recent movies

Some movies I've seen recently:

The Hole:

    A group of private-school students end up trapped in an underground bunker, and a shrink tries to get the story of what happened out of one of the girls (Thora Birch, who is great). The story is re-told several times, Rashomon-like, and it gets uglier with each telling. It's very tense, and I liked it a lot.


    Charlize Theron plays an ageing tweaker prostitute who, while trying to provide for her needy, underage girlfriend (Christina Ricci) gives up prostitution in favor of murdering johns. Theron won an Oscar for this, and it was well-deserved. She's amazingly creepy and believable.

Shaun of the Dead:

    I put off seeing this for a long time because, fan of zombies though I am, I thought the preview looked really, really stupid. I didn't even smile at one of the jokes in it. But, the movie is actually pretty entertaining!

Falling Down:

    I had never seen this, and every now and then it would come up and someone would say, "you haven't seen Falling Down? It's a classic!" Well, I'm sorry, people, your memories of this movie far outstrip its quality. It is complete garbage. It is wall-to-wall clichés, starting with "it is Hero Cop's last day before retirement" and going downhill from there. The racial stereotypes were especially bad: I kept remembering a scene in Hollywood Shuffle where Robert Townsend was trying out for a role, and they kept asking him to act "more black". This could have been the movie he was thinking fun of!

    The movie is an extended revenge-fantasy, but it's the fantasy of a writer who is just a dick.

    I was ready to stop watching after about 10 minutes, but my friend was captivated by the sights of the early 90s LA strip malls and freeway construction. I didn't know you could be nostalgic for that kind of thing, but apparently you can.

Transporter 2:

    Dumb fun. Not as good as the first one (which was... not great, but entertaining.) Very near the beginning, a skinny blonde woman dressed as a nurse rips open her coat and proceeds to aerate the building with machine guns while wearing only soaking wet lingerie. That kind of sets the tone for the rest of movie. There is some decent fight choreography. Unfortunately there's also a precocious child, and an almost complete disregard for the laws of physics. The level boss ending is somewhat anticlimactic.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose:

    A girl dies during an exorcism, and the priest is on trial for murder. The story is told mainly in flashbacks to the big event. This was pretty good; it was suspenseful without too many spring-loaded cats. It was interesting how the telling of the story managed to remain fairly noncommital on the question of "was it demons, or epilepsy?"

    But man, religious people are weird. It always seems like they've heard of Occam's Razor, but they just don't quite get how it works! They kept saying things like, "God allows people to be posessed to prove to others that God exists". Well you know what, if God really wanted to prove that he existed, I don't think he'd have any trouble doing that, being God and all. Instead of making a statue bleed in front of some backwoods hick, why not make ten thousand statues bleed at the same time? It's fuckin' God! So the obvious, clichéd answer to that is that God doesn't actually want to provide proof, because he wants people to have faith (AKA "believing something for no reason at all"). In which case, posession proves nothing except that, well, God's kinda mean.

    In fact, providing proof of God would be more up the Devil's alley, wouldn't it? Proof would destroy faith. So is God skulking around like the Men In Black covering up Satan's spoilers?

    Also there was some nonsense about 3AM being "the witching hour" because Jesus came back from the dead at 3PM. Which immediately made me ask, what time zone is God in? And does he follow Daylight Savings Time?

    Maybe I could just Google this, but why are Catholics always seeing Mary instead of Jesus? Is she like the Press Secretary or something? Or is she more like Karl Rove?

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56 Responses:

  1. 40hex says:

    We can't have God disappearing in a puff of logic now can we?

  2. substitute says:

    Re: Falling Down. I remember seeing that movie while living in L.A. in the 90s and thinking 1) Yeah, this is kind of a documentary about pissed-off white people here and 2) The Korean liquor store clerk has a BEARD! Who the hell ever saw a Korean liquor store clerk with a beard?

    Re: 3 am. I really liked the opening of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes where the evil carnival train arrives at 3 am and he talks about the witching hour. But that's a fantastic fable. In a courtroom drama I'd be thinking "timezone issues. God should use UTC, but what if the Devil rebelliously insists on PST or Indiana/Starke or something? And do either of them observe Daylight Savings? Maybe some supermetagod has an NTP server and..."

  3. Damnit, I'd managed to forget "Falling Down". My reaction to that was "What the fuck? I was told this was *good*", and then sleeping through the remainder of the movie.

  4. so how was the shrink portrayal in the hole? therapist portrayal in film always intrigues (read: enrages) me.

    i can't believe i saw a movie (shaun of the dead) BEFORE you--and MULTIPLE times, at that. what's HAPPENING?

    have wanted to see monster. now must.

  5. fo0bar says:

    I liked the first 2/3rds of the movie. It held true to the tagline ("A romantic comedy. With zombies."). But once they all got to the bar, I imagined this conversation between the filmmakers:

    "Wait, wasn't this supposed to be a horror movie?"
    "Yeah, I think so."
    "Oh, and we still have all of the cast alive."
    "I know! We'll kill off everybody but the 2 main characters in the next 5 minutes!"

    The ending rescue was a total cop out, which I guess would have been funny anyways, but I still had a bitter taste in my mouth from previous gripe.

    • quercus says:

      I don't remember the end of SotD - I was still laughing from "Don't Stop Me Now".

      (half of my fl (the London Goths) were zombie extras in SotD)

    • sweh says:

      I first saw SotD a couple of weeks ago (missed it in the cinema) and found it funny, indeed. it's more comedy than horror; it parodies the zombie films quite well. Starting with the shoppers acting like zombies, through the morning half-asleep zombie stagger, through to the integration of zombies into society at the end...

      If you expected a serious film then you'd be disappointed.

    • asan102 says:

      I felt the same way. I think I owuld have liked it much better if they just went for "Zombie Comedy," rather than "Zombie Horror/Comedy." If I wanted to see awesome brain-eating and zombie-bashing action, I'd watch a zombie flick. The parts where they made fun of zombie movies were great, the plain old zombie-movie-parts not so much.

  6. Have you ever seen Pecker? John Waters did a send-up of the Virgin Mary cultists in there, among other things.

  7. alex_victory says:

    Falling Down is one of those movies that's shaped by your expectations of it. If you're expecting great cinema, you're disappointed. If you're expecting a typical Lethal Weapon-style action flick, it's a fantastic surprise.

    • nikborton says:

      While not getting what you expect might be a surprise, getting Falling Down instead of Lethal Weapon is definitely not fantastic.

  8. idcmp says:

    If memory serves, Monster is based on the story of the only (first?) female serial killer to date.

    The guys who did Shaun of the Dead also had a sitcom that was on the BBC called Spaced.

  9. fnoo says:

    Falling Down is like SpaceBalls - everybody saw it when they were much younger than they are now and thought it was much better than it was.

    I remember loving it - but I also remember being about fifteen or so and thinking that Trent Reznor truly understood my feelings.

  10. strangehours says:

    Themroc is similar to Falling Down, but better.

  11. Mary is like the friendly, cigar-chomping hometown representative who knows the people back home and will carry their stories up to the president. That's basically what all the saints, with their specialized constituencies, are as well. Modern Protestantism generally envisions God the Father as awesome and incomprehensible, and Jesus as kindhearted and human. However, medieval Catholicism envisioned Jesus as being nearly as terrifying as his father: he was the one who would sit in judgment of the good and the evil in the end times, and he had no tolerance for sin. Mary was the human one who was understanding and forgiving, so she's the one people wanted to unload on. If you needed to ask God for something, you could ask her and she'd try to work it out of him.

  12. strspn says:

    To the extent that God reveals God's self, only the agnostic are truly faithful.

  13. king_mob says:

    I thought Shaun of the Dead was the greatest movie I'd ever seen. Better than Citizen Kane.

    • taffer says:

      Immediately after watching it, I declared Shaun of the Dead to be the best movie of 2004.

      "We're coming to get you, Barbara!"

  14. wilecoyote says:

    Interesting that you say that "The exorcism of Emily Rose" is fair & balanced. I read David Edelstein's review, in which he described it as a bible-thumper's wet dream, and it managed to put me off entirely.

    As for the rest: "Falling down" is a classic? In which alternate universe? Now "The hole", *that* would deserve to be one... (incidentally, Keira Knightley was in it too, as the other girl in the group).

    • jwz says:

      I didn't say "fair and balanced", I said they walked the line between the two possible conclusions. I wouldn't consider walking the line between logic and prehistoric superstition to be a reasonable place to walk out here in the real world, but I went to see a horror movie, not a documentary. I thought it was entertaining.

  15. This may/may not be interesting.

    I started out with a rant and I ended up with a poll... that is essentially a rant masked as a poll. It's rather freaky what percentage of people truly believe in what things, though -- and this is people who can operate a computer, mind you -- that's a huge hurdle.

  16. cyeh says:

    Falling Down was about as a subtle as a lead pipe.

    Gee, he starts out wearing white but by the end of the movie, he's wearing a black jump suit and then has to ask another character "Am I the bad guy?"

    Note Hollywood: I know that you consider most of the movie-watching public stupid. But please, I beg you, don't try and get all symbolism-fancy on us in a summer film. It's just painful.

  17. gremlingirl says:

    When we were kids, my sister asked my grandma why Catholics prayed to Mary instead of Jesus, and I told her that Mary was like Jesus' secretary, and all the prayers ended up on "While You Were Out" notes.

    • kyronfive says:

      That's sort of true. Catholics don't technically pray *to* Mary, they pray for Mary's intercession with God/Jesus. It's sort of like calling the boss's secretary and asking her nicely to pull some strings with the big guy.

    • loosechanj says:

      When I was in catholic school(~ the time when Star Wars was released without an episode #), it was "She's his mother, and wouldn't you think he'd listen to her?" That nun hadn't read John 2:3,4 I expect.

  18. bbsy says:

    Er...the way I've always had it explained to me is that God allows the devil to do things to you. For whatever reason. Which is illustrated in one instance at the beginning of the book of Job.

  19. sclatter says:

    I think Jesus showing up means it's the end of the world. Mary showing up means Mom's just checking in.

    (FWIW, I'm a convert, so I may have it wrong.)


  20. silveryblu says:

    ... nostalgic for *home* that is, which just happens to be composed mainly of strip malls and under-construction freeways.

    "oh honey, remember the time we were sitting in traffic while the cops chased that crack addict across the street into that *very* strip mall there, guns drawn in broad daylight? Those were the days. Wasn't that when they were just finishing the 105 overpass on the 110?"

  21. defenestr8r says:

    i can't believe you neglected to mention Eternal!

    (and the corpse bride, but the Eternal commentary was bound to be good).

  22. melt212 says:

    I went to catholic school through 4th grade and I used to wonder the same thing about Mary. It was explained to me that she was human, not divine, and she understood humanity and mother's love and that sort of thing. She is one of us. As such, she makes a good advocate to God and a good emmisary from God.
    Jesus always confused me though. Why pray to Jesus when you can pray to God? No good reason. His job was a 33 year temp position that ended 2000 years ago. He has said all he's going to say. And if you buy into the holy trinity, he's not even a distinct entity, just a historical curiosity.
    I've also always understood that God never provides proof, but he might occasionally deliver messages to people who will listen. And satan just provides a backdrop against which God makes sense to us.
    But it's been a long time since I've studied these things as a catholic true-believer.

  23. babynutcase says:

    Anyone else see Save The Green Planet? There were only four other people in the theater and one of them was just there to sleep. I was the only one who laughed out loud at this movie despite it being so utterly insane.

    I thought it was Japanese until the ending credits showed it was Korean of all things.

  24. irma_vep says:

    Charlize Theron gave a great performance, but the movie itself really disturbed me. Abused as a child. tormented and used as a teenager and young adult, and brutally raped by a man, would it suprise anyone that she became a twisted, serial killer of men ?

  25. I will admit to not having seen The Hole. I'm a huge fan of the book, "After The Hole", on which it is based - it was written by an alumnus of my old school which is the basis of the fictional school in the book (many of the prank anecdotes related did actually take place here), and I just couldn't deal with it being transposed across the Atlantic.

    I am assured however by people who didn't go to my school that the book is still better than the film, and worth reading. I believe it's now only available under the film tie-in title of "The Hole" though.

    • wilecoyote says:

      Um, it wasn't transposed across the Atlantic. The movie is still set in England; in fact, it's an english film (production company, director, most of the actors, etc. are english).

      I haven't read the book, but it must be a hell of a read if it's better than the movie.