September 4, 2013

Random Rental Experiment, Week 1

This is a new weekly feature that I'll be doing throughout September - if I even make it that far. The point of this experiment is to force myself to watch movies I probably wouldn't normally sit through, and also to support my local Mom and Pop video store. What this entails is that I go to the video store, walk up to a specific section, and pick a movie off the shelf without looking. I grab a total of five movies from different sections, and then I watch and review them.

The rules are:

1. I can put a movie back if I've already seen it.
2. I can put a movie back if it's a sequel to a movie I've never seen.
3. I can opt to put all five movies back on the shelves and grab another batch, but I can only do this once per trip.


The Drama Section: SPACE COWBOYS (2000)
I'm not as up-to-speed on Clint Eastwood's filmography as I probably should be, be it films he acts in or directs. Even when it comes to my "Clint checklist", though, SPACE COWBOYS isn't a movie I had planned on ever seeing anytime soon. I'm inclined to gravitate more towards his genre films and pretty much anything he made between the 60s and early 90s as opposed to his more mainstream works. That said, I'm really glad I ended up watching SPACE COWBOYS, and I probably wouldn't have watched it had it not been for this random rental experiment. The chemistry between Clint and Tommy Lee Jones in particular is excellent, but the film as a whole is highly enjoyable and well-made.

SPACE COWBOYS tells the story of estranged friends and former Air Force test pilots who reunite as old men to get sent into space and repair a Russian satellite. The NASA guy in charge of the operation specifically seeks out Clint Eastwood's character, who was initially responsible for designing some of the satellite's now dated technological gizmos. Eastwood, though at odds with the NASA guy because of their history together, agrees to do the job, but only if he can "get the team back together." What we get with SPACE COWBOYS is a story about friendship and mortality set against the backdrop of space exploration, but it's written so well that it's able to mash-up all of these different elements without ever taking away from what matters most: the characters. SPACE COWBOYS is a comedy and, at times, a tearjerker, but it also turns into a legitimately thrilling Sci-Fi film when it's all said and done. The film really does an excellent job of covering a lot of ground in its two-hour running time. With the cast involved and Eastwood in the director's chair, I expected this to be a great film, but I was still pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. There's some suspension of disbelief required when it comes to the main characters, but they're such a joy to watch that it doesn't matter.

The Horror Section: THE MESSENGERS (2007)
2007? This is a lot newer than I thought. For whatever reason, THE MESSENGERS eluded me when it first came out, and then I just lost interest altogether after a while. I did see the sequel, though, because there's a killer scarecrow in it. It's terrible. Anyway, in THE MESSENGERS, a family moves into an old farmhouse and slowly unravel the home's tragic history as the film progresses. A few things are established right away, namely the intensity of the hauntings, as evidenced through a flashback scene (black and white to indicate that it was many years ago of course), and the fact that there's something going on with the family's daughter (Kristen Stewart) that caused them to move out of the city and into the country.

Surprisingly, I ended up liking THE MESSENGERS more than I expected. The first hour or so is well done, but the final act sort of drifts off into cliches and familiar territory. It's not to say the back end of the film is awful, but it's like "Oh, so that's where you're going with it? OK." As a whole, it's paced fairly well and the directors (the Pang Brothers, Oxide and Danny) bring their interesting and creative visuals to the table. I also think Kristen Stewart is really cute, so there's that. In comparison to the Haunted House/Ghost Story movies that have come out since, I think THE MESSENGERS has a lot to offer in terms of watchability, likable characters, etc. Most importantly, perhaps, is that it doesn't feel as contrived compared to other films of its ilk in terms of storytelling. Overall, not great and it doesn't break any new ground, but it's enjoyable. On a side note, the cast and crew, on the DVD's commentary track, bring up a funny point about the homoerotic undertones of Dylan McDermott and Josh Corbett's character's relationship in the film (they play Kristen Stewart's father and a farmhand respectively).

The Action Section: DEJA VU (2006)
In the Tony Scott-directed DEJA VU, Denzel Washington plays an ATF agent who investigates an explosion caused by a terrorist attack. The strange this is, the stray corpse of a woman who supposedly died because of the explosion was discovered a day before the attack even took place. Washington proceeds with his investigation and hooks up with some FBI agents who are in possession of some absolutely ridiculous technology that allows them to essentially spy on people in the past and follow them, but there are certain limitations in regards to the technology that are way too convoluted to describe concisely. Let's just say that DEJA VU is essentially FRINGE before there was a FRINGE, yo. It's a police procedural kinda film with a crazy Sci-Fi/Time Travel twist. It goes without saying that this film defies logic, but it's played in a very straight manner. Personally, I can't decide if this is a good Sci-Fi/Action film or a trainwreck of a Mystery/Thriller. Whatever the case, I have mixed feelings about it. Technically it's good. There's a skilled director and a talented cast involved. It doesn't feel "lazy" by any means. But, the concept, the film's style, and the Michael Bay-esque camera work and editing didn't exactly dazzle me.

The Foreign Section: THE PROMISE (2005)
This is a post-CROUCHING TIGER period Fantasy/Action film. It's a tad confusing as far as the characters and their individual allegiances and motivations, but the gist of it is that it's about a love triangle involving a cursed concubine, an Army general, and a loyal slave. I knew jack shit about THE PROMISE going into it, as I've never been one to seek out these "epic" Chinese period films. That said, I wasn't prepared for how gorgeous this movie is. This is a beautiful-looking film from start to finish, regardless of the fact that a lot of the film is special effects and CGI rather than physical sets and whatnot. There was evidently a lot of imagination and creativity put into the design of the sets and costumes, and, at times, the film defies its modest budget in terms how grand it looks. Story-wise, though, I couldn't have been more indifferent towards what was going on. The awesome visuals are both a blessing and a curse here; the scenery is nice to look at, but the eye-candy overshadows the fairly generic story. Mind you, there's about 20 minutes that was cut out of the original version before it was released in North America, so it's quite possible that this could've hurt the film (or not), but it doesn't justify the silliness of the action scenes and how uninteresting some of the central characters are.

The Comedy Section: JOHN TUCKER MUST DIE (2006)
Ugh LOL. Let me start by saying that I'm not above teen comedies, sex comedies, romantic comedies, whatever. I do watch them on occasion, but this one just never appealed to me for whatever reason. But hey, I try to go into things with an open mind, and such was the case when it came to this film. At the very least, it stars Brittany Snow and Arielle Kebbel. I like Snow in what I've seen her in thus far, and I had a pretty short-lived crush on Kebell after I saw her as the older sister in the A TALE OF TWO SISTERS remake THE UNINVITED. So yeah, there's that. However, the PG-13 rating eliminated any chances of seeing some side boob from either of them at the very least LOL! Whatevs.

Brittany Snow plays an insecure teenage girl with mommy issues. Her and her single mother (Jenny McCarthy) move to a new town, and so Snow's character decides to make an impression on her peers by sticking her nose in other peoples' business and helping a group of scorned girls get revenge on the popular guy who cheated on them all and played them. What really turned me off about this film early on is how the characters are portrayed. As I alluded to, Snow's character (who seems to have a good head on her shoulders despite not having any solid parental support in her life) goes out of her way, for seemingly no reason, to help a bunch of girls who wouldn't give her the time of day otherwise. And yes, I understand that this is just reflective of the poor decisions that misguided teenagers are inclined to make, but there need to be some repercussions or a "lesson learned" to justify it. But nope, not really the case here. WTF? I didn't do any research on the person who wrote this, but, if I had to guess just based on this movie, I'd assume that they either dislike teenagers or they're just way too out of touch with what's really going on. On top of that, JOHN TUCKER MUST DIE isn't very funny. The soundtrack is kewl though. TTYL!


  1. Duder, I love this idea. You are a brave man.

  2. Thanks! It hasn't been as painful an experience as I anticipated. (I probably just jinxed myself)