Sunday, December 11, 2011


Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940) 98
A lush, gorgeous, and utterly haunting experience that by all means deserves to be called one of the finest films ever made. It's definitely in my top ten, anyway.

[REC] (Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, 2007) 83
Almost certainly one of the finest horror films I have ever seen. At times almost unbearably tense and frequently genuinely frightening.

Repo! The Genetic Opera (Darren Lynn Bousman, 2008) 55
I see lots of movies. Quite a few. Enough to make me think I'm past the point of ever seeing another movie that'll have me gaping at the screen, thinking "WTF" for its entire duration. Repo! The Genetic Opera almost effortlessly convinces me I'm so fucking wrong about this. I have to qualify that 55: this is not a movie I could ever give a straight-up score to. It's not. It wouldn't work. I'm only taking a guess at this, but that final score appears to be an average: if I gave this an 85 for sheer entertainment value and a 25 for how good it really is, that'd just about even it out. This movie is terrible. It's so goddamn bad. But it's entertaining as shit. Go watch it, and I defy you to take your eyes off the screen for even a moment. You won't be able to. So, er, I really don't know what to say about this. It's an instant cult film, for sure (like many have said, it's like the lovechild of Rocky Horror and Sweeney Todd by way of Blade Runner ... and it's got Paris Hilton in it). Am I glad I saw it? Er, well, yeah. Would I watch it again? Er, well, yeah. So I guess, technically, that makes me part of its cult. But I really, really, really don't want to think that way. If you've seen this, you know what I mean.

Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965) 59
This is sort of a hallmark of 1960s horror, and while it doesn't quite work for me, I must concede that it's an intriguing and cleverly conceived mood piece. I think my biggest problem is that, dammit, it just doesn't scare me. At all. In fact, if we're going on thrills alone, the movie is almost completely ineffectual. This wouldn't be as big of a deal for me if the film hadn't been built up as omg one of the scariest things ever (thanks, dad), but it was. I mean, sure, there are some eerie elements (the hands in the hallway, the highly symbolic cracks in the walls), but they're not frightening. They're just sort of evocative. So I'm left to admire the film based on technique alone. Luckily, Polanski knows exactly what he's doing. He creates an atmosphere nicely and knows how to skillfully build on it until the action reaches its logical breaking point. I just wish that breaking point were a bit more visceral. At least for me, anyway. God knows the film's plenty scary enough for some. I just wish I could be included, because it is a good film. It just happens to be one that also feels strangely incomplete.

Revolutionary Road (Sam Mendes, 2008) 68
About ten years ago, Sam Mendes directed a little suburban relationship drama called American Beauty. Remember that one? Wasn't the happiest film ever, was it? Well, now he's gone and directed Revolutionary Road, another suburban relationship drama that successfully makes his prior Oscar-winner feel like a rollicking good time by comparison. Man, this is a harsh, harsh movie. I'm not going to deny it's very well done (the performances in particular are stellar, and I'm banking on Kate Winslet finally winning an Oscar for her work here), but it's nothing I would want to subject myself to ever again. You see it once, you get the point; you've seen what there is to see. You see it twice, you're really just engaging in masochistic behavior. By this token, Revolutionary Road falls into a curious class of film: one that if done well will be depressing, but one that if not done well will still be depressing. Thank god it's done well.

Rocket Science (Jeffrey Blitz, 2007) 30
Rocket Science is a remarkably miserable movie. It is dreary to the fullest extent of its abilities, which are considerable. It also thinks it's funny, though by whose judgment I have no idea. This, a film ostensibly about high school debating, was recommended to me by a friend who knew that I spent many a weekend in high school competing at speech tournaments. In hindsight, I hope to God the recommendation didn't come because the main character reminded him of me. The so-called "hero" of this vapid ordeal has exactly zero likable qualities. He stutters, he's antisocial, he obviously has some pretty serious emotional problems (unless you count getting drunk and throwing a cello through someone's window as typical teenage behavior), and he's suitably lacking in any sort of personality. In other words, I couldn't have given a damn about him. He's not exactly the sort of guy who puts you on the edge of your seat rooting for him. The even worse news is, the film doesn't like him either. So for 100 minutes the kid gets pushed around, wrestles unsuccessfully with his personal demons, and ultimately ends up in a place arguably less desirable than he was when the film started. This is an underdog story; one might reasonably expect an arc with an ultimate triumph. Here, not so much. And when a comedy about a troubled teenager attempting to overcome his obstacles and emerge victorious accomplishes neither being amusing nor its story-based goals, I think it's safe to say the film as a whole is a complete failure. That it's also a wholly depressing experience is just an added bonus. At the very least, the film could've used more smartass, banjo-playing dry cleaner guy. He was at least somewhat interesting.

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (David Mirkin, 1997) 65
Believe it or not, I actually got this for my dad for Christmas, but had never actually watched it myself. Well, the weekend I was sick I figured, "What the hell?" and curled up and gave it a looksie. To my surprise (and perhaps chagrin), I enjoyed it quite a bit. I suppose general classification would call this a "chick flick," but not in the abject, toe-curling way that would apply to a dumb rom-com or some weepy loved-and-lost relationship drama. Instead, Romy and Michele -- unlike its two terminal airhead heroines -- is actually pretty intelligent, and there are plenty of solid laughs to be had along the way. The premise? Romy and Michele, two incurable ditzes, learn that their 10-year high school reunion is in two weeks and decide to "better" themselves in order to look prosperous and successful (including a hilarious, half-baked plan to lie to former classmates about having invented Post-It notes in the intervening years). It's predictable and formulaic, sure, but it's a lot of fun. Although the necessarily-happy conclusion does require you to suspend a somewhat uncomfortable amount of disbelief, the preceding 80 minutes or so are entertaining, well-written, and have some delightfully pointed and accurate things to say both about high school and about the ingenuine, phony nature of these so-called "reunions." And I enjoyed it for that. I know I'm not its target audience, but that just goes to show that some of these for-the-ladies movies really can satisfy just about everyone looking to have a good time, even the male counterparts. I mean, my dad and I both like it. That's gotta say something.

Run Lola Run (Tom Tykwer, 1999) 75
A flashy, stylish, hyperkinetic action film that exists for the sole purpose of being a flashy, stylish, hyperkinetic action film. There's basically no substance beneath its glimmering, immaculately produced surface, but the movie's just so damn nice to look at that it really doesn't matter. It's a lot of fun: not the sort of thing I'd ever turn to for any sort of "substantial viewing experience," but it's a staggering exercise in technique, and it's highly entertaining. For a movie whose only goal is to entertain, I'd say that's a success.

The Rutles (Eric Idle & Gary Weis, 1978) 70
Not having watched this in years and years, I was concerned that my younger viewing self had played up this film's quality a bit too much and that I'd be slightly disappointed upon revisiting it. I shouldn't have worried. Eric Idle's unfortunately underrated Beatles sendup is still amusing after all these years, though definitely more sly and clever than straight-up hilarious (not that there's anything wrong with this at all; it's just slightly different from what I remembered). One good thing that comes with age: I actually get all the references now (I'm pretty sure the humor inherent in the Brian Epstein-inspired Leggy Mountbatten would have been lost on 12-year-old Chris; just a guess), and I'm able to recognize all of the curious guest cameos (like wtf that really is Mick Jagger/Paul Simon/George Harrison, as well as half the original SNL cast). So yeah. Good stuff. And short! You can watch this twice instead of watching Public Enemies once!

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