Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Recent movies - The Thing, Bad Day at Black Rock, and Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator

The Thing (1982) - This is a pretty good horror film. I had seen the first 20 minutes years ago at a Halloween party (in early high school, actually), and we turned it off because it wasn't quite what everyone was in the mood for. If I remember right, I may have been the only guy there. I don't think the girls like the dog transformation scene. I didn't either, at the time.

Everything works really well in The Thing. The way the story opens, with this feeling of mystery and rising dread, is really effective. It would have been cool to watch this movie with no idea of the plot before-hand, so that the whole 20-30 minutes before the creature even reveals itself would have been all clueless-yet-freaky anxiety. Even though I spoiled it (sort of) years ago, it still worked for me, fortunately. I'm sure every modern review says this, but the effects hold up really well. They're very well-done creature effects. Gross as all get out and believable. Kurt Russell is great as the lead. I loved the blood-testing scene (and now I get that reference in the South Park episode where Cartman tests everyone for lice).

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) - I took advantage of Netflix's "Watch Instantly" feature to check this one out while Amy was out shopping. It's a great movie. I think I've only seen one other Spencer Tracy movie (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?), but wow he's a great actor. The premise concerns Tracy's one-armed character arriving in a tiny town in Arizona for unknown reasons. (I don't know how this town sustains itself, because they don't show anyone other than the 8-12 main characters the whole movie, and they're hostile to visitors, but eh. Actually, it was the same kind of town as the one featured in Cars, so I guess these places must have existed.) Everyone in the town is hostile and wants him to leave right away, also for unknown reasons. They keep trying to provoke Tracy's character, but he won't react. He has some business to attend to, and he just wants to do it and leave, but no one in town co-operates. There are some great pay-offs in the movie. The supporting cast is quite good, too: Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Lee Marvin, and Walter Brennan (as Not Stumpy).

Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator (2002) - This is a good companion piece to Rising Son (the Christian Hosoi story). Both were gods of the 80s skate scene. Both made millions and bought into the lifestyle. Hosoi got into drugs and was eventually busted and spent several years in jail, where he gave his life to Christ. He's now a youth pastor at a big SoCal church, and he skates and speaks to youth through Stephen Baldwin's Livin' It ministry. (Amy and I got to see him skate a few months ago at an event in Orange County, along with our friend Anthony Carney -- who killed it, by the way.) Gator gave his life to Christ just before going to jail for the rape and murder of a 19-year-old girl. It creates a tough situation to explain. On the one hand, Hosoi is serving the Lord in a great way and has truly turned his life around. The fruits of his claims are evident in his lifestyle. What do I say about Gator's professed Christianity? He really didn't give his life to the Lord? Or he just really turned his back on Him in the most extreme way possible for a brief time? I don't know. If he really gave his life to the Lord, that should have been manifest in his life. But Christians still sin. But he raped and murdered someone shortly after his professed conversion. I don't know.

The documentary itself is interesting in the same way that Hosoi's is in the beginning. It shows the 80s skate scene in all its glory, with a lot of archival footage and interviews with the skaters involved. There is also some interesting stuff about early skate-related marketing and branding. But it doesn't shy away from telling the story of the horrible and tragic conclusion, which is really hard to watch. There's no hope at the end. No happy ending like Hosoi's story. Mark (Gator) is interviewed from prison throughout, and at the end he doesn't really speak about whether he is still seeking God or not.

1 comment:

jeri said...

Can't remember if I commented in the movies folder or not... The Thing is one of Ric's all-time favorites. He made me watch it, and I was surprised to find I liked it. I thought it would be formulaic, but it had a lot more depth than expected, and I enjoyed the setting for the story too.

I have only seen a few Spencer Tracy movies, but yes, he's great. He was known for doing a lot of movies with Katherine Hepburn. I remember Desk Set was a good one.