Saturday, July 17, 2004

Movieblogging: Jason X
I've previously stated my disdain for horror movies; in general they do nothing for me, but I have a great appreciation for the real classics, like Dracula and Frankenstein, and am always willing to watch those that have good writing or some external hook to grab my attention. (For instance, one can say that the Blade movies were horror, as was Interview with the Vampire.) However, I've never been able to get into the modern classics, which would include the innumerable Jason and Freddy movies, not to mention their recent collaboration.

However, in the interest of staying up late and watching bad movies, I've decided to sit through Jason X (2001), breaking my general prohibition because of the science fiction bent here. Some of the sci-fi/horror hybrids are magnificent--witness Alien, Event Horizon, maybe even Pitch Black. Thus far, I'm not impressed...

Aside from an early and meaningful cameo by the great writer/director David Cronenberg, there's no one else in this that i've seen in any other movie. I'm aware of the devotion that Kane Hodder has towards the role of Jason Voorhees, but I have no attachment to the movies or the characters.

Here's the essential problem. There are certain types of movies that are beloved for certain scenes, yet everything else is filler, and often, really poorly written and produced filler. Among these genres are horror, martial arts, and porn. In each case, you're yearning for certain visceral reactions generated through certain scenes (each movie is bound to have several). In the case of horror, it's the gruesome death of some characters (even though we don't have enough build-up to care, and we secretly cheer their deaths); with martial arts, we place ourselves in the role of the hero, utilizing utter mastery over the human body (no guns) to defeat our enemies; and of course, with porn, we seek that vicarious sexual stimulation garnered from watching two (or more) people faking the act of physical intimacy. (Indeed, the horror genre tends to be an inverse of porn; as soon as regular characters begin to have sex, the monster inevitably appears to slay both of them.)

What sets these genres apart from the rest of the Hollywood output is that nobody expects them to have coherent, well-written, or logical plots. Now, there's nothing wrong with this, and obviously all of the above are reliable money-makers. But with horror, I really don't take any pleasure or satisfaction in the murder of innocents, and the climax of the defeat of the bad guy is generally useless, given the immortal quality of most of our modern day horror fiends.

Now, in some cases, a great deal of the joy is gained through how simply terrible the movie is. Witness the great Ed Wood classic Plan 9 From Outer Space. But those are the exception; many terrible horror films have been made that never made it past the drive-in in Podunk, USA. And there is an internal lore and fandom that has grown up around the genre that cannot be discounted. (I come not to condemn horror, merely to explain why it does nothing for me.) So for that reason, I hope that Jason X made a lot of people happy, or scared, or some combination therein that made them feel as though the ticket price was justified.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Movieblogging: Class
Sorry for the long hiatus... I've watched a dozen or so movies since May, but enjoyed the time off. However, today while composing a long e-mail in a mailing list about the Communist leanings of Langston Hughes (and why he doesn't necessarily deserve the criticism he's received lately), I figured that the old blogging neurons were due for a workout. Fortunately, I have a great, horrible, solidly 80s movie to review tonight: Class (1983).

I was glad to catch this on one of the odder movie channels that have appeared recently... Why? It's not only a goofy early 80s flick, but it's the first movie starring John Cusack (albeit in a supporting role), which ticks off an important yet obscure point on the list. Cusack does a good job here, even though he doesn't have a lot to work with. He's also got a haircut that makes him look like he's in a Ramones cover band.

It's also the first movie for Andrew McCarthy, who is the star of the film. And the first movie for Virginia Madsen, though we'll always think of her as Princess Irulan from the 1984 version of Dune. (For a brief moment, we also get the premier performance of Madsen's 20-year old, supple right breast.) It was the second movie for Rob Lowe (though he had done some TV movies before), and the second movie for Alan Ruck (who played Cameron in Ferris Bueller's Day Off). And--one more!--it's the third movie from the enormously talented Joan Cusack.

The presence of McCarthy and Lowe in the lead roles make this a kind of proto-Brat Pack movie. The presence of Ruck and the Cusacks make it a kind of proto-John Hughes movie. It never reaches those heights, but then again, we don't fault prosimians for their primitive habitats and small brains.

OK, quick plot summary: it's set in an upscale prep school in the early 80s, like about a hundred other movies of the time. I'll skip the character names and just use the names of the actors. McCarthy is the good kid, Lowe is the bad boy. They're roommates. McCarthy has his first sexual experience with an older woman (played by the lovely Jacqueline Bisset). Later, he goes to dinner with Lowe's parents, who are played by the amazing Cliff Robertson (whose most recent notable role was as Uncle Ben in Spider-Man) and... you didn't see this coming... Jacqueline Bisset!

So you've got teenage hijinks, hot MILF action, and multiple opportunities for Hilarity to Ensue, as Hilarity is wont to do.

Overall, it's not a terrible good or bad movie, it's pretty much what you'd expect from the time period. Only the number of actors in their early roles makes it memorable. For that reason, it's a little like School Ties (1992), which was an early vehicle for Brendan Fraser, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Chris O'Donnell.

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