Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Movies today

As part of my loafing plan, I spent the day watching a few movies: Hot Fuzz, Night Watch, and the two Grindhouse Cinema features (Death Proof and Planet Terror). All in all, not a bad way to kill most of a day. No real reviews here, but a few observations. First movie: Hot Fuzz. It's an odd film, in that it's not much like what you'd expect from watching the trailer. It's got funny moments, but not really enough to make it a comedy. And, it requires you to strain your suspension of disbelief a time or two, with really major plot developments. And the humor is almost all played straight, making it situational humor rather than a string of jokes or sight gags. Night Watch: also not bad. It's the most expensive Russian movie ever, costing almost $2 million dollars (which I believe is roughly the catering and lodging budget for the average Hollywood blockbuster). It's on the line between horror and fantasy, and the dubbing from Russian to English was done very well. It's a bit hard to really understand at times, but I suspect that's because it's an attempt to turn a dense novel into a medium-length movie. It's also nice seeing a movie in which you don't recognize anyone in the cast. No big-name American stars, no familiar character actors in bit parts. It lets you just see what's on screen, instead of watching it through the filter of your foreknowledge about the cast. I don't know that I'd watch it again, but I'm definitely glad I watched it once.

The Grindhouse Theater movies are, as I understand, a homage to the low-budget movies shown as double features in drive-ins in the 70s, where the theater owners would show two movies back to back, with the movies trimmed to length by the theater owners themselves. Planet Terror is pretty much a glossy zombie-oriented splatter flick. It's everything you'd expect in a low-budget direct-to-video sequel to Return of the Living Dead (which it isn't, I should clarify), with some recognizable cast members (Jeff Fahey, Michael Biehn, Rose McGowan, and Bruce Willis stand out in my memory). My favorite moment was a cut directly from a sex scene (with Rose McGowan, rowr!), to a "Missing Reel" plaque, to a scene of a burning building, with much action and character development implied in the gap. If you're expecting a zombie splatterflick, you won't be disappointed. The second movie, Death Proof, is very artistic, I'm sure, and the first 45 minutes is nearly as dull as watching paint dry. In places, watching paint dry would've been an improvement. But the second half was actually pretty good, and entertaining too. If I had any advice to offer, I'd say watch the first 45 minutes at high speed (I'm recommending 4x) with the sound off. You won't be missing anything, and even at 4x and no sound you'll pick up everything you need to. As soon as you see Rose McGowan (the blonde at the bar) head for Kurt Russell's car, switch to normal viewing speed and watch the rest of the movie. You should probably watch the inane dullness of the four girls in the car, even if you're tempted to skip it, just to give you an idea of what you fast-forwarded through. The second half is better, and the car chase at the end is much fun to watch.

So you know, I didn't just watch movies all day on my day off. I also played Ghost Recon and read and cooked. At least the reading and cooking were somewhat productive.

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