Thursday, April 10, 2008

THE MIST (2007)

[NOTE: I'm not spoiling the ending.] While writing this post, I started to question myself. Why do I like this movie so much? Why do I still even like to watch certain horror movies? Isn't it a juvenile genre to be interested in? What does that say about me? This movie touches on one of my favorite themes: the fragility of the social contract, and what happens when an unexpected event causes society to break down.

Then I realized, hey, this isn't about ME. This is about The Mist, a FANTASTIC creepfest creature feature, which I'm sure you know is based on a Stephen King novella of the same name. The story appeared in his short story collection Skeleton Crew back in 1985. The Mist has always been one of my favorite pieces of King's writing. For one thing, it's short. The man tends to get long-winded, and he was especially long winded back in the 80s (remember It? 1100+ pages!). The movie is pretty much a faithful adaptation, conveying the same characters, themes and events. There are some changes, but it's all for the good of telling the story in 2007 America. The strange thing is, things haven't really changed all that much in this country since King wrote his story more than 20 years ago.

One of the things that makes the Mist a great movie is the creature factor. There are many "oh shit" and "ewww" moments in this flick. The creatures are pure fantasy but rooted in real world biology...they are bizarre and scary. One of my biggest fears is suddenly finding myself somewhere other than at the top of the food chain. This movie definitely exploits that fear. Some of the CGI in the movie is a bit obvious, but for the most part it works because the creatures aren't anything we've seen on Earth...but you can kind of buy them being real, somewhere, because most of them look like things we recognize: insects, crabs, etc. They're just on a different, decidedly more threatening scale.

Another thing that makes this movie work is the excellent acting. Thomas Jane is a perfect leading everyman...somewhat idealized, a natural leader, pretty much possessing the qualities that most Americans like to think they possess. The cap above is from a scene in which his son begs him not to carry out a plan to go out into the mist to get to the pharmacy for medication. It broke my heart, and you can just feel that kid's panic at the thought of losing his dad. Marcia Gay Harden is also wonderful as the local evangelical religious nut. It would have been easy to make her character a cartoon, but she plays it straight and the character is treated with respect as a person of faith, however misguided she may be. Not one cast member sucks in this movie. They are all excellent, down to the smallest speaking part.

Everyone who worked on this flick deserves a pat on the back. The direction, the way it's shot, the creatures, the actors, everything just gels. And of course, the one person who deserves the most credit is Stephen King. He puts a bunch of Americans together in such a banal setting, a supermarket, so that when the shit hits the fan and things start to go bad, much of the ridiculousness of our daily lives is hilighted just by the setting.

This isn't one of those flicks that has you jumping out of your seat with in your face scares. It's more the concept that is horrifying, the sense of dread at what's happened and how the characters are going to get out of it, if they even can. Like I said before, there are many "Ewww!" moments. A note about the ending: I had heard that this is one of those movies with "an ending," and even knowing that, I was still blown away. So will you be.

In the tradition of many of the greatest horror flicks, this movie fucks with your preconceived notions, your expectations, your mind. I highly recommend it.
There's one unintentionally funny bit about this flick, but you'll probably notice it yourself. I'll just say one word: eyebrows.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


The Brave One is a contemporary vigilante revenge fantasy directed by Neil Jordan and starring Miss Thing. It's a well-made movie and is pretty much an old-school exploitation movie all gussied up in A-list Hollywood respectability, but that doesn't make it any less effective or enjoyable.
Jodie Foster turns in an excellent performance, one that is much more raw and satisfying than her turns in Panic Room and Flightlplan. She pretty much elevates the movie to a higher level than it deserves to be. It's also shot beautifully. The film covers its ass by making sure that the targets of the Foster character (Erica) are multiracial; nasty white men are prominently included in the mix of scumbags. Just so no one's left out, Erica purchases her illegal 9mm from an Asian guy. This movie doesn't show us a woman who is all that conflicted over what she's doing. There's some inner conflict, but not that much. The bottom line is, she's made up her mind and she's not turning back, no matter what. She then has to navigate the minefield that she's walking through as a result of the choice she's made. She never gives her choice a second thought, and that's one thing I really like about this movie: the lack of hand-wringing over the (im)morality of what she's doing.
There was a lot of interesting critical reaction and interpretation of the film, much of which focuses on socioeconomic class for some strange reason. Apparently, to depict such base human traits as hopelessness and revenge is to be tacky and should be derided by the educated and cultured among us. Well, la dee fucking dah. There's nothing wrong with a well-made revenge fantasy. It's a fantasy, for Christ's sake. It plays upon our fears of beng victimized, and our hope that, should we survive, we could mete out some justice where justice is due, especially if the system failed us. Obviously, this hardly ever happens in real life. That's where revenge fantasies come into play. For me, The Brave One is an enjoyable thriller that hits all the right marks and is extremely satisfying in the end. My only gripe (and it's a nearly insurmountable one): they actually use a Sarah McLaughlin song on the soundtrack at key "emotional" moments. It was damn near unbearable, and was completely out of sync with the tone of the movie. (I realize she's a respected musical artist, I'm just not into her).

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Another Time, Another Place is a low key melodrama about an American columnist living in London (Lana Turner) during WWII. Though she left a fiance back in NY City (who just happens to be her boss), she falls in love with a dashing BBC reporter (a very young, very hot, very bushy-browed Sean Connery) and they carry on with a torrid month-long affair before he lets her in on the fact that he's, er, married and has a young son, whom he loves very much. Well, they part briefly, but their love is too strong and they reconcile on the evening Connery is set to fly to Paris to cover the end of the war. Unfortunately, he's killed in a plane crash, and Lana is devastated.

And that's just the first third of the movie! The rest of it has to do with Lana seeking out Connery's village, "to see where he comes from," where she winds up living with his wife and son, who have no idea who Lana is.

Despite this film's measured pace, and despite the fact that it's melodrama (and why am I behaving as if that's a bad thing? I LOVE this shit!), it's a well-written movie that had me hooked through to the end. Part of reason I liked it has to do with my fascination with Lana Turner, who apparently spent at least half of her career playing women of questionable moral character who put themselves through hell but very often redeem themselves in the end. This film is a typical 50s Lana vehicle: she's promiscuous, she's heartbroken, she has a meltdown, she recuperates, she redeems herself, and she looks fabulous.

The first scene in the film sets the tone and foreshadows how the relationship between Lana and Connery is going to go: it centers on a bomb that falls without detonating, and the tense moments that pass while it's disarmed. Later in the movie, there's a great scene where a group of people are sitting around a table having an awkward conversation because all of them but Connery's widow know that Lana was having an affair with him. The actress who plays Connery's widow, Glynis Johns, is excellent and has her own meltdown scene that rivals those of Lana. On the whole, it's a bit contrived but I had fun watching it and will definitely watch it again.