I said in my last post that I was going to try to do these more than every 7-10 days, mostly so I feel like I don’t have to rush through some thoughts on the movies in an effort not to write a 2000 word post every time. I started writing an entry then ended up scrapping the whole thing all together.
At least I’m trying.
So since the last post, where I ended off with Branded, I’ve watched the following movies for the first time:
17. I Sell The Dead
18. The Imposter
19. Hot Coffee
20. The American Scream
22. Paranormal Activity 4
23. Side Effects
25. The Other F Word
26. Toad Road
27. The I Inside
29. Final Destination 5
Okay, I really have to work on updating a lot more frequently. That’s 13 damn movies (currently leaving me at two behind if we’re going by day count).
I’m going to try something different, so I can hopefully not write a novella in this post: The Good, The Bad, The Unrealized.
In this category I would firmly plant The Imposter, Hot Coffee, The American Scream, The Other F Word, Side Effects, and Saw (making the majority of the movies I liked the past two weeks documentaries).
I know, I bet you’re thinking “Saw, what the fuck, that came out 10 years ago?!”.
Let me explain. I don’t like torture porn. I’m not opposed to gore (obviously), but I have to have a story, and it can’t simply be mean spirited – that’s my whole problem with the Final Destination franchise after the first one (more on that in a bit). So, dear three-people-that-read-this, I incorrectly made the assumption that that’s all that Saw was. That’s right – I admit it! I was wrong. It’s quite a humbling experience when it happens so rarely.
But anyway, my point is, I believed a lot of ridiculous nonsense about how the first Saw was torture porn, and how that was the whole point of the movie. And it was grisly just for grisly’s sake. Good god, that cannot be farther from the truth! I’m such an asshole for not watching something myself and coming to my own conclusions. I was freaking shocked at how much I ended up loving this movie. Saw is inherently a mystery, and don’t you believe otherwise. Now, I have the inkling that each Saw did get increasingly torture porny. But, considering how wrong I was about the first one, I’m going to just shut the hell up and watch more of them until I loose interest. So expect more Saw sequels in the coming weeks.
The other fictional movie I liked this week was Side Effects which felt like Contagion at the beginning then goes completely wacky and turns every decision you just made about the movie on its head. I love a movie that can trick me, and there was something extremely Hitchcockian about the whole feel of it. Very well done, and very enjoyable. But then again, it’s Soderbergh, so how do you go wrong?
The Imposter had me thinking about it for days afterwards. While being a documentary, the whole story could have come straight out of a Raymond Chandler book. The twists, the turns, the sheer artistry of the filmmaker for completely pulling the rug out from under me with the way the story was very artfully crafted. Loved it.
The American Scream was heartfelt and made me smile, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need in a documentary. It reminded me a lot of Indie Game in that respect (which was one of my favourite films of 2013).
Hot Coffee was a lot more interesting than “a documentary on tort reform” would have you believe. It’s not really about the McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit that has become so ingrained in pop culture references, and the additional stories about civil litigation in the USA is really fascinating.
I really only have one movie on this list, and that’s Paranormal Activity 4. I’m not a lover of found footage, but I certainly won’t discount something that’s found footage in and of itself. Mostly my problem with that style of filming is that it’s a cheap way out that doesn’t help the story. Obviously, Paranormal Activity’s claim to fame is this format, but everything was just extremely underwhelming and completely unrealized. It disliked it more than any of the other Paranormal Activity’s I’ve seen (and unlike a lot of people, I didn’t really like the first, finding it un-scary and offering nothing new), but 4 makes the first one look like a found footage cinematic masterpiece.
I Sell The Dead, Resolution, Tabloid, Toad Road, The I Inside, Final Destination 5.
This is the category that the majority of the movies I watched fall into this week. For one reason or another, something didn’t quite click, which is always more distressing to me than a straight up bad movie; You know something good is there and it’s a travesty that it didn’t quite make it all the way to be a really enjoyable movie.
Resolution was scattered, with three separate story lines that each could have been a great movie in and of themselves, and I commend the filmmakers on their ambition, but it was just far too much that they tried to throw in, thus making the movie meander, with some under-explored ideas and themes, which really did those ideas a great disservice.
My first thoughts when watching Toad Road was that it felt oddly like an afterthought, and rather aimless. After finishing the movie, and feeling very unfulfilled in terms of story and where it went, I made my usual trek to Wikipedia to read further on it. There I found that indeed, this movie was an afterthought, loaded mostly with real-life clips the director had taken of him and his friends that were originally destined to be a documentary. The documentary never got made, because when the director viewed all the footage, he realized there wasn’t any story.
He then dreamt up this story, about a group of friends introducing a sweet, innocent girl to drugs, who then go through seven gates reported to be the seven gates to enter hell (based on a true urban myth originating in the filmmaker’s area). So this movie is a mix of real life footage (comprising almost entirely of a bunch of friends getting wrecked on drugs), and fictional story.
The problem is, is that instead of realizing the original footage had no story and just scrapping it, the director shoe-horns it into this story, which in and of itself could be good, but completely falls flat because he relies far too much on the footage-that-never-was-a-documentary.There are some interesting ideas in the form of the fictionalized story that could have been something cool, but instead falls entirely flat because of the aimless footage of his friends getting wrecked. It really boils down to trying to force a square peg into a round hole.
The I Inside actually made me mad. Honestly, really angry. Most of the movie is great – I love a movie that screws with time and perception, and this one does it beautifully. The acting is good (I will watch anything with Sarah Polley), and despite some of the beginning feeling like it was made in the 80’s (despite being released in 2004), it was fun to watch. I became invested in the characters, in the story, and where it was going. That was, until the worst thing imaginable happened: the filmmakers completely negated everything I, as a viewer, got invested in by making the lead character (Ryan Phillippe) dead the whole time. So everything that just happened was completely meaningless. It was lazy and stupid and I hated it. What could have been a four star movie, turned into a two star movie.
Tabloid was simply unfocused. It is a documentary about the Mormon Sex In Chains Case, told from the perspective of Joyce McKinney, who’s obviously batshit crazy. But was this documentary about a crazy lady? The tabloids and how that affects public perception? Or was it about the laws itself? I don’t know. The filmmaker didn’t seem to know either. It’s called Tabloid, but really doesn’t focus on that much at all.
Final Destination 5 was about what I’d expect. Now, I am a HUGE lover of the original Final Destination. I loved that movie when it came out, and I have seen it probably, oh, 20 times in the past 13 years. If not more. It was new, it was novel, and the way Rube Goldberg-like deaths were created are still some of the best in horror movie history. The movie had a story, and the deaths, while being a central highlight of the movie, still somehow seemed secondary to the mystery of what was going on that our characters had to figure out.
Then, each subsequent movie got more and more silly, and simply became about the deaths. Instead of doing something different, adding a new element to the franchise, or really pulling the wool over the audience’s eyes, each movie did the same damned thing over and over. They really tried with the choose your own ending (#3 – DVD release), and then again with 3D in #4, but these were schlocky attempts at best, nothing in the story progressed, and the death sequences changed to be simply grisly deaths by the wackiest way possible. Each Final Destination got progressively worse.
I will say, 5 is better than the previous two, but I think that’s coming from a perspective of a lover of the first – so I really loved all the strange little nods to each previous installment. The direction was smart for what Quale was presented with, and the ending turn had the entire view worth it. I appreciated the little hints that had me scratching my head through the first part of the film and then all made sense. But, even with all of that, most of the film falls back to what 3 and 4 were – a sequence of silly deaths with absolutely no real story line or well-written dialogue.
Also, I was under the impression there was more Tony Todd in this one. That was a lie. I felt cheated.