No Reservations (2007) -vs- Big Night (1996)

July 28, 2007 Jay Amicarella

To me, there’s almost nothing better in the theater-going experience than being completely wrong about a movie, and boy, was I wrong about this one! From the previews, I had “No Reservations” pegged as just another ‘Star Vehicle’, the kind of flick we’ve come to know so very well, that seems to serve no other purpose than to extol the questionable attributes of a particular actor or actress, and promote their career. And, of course, make a lot of money doing it. The typical ‘vehicle’ features the Star in 99.9% of the scenes, and rams down our collective throat their special brand of ‘likability’, i.e., a signature grin or cute/quirky personality, that, after two hours, has us hunting for a belltower rooftop where we can bring total strangers down with a scoped rifle, until the SWAT Team finally puts us out of our misery.
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Without Limits (1998) -vs- Prefontaine (1997)

July 14, 2007 Bryce Zabel

To this day when the major track running events are held, it’s a safe bet that plenty of people remember the gutsy runner who pretty much owned distance running back in the day, Steve Prefontaine. In the late 90s, Hollywood bizarrely made two films back-to-back about the legendary distance runner, and you may be tempted to go rent one of them to see for yourself what the fuss was all about.

About a decade after that box-office match-up, my wife and I had a Hallmark Channel film shooting out here in Los Angeles, Chasing a Dream, about a high-school athlete who decides to go for a sub-four minute mile. During the time we were polishing up our screenplay’s last draft before production, we looked for a little inspiration and watched both Prefontaine and Without Limits within a couple of days of each other. It was like a film school assignment to see what different production teams and actors could do with essentially the same source material. But there was another element here, for me, that put even this challenge through a separate creative filter.

Steve Prefontaine wasn’t actually a legend to me, you see, because I was there when he was breaking all these incredible records. […]

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