One of the great things about writing for a site like CHUD is that you suddenly find yourself with the opportunity to speak to lots of people who share your love of movies and who probably have a similar mindset. And that means you have the chance to pimp out a movie that you think is great, and that you suspect a lot of people reading the site will think is pretty great, too. We’ve never been shy about doing this – hell, it’s almost part of our basic mission statement.
For the rest of the week we’re going to bring you ten films that CHUD has championed. These are the films that we pimped, and we pimped hard, and we’re proud to have put our name and our reputation on the line for them.
Hellboy (Buy the DVD)
Why it’s Essential: An odd bird amongst superhero comics, Hellboy stands out from its contemporaries in celluloid form as well. For one, it’s the rare superhero movie that manages to pretty much deal with the origin story in the prologue, rather than having it drag through the entire first film of the franchise. It’s also unique amongst superhero films in that it not only has an accomplished director at the helm (Guillermo Del Toro), but one who is a consummate visual stylist as well. The film pulsates with color, life, and energy in almost every frame, and you never get the feeling that GdT is anything less than inspired as he plays in this mystical, yet realistic world.
Still, it took me a viewing or four to fully appreciate the film. Like a lot of you, I was initially a bit let down by the smaller, limited scope of Hellboy’s repetitive battles with the creature Sammael, and the teasing of full-on Lovecraftian madness in the form of terrible giant-tentacled creatures roaming in the last act left me unsatisfied. But while spectacle is nice, getting a story right with great characters is better, and Del Toro nails everything that makes Hellboy re-watchable as an entire film instead of a badass fight or two surrounded by an okay story. It all started with draping the film on the ever-capable shoulders of Ron Perlman, who carries it beautifully. And with that rock solid core, Del Toro does a great job of developing HB’s relationships with friends and foes. And it’s these scenes – Hellboy’s awkwardness with Liz, his deference to his Earthly father, his rivalry with Myers – that enthrall me the most when I see the film now. And I can say that about almost no other film of this genre in recent memory.
I’d love to see him kick ass more and I have no doubt it’ll be part of the tapestry of the sequel, The Golden Army. But it’s the relationships and family themes running so strong in the original that have catapulted beyond an obvious pleasure for me, and that’s what will keep this franchise so strong going forth.
The Movie: Four planes are hijacked on the morning of September 11, 2001. Three find their targets, but the fourth hits the ground before it can be crashed into the nation’s Capitol. This is the story not only of the fourth plane and passengers, but of the efforts on the ground to react to that morning’s events.
Why it’s Essential: It’s easy to take a public event and make a cheap movie of the week, and the audiences yelling ‘too soon!’ obviously expected something of that ilk from Paul Greengrass. You’d probably expect it when we’re championing the movie, too, just as long as it was the hairy kind of ilk, and Ted Levine took a whole 747 to the head. But United 93 is anything but exploitation.
(I’ll save for later the questions about how we collectively applaud cheap exploitation as long as we know the ‘based on a true story’ tagline is a lie?)
In fact, this movie is one of those totally unique hybrids that come along once every twenty or thirty years. Since they typically accompany terrible events, I’m OK with that frequency. Through research and one of those impossible casting coups — filling roles with some of the real people who were there on the day — Greengrass synthesized something that’s neither fiction nor documentary.
What I can’t resist in this movie isn’t what happens on the plane, though that’s handled with as much taste and care as I think is possible. It’s the way we’re shown how the ground efforts faltered, contradicted and unraveled any attempt to find the hijacked planes, much less stop them. It’s utterly fascinating stuff, and I never get lost in the material, as Greengrass keeps the flow perfectly timed.
Finally, United 93 is a litmus test for the truly insane. If you meet people who continue to argue conspiracy theories in the face of so many direct witnesses to these events, run the other way, fast. Don’t even waste your DVD copy of the movie on them — especially if it’s the long-gone 2-disc version. Anyone got a spare one of those?’