Right at Your Door (2006) • USA

Here's another apocalyptic tale. It's not a great film but its basic premise provides a thought provoking conundrum. A suburban Los Angeles stay at home husband has just seen his city working wife off to work when a couple dirty bombs explode in the city center unleashing a toxic airborne virus. Chaos ensues as the husband attempts to get downtown and rescue, or something, his wife. (The director overused a handheld camera in this first act in an attempt to portray the hoopla and almost caused me to give up on the film.) The city is very quickly sealed off and he is unable to get to ground zero, so he goes back home. The media, when it works, informs everyone to stay inside and seal up their homes, and most importantly, to not let anyone in who may have been infected with the virus. After many hours of franticly duct-taping plastic over all the doors and windows to seal the place up air-tight ... Knock Knock! Honey, I'm home!

So here's the conundrum. A husband and wife are facing the possible end of days, neither knows for sure if either one of them are infected, nor does anybody really know the full effect and extent of the virus. The wife does appear sick, what with the constant retching and all, but love is blind. Does he let her in?

The rest of the film, up to the point where one of the better big twists I've seen in a movie is quickly played out, deals with the answer to that question and its consequences. It also seems like it was shot by someone other than the person who shot the first act. The direction is controlled and captures the emotional intensity of the situation pretty well. And the acting is not too bad. Mary McCormack plays the wife, Rory Cochrane, the husband. There are all the last rites, confessions, and emotional revelations to move the film along to its feature length running time that you might expect in a situation like this, and then the aforementioned twist. If you are the type to guess ahead while watching a film you might see it coming, but probably not. And don't get caught up in analyzing the specifics of virus contagion vectors presented here, they're not the point, they're the plot. Focus on the story of the couple and you might enjoy this film.


The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008) • South Korea

My expectations for this film were through the roof. It's basically a Korean all-star game: directed by Ji-woon Kim, he of A Bittersweet Life and A Tale of Two Sisters fame (not to mention The Quiet Family), and starring three of Korea's finest (or at least most popular) actors, Woo-sung Jung, Byung-hun Lee, and (one of my favorite actors, Korean or otherwise) Kang-ho Song.

Unlike a number of people, I have absolutely nothing, in or on principle, against remakes. But this isn't a remake. Let's call it remake-esque. This one's got Weird, the other one had Ugly. And they do different stuff in this one, the treasure is different, and some other stuff is different, but the basic story arc is similar.

The production values are top notch, the direction creative and self-assured, the special effects worth the time and money spent on them. I love the kill scenes as directed by Kim, especially one of the first ones where a tough guy is running from train car to train car, bursting through doors like they don't exist and then BAM! He's five feet behind where he was. You have to see it to appreciate it, I guess. The timing and the focus on the result instead of the impact makes the impact seem more impactful. Whoever edited this film did a great job.

Woo-sung Jung plays the Good, and he's a cute guy who oozes goodness, so that's good. His character is perhaps a bit under-played/under-developed but that's the nature of Good, isn't it? Byung-hun Lee as the Bad has a little bit too much contemporary in his swagger and look. He's more arrogant than Bad, but we're supposed to dislike him so that's good too. Not surprisingly, it's Kang-ho Song, as the Weird, who steals the show. He runs through this movie like a poultry item (I can't remember if the saying is about a chicken or a turkey) with its head cut off but never misses a beat. He's having a good time and makes sure that we do too. He's able to do things that many other actors are incapable of like delivering predictable lines with equal parts sincerity and irony so that we won't even think of groaning out loud. He's so adorably slightly plump and likeable that even when ... well, I don't want to give it away ... we like him. We really do.

Caught up in all the fun and excitement I almost forgot that, with very few exceptions (especially in these modern times of technological machismo), movies with lots of gun fights are really fucking stupid.


Blindness (2008) • USA • Fernando Meirelles

This is one of those high art films, like The Happening with its blatant comedic satire nobody got, that is bound to go over the heads of all but the more sophisticated moviegoers of "Brazil and other European countries." The logic behind its greatness is this:

Blindness, the film, is based on the 1995 book Ensaio sobre a Cegueira. The book’s author, José de Sousa Saramago, was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1998.
Ergo #1: it is a good book.

Saramago was reluctant to sell the book’s movie rights, fearing a film would do an injustice to his work, but eventually acquiesced (not to the highest bidder, mind you) because he felt this group, with Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles at the helm, understood his vision, and their proposed treatment captured the essence of his book.
Ergo #2: it’s a good movie.

Many a defense of the film has shouted “If you don’t like this movie, read the book and you will!” Stunning and incisive, that. I haven’t read the book so my reaction to Blindness, the film, is based on the sub par experience of merely watching the movie. Little things like the fact that not one actor in this film acted in such a way as to convince me that they might be blind should matter.

Blindness is a story about a society where everyone except the star goes blind. It focuses on a group that is quarantined in a well-lit, ahem, but over-crowded asylum. Conditions degrade very quickly and chaos ensues. It's horrific.

I went to see this film knowing nothing about it. I had seen the director’s earlier film City of God and thought it was magnificent. I liked the movie poster and I’m a big Julianne Moore fan. She’s very good in the film. She's the only one who is not blind and at one point, while showering in a room full of blind people, she is the first and only one to hear the faint sounds of a radio being played in another room. That’s good acting! It would be wrong to object to the unlikelihood of this by invoking the prejudice that blind people develop a heightened sense of hearing, the same bigotry that doesn’t know blind people walk around naked and shit on the floor—like they do in this faithful filmic adaptation of a book.

The Blindness in this film, however, is a special Blindness. Everything doesn’t go black, it goes white. It’s an allegory. The director attempts to recreate this experience for the viewing audience by washing out the film to a milky white blur which is fine in concept but its execution seems entirely random—to the point of directorial conceit. Like when the husband and the hooker, who share a bond the husband can't enjoy with his wife (she's not blind), are having sex, we watch them through the milky white blur. Why? Because it’s the European thing to do. There will be gratuitous sex and the wife will understand.

Before the big gang rape scene, there is a scene where the really bad guy, the guy who conveniently found a loaded weapon and proclaimed himself “King”, is barking orders at everyone. Julianne’s character heckles him and he snaps “I will never forget your voice” while pointing the gun at her. Blind people have an acute sense of hearing and can do that. But just before Julianne sucks his dick in the big rape scene, she talks to him face to face and he seems to have forgotten the sound of her voice. If it seems confusing as to why Julianne’s character would go through the humiliation of all the women being raped, one fatally, before using her meager advantage of sight to kill this guy, remember, rape is the only reason a woman will kill. Anything less than that, up to and including the mere threat of rape at gunpoint, and she will just suffer.

And you should too. Pay no attention to the improbabilities, the bad acting, the cringe worthy dialog, the pompous and misogynist screenplay and direction, or the ridiculously campy 360 which results in a profound and happy ending. The film is an allegory based on a novel. It’s very trés trés. Fork out your ten bux and enjoy this piece of filth. It’s the sophisticated thing to do.