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Thursday, April 1, 2010

You've been [April] fooled: some flicks with twists


The spaghetti harvest is coming in early this year!

I have grown to hate M. Night Shyamalan over the years. This is mostly due to a widely-respected rule within my circle of friends that the mention of his name stipulates you must finish half of your beverage (because most of his recent movies are half-assed); the mention of Spielberg, on the other hand, you finish your drink (in honor of the guy that brought us Jaws, not so much 1941 or War of the Worlds). Aside from that, though, Shyamalan's career has been built on "the twist ending", even though he's shied away from that in favor of the boring (Lady in the Water) or ridiculous (The Happening) as of late. A good twist can make a movie, like The Sixth Sense, or destroy it, like The Village. When wielded without purpose, the twist is a terrible thing, hence, my growing hate for Shyamalan (drink!) as he's proved it's one of the only tricks in his bag.

A well-planned surprise ending, though, can be a great cinematic treat. With no further ado, some movies (with spoilers) that could, or at least try to, make you believe Taco Bell bought the Liberty Bell.


The Usual Suspects
SYNOPSIS: Bryan Singer's directorial splash follows a grizzled Customs agent (Chazz Palminteri) trying to piece together what happened at a disastrous drug deal where there weren't any drugs. The last man standing (Kevin Spacey) is apparently too stupid to see through his fallen compatriots' bullshit.

YOU'VE BEEN FOOLED: After convincing you it was actually the former crooked cop (Gabriel Byrne), Singer shows us we've been played by a rather clever and not-at-all-crippled Spacey, who is elusive criminal mastermind Keyser Soze.

SIDE NOTES: This was basically the only decent movie Stephen Baldwin was ever a part of - he followed this up with Bio Dome. Comedian Kevin Pollack made one of his occasional forays into the world of drama, and Benicio Del Toro helped kick-start his career with his barely-comprehensible accent. The first time I saw this, around the time I was 15, I pegged Spacey in the first ten minutes because Singer tried so hard to prove he wasn't the guy (the limp, the line about his pee, the cigarette lighter) in the first few scenes of the movie, but he did convince me it was Byrne in the end.

QUALITY OF THE FOOL: Damn good - it's a modern classic for a reason.



The Maltese Falcon
SYNOPSIS: Humphrey Bogart plays detective Sam Spade, a private eye that gets wrapped up in the quest for a priceless statue in John Huston's 1941 classic.

YOU'VE BEEN FOOLED: The statue is a fake - all was for naught.

SIDE NOTES: The film is chock-full of those classic Hollywood lines that make writers such as yours truly wet their pants. At the end, when a cop asks Spade what the worthless statue is, he wryly replies in that heavenly Bogart rasp, "The stuff dreams are made of."

QUALITY OF THE FOOL: In all fairness, it's not so much a twist as an ironic ending, but a fine one at that. It's the quintessential Bogart hard-boiled detective flick.


Primal Fear
SYNOPSIS: A defense attorney (Richard Gere) defends an altar boy (Ed Norton) who killed an archbishop after being sexually abused.

YOU'VE BEEN FOOLED: Norton claims to have split personalities, the dominant one committed the act, and he walks. But he was faking having split personalities!

SIDE NOTES: This flick was the one to put Norton on the map - his performance is pretty good.

QUALITY OF THE FOOL: So-so. The split personalities, when revealed, is a shocker, and the bigger reveal that he's faking is a big one too - the problem I have with it is it basically makes the movie, thematically, about nothing. It feels like a twist for the sake of having a twist (see: The Village).


The Village
SYNOPSIS: There's monsters in the woods! Ron Howard's daughter is blind! Lots of long takes from stationary cameras!

YOU'VE BEEN FOOLED: Not only are the monsters a rouse made by the town elders, it's modern fucking day.

SIDE NOTES: M. Night Shyamalan cameos as a park ranger, which after this flick I'd rather see him do than direct more movies.

QUALITY OF THE FOOL: Seriously - this movie had so much potential. The twist was beyond frustrating for me, because it negates everything inherently interesting about the world we thought we were seeing. It's pathetically self-serving, tacky, and not at all surprising that it marked Shyamalan's fall from revered director to cinematic punchline.


Gone Baby Gone
SYNOPSIS: Casey Affleck is a private eye in the rough part of Boston looking for a missing girl, and the local police aren't too keen on his getting involved.

YOU'VE BEEN FOOLED: Not only are the cops in on everything, but Ben Affleck proves to be a very effective director.

SIDE NOTES: Did you know that Casey Affleck and Ben Affleck are brothers? It's true!

QUALITY OF THE FOOL: Pretty good. The movie is engaging and the final twist is so bizarre I didn't see it coming. A lot of people let this one slip by in 2007, but it's definitely worth a look.



OTHER TWISTS OF NOTE:

- The Informant!, the true story of the biggest corporate whistle-blower in US history, has a delightfully unreliable narrator.
- Matchstick Men, one of the only good movies Nic Cage did in the past decade (the other was Adaptation), follows an OCD conman getting conned.
- "Reno 911!" had two great cliffhangers in its run: the first season finale, where everyone inadvertently shoots each other, turns out to be a dream Garcia is having about Kenny Rogers; the season five finale, wherein unnamed deputies die in an accident involving a 9/11 float and a taco stand, is glossed over almost entirely the following season opener.
- Chinatown, a seedy detective flick where Jack Nicholson puts on his Humphrey Bogart hat, was completely ruined for me by the worst film professor I ever had.
- Twelve Monkeys, the stranger sci-fi adventure Bruce Willis did in the 90's, has a lot to do with time travel and Brad Pitt.
- Lady In The Water, because you paid $10 to see a terrible Shyamalan movie that doesn't have a twist.

Also, if you want some more movies ruined for you, check out last year's "100 Movie Spoilers In 5 Minutes" made by the fine Fine Brothers.

What's your favorite twist I didn't mention? Leave it in the comments or tweet it to @ihateyourfavmov.

2 comments:

  1. My editor-in-chief at www.thejuniorvarsity.org had this to say via Google Buzz:

    "I had to stop reading this midway though. Is it a greatest hits album of SPOILERS?!

    You, sir, hate my favorite (part of) movies!!

    Seriously, though, the movie BASIC is the greatest twist movie of all time. I could go on and on about it. I think I will."

    He did not go on and on about it. Also, he's the only person besides me that uses Buzz with any regularity.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I will go on and on about it, believe you me!!

    -mp

    ReplyDelete