The most important thing I look for in movies is a personality, or some evidence that a human being made it. It's all the better if it's a recognizable personality, with some kind of visual or tonal mood that carries over from film to film; in that way, it's like re-visiting with an old friend. If that's not available, I'd at least like a good idea in a movie. If it looks stamped out of a machine, or molded out of someone else's recycled ideas, then it's not as interesting to me. Failing all this, what I appreciate in a movie is good fun, and that usually relegates the movie in question to "B" status. Hardly anything that's "important" is also "fun." These films are usually associated with bodily responses (suspense, titillation, laughter, etc.), rather than intellectual responses, and so it's automatically assumed that they're not "smart" or "good." (Iron Man 2 is a case in point.)

Fortunately, there are several pretty good "B" movies out right now. Atom Egoyan's Chloe (53 screens) is a fun example of a "sex" film. They used to be called "nudies" (often set in nudist camps) until Russ Meyer took over the genre in the 1960s, and made the films oversized and outrageous. In later years, after the rise of HIV and AIDS in the 1980s, eroticism was often combined with suspense, as if anyone who enjoyed sex was automatically either a killer or a target. Such is the case with Chloe; unfortunately, Egoyan's fans expected something a bit more intellectual than this, but I like the movie's combination of brainy and ridiculous, not to mention that Egoyan usually doesn't shy away from anything steamy (see Exotica and Where the Truth Lies).

Breck Eisner's The Crazies (149 screens) isn't exactly a classic or anything, but it is a rare care of a horror remake (possibly) outweighing its predecessor. This time, they didn't take a beloved brand-name, but rather dug deep into the filmography of George A. Romero for one of his minor films; Romero's film was a bit too heavy on the talking and on the messages, and the remake managed to smooth out the messages, take out some of the talking, and throw in a lot more atmosphere and spooky stuff. It even has some interesting character switch-ups, in that not everyone onscreen is a walking meat puppet. If only studios would learn a lesson on this one, but I doubt it; the horror remake trend will continue as long as it's a cash cow.

Then we have The Runaways (65 screens), which fortunately plays more like a quickie, drive-in rock 'n' roll biopic than it does a bloated, year-end Oscar contender. (Picture Joan Jett giving the finger to Edith Piaf.) All the better to showcase loud-and-fast throwaway bubbglegum tunes like "Cherry Bomb." It has all the usual scenes of band members becoming corrupted by success, sex and drugs, it falls flat in its attempts at a subplot about Cherie Currie's home life, and it's hard to take all the historical "pioneering" stuff seriously, but it has an undeniable punk-fueled energy. Indeed, it seems to be sitting better with audiences and critics than other fun girl-group movies like Spice World and Josie and the Pussycats.

After this decent dose of sex, horror and rock 'n' roll, I'm ready to roll into a summer filled with bigger budget, milder (PG-13 rated) B-movies without the same kind of bite.
CATEGORIES Columns, Cinematical