Author Archives: Alex Good

Team America: World Police (2004)

*. Team America: World Police is a product of the same partnership that gave us the television series South Park: director Trey Parker and writers Parker, Matt Stone, and Pam Brady. And in both cases the comic hook is the same: cartoons or puppets doing “adult” things like swearing a lot and having sex. There’s some political satire and observational humour on American culture, but that shocking incongruity is what provides the foundation.
*. I’m not a big fan of South Park, and don’t watch it except by accident, but I have seen some funny episodes. Funnier, at least, than anything in Team America: World Police. This isn’t a bad movie — the puppetry, or Supermarionation as its known as in the business — is actually quite good and the effects are well produced and fun in their obviously fake way. I especially liked the giant black panthers. But as comedy it’s crudely written and not funny at all.
*. To begin with the shock factor I mentioned, here you’ll see puppets dropping loads of bombs and f-bombs, vomiting copiously, having their heads blown into pulpy messes, and fucking in every different kind of position (in the uncut DVD version anyway), including peeing and shitting on each other. Is any of that funny? I guess it depends on how old you are or how easily you shock. I wasn’t offended by any of it, but I wasn’t laughing.

*. Then there is the satire. This aims to be “fair and balanced” by attacking both rah-rah American patriotism (the team’s theme music is “America, fuck yeah!”) and left-wing Hollywood celebrities. But I thought all of this was overplayed. I mean, I get the jokes, but how funny are they? Look at the gung-ho Americans destroying the world in order to save it! Look at the precious actors — who are all members of the Film Actors Guild. That’s F.A.G. They even spell it out for you. Get it? Again: I’m not offended by any of this. But is it funny?
*. My sense is that sending up Hollywood might have been funny but it all seems tired now, and the puppets don’t look or sound at all like their models (not that surprising, as they’re all voiced by Parker). Without their being identified I doubt I could have recognized one of them.
*. Then there is the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. An obvious comic butt with his huge glasses and silly jumpsuits, he also turns his l’s into r’s in stereotypical Asian speech. I wanted to laugh at this guy. But what good lines does he have? The song where he complains about being “ronery”?
*. So I get it. I don’t think I’m missing anything here. I think it would be hard in a film this broad to miss anything. But maybe it’s just not my thing. It’s an “adult” movie in a way that has to use the quotation marks, but it’s not for grown-ups.

Phantom Lady (1944)

*. I think we’re all familiar with the femme fatale in film noir. Less celebrated, because far less common, is her opposite. I don’t know if this character has a name, but she is a dominant force for good who doesn’t aim at the destruction of the sappy male lead but rather works to effect his salvation.
*. Lucille Ball’s character in The Dark Corner is one such figure, and in this movie “Kansas” Richman, played by Ella Raines, is an even stronger example of the type. When her boss, a man she has long carried a torch for, is sent to death row for the murder of his wife she has to prove his innocence by locating a “phantom lady” who can provide him with an alibi.

*. In his essay on Phantom Lady Alastair Phillips begins by noting how the novel the film was based on was by Cornell Woolrich (under the pseudonym William Irish), who had also written the short story that inspired Rear Window, and that it had been produced by Hitchcock’s former secretary Joan Harrison. This leads to the following observation: “both films have similarly passive male leads and active female protagonists called upon to take a determining performative role in order to resolve the central narrative enigma.”
*. I think we can state what’s going on here in even stronger terms. Jeff is somewhat passive in Rear Window (he does what he can, given the condition he’s in), but Scott Henderson (Alan Curtis) is totally absent throughout most of Phantom Lady, being in jail awaiting execution. A couple of years later, in Black Angel (which basically has the same story, also by Cornell Woolrich), the female lead would at least have the assistance of a male partner. But here the police detective Burgess (Thomas Gomez) is no help to Kansas at all in her investigations. Kansas is a one-woman show, making the corny ending with her glowing over Scott’s proposal literally being dictated to her by way of Dictaphone, even more ridiculous than it is conventional.

*. The rest of the movie is very uneven, though Robert Siodmak’s very capable direction gives a touch of style and coherence. The main problems have to do with the plot, which sort of wanders in and out of focus. Scott is convicted on what seems to be some pretty flimsy evidence. In fact, I’m not sure what evidence there was, aside from his being married to the murdered woman. The cops who show up at his apartment, however, are so sleazy that I wouldn’t put it past them to have planted something.
*. The crazed killer, imaginatively rendered by a game Franchot Tone, has no real motivation, aside from being a psycho artist. Best not to trust those types. Indeed, the movie has a pretty casual attitude toward psychology, from the detective’s theorizing over paranoiacs to the depressed, or just excessively grieving, Miss Terry (that is: “mystery”).
*. But there are highlights as well. Elisha Cook, Jr. steals every scene he’s in, as per usual. Here he’s a skirt-chasing drummer who memorably beats himself off at a night club when the leggy Kansas goes into vamp mode. Apparently there is some argument over whether Dave Coleman or Buddy Rich were playing the drums on the soundtrack. That people puzzle over this is natural if you watch Cook, because he obviously isn’t playing the drums.

*. I’m not much of a car guy, but my eyes did widen a bit at Franchot Tone’s ride. Trivia tells me it’s a 1941 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible De Luxe Coupe. Wow.
*. Presenting the trial as a series of reaction shots was kind of neat. What really impressed me though was the clerk taking shorthand. How many people even know shorthand today? I have to think that’s a vanishing skill, if not effectively extinct.
*. Above average noir, with enough original elements (even if they are kind of silly) to be entertaining. Raines is good in the lead. There are some effective sequences, including one really good pursuit that winds up on an elevated train platform. The story doesn’t hold together at all, but it’s a quick bit of fun.

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

*. With Halloween 3: Season of the Witch John Carpenter and Debra Hill had tried to steer the franchise in a different direction, meaning away from cookie-cutter, slasher-killer sequels. That hadn’t worked, and when they were approached to do Halloween 4 Carpenter and co-writer Dennis Etchison had come up with an idea for Michael Myers being a sort of phantom presence in Haddonfield. Producer Moustapha Akkad was having none of that, insisting on the (drum roll) return of Michael Myers. Hill and Carpenter bailed, leaving Akkad to get what he wanted, which was a rehash of the first Halloween. Hence Halloween 4.
*. It’s a good thing Akkad was so undemanding. Because the Writers Guild was just about to go on strike Alan B. McElroy had to come up with a script, from concept to final draft, in eleven days. That didn’t leave a lot of room for originality. But originality was not the goal.
*. So Halloween 4 picks up ten years after the end of Halloween 2, with Michael reviving from a decade-long coma he was sent into as a result of being blown up and burned to a crisp at the end of that film. Upon awakening he decides to head back to Haddonfield to kill his niece, the daughter of the now deceased Laurie Strode.
*. If you’re a fan of this franchise you’ll realize that this doesn’t make sense, since Laurie Strode is very much alive in later movies. This is what I mean when I call the Halloween movies the most chaotic of all the horror franchises. The way these inconsistencies are explained is by way of “retconning,” a word I was previously unfamiliar with. It’s short for retroactive continuity, and refers to the adjustment of facts, or their flat contradiction, in movie sequels. I’m not sure such a term applies, or is necessary, in the case of the Halloween series, as there is no explanation attempted for any of the major discontinuities. They were just doing whatever they wanted.
*. There’s not much to say here, given that it’s just an attempt to do again what had already been done. Danielle Harris does a good turn as Michael’s niece. Some of the exterior photography is nice. I particularly like the scene where they discover the wrecked ambulance in the river. I also like the bait-and-switch where you think the man sitting in the chair with the shotgun will turn out to be the murdered deputy but it’s actually Michael.
*. Aside from this, it’s all pretty grim. Michael himself isn’t much of a presence (or “Shape,” as he’s affectionately known). He’s played by two different actors in a terrible mask that they tried desperately to make look like the one in the first film. This isn’t just trivia; it looks really bad.
*. Some carryovers are downright bizarre. Why does the sheriff’s sexy daughter refuse to put on some pants? Isn’t that weird? And again we have the bizarre house with doors that lock on the outside, so that everybody inside is trapped. What’s up with that?
*. I didn’t think there were any good kills. I think the girl being speared with a shotgun is considered the highlight, but the only interesting thing I found about that was Michael’s refusal to use a gun. Later he’ll take the shotgun he wrests from the useless boyfriend and casually toss it away. He likes to kill his victims the old-fashioned way.
*. It’s a movie that has its fans. Personally I didn’t find it nearly as interesting as Halloween 3, but the box office was back on track, proving Akkad right in his assumption that audiences just wanted more of the same. And that was just what they were going to get.

The Double (2013)

*. The obvious place to start is to say that this is a film based on the Dostoyevsky novella The Double, and then to say that it is isn’t, really.
*. It is a movie about a double or doppelgänger and shares a couple of minor plot points with Dostoyevsky’s tale, but that’s about it. Meanwhile, the divergences are pretty big. Dostoyevsky’s Golyadkin doesn’t have a girlfriend, for example, or a mother that we meet. He also doesn’t attempt suicide. What he has instead of all this is a shrink, a character that’s missing here.
*. Visually, it’s less like anything you imagined Dostoyevsky would look like and more like another vision of Kafka by way of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. It looks great — the colour and lighting in particular achieves a kind of chiaroscuro reminiscent of Caravaggio’s tenebrism — but it isn’t terribly original in terms of the set design and decoration. We’ve been here before.

*. In terms of plot the main change is the introduction of an element of sexual humiliation. James Simon is the alpha-male stud that the milksop Simon James dreams of becoming. This is more The Nutty Professor or Mad Men territory than The Double (James Simon is a kind of Don Draper, usurping an identity not his own). Dostoyevsky’s story was more about class humiliation than sexual one-upmanship, and the change is interesting, since class is an increasingly important issue in contemporary society and sex (I think) less so.
*. But then, it’s not a movie that seems interested in commenting on the way we live now. It intentionally sets itself in a time and place that looks a bit like Soviet-era Eastern Europe, where the culture (music, TV shows) and technology seem part of a civilization that was never quite our own. I don’t know if this dilutes its message or makes it stronger.
*. I think Ty Burr, writing in the Boston Globe, had something very interesting to say in this regard: “It’s a noble try, but the problem is that Ayoade’s modern hell feels so. . . 20th century. The themes and visual ideas that sustain the Kafka/Orwell/Gilliam dystopian vision — the nightmare bureaucracies that imprison us — have become outdated in a world where we’re liberated yet enslaved by our consumer technology, personally empowered for maximum self-expression yet, more than ever, tiny widgets at the mercy of forces that watch us and re-sell us. The Double is a striking piece of work, but it’s nostalgic for a kind of paranoia that may no longer exist. There are different things to frighten us now. Maybe Richard Ayoade should start making movies about them.”

*. And yet director Richard Ayoade wasn’t going for an anti-authoritarian message. The Colonel (a cameo James Fox) even seems like a decent enough guy in the end and not the leader of a ruthless corporatist/totalitarian state. In an interview included with the DVD Ayoade explains that the particular vision of hell being described here consists of the world’s simple indifference to Simon’s suffering. Or really just indifference to Simon period. I would, however, argue that this is a very twentieth-century anxiety as well, albeit perhaps magnified in our own time.
*. Would it have been a more effective film if they’d played it straight, whatever playing such a story straight might mean? I don’t know. I guess it’s meant to be a nightmare and it does a good job with that. Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska both look odd enough to belong in such a strange, old-fashioned world, even if their love story is corny and its resolution too tidy. Their weirdness does make it all seem less dangerous though.

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

*. I understand the love for Wes Anderson. That such a young director could make movies so polished, assured, and informed by such a knowledge of the entire history of film is remarkable. There is nothing in The Royal Tenenbaums, or his previous film Rushmore (1998) for that matter, that feels out of place. On repeated viewings you will see more and more at work, at least in the visuals.
*. Having said all that, as quickly as possible, I’ll now say I’m not a fan. I like Anderson’s movies but I don’t love them. This is at least in part because they seem so consciously designed to be liked.

*. What do I mean? Well, by accident I was rewatching this movie the same week I watched Left Behind (the one starring Nicolas Cage). The two films have probably never been associated in anyone’s head, but I was struck by how similar they felt. What I said about Left Behind (and it’s an observation others made) is that it has not just the look but the emotional weight of a Hallmark Theater production. Turning to The Royal Tenenbaums just a couple of days later I was struck by how similar it was in this respect. It is polished, yes, but to a point where everything seems artificial, while carrying a weightless, feel-good message about family, love, and then through love finding redemption.
*. The Tenenbaums are a dysfunctional family, with a penchant (inherited from patriarch Royal) for flaming out. But there is no drama. Perhaps taking their lead from Bill Murray, by now an icon of deadpan, the cast take dryness to Murray-esque extremes. Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) is a zombie, and apparently isn’t even on drugs. The Wilson brothers both seem lobotomized. Danny Glover, dressed up in a Kofi Annan uniform, bears a truly unfortunate resemblance to a racist lawn ornament, and has the same stiff impassivity. Etheline (Anjelica Huston) appears to be surprised by feeling. Only Royal (Gene Hackman) and Chas (Ben Stiller) show any humanity at all.

*. This is an ironic twist. We are used to family drama being dramatic. We revel in the bitchiness of family reunions, from The Lion in Winter to Ordinary People. Or we like to watch the fireworks in family comedies like Meet the Parents. But the Tenenbaum clan turns this on its head. They’re eccentrics, but they’re narcotized. There are no fireworks when they get together. They don’t seem to love or hate one another but instead only engage in half-hearted manipulative games.
*. What I thought most lacking was the pain. The Tenenbaum kids are supposed to be damaged, but they don’t feel like survivors of anything. They’re just zeroes. I found it interesting to read that both Hackman and Huston initially turned down their roles unless more material was written for them because they thought their characters lacked depth. I can only imagine how thin they were originally.
*. This thinness is what I find characterizes Anderson’s work. It’s what makes him so popular, and it’s what I don’t like. The Royal Tenenbaums is a very well made movie but it’s also a silly piece of fluff. I began by saying how, on repeated viewings, one can appreciate more and more in its visual texture, its art and design. At the same time, I find less and less actually going on.

Scarecrow Gone Wild (2004)

*. Worst. Scarecrow. Ever.
*. The “star” of the first Scarecrow movie was Tiffany Shepis, a name not many people will recognize but someone who does have a following as a scream queen in low-budget horror efforts. The star (I think I can fairly say it this time without quotation marks) of Scarecrow Slayer was Tony Todd, a name and face most horror fans will recognize from Candyman and the Final Destination movies.
*. The star, or “star,” of Scarecrow Gone Wild is “UFC Hall of Famer” Ken Shamrock. Unlike Shepis and Todd, Shamrock is not an actor. Nor, outside of fans of MMA, is he as well known. That said, he does as well in the acting department as anyone else in the cast here. This gives some idea of the trajectory the Scarecrow franchise followed, even after starting out at the bottom.
*. When I call this the worst Scarecrow ever I’m not just talking about the worst Scarecrow movie. The Scarecrow himself is the worst ever. For some reason he’s just a guy wearing an obvious scarecrow mask, of the kind that pulls down over your head, flaring out around the neck. What gives? The franchise had switched to a different production company so maybe they were trying to cut costs. I don’t know. I don’t care.
*. The gore effects are worthless. When people are disembowelled their guts just sit on top of their stomachs in a neat pile. Meanwhile, the rest of the movie consists of a lot of annoying bickering among young people (Shamrock’s part is little more than a cameo). There are some boobs on display though, and a scene where a couple of the jocks piss all over the face of a guy they buried in sand. No joke. This really happens.
*. I thought the title was kind of cute, conjuring up thoughts of the Scarecrow going crazy at Fort Lauderdale during Spring Break, but all we end up getting is a quick trip by the gang to a deserted beach for a party that the Scarecrow crashes. Ho-hum. I wonder just how low the budget was on this one. I mean, nothing here looks like it could have cost very much.
*. No more flips and tumbling rolls. And the Scarecrow doesn’t speak. But he does whistle. And he can swim. Figure that out.
*. The ending was a bit unexpected, though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it interesting. Sadly, by that time I was so bored and frankly angry with Scarecrow Gone Wild that I just wanted it to end. Not caring what the end was, so long as some end might be, to paraphrase Browning’s Child Roland.
*. Absolute garbage. Bad without coming close to being so bad it’s good. Luckily, this seemed to be it for the man of straw. At least we can hope.

Scarecrow Slayer (2003)

*. I didn’t have my hopes up. To be more precise, I was just wondering if it could possibly be any worse than Scarecrow.
*. It should have met my low expectations. The story isn’t that bad (I shudder as I write that, but keep in mind such a judgement is relative). There’s no continuity with Scarecrow but instead a vague alternative mythology is introduced which only keeps the idea of the Scarecrow being possessed of the spirit of some unlucky guy who dies at its feet. Then there’s a bunch of college jerks who play at being Marines, which is at least a bit more interesting than the usual gang of jocks. And finally we have Tony Todd in an abbreviated Ahab role. His character should be able to explain what’s going on a bit better, having written several books on the subject, but I’m not sure the screenwriters knew any more than he did.
*. All this might have been OK. Or at least, as I had hoped, no worse than the original. Unfortunately, it’s put across with total technical incompetence. This movie has some of the worst visual effects and lighting I think I’ve ever seen. Meanwhile, it doesn’t need to be said but I’ll say anyway that the acting is at the same level. I’m talking about performances that are so bad they’re immediately annoying. They don’t even have to wear on you.
*. Complete garbage, without even the blessings of a few good kills. But for all that I have trouble saying it’s any worse than Scarecrow. On the whole I’m inclined to think it moves a bit better even if it makes (a lot) less sense. It’s really hard to look at though, and the only people who will find any entertainment value in it will be dedicated craphounds.

Scarecrow (2002)

*. It’s a given that most horror franchises go downhill, and go downhill fast. You can probably count the exceptions to this rule with the fingers on one hand. But most of them do, at least, get off to a somewhat promising start. The first Friday the 13th was OK. The Children of the Corn movies were a long tail of trash, but the original wasn’t bad. The first Leprechaun wasn’t . . . terrible.
*. There have been, as of this writing, three Scarecrow movies (this one was followed quickly by Scarecrow Slayer and Scarecrow Gone Wild), qualifying it as a mini-franchise. This is the first, and it is terrible. When a franchise starts off at the level of the later Children of the Corn entries then you have to wonder why they’re even bothering.
*. The opening credits take a long time to run through, as they throw everyone’s name up there. This establishes what will be a pattern. Despite being a short film (under 90 minutes) there is a lot of filler, from musical cues to cutaways of clouds. Among the many names that get splashed on screen someone may recognize Tiffany Shepis as the last girl. She’s a bit of a scream queen in these low-budget thrillers. The only other name that stuck out, because it comes up three times (for visual effects, make-up, and second unit director), was Anthony C. Ferrante. He’s the guy behind the Sharknado franchise, which he moved on to ten years after this. That’s right, he went on to Sharknado, which was a step up.
*. The story here has a high school loser named Lester who gets killed by the redneck jerk who’s banging his trailer-trash mom. Somehow Lester’s soul transfers into a scarecrow, which then comes to life and starts killing people off in ways that are very quick and uninteresting.
*. The only thing I liked is the appearance of the Scarecrow himself. He does look good. But he has a stupid voice when he probably shouldn’t have been talking at all (he doesn’t in the next movie) and he delivers a lot of stupid lines. When he kills Lester’s mean teacher he says “How’s that for a pop quiz?” When he kills someone else with a shovel he says “Can you dig it?” I don’t think this is supposed to be clever, but rather to make us laugh at how dumb it is.
*. Another aspect of the Scarecrow I couldn’t quite figure out is his penchant for doing gymnastic leaps and somersaults every chance he gets. At one point he even does a whole tumbling roll down the street. I’m not sure why, since this doesn’t strike me as something scarecrows are known for, or that Lester might have been practicing in his spare time. I guess it livens things up a bit though.
*. Well, it was apparently shot in eight days and couldn’t have cost very much. I don’t think there’s much to say about it other than to acknowledge the fact that it exists.

Man Bites Dog (1992)

*. Man Bites Dog (a not-very-literal translation of C’est arrivé près de chez vous) took me by surprise, and delighted me, when I first saw it sometime in the ’90s. So I was a little worried, returning to it, that it wouldn’t hold up.
*. I was happy to find that I liked it even more. The humour has aged well, even with the pervasiveness of the mockumentary form in twenty-first century comedy. There are laughs here that I either didn’t get the first time or had forgotten. This is still a very funny movie.
*. Curiously, the violence wasn’t as extreme as I remembered it. For some reason I had always conflated the eviscerated body of the woman who is gang-raped with the rape itself, so I thought that scene had played out as a necrophilic orgy. I don’t know why. The mind plays funny tricks of magnification and condensation with memory. I even had it in my head that there had been some cannibalism involved at the end of that scene but I was wrong there too. As I’ve had occasion to say before, the movies that play in our heads are unique creations. And they get stranger as we get older.

*. After such an auspicious debut none of the three filmmakers — Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel and Benoît Poelvoorde, who wrote, produced, directed, and starred — went on to do all that much. Belvaux committed suicide in 2006, but I don’t think did anything after this movie. I couldn’t find much information on Bonzel either. Poelvoorde has kept acting, at least in Europe. But I don’t think I’ve seen him in anything.
*. Is that strange? I don’t know. I guess this movie is kind of a one-off sort of thing. As both a succès de scandale and a gimmick picture there was really no obvious next step. What did Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez do after The Blair Witch Project? And that movie made a lot of money.

*. Ben is most often described as a serial killer but if so he’s certainly an odd variation. He doesn’t have any cooling-off period because he doesn’t seem driven by any kind of inner compulsion to kill. While on the job he often seems either indifferent or as though he’s just playing to the camera. Nor is he a hit-man since nobody is paying him. Is he still a professional criminal? It seems unlikely that he’s making enough money robbing people (even if they are old moneybags) to be able to support the kind of playboy lifestyle he affects. Or am I asking too much in expecting his character to add up?
*. Who he most reminds me of is Johnny, the character David Thewlis plays in Naked (which came out just the next year). He’s the guy, a monologue artist, who knows a little bit about a lot of things, which in turn makes him think he knows everything about anything. He’s as ready to hold forth on the mating habits of pigeons as he is on contemporary architecture and building practices, modern poetry, painting, or how to ballast a corpse. As far as world view goes, he is racist and sexist, but with a smile. He doesn’t seem to have any friends but only knows various people he drops in on. Spending a bit of time in his company (say 90 minutes) can be entertaining, but any longer and he’d only bore and annoy.

*. The point, as I take it, mainly has to do with the complicity of the film crew. They’re gradually drawn in, doing things like helping dispose of bodies, but then effectively becoming not just accomplices but underlings. They don’t go along with Ben so much as they’re bossed around by him. I think that’s an important message, as it tells us something about how the media in general operate. A charismatic or entertaining figure like Ben can leverage those qualities and turn the tables on those who thought to use him for their own purposes. Now consider what someone like Ben could do on the Internet with a YouTube channel. Why hasn’t that movie been made yet? Or would there not be any point?

Left Behind (2014)

*. I wonder what the target audience for this movie was. I haven’t read any of the series of bestselling Left Behind novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, and the only person I know who has is someone who has never been inside a church in her life. She just liked the story. So it’s not like they’re only preaching to the choir.
*. At the same time, I don’t think these books are meant to proselytize. There’s certainly no attempt in this movie to make a case for Christianity, premillenialist or otherwise. I’m not sure the Bible is even mentioned, much less quoted from. Mrs. Steele has found Jesus (just in time!), but she never gets a chance to discuss religion with her daughter Chloe. She’s too busy in the kitchen, or gardening. But then, what would be the point of having that little talk? You’re either one of the chosen or you’re not.
*. Nor is there any explanation of how the Rapture operates, aside from the fact that babies and children are all swept up. Which may sound fair to a layperson but which I don’t think is correct theologically. As Gary Goldstein, writing in the Los Angeles Times, put it: “The film’s religious elements are shoehorned in and woefully tossed off. Worse, it’s hard to fathom where director Vic Armstrong and screenwriters Paul Lalonde and John Patus stand — if anywhere — on spiritual matters.”
*. The only point I think worth making here is that, while millions of Americans do believe in the Rapture, it’s a fringe belief, of fairly recent origin and relying on some pretty free interpretation of scripture. So when Captain Rayford Steele (he’s the hero, in case you couldn’t tell from the name) says that his wife knew in advance how this was all going to go down, right to the last detail, you have to wonder where she got the news. Maybe she read the novel.
*. Immediately when this film came out it was heralded not just as one of the worst movies of the year but possibly one of the worst of all time. I don’t know if I’d go that far. It’s bad, but I have to confess I didn’t mind it. I didn’t like it enough to ever want to sit through it again, but it has an innocent, goofy charm.
*. It’s primarily the innocence of a Hallmark production. There’s no violence or gore. The worst thing that happens to Chloe is that she has her shoulder bag snatched by a guy on a motorbike. There’s no bad language, despite the desperate situation the left behind find themselves in. And there aren’t any really bad people left behind either. Martin Klebba is probably the closest thing. The Muslim gentleman on the plane is a decent guy. Too bad he was worshipping the wrong deity. I thought the sexy stewardess (Nicky Whelan) was going to be a villain, a homewrecking Jezebel in a tight skirt and even tighter blouse, but it turns out she hasn’t done the dirty deed with Rayford yet and she didn’t even know he was married! I guess slipping your wedding ring off really does work some of the time. Or else she just hasn’t figured out the Internet yet.
*. Even the guy robbing the store with a shotgun lets Chloe Steele go on her way. The left behind aren’t evil. In fact, they still want to get in good with the Big Guy by saying prayers as their plane is going down. This was the one scene where I broke out laughing. You missed the bus guys!
*. How can you hate a movie so good-natured about the end of the world? Yes, it’s low budget and surprisingly low key. Nicolas Cage just shows up to get paid (apparently $3 million for ten days work). He sleepwalks through the entire film. And sure, I prefer my apocalypses with zombies. But you just have to go along with all the general goofiness. It may not be a much better movie than Battlefield Earth, which did come to mind, but it’s more congenial. Actually, being left behind seems like a pretty good deal. Wouldn’t the world be a nicer place with less people in it? And New York City looking as bright and shiny as Louisiana?
*. Things might have gotten darker during the time of tribulations, or whatever name it goes by, but there was to be no sequel. Given that this was actually the second kick at the can for the series and it failed utterly I suspect it will truly be the end of the line, at least for a while. And that goes for everyone.