Friday, January 16, 2009

Reluctantly enjoying bad movies over Winter Break

Normally breaks of any kind are my excuse to immerse myself in a lot of film. My patented daily regimen called “Fareed’s 7 Easy Steps to Cinematic Nirvana” typically goes as follows:

  1. Wake up
  2. Watch a movie
  3. Eat lunch
  4. Watch a movie
  5. Eat dinner
  6. Wrap up the day with one last movie.
  7. Repeat this process until arriving at Princeton.

Although I would have liked to follow my time tested routine during the winter break, it was not to be. Lingering academic work and grad school applications forced me to keep my nose in the books (*shudder*)

When I had a chance to watch any movies, it wasn't any Oscar bait. As a matter of fact, I think two of the films I've seen at the cinema would be more comfortable being a part of the upcoming Razzies.

1. Punisher War Zone

2. Brubaker (a Netflix selection of a pretty good Robert Redford flick from the 1980s. I spent most of the time thinking "he really hasn't aged that much during the period between this movie and 2007’s 'Lions for Lambs.').

3. Twilight (since everyone seems to be weighing in on the cultural phenomenon, what's the harm of one more review?)

4. L'Apprenti (a delightful little French film about a boy who dreams of becoming a simple 'paysan,' a farmer. Oddly enough, rather than transporting me to another world, it only reminded me how some aspects of my native Montanan culture remain entrenched in times past).

Punisher War Zone

Youtube Trailer:

I knew things weren't going to be ideal when the first movie I saw during break was the new "Punisher" movie. Everything you've heard about the movie is true. It's terrible, I mean awful. It's tonally inconsistent, and barring a few choice moments, relies too heavily on neon lights and shadowy corridors to create a "gritty" atmosphere. One of its rare choice moments stems directly from Frank Miller's renowned graphic novel "Batman: Year One."

During a scene the Punisher invades a mobster's dinner party, the lights go out and suddenly a red flare lights up revealing the menacing vigilante (00:46 in the above trailer). In the Miller comic book, Batman gives a foreboding speech telling the mob bosses that their days are numbered. In the movie, however, Punisher (AKA Frank Castle) kills everybody including a random old lady. The initial moment where the Punisher stands on the table illuminated by a harsh red light, seemingly ripped from the Batman tale, was one of the few moments where I thought "this is awesome," instead of “this is awesomely hilarious.".

All of its problems however, do not take away from the fact that the movie is Mystery Science Theater-style fun. I laughed more during this picture than the on-point comedy "Pineapple Express." See it if your tired of great films, and are seeking some visceral, trashy thrills.


Youtube trailer:

"Twilight" is another bad movie that can be enjoyed for somehow making $35 million look like 5 bucks on the screen. The effects are atrocious, and the acting equally so (except for the heartthrob star Robert Pattinson who understands exactly what he needs to do in order to strike a chord with audiences. In fact, he is the only person with any screen presence. It's almost as though the film is deliberately trying to amplify this quality of Pattinson by populating the screen with teenage performers who deliver their lines with all the enthusiasm of a freshly lobotomized R.P. McMurphy). Worse still, the film's pacing is meandering which guarantees that the picture falls into the trap that afflicts many mediocre works, it's occasionally boring (unlike the far worse but often more amusing Punisher).

Its one redeeming feature besides its unintended comedic ones is that the film stands as a meditation on teenage romance by generation trained with abstinence programs. Sex, even physical touch, has been replaced by longing looks and chaste caresses. The central message of "Twilight" appears to be that relationships can only be romantic and worthwhile when every aspect of explicit sexuality has been drained out.

And that's it. The numbers of films screened over vacation have been woefully low. That's one of the sacrifices of making a sojourn to Montana than industrial France during that delightful period when the studios seem driven to put all their best movies out in art-house theaters at the same time. Hopefully, you all have had a bit more luck than me with your choice of films over break, and if you are ever wondering how to spend those many empty days outside of Princeton feel free to try “Fareed’s 7
Easy Steps to Cinematic Nirvana.”


coffee said...

seems likely that they will come out with a Twilight sequel pretty soon, there's a crazy lot of ticket sales at stake

Jun Koh said...

I hope Twilight sees its doom soon. A franchise not worth making.