A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 466 – Contagion (2002)

Contagion – June 9th, 2011

We bought this movie (cheap) for a single reason: It stars Bruce Boxleitner. Unfortunately that does not help. This movie is horrible. It’s not even horrible in a fun way. It’s just plain horrible. It’s stilted and awkward and wow. It’s just plain bad. And even worse? It’s boring. It’s boring and predictable and not even terribly well made. But it was cheap, so I guess it has that going for it. At one point about halfway in Andy asked if I thought perhaps the two bucks we paid was too much. And you know what? Yeah. I think maybe it was.

Now, we’ve seen bad movies. We have a fair number of them. And perhaps I’ve spoken about this before but I think we need new vocabulary terms to differentiate between movies that are bad but awesome, like Sharks in Venice or Dragon Wars and movies that are just plain bad, like this. I mean, it could have gone past the point of bad into hilariously bad and awesome at the same time, but it never did. It just sort of sat there, going through the thoroughly boring motions until the inevitable conclusion. So it’s bad. But it’s the bad sort of bad. And while I can certainly explain that it’s the boring and tiresome sort of bad (as opposed to the violently offensive bad or the painfully insipid bad or the horribly awesome bad) it would be nice for there to be specific terms that encompass each of those. So I could avoid having to explain just why this isn’t a good bad movie.

Ostensibly, this is a thriller. It should go without saying that it’s not very thrilling. A terrorist who’s more of an extortionist shoots the president of the United States with a dart loaded with Ebola. And not just any Ebola! A fast acting strain of Ebola that’ll kill anyone infected within 24 hours! Now, I’m not an expert on infectious diseases, but Ebola’s the kind of thing that gives me the willies, so I’ve read up a little. Okay, I’ve read up quite a bit. And I’m willing to run with the movie’s line about it being horribly infectious and all. But if that’s the case? I question the contamination protocols both at the hospital they end up at and anywhere the main character, Dr. Diane Landis, has trained. Because she makes a big show out of pulling on some gloves, then pulls off her face mask before she’s left the room. There’s some pretty damn sloppy work here, down to telling people they’re going to be quarantined before locking the hospital doors. And the thing is, while some of it is for plot reasons (and I will get to the kid in the air ducts in a moment), most of it is just for dramatic looks or is just plain laziness.

The whole movie is lazy. It’s like no one had any interest in trying to make the movie interesting or tense or well made. It was just getting churned out as fast as possible. Some of the pick-up shots are so painfully obvious I’m amazed they even bothered. But then I’m kind of amazed this movie got made in the first place, seeing as it’s so completely passion-less. The plot with the president and the terrorists who promise a cure if he gives them a ton of money? Yeah, okay. But then there’s a thing with the doctor who cooked up the super Ebola wanting revenge on the president for having to go to Rwanda? They don’t bother spending much time on that and I’m glad because it was nonsensical. And then there’s the forced romance between the president and the doctor. There’s the rivalry between the president and an Army general. There’s the kid who is (of course) the key to it all, and by ‘all’ I mean both the Ebola plot and our main characters’ emotions. Because of course we need our characters to grow as people through this crisis!

Dr. Landis is introduced as a workaholic infectious disease expert at the top of her game, always on the phone scheduling talks and meetings and telling people she has things booked already for every minute of every day and has no life. So of course she’s going to learn about love through this movie. This happens through her relationship with the president, which of course starts out antagonistic and ends up with her tying his tie and the two of them awkwardly flirting. And then there’s her relationship with lovable moppet, Dusty. Wait, no. I meant pain in the ass plot device, Dusty. He’s a kid who has a habit of sneaking out of his room and wandering through the hospital by crawling through the ventilation ducts. Which, really? Seriously, movie, you want me to buy this? That they haven’t twigged to his tricks by now and locked him up given that the whole hospital is under quarantine? Whatever. Of course Dr. Landis meets him and ends up finding her maternal instincts during snack breaks and chats about Dusty’s pet cat, which apparently wanders around the Worst Hospital In The World just as freely as Dusty himself.

I refuse to care about spoiling this movie for anyone because I honestly believe no one cares, but I called the ending with the president and Dr. Landis ending up together with Dusty (who is, of course, orphaned) being taken in by one or both of them. It was just too ridiculously pat for the movie to not do it. And it did indeed happen. It was just one of many moments in the movie where I saw it coming a mile away and didn’t really care how the movie got there. It’s that sort of movie. It just keeps going, plodding along with stilted dialogue and pointless scenes and the like. Dr. Landis kept standing around, pondering things or getting snacks or chatting with people and I kept screaming at the screen “YOU HAVE THINGS TO DO! GO DO THEM!” There is a distinct lack of tension in a movie that moves at this pace and allows its main characters to drive around in a golf cart.

I don’t necessarily regret buying this movie or watching it. It wasn’t offensive and the most upsetting thing about it is that it clearly hates science, given how every medical professional acts. But it’s mostly just a bland and uninteresting movie, made at a decent enough production level to not be laughable but not be impressive. It is the epitome of mediocre, which is somehow incredibly sad.

June 9, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , | Leave a comment

Contagion (2001)

June 9, 2011

Contagion

Why on Earth do we own this movie? I suppose it’s because it looked like a fun low budget thriller and it had Bruce Boxleitner in it. And it only cost us about two dollars. Having sat through it now I can say that it didn’t live up to (or down to) my cheesy movie expectations. Instead it is simply a forgettable and unambitious film. It’s not bad – not even bad enough to be good. It’s just kind of there – using up ninety minutes of my life.

When a pair of terrorists shoot a deadly ebola strain of virus into the President of the United States in an attempt to make a few million cheap bucks things do not go as they had planned. The Secret Service quickly rush the President to a local hospital and find a prominent virologist. The virologist – Dr. Diane Landis – realises that this deadly virus must be contained and quarantines the entire hospital. Then she has only a limited amount of time to find a cure before the President enacts his last ditch effort to keep the virus from getting out into the general population and nukes the hospital.

Really that’s pretty much the whole movie right there. Stretching that out to a full ninety minutes requires a little padding. There’s a sorta-kinda romance between President Tron and the good doctor. There’s an officious hospital administrator who wants to get out. There’s an exceptionally irritating orphan boy who keeps turning up. There’s an uppity army general who stages a poorly thought out coup. All of this sort of thrown together in a blender to make an inoffensive movie frappe.

This movie puzzles me. It has all the hallmarks of a made-for-TV film. It’s presented on this DVD in glorious 3×4 full screen. It has a cast of completely unknowns. It’s so inoffensively bland. And yet it clearly has a slightly bigger budget than I would expect from your average movie of the week. It has a convoy of army vehicles for example. It has lots of cool hazmat gear costumes. It has helicopters. It even has a (hilarious) explosion special effect.

I don’t want to be unkind to this movie. i think it was trying its level best. It can’t help it that the scenes of the doctor being rushed around the hospital in a golf cart are laughable. I can clearly see what kind of taught thriller this is trying to be – it just doesn’t quite work. It’s too implausible and silly. Too predictable.

The biggest problem the movie has is that it’s just not bad enough. Take Lin Shaye who plays the evil doctor Laura Crowley who created this particular strain of the virus. She’s the primary bad-guy here and the part is written as a scenery chewing madwoman. Lin seems to be trying to play the role straight as a woman who perceives herself as wronged – and this choice weakens the film. This is a part that requires crazy over-acting to sell it, and I’m not sure Lin is up to it.

The end result is a movie that feels interminable in its plodding and predictable path towards the exceptionally silly final confrontation on the hospital roof. Every fifteen minutes or so I would turn to Amanda and ask “is it over yet?” That’s not a sign of a gripping thrill ride. As i said before, this isn’t a bad movie. It’s just not any good either. It’s kind of just there – a movie that got made for some inexplicable reason with the intention of filling up a two hour time slot on some television station with room for thirty minutes of low budget local ads. The movie didn’t sit on me and hurt me like some of the worst films in our collection – but I do want my ninety minutes back.

June 9, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | | Leave a comment