Thoughts on some movies I’ve seen in the last ~2 months.

Seen for the First Time

  • The Big Lebowski – I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. It should have been funny, but was just tedious.
  • Slumdog Millionaire – Fascinating, both in its exploration of poverty in India and in the theme of showing how seemingly small and unrelated events can all contribute to someone’s future.
  • Superman/Batman: Public Enemies – Had its moments, but overall was pretty much a standard superhero film.
  • Clerks 2 – Kevin Smith seems to hit about 50/50 with me. I loved the first Clerks, hated Mallrats (except for the “Jedi Mind Trick” payoff), liked Chasing Amy and Dogma, but Jay and Silent Bob was mostly annoying (though it had its moments). Clerks 2 was mostly gross-out humor wrapped around a Broken Aesop in which the happy ending is for the indecisive guy to let the a—hole make his decisions for him.
  • Battlestar Galactica: The Plan – They did a decent job of trying to pull together a consistent story from elements that were originally unconnected, but it still ended up playing too much like a clip show — especially the segments in the Colonial fleet. The segments on Caprica worked much better, though I did find it interesting that they re-cast the Cylon infiltrators as a tiny, isolated guerrilla force rather than the tip of an iceberg of espionage. It relied way too much on the audience remembering what happened in the series.
  • Liar, Liar – Pretty much what I remember from the previews, except longer. Funny. Worth seeing at least once.
  • Synecdoche, New York – A metafictional examination of living life vs. imitating it that doesn’t quite live up to the scope of its ambition…but then, part of the point of the movie is that it can’t. (Note: not a good choice for watching while eating.)
  • Evil Dead 2 – Nice camera work, but I’m not a horror fan. Also, this makes absolutely no sense as a sequel, but works just fine as a remake. You can explain Ash’s actions at the beginning with evil-enforced amnesia, but the timeline with the professor’s discovery of the book just doesn’t mesh with the first movie. I posted some thoughts on Army of Darkness last week.


  • Up – Second time, watched in a second-run theater. Holds up, even without 3D. Bring tissue.
  • Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero – still a better Mr. Freeze movie than Batman And Robin. Not that it would be hard.
  • Coraline – Third time, but first time on small screen or in 2D. Still works, though of course not nearly as impressive visually. Still, great animation & story. Kind of like Up in that way.
  • Conan the Destroyer – The first movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger was very good and holds up well almost three decades later. This one was almost self-parody.

This weekend I finally watched Evil Dead 2. Aside from some nifty low-budget cinematography, it mostly confirmed that the only movie in the trilogy I actually like is Army of Darkness. Not surprising, since I like the sword and sorcery genre better than horror to begin with.

I also started thinking about what sets the Evil Dead trilogy apart from other 1980s horror series: instead of focusing on the villains, the later installments are all about the hero.

Friday the 13th? All about Jason. Nightmare on Elm Street? Freddie Kruger. Hellraiser? Pinhead and the Cenobites.

Evil Dead? Ash. Hail to the King.

At the comic store today, I noticed that there’s a whole line of sequel comics, focusing again on Ash (including “Ash Saves Obama”). But they’re not titled Evil Dead. They’re all Army of Darkness. It must have greater name recognition.

A few weeks ago I decided to try out Netflix’s Watch Instantly service by watching Stan Lee’s Lightspeed, the made-for-TV movie about a government agent turned super-speedster. It’s been on my queue for a while, and I figured I’d free up the slot for something else.

Ultimately, I was really impressed — with the service. The image and sound were very clear, and the movement smooth, even with the window playing fullscreen. I don’t think I noticed a single glitch through the entire 90 minutes. I am annoyed that it’s both Windows-only and and Internet Explorer–only, which is why it’s taken so long to try it out…but aside from that, the only thing I really missed was fine control over fast-forward and rewind.

I kind of expected it to open in a separate window, rather than in the browser, but there’s a button to make it full screen, and it automatically adjusts the video size to fit the window.

The movie itself? Not so much. It was cheesy and — worse — dull. I took a break halfway through and wasn’t sure I really cared about coming back to finish it. Heatstroke was better — and I mean that. I’ve posted a review of Lightspeed over at my Flash blog, Speed Force.

I’ve since watched one more movie through the service, The Evil Dead, which wasn’t quite as good in terms of picture quality. It was blurrier, and compression artifacts were very noticeable in darker scenes. I expect a lot of that is just due to the age of the film: it was done in 1981, and who knows when the digital transfer was made. Plus of course 90% of the movie takes place at night.