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Captain Canada's Movie Rodeo

Image copyright 20th Century Fox

Image copyright 20th Century Fox

There’s nothing quite like spending fourteen bucks on a movie (more, if you got snacks or saw it in IMAX 3D), getting to the end credits and wishing there was some way, any possible way to get that money back. Or at least get something else as an apologetic bonus for having your expectations so cruelly and completely dashed.

It’s not so bad when you have minimal or even no expectations for a movie. I get that a lot with movies I wasn’t planning to see but am because someone happens to be treating me. Even if I spend the money I can only be but so upset if I wasn’t expecting much to begin with. It’s likely that I’m paying for something to make up for those low-key expectations. I’m paying to be out with the company I’m keeping, I’m paying for a chance to have those expectations met. And then exceeded light years past what I had thought.

All of that is fine, and subject to change. If the movie is exactly what I thought it was going to be, then I don’t see it as much of a loss.

It’s the movie I was really looking forward to, the one I had high hopes for, and then to have it go completely and aggressively to Hell (sometimes in the first ten or fifteen minutes) that I’m talking about. The kind of film where you know lighting your empty gallon-cup of soda on fire, throwing it at the screen and unleashing as many obscenities as you can in thirty seconds or less isn’t really going to change anything, but you’re still thinking about doing it anyway.

Is it silly to get upset over something like that? Sure. But it’s hard not to when you’ve just given over a bunch of money and a couple hours worth of your time. Video game players go through the same thing, except that they drop even more money.

It’s even worse, for me anyway, when I read reviews online beforehand. It can be Facebook or an actual review. I don’t always do this, but sometimes I have nothing better to do, so I’ll see what the word of mouth is for something I’m looking forward to. That can add to the anticipation nicely, but some bad reviews can leave me with a sense of mild dread. I try not to let reviews influence my perception of something I haven’t seen yet, and I’m pretty good about that, but it’s difficult to completely avoid feeling as though I’m now hoping in spite of myself.

My motivation for thinking this is in wondering how those who absolutely despised Prometheus in spite of hoping otherwise felt. A lot of my friends were looking forward to that movie the way Star Trek diehards are hoping for another TV series. At least some of them had that optimism, in their minds, thoroughly assaulted and destroyed.

Any kind of fandom that allows you to build up your expectations, pay to see if they’re met and then find out they weren’t, is a pretty weird way to enjoy your leisure time in my book.

Prometheus (2012): A+

A good friend of mine told me that the people who didn’t like Ridley Scott’s prequel-but-it’s-not-really-a-prequel to Alien just weren’t smart enough to get it. I don’t think that’s the case at all. To me it’s simply a matter of how much stuff from the Alien universe you were expecting. I wasn’t expecting much from the origins of the many of the things that would later become prevalent in the Alien franchise. I was just hoping for a good, creepy science fiction movie, and that’s what I got. The problem with writing a review of this film is that other writers have analyzed the movie to death, some hate it and some love it. I can’t speak to any of those people. I can only speak to those of you who have. And the best promise I can offer is that you’ll definitely react to this movie. It’s worth watching just for that.

Lake of Fire (2006): A+

Whatever side of the political debate on abortion you fall on, this is a documentary meant for any perspective. It’s rare to see a documentary present both sides of a strong issue, but Tony Kaye (American History X) manages to do both in stark, unflinching black and white footage of graphic imagery and blunt stories. It would be nice to see more politically-charged documentaries take this route. Not for the fair of stomach.

The Avengers (2012): A+

Watching Robert Downey Jr.’s smarmy, over-confident Tony Stark interact with Mark Ruffalo as the best Hulk to date, or with Chris Evans’ perpetual boy scout take on Captain America is worth the price of admission alone. You’ll also probably dig on the virtuoso action scenes, the constant stream of humor and director Joss Whedon understanding that fan service isn’t so bad after all.

Winnie The Pooh (2011): A

It doesn’t quite keep up the same juggling act Pixar does with a story that is appealing to both children and adults, but this latest film version of the A.A. Milne/Disney classic is still loaded with another warm, humor and old-school animation to appeal to even the most embittered cynic.

Carnage (2011): C+

Roman Polanski’s film adaptation of the Yasmina Reza play feels so much like a play that it’s difficult to get into it as a film, but dark humor and rapid-fire dialog from Jodi Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslett and Christopher Waltz sustain the damages of a film that would probably have best been served as a film of an actual production.

The Skin I Live In (2011): A

The highlight of Pedro Almodóvar fantastically creepy writing-directing effort isn’t in the unnerving pacing or surreal, brilliantly-told story from the Frankenstein model. It’s from watching Antonio Banderas go completely off the rails, as a plastic surgeon who sees a chance encounter with the man who he thinks raped his daughter as an opportunity to begin again. Those who can only see Banderas as someone capable of voicing as impudent cat should take heed.

The Secret Lives of Dentists (2003): B-

Denis Leary might steal every single scene here as the physical manifestation of Campbell Scott’s nervous breakdown, but this is still a very nicely done film on marriage, infidelity and sex as seen through a couple that is probably best suited enduring themselves.

Vanishing Point (1971): A

It’s easy to see why Quentin Tarantino referenced this so much in his vastly inferior Death Proof, and it’s hard to imagine those involved in the production of Drive not using this as a case study. We know right from the beginning that Barry Newman is doomed in his plan to drive a motor-charged 1970 Dodge Challenger across the country, but we don’t care. We’re too busy watching his run from the law amidst a chaotic, post-Woodstock backdrop.