Welcome to Take Five, your weekly list of five random movie recommendations. Most people don't have time to watch five movies in a week. Most people don't even have five minutes to take a break and relax. Take Five is here to quicken your search for reliable entertainment (or at least movies that I deem entertaining) so you can enjoy what little free time you have. And really, who reading this article doesn't want to spend their free time watching movies? It's not like you're on sports Web site.
By George Rose
October 7, 2009
Though sports aren't my thing, watching them sure is a better use of my time than going on dead-end job interviews. That's right, as a recent college graduate, I am forced to partake in the post-grad job hunt. About a year ago, I was thrilled to be graduating. I had several internships under my belt that all pointed towards a well-paying first job. That was until, you know, the recession hit. Now jobs are scarce and I'm forced to search through all the crap in hopes that something – anything! – will come up and help me pay my college loans. Unfortunately, watching movies on my big screen TV doesn't pay squat. But hey, at least I get to watch some movies and recommend the few that don't completely suck. If only someone could do the same for me but act as more of a job-filter instead. No? Nobody wants to go on my job interviews and tell me which ones are worth the call-back? Fine, I guess it's back to watching movies for me. Here's what I dug up this week.
The Midnight Meat Train (2008)
Friends of mine – the kinds of friends that actually have jobs – just moved into a new apartment. After envying their new place and having a beer, we decided we'd watch a movie. These friends had just rented a few from Blockbuster (don't worry, I'm already in the process of converting them to Netflix) and I was enormously surprised by one of the selections: The Midnight Meat Train. I had heard of the movie's buzz prior to its release and wanted to see it badly, mainly because I was in love with Bradley Cooper, but then it fizzled out of theaters before I had the chance. This was of course before The Hangover came out and made EVERYONE love Cooper. I don't like being in love with the mega-mainstream, so I went back to loving Clive Owen instead. After the box office returns of Duplicity, I think it's safe to say nobody is watching his films. Regardless, we decided to watch Midnight Meat Train so we could see what all that buzz was about.
As it turns out, the plot is pretty simple, which I did not expect given the buzz. Cooper plays a photographer named Leon, who happens to stumble onto a series of murders that occur on the last subway train of the night. It's safe to say the train leaves around midnight. Because nobody believes Leon, he must try and take pictures of these murders to prove his sanity, while at the same time benefiting his career as a photographer. Things get a little trippy and after awhile I thought the movie was going into the territory of American Psycho or High Tension; either he was making the murders up in his head or Leon himself was the killer. Neither prediction was right and, in all actuality, the end is nothing – I repeat, NOTHING – you can possibly guess. It's so absurd and unfathomable that it's actually the perfect ending, because nothing bothers me more than being able to guess the end right from the start (which I was trying to do).
While I'm not sure if the movie deserves the few film festival awards it received, it was still a very entertaining and scary horror movie. Considering the state of the horror genre, Midnight Meat Train is pretty much the best horror movie of the last year. It's pretty gory and at times I had to cover my eyes (because really, who wants to watch nails being ripped off someone's fingers?) but that didn't stop my enjoyment of the film. In fact, everything thing but one supporting actor was worth watching and enjoying. Vinnie Jones was wonderful as always and is still someone I would NEVER want to fight at a bar. Leslie Bibb actually does a great job as Leon's love, proving how far she has come and grown since her days on Popular. And then there's Brooke Shields, who is just always a constant annoyance in my book. Luckily for us, she isn't in too much of the film because it really is one of the few recent horror movies worth watching.
A Few Good Men (1992)
While continuing my job search, I had a discussion with my mother as to what professions I might be suitable for. You'd think the field I majored in while in college would be a clear indicator but in times of a recession any job will do. Then there's also the fact that the first department to feel company-wide cutbacks is usually marketing. Good thing that's what I majored in, right?! No, not a good thing. Well, it's a good thing for you, my readers, who require that I watch movies. Anyway, just a few days after I watched A Few Good Men she coincidentally suggested that I consider becoming a lawyer. She thinks I enjoy arguing and could make a living off of it. I argued that she was wrong and that my best chances were in the field I majored in, or something easier that doesn't require 80 hours a week worth of work. She agreed. Hmmm, maybe I should be a lawyer.
There's really no point, though, because I wouldn't want to be a lawyer unless I knew I'd be an amazing lawyer like Lt. Daniel Kaffee, played by Tom Cruise. At the beginning of the movie he is just a lazy Navy lawyer who likes to plea bargain his way out of trials, but after he is assigned a case of two officers following an order that leads to the death of another officer and the subsequent trial, he rises up to take on the task of clearing their order-following names. By doing this, he must work hard with his counsel team (including a pre-Botox Demi Moore) to become an even better lawyer than his father (oh, the daddy issues), so that he can confront the Colonel who may or may not have ordered the "Code Red" that led to death. There really isn't much tension throughout the movie about whether or not the Colonel ordered the code red; the real tension is wondering how Kaffee is going to find evidence or coerce the information out of the Colonel while on the stand.
It's that very skill, the mind game of running around people's thoughts and distracting them while infusing my own intent, that my mother seems to think I have. Admitting I have it would mean I'm admitting to being a manipulative person, which I would never do. But I must say, it is quite a talent to watch. Tom Cruise should have received an Academy Award nomination for his role but instead recognition went to someone far more consistently deserving: Jack Nicholson. That's right, Nicholson is the hot-headed Colonel out to defend a nation and his own honor. Do you really need any other reason to watch a movie than to see Nicholson scream, "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!"? I didn't think so, but if you do there's always the additional supporting cast of Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Pollak and Noah Wyle. And if you STILL need convincing, just know that it was directed by Rob Reiner and written by Aaron Sorkin. This movie just reeks of talent and it shows in every single scene.
For every A Few Good Men, there's a Tremors. What I mean by that is, for every critically acclaimed, Oscar nominated movie that reminds how entertaining a good movie can be, I feel compelled to recommend a not-so-critically acclaimed, cheesy B-horror movie that stars the typically uninteresting Kevin Bacon. Okay, fine, Kevin Bacon is interesting, but can you really look me in the eye and tell me that he was really ever a sex symbol? I think his 15 minutes of Footloose are over. Or maybe I just never understood why those 15 minutes began and therefore just assume they are over. Either way, this movie shouldn't suggest entertainment, yet I have enjoyed watching it ever since it came out in 1990.
So as to limit the amount of deaths the writers have to come up with – since there are only so many original ways to die these days – Kevin Bacon and his hillbilly friends are in an "isolated" town that is attacked by ancient, underground creatures that resemble giant slugs with three-prong teeth. Oh yeah, and their tongues are three giant snake mini-monsters. The creatures are really the only complicated part of this movie, otherwise it's just a good old B-horror movie with lots of death and exploding monsters. Kevin Bacon's friends include Fred Ward (who is the only one that appears in the sequel), Fin Carter, Michael Gross and – if you really needed additional support to believe they were in a Southern hick town – Reba McEntire! The "plot" consists of the cast wondering where these monsters came from, how to destroy them, and if Kevin Bacon will grow the balls he needs to kiss the leading lady, after screaming like a prepubescent boy for half the film. Heck, Zac Efron is more manly than Kevin Bacon in this movie. Maybe that's why producers tried to get him to star in the Footloose remake.
What's makes the movie even better is its sequel. Normally a sequel is just a replica of the first movie with more blood and extreme deaths. In this case, the monsters in the second film are the younger offspring of the ones in this film, making each film unique and worth watching. Why watch Halloween 1 when Halloween 8 is so much more intense and crazy?! That question doesn't apply here, making Tremors one of the few first-movies in a horror franchise that still stands as quality entertainment nearly 20 years later. Hmmm, maybe Tremors: H20 will be coming out next year. Oh God, I think I hear a Hollywood exec somewhere taking me seriously. It sounds like Michael Bay just signed on to produce. Great, there goes another wonderful horror franchise.
Death of a Salesman (1985 – TV)
There are many incarnations of Death of a Salesman. My personal favorite is video of a theater production that I watched back in college during a Theater and Society class I took. However, for the sake of this article, I will recommend an easier version for you to find at the rental store (or Netflix, or for download). I feel compelled to suggest this title because I spent most of today (Monday, October 5th) going on two different job interviews. Both jobs were found on Monster.com and seemed like great jobs. That was until I went to the interview and found out the positions were for door-to-door "lead generators." Are you kidding me? People that aren't Jehovah's Witnesses still go door to door? The sad thing is their online application stressed "no telemarketing, no cold calls!" As a college marketing major, I must say that was probably the worst misleading advertising I had ever seen. It's only okay to promote the absence of an unattractive job attribute when there isn't one present that's drastically less appealing! I guess this recession is allowing any shady business model to succeed.
In any case, after spending the entire day driving between these two interviews (both were an hour away from my house, but in opposite directions), I couldn't help but feel like Death of a Salesman's Willie Lohman (Emmy winner Dustin Hoffman). No, I wasn't actually a traveling salesman but I sure did travel a lot for one day and the jobs I accidentally interviewed for were bogus sales pitch positions. Either way, Willie Lohman hated his life and wanted to kill himself. I understood why before but now I truly feel his pain. Granted, I don't have a wife (played by Kate Reid) or two sons (Emmy winner John Malkovich and Stephen Lang) adding to my stress, but my family is no walk in the park. Everyone is stressed and everyone feels the weight of this disappointing economy and job market. However, watching Willie's family deal with the realization that he wants to kill himself is both breathtaking and heartbreaking.
No matter what incarnation of the story you watch (movie, TV or play) you are bound to enjoy the story. Death of a Salesman is a classic! Even I'm willing to admit that and you should know how much I hate the idea of the term "classic." During my first interview today, one of the hiring managers asked me if I would mind doing the door-to-door lead generation. I had no intention of taking the job but to avoid confrontation I told him, "It's not like I'll be doing this forever. I'm no Willie Lohman!" He actually got the joke and laughed! Then I said I would see them for the second round of interviews on Wednesday and proceeded to throw out his business card as soon as I got to the parking lot. The point is, this story truly is a classic in all senses of the word: people of multiple generations understand the story, share common interest in it, and each have their own modern, updated incarnation of it to enjoy. This recommendation is for all you Willie Lohmans in the world. May you rest in peace. I hate to say it but I'd rather be jobless than be you.
Lost: Season 2 (2005 – TV)
Here I go, breaking the rules again. I don't do this too often but I do enjoy throwing in a full season of a TV show every now and then into the mix. Why not? Why recommend two hours of quality production when I can recommend 20 hours of it instead? And what better show to break the rules for than one of the best shows on television? When I was in Greece this past summer, I brought Lost Season 1 and fell in love. I had to wait nearly two months to watch the second season and, now that I'm back, I finally had the pleasure of watching it. Can I tell you something real quick? Lost is amazing. For those of you who didn't hear me, the other 15 million super fans in America or the countless critics who rave about the show – LOST IS AMAZING. Who needs a job when you can sit at home and watch several seasons of a TV show you unfortunately missed?
The thing is, I didn't unfortunately miss them. In fact, it was a blessing. I have no idea how people wait a week or even an entire summer to watch just one more episode of the show. When I watch, I watch no fewer than two episodes. Most of the time I watch an entire DVD disc of four episodes. There have been times – and times to come – where I have watched two discs (eight episodes) in a row. The show is THAT addicting. Nobody knows a well balanced story with a clever cliff hanger quite like show creator J.J. Abrams. Need I remind you, he directed this year's best action movie: Star Trek. Need I also remind you that I HATED the Star Trek series growing up because I was a born and bred Star Wars fan. It's sort of like the silly rivalry between Yankees and Red Sox fans. After seeing this summer's Star Trek (ONLY because of Abrams and Zachary Quinto), I want stand up and say, "can't we all just get along?" There really is room for both, especially with Abrams at the helm. And if that isn't enough to convince you of the magic touch that is Abrams, that's ok. Just go watch Lost.
Season 2 wasn't as earth shatteringly awesome as season 1, but that's only because the first season was so unique and unexpected. By the time season 2 hits, you get a good feel for the formula and can start to predict certain actions and one liners. That doesn't really matter, though, because the overall story gets more and more complicated with every episode, almost making it necessary for the supporting parts to be more manageable (if not predictable). The end of the season is far more intense than season one, as one would expect after the survivors of Oceanic flight 815 meet other survivors and other island dwellers. So many new faces! So much more drama! What makes it all the better is that I have a tad bit of knowledge of the future seasons (having seen commercials over the years and heard the water cooler talk). Apparently season 2 is the weak season of the entire show, and if that's the case then I am in store for some seriously awesome future seasons. I'm dead serious when I say this – quit your jobs and go rent Lost. Who wants to be Willie Lohman when you can get lost on the island with Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Locke, Hurley, Charlie, Claire and the countless other new faces? Did I mention Season 2 is where recent Emmy winner Michael Emerson's Ben character is introduced? Enough said.