Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

24 May 2008

Word Wars: Tiles and Tribulations on the Scrabble Circuit, dir. Eric Chaikin & Julian Petrillo (2004)

NIKKI says:
Competitive Scrabble might not be as nail-biting as competitive Donkey Kong and crosswording, but it's still fascinating, especially when viewed from the perspectives of the four unlikely challengers as depicted here.

The players are reigning champion Joe Edley, down on his luck comedian Matt Graham, Marlon Hill from the projects, and phlegm-laden "GI" Joel Sherman. The film follows the guys in the lead up to the 2001 Scrabble championship in San Diego. It chronicles the bizarre friendships between Matt, Joel, and Marlon, and their competitive dislike for Edley.

We watch as each of these men secures his place at the championship and we see how they fare as the event takes place. It's a surprise to see who gets where, and how they deal with their wins and losses. The film is funny and sad, and details the strange havoc Scrabble wreaks on these mens' lives. A majority of them don't work in any sort of full-time capacity, instead living on the bare bones they take home from Scrabble comps. They also seem to have trouble connecting to people, and often live in cluttered homes, filled with word books. Only Edley is different from the other guys, with his Tai-Chi and trumped-up opinion of himself as more a metaphysical Scrabbler than your average word-freak using the circuit as a means of survival.

I enjoyed it a lot -- especially Marlon, who I really wanted to take home the big prize. I think, though, that it lacked the emotional depth of like films, Wordplay, Spellbound, and King of Kong. It didn't hit me on the same level as those films, didn't glue me to my seat, and have me questioning everything about the obsessions in my life. It was a bit more of a surface look than those other films, but certainly worth watching.


Outpost, dir. Steve Barker (2007)

NIKKI says: We only got because it was rumoured to contain zombies. The Australian DVD cover art makes it look like a war film, so I'd love to know what renters are thinking when the Nazi soldiers start coming back to life...

We weren't expecting too much, so were pleasantly surprised when it turned into a suspenseful, really scary movie. The pacing, the imagery, every beat right on target -- this was a classy experience.

A group of mercenaries head into a war-torn area of Eastern Europe to investigate a long-forgotten WWII bunker. In it, they find well-preserved bodies stacked knee-high, one of which is still breathing. The "breather" is catatonic and doesn't appear to need urgent medical attention, so they take turns watching him while they go about their investigating. The guy sits there, with his head on his chest for much of the film, and is pretty much the scariest thing I've seen since the natives in Welcome to the Jungle.

So, eventually the mercenaries discover that this is a Nazi bunker where SS bigwigs experimented with troops to create unstoppable killing machines -- soldiers who couldn't die. Not all went as the Nazis planned, it now appears -- they may just still be out there. The mercenaries, then, must come up with a way to stop the undead Nazi soldiers in order to escape the bunker.

The breather ends up playing a much more important role here and becomes pretty much the most horrendously scary horror hero you're ever likely to see. Never speaks a word, either.
The rest of the zombies are evil, too, and do some pretty awful things to complete their mission.

I loved this one. Just a freaky, scary good time.


STEVE says: I'll say it now and stand by it in the future: There's nothing cooler than Nazi Zombies.

It's a sub-genre that's not often visited - and hasn't been, in any significant way, since Ken Weiderhorn's Shockwaves in 1977, so the mere existence of Outpost came as something of a surprise. That it was actually good was a bonus. Using Einstein's Unified Field Theory to bring Nazi soldiers back to life as unstoppable Zombie killing machines was a stroke of pure genius, making Outpost a high-water mark for the Nazi Zombie ouvre.

This one's definitely going in our collection.