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3.5 out of 5 stars
Assassination of a High School President
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
Although a critical smash at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, this film did not enjoy a conventional theatrical release due the its distributor, The Yari Film Group, filing for bankruptcy. Given all the CGI as a replacement for a decent screenplay garbage that Hollywood does manage to shove into theaters, one almost feels the pang of some cosmic injustice on behalf of film's creative team and performers. Fortunately, Assassination of a High School President has garnered enough of a following to prevent it from slipping through the cracks.

What impressed me most was the screenplay! And what impressed me most about the screenplay were the character arcs of the leading actor and actress, Reece Daniel Thompson and Mischa Barton. The former writes for the school newspaper, doesn't fit into any of the many social cliques surrounding him, and whose greatest strength, an unyeilding sense of ambition, becomes his greatest weakness. In addition to her beauty, the latter is also brilliant, poised, and precise. She knows well the stature she holds and what that stature can avail her, but she doesn't seem all that interested in exploiting it.

In order to distinguish himself from the other members of the school paper Bobby Funke must become more than a run of the mill reporter, he must become an investigative journalist. At first, just to distinguish himself for a shot at a summer journalism scholarship, but, later, to clear the name of someone he has personally indicted with his writing. While the late John Hughes made youth-focused films that connected with a young audience in very specific ways, this film is a satire in every moment of its existence. The principal in Ferris Bueller's Day Off was plucky to the point of unwarranted silliness, but here Bruce Willis portrays a potent and powerful principal of this private Catholic school. One would probably laugh AT the former, but we laugh with the latter and do so just a little bit nervously. While Bruce Willis was the catalyst to get me to look at this film in the first place, his role is strictly supportive. It is a testament to his skills as an actor to maximize all the little opportunities for both spoken and physical comedy that present themselves without upstaging the storyline or the cast he is supporting.

If I have one complaint, it would be that there wasn't a single black and white scene in the film. Everytime Funke holds his stick of chewing gum like Sam Spade would hold a cigarette before taking a puff the film just screams noir. The timelessness of the set-dressing and wardrobe are all there, but I just wish there could have been one black and white scene somewhere as an homage to traditional film noir.

Of the bonus features, the most noteworthy would be the running commentary. I normally have mixed feelings about most deleted scenes, but here there are a couple of scenes that were a real sacrifice to have to leave on the cutting room floor (this is especially true for anyone familiar with even a rudimentary amount of Spanish). A making of featurette would have been nice, but, given all the financial challenges this project eventually met with, I'm just glad it has managed to see the light of day.

I don't normally write reviews of movies since there are plenty who already do so and do so well, but Assassination of a High School President has encountered more than it's fair share obstacles and setbacks. If you're looking for a stark departure from the cookie-cutter formula of most high school films, then this is the ticket.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
It was a unique experience watching this film unfold, and before I gave it a second viewing with the commentary (in which they stated numerous times how they wanted this film to be like no other high school film prior) I was already feeling like I had just watched a very different kind of teen film. But really good.

The theme was best described on the cover art with "Rushmore meets Usual Suspects". The story follows these twenty-somethings playing teens as they traverse their existence at a private high school. Bruce Willis plays excellently his over-the-top self as the militaristic principal. Mischa Barton fills the role as the hot girl on campus, but she did much better overall in Closing the Ring than here. Regardless of the props and older looking feel, this actually takes place in present day, but kudos to the crew in making a teen film exist without modern appliances (cells, new computers, etc.). Some outstanding supporting performances from Michael Rapaport and Josh Pais compliment some solid writing and storytelling. But mostly, this will help bring Reece Thompson's name to the spotlight as he gave a very believable performance carrying the central character (nerd turns popular turns scapegoat turns becoming a man).

The supplements are somewhat thorough and center on scenes, but no documentaries. Includes:
* 5:40 minutes of alternate opening scenes. For what the end result was, I am glad they cut these as they both revealed too much information about what would become the plot twists later.
* 20:35 minutes of extended and alternate scenes. The story lines they removed actually make it a better film with more interesting twists, but it was still nice to see what they had filmed originally.
* 6:45 minutes of deleted scenes, decent but forgettable.
* Commentary by the writers and director (some of the previous features listed have an optional commentary also). They had a great time making the commentary, and since there is no making-of it was the only way to hear how everything came to be. I had to wait 23 minutes into it to hear why the film looks like it could take place in the 80s but wasn't. All of the anecdotes and humor behind the scenes make the listen worthwhile - it definitely had customers paying attention to what was playing with some of their rogue dialogue.

Four stars for the film, one for the supplements. Not a mainstream high school film by any means, just a solid independent attempt at creating a surreal world of this private high school.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2009
Format: DVD
What starts off as a high school romp soon turns into a clever and funny detective story. The caveat is that most of these kids' diction is appalling: to catch all the verbal jokes, best play it with the subtititles turned on.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2009
Format: DVD
The only similarity between this movie and other mindless fluff that passes for teen movies is that this is set in a high school; after that, all bets are off. This is actually teen noir, much like Brick, but this movie takes its inspiration from Chinatown. I'm not going to give anything away, but I like the lead actor; he nails the part, and Bruce Willis steals every scene he's in with his quiet intensity. I'll admit I wasn't sure about this, so I rented it first, but now I'm going to buy it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 26, 2010
Format: DVD
This is one of the best teen movies I have seen in a while. It reminds me of Brick but a much better version. The lead character, Funke, is wildly original and rings true. Other characters are more stereotypical but still interesting and even funny.

Basically, this is a story about trying to climb the high school social ladder. An average guy (Funke) tries to leave his mark as he shoots for the prestigious Northwestern summer internship for journalism. When his theory about who stole the SAT tests gets published in his private school's newspaper, all heck breaks loose. Funke wins the bid for the internship as long as the fact checker from Northwestern gives the green light. The fact checker's introduction pushes the movie into high gear as Funke needs to get to the real truth of his story or risk his bright and shiny future.

We find Bruce Willis as an over-the-top Principal who loves to relive his military days and he's funny yet creepy and might offend some. The love interest is Mischa Barton and we all know how this is going to end, even Funke although he desperately tries to avoid it. Although most of the characters are classic high school stereotypes, it works for this film as we can all identify with Funke's plight. This movie touched on all the different social classes you will find at school: the kids who are popular, the kids who hang around popular kids and those who are not even part of the social scene. I really liked that the actor playing Funke looked real (his hair was sticking out sometimes, his skin was spotty, etc.) and not Hollywood perfect.

I highly recommend this film for watching something different. It was amusing. This movie did not unravel at the end like so many others I have watched recently and made a good point about high school.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 27, 2010
Format: DVD
Brett Simon's 2008 black comedy, Assassination of a High School President, is, quite simply, one of the funniest riffs on high schools, film noir crime stories, and teen 'caste' system tales I've even seen. While not perfect (at least two characters' 'fates' are left unresolved, as well as an explanation of who another one actually IS), the film is so smart, and wildly funny, these are minor quibbles!

Part "Chinatown", part "Risky Business", the tale of nerdy school reporter 'Bobby Funke', pronounced 'FUNK', not 'FUNKY' (Reece Thompson) uncovering a scandal involving stolen SATs, implicating the student body President (whom he 'assassinates', journalistically), only to discover a trail of lies and cover-ups, would have made a pretty fair drama; as a comedy, however, it's simply matchless, especially with this extraordinary cast. From the leads to the bit parts, everyone shines, especially Bruce Willis, as the Principal, who appears to have spent WAY too much time in the sun during 'Desert Storm', Patrick Taylor, as the egocentric President, Zoë Kravitz, as a jaded girlfriend, Luke Grimes, as the arrogant rich boy Vice President, and Mischa Barton, his 'too cool' exchange student step-sister, who seduces poor "Funky". I especially loved a cameo by "Cold Case" star Kathryn Morris, here totally deglamorized and spaced out as the school nurse. If you are a fan of the series, prepare for a shock (a funny one, trust me!)

While the film isn't for all tastes (this isn't "GLEE"), the film is so dead-on, hilarious, and smart, it's a shame that it never had a chance in theaters (I read that because of the bankruptcy of the studio, it went straight to DVD). The film is an underappreciated gem!

Don't miss it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
Ola, mi amigos. I really liked this movie, and I'll tell you why. (duh) It runs a delicate blend of odd seriousness, and dry humor. The cast is excellent. It's always a plus to see someone like Bruce Willis show up in a lower budget film like this. The other thing I liked was the directing. Clever without being over the top camera artistry. Also I'm a sucker for a good detective story. There is a nice character arc for Bobby Funke, our main character. Going from wannabe writer to true detective, true writer. I'm not going to launch into the details of the plot, but I will launch into the buy this movie spiel. If you are looking for a well done, fairly fun film, then this is the one for you. There are actually vendors selling this movie for as low as 25 cents to 1 dollar used here at Amazon. Wow, now that's an entertainment bargain. So toss your money around. Come on help the economy out...lol
"cliffscosmicmoviereviews"
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
ASSASSINATION OF A HIGH SCHOOL PRESIDENT is a big step above most of the teen movies that focus on potty mouth dialogue and absurd situations just to get laughs. Writers Tim Calpin and Kevin Jakubowski have come up with a script that is sometimes smart but ultimately full of holes in deciding where it wants to take the original premise of this high school movie. Director Brett Simon seems to sort of let the movie flow as it develops, preventing a tight telling of a story with potential.

Bobby Funke (Reece Thompson, a promising new talent) is a nerdy newspaper reporter who is never able to finish a story. Student Body President/basketball star/ladies' man Paul Moore (Patrick Taylor) seems to have everything Bobby wants, including the attention of the school's most beautiful girl Francesca (Mischa Barton). As fortune would have it a crime happens - the SATs are stolen from the office of Principal Kirkpatrick (Bruce Willis playing Bruce Willis) and Booby is on the investigation and story, a story that points to Paul as the perpetrator. Bobby's nerdiness is transformed by his attention and by the affections of Francesca, and soon the school collapses under the cloud of the crime. It is how the 'crime' is inspected and resolved that ends the film. For Bobby Funke it is a matter of 'What price glory'.

The cast is fresh and it is a pleasure to see some new faces with promise. Whether it is the director's or the sound mixer's fault, much of the dialogue is swallowed by the soundtrack, a problem thankfully solved by turning on the subtitles. This is a movie with promise from all involved and it will be interesting to see if it has an impact on teen flick quality. Grady Harp, April 11
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2009
Format: DVD
This is a mystery set in high school ,and its up to the high school reporter to figure it out. Not a bad film with some very good twists and turns I think for the mystery buff it's, a keeper. You will enjoy this one.....I did.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
BRUCE WILLIS WAS GOOD...but the story somewhat lacked. Mischa Barton seemed a little old for a HS girl. I guess she had a contract which forced her to appear topless in a bath tub. Willis' character is funny. The movie, I suppose is modern times, although Willis has a picture of Ike in his office as well as a TV from the 1950's. One family has a bean bag chair, then there are disco lights at the dance. I was confused as to the time period. The music at the dance was modern and there was a bad reference to a cell phone, but none of the kids have a cell phone. Once you get past the weirdness of the time period, the movie settles down to a so-so who-dun-it, with twists (the box tells you there are twists so they are expected). The first person narration throughout much of the movie got to be boring. I did enjoy the "John Wilkes Booth" limp of the assassin, as well as the character of the school nurse. The Spanish teacher was supposed to be quirky but really was bland due to a bad script. I think the movie would have been better if they added another quirky teacher or two to the mix as background characters similar to the Spanish teacher.
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