Moving Pictures
Nov 24, 2008, 04:24AM

Movies to Stay Inside For

When it’s too cold to go to a theater, basic cable offers plenty of wintertime movie options.

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As the weather turns cold I have less incentive to venture outdoors and am content to spend more time parked in front of the TV, curled up in a blanket drinking anything that’s warm and sweet. But with college football season quickly nearing its end and my fall TV viewing schedule well underway and set, it is time to prepare for the tradition of watching terrible movies over and over again on cable.

I don’t have very discriminating taste when it comes to film, and will pretty much watch anything and usually enjoy it. Drama, comedy, rom-com, action, foreign flicks: you name it, and if it even entertains or moves me mildly, I’ll happily partake in multiple viewings. There are a lot of people who draw pride from their refined or eclectic film and music tastes and I’ve never really understood why. Unless you made the movie or starred in it, wrote the song or performed it, what’s so special about liking things that are good and turning your nose up at something that fails to achieve a higher standard of sophistication and value?

With the holidays approaching and everyone strapped for cash, climb on down from your high horse, avoid the expensive movie theaters and slum it with me on cable. I’ve compiled a list of movies that are constantly shown on television—often a second airing immediately follows the first one and I’ve watched many of these backwards, seeing the last half first only to hang on for the replay to catch the first half. They aren’t good or inspired and they won’t make anyone marvel at your impeccable taste, but they’re entertaining and a good way to waste an afternoon. If you absolutely refuse to stoop so low, then fire up your Netflix queue and re-watch the more critic-worthy alternatives.

Welcome to the dark side, and happy viewing.

13 Going On 30: starring Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo
I have an inexplicable affection for Mark Ruffalo. I don’t know if it’s his voice or the fact that he just seems like a totally normal guy, but I adore him. Here, he plays a best friend turned love interest to Jennifer Garner’s 13-year-old in a 30-year-old’s body and life. It’s a refreshing performance by Garner—her innocence and childlike excitement is very believable and she looks absolutely adorable leading a crowd in the dance from Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Alternative: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Ruffalo’s role is much smaller here, but the film as a whole is far better. No Thriller dance, though. But then, no movie is perfect.

The Negotiator: starring Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson
I blame my love for this movie on my husband, who has seen it more times than probably any other movie, but only on TV. It’s not that this movie is bad, it’s just one of those films where once you know the twist and see how it ends, you don’t really need to watch it ever again. And yet every time it’s on TV, we practically high-five in excitement.
Alternative: Pulp Fiction
Samuel L. Jackson has been in so many movies you could probably choose any one at random and it would turn out that he had at least a supporting role. I watched this on TV once and it was definitely not worth it. I couldn’t get the word freaking out of my mind for days. Rent the unedited version and remember what it was like to have some respect for John Travolta.

Legally Blonde: starring Reese Witherspoon
Oxygen, WE, Lifetime, TBS. My god do they like to show this movie on TV! Sometimes the excessive use of pink is a bit much for me, and I’d really like to punch the woman who played Stiffler’s mom in the face for her turn in this one, but overall it is funny and lighthearted. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and is good for an easy laugh. Plus Reese Witherspoon is just so charming.
Alternative: Election
While I did enjoy Walk the Line, I think Witherspoon works better in comedy than drama. Election is hilariously smart and cutting and she is just fabulous as the bitchy Tracy Flick.

The Day After Tomorrow: starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum and Dennis Quaid
Who knew scientists were so inept at predicting the end of civilization? “Within a hundred years, the world as we know it will cease to exist. Oops. No. Fuck, I mean tomorrow. Sorry folks.” The addition of hungry wolves to the already abysmal and life-threatening conditions was kind of unnecessary, but big budget disaster flicks are inherently entertaining in that they are just so ridiculous. Plus this one features a funny homeless guy and his heartwarming relationship with his dog. What’s not to love?
Alternative: Zodiac
I think this was the most underrated movie of 2007. Gyllenhaal is great as Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist who becomes obsessed with tracking down the San Francisco area Zodiac killer. This movie goes way above and beyond your basic murder thriller. Bonus: Mark Ruffalo plays the detective who helps Graysmith investigate the crimes.

Never Been Kissed: starring Drew Barrymore and Michael Vartan
I have no idea why I like this movie, as I absolutely can’t stand Drew Barrymore. There’s something sweet, though, about a geeky girl getting her shot at redemption and the depiction of high school kids is just so over-the-top and absurd that I can’t help but laugh whenever I watch it. Also, John C. Reilly is in this movie. He’s like the white Samuel L. Jackson. He shows up in everything.
Alternative: E.T.
If you don’t like E.T. you have no soul. That is all.

Ocean’s Eleven: starring everyone in Hollywood who wasn’t in the movie Crash.
Both Brad Pitt and George Clooney are so famous at this point that I have trouble separating their celebrity from their acting. I always feel like, “Oh there’s Brad Pitt being goofy, or violent or sarcastic or dumb. And there’s George Clooney, just smoldering like a pile of hot embers at the bottom of a campfire while he says something vaguely interesting and possibly essential to the plot.” But whatever, this movie was fun and even though the novelty of the heist is completely gone after one viewing, it has the enjoyable glitz of any movie set in Las Vegas.
Alternative: Michael Clayton
George Clooney is actually fabulous in this film and definitely transcends his own hype to fully become the character he plays. The script is smart and the movie just sucks you in. It’s terrific. One question though: does Tilda Swinton ever play something other than a cold, icy bitch?

Drive Me Crazy: starring Melissa Joan Hart and Adrian Grenier
I have no excuse for this one. No justification at all. Sometimes people just like terrible movies and there’s nothing you can do about it. This is one of them. This is just classic chick flick garbage and I would hang my head in shame if I were the sort of person who felt ashamed by her bad taste. Adrian Grenier is pretty hot. That’s about all I’ve got here.
Alternative: Um…
Don’t even bother looking into either of these actors’ film careers. Just rent seasons of Entourage on DVD or try to watch old episodes of Clarissa Explains It All online somewhere.

  • I'm on the save wavelength as Claire on this article. Why waste money on going to movie theaters when there's so much free at home, and Netflix is so relatively cheap. One quibble: I thought "Zodiac" was a very disappointing movie that went nowhere.

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  • good suggestions! yes, however annoying Clooney and Pitt are, the Ocean's movies are infinitely watchable when you don't feel like watching anything else......and Poor Tilda Swinton! She's so good at the icy bitch role they never give her anything else (her role in Clayton was brill tho, no question).

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