Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mid-Shocktober Cinema! 2012 Version!

Reviews of Quadrophenia, “A Room With No View,” Lockout, and The Legend of Hell House

It is a bit of a lie for me to use the word “Shocktober” in the headline, but ’tis the season

Thinking of curtailing my viewing habits (addiction) until I can play catch-up with my writings, but not sure if that’s even possible…
Desirous of writing more in-depth pieces, but also for maintaining a steady flow of “product.” Decisions, decisions.
And there’s nothing to do with neck-bar-codes; just a fab pic I had laying around and wanted to share.
Here we go…

Quadrophenia (1979; Franc Roddam) is actually kinda boring. I haven’t seen this movie since I was a kid—and back then I was a big fan of The Who. Unavailable for a long time, the film has been recently re-released in a deluxe edition by Criterion.

Despite a great soundtrack and a fantastic look (excellently photographed, all the period details and fashions are spot-on), the picture has an annoying ultra-adolescent tone of self-pity (and stacks the deck against all “authority” figures by making them all brutal, clueless or moribund), with main character Jimmy hardly sympathetic—and often a complete and utter jerk, the epitome of selfishness.

Imagine Mean Streets without Harvey Keitel’s stabilizing presence: if that film had only concentrated on DeNiro’s inarticulate and out-of-control Johnny Boy, you’d have what Quadrophenia is all about. It’s an opportunity for lots of “ACTING,” but also for a shallow and depressing story about a character doomed not only by their mental illnesses but by their unwillingness to genuinely seek help about it. The guy’s a jerk.

BTW, regarding the “controversy” over Quadrophenia-The Film’s ending (we see the motorbike go sailing through the air, but there’s no Jimmy); it is “explained” by the film’s first scene, with Jimmy standing at the edge of the White Cliffs of Dover, watching the sunset, then turning away—the rest of the film is a flashback to that moment.
I guess Jimmy gunned the scooter and jumped off at the last minute—later to discover anti-depressants and become a chartered accountants—because really, that’s what would happen: We have never been shown that Jimmy is anything but a dumb-ass party machine who wants to be “belong” to a group: he isn’t artistic or particularly thoughtful, and seems to have no real talents—he can’t even fix his own motor-scooter! The kid doesn’t even seem to try and be anything other than a very noticeable fan boy.

Quadrophenia is also a bit depressing, when you think about it: giving no indication that the Mod movement inspired anything other than broken glass and fistfights.

The film did bring to mind “A Room With No View,” an excellent episode of the misunderstood supernatural-theological-philosophical crime show Millennium.
The thesis of the episode, in a nutshell, is that this demon is kidnapping young people and brainwashing them (if not killing them eventually). But rather for sadist thrills, the demon is doing it to make them mediocre. You see, the kidnapped teens are the smart misfits, the ones with high IQs or excellent leadership skills or fascinating and elaborate hobbies, but just not good grades—they’re very well-read, it’s just that school is boring, and seems to have nothing to teach. You know the kid, like you or me.
The demon’s purpose is to convince these youths to embrace mediocrity—that their doing it will make them “special,” because “being ordinary is so easy for [ordinary people].”
These are the kids who will go on to do things, and if not that, then inspire others: potential creators and revolutionaries all.
And the demon wants to snuff that “spark of individuality” out. No reason is given, but it almost doesn’t matter: Those Who Want To Control The World, whoever it is this week, would rather have a dull and docile populace than a bunch of rabble-rousers.

Metaphorically, “A Room With No View” is an excellent YA story, and would work as a stand-alone from the rest of the Millennium series.
The kid who’s been kidnapped in the episode not only wants to do things (despite poor grades), but can encourage others to seek out their own dreams. To this show’s demon, he’s a double-threat.
I mention it in reference to Quadrophenia because the two stories are so diametrically opposed.
Jimmy in Quadrophenia has no aspirations beyond acceptance by a certain status quo.
The demon from “A Room With No View” doesn’t have to bother with him ever. Jimmy’s dreams are pre-packaged and ready to be sold wherever fine corporatized rebellion is in demand.

Lockout (2012; James Mather and Stephen St. Leger) is AWFUL! I couldn’t finish watching this poorly-written, terribly paced rip-off of John Carpenter’s Snake Plissken movies—you could see Lockout being pitched as “Escape from New York in Space” (“Escape From Orbit”?).
Too much dialog, and all of it stupid, especially out of star Guy Pearce’s mouth—if he’s supposed to be the “Action Hero” of this fantasy, why doesn’t he ever shut the fuck up? In five minutes, Pearce talks more than Kurt Russell in both of Carpenter’s Escape flicks, and more than Bronson or Eastwood ever did in their flicks—combined! A maddeningly incompetent movie.

Finally a horror movie for October…

The Legend of Hell House (1973; John Hough, screenplay by Richard Matheson, based on his novel) If you’re in the mood for a good haunted house story, rent this after you’ve already seen Robert Wise’s The Haunting, Kubrick’s The Shining, Nigel Kneale’s The Stone Tape and Peter Medak’s The Changeling—and absolutely before you’re forced to rent the terrible remakes of The Haunting or 13 Ghosts.
There’s plenty to like (unnerving, mobile camerawork; a rare subdued performance by Roddy McDowell), and The Legend of Hell House was a cool flick to catch at a drive-in or on the late show back in the day, but compared to all that’s come since it was first released, the film is now a bit dated, if not passé.

But for a while, before things start spinning out of control (killing the lead three-quarters of the way through was a unique shock back then, but also a bad idea), the movie generates plenty of mood and tension, especially through simple—but efficient camera tricks—with some neat physical effects providing some cool supernatural action.
Worth a look, but as I mentioned with caveats. I watched this because Netflix was streaming it and I needed a refresher on the film, as I’m doing some R&D on ghost movies.

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