Thursday, December 31, 2009

PANDEMIC (2009)

I have a buddy. He loves movies. He's not as picky as I, though, about what he chooses to love. As he has no close family here locally, I have, for some years, now, had him spend the various holi-days with me and mine. He did this year, as usual, and brought a pile of movies to watch, as usual. Generally, he is, to be honest, terrible at picking movies--goes by whatever box cover looks cool. This year was no different. He appeared on Christmas Eve with a large pile of space-wasting genre features, as usual, and, over two days, we nevertheless watched them all, as usual.

One, in particular, stood out as exceptionally awful, a shitty little ditty called PANDEMIC.

How to put it?

One can actually feel oneself getting dumber while watching PANDEMIC, a film seemingly created by complete idiots for an apparently like-minded audience. As it went along, I made little then no effort to resist the nagging temptation to point out its many idiocies. Talking during movies is usually a no-no, but this one was just too much--it was draining some part of my soul. Even my buddy, who, having chosen it, can sometimes become defensive over that sort of thing, laughed at it with me as it went along. It gives me a sharp pain to think someone gave perhaps as much as a few million dollars to the poor fools who made it (the holiday season being an appropriate time for undue mercy, the latter shall remain nameless).

PANDEMIC is a thrill-free thriller about a small town in New Mexico that becomes infected with a disease that kills both livestock and humans. After a horse, a cow, and a rancher become infected and die from it, the town vet gets together with the town coroner and, inspecting the rancher's corpse (with "sterile" gloves left laying openly on the same table as the bloddy, diseased corpse), decide to call the Centers for Disease Control, as officials always do when a disease is so dreadful it kills a cow, a horse, and a rancher.

Within half an hour of their call, a huge military contingent arrives and quarantines the entire town.

As always happens when one calls the CDC, right? Particularly after such a terrible death toll.

The military boys don't seem to be under the command of, say, the President of the United States. They are, instead, under the command of a general who, though not the president, has, we're told, the power to issue executive orders with the force of law to the civilian population! And he does so, we're told repeatedly, under the authority of some conduct code internal to the military. And this internal military conduct code gives him the power to seal off a U.S. town from the entire world. He doesn't just keep people from moving in and out--he cuts off the mail, phone communications with the outside world, including cell phones (quite a trick!), and--horror of horrors!--even turns off the town's cable! This is said to be a town of only a few hundred people, but our veterinarian heroine is seen driving through it, post-quarantine, in one of those awful music-video-inspired existential-crisis-as-montage sequences, and there are perhaps hundreds of cars driving the multi-lane streets. An idiot character included solely for the purpose tells the second-in-command among the military brass that he's been feeling sick, fears he has the disease, has heard rumors that there is a "vaccine," and requests that he be made a test subject for it. A vaccine, of course, is worthless to those who already have a disease, but the colonel in question says there is one, and even gives it to the fellow.

And so on. In the end, the whole thing turns out to be a bio-weapon test, and one is as unsurprised by this generic turn of events as one is wholly unconcerned by it or anything else in the movie by the time it is revealed. It's hard to understate how profoundly bad is PANDEMIC. It has a script that would insult the intelligence of a 12-year-old from the sorriest excuse for a school in the U.S., and those who made it had the money to get Ray Wise and a shitload of military equipment for it (and, I'll admit, the thought that this happens in a world in which I, in an effort to finance my own film project, have had to resort to rubbing quarters together in a vain effort to get them to mate probably didn't enhance my viewing experience, either).

The mind boggles.

But at least it had a cool cover. I suppose.

--j.

3 comments:

  1. Hi J.

    I'm glad you gave a link to this site on Scott's blog. I feel the same way as you about such films. Darkness Falls and Kicking and Screaming are the two most horribly put together Hollywood films that I have ever seen. The poor editing and barely maintained continuity makes both movies incredibly difficult to understand. Ugh. I know, however, that others think differently than me, so I try my best to avoid offending the tastes of others. Hopefully, on this blog, I will not have to be as careful.

    I'm mostly interested in classic American and foreign films. I love Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick, Luis Bunuel, Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman, etc.

    However, to me, there are few films made nowadays that reach a real level of greatness (independent, foreign, or otherwise). Perhaps you know of a currently active director who makes good quality films? Do you have any recommendations?

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  2. "I know, however, that others think differently than me, so I try my best to avoid offending the tastes of others. Hopefully, on this blog, I will not have to be as careful."

    Absolutely not; around here, we're all about offending the tastes of others.

    "I'm mostly interested in classic American and foreign films. I love Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick, Luis Bunuel, Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman, etc."

    All great stuff. Speak the words and wear the Film Snob label with pride!

    "However, to me, there are few films made nowadays that reach a real level of greatness (independent, foreign, or otherwise). Perhaps you know of a currently active director who makes good quality films? Do you have any recommendations?"

    A lot of it depends on what you like, and what you're willing to entertain in the way of New and Different.

    Of recent movies in the last few weeks, I've seen MONGOL (a pretty good epic about Genghis Khan), APPALOOSA (a very unusual Western with some really great elements that was, as a whole, pretty good but not great), PLANET TERROR (an excellent throwback to old-school exploit cinema), DEATHPROOF (a rather poor throwback to old-school exploit cinema), and I gave a rewatch to the new STAR TREK (which is a great deal of fun).

    There are lots of good currently-active directors. I really like David Lynch. He always comes up with something interesting. Quentin Tarantino is rock-solid when firing on all cylinders, not so solid when on auto-pilot (as happened in JACKIE BROWN and the aforementioned DEATHPROOF). Werner Herzog is an excellent filmmaker, and may be closer to what you're wanting (though, without more to go on, I'm really just guessing about that). Robert Rodriguez, when he can be dragged away from wasting his talent on dumb children's movies, is a lot of fun.

    There are plenty of others. What are your interests, though?

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  3. My interests? I'm not a filmmaker so I'll try to describe it. Let's see...while I don't really have a favorite genre, I am primarily interested in films that focus on continuity editing and craft. This is why I like classic film. Rules are set up, followed, and broken when it's logical to do so. I don't think there is a lot of logic in terms of cinematic style nowadays. It seems many filmmakers just try to make music videos that pass off as movies with their emphasis on hip-hop style and fast cutting.

    This is why I like No Country for Old Men. The editing is tight, precise, and logical. At times, it almost reminds me of a Stanley Kubrick film.

    So I don't know. I guess I like films with craft, particularly in terms of cinematography and editing. I understand there are some filmmakers that employee fast cutting as an aesthetic, but I'm really not interested in that.

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