We held a miniature Jane Austen film festival at home the week all the movie theaters closed and first-release films started coming out to (expensively) stream… tried one of those, plus three standard-def classics.


Persuasion (1995, Roger Michell)

Better of the two Persuasions. Anne is an old maid (by classic brit-lit standards) who rarely smiles. When her dad and snob-ass sisters retreat to Bath, Anne encounters old flame Captain Wentworth, whom she turned down before he became rich and acclaimed. She follows like a mouse while he’s aggressively courted by a neighboring family with ridiculous daughters, then when a “rich” (not at all rich) cousin shows interest in Anne, Wentworth reveals that he still likes her, and all is settled nicely.

Amanda Root followed up with a Jane Eyre, Ciaran Hinds with Cold Lazarus. The fluffy-haired, not-rich-after-all cousin is Samuel West (Dr. Frankenstein in that jacked-up Van Helsing). Complainy sister Mary is Sophie Thompson of the Gwyneth Paltrow Emma. Susan Fleetwood, Anne’s substitute mom who wears great hats, died of cancer the year this came out.


Emma (2020, Autumn de Wilde)

Radiant looking movie, with high color and production design, and I do love Anya Taylor-Joy and Bill Nighy. Unfortunately the editing was all over the place. It turns out we watched the two Emmas in the wrong order – you’re supposed to watch the one that makes dramatic sense first, then the one that’s super stylized. Persuasion followed Anne, who was persuaded to reject her love, and now we follow Emma, who persuades her friend Mia Goth (of Suspiria Remake) to reject her farmer suitor. Both girls end up with their rightful guys in the end.


Persuasion (2007, Adrian Shergold)

Oh wow, somebody got a digital HD camera and is very excited about it. Sally Hawkins is a more naturally emotive Anne, at least, and we enjoyed that Giles plays her dad. Shergold had previously filmed Dennis Potter’s Christabel and a Timothy Spall hangman movie.


Emma (1996, Douglas McGrath)

A proper version of the story, and highly enjoyable, with the title character as played by Gwyneth Paltrow seeming more foolish and less cruel. Toni Collette played the Mia Goth role, Alan Cumming as the minister who Emma tries to hook up with Toni, and Jeremy Northam as the man both Harriet and Emma fall for, before Harriet goes back to her farmer. Ewan McGregor is briefly a love interest before it’s revealed that he’s secretly marrying Emma’s rival. The music beat Randy Newman and Hans Zimmer at the oscars, and The English Patient beat this for costumes. Confusingly, between the two versions of Persuasion, Paltrow and Northam and Jennifer Ehle starred in a non-Austen movie called Possession.

Right after I watched Five Came Back, here’s its inverse: British documentary filmmaker is asked by the war office to make a rousing feature, since nobody enjoys newsreels. Columnist Gemma Arterton (The Girl With All The Gifts, Byzantium) is hired as screenwriter, and washed-up detective-franchise star Bill Nighy as actor, and the movie mostly follows Gemma as she tries to make good work while falling for her cowriter Sam Claflin (a fantasy/action franchise specialist), while breaking up with her not-really-husband Jack Huston (John’s grandson – another Five Came Back connection!).

The movie’s fine, with some weird choices (near the end everything gets bright and quiet when Claflin is killed by some rickety film equipment), some in-fashion feminism, and the same old “yay, people who helped the WWII war effort” which is starting to give me the sinking feeling that that’s the last time people worked together for the common good – since then it’s been harsh wars and solo heroes. Original novel title Their Finest Hour and a Half was lots better, written by a TV writer/producer. Director Scherfig made An Education, which I thought was supposed to be good, but apparently not good enough to make my must-see list. I’ll be seeing at least one more Battle of Dunkirk movie this year – wonder how it’ll compare.

Bill Nighy is great, and refreshingly not dead (I got him confused with Alan Rickman). Erlich: “Alas, the lanky British baritone has no business being the standout of a story that exists in order to celebrate the value of female storytellers; Bill Nighy is many things, but a woman isn’t one of them.”

Men In Black 2 (2002, Barry Sonnenfeld)

Hey, I never saw this, always wanted to, but heard it was bad. Just the thing The Last Ten Minutes was invented for. The two mismatched partners are joined by Rosario Dawson with nuclear jewelry and pursued by Evil Lara Flynn Boyle till she’s eaten by a subway monster. Jones tells Dawson she’s the fifth element, Smith is attacked by shockingly subpar effects. Did you know there was a part 3? Neither did I.

[Rec] 3: Genesis (2012, Paco Plaza)

Previously watched [Rec] 1 and remake-sequel (remaquel?) Quarantine 2. Can’t find [Rec] 2 on netflix because their search is ridiculous, so let’s pick up here. Loving couple is trapped in kitchen by encroaching zombies until loudspeaker bible recitation stops them. Dude has a sword, which actually seems like a smart zombie weapon. Girl is bitten by an elderly fellow (bad hearing, immune to loudspeaker), guy cuts off her arm but he’s stupid and slow, and they both die. From one of the directors of the first one, but not shot first-person, so the title doesn’t make sense anymore. The girl was in Ramin Bahrani’s Man Push Cart.

[Rec] 4: Apocalypse (2014, Jaume Balagueró)

Oh, this is from the other director of the first one, and looks a lot worse. Stars Angela from parts 1 & 2. A guy with bad hair helps Angela kill zombie monkeys with a boat motor. Why does the bad guy have a snake-tongue? A boat explodes!

The Interview (2014, Goldberg & Rogen)

Those two guys are trying to escape N. Korea. Cue the loud action scenes. Katy Perry soundtracks the fiery death of President Randall Park (Danny Chung in Veep), then we get an anticlimactic escape from the country. One of the directors wrote for Da Ali G Show.

Horns (2013, Alexandre Aja)

The one where Harry Potter is a demon, from the director of the great Hills Have Eyes Remake. Dang, no horns, Harry must’ve had them cut off already (a la Hellboy?). His brother (Joe Anderson of Across the Universe) is sad, so Harry goes walkies with Max Minghella, and there are guns, and wow, Harry sprouts wings then turns into a full flaming demon and has homicidal maniac Max brutalized by snakes. I think Harry’s dead girlfriend is alive again but I stopped watching because my roomie locked his keys in his car. Is this Wolf Parade over the ending?

The Sacrament (2013, Ti West)

Sorry Ti, but after two-and-a-quarter disappointments you join Aja in Last Ten Minutes purgatory. Joe Swanberg in death cult compound is running from gunmen, everyone is dying, and it’s shot first-person a la [Rec] 1. Isn’t this the same plot as one of the V/H/S/2 segments from the same year, which West and Swanberg were also heavily involved with? Joe semi-rescues AJ Bowen (of every Adam Wingard movie) with the shakiest shaky-cam I’ve ever witnessed. Ends with unnecessary solemn title cards. Boo.

Maniac (2012, Franck Khalfoun)

Fuuuck, this is also shot first-person – and out-of-focus, no less. Co-written by Alexandre Aja. Khalfoun made P2 and acted in Aja’s Haute Tension – they’re as close as the West-Swanberg-Wingard crew. I think Elijah Wood kidnaps Nora Arnezeder then she stabs him with a mannequin arm and runs him over. Then she dies, so he marries a mannequin. Most of these movies are very bad, but this one looks unusually, especially, very very bad.

The Conspiracy (2012, Christopher MacBride)

Grainy first-person pinhole camera with blurred-out faces. Why do all these movies hate cinema? Dude wakes up in the ritual sacrifice room, then is chased through the dark woods while wearing an animal head. Finally a series of talking heads dismiss whatever conspiracy theory the hunted/murdered cameraman presumably uncovered. MacBride has made no other movies and hopefully it’ll stay that way.

Automata (2014, Gabe Ibáñez)

It’s balding trenchcoat dudes with shotguns vs. slow, clunky robots. The robots are talking wise, getting themselves shot, when a fully bald Antonio Banderas arrives. His plan of action is poor but he still kills two guys and the third is dispatched by a Short Circuit lizard. Weird/nice to see a robot-future movie where some of the robots (not the lizard) are actual props, not people or digital effects.

I, Frankenstein (2014, Stuart Beattie)

From the trailer this looked like epic nonsense, but it’s actually more coherent than most of the others I just watched. Bill Nighy! The final battle: Frankenstein Eckhart vs. angels, gargoyles, a merman, lots of fire, men in suits, poor digital effects and Bill Nighy! Meanwhile there’s a bunch of computer progress bars and “access denied” messages. Progress bars are always a great source of tension in movies, eh? A massive Matrix-like chamber full of bodies begins to self-destruct. Eckhart (is he the monster or the doctor?) defeats demon-Nighy, saves some lady from a fiery apocalypse and collapsing castle. Beattie wrote the Pirates of the Carribean movies (and Collateral), his cowriter was an actor in Men In Black 2.

Between “My Year of Flops” and “I Watched This On Purpose,” the AV Club watches a bunch of known-to-be-bad movies and reports back on the experience. I also have an unhealthy urge to watch stupid movies, but I don’t have the kind of free time they’ve got. I just want to know if I’m missing out on anything, and if the movie’s got a built-up mystery, what’s the big twist at the end. And now, thanks to netflix streaming, I can watch any part of any bad movie instantly. So here’s a rundown on the last ten minutes of…

Delgo (2008, Adler & Maurer)
Our hero Freddie Prinze Jr. is inspired by princess Jennifer Love Hewitt to go fight the evil queen. Animation really is as bad as they said, does not look like something that should be in a theater in 2008. I looked for Avatar parallels – got the enchanted forest, peace-loving fairy inhabitants (not cat-people at all) who ride dragons, and the cliche-and-catchprase-littered dialogue. Chris Kattan (ugh) rallies all the planet’s species to attack evil there at the end, also an Avatar plot point. Oooh, Delgo uses the Force. Isn’t the Force trademarked? J.L. Hewitt kills evil stepmother Anne Bancroft (I’m sorry this was your final film, Anne Bancroft) and peace is brought unto the land. Full of corny-ass jokes and hot, forbidden interspecies love.

Pandorum (2009, Christian Alvart)
A bearded Dennis Quaid seems possessed by some supernatural sci-fi evil. This is way more talky than Event Horizon. Ben Foster (X-Men 3, Northfork), I assume, is experiencing some kinda psychological special effects. Oh they are not in space, but underwater – that’s the big revelation, allowed a couple seconds of floaty luminescent peace before it’s back to punching Dennis Quaid. He fights some girl who is not Carrie-Anne Moss. Now is Ben possessed by the ancient evil? Wait, nevermind, a crack in the hull. Oh, the evil is some kind of cat beast. Catmen from Pandorum – more Avatar references? Ben and the girl surface. Happy ending? I can’t tell. Director Alvart is a German making it big in Hollywood with writer Travis Milloy, who once wrote a Jason Schwartzman movie that nobody saw.

The Alphabet Killer (2008, Rob Schmidt)
Tim Hutton (Ghost Writer, The Dark Half) must be the killer here. He’s trying to sedate Eliza Dushku, but she uses her Buffy moves to bust his face and escape. She tries to trap him in a way that would totally not work, but totally does, and dude escapes, gunshot in the foot, into the river. Is she raving incomprehensibly, or is the string music just up too loud? Later, in the hospital, Cary Elwes (I’ve not seen him since Saw) proclaims that this is all his fault (I’m willing to accept that). She never recovers and Hutton gets away, ouch. Schmidt made one of the more enjoyable Masters of Horror eps, and writer Tom Malloy did something called The Attic which looks even worse than this.

Righteous Kill (2008, Jon Avnet)
Pacino is gonna get shot by DeNiro! Or is DeNiro gonna get shot by Pacino? The editing is confusing and every shot is a close-up. Now there’s a showdown in an 80’s-movie factory, both of them with guns. I don’t know what they’re saying because Katy made me turn off the sound, but Pacino is pissed, and his hair isn’t as bad as it usually is, and Carla Gugino (Watchmen, Sin City) is hanging around. Nevermind all that, Pacino got totally shot to death by DeNiro! He gave a long speech I didn’t hear, then some shit happens, I wasn’t looking anymore. From the director of 88 Minutes (and Fried Green Tomatoes) and the writer of Inside Man.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009, Patrick Tatopoulos)
Sooo dark! I see werewolves, and some Lord of the Rings business, but it’s all so dark. The action is very actiony. HooRAY, Bill Nighy of Shaun of the Dead is the self-serious lead bad guy in a ridiculous costume. He shall face off against a pissed, bearded Michael Sheen, who screams “I loved her,” which means that Rhona Mitra (Doomsday) might be dead. Wait, Nighy is a vampire! He got sunlit then stabbed through the head by a righteous Sheen, which Katy did not appreciate seeing. Oh and Nighy is still alive in the twist ending here, as is Rhona Mitra. The director was a creature designer on the first two movies, never a good sign. Jesus, nine writers?

Lies and Illusions (2009, Tibor Takacs)
Christian Slater does his hammy always-talking thing in the backseat of a made-for-1991-TV-looking full-frame car chase. Sarah Ann Schultz is trapped after a huge crash, while Christa Campbell shoots at some baddies who are not Cuba Gooding Jr. The sound mix is awful, very Slater-heavy with crap music, but wait, CGJr showed up and shot Slater, which STILL didn’t shut him up. Sarah Ann Schultz sneaks onto Cuba’s airplane, and parachutes out leaving the plane to crash, in the most hilarious special effects attempt of 2009. Tibor, of course, made the excellent The Gate and less-excellent The Gate II back in the 80’s – doesn’t look like he’s doing so well now. From the writer of nothing, and cinematographer of Trapped Ashes (but given a Magnum P.I.-era TV videocamera).

Angels & Demons (2009, Ron Howard)
Tom Hanks discovers secret cameras taping the board room! He sees a very sinister Stellan Skarsgard (ha ha, he is always sinister) saying quizzical shit to an incredulous Ewan McGregor. Apparently Ewan spread illuminati rumors to stop SS from trying to find scientific proof of God? Or something, anyway Ewan frames SS and gets him shot in flashback, to the despair of all the cardinals reviewing security tapes with Hanks and some girl who is not Audrey Tautou. Later, a guy who might be Armin Mueller-Stahl presides as scary Germans tail a bruised Ewan until he sets himself on fire. The evidence is destroyed, and the crowd goes wild. Where does Jesus’s granddaughter fit into all this? From the writers of Zathura, Secret Window, Constantine and Deep Blue Sea, ouch.