"Catfish"

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A Play-By-Play of “Unstoppable”

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“Hey young guy!”

“What’s up OLD MAN?”

“Alright, let’s get on this train!”

(later, on the train)

“I’ve got issues with my girl, Denzel!”

“Me too, but my girl is my daughter because I’m the older co-star!”

Meanwhile:

“Hmm, I think I’ll put this train on automatic pilot UH OHHHHH”

Back at the other train:

“How about this banter, young fella?”

“Whatever, Old Man!”

“Listen, young fella . . . Life lesson.”

“Good point, Old Man, You’re not so bad OH NO THAT TRAIN’S GOING FASTLY!”

Somewhere else, Rosario Dawson is buying cupcakes for kids, where she finds out that a train is UNSTOPPABLE!!! (By the way, Rosario Dawson oversees Northern Pennsylvania train routes. WHAT?)

(thudding music, beeps and boops)

“Dispatch, repeat! Over! I’m driving a train with kids on it that’s headed towards that other train!”

“Don’t do that!”

“Okay!”

Kids are saved or whatever. Meanwhile:

“Hello, Some Guy, this is Rosario Dawson and you are part of my special team!”

Some Guy says “HOORAY!”

Okay, I can’t keep this up. Tony Scott’s films are unbearable. All uppercut, no jab. What I’ve just described to you are the first EIGHTEEN MINUTES of Unstoppable. I’m too out of shape to keep up with Tony Scott’s insanely frenetic pace. Remember the epileptic seizure Scott filmed known as Man on Fire? That movie would have been good if it had been watchable.

And yet, I must persist, because Rosario Dawson as Some Train Lady is too funny. Dawson is beautiful, she’s just not . . . Stockyard Beautiful, you know? It’s like Chris Pine as some conductor. It’s a proven fact that everyone in the railroad industry, man or woman, is a dead ringer for Jake “The Snake” Roberts.

One thing that Scott loves to do is the Sudden Zoom In or Out For No Apparent Reason. I guess he’s trying to goose the action, but it just seems like an intern keeps bumping into the camera operator. Strangely, this is the most subdued film Scott’s film made in years, and it’s STILL obnoxious.

And another lecture from Denzel to the rookie, then our heroes realize that a train is headed right for them! (AIIIIIEEEE!) My wife, with perfect timing, said, “Now they’ll become friends!”

“Luck has no business in a railyard!” And with that, we have the best line of Unstoppable.

Apparently, the train has an explosive chemical on it, because of course it does. It’s called Molten Phenal, which sounds like the name of an evil Croatian billionaire.

(thudding music, beeps and boops)

“This isn’t a train, it’s a missile the size of the Chrysler Building!” Correction: NOW we have the best line of Unstoppable.

THAT TRAIN BLOWED UP THAT HORSE TRAILER REAL GOOD!

OO, the evil owner of the chemical company, who is, of course, playing golf. Just once, I’d like to see one of these evil movie billionaires actually working, and —

BWAHAHAA! A classic moment: Some Guy from earlier showed a state officer his card as a welder, and said that Yardmaster Connie Hooper sent him. An older officer emerges and says “Connie sent you?!?!?” Unstoppable is just one of many great films built on the legendary tightness of the Yardmaster/State Trooper relationship. (See also: Battleship Potemkin, Fletch.)

Rosario Dawson: Yardmaster. Yardmistress?

Forty-three minutes in, and we have a sequence of hardcore train-on-train action. And now a guy’s coming down from a helicopter. And now the guy went through a windshield and his unconscious body is dangling in the air. I’m guessing the wife and I aren’t supposed to be giggling right now. And now some train cars blew up in a semi-nuclear explosion! Wow. Were those trains made of nitroglycerin?

(thudding music, beeps and boops)

And now the movie shifts to the flattest, most boring Hooters restaurant ever for the most boring brief heart-to-heart ever. Unstoppable isn’t afraid to hit every generic note.

Fifty minutes in, Denzel’s no longer The Old Guy. He’s now officially a Loose Cannon Conductor!

If I’d just waited eight months, I could be watching this for free on FX. Lesson learned.

An hour in, Unstoppable plays the unfair trick of ladling on a little extra pathos for Denzel’s character (He was fired, boody-hoo) to make him even more sympathetic, inspiring Pine to help Washington Go Rogue! And so does Rosario! SWEET FANCY LORD, WE’VE GOT US AN OUT-OF-CONTROL YARDMASTER!

Now we get another monologue from Pine, I guess to make him more sympathetic, but director Scott is more interested in swirling around the train car. Apparently, Pine’s backstory was a big domestic violence deal, but it was a “misunderstanding.” Surrrre.

Interestingly, both Pine and Washington’s characters are basically trying to save this train because they have a death wish. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but that’s kinda depressing.

Unstoppable is the kind of movie that features Denzel Washington saying “Me too . . .” (softer) “Me too.”

(thudding music, beeps and boops)

Here we go: Now Denzel’s giving the final life lesson that will heal Chris Pine, and, in a way, all of us. Bless us with your wisdom, Denzel.

Alright, now that we’ve all learned, we can now enter The Third Act, where things need to blow up, and good. This film is like McKee’s seminar on screenplays come to life. You can predict each beat before they happen.

Minutes later, Chris Pine appears to sacrifice himself during an act of heroism, but he’s able to will himself up back onto a speeding train using what many doctors call “Movie Strength.” Denzel goes out to spell Pine, so that Pine may rest his Movie-Strong Hands. Thankfully, Denzel has the agility and quickness of a stunt double, allowing him to run on top of train cars (yes) so he can go between them and disconnect them. Denzel looks chubby and tired in close-ups, but in long shots, he can move!

Near the end, there’s a threat that the out of control train will hit some fuel silos that were built right next to a curve in the train tracks. If I may summon my best Seinfeld: Who were the city planners that came up with THAT one?

It would appear that news stations in Northern Pennsylvania get their footage shot by some of the best second-unit crews in Hollywood.

And now Chris Pine uses his movie-based long jump abilities to leap from a moving train into the bed of a truck!

(thudding music, beeps and boops)

Oh no, don’t tell me that Denzel’s going to die a martyr. Please no. Wait, Chris Pine’s jumping back on the train? And now he’s dangling onto the train, using all of his movie strength? Say what you will about this young actor, but he appears to be as strong as the mighty Hercules. Aw, and now his wife loves him again. And the fat guy that screwed up and started the mess is happy too, even though he’ll almost certainly be fired. And now, I can stop caring.

Farewell, Unstoppable. I’ve already forgotten you.

Murder Most Dull: AMC’s “The Killing”

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At the end of the eighth episode of The Killing‘s 12-episode first season, the show began its now-standard closing montage. Every show-closing montage is the same, set to thudding, 24-like percussion as we look at each of our characters and get a grasp on where they are within the story. As the montage went on, and the music got louder and thuddier, I realized that NOTHING has changed on this damn show, and I finally reacted in a way this drab and humorless show would not have preferred: I laughed, long and loud and hard, cackling at the montage’s pointlessness. We don’t need to have a show-closing recap, because nothing ever happens on this damn show.

SOMEBODY TURN ON A LIGHT!

Back in high school, a game came out for the Playstation called Silverload. It was a Western-themed adventure games, and when you made a mistake, the calm but determined voice of the game’s hero would say “Nothing happens.” At one point, I got to a part of the game where, no matter what direction I turned, I got the same message: “Nothing happens. Nothing happens. Nothing happens.”

That cowboy’s voice echoes throughout my brain every time I watch an hour of The Killing. This show is the dullest pile of Who Cares AMC has churned out. It makes Rubicon look like the opening credits to Enter The Void. SOOOOO SLOOOOWWWWW. Nothing happens.

The pilot, while slow, at least set the table and provided the illusion that things might eventually occur. Nope. Slow-ass non-happenings ooze forward each week, intersperse with character “beats” that aren’t even interesting. The set design is constantly rainy and glum, and not one of the characters has ever smiled. Everything is dour, and drab, and oh so serious. This slow-paced solemity is supposed to be heavy drama, but it’s really just an hour of CSI, stretched out to 12 hours but just as generic. The characters are cartoons, but they’re dull, uninteresting cartoons. The main cop glowers a bunch, with the twist being it’s a red-headed female.I hate this lazy kind of producer-think: It’s not generic because the cop has boobies! Derp.

The main cop is So Darn Committed, that she ends up alienating her husband, because she cares so darn much. Her sidekick looks exactly like a strung-out junkie. In an amazing twist, he told her that he had once been in rehab. HOLY CRUMBS! Meanwhile, the boss that dragged her in for One Last Case is now claiming she’s A Loose Cannon Out Of Control! But see, it’s classy television because it’s raining all the time and there aren’t any jokes. Shut Up, Show.

So, we have the Crappy Generic Cop Show aspect. To make things wacky, they also throw in a political subplot that takes up 15 minutes of the show each week and is beyond uninteresting. I guess there’s a major scandal going on because the music gets really loud. Otherwise, I couldn’t tell you why any of that story matters. “Nothing happens. Nothing happens.  Nothing happens.”

The actors aren’t to blame. The cast is talented. For example Some Actor and An Actress Lady do great work as a grieving couple; the problem is that we’ve now watched them grieve for eight episodes, with no change whatsoever. Each day on the show is a new blast of misery for this couple, and then we watch them wail and moan and grieve and moyvin and flavin. It’s so overwrought and dramatic I feel immediately compelled to mock it.

Earlier in the season, the couple is being interviewed at the station, and in a hilarious scene, the doors to a room fling open right when the the couple is walking by it, and there are pictures of their daughter’s brutalized body projected on the wall. (DERP!) Then, to make matters worse (and way more hilarious), Redhead Cop Lady walks back in all shocked, because she had lied to the couple and said that Rosie had not been beaten. Because all cops dedicated to the letter of the law always do that, apparently. The moment is ill-conceived and stupid, but watching Detective Gingergoof awkwardly bumble through an apology while the couple stands there staring at her was a pinnacle of Bad Drama. That scene was so bad it should have been introduced by Leonard Pinth-Garnell.

And then, as if they couldn’t top that, on the last episode, the news for some reason (I barely even listen when this is on anymore) showed the same photos on TV, right when the victim’s mom turned the TV on. So funny, so ridiculous. I can’t wait to see what awful coincidence the couple will have forced upon them by the writing staff next. Maybe the garbage truck will drive past their house, and the truck will hit a bump on the road and their daughter’s bones will land on their doorstep. Maybe the cop will be at the grocery store, eating a jelly donut and staring at blown-up poster size prints of the crime scene when the couple walks around the corner. Maybe the couple can go to a baseball game and their daughter’s battered, caged body will be projected on the Jumbotron. The possibilities are endless.

The Killing. Don’t watch it!

“The Tourist”

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The Tourist stars Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie as a couple of people involved in some sort of spy thing. Paul Bettany is in it, too. That’s the impression The Tourist left on me. It’s one of the blandest things I’ve seen in ages. At no point will you care about what’s going on in The Tourist. However, it does have the greatest ending of all time:

About 50 minutes into the movie, I got sick of it, turned it off, and found out Osama Bin Laden had been killed. (SPOILER!)

For that reason, I give The Tourist two stars on a scale of 5 thumbs.