Sitting in the Dark With Strangers 2012: Part One

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film / sitting in the dark with strangers / the spoiler show

Hey there folks, it is once again time for the fifth (!) installment of my annual movie review post! The first few were on facebook, and I actually had to hunt around for them in preparation for this year’s list, because facebook is dumb. If you’d like to check out the previous years’ lists, here’s 2011 and 2010. The list is entirely subjective and somewhat mercurial. Each movie could probably shift around a spot or two as time goes on. I’ll let you know which ones I saw at my favorite theatre, the Metro Cinema at the Garneau.

As always, we start off with the movies I thought were the crappiest of the year. If you’re worried about SPOILERS for these movies try reading a book or something because who cares. They suck. I also might not write anything about a movie if I don’t think I’ll have something insightful (or at least funny) thing to say about it. Some of the release dates might seem a little hinky, but I’m working from the North American release dates on Wikipedia if that answers anything. My list, my rules.

36. The Innkeepers

This is the first movie by horror auteur Ty West that I’ve seen, and while it didn’t thrill me in the slightest (note its chart position), I’m somehow intrigued to see another of his films someday? I don’t really know how that works. This movie was boring and not scary. I can appreciate the attempt at replicating films from the period, but whereas something like Grindhouse synthesized all the best parts of that genre/mode/whathaveyou and then tried to top them, this one attempted to recreate the slow burn of a period film done on the cheap and just fell flat for me. That said, I’m still interested in West’s The House of the Devil, because I think it looks cool. Someday, I guess.

35. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

OUTA takes the idea of a police procedural to a whole new level/low by essentially setting its investigation in two and a half hours of real time. I probably wasn’t in the best mood to watch this one, and the visual presentation at the theatre was compromised by a really bad digital transfer, so I couldn’t even enjoy the assumed pleasures of  misty landscape photography and the massive moustaches that tamed them. This is a highly subjective choice for me, as the movie’s probably not all that bad, but it got under my skin somehow as something I didn’t like. Sue me. Here’s a great tweet from my friend that explains it quite nicely.

34. Hit and Run

A strange combination I’d never seen before, I’ll give it that: a car chase/crime movie meets a relationship workshop. Dax Shepard and Kirsten Bell are a couple who’ve recently come to an impasse in their relationship. While he’s happy living a bucolic rural lifestyle, Bell has the opportunity of a lifetime to teach conflict resolution at a prestigious college. Shepard would like to support her, but he’s a former getaway driver who’s in the witness protection program after a heist gone bad. When a deadline is placed on Bell’s opportunity, Shepard has no choice but to drive her there, even though his old enemy Bradley Cooper lies in wait.

Honestly, this movie just felt like an excuse for Shepard to drive around in fun cars and spend time with his fiance Bell. He apparently did the stunt driving himself, which I guess is pretty cool, but doesn’t really make for a movie per se. Also, I’ve never lived in the Southland, but it couldn’t be that far between their town and where the college was, could it? This may be my Canadian Prairie upbringing kicking in, but it doesn’t seem like it’d take more than 8 hours of driving or so? Not three days or whatever it was.

33. The Dark Knight Rises

Talk about a disappointment, especially considering how we devoted a whole episode of The Spoiler Show to hyping ourselves up about it. The first two Nolan-era Batman movies were pretty decent (I actually prefer Batman Begins to the much more lauded Dark Knight), but this one just took the wheels off the bus and then just sat there for two and a half goddamn hours. In much the same way as Stockholm Syndrome set in as I watched the similarly shitty Spider-Man 3, the villain Bane was the only thing I can think back on and enjoy as the heroes were pretty awfully done overall. This isn’t to say that Tom Hardy’s Bane was some sort of coup either, I could only imagine that the recording sessions where they got the voice down consisted of him getting half-cut, balancing a spoon on his nose and attempting to do a Sean Connery accent. Fun, but not scary or anything. His villainous plan was ridiculous and dumb, and Batman spent two thirds of the movie coming back from injuries (nothing undercuts the ending of The Dark Knight more than the realization that Batman basically retired after Harvey shot him. Retired and hobbled around his mansion for 8 years! What a pussy!)

What I was looking for in TDKR was what I’m sure is now antithetical to Nolan’s spandex-free aesthetic. I’d like to see a procedural approach to Batman, one where we get to revel in him scaring the shit out of criminals, solve mysteries with his wits and crime computer, and hook up with beautiful ladies, which I will admit is one of the few bits they did do in this one. There was a pretty cool part with him taking out a crook as a strobe light flashes, but compared to even the modicum of crime fighting found in even Batman Begins this wasn’t much. This “Honest Trailer” says it all better than I can really.

32. Prometheus

We already talked about this at length on The Spoiler Show Episode Five, but as you could probably tell by its ranking, Prometheus has not really risen much in my estimation. It’s a shame, really. Much like another work whose subtitle alluded to the same Titan, the film is a patchwork creation, although in this case it doesn’t really equal the sum of its parts. You’ve got the philosophizing on humanity’s creation from 2001: A Space Odyssey, the body horror of Cronenburg circa The Brood (in addition to that of the original Alien saga, obviously), the AI-life conundrum posed by Blade Runner, etc., etc., etc. I will say though that it was an absolutely gorgeous looking film, unfortunately populated by good actors playing absolutely moronic characters. If you’re a fan of the works of H.R. Giger I’d say that this one even more so than its ancestors is an excellent showcase for his work, especially in the last third of the movie. Here’s a fun fact: the building that all the bad shit goes down in was originally designed by Giger for Alejandro Jorodowsky’s abortive Dune project as a Harkonnen citadel.

Here’s another great Honest Trailer, which does a great job of summarizing the many faults of the movie’s plot:

31. The Hunger Games

I only went to see this one as Lady E. was doing it on her podcast. It’s not really my thing, I guess, the film seemed competent enough at what it set out to do. Watching Battle Royale right afterwards though, also for the podcast, it’s clear that the Japanese film was able to display a much wider range of emotions and reactions in its cast than Hunger Games. I’m told that there is a lot more nuance and allusion in the book, which is great, but probably won’t be enough for me to want to revisit the franchise. I was a little put out though that Katniss never actually kills anyone in a way that forces her to deal with the horror of her situation. All of her assailants are put down reflexively or almost by accident, even though the first half of the movie sets up a scenario in which these kids have been training to kill each other for months. It just feels like a bit of a cop out, an attempt by the suits to keep Katniss marketable, at the expense of making her interesting.

Just for fun, here’s one more Honest Trailer (I got a little addicted to these things): 

Tune in soon for the next ten movies on my list counting up.

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The Author

Matt Bowes is a self-proclaimed cultural commentator/arbiter of good taste from Edmonton, Alberta. He enjoys movies and books, and writes about them sometimes at thisnerdinglife.com.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Sitting in the Dark With Strangers 2012: Part Two | this nerding life

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