Assault On Precinct 13 (1976)
The first twenty(-ish) minutes of this movie feels like you’re just waiting for a car crash to happen, then a little girl gets senselessly murdered and then you’re just watching a car crash in slow motion for the rest of the movie. John Carpenter is incredible at creating a tension and dread and a very specific cavalier humor that lasts through the whole hour and a half (see: literally any of his movies). A lot of the fun of this one comes from the mysterious nature of this highly organized coalition of gangs that have come to relentlessly… assault… precinct… 13. (I know that it’s actually Precinct 9, Division 13. Relax.) The first chunk of the movie, they’re just chugging along, and you’re not really sure what they’re doing, but they’re definitely doing something, and it will 100% be bad and against the law. Then when the… assault… on… precinct… 13… (*resigned, staring at my own hands*)… actually begins, it’s total chaos! They’re shooting up the building for like ten minutes! Just shooting! At everything! Papers are flying everywhere! It’s pretty much the scene from Top Secret (1984) but like, also harrowing!
Look, I’d love to give you an excited and painstaking reconstruction of every outrageous scene in the movie, but I won’t because we don’t know each other like that and I apparently have a lot to say about Bad Moms (2016) next. However, I will tell you that I think this movie is a fun, efficient, violent treat.
Bad Moms (2016)
I got one of those indoor bike trainer things so that I can ride my bike inside. I’m training for a bike tour happening this spring, and I thought it would be a fun way to stay sharp during these cold winter months. I watched Bad Moms while doing some cycling and, let me tell you: it did not make training go by faster. Not necessarily because it’s a bad movie (it is, but in that manageable, inoffensive way where you’re aware that none of this matters), but because I got really in my own head about the inner workings of this movie.
The basic sentiment of this movie is that moms are beleaguered, overworked, and vastly underappreciated. Which is true (I’m not going to pretend like I know what your family situation is like, but I do think that for the majority of families this is true). The premise of Bad Moms appears to ask the question: what if our saintly mothers allowed themselves to be in a slow-motion drinking party movie, post-The Hangover (2009) / Bridesmaids (2011)? Which, honestly, is fair, fine. It’s a little played out, but it’s dependable! American movie audiences fucking LOVE to see people binge drinking and dancing in slow motion. You just need to switch up the subjects doing it every now and then and boom! — there’s your new early summer comedy.
The purpose of these “wild night for a group of relatable friends” movies in large part is a very generalized wish fulfillment. Who doesn’t wish they could just cut loose and be true to themselves? It’s interesting that in the language of mass appeal comedies, this is typically conveyed as drinking as if alcohol poisoning doesn’t exist, and that it ends up with everyone still being friends and maybe their lives improving in some small, personal way. The lesson learned at the end of Bad Moms is that nobody is perfect, not even moms, and our families should all be working together to help each other out so that it doesn’t all fall on one person’s (usually mom’s) shoulders. Which is good, I get that — I just think that if these movies are supposed to be relatable mirrors offered up by the filmmakers, then the image they present to us of ourselves, or in this case, of our moms, is depressingly unambitious. At the end of this movie, really what’s different for our main Bad Mom Amy? She’s finally decided to leave her doofus husband, but now she still has to raise two kids on her own. Her boss begs her to come back to her job, and she’s negotiated much better terms, but she’s still working for someone else, trapped in this startup hip office culture hellhole. I guess her kids treat her better, but being nice to your mom is literally the least you can do! All of these “wins” that Amy has achieved by the end of the movie are so small, and if this is supposed to be wish fulfillment, why aren’t we wishing for something bigger than keeping our heads above the water? Why are we wishing for double the salary when we could be wishing for the end of this capitalist prison? We should want more for our moms and we should want more for ourselves! (also lol @ any time Mila Kunis is cast as someone relatable)
I didn’t keep track of the miles, but I definitely worked up a sweat cycling for about half of this movie uninterrupted, by the way.
Jesus Christ, this fucking movie. I’d never seen it before this week, but what an exciting artifact of a time when action movies still felt an obligation to give us some set pieces and explosions, instead of taking care of it all with some expensive CGI post-production. (Shoutout to Michael Bay who has continued to deliver set pieces and explosions in addition to gaudy CGI post-production, a maximalist in every sense.) I vaguely remember that the marketing for this movie all boiled down to selling you the idea that Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is James Bond for a new generation of thirteen year old boys who wished James Bond did X-treme sports and weren’t such a pussy, and I don’t know, I guess that’s pretty accurate?
xXx is a movie that is made to appeal to your most basic lizard brain, revealing the easily amused idiot deep inside all of us. This sounds like a put-down, and it sort of is, but I liked this movie a lot. I was frequently shaking my head at how over the top some of these stunts are (the one where he shoots a spear gun at a runaway nuclear boat and uses it to parasail with a big star-spangled parachute is a personal fave), and I found myself shouting at a couple points in the movie, “WHY DID YOU LEAVE A DIRT BIKE OUT HERE YOU MAY AS WELL HAVE JUST GIVEN HIM A GUN DID YOU WANT TO GET YOUR ASS KICKED??” Seriously, there are dirt bikes, like, everywhere in this movie, and every time you see one it’s just a countdown to another thrilling stunt.
Here are a few lines from this movie that I think truly capture the *sips an expensive, old-ass wine* weltanschauung of this dumb movie for idiot babies like me:
“An athlete like you should really have his own videogame”
“Do I look like a fan of law enforcement?”
“I like anything fast enough to do something stupid in.”
“If you’re gonna send someone to save the world, make sure they like it the way it is.”
Phantom Thread (2017)
There’s already a lot of really good writing about Phantom Thread but you’re here for my take for some reason, so here we go: I liked it! This was my second time watching it in the theaters, and I will say that the second time around is a pretty different experience, which I think is cool. When you know where this movie ends up, a lot of the tension of the initial view is replaced by an… easygoing…ness? That’s probably not the word, exactly, but I found that I was able to look at this movie through a more light-hearted lense this time around, which also helped to reveal new layers to everyone’s performances. Phantom Thread is a really dense and rewarding movie that I’ve only come to enjoy more with a second viewing. Now to rewatch those HAIM videos!