Some thoughts on Shoot ‘Em Up

I saw Shoot ‘Em Up last week and reviewed the film for Cinematical. I wasn’t expecting much, so the review focuses on the pleasant surprise of discovering that the movie was as entertaining as it was. It was shallow entertainment, certainly, but it was a nice change from the dog-days-of-August dogs I watched and reviewed last month. I’m now a confirmed Clive Owen fan.
I felt guilty about liking such a violent and sexist movie, but fortunately Roger Ebert liked it too (and wrote a much better review than I did, natch), so that helped a little.
Finally, my little brother the film geek called me this morning* to tell me he saw Shoot ‘Em Up last night, and he may have summarized the movie better in one line than I did in an entire review:
“More grindhouse than Grindhouse.”
He has a point. If you’re into this kind of film, I suggest seeing Shoot ‘Em Up this weekend at night in as crowded a theater as you can … audience reaction won’t keep you from missing anything and can only improve the experience of watching this cheesy but fun film.
*My little brother only ever calls me to talk about the movies he’s seen. I have no idea what’s going on in his life, but I can tell you which movies he’s enjoyed lately.

B is for Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon: 2006, dir. Scott Glosserman. Seen July 17, 2007 on DVD.
I like my horror movies to be funny, and not in too much of an immature way. My favorite horror movies are probably Evil Dead 2 and Re-Animator, because they made me laugh. The combination of horror and humor can be cheesy, but the two can work well together — you’re laughing to relieve a little of the tension caused by suspense, but the suspense ratchets right back up there again. I didn’t have a lot of interest in Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon until I saw a trailer and realized that it had the right sense of humor to appeal to me.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon starts out as a joke and grows a bit scary along the way. It begins as a mockumentary: Some grad students are making a documentary about Leslie Vernon, a guy who was thought to be dead a decade earlier when a town’s lynch mob drowned him. Now he’s back to take revenge and begin his life as a serial killer, following in the footsteps of Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, etc. The filmmakers follow him as he demonstrates how to pick out a “final girl,” how to set up a house to best attack a large group of people, what to wear for a night of mass murder, and so forth. The filmmakers are faced with the age-old issue that plagues documentarians — how much should you interfere, if at all?
The movie makes fun of horror-film conventions, especially the horror movies in which a bunch of teenagers are menaced and killed, one by one, by some guy with a chainsaw or razor fingernails or wearing a freakish mask. At one point, Leslie visits some friends of his, including Eugene, who has “retired” from “the business” that Leslie is currently pursuing. In other words, an ex-serial killer. But he talks about being from the bad old days, where you just went into the house and “did your job” without all of these fancy plans and motives. That reminded me of In Cold Blood, somehow — the book, since I haven’t seen the movie. So I didn’t realize until afterwards that Scott Wilson, who played Eugene, also played Dick Hickock in the 1967 movie In Cold Blood. Nice touch. Robert Englund (best known for the Nightmare on Elm Street movies) also has a small role, but since he’s not dressed like Freddy Krueger you might not recognize him either.
My one regret was that I saw this movie on DVD and not in a theater. Behind the Mask needs a lively audience — it would be a great midnight movie. I’m sorry I didn’t get to see it at SXSW in 2006; I suspect it played very well to the receptive festival crowd. The living room seemed too quiet at times; the movie needs a group of people all reacting and laughing. This would also be a good Movie Night film, if you like having people over to watch movies.
First-time director (and co-writer) Scott Glosserman made a smart and funny horror movie, without too much gore or “jump” moments. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does next.

The ABC Project

I’d like to post here more often. And now that the spring film festival season is behind me, I’d like to watch more movies on DVD — I’ve got Netflix and I ought to use it, instead of being envious of the DVDs my husband is watching. So why not combine the two?
My Netflix queue is currently in alphabetical order, sort of. It’s not strict alphabetical order because that really is too, too anal retentive. (Netflix does not alphabetize the movies for you; you have to do it yourself, manually.) But all the A’s, B’s, C’s, etc. are grouped together. We’re talking about over 200 movies here, plus a few TV shows thrown in there on various people’s recommendations.
So here’s my plan: The ABC Project. It’s pretty simple: I’m going to get movies from Netflix in alphabetical order. First I’ll rent a movie with a title starting with A, then one with B, and so forth down the alphabet. And I intend to write a little something about each of these movies — not a formal review, but some thoughts about the film. I’m picking movies I haven’t seen before, or haven’t seen since childhood (I’m thinking it’s time to see Jaws and Rocky again). I have at least one movie in my queue for almost every letter of the alphabet — tons of “M” options but no “X” so far.
These aren’t the only movies I’m going to watch on DVD, because I can’t wait for some of those movies with end-of-alphabet titles. And there may have to be multiple “D” movies because it’s incredibly difficult for me to decide between several I’m dying to see. Two “B” movies, too, since I just read Anthony Lane’s essay on Barbara Stanwyck and want to see Baby Face. “L” is going to be even tougher. But I’m hoping that a little gimmick like The ABC Project will encourage me to write more about movies, and to watch the movies I get from Netflix sooner rather than later. (It took me a week to get to Jesus Camp.) Also, seeing good movies that I missed in theaters, and classics that I haven’t gotten around to watching yet, will make up nicely for the shortage of thought-provoking films in theaters during the summer months. Finally, it will get people off my back about my not having seen certain films that they feel are obligatory for film writers. I will not mention any titles, because I don’t want any of you doing that “whaaaat? how can you not have seen …” thing. You can do that after I write about those movies.
The “A” movie has already arrived: All the President’s Men. I never have seen it — okay, you can do that “whaaat?” routine now, if you must. I watched Dick instead — will Robert Redford be as entertaining a Bob Woodward as Will Ferrell? I’ll let you know.