When you’re walking down the street and you see a little ghost

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.

Vantage Point
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.

23 thoughts on “When you’re walking down the street and you see a little ghost

  1. My problem with Be Kind Rewind is as follows: The Ghostbusters remake was hilarious, but then the whole town gets involved, and there’s no pretense that anyone’s actually being FOOLED, and I think: dude. It’s not funny if nobody’s taking it seriously.

  2. It’s not funny, but it’s still fun. I don’t see why it has to be one rather than the other.

  3. After watching Be Kind Rewind I Googled “Sweded” and found dozens of folks on YouTube creating their own movies (some are actually pretty clever). If anything, Be Kind has successfully introduced a new verb to the English language.

  4. Given my girlfriend’s outright hate towards The Science of Sleep, I’ll be watching that movie alone.

    Also, I was already expecting Be Kind, Rewind in a theater near me, but now I want to see Jumper too. Thanks, man.

  5. Then perhaps the previews misled me into thinking it was meant to be a comedy. I didn’t find it to be all that fun, although, of course, your mileage may vary.

  6. OK, but please only see Jumper for free. I’m not recommending it so much as saying it wasn’t painful.

  7. If Vantage Point really is a dud that’s a shame, I thought it looked interesting.

    Have not seen Be Kind Rewind yet, it’s on my list.

    Jumper is just teenage wish-fulfillment fluff. I couldn’t get over the idea that a kid who runs away from home at the age of fifteen could end up living the millionaire playboy lifestyle, unemployed and living alone in a swanky penthouse, without raising suspicion, no matter what amazingly convenient abilities he may possess. That was as much a flight of fantasy to me as the super powers.

  8. I remember reading somewhere that the first thing Sam Jackson thinks about when he’s offered a script is, “what kind of wig will I be wearing in this film?”

    That explains his presence in Jumper. That was a badass wig.

  9. I didn’t think the ending to Be Kind Rewind was all that corny. I mean, *SPOILERS AHOY* it’s not as if they actually save the store. The store still closes, they still move to the projects. It’s more about the power of film to bring people together than anything.

  10. I’m the same way. I enjoy films, but I always feel like my time could be better spent while watching them, or even thinking about watching one.

  11. Shakewell hit the nail on the head. There is an understanding that the characters are leaving the store, but they gave the neighborhood a heck of a parting shot. The movie was the first to made me laugh out loud in a theater in at least a year. The lo-fi special effects especially were done to perfection. As a whole, the film felt like it captured the feel of customization in American society. People want to put their own unique imprint to the things that they experience and Be Kind Rewind had a low-budget version of that vision realized.

    That’s my long-winded way of saying “A+++. I wanna go see the pretty pictures again”.

  12. I wonder if the inevitable novelization of Jumper will be as good as the Snakes On A Plane novelization?

  13. Sad fact in regards to IndieJones’ comment, though: apparently a novel was written which WAS a sequel to the movie. But it’s marked “Jumper: Griffin’s Story”, which confused my mother, who saw Jumper, thought it sucked, but heard the books were better and bought them… leaving her to wonder why the hell you would write this in the “Introduction” of the novel, and not the cover. (The actual sequel to the Jumper novel is named something like “Riven”. I know it starts with an R.)

  14. “Jumper is just teenage wish-fulfillment fluff. I couldn’t get over the idea that a kid who runs away from home at the age of fifteen could end up living the millionaire playboy lifestyle, unemployed and living alone in a swanky penthouse, without raising suspicion, no matter what amazingly convenient abilities he may possess. That was as much a flight of fantasy to me as the super powers.”

    I remember this movie when it was called Catch Me If You Can… What made it good was it had Chris Walken.

  15. That’s interesting, because the Snakes on A Plane novelization takes many liberties with the source material also. For example, the figurative “Snakes” in the book actually represent Venezuela, and an escalation in regional tensions resulting from the amassing of troops and tanks along (“on”) the border of Colombia, or “A Plane”.

    Just kidding. But still, I’d like to read the Snakes on A Plane novelization.

    ‘Damn, thought Neville Flynn as he wiped the sweat of a hard day’s work from his brow. That’s it. I’ve had it with these motherf$ckin snakes on this motherf$ckin’ plane. He turned to his fellow survivors. “That’s it!” he roared. “I’ve had it with these motherf$ckin snakes on this motherf$ckin plane!”

    The one guy whose name isn’t immediately recognized from IMDB raised his hand. “I’ve played video games,” he said. “I can land us safely.”

    The plane landed safely.’

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