Testes Flicks

Chick flicks can be viewed comfortably from an angle as I usually lay my head on Rob’s shoulder for maximum bum rubbing access and this is best done in our comfy memory foam enhanced bed. Manly movie fare is a sofa thing. There is still reclining but minimum rubbing. Air popped corn is essential as is surround sound.

On New Year’s Eve day, Rob met BabyD and I for lunch and a sojourn to the movie rental store a few doors down from our Subway dining spot. We rarely pay for dvd’s. There is no need because we don’t care much about seeing films the instant, or as close to that as possible, they are released, and our public library is more than adequately stocked with all manner of viewing matter. But it was the holiday and we decided to splurge.

I let Rob do the majority of the selecting and encouraged him to go as action oriented as he liked, so we have spent the last few evenings sampling from the smorgasbord of he-man delights. Pushing Tin. Iron Man. Hancock and I Am Legend.

One thing about recently released dvd’s is that they contain previews of movies not yet in theatres. Very novel but not very helpful because we use previews to select our next dvd picks, not to plan outings to the nearest multiplex. There was one preview that will compel us to sit among the unwashed on questionably comfortable, and definitely unsanitary, chairs. The summer release of the Star Trek prequel. We are both so there for that one.

Pushing Tin was the first film up and it is an old one. So old in fact that it was on VHS. John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton and a very young Angelina Jolie (back in the days before she went all scary thin and child-collecting). It’s about air traffic controllers in New York City. And you would think that this couldn’t be a guy film except it so is. There is sex without romance. Male pissing contests. Questing for identity in modern white guy fashion.

They billed it a comedy but it is light on laughs and heavy on characters and situations that make you feel like you shouldn’t be looking. The scene where Thornton’s character does karaoke, first singing Bread’s If, while his wife (Jolie) grovels at his groin, and then later with Cusack’s character’s wife (Cate Blanchett) (Muskrat Love should never be inflicted on anyone) made me cringe for the women a bit. You can’t like or feel sorry for or empathise with any of the characters much at all, but it was an interesting look into the air traffic controller’s existence. It may have been pre-Reagan union busting however.

Iron Man was so awesome. I adore Robert Downey Jr. There is a ton of techy drenched scenes that would have been dusty and dry in anyone else’s hands. Gwyneth Paltrow manages to do a bit more acting than she usually does and Jeff Bridges was quite the convincing slimy executive villain.

The action scenes were not excessively long which is a problem with this genre anymore. Chase scenes and wanton destruction stand in for plot and acting so often that action films have lost their appeal for me, but Iron Man balanced story, comedy, serious moments and action very nicely. The Tony Stark character is compelling. His trusty sidekicks are just that and the whole flick was a joy to behold.

Hancock. Odd. I don’t think the immortal story line was revealed in a timely enough manner or explored to my satisfaction, but it worked reasonably well.  Jason Bateman was awesome though I could’ve lived without his widower baggage being dropped onto the plot towards the end. It was a cheap way to tie up a loose bit of plot, and it also perpetuated this annoying Hollywood tendency to canonize those who have lost a spouse or child. In the novel I am reading, Breathing the Ghost Out, one of the main characters is a woman whose 17 year old daughter had been raped and murdered. At one point she is called upon to speak with the grandmother of a boy who is missing and feared abducted. She thinks about how the fact that she suffered such a great loss affected how people saw her as though the grief conferred a wisdom and goodness upon her that other people didn’t have. In the movie Bateman’s character is an idealist who sees good in everyone and wants to change the world and it’s partly explained by his first wife’s death in childbirth. Left a bit of taste in my mouth that I have yet to fully identify.

Will Smith is good in this movie. I think he captures the pain of a being set apart and alone effectively without any of the scene shredding one might expect. He is not likable and yet you do like him, a little. But it spent way too much time on his angst and not enough building to the finale.

The best thing about the film was the way it dealt with the consequences of being superhuman. The destruction is not shrugged off and the dilemma of what a society can do with a person who is seemingly untouchable is interesting.

And then there was I Am Legend. It’s based on a book by Richard Matheson, and in one of its incarnations it was also a movie called The Omega Man with Charleton Heston post- Ape.

Biological agents running amuck is the basis of a lot of great story telling and one of my personal favorites. Twelve Monkeys, which we watched recently, has a bio-terrorism plot base (an awesome movie by the way) and my favorite Stephen King novel, The Stand, is about a mutant flu pandemic caused by government stupidity.

In I Am Legend the mutant germ is caused by a viral cure for cancer, an interesting irony that is well outside the bounds of realism because based on all that I have read – we will never cure cancer and most of what we deem as treatment has long range side-effects for the victims that never really allow them to be free. But the irony is that mankind has caused much of the cancer that exists through dousing our food and air and water with cancer inducing agents and that the “cures”, like in the movie, are simply trading one disease for the possibility of others for most people.

But I will end the digression.

The year is 2012, a no accident reference to the Mayan calendar I would guess, and Smith’s character, Neville*, is supposedly the only survivor of a plague that renders people instantly dead or  bloodsuckingly mutant. His companion, a dog given to him by his daughter before she and his wife escape the city for “safety” roams and hunts with him.

What he hunts mainly is for a cure as he has an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and he ensnares the mutants, who he has come to believe are no longer human, and tests his vaccines on them. In a chilling reference to the concentration camps of the Nazis, Neville records all his experiments and photos of the mutant people he has killed line one wall. In the laboratory scenes, I couldn’t help but think of Dr. Mengele and his experiments on Jewish prisoners. Indeed the mutants are skeletal thin and bald and the comparison jumps off the screen. I don’t know if the filmmakers were trying to make a statement about animal and human medical testing, but it’s there regardless.

Neville eventually discovers a cure  – which the film treats as almost an afterthought – and  then sends it out of the city to help survivors in another enclave he has recently heard about via two survivors who have followed his radio broadcasts to the city. Of course, he sacrifices himself so they can escape safely. This is such a predictable plot device and tiring.  Bruce Willis’ character sacrifices himself too in Twelve Monkeys which, though it brings up interesting speculation on paradoxes and the circular bent of time, was still unsatisfying. Can a person only be a hero if they give up their lives? It’s such an old, old theme. It predates the Christ thing even.

But as an action flick?

At roughly 30 minutes in there is an action-ish bit of deer hunting on the streets of Manhattan, followed by a mostly hard to follow (because Neville is literally in the dark) turn in a mutant infested warehouse. The vast majority of the film reminded Rob of Tom Hanks in Castaway minus the volleyball.

They stripped the story of the vampire/zombie subtext of the original book, so the mutants are simply primitives who roam in packs though one appears to be capable of cunning and attachment while the rest are treated as roadkill – literally.

There also isn’t nearly enough back story to make some of the plot credible to anyone who knows much at all about anatomy or viral illnesses. The two survivors who show up in the last twenty minutes or so bring along the standard – I hear God and he has a plan– religious aura that it seems no end of the world as we know it story can escape. But it’s inclusion seems forced and possibly the result of a thin plot suddenly in search of an ending.

At the end of the movie, Rob concluded that except for Iron Man the whole action flick thing had lost its appeal. He prefers thinking with his movies and that stuff like plausible plot and decent acting were more important than adrenaline rushes. Of course, he had come to this conclusion long ago but had let me think he needed more “man” in his films which is probably good because he tends to be more cognizant of my tastes than I of his when picking films.

We still have a stack of dvds, but have decided that in the future we will stick with the library.

*Oh yeah, the guy’s a widower who, with the whole depopulation of the world thing, has been reduced to flirting with mannequins he set up at a video store to create the illusion he was not alone.

4 thoughts on “Testes Flicks

  1. We watched “The End of the Affair,” a film from about 2001 that was adapted from a Graham Greene novel (one of my favorite authors). Good adult fare. Great sex scenes. Try that one on for size.

    Thanks for the recommendation.

  2. Don’t you love taking the time to watch a movie–even if it leads to a less-than-satisfying end…

    Oh yes, the time spent is with Rob is always worthwhile but the writer in me sometimes has to gnash my teeth a bit at the flimsy story telling.

  3. love the reviews – but strongly recommend you read Matheson’s book. TOTALLY different (godless) ending… much better. Loved the movie, though. but i’m a sucker for any sort of zombie-esque, apocolyptic story…

    That book is ALWAYS checked out at the library, so I may just have to buy it. I do know that it isn’t a rapture inspired. One of the things that always annoys me about this genre is that particular story hook. As if a Great Creator would naturally sweep in and save us from our own stupidity because we were incapable of helping ourselves. Or that the event was caused by God in the first place to wipe the slate clean and test the “righteous”. Sometimes things are our own fault and up to us to fix, if we can.

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