Thursday, January 1, 2009

Following the Trail of the Hamster

I've seen three movies in the past two days. And they are all movies that the hamster has seen and liked... So I'm gonna slap all three together into a single review. Here goes:
THE STRANGERS
I don't know what Bryan Bertino's story is. All I know is that this movie is his first shot at writing and directing, and based solely on that evidence, I can infer a few things. First, he's a fan of the original HALLOWEEN. Second, he knows how to scare the pee out of even a horror movie buff. Third, he's got chops. And fourth, I can't wait to see his next movie.

Oh, it's got problems. The narrative is a little convoluted. We had to go back and watch the beginning again to understand everything that happened. [Memo to Mr. Bertino - the voice of a twenty-something woman and that of a pre-teen boy sound very similar] Also, the villains are a bit too superhuman to be believed, but that's being nitpicky.

But when it works, oh boy. The scene that the above picture comes from is a horror fan's dream. Bertino understands, better than almost all other modern horror movie directors, that the scare doesn't come in the BOO!. The scare comes in the quiet. Some of the best parts of THE STRANGERS involve no sound but a scratch on a record player, or the sound of one person breathing. And there is no doubt that the main conceit, that idea that if a bad guy wants to get into your house and hurt you and no dead bolts or cheap window locks are gonna stop him, hits very close to home. It takes a lot to make me check around corners and turn on the lights before walking into a dark room, but I won't deny that I did it a few times later that night.

Three and a half potato sack masks out of five.

BOLT
There's nothing quite as satisfying as going on a date with your five-year-old daughter for sushi and a movie (which is kinda like Siouxsie and the Banshees, only different). In this case, the sushi was just ok, but the movie was great. I feel a little sorry for BOLT (the movie, not the dog). In just about any other year, it would have a shot to be the best animated film. This year it has to compete with WALL-E, and while BOLT was great, it just doesn't compare. But that says more about the greatness of the little grey robot than anything negative about the white dog with the lightning bolt painted on his side.

Is the story ridiculous? Yes. Is it a little cliched in places? Definitely - how many times have we seen the traveling across the country with the superimposed dotted line on a map thing? Probably too many. Did I care? Not at all. There's something about a hamster channeling Chris Farley and a dog with heat-vision that push past convention and travel from the ridiculous to the sublime.

This is definitely the most fun of the three movies. It's a better action movie than the one I'm about to review below, and it's got more heart than any romantic comedy you'll see this year or any. And not even John Travolta can ruin it.

4 Super Barks out of 5.

WANTED
Ok, let's get it out of the way - WANTED blatantly and unapologetically rips off THE MATRIX like Jesse James on a money train, like P. Diddy samples 70s funk, like D.B. Cooper jumping out of an airplane, like, well, I'll stop now. Had to get that off my chest.

WANTED is a 2009 MTV music video. It's fluff - gorgeous, gorgeous fluff. There is no redeeming value to the story. There is no character development worth mentioning. The performances by the big stars are not ones that they'll use of their demo reels 20 years from now. Morgan Freeman, in particular, is just plain ridiculous. Angelina Jolie should be ashamed for collecting a paycheck for this. I think she had three lines (and they were all "Why are you here?!". Did Common even speak? I think the fat knife guy had the most lines, and I couldn't understand most of them...

All of that being said, I like the movie. The visual stuff is rad and the guns are sweet. If you can turn your brain off, the final shoot-out is pretty awesome. Overall, it's the definition of a popcorn movie.

Oh, and why did they have a big meat locker at the textile factory?

2 and a half exploding brains out of 5.

2 comments:

myleswerntz said...

they had the meat locker in the textile factory to keep the needles cold.

duh.

I think, of these three, Bolt is the only one I have much interest in seeing. The Strangers is too much a news story for me: it reminds me of the previews I saw for the Poughkipsie Tapes. And Wanted....eh, I like Jolie okay, but just okay.

the hamster said...

this post titillates me to no end. as i mentioned in my review for SEVEN POUNDS, i like many films that my friends and the critics (whoever those duecebags are) do not like. and i think my love of film stretches this broadly because i forgive so much that i probably should take to heart.

for instance, in THE STRANGERS, once i realized that i was actually nervous and frightened in a packed theatre from a movie, something that rarely happens in horror premieres anymore, then i just didn't care that the killer girl walks up on liv tyler like four times and then the screen goes black, reopening to show liv tyler alive and well and in a different part of the house.

(also, i knew that THE STRANGERS was the real deal when the highschool girl behind me and the wife cried and sobbed throughout the last half of the film. she would sniffle and whisper to her friend, "this is SO real." that's the kind of effect you just don't get watching the film home alone).

also, like john barber's wife's husband said about BOLT, i found myself not caring about the cliches and the dotted map and the miley cyrus country tunes once that hamster showed up on the scene. granted, i realize that there have been far better films in 2008, but BOLT might be top favorite simply because i had more fun seeing this film (twice) in the theatre than in any other film since TRANSFORMERS. i'm a sucker for a good time.

and i completely disagree with john and myles about WANTED: it's totally worth the time. it was a perfect theatre experience. too big. too ridiculous. too far fetched. and too much jolie to fit in a single frame. i thoroughly enjoyed WANTED, and i'm looking forward to seeing it again.

thank you for the walk down memory lane, good sir. i'm glad to know we are similar forgivers in our quest for entertainment.