Posts Tagged ‘the stupid it burns’

Sometimes there are these fleeting moments, so brief and subtle that I always wonder if I’ve imagined them afterward, when I suspect that buried deep in Jensen Ackles’ psyche is a modicum of acting ability that sometimes gets away from him and manifests onscreen for a split second before he stamps it ruthlessly back down.

No, I know how that sounds.  I didn’t say it was a rational suspicion.  It’s like that thing where sometimes when you’re drifting off to sleep on Christmas Eve you have that weird moment where you’re like “Hey, but what real reason is there, honestly, why Santa can’t exist?  HUH?”  Then you wake up in the morning and realize that by God there’d better not be some fur-wearing fat guy sneaking down your chimney in the middle of the night, and also that Ackles’ sole discernable talent is for reciting some of his lines louder than others and managing to look like an American Apparel model while his character is supposedly sleeping in his car.  In short, he’s an utterly bland presence (Ackles, I mean, not Santa), and when your movie is already laboring under a brain-sludgingly dull script, poor pacing, and astoundingly unappealing characters, by God you better suck it up and pay Steve Buscemi to stand out in front of that shit diverting people’s attention.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the original My Bloody Valentine (1981).  I love it.  It’s a triumph of the schlocky filmmaker’s art, full of glee and ridiculousness and people getting shot in the forehead with nail guns,  with some genuinely scary moments thrown in for good measure.  In the original, a mining town has declared a moratorium on Valentine’s Day dances, because back in the 60s there was a mine cave-in on Valentine’s Day that resulted in the sole survivor, Harry Warden, cracking under the strain of his enforced diet of Soylent Green.  Warden decrees that there will be No More Dances Ever, because that’s what the townspeople were doing when the mine exploded and he’s a little miffed.  Twenty years later a group of middle-aged teenagers decide to hold an illicit rave in the mine on Valentine’s Day, with predictable and gory results.

Well, the 2009 My Bloody Valentine is sort of like that.  Except without the dances.  Or any real tie-in to Valentine’s Day.  Or any explicable reason for the original Harry Warden to go off the deep end and cause hospital carnage so improbable that in order to make sense of it you have to pretend the movie is a crossover with Predator.  There’s a mine explosion, okay.  In this case it’s caused by Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles), the owner’s whiny son, forgetting to do something technical I can’t even care about long enough to describe it.  Hanniger disappears for a few years and comes back to sell the mine.

Unwisely, the creators of the remake chose to make the grindingly tedious selling-the-mine aspect the main plot of the movie.  Even more unwisely, they spend what feels like ten thousand hours trying to get us to care about it.  This involves endless, astonishingly boring conversations between Hanniger and his unwashed ex-girlfriend (Jaime King), who is now married to the town sherriff (Kerr Smith).  Eventually, of course, people start dying, but without the whole arc with the Valentine’s Day dances they’re basically dying for no other reason than to give the movie a body count, which brings a certain sense of anticlimax to the whole thing.

The movie itself is unrelentingly glum and humorless.  It’s filmed under constantly cloudy skies.  Everyone is dressed like the only fashion game in town is the clearance rack at K-Mart.  Lines like “I lost my way!” are uttered with apparent seriousness.  Ackles plays Hanniger like an even flatter and less nuanced Dean Winchester, and it’s not like Dean Winchester has nuances to spare; while he did achieve brief shining moments of creepiness in Devour, he misses it by a mile here and winds up looking like the crazy eye-rolling opera diva in an Abbott and Costello movie.  The killings are pro forma, uninspired, and mostly require everyone involved to behave like absolute morons.  The 3D, which so rarely adds anything to a movie, adds nothing to this one either.

Was anything good about it?  Well… Irene (Betsy Rue).  Irene was fucking awesome.  This movie needed way more people with enough panache to charge out naked into a parking lot and wave a gun in some skeevy trucker’s face.  Aside from Irene, the only watchable element was Kerr Smith, who trudges grimly through the movie all but wearing a t-shirt that says “I don’t care how many varieties of shit this movie is, I’m going to goddamn act so I can look myself in the face in the morning.”

So what’s the verdict? One star.  The only way to make watching this movie entertaining is to pretend it’s some sort of arthouse Fellini-tribute commentary on the grinding poverty of the decaying American infrastructure, and everything is all symbolic and stylized and you have to figure out what it all Really Means and how it relates to Derrida.  And even if you do, you’re just going to wind up feeling like you’re watching two hours of people smoking at each other in black and white with flies landing portentously on ice cubes, and all you know is you’re bored to tears but you have a paper due on this shit in thirty-six hours and you want to shoot yourself for ever thinking “Metaphor in Cinema” would be a good elective to take.  Watch the original instead.

Frayed (2007)

Posted: March 14, 2010 in 0 stars, Frayed, Reviews
Tags: , ,

I’m sort of impressed by this movie, in a way. By the twenty-minute mark I hated every single character and wanted them to die horribly. By the thirty-minute mark I hated the filmmakers as well, on such a deeply personal level that if I were their waitress I would spit in their food.  By the time it was over I had mentally done away with everyone onscreen in a far bigger blaze of glory than any of them achieved in the film.

And oh, what a cast of characters it is. The Long-Suffering Cop Dad (Tony Doupe). The Whiny Stepmother (Kellee Bradley). The Trailer-Trash Daughter (Alena Dashiell). The Obligatory Slutty Best Friend (Tasha Smith-Floe). The guy who spends the whole movie being chased pointlessly through the woods by what is painfully obviously a figment of his imagination (Aaron Blakely). The ostensible killer (Dino Moore), combining the Texas cannibal chic of a Leatherface-style hood with the looming menace of a DVD-store standup of Edward Cullen. Sadly, the movie does not end with all of them trooping down into a mine to die in a gas explosion.

To the extent that there is a plot, this is it: an eight-year-old beats his mother to death with a baseball bat at his sister’s fifth birthday party and is put in a mental hospital. (This pretty much used up my suspension of disbelief for the entire movie, by the way, as well as handing me the plot twist on a silver platter. I don’t care if he’s got a baseball bat, he’s eight years old and you’re a grown woman. He can’t have hit you that hard. Take the damn thing away from him.) Twenty years later, he escapes as he’s being transferred to a more secure facility.

His dad, the Long-Suffering Cop, rushes around trying to find him while completely overlooking elementary precautions like sending a squad car out to his own house. Trailer Trash Sis and the Obligatory Slutty Best Friend go out in the woods to get drunk and have sex with two of the most unimpressive specimens of male adolescence I have ever seen. Pointless Guy gets chased pointlessly through the woods. Completely unsurprising revelations are, um, revealed. Various people fail to appreciate the difference between “homage” and “egregious rip-off.” The ending, which attempts to be very clever in a Sixth Sense way, only succeeds in being ten pounds of stupid in a five-pound bag.  In short, somebody owes me an hour and fifty-one minutes of my life back, and you better believe I’m going to collect if I ever meet them.

(On the Lessons For Filmmakers note: You know that plotline on Dallas or whatever where Bobby Ewing died, and the whole season happened from there,  and then at the end of the season you find out that Bobby is still alive and everything that had gone on for the last however many weeks was all a dream his wife was having?  Remember how that plotline was universally reviled and is still a laughingstock to this day?  THAT’S BECAUSE IT’S A BAD IDEA.)

So what’s the verdict? 0 stars.  I am totally judging the filmmakers, and indeed everyone who was involved with this movie.  No, I don’t care if they have kids to feed and the only other job option was Grannies Go Wild 4.  They should have taken the more dignified route and learned to love denture glue.