I think my girlfriend has been possessed by the spirit of a raving cinephile. Yesterday, she woke up and watched The Princess Bride before leading me on a triple-feature double date of Vantage Point, Be Kind Rewind and Jumper, then came home and watched three more films before apparently calling it a night. Me, I ran out of passive-viewing stamina way before her and fell asleep around 2 a.m. in the middle of Cruel Intentions, her next-to-last selection, and I’m still shaken by the intensity of that much concentrated movie-viewing. I have trouble watching even a single film in my own time, since I always have so many things I actually want to do — write, draw, complete a video game, read a book, anything besides just sitting and watching. So! I shall justify my experience by blogging about the movies I paid to see.
A dumb movie in the worst sense. This is one essentially little more than your typical oh-no-let’s-save-America action drama, but it’s caught up in its own cleverness by showing an assassination and abduction from a billion different character perspectives. I’m pretty sure the director saw Crash and thought, wow, if Crash could win an Oscar with a played-out topic like race I could totally clean up by tackling Hollywood’s most popular contemporary fantasy of terrorists killing President Bush! So you get a tableau that plays out over and over through a “rewind” gimmick that backs up to the story’s beginning at noon of the fateful day. This was actually pretty handy at first, since we were caught in a traffic snarl in the wake of an accident and entered the movie late, just in time to see the first POV character die in an explosion — at which point the movie rewound for us.
But after the fifth or sixth instance of the gimmick, you realize that it’s basically a clumsy, obtrusive way to handle the problem of selectively revealing information to build suspense, something a more talented crew could have handled with flashbacks or simply better editing. The plot is briefly interesting but then ends abruptly just as it begins to pick up steam, wrapped too neatly through a sequence whose editing and effects play it up as some kind of massive psychological freak out but which is in fact simply one of the most ridiculously contrived coincidences ever put to film. And then you realize the creators spent so much time mucking around with the rewind gimmick that they had to end the movie before the main plot really started. In short, please do not see this movie.
Be Kind Rewind
A dumb movie, but in the sense of dumb fun with a lot of heart — which is probably the best kind of dumb. It’s clearly the creation of someone who is deeply in love with the medium of film, and with the movies. The setup — Jack Black demagnetizes all the tapes in Danny Glover’s forgotten video shop so he and Mos Def recreate them all with a handycam — is completely ludicrous, but that’s the point. It’s basically a rote “save the town from evil developers” plot meets those ridiculous movies we made as kids, with paper props and cheap costumes.
If I have a complaint, it’s that not enough time is given over to the hilarious remakes; based on the two they showed in full, they’re brilliant recreations by people who have seen the films and remember the general outline and certain specifics but don’t let themselves get too caught up in the details. It has the same convincing amateurism as Episode 0 of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, a low-fidelity authenticity that could only come from people who made these slapdash films themselves as kids. Energetic and clumsy, it’s good enough that you can forgive the slightly corny ending. I mean, Stephen King is always writing about authors who save the day, and how many musicians have recorded concept albums about heroic musicians? I figure Gondry’s allowed to work in a parable about auteur theory. Would watch again — especially the DVD version which will almost certainly include all the “sweded” movies as extras. (They’re supposedly available online, but are obscured behind a wall of “clever” Flash.)
A dumb movie, but fun in a mindless SFX-action sense. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I let myself be talked into theatre-hopping for this one, which is something I’ve never done before. But then, I’d never payed $11 to see a movie as crappy as Vantage Point, so I’m going to think of it as a refund.
The plot: Mace Windu survived his chump death in Episode III and now works with a secret agency, tracking down and killing rogue Jedi, having traded in his lightsaber for a taser. His ultimate target is his betrayer Darth Vader, who has been living a life of super-powered excess and dissipation for eight years. After narrowly escaping a run-in with Windu, Vader returns to his childhood home to romance the gorgeous woman who was the only human being to treat him with anything resembling kindness during his slave days. Things become even more complicated when Vader meets another of his kind and has a shocking encounter with his mother Shmi, long believed dead. Jumper suffers from lots of continuity errors with the prequel trilogy, but it’s still better than most Star Wars material these days. In any case, it was worth seeing for free, which puts it considerably ahead of Vantage Point.