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Cinema Sunday (10/25/09) October 25, 2009

Posted by monty in movies.
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As I’ve mentioned on here before, I make absolutely no apologies for anything I listen to, read, or watch.  “Guilty pleasure” is a term dreamed up by some hipster douchebag whose friends caught him listening to Justin Timberlake when he should have been drooling over Merzbow or Animal Collective instead.  When it comes to art, you like what you like.  That doesn’t mean you can’t refine your tastes, of course, but I also think you should have license to like things your friends think you shouldn’t, and not feel bad about it.

So I don’t feel any guilt at all in saying that the remake of 1987’s The Stepfather is good, trashy fun.  It’s the cinematic equivalent of pizza.  Too much of it will kill you, but taken in moderation you’ll feel nicely satisfied.  The plot, such as it is:

Michael (played by an Abercrombie automaton improbably named Penn Badgley – apparently he’s on something called Gossip Girl, which the kids seem to think is just swell) returns from military school to find that his recently divorced mother has taken up with a new beau, David, the titular stepfather (Dylan Wash, with a jawline that could slice bread).  David, it’s established in a brief prologue, moves in with a family and then kills them when they don’t become a model of domestic happiness.  It goes without saying that family therapists across the country are way bummed out by this movie.  Michael also has a girlfriend, Kelly (played by Amber Heard), whose main function in the movie is to look hot.  Imagine Scarlett Johansson crossed with Kristen Stewart, and sporting the ribcage of a concentration camp survivor.  That’s Kelly.  And ladies, is it normal to own five different bikinis?  Because that’s how many Kelly wears in the movie, apparently on consecutive days.  She also gets two scenes in her bedroom wearing a tanktop and, erm, panties, and the opening scene of the movie, sporting shorts slung so low I could sketch her pelvis from memory.  Heard, who flashed some comic chops as Seth Rogen’s girlfriend in Pineapple Express, isn’t asked to do much more here than get in and out of the swimming pool.  Shame.  Michael’s mother, Susan, is played by Sela Ward, whom I think I like, even though I can’t remember seeing her as anything other than Harrison Ford’s dead wife in The Fugitive. There are also two other disposable children, played by, probably, the offspring of the director’s friends.

Michael immediately distrusts David, what with the guy’s creepy emphasis on the importance of family (not even the Cleavers could live up to David’s standards), and the way he tries to immediately become Michael’s new BFF.  The other characters are slower to catch on.  Susan thinks David is the model family man, Son generally seems okay with him (despite the fact that David decides the best way to tell Son to turn down his video game is to nearly strangle him), and Daughter doesn’t do anything except be an extra kid and collect a paycheck.  The only person (besides Michael) to suspect David is, you guessed it, the Crazy Cat Lady across the street, who thinks she sees a sketch of David one night on America’s Most Wanted. I’ll give you three guesses what happens to her, and the first two don’t count.  The movie is predictable in a wholly comforting way: Michael becomes increasingly suspicious of David, Susan just can’t see past the hunk she fell in love with, and Michael’s dense girlfriend is too busy trying to get the two of them admitted to – wait for it – Stanford to be bothered with Michael’s crazy theories about David being a nutcase with a penchant for sharp objects.

It’s undeniably hokey – and the movie’s direction is workmanlike at best – but Walsh and Ward throw themselves into their performances with commitment and gusto (even though Badgley and Heard appear to be unable to convey any believable emotion beyond “I’m wearing pants”), and I found myself reluctantly drawn into the story almost from the get-go.  Yeah, director Nelson McCormick never met a horror movie cliché he didn’t like – cue cats jumping from out of nowhere, and at least three instances where David displays the skills of a ninja by sneaking into position just in time for one of the other characters to turn around and THERE HE IS, or close the mirror and THERE HE IS – and, as is the case with all movies of this type, the characters display an unreasonable amount of stupidity in their inability to connect the planet-sized dots right in front of them.  But The Stepfather is fatty, unhealthy, PG-13 fun, complete with extra cheese.

Trailer Report:

amelia-posterAmelia: Oscar season is always a mixed blessing.  You get the movies that you know are going to be good (The Road), the ones you hope are going to be good (The Lovely Bones), and the ones that the movie studios want you to think will be good, but which will, in fact, royally suck.  Which brings me to Amelia, The Totally True (Except for the Parts That Aren’t) Story of Amelia Earhart.  Judging from the trailer, this is one of those Oscar-bait movies: big budget, prestige cast, quasi-inspirational, and 100% shitty. You’d have to drag me to this thing, and/or pay me handsomely, to get me to see it.  Also, just going by Hillary Swank’s appearance in the trailer, I had no idea Amelia Earhart was a man.

1 SHEET MASTER_TemplateThe Blind Side: Another supposedly true story, this time starring Sandra Bullock as a saintly white woman who gets a black teenager to find the goodness inside himself by introducing him to the Zen beauty of football.  Could we pleasepleasepleaseplease stop making movies that are clearly designed to make white people feel good about themselves?  I know we all – or those of us with any sense, anyway – feel guilty about slavery and lynchings and the racial injustices that continue to this day, but portraying Sandra Bullock as a Mother Teresa figure will not absolve us for the sins of our ancestors.

The end of the year is usually my favorite season for movie-going, but these two films – along with 2012 and the sequel to the Chipmunks movie – seem to indicate that this might be a bleaker Oscar season than I’m used to.

Current listening:

Sonic washing

Sonic Youth – Washing Machine



1. thoreauly77 - October 25, 2009

a few things here rob:

the mayans predicted the movie 2012.

stepfather looks like fun; harmless stuff that can be on the tube while i am making dinner and dont have to concentrate.

i am thinking amelia will be genuinely, sincerely, sparklingly meh, but damnit, am i the only one that has issues with seeing hilary swank driven films? i enjoyed boys dont cry, and i even enjoyed freedom writers, mostly for her performance in both, but i ALWAYS wait for it on dvd!

ANOTHER movie about a white lady saving a black kid? through sports? from poverty?

i liked that movie better when it was called wildcats!


rcm - October 25, 2009

I actually do like Hilary Swank. I can even watch The Reaping. But man, the trailer for Amelia just makes me want to scream. I had the same reaction to the Sex and the City trailer.

thoreauly77 - October 25, 2009

that might have more to do with richard gere in some ways. maybe.

still, better her than scarlett johansen.

2. Georgia - October 25, 2009

hipsters listen to merzbow?

rcm - October 25, 2009

The hipsters I know listen Merzbow. I vascillated between Merzbow and Grizzly Bear. In the end, I went with obscure hip as opposed to populist hip.

3. Katie Reed - October 26, 2009

White guilt is my guilty pleasure. See: Spinning Into Butter

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