When you’re hanging out with old friends, watching a movie is often the last resort when looking for something to do. After all, you can’t talk during a movie anyway (at least not too much), and you could always watch a movie on your own and get equal enjoyment from it.
But even though going on vacation seems to constitute “doing something,” it’s interesting how many times during a vacation one ends up in a situation where there is nothing to do. Except for the last resort, which is why I’ve watched four movies on the first four days of my vacation.
“Pandorum” (2009). I was willing to give it a try because it looked somewhat like “Event Horizon” (1997). Indeed, this spaceship-based film is visually impressive — grimy, gray, metallic, claustrophobic — as we follow a group of humans who aim to start a civilization on another planet because Earth is overpopulated. “Pandorum” has a sci-fi concept that’s fun to mull over, but it’s tough to watch. None of the characters connected with me. The lead actor, Dennis Quaid, sits on the bridge and gruffly barks orders to the handful of survivors of a stasis-tube malfunction, as if he was brought in for a day of work reading lines. My friend Mike liked it, though.
“Daybreakers” (2010). This film shows how versatile vampire mythology can be when you tweak the concept a little bit. Like “Pandorum,” this is a visual stunner; most of the scenes take place at night or in dimly lit buildings, because in this future most of the human race has turned into vampires. It starts off with a tour of this twisted version of modern society, and it’s fascinating. Then I was roped in by the search for a cure to vampirism. We get an orgy of violence toward the end, but it’s not that kind of movie; it’s more of a compelling human drama than an actioner. My friends Mike and Kelly also gave big thumbs-ups to this one.
“Youth in Revolt” (2010). It’s worth watching for Michael Cera’s dual roles. On one hand, he plays his typical offshoot of George Michael Bluth, but he also plays the alter ego who functions as the devil on his shoulder. I and my brother-in-law, Dustin, chuckled a lot during the first half of this film, as many scenes play out with a fascinating bluntness that’s like a mash-up of “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Dawson’s Creek.” I assume the book on which “YIR” is based must get subtle as it draws to a conclusion, because the film version falls apart as if the book became unfilmable at some point. Still, it’s worth renting for the funny first hour.
“Kick-Ass” (2010). This movie, which I saw in a second-run theater, seems to be faithfully based on the comic book source material as we follow a teen who wonders why — despite the increasing popularity of comic books and comic-book movies — no one tries to be an actual superhero. So he does, and in his first attempt to fight crime, he gets stabbed and run over. When he recovers, he gains the confidence to keep throwing himself into fights with Wolverine-like abandon.
The movie could’ve been called “Hit-Girl,” because the youngster who is raised by her dad (Big Daddy) to become a vigilante gets just as much screen time as the title character. But “Kick-Ass” can’t sustain its momentum so it devolves into violent set pieces. It’s typical of our backward American culture this movie created buzz about an 11-year-old girl swearing like adult male action star, but not much ink was given to the stunning level of violence everyone doles out and receives. My friend Jeremy enjoyed the picture more than I did, but I agree it’s worth seeing if you’re a comic-book aficionado.