NOVEMBER 15, 2010 10:13AM

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 “Driving that train, high on Cocaine.

Casey Jones you better watch your speed.” –Hunter/Garcia

 This weekend I was looking for distraction.  We hadn’t been to the movies in a long time.  “Unstoppable” sounded simple minded and obvious. Denzel Washington and a runaway train. Who needed to pay to go see that?  I could already see it. Um let’s see, Denzel will do something to stop the train…

Rotten Tomatoes gave it an audience 83%.  I was really in need of distraction. And the Top Critics gave it a 90%!  We were on our way to the matinee.

A twinge of doubt in the car – the reason it had been almost a year since we last went to the movies was the last movie we saw, “Hot Tub Time Machine.” It turned out to be just as dumb as the title. Rotten Tomatoes had given it the thumbs up too. But only 65% of Top Critics liked it.  With 90 we should be OK.

 “Upstoppable” was simple minded, and as is the case with most simple minded movies, crawling with clichés. Annoying ones – like blue collar just folks who happen to be portrayed by Hollywood millionaire types. The new kid who gets a hard time from the old-timers. Fifty cop cars with all the lights flashing.

When the thing you've known  is going to happen for the last ten minutes finally happens, three people always remark on it -"That train's going too fast!"  "It's going too fast!"  "Too fast!!!"

Despite this the movie kept me riveted to my seat, unable to leave. Kind of like...sitting on a runaway train without the real fear or the smells, but with the noise. A lot of noise. All of which I guess was the point. 

Soon as I left the theater I felt a little sick, bloated and still hungry for distraction, if not entertainment. Like I just wolfed down a quarter pounder with cheese.  No wonder. This was the cinematic equivalent of junk food.

I regretted the $13.50 for the tickets, though Judy did not regret whatever she spent on popcorn, cause she loves the stuff.  We both regretted the three hours lost from our lives.

 My mom was a penny-pincher who taught me to hate wasting stuff.  Perhaps I could salvage something from that wreak of a movie. I could amuse myself, trying to find the deeper meaning in “Unstoppable.”

 I had a clue as to how – one of those Top Critics had thrown away a line about the runaway train as metaphor for the American economy, but was afraid  to go there. Not me.  I’m not afraid to take on any metaphor, even if it’s a 100,000 ton behemoth barreling at me at 70 miles an hour.

                                                            ----------

 The movie was not only deeper than I’d thought, but prescient. It was made earlier in the year, so how else could they know it was not only about the economy, but the recent elections?

 OK, so the runaway train is America’s economy. Some doofus neglects to connect the airbrakes (debt ceilings, anybody?) Then gets the train going and steps out of the cab.  As the train starts rolling he’s too fat to catch up! That’s right, when blaming America’s ills on illegals and Muslims won’t fix it, blame the fat people. We know how much Americans hate them (even fat Americans.)

 We know even before we get in the theater that Denzel Washington is going to stop that train, and he’s….he’s black! He’s Obama!  Only not a half-white socialist nazi elitist lower-than-average-intelligence black man, but the all-black Denzel -whom everyone loves. Me included. You wait most of the movie for him to flash it, then there it is! That famous aw-shucks smile:

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The Chris Pine character, the young upstart that helps him stop the train, is the Tea Party. Ok, he’s young, and they’re old, but their movement is brand new.  Moreover, he comes from some fat-cat family that owns the railroad – obvious Republicans, old school style. He’s going to be different than them.

 The train is loaded with toxic chemicals (toxic assets?) Or if you like they could be the poisonous products mined from decades of Liberal thought – tax-raising, diversity, PC, hippies, more tax-raising.  When the economy finally derails – and it’s soon, just 3 miles away –that poisonous cargo’s going to snuff out the good blue collar town of Stanton, PA. Which looks like it’s still somewhere back in the early 50s, back when there was hope, back before black people…oh never mind.

Election or no, the engineer teaming up with the conductor is a stretch.  There’s no way the Tea Party was ever going to get together with Obama. Wait…the railroad already fired the Denzel character at the start of the picture. I see. Obama won’t get a second term. He might even get impeached by the new Republican House.

What about the long-haired character in the pick-up truck, the Willie Nelson type who plays a crucial…sorry, no more spoilers. What’ve the hippies got to do with anything? Oh yeah, legal marijuana will fix the economy, starting with California’s.

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 Well, that was more fun than watching a bad movie. Less fun than watching a good one. What to do, if you can’t trust Rotten Tomatoes? Know any good movies?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

My friend loved this.. I agree with your review.. Would not even pay for the popcorn haha
Rated with hugs
I "loved" it too while watching, like that quarter-pounder.
Next time, stay home, watch the great "Runaway Train" save some money and think about the good old days of Clinton! (I think)
Thank you, scanner for that suggestion. You revealed my secret desire for runaway train movies, what really got me to the theatre yesterday.
I thought it was pretty good. But then, I go to a lot of movies so maybe I don't count on one movie to be my movie of the year. And with all the stupid shit people waste money on, I never complain about spending money on a movie.

But that's just me.
Despite Rotten Tomatoes and all the other review posts, movie tastes are so personal. Definitely check out 'A Serious Man' by the briilliant Coen Bros. 

Also have you seen Nowhere Boy? Love to hear what you have to say about it.
D Art - glad you liked it. I actually did as I saw it. 

Scarlett - Thank you! I saw something about "Nowhere Boy" a few months back but had no idea it was out.
I must say, Luminous, you are absolutely fearless in taking on a menacing metaphor the likes of this one. I tip my hat to courage whenever I see it.

Don't miss Fay Paxton on "Avatar."
Yes, I saw Fay's post. I also posted on Avatar back in my bloging salad days: http://open.salon.com/blog/luminousmuse/2010/05/11/avatar

I actually didn't mind the movie. My problem was with the limp score.
By the way, I am with your wife on the popcorn issue. Palomitas de maiz! I hope she is a purist when at home and does not stoop to microwave popcorn in any circumstances other than an emergency. 

I would mainline popcorn intravenously if I could figure out a way to do that.
Wow Luminous. It's almost Shakespearean in the number of levels on which it can be enjoyed. Sounds like a marginal rental to me.

As for good movies, the best I've seen in the past few years is The Baader-Meinhof Complex. It was nominated for best foreign movie in 2008. For cinema offerings, The Social Network is pretty entertaining.
Just read the comments. Runaway Train came out in 85 so it's Reaganesque rather than Clintonian. Otherwise I completely agree with Scanner's recommendation.
Awesome in-depth analysis. Movies almost always have a strong social correlation that runs deeper than the plot. 

$13.50? Mother of god. No wonder I never go to the movies anymore.

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