated performance. James Marsden, by contrast, is dealt an unfair hand as Scott, whose role in the plot is largely being threatened by Logan's testosterone, but he does make up for his initial douchiness with a solid third act.

There are a couple of shortcomings with X-Men which prevent it from being a classic on the level of Batman Begins. Despite Singer's best efforts, there are occasionally jarring shifts in tone which make us wonder what kind of film we should be watching. For the most part we accept the balance between grittiness and humour for which Singer and Hayter have opted - but then we see Wolverine skidding across the snow early on in an unintentionally hilarious fashion, and it's not that easy to get straight back in the saddle.

Equally, while the male members of the Brotherhood of Mutants come off reasonably well, the female members in this instalment are not so lucky. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is a fine actress but she is given far too little to do; while Magneto and Sabretooth handle the important plot points, she is reduced to the odd action scene in which she acts as eye candy for the predominantly teenage audience. Admittedly, however, her sex appeal isn't over-egged as much as in The Last Stand, nor is this kind of double standard exclusive to Singer's films (watch First Class if you don't believe me).

X-Men is a very solid introduction to both the comics and the characters which proves if nothing else that good Marvel films could be made long before Disney came along. Despite a few odd tonal decisions and a few slip-ups with certain characters, Bryan Singer has still delivered a film which is intriguing, intelligent and entertaining, with a tightly wound plot and set-pieces which avoid being overblown. Nolan's work on Batman may have since eclipsed this as a genre benchmark, but leaving aside the Caped Crusader, this is a good way to bring someone to comics for the first time.

Stick It
Stick It (2006)
44 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Female characters in sports films are often dealt a very poor hand. At best their narrative journey is frequently depicted as ancillary and largely complimentary to those of the male participants, and at worst they are reduced either to eye candy or to bitchily carping from the sidelines. Sports films which focus primarily on women are rare and often tackle a particular sport or discipline in a much more patronising way than if the same sport were being practised by men.

All of this makes Stick It such a refreshing piece of filmmaking. Jessica Bendinger, the writer of the cult classic Bring It On, steps behind the camera to deliver a film which rises above its more conventional aspects to give a valuable, impressive insight into a sport often reduced to empty stereotypes. It remains a hugely underrated teen comedy-drama with a young lead who deserves much greater recognition.

In my review of Gregory's Girl, I spoke about how coming-of-age films are "better remembered for the careers they launched rather than their artistic merits." Because the structure of coming-of-age stories is so predictable, we often find ourselves relying on the performers to help us through a story we could tell in our sleep. It's a blessing and a curse for the performers in question, who achieve immortality through a given role but at the cost that they can never escape being associated with it.

Like Phil Davis from Quadrophenia before her, it's fair to say that Missy Peregrym has yet to shake off the mantle associated with Stick It. Part of this could be attributed to her superficial resemblance to other actresses: from a distance you could easily mistake her for Kristen Stewart, and her toothy smile is very similar to that of Hillary Swank. In any case, Peregrym's lack of subsequent success is wholly unfair; she is a highly charismatic performer, with attitude, mischief and believability to spare.

Peregrym is helped in this regard by the writing, which is an improvement on Bendinger's previous work. In Bring It On, all of the female characters had a bitchy quality, and it was sometimes difficult to know whether said bitchiness was a satire of cheerleading or a lazy representation of it. While Stick It has its fair share of cattiness and name-calling, the women are much more varied in their make-up and motivations.

Writing convincing, three-dimensional female characters is one of the hardest things to do in fiction. Because men (or more specifically white, straight, English-speaking men) have long been the standard foundation for any given character, the obvious pitfall is to write women as 'not men', defining them entirely in terms of their relationship to men rather than treating them as people in their own right. This is a trap that male writers often fall into, but women can often be just as guilty.

This trap can partially be avoided by writing women as 'people who just happen to be female' - in other words, to ignore or dilute any aspects of their character which involve their gender or sexuality. But while this is preferable to writing women as 'not men', ultimately it is not enough to make them completely believable. Women, like men, are constantly interacting with the culture around them, and their identity is partially defined by a reaction to gender and social expectations derived from said culture. In other words, you have to reference their womanhood, even if only to challenge the expectations of how a woman should behave or be written.

What is so refeshing about Stick It is that is a film driven primarily by women which deals with their relationships to social standards without preaching or whinging. Even though its main character has a tendency to mope or run from her problems, it treats her like a complex, difficult human being rather than a trope for men to shape at will. Jeff Bridges may be the main big-name star but he's on screen for a relatively short amount of time, and even then he doesn't play as active a role as you might expect.

People often talk about women in film in terms of empowerment - the writers or directors getting women to do things that are either not normally associated with women or which they have been traditionally denied by men. A lot of the time this is presented in a clunky or confused way, such as the Bride in Kill Bill: it may be a woman doing all the fighting, but she's still fulfilling male fantasies about powerful women as much as being a strong, independent lady.

Stick It succeeds because it doesn't try to shove any message about women down our throats. It gets across a message about the absurdity and hypocrisy of professional gymnastics just as effectively as Smile did for the world of beauty pageants. But throughout its running time it is more interested in allowing women to speak for themselves and demonstrate their talents than it is about using them to make a point. In short, it's empowering because it doesn't constantly shout about empowerment.

Purely as a piece of physical spectacle, Stick It is pretty remarkable. Most of the main cast had little or no experience of professional gymnastics, and yet they vault, pirouette and twist like they had been rehearsing for the Olympics all their lives. Bendinger's visual style is less conventional than Bring It On's, relying much less on slow-motion or montage than most sports films. Even when it comes close to anything resembling a training montage, the film confounds our expectations by focussing on the painful failures of the characters rather than building up to any one success.

Stick It has a welcomely rough and funky edge to it, which at least makes it appear less conventional than similar coming-of-age stories. The film is shot by Daryn Okada, whose work is generally more plastic and mainstream: in amongst the very fine Mean Girls, he also lensed Lake Placid and American Reunion. The soundtrack compliments this vibe, ditching classical accompaniments usually associated with floor routines in favour of Missy Elliott, Green Day and Blink-182.

For the most part, Stick It is a film that refuses to play by the rules and more often than not pleasantly surprises us. But it does have some sequences where it comes up short, settling for convention when just a small step further would have made it truly great. While most of the character development is well-played, the film loses its step when one of the gymnasts gets a boyfriend; while it makes sense in terms of her character arc, the relationship isn't written as well as the rest of her character.

Likewise, the relationship between the lead character and her mother is underdeveloped. Many of the parents in the film are pushy stereotypes, reduced to unintentionally belittling their children and providing some rather forced comic relief. Ultimately it is not their story, and including them mainly for comic purposes is rather an underwhelming or cheap trick. This doesn't detail the drama, but it is a distraction.

Stick It is a hugely underrated slice of comedy-drama with some of the best-written female characters that the sports genre has to offer. Missy Peregrym shines in the lead role, with Jessica Bendinger maturing as a writer and proving that she has quite a bit to offer as a director too. While not quite groundbreaking enough to be considered great, it is a great deal more inspiring and surprising than many sports films you'll find, and comes with a very hearty recommendation.

Mean Creek
Mean Creek (2004)
49 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Coming-of-age films and films about the loss of childhood innocence have often used the natural environment as a means to contrast the naivety of their protagonists with the harsh realities that they come to understand. An interesting by-product of this is that films of these sub-genres reflect the environment of the country in which they are set, and the means by which that environment is personified. In a densely populated country like Britain, films as varied as Heartless, Tyrannosaur and The Selfish Giant all take the built-up, urban environment of major cities and make them the embodiment of all that is chaotic, faceless, unpredictable, violent and, in the case of Philip Ridley's film, evil.

In America, where whole sections of the country are more sparsely populated, different parts of the country take on this characteristic. While the major cities of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are often associated with aspiration and hope (albeit ironically in the case of Chinatown and Mulholland Drive), the deserts, mountains and canyons take on this mantle of the cruel, heartless, unforgiving wilderness in which humans struggle to survive. As well as inspiring a whole litany of westerns, this aspect of America has given rise to films as eclectic as Deliverance, Stand By Me and Fargo, in which people go to pieces in the middle of nowhere. Mean Creek joins this illustrious company, managing to embrace all their component parts while still carving out an identity of its own.

Out of all the films previously mentioned, the closest comparison is with Stand By Me, Rob Reiner's much-loved adaptation of Stephen King's novella The Body. There is an obvious similarity in the set-up; both stories revolve around a group of children (mainly boys) getting into scrapes in the wilderness, and the main plot point is based around a dead body. And there is also a thematic similarity, beyond the obvious point about the loss of innocence; both groups of people learn the consequences of violence through a series of events which shape the people they become as adults.

One of the major differences, however, lies in the visual approach to the two stories. Reiner takes a very considered, almost choreographed approach, heavily relying on tight close-ups of individual characters during the tensest moments - which works wonders on the scene with the switch-blade and the gun towards the end. By contrast, Jacob Aron Estes (in his first feature film) opts for a more low-key, naturalistic approach, using hand-held cameras and more middle-distance shots. While in Stand By Me we are a conscious voyeur, peering into the boys' world and deliberately getting caught up in it, in Mean Creek we are a more passive observer; we just happen to be along for the ride, so that when things go south it quickly becomes shocking.

When telling any kind of story about revenge, one has to deal very quickly with the moral question - in other words, how an audience is expected to feel about the actions being perpetrated by the people we have paid to watch. This decision can be the difference between a film which questions people's own moral compass and foisting upon them two hours of nothing but meaningless violence. Any director worth their salt has to put their cards on the table very early on, so that we can decide if we want to sit through the consequences.

What separates, say, Get Carter from, for instance, I Spit On Your Grave (besides the subject matter) is the moral hypocrisy of the latter; we are expected to endure the graphic rape scenes as justification for the return brutality, and are also expected to gain enjoyment from the retribution being meted out by the main character. Notwithstanding the film's many other problems, its gleeful disregard for human life makes the whole experience of watching it at once offensive, depressing and tedious. Get Carter, on the other hand, recognises that revenge ultimately destroys the people doling it out just as much as their victims, either by literally killing them or, in the case of something like The Hitcher, leaving them just as hollow and warped as the villains they were fighting.

Mean Creek wins points for intelligence in this regard, taking a familiar set-up (a boating trip that goes wrong) and turning it into an examination of the inward-looking nature of bullying. Josh Peck's character, who goes on the trip under false pretences, uses insults to defend himself against his own insecurities; the video footage at the end reveals him to be much more of a gentle soul, who lacks the means to articulate who is really is and uses force to get what he wants in the meantime.

This aggression, and the image he projects as a result, is what leads to George getting killed - but Estes is also smart enough to convey that the same projection to cover insecurities is what drives the other characters as well. It's put across to an audience in different ways, and the facade lasts varying amounts of time; while Millie goes to pieces pretty quickly, Marty uses outright aggression as he tries to keep the truth from getting out - and in doing so, he becomes the same kind of bully as George, albeit with actual blood on his hands. The film is brilliant at showing the moral disintegration of the characters, filling you with anger at what they have done but also sadness that their childhood has been wrenched from them.

When Mean Creek was first released, it was compared to films like River's Edge and Bully, which attempted to, in the words of Roger Ebert, "deal accurately and painfully with the consequences of peer-driven behaviour." Ebert's analysis of how the film approaches "situational ethics" (how our notions of right and wrong change based on circumstance, rather than being measurable absolutes) is very astute, as are his comments about the film being useful as an educational resource for teenagers. But an equally valid, if unusual comparison, is with the South Park episode 'Toilet Paper', in which the boys enact revenge on a teacher by covering her house in said material. Take out all the references to The Silence of the Lambs and The Godfather Part II, and you have a pretty close comparison in terms of how friendships become strained and unravelled, both by the deed itself and the resulting fear of judgement and punishment.

The main performances in Mean Creek are really compelling, and unlike many coming-of-age films have stood the test of time. Rory Culkin - the brother of Mccaulay and Kieran - atones for his previous performance in Igby Goes Down wringing out the full dramatic potential of his part and making the tension between him and his older brother believable. Josh Peck - who voices Eddie in the Ice Age films - is very convincing as George, both in his slow, lumpen physicality and the pent-up, impotent anger in his delivery. The entire ensemble hangs together very well, though it would have been nice for Carly Schroeder to have been given more to do as Millie.

Mean Creek's visuals are both one of its most distinctive qualities and one of its main drawbacks. Besides the use of middle distance I referenced earlier, the film has an evocative, washed-out palette filled with earthy tones thanks to the work of Sharone Meir, who would later lens Whiplash. But while this suits the setting very well, some of the camera movements are either unremarkable or rather amateurish; a couple of scenes on the boat draw attention to the hand-held camerawork in a way that takes us out of the action. There's a reason why the film did so well at the Sundance Film Festival - besides its many qualities, it goes out of its way to look like an independent, low-budget film, and eventually that starts to grate.

The other problem with Mean Creek is an occasional lack of atmosphere. Once the incident with George has happened, the tension ratchets up rapidly, but there are unnecessary longeurs in the build-up where the action drifts, somewhat aimlessly. The lack of a memorable score (by TomandAndy, who would later score The Strangers) means you don't get that creeping sense of dread that made Deliverance work so well - the sense of terror potentially lurking behind any tree as the company makes its way down the river. The film isn't fatally hamstrung by this, but it is one area in which Estes can improve as a filmmaker.

Mean Creek is an impressive and largely successful debut feature which manages to put a fresh spin on a potentially well-worn subject. Buoyed by its talented ensemble cast, it is an engrossing and generally efficient 90 minutes which lands nearly all of its dramatic punches and provides food for thought as well as quickening one's heart rate. Whatever Estes goes on to do in the future, this is a confident debut which will please both fans of the genre and people examining these issues for the very first time.

8 Mile
8 Mile (2002)
2 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

When musicians turn their hand to acting, the results can often not be pretty. Even if the film in question isn't already a vanity project about the musician's life (Glitter, Purple Rain, Moonwalker and so on), there's a tendency for singers to either play themselves or needlessly draw attention to their presence. Sometimes this can work to the film's advantage - for instance, David Byrne in True Stories - but for every figure like David Bowie who can serve a role, there are a dozen singers who simply can't fit in. Sometimes you get even both phenomena in the same film, as was the case in Ken Russell's Tommy: Tina Turner excels as the Acid Queen, while Eric Clapton (with both a real and a fake beard) is barely credible.

8 Mile came at a time when Eminem was at the peak of his powers. On the back of The Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show, which brought him both hit singles and critical praise, it would have been extremely easy for him to coast on a project like this. Instead, we get a very fine performance in a film which avoids some (but not all) of the cliche-ridden pitfalls of the rags-to-riches story. While not perfect, or Curtis Hanson's finest film, it is a gritty and absorbing project which still holds up very well after 15 years.

One of the first challenges that any film about music has to do is to explain the appeal of the music and its surrounding culture to an audience that may have no familiarity with it. Because of the prevalence of rap and hip-hop in mainstream culture, it would be easy to assume that the paying public would go along with every aspect of the world that is put in front of them. But because this is a period piece, which takes place in a very specific context within the history of American music, that simply isn't an option. This is the mistake made by Notorious (no, not the Hitchcock film), which assumed that its audience would already be experts on Notorious B.I.G. and therefore didn't feel the need to rationalise the hagiographic reputation it accorded him.

8 Mile's first success is that it triumphs where Notorious sank without trace. Even if you're not a fan of rap music (and I include myself in this category), the film gives us a sufficient grounding in the world of mid-1990s Detroit to understand why this music has a pull on young men, and why Rabbit would feel the need to prove himself in this way. Just as the mod movement in London in the 1960s provided an outlet for young men who laboured away in factories by day ("the dirty jobs" of Quadrophenia), so the rap battles provide an outlet for the all the frustrations, ego and anxiety experienced by these young men.

By focussing on the plight of disenfranchised, alienated young men in an unforgiving landscape, the film merits close comparison with La Haine, and by extension Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. While there are some clear narrative similarities - the protagonists are all three young men, who undertake some form of manual labour to get by and feed their respective vices - there is a big difference in emphasis. Both Mathieu Kassovitz and Karel Reisz are interested in the social conditions which could have produced their leading men, whether it's the banlieues of Paris or the post-war streets of Nottingham. Hanson, by contrast, keeps Eminem and his character's journey front and centre, with the setting increasingly fading into the background.

That's not to say, of course, that Hanson's rendering of 1990s Detroit is completely unremarkable or inconsequential. He's assisted ably in this regard by Rodrigo Prieto, who was Oscar-nominated for his work on Silence and Brokeback Mountain. More pertinently to this film, he shot Amores Perros, and the film benefits from his gritty use of handheld cameras and claustrophobic lighting choices. While the rendering of the landscape is not the most groundbreaking for its subject matter, it is effective in getting across what might be called the prison of familiarity: the main characters are desperate to get out of their situation in some way, but always end up staying because this world is the only one they know.

Reviewing the film for The Chicago Sun Times, Roger Ebert praised the film for essentially not having a third act. In the traditional rags-to-riches model, the protagonist goes through the many trials of the story to emerge intact, leave the confines of the society in which they found themselves at the start, and go off to achieve their dream and enjoy success. Ebert wrote: "[8 Mile] "avoids the rags-to-riches route and shows Rabbit moving from rags to slightly better rags... I would love to see a sequel in which Rabbit makes millions and becomes world famous, and we learn at last if it is possible for him to be happy."

Deliberately neglecting to have a proper third act is not a creative decision that works well in all situations - Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, for example, suffers greatly from ending in the wrong place. But in the case of 8 Mile, it's a narrative decision which pays off, because it compliments the gritty feel for which Hanson is striving. Situating fairy tales in a gritty environment can work brilliantly well - Hard Candy and Heartless being great examples - but you have to establish the rules of engagement very early on. Introducing a fairy tale ending to a gritty, realistic story can regularly prove jarring, turning an earthly drama into a cheap and frothy melodrama.

With 8 Mile, there is a conscious effort from Hanson and Eminem to hammer home the disjunct between the emotional feeling of success and the practical benefits that it brings. Rabbit rises in status by the end of the film, earning respect after his initial failure, but in the end he is still living in a trailer park with his family, working a boring, unrewarding job and just about staying on the right side of the law. The downside to this approach is that the film occasionally feels repetitive or drags; we know that some kind of uplift is coming, because the story is well-worn, and there are times of wishing that it would just cut to the chase. But the film deserves credit for not taking the Hollywood route at the ending; it may not be making any kind of profound political point in this decision, but it is the right way of doing it.

All of which brings us on to Eminem's performance. Rappers have in the past been particularly guilty of just playing themselves in films; Ice Cube has carved an entire film career out of shouting and chewing the scenery (Boys n the Hood notwithstanding). But even though Rabbit's story is a partial reflection of Eminem's own life, there is nothing either self-conscious or narcissistic about his performance. There's a vulnerability to him which isn't always present in his music, and he commits to the character, fighting any urge to showboat or break the fourth wall. It's a very fine performance, culminating in the excellent final rap battle and his Oscar-winning rendition of 'Lose Yourself'.

Outside of Eminem, the supporting cast of 8 Mile do a very good job. Casting Kim Basinger as Rabbit's mother was a sore point for many critics, who felt that she was too glamorous to pull off the part. But Basinger, who worked with Hanson previously on L. A. Confidential, acquits herself perfectly well, consciously and deliberately downplaying even her most emotional scene so that Rabbit's story and experience is always in the foreground. Britanny Murphy, who was great in Girl, Interrupted, adds a real spark as Rabbit's love interest, adding it to her impressive roster of compellingly fractured supporting characters. Watch out also for brief appearances by Boys n the Hood director John Singleton (as one of the bouncers), future Percy Jackson star Brandon T. Jackson and fellow rapper and Pimp My Ride host Xzibit.

There are a couple of issues with 8 Mile which prevent it from being a masterpiece. For all its attempted departures from convention in the final half hour, it's still a deeply generic beast which makes too little of its opportunities to depart from the Rocky formula. And despite us knowing for the most part where the story will go, the film is still very loosely edited; it doesn't have the raw, breakneck intensity that made La Haine so good, and there's only so much we can look at a run-down street before we start to lose interest.

8 Mile is a gritty and gripping drama which has generally aged well and remains one of the highlights of Eminem's career. While it's hardly the most original story ever told, and some of its execution could have been tightened up in the editing suite, there is enough in both the narrative and the performances to carry us through and keep us interested. If nothing else, it's a good reminder that singers can occasionally hold their own in cinema, and while it isn't Hanson's greatest film, it is still a worthwhile watch.