December 31, 2012

FKMG's 2012 Movie Awards


Every website and blog dedicated to movies trucks out their annual year-end lists, so why should FKMG be any different? We tried to do something a little different than the usual best and worst, especially since we spend most of our time on this site living in the past. At any rate, here's our 2012 year-end wrap up of the good, the bad and the ugly...

WORST TREND, PART 1: Adapting single novels into two or three separate movies to milk maximum profits from gullible suckers obviously happy to pay twice the price for a single story. Gone with the Wind was over a thousand pages long. No one had trouble adapting that into one movie.

WORST TREND, PART 2: Re-releasing old movies in 3-D. I can (sort of) understand why Pixar's done it few times, but...The Phantom Menace? Really, George, you can't polish a turd.

WORST TREND, PART 3: 3-D in general.

BEST AUDIENCE-ROUSING SCENE: Hulk beats the living shit out of Loki in The Avengers. What a puny god.

BEST WTF? ENDING: The Dark Knight Rises. Did Batman/Bruce Wayne really escape that nuclear blast at the end of the movie, or did Christopher Nolan just create the biggest film fuck-up of all time? He's not saying...and I wouldn't either.

FOR CHRISSAKES, JUST DO ANOTHER MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE MOVIE!: Tom Cruise in Rock of Ages and Jack Reacher.

BEST MOVIE THAT LEAVES ABSOLUTELY ZERO ROOM FOR A SEQUEL: The Cabin in the Woods. Anyone coming up with a follow-up to this one is either a story genius or greedy as hell.

MOVIES THAT WERE BETTER THAN THEY HAD A RIGHT TO BE: Ted, The Amazing Spider-Man, Wreck-It Ralph, 21 Jump Street.

PLEASE STOP!: Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler, Gerard Butler, Kristen Stewart, any teen pop star contemplating a 3-D concert movie, Tyler Perry, Robert DeNiro (at least stop agreeing to do films before reading the script), Ben Stiller, Uwe Boll (of course), Oliver Stone, Tim Burton, Sacha Baron Cohen.

BEST MOVIE NEWS: 1. Disney buys LucasFilm and immediately announces a new Star Wars trilogy. 2. They will not be made by George Lucas. 3. They've already hired Lawrence Kasdan (who co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back) to work on the script for the first one.

SADDEST MOVIE NEWS: 1. The Aurora shooting during the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. 2. Charles Durning, one of the all-time great character actors, passed away on Christmas Eve. 3. Spike Lee continues to be a self-righteous dick, condemning Django Unchained without actually having seen it.

JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN DOESN'T MEAN YOU SHOULD: Peter Jackson shot The Hobbit in 3-D at 48 frames per second, making it like an episode of General Hospital.

BEST PROOF THAT NOT EVERY BRAND NAME SHOULD BECOME A MOVIE: Battleship, John Carter, The Lorax, The Three Stooges.

BEST FAMILY MOVIE THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN HUGE: Rise of the Guardians

BEST SEQUEL NOBODY ASKED FOR: Resident Evil: Retribution. More of the same, but what the hell...it was fun, and what were you expecting anyway? You don't go to McDonald's for steak & lobster, do you?

WORST SEQUEL NOBODY ASKED FOR: Paranormal Activity 4. Yet another once-decent idea run into the ground. Speaking of which...

ENOUGH ALREADY!, PART 1: Found-footage movies.

ENOUGH ALREADY!, PART 2: Reboots. What a stupid term. Just because you're starting over before the corpse of the last franchise entry is even cold doesn't mean it isn't a remake. Speaking of which...

QUIT WHILE YOU'RE AHEAD, PART 1: There's already talk of Warner Bros. rebooting Batman yet again, starting with DC's Justice League. Please...don't.

QUIT WHILE YOU'RE AHEAD, PART 2: Dear Mr. Ackroyd...no one gives a damn about Ghostbusters 3 if you don't have Bill Murray. Didn't Blues Brothers 2000 teach you anything?

UH...OKAY...THANKS, I GUESS: Men in Black III, Taken 2, The Expendables 2, Titanic 3-D, American Reunion, Ice Age: Continental Draft, Madagascar 3, The Bourne Legacy, Wrath of the Titans.

MOST BLATANT CASH GRAB: Peter Jackson milking three movies out of The Hobbit...a 300 page novel.

BEST GEEK DEBATE: (Tie) 1. Who should be the next Batman? 2. Who should direct Star Wars Episode VII? I actually have the answer to the first one...nobody should be the next Batman.

BEST PROOF THAT SOME MOVIEGOERS WILL DO WHATEVER HOLLYWOOD TELLS THEM: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Breaking Dawn Part 2.
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BEST PROOF THAT NOT EVERY MOVIEGOER WILL DO WHATEVER HOLLYWOOD TELLS THEM: Total Recall, Red Dawn.

BEST COMEDY: Breaking Dawn Part 2

BEST ZOMBIE MOVIE: Breaking Dawn Part 2

BEST MOVIE WITH THE MOST PLOT HOLES: Prometheus

BEST EXAMPLE NOT ALL MOVIES AIMED AT TEENS ARE STUPID: The Hunger Games

BEST BRUCE WILLIS MOVIE (OUT OF THE DOZEN HE DOES EVERY YEAR): Looper

BEST MOVIEGOERS: Those who go to midnight premieres in order to be the very first to see a film. Their dedication thins the crowd for those who prefer to see it at a more reasonable hour.

WORST MOVIEGOERS: 1. Those who unconsciously narrate what they're watching. 2. Those who bring children to R-rated movies. 3. Any asshole who still whips out their cell phone at any time in the theater, even if the film hasn't started yet.

BIGGEST ASSHOLES: The NRA, who claim movies and video games empower nutjobs to go on killing sprees, not the arsenals stashed in their homes.

BEST TRAILER FOR A 2013 MOVIE: World War Z...Brad Pitt vs. zombies. Even though it doesn't appear to be too faithful to Max Brooks' novel, this looks all kinds of awesome.

BEST SPECIAL EFFECTS: With all due respect to The Hobbit, The Avengers, Life of Pi and Cloud Atlas, the effects in Ted were the most convincing; we really felt like we were watching a pot-smoking stuffed bear.

BEST GRATUITOUSLY VIOLENT MOVIE: Dredd 3-D

BEST SIGN THAT EVERYONE IS FINALLY SICK OF ADAM SANDLER: That's My Boy

BEST UPDATE OF A MOVIE WE CAN'T WAIT TO SEE: The fan-shot photo of Tom Hardy as Max in Mad Max: Fury Road.

MOST WELCOME RETURN: Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall, Robert Zemeckis' first live-action movie in over a decade (Flight).

LEAST WELCOME RETURN: Barbra Streisand in The Guilt Trip, Mel Gibson in Get the Gringo, Billy Crystal in Parental Guidance.

BEST MOVIE ALMOST NO ONE WATCHED: Killing Them Softly

BEST MOVIE EVERYONE FEELS OBLIGATED TO SEE BECAUSE IT'LL PROBABLY BE NOMINATED FOR A BILLION OSCARS: Lincoln

COME ON, PLEASE BE FUNNY AGAIN!: Bill Murray

YOU WERE FUNNY ONCE...ON TV: Kevin James

BEST CAMEO: Cillian Murphy in The Dark Knight Rises.

ACTOR MOST-LIKELY TO HAVE A RESPECTABLE CAREER NOW THAT THE TWILIGHT SAGA IS OVER: Robert Pattinson

WE ALREADY KNEW YOU COULD ACT, BUT WOW, YOU'RE KIND OF A HOTTIE, TOO: Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises.

WE THOUGHT YOU WERE AN ASSHOLE, BUT IT TURNS OUT YOU'RE AWESOME: Christian Bale shows up at the bedsides of those injured in the Aurora shooting at the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises.

WHO KNEW?: Having directed one good movie (Gone Baby Gone) and two great ones (The Town, Argo), looks like we were all wrong about Ben Affleck. The prospect of him directing The Stand now sounds pretty cool.

December 30, 2012

THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE: A Dullard's New Year


Starring Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Carol Lynley, Roddy McDowall, Stella Stevens, Shelly Winters, Jack Albertson, Leslie Nielson. Directed by Ronald Neame. (1972, 117 min).

New Year's Eve used to be a big deal. Well, not-so-much a big deal as an excuse to get completely shitfaced and engage in the type of douchebag behavior I would never dream of any other time unless it was a college road trip or bachelor party. Back then, New Year's Eve was one of the best days of the year, meaning New Year's Day ended up being one of the worst, though not quite as bad as those poor souls onboard the SS Poseidon.

After I met Francie (my future wife), I still celebrated the new year with similar hubris, and even though I'd still wake up with dry heaves and a pounding skull, at least I no longer had to try and remember the name of the person I woke up next to.

In the years after Francie and I got married, the novelty of going out and partying on New Year's Eve slowly began to wear off. At first it was because we couldn't find anyone to watch our kids, but eventually it was because we'd rather spend that time with them. When my oldest daughter, Natalie, was around nine or ten, me and her started ringing in the new year by watching SyFy's annual Twilight Zone marathon (Francie was usually in bed by then...it's been several years since she was even awake at the stroke of midnight).

But, alas, Natalie has outgrown TV nights with Dad, and Lucy (my youngest) is more into zombie flicks and Spongebob Squarepants than classic Rod Serling. So of late, I've spent the turning of the new year alone.

Well, not quite alone. I've since started my own little tradition of watching The Poseidon Adventure on New Year's Eve.

This movie was the real start of the 70's disaster movie trend, laying the blueprint which would be followed by subsequent films: a brief set-up, then the big crisis, followed by various Hollywood stars forced to deal with the dilemma, half of whom will die. While 1970's Airport had some elements of the disaster formula, the main focus was on various characters and subplots. Not so with The Poseidon Adventure, which skips most of the formalities and gets down to the business of killing people. The real stars of the movie are the special effects team and set designers; the film looks great, and while the effects may seem a bit quaint in the wake of Titanic, they are still pretty impressive.

Don't tell me how to act...I was in The French
fucking Connection
!
The story is a simple one: On New Year's Eve during her final voyage, the SS Poseidon is hit by a massive tidal wave which capsizes the ship. Most of the passengers are in the ballroom celebrating the new year, and when the wave hits, they are tossed about like rag dolls, falling through glass, getting squashed by tables, pianos, dinner carts, etc. The few survivors, led by Reverend Frank Scott (Gene Hackman), must now make their way through the capsized ship to reach the hull and hope for a rescue before it sinks for good. It ain't a great film (if you don't agree, you haven't seen it lately), but if you can get through the laughably bad first thirty minutes, The Poseidon Adventure offers a guilty good time, with such destructive thrills as underwater explosions, passengers getting pummeled by torrents of water, and Shelley Winters' dress hiking up to reveal her massive underpants (during which time you’ll want to gouge your eyes out).

The movie also introduces several elements to the disaster formula that would become standard in later films: the character who exists solely to contradict every idea the hero has; the Oscar-baiting song interlude; the “company man” whose obsession with the bottom-dollar threatens everyone; dozens of extras whose collectively stupid behavior in the face of danger kills them all; the couple who falls in love (or rekindles their love) just before one of them dies; the totally obnoxious kid you wish would die but almost never does.

Just to show you how dull my New Year's celebrations have become, I don't simply pop The Poseidon Adventure into my Blu-Ray player and kick back; I wait until exactly 11:35:19 PM on New Year's Eve. I've timed it so when the clock strikes midnight in my living room, it's midnight on the Poseidon, because it happens 24 minutes and 41 seconds after the movie starts (right when the disaster hits). While my neighbors are outside lighting firecrackers or banging pots & pans, I'm watching an ensemble cast experiencing a much worse New Year's Day than I am.

Sure, there are more exciting ways to ring in the new year. Thirty years & twenty pounds ago, if someone showed me how my future-self celebrated this holiday, I'd be laughing my ass off, shaking my head and screaming "No fucking way." But hey, for a middle-aged movie geek like me it's fun, and at least I don't wake up in a strange place with a twisting hangover and wondering if I should find a drug store on the way home to take care of that insatiable itch in my groin.

And if you think this sounds like a dull way to spend New Year's Eve, I'll have you know this old party animal might just liven things up this year by watching the remake, Poseidon, instead. In that one, midnight strikes exactly 14 minutes and 23 seconds into the movie, and it's Fergie who does the countdown (I'll bet she ain't visiting your house this year). Not only that, I wouldn't be subjected yet-again to Ms. Winters' gelatinous underpants.

December 27, 2012

EVENT HORIZON and a Tale of Two Bowlers


Starring Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, Joely Richardson, Richard T. Jones, Jason Isaacs, Sean Pertwee. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. (1997, 95 min).

After my dad retired, he decided to dedicate much of his spare time to bowling, a game he’s always loved.

Back in his younger days, he was good enough to participate in regional tournaments throughout the northwest (in fact, I think that's how he first met my mother). Like a lot of us, though, the game eventually had to take a back seat to bigger responsibilities. His beloved bag & ball sat in the back of his closet most of the time, only taken out on those rare occasions when bowling was part of his kids’ birthday plans. But now, comfortably retired with both kids out of the house, he’s re-embraced the game with state-of-the-art equipment (including a wrist-brace that looks like a sci-fi weapon) and a serious commitment to improving his skills. And, damn, he's good. The guy can make the ball hang at the edge of the gutter forever before it hooks to blast through all ten pins like a weed whacker. More often than not, his scores are in the 200s, and there was even one time not too long ago when he missed a perfect game by only one strike.

I enjoy bowling too. The difference is I suck. A good game for me means breaking 100 or at least avoiding a gutter ball. I’m clumsy, have no form, can’t put any spin on the ball and often fall on my ass during my release (much to the amusement of those I‘m bowling with). Still, there are rare occasions when I play well enough to convince myself I’m pretty good. Hell, there was one family outing when I threw enough strikes and spares to actually beat my dad (which must have killed him, since everyone knows he’s the best bowler in the family). But honestly, I have no fucking idea what I did to rack up such a score. It was just luck, of course, because Dad got his groove back for the second game that night and slaughtered everyone by over a hundred pins.

I guess you could call my dad the Ridley Scott of the bowling world. Even though he’ll never be Dick Weber, Dad’s skills are obvious to anyone watching. Similarly, Scott’s a very good director, and even though he’s no Spielberg, he’s made enough great movies that when he makes bad ones (like A Good Year, G.I. Jane and Robin Hood) we don’t reassess his abilities. So, if my dad is bowling’s Ridley Scott, that must make me the sport’s Paul W.S. Anderson.

Paul W.S. Anderson is, for the most part, a shitty director who makes shitty movies, a lot of them based on video games. He’s never had an original idea of his own, and most of the tricks in his bag he ripped off from better directors. He’s probably most-famous for the Resident Evil franchise (directing three of them), diluted zombie movies for undemanding mallrats. Those movies play like the video games they are based on. In fact, most of Anderson's movies play like video games. For the most part, he's shown no growth or improvement as a filmmaker (just like my bowling game). Each new film is no better or worse than his others...except one.

Anderson's third film, Event Horizon, is his equivalent to my single awesome bowling round, and Citizen-fucking-Kane compared to all of the other movies on his resume. It’s also one of his only films that isn’t a remake, video game adaptation or based on a comic book. That’s not saying it’s monumentally original; Event Horizon draws a ton of obvious inspiration from other films, Alien and The Shining in particular. But since when has originality really mattered? After all, nobody cared that Speed was simply Die Hard on a bus.

"Look...I drew boobies."
The year is 2047 and the crew of the rescue ship, Lewis & Clark, are assigned to venture out to Neptune to investigate the sudden reappearance of the Event Horizon, a ship built to create its own black holes in order to travel faster than light, but inexplicably disappeared seven years earlier. Accompanying the crew is the ship’s designer, Martin Weir (Sam Neill), who’s obsessed with finding out where it’s traveled. None of the other crew, especially Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne) care about all that...they just want to rescue any survivors and get the hell back home. There are no survivors, however, and the ship itself, having returned from a dimension beyond anyone’s rational imagination (presumably Hell), now seems to be a living, evil entity that wants to take the Lewis & Clark crew back to where it returned from.

Storywise, Event Horizon is somewhat simplistic, disjointed and ambiguous, but what it sometimes lacks in narrative it more than makes up for in tone. This is a deliberately paced, creepy-ass movie that establishes a feeling of dread in the very first scene and maintains it throughout. This is also arguably the first movie since the original Alien that makes space seem like a shitty place to be, especially since the crew of the Lewis & Clark have traveled way too far into the outer reaches of our solar system for their own good. And unlike every other Anderson film, there’s a lot of attention paid to the characters themselves. We learn enough about each one that, when something horrible does happen to them, their fate has more impact.

In addition, the movie simply looks scary. In terms of establishing a mood, it may be the best looking sci-fi/horror movie since Alien. The Event Horizon itself is an ominously creepy ship and becomes character in its own right, just like the Overlook Hotel in The Shining.

Sure, there are plenty of the usual horror tricks (false scares, gratuitous gore, and a little too much exposition at the end), but you could place such accusations on most horror movies. My point is Event Horizon may not be a classic, but it is the one movie where Paul W.S. Anderson displayed skills as a true filmmaker to create something dark, moody and foreboding without dumbing things down for the video game crowd. Like my awesome bowling round where I beat my dad, he hasn’t done anything worth a shit since, meaning Event Horizon was either a happy accident, or he just stopped giving a damn once the Resident Evil movies inflated his bank account. Personally, I’d like to think it’s the former, because even now, whenever I go bowling, I aspire to reach the same glory as that one time I beat my dad, the game’s Ridley Scott. I like to think I still have another great game in me, even if I have no idea how to achieve it.

Maybe Paul W.S. Anderson does too.

December 21, 2012

2012 and the Problem with Expiration Dates


Starring John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Danny Glover, Woody Harrelson. Directed by Roland Emmerich. 2009, 158 min).

Today is December 21, 2012. The end of days according to the Mayan calendar. Of course, we're still here. No solar flare erupted to heat up Earth's core; no cataclysmic tidal waves; no super-volcanic eruptions. I haven't watched the news yet today, but I'm pretty certain L.A.didn't slide into the sea either.

I'm glad we're all still here, mainly because season three of The Walking Dead isn't over yet. On the down side, though, it looks like I'll have to retract the letter of resignation I submitted to my boss, which may not be easy since it consisted of only two words: suck and it.

Despite the plethora of doomsday documentaries popping up on the History Channel over the past few weeks (maybe it should be called the We're History Channel), I don't think too many folks spent sleepless nights worried about 12/21/12. If that were true, most of us would have spent yesterday crapping ourselves on an hourly basis. Doomsday years have come and gone over the centuries, and I'm looking forward to the next predicted one. Personally, I'm putting my money of 2036, when there's a giant asteroid out there which has the remote possibility of hitting us (really, look it up). We love watching ourselves die as a species, and director Roland Emmerich has made a decent living showing us our possible extinction.

But as entertainment, the end of the world is always fun.  My personal favorite of his is The Day After Tomorrow, which may play fast and loose with science, but comes across as at-least being plausible.

But that was just a warm-up for 2012, arguably the mother of all disaster movies. It's spectacular depiction of our global demise reaches orgasmic levels every fifteen minutes or so, making Armageddon look like a Saturday night, SyFy channel cheesefest. It's also the funniest disaster movie since Twilight. Only a movie like this would have a limo driver/failed author (John Cusack) repeatedly out-run volcanic eruptions, catastrophic quakes and save his family to safety by steering a sports car from the rear of a crashing plane. Only a movie like this would have us believe entire continents could shift halfway around the world in just a few short days. Only a movie like this would let Woody Harrelson steal the entire movie right out from under everyone else's noses.

Its title and timing couldn't have been more perfect. Playing off the hype and speculation surrounding the Mayan calendar (which was becoming part of the public consciousness back in 2009), 2012 was ingeniously marketed, even though the title really has nothing to do with the story at all. The movie could have taken place during any year. It is obvious 2012 was intended to be relevant back when its title date was still the possible future.

One of the few positives of the impending apocalypse.
The problem is time always marches on, and this ominously-titled epic has passed its expiration date. This possible future is now our past. I understand why the makers of 2012 did what they did, but at the same time, part of me wonders why they gave it such a short expiration date. Maybe they knew their movie was nothing more than easily digestible crap and never created to stand the test of time. And that's fine, I guess, but it has me wondering why any filmmaker feels the need to set their speculative sci-fi during a specific year.

For example, when Stanley Kurick collaborated with Arthur C. Clarke to write 2001: A Space Odyssey, is there any real reason an actual date needed to be incorporated into the story? 2001 came and went and we, as a species, still haven't managed to travel beyond the moon. The movie was based on Clarke’s story, "The Sentinel," a timeless title that, if the film was named as such, newbies watching it wouldn’t think of it as a product of its time. Think about any film depicting a specific year in the future...does knowing the year make it better? And when that future date comes and goes, doesn't it - even a little bit - make said-film sort-of a relic, regardless of how awesome it is?

Alas, there's something just a little bit sad when any future depicted in a film eventually becomes the distant past. It makes me ominously aware of just how fast time really passes. The urban hellhole of Escape from New York was set in the distant future of 1997...sixteen years ago. Hell, I still fondly remember seeing it in 1981 like it was yesterday. On a related note...still more expiration dates of modern classics are fast approaching, such as Soylent Green (2022), Back to the Future II (2015) and Blade Runner (2019).

So, considering the whole Mayan calendar angle has nothing to do with the events in 2012, I’m still surprised the filmmakers would place an early expiration date on a film which must have cost more cash than every disaster movie ever made. Why not let the future be more ambiguous? Why not make sure your movie seems timely and relevant several years later?

As it stands, 2012 is still fun, still as unintentionally funny as ever. But as of now, on 12/21/12, the movie is now part of our collective past. From today on forward, anyone seeing it for the first time will look at it the way I first watched movies like Forbidden Planet, which showed mankind first-venturing into space “in the later half of the 21st Century.”

December 17, 2012

LAW ABIDING CITIZEN: An Awesomely Epic Fail


Starrring Jamie Foxx, Gerard Butler, Bruce McGill, Colm Meaney, Regina Hall, Leslie Bibb. Directed by F. Gary Gray. (2009, 108 min).

I should probably start by saying I really liked Law Abiding Citizen. No, it ain’t a great film, but it may be my favorite guilty pleasure since Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. It is without-a-doubt the best revenge fantasy I’ve ever seen.

But the problem is I don't think it was meant to be a revenge fantasy. For me, the movie is rousing for reasons its makers probably didn't intend.

Gerard Butler plays Clyde Shelton, a family man who’s the victim of a home invasion, and brutally stabbed before seeing his wife and daughter violently murdered. The perps are eventually caught, but the one who did all of the raping and killing cuts a deal with District Attorney Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) for a commuted sentence, which sends his hapless accomplice to death row. Right from the get-go, Rice comes across as an ambitious & cocky lawyer who’s more concerned about his conviction percentage than true justice, or the happiness of his own family.

Fast forward ten years, and Shelton begins knocking off everyone associated with the case in a variety of creatively outlandish ways. Even after he willingly surrenders to authorities, the slaughter continues. Rice and the police try their best to thwart him, but Shelton is continually one step ahead. He must have some kind of psychic talent to always know exactly when and where his next targets will be, long before they even get there. For example, there must be at least a few dozen cemeteries in the tiny burg of Philadelphia, but Sheldon knows exactly where his most recent victim will be buried so he can kill his next target. And how exactly does he manage to get-hold of a judge's cell phone in order to install the explosive that tears half her head off? Then there's the ridiculous revelation which explains how Shelton managed to kill all these folks while in prison. But we're not supposed to get hung-up on lapses in logic, and for the most part, I didn't. That's not the problem with the movie anyway. I enjoy wonderfully-dumb cat & mouse thrillers as much as the next guy.

"Yeah, I made some shitty movies, too.
But I've still got an Oscar on my shelf."
The problem is, after the brutal opening scene where Shelton's family is killed and justice is not served, we totally sympathize with him. But later, the movie does an about-face and tries really hard to establish him as the villain, a super-intelligent cross between Hannibal Lecter and John Kramer. By this time, however, it's too late...I've already chosen sides. Unlike other movie villains we root for because their evil is so entertaining, I just can't bring myself to see Shelton as the bad guy at all. He watched his family raped and murdered, was betrayed by his lawyer (the movie's hero) and his assailant got off practically scott free. Fuckin' A, he's gonna want revenge.

When Shelton starts his vengeance, I loved seeing his victims get what they deserved. Maybe it's the husband and father in me, but I'd want to dismember the asshole to took away my family, I'd want to get even with everyone who got him off the hook, and I'd sure as hell want to torment the lawyer who was supposed to give me justice. And I'd probably be crazy enough not to care about any collateral damage I caused. Most of all, I'd want to get away with it and spend the rest of my life content in the knowledge that I avenged my family by making the right people suffer. So yeah, the whole time, I rooted for Shelton the way we all rooted for Rocky Balboa to knock out Apollo Creed.

Maybe I would have seen it differently if the Nick Rice character was at least likable, but he's arrogant, somewhat indifferent to Shelton's pain and seems more concerned with his job than his own family. After Shelton mails a video to Rice's house showing the slow torture of his first victim, which is first viewed by his daughter, all Rice does (over the phone) is instruct his terrified wife to tell the girl it was just a horror movie. I don't know about you, but if a super-intelligent psycho was able to find my family that easily, I'd have dropped everything and ran home to get them the hell out of the house.

There simply isn't much effort made to make me care about Rice. And just because Shelton's revenge is brutal doesn't mean it's necessarily wrong, especially since it's the movie's 'hero' who let him down in the first place. At the climax, there's a twist which is obviously intended to be an audience-rousing gotcha, but all I wanted was for Shelton to finish the job he set-out to do. For me, he is every bit the hero that Paul Kersey was in Death Wish...only with better weapons.

I dunno...is it me? Am I the one who's wired wrong, or did the makers of Law Abiding Citizen epically fail by making its victim and villain the same guy? I guess it doesn't matter, since I'm probably over-analyzing a movie that shouldn't be scrutinized too deeply to begin with. It kicks-ass anyway, and if I'm cheering for the wrong guy, so be it.

December 9, 2012

PROM NIGHT (1980) and the Affliction of Hindsight


Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, Anne-Marie Martin, Casey Stevens, Robert A. Silverman, Michael Tough, Antoinette Bower. Directed by Paul Lynch. (1980, 90 min).

Have you ever looked back at your life at some seemingly insignificant moment and wondered how things would have turned out if you had simply said or done something different, for better or worse? Yeah, me too.

Have you ever thought about a girl you may have dated once or twice as a teenager, and briefly pondered what would have happened if you had ended up falling in love back then? Yeah, me too.

And when recalling those times, was there ever a girl who was so mature, sweet and unbelievably hot that, even though she agreed to go out with you, deep down inside, you knew she was way out of your league? Yeah, me too.

And that date ended up being the only one because your so-called charm failed to impress her in any way whatsoever (and, in fact, the date ends earlier than you planned)? Yeah, me too.

And today, a tiny part of you likes to imagine this charming, drop-dead gorgeous girl ending up being a crack whore, donating plasma to buy cigarettes and feeding her six kids with food stamps, just so you can feel better about yourself after blowing your chance all those years ago? Yeah, me too.

For me, that girl was Linda, who I met during my summer job walking greyhounds before races. At least, I think Linda was her name...it's been over thirty years, and it ain't like I've been pining for her ever since. But 1980's Prom Night still vividly sticks in my memory because that was the movie I took her to, and Linda was, without-a-doubt, the prettiest girl who ever agreed to go out with me during high school. It's also the one date I remember not going well at all. With hindsight (an affliction which develops around the same time as pattern baldness, and just about as welcome), I can understand why we were doomed after one date, and it was all my fault. I was overzealous and had a misguided sense of what would impress this girl.

I must have been really excited for this date because I showed up way too early and ended up sitting on her living room sofa watching a Battlestar Galactica rerun while she got ready. She finally emerged from the bedroom a half-hour later, dressed pretty damn sophisticated for a 17 year old, and God, was she beautiful! Have you ever watched a NASCAR race, and during the National Anthem, seen the goofy-looking, good-ole-boy drivers standing next to their smokin’ hot trophy wives and wondered how the hell they ever hooked up? That’s the best analogy I can think of for how inadequate I suddenly felt sitting there in blue jeans and my letterman jacket. I could have sworn I told her this was just pizza and a movie, but she was dressed like we had reservations at a five-star bistro.

Anyway, Linda was ready, but suddenly I wasn’t because I’d gotten sucked into the Galactica episode and asked if we could stay until it was over. It would mean we’d have to catch the movie at a later time, but I was in no hurry. It never occurred to me she didn’t want to sit through the show. While I took up space on her sofa, Linda went into the kitchen and called one of her friends. During a commercial, I threw a glance back at her. She looked bored.

So I gave in, feeling a bit self conscious after allowing my inner geek to show (yeah, I was one of the few who actually liked the original Battlestar Galactica, cheesy as it was), which I usually kept as well-hidden as the Playboys under my mattress. But I put on a great front and tried look like I couldn’t care less whether or not Starbuck and his new Cylon ally escaped that remote planet alive, and off we went before I could see how things turned out.

When Linda asked where we were going, I excitedly told her we were heading to the Rose Moyer Theater to see Prom Night. Most of the time, a teen slasher flick was a good choice for a date, even those as predictable and derivative as this one. They’re are aimed at people our age, don’t require much brain power to enjoy and there was always the possibility of making out in-between axe killings. But I could tell by Linda's blank stare that Prom Night wasn't what she had in-mind. She simply nodded and said, "Okay."

On the way, I drove fast. Not because I was in a hurry, but for some reason, I had it in my head that driving fast was cool, and I really wanted Linda to think I was cool. Maybe I was trying to compensate for previously letting my inner-geek escape by showing her my rebellious side. That is, until Linda politely asked me to slow down. Feeling suddenly stupid, I humbly let off the gas and we puttered the rest of the way to the theater.

I tried to engage in some small talk during the drive, but it seemed awkward & forced, and all my attempts at humor totally bombed. Everything in my arsenal that usually went over great with other dates wasn't working. With pesky hindsight rearing its ugly head again, we obviously didn't have much in common; Linda was far more mature than me or any girl I'd dated before. But I was still so blown away by this perfect female specimen sitting next to me that I kept plugging away, desperately looking for some common ground. I was almost relieved once we got to the theater, bought tickets and settled into our seats. For the next 90 minutes at least, nothing stupid or asinine would fly from my mouth.

Or so I thought.

Along with the usual trailers, there was a short public service ad, about a young woman's menstrual cycle if I remember correctly. Because the subject involved female genitalia, the ad instigated a lot of laughter from the audience, including me. I can't speak for the other yahoos in the theater, but the sheer inappropriate randomness of this ad struck me as funny.

“Oh man,” I remember giggling out loud. “That’s hilarious!”

“No it’s not,” Linda replied, not-at-all amused by the laughter and probably speaking on behalf of everyone else of her gender in the auditorium. “It’s embarrassing.”

I suddenly wanted to crawl into a hole and die. Way to let your maturity show, Dave!

"Hey...you feel a draft in here?"
Finally (thank Christ), the movie started, and even if you've never seen Prom Night, you've probably seen Prom Night. It's yet-another in a long line of cookie-cutter slasher movies which spewed into theaters in the wake of Halloween and Friday the 13th. Though not the worst of its ilk, there isn't a hell of a lot to distinguish it either, other than its cast, which includes Leslie Nielsen before Airplane! made him relevant again, and Jamie Lee Curtis, once again playing a the world's oldest high school senior (as pretty-much the same character as in Halloween). As usual, several teenagers are killed off one-by-one by an unseen-until-the-end loony as revenge for a childhood prank that resulted in a kid's death. Unless this is the first slasher movie you've ever seen, there are absolutely no surprises (unless you count the unfortunate girl whose throat is slashed right after she just actually said no to having sex, a scene which looks like it was humiliating for the actress). I can only imagine what Linda was thinking...probably that I should have chosen Ordinary People, playing in the theater next door.

Although it inspired several in-name-only sequels, Prom Night was one of those movies most folks probably forgot roughly ten minutes after leaving the theater. Except for me, of course. No, the movie itself didn't resonate much, but the whole time, I was well-aware that Linda was decidedly not enjoying the movie or my company. She was just marking time until the end credits rolled, when she (very politely) asked if I would take her home. So that's what I did, before we had a chance to share a pizza. She gave me an obligatory peck on the cheek before climbing from the car. Soon after, I was back in my bedroom listening to Rush on my headphones before it was even eleven o'clock.

Aside from one or two  follow-up phone calls that went nowhere, that was it for me and Linda. I had my shot and blew it, and Prom Night stands as a reminder. I’m about 90% certain she eventually hooked up with a Mitt Romney-looking stockbroker, got married, had 2.5 angelic kids and now spends her weekends redesigning her living room. Probably not the crack-whore I sometimes like to imagine she became as payback for being unimpressed with me.

And, nice as she was, I don't really miss Linda or anything. And, no, I don't hope she's a crack-whore (being a hopeless, lonely Valium addict would suffice). This is simply one of those times we have all experienced, when just a small part of us wouldn’t mind having a shot at a do-over.