Monday, February 16, 2009

Netflix 3: The Search for Suck

Watchin' stuff and stuff. Yeah.

Blade Runner - Theatrical Cut: I've seen bits and bobs of various cuts of this movie over the years, but never the whole thing straight through. And I still haven't, having dozed off more than once-- hell, more than twice-- during this movie. It's considered by some to be the best sci-fi ever, but I found it to be a cure for insomnia. I can't say I'm interested in going back and watching the bits I missed.

Bullitt: Here's another movie whose reputation is far greater than its worth. Here I was thinking this would be a marvelous 60s flick about Steve McQueen kicking ass, but it's pretty boring, overall. I may have started to snooze during this one, too. And the car chase, called by some the best car chase ever? It isn't. Not by a country mile. (Best car chase ever? Still the Blues Brothers.)

A Clockwork Orange: Now, this might be the best novel-to-film adaptation I've ever seen (though honestly, how much competition does it have?). Sure, it leaves off Burgess' original final chapter, but that part of the book feels more like it's been tacked on out of necessity rather than growing out of the plot and character as we know them. Kubrick gives us an unflinching film filled with the worst humanity can offer us, shot more or less as blatantly as possible, stuffed with lingering close-ups of faces going mad and constant scenes of Malcolm McDowall being utterly tortured by the needs of the film. I imagine this was hell to shoot, but it was worth it. Perhaps not as great as the book, but a very interesting creature in its own right-- needs more Nadsat, though. Would I have liked this as much if I hadn't read the book? Not sure. And I don't usually ask that question with a book adaptation.

I Spit on Your Corpse!: And here we have a shlocky grindhouse feature from the 70s. Apparently produced in two months, from script to screen, and also known as "Girls for Rent," this actually turns out to be a pretty fun exploitation flick, if you're into that genre. It has chase scenes more exciting than Bullitt, at least, funneled through the plot structure of a screwball comedy of errors and near misses, even though it's supposed to be a tense thriller, and chock full of gratuitous nudity and violence. The acting's bloody terrible, there's no real protagonist, and the whole thing goes as far as it's able before collapsing in on itself, but for a piece of crap thrown together thirty-five years ago, it's-- *gasp*-- more well done than it should be. And I like that. I feel like Tarantino's Death Proof owes a helluva lot to this movie.

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels: The movie that made careers for Guy Ritchie and Jason Statham! It too has that familiar comedy structure filtered through the collander that is fun English accents and zany criminal violence! A highly enjoyable crime romp.

Slaughterhouse-Five: Another book-to-film. Here's the thing: Kurt Vonnegut's novel is my favorite book of all time, so I felt it was my duty to see the movie version (released in 1972--three years after the book came out) even though I was sure to hate it. Well, I didn't hate it. The book, of course, is  infinitely better. I could say the same of V for Vendetta-- even though the movie was pretty good, it can't hold a candle to the prose. If you've never read the novel, this movie might be highly enjoyable. For me, though, it excises my favorite part (the explanation of Tralfamadorian novels), we never *see* the little hand-plungers themselves, and "So it goes" does not pop up at all. It's like a Vonnegut story with all the really Vonnegutian bits cut out. The performances, from a cast almost entirely unknown to me (Edgar Derby looked familiar-- he was on Magnum PI in some episodes! And Miss Teschmacher is Montana Wildhack!), aren't bad, but nothing groundbreaking. So, good, but not, you know, Slaughterhouse-Five.

Smart People: One of those introspective not-really-comedies that shows us that the intelligencia are as dysfunctional as the normies! Well, bleh. Ellen Page is Ellen Page-y, Thomas Haden Church does his funny deadpan thing, sure, okay. Dennis Quaid goes back and forth from his Harrison Ford impression to his Jack Nicholson impression as he plays a stereotypical bearded, misanthropic English professor. They're all miserable, but by the end, they shut up and deal with it, apparently, because all you really need to be happy is to decide to be happy. Uh, no. For smart people, these people are not very smart.

THX 1138 - Special "Ruined by George Lucas" Edition: Wow, did this suck. I thought this was supposed to be a smart sci-fi film. I mean, Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasance, man! But, no. I should have remembered I hate everything with George Lucas' name on it that isn't Indiana Jones 1-3. What was the point of this movie? What was the plot? Why does any of this matter? It doesn't. Nothing happens and then the movie is over. Logan's Run is very similar, only that, at least, is awful because it's a silly B-movie, rather than being a pretentious pile of Wookiee dung. And it also has a plot.

Winter Passing: From the DVD cover, and the fact that Zooey Deschanel (whom I adore) and Will Ferrell are in it, one would assume this movie is another quirky indie comedy. It isn't. It's "sewious dwama," by which I mean it's about sad, broken people who supposedly grow by the end even though they really don't/shouldn't. Deschanel plays a self-destructive actress who goes back home and Learns About Her Family, and blah blah. Ed Harris plays the exact same character he played in The Hours, only heterosexual, this time: a broken, mostly suicidal author living like a sick recluse. Again, yawn. Give it a pass.

Man, I hate so much. So much! But I want to love!

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