Your Bonus Dog-Days-of-August Weekend at the Movies

08/28/2009 10:17 AM |

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Labor Day falls late this year, so we get a sort of bonus weekend of the kind of niche programming studios love to do in the second half of August! Yet somehow, at no time in the next two weeks do we get a single Jason Statham Labor Day Special. I can’t help but feel that the ball has been dropped.

[This week's ironic-commentating blog image brought to you by Jesse's disconcertingly thorough auteurist analysis of the Final Destination films, after the jump. -Ed.]

The Final Destination: The Final Destination franchise ping-pongs between two B-movie forces: the X-Files-bred duo of Glen Morgan and James Wong (also of the Willard remake and The One) and once/future second unit director David Ellis (also of Cellular and Snakes on a Plane). Morgan-Wong shaped the franchise, handling the first and third movies; Ellis called evens, getting his shot at two and the current, unnumbered four (and brought Butterfly Effect screenwriter Eric Bress along for both of those installments). Though Morgan and Wong are a bit wittier and more playful in that X-Files-y way, it’s a bit odd that this series has had such consistent recurring filmmakers, since, by design, few actors return for the sequels, and apart from the slightly smarter and more character-oriented first film, the installments are more or less interchangeable. The good news is that as far as ridiculous interchangeable splatter-fests go, this one at least knows to treat its death scenes as interlocking contraptions in a far more engaging way than those portentous Saw movies. Also, the new one is in 3-D; what took you so long, still-somewhat-cheesy technology?

Halloween II: I couldn’t really explain my vague appreciation of Rob Zombie’s directorial career, because so far it’s resembled a kid who practices some kind of skateboard stunt a bunch of times, almost nails it once, and then keeps practicing and fucking up some more. The one good trick: The Devil’s Rejects, a sort-of sequel to the awful House of 1000 Corpses, with an unsettling, arresting 70s-road-exploitation vibe. He followed that up with his biggest hit, his pointless void of a Halloween remake. The sequel actually looks a bit more Zombiefied, but it’s going to have to be, you know, creepy and interesting, not just closer in look and feel to Zombie’s hellbilly aesthetic. Also, how is it that the Weinsteins are apparently too scared of the Saw franchise to release a Halloween movie around, you know, that holiday in October, what’s it called, oh yeah, Cabbage Night, but not too cautious to put their sequel directly against another horror franchise entry with a lot more youth currency? If I were a Weinstein, I think I’d like to at least experiment with putting out a Halloween movie around Halloween. Even My Bloody Valentine only came out a month before Valentine’s Day. I’m not so sure the Halloween II crowd (which will inevitably include the kind of people who bring their infants to movies about serial killers) is so concerned about recreating the precise release-date alchemy generated by the first remake’s late-August berth.

Taking Woodstock: As respite from all of this late-August horror, Ang Lee offers the gentle, perhaps nonexistent comedy of Taking Woodstock. I haven’t seen this movie, but if it contains as much Imelda Staunton as the trailer — that is, unless most of Staunton’s scenes as a gruff, growly, way-over-the-top Jewish mum were shot for the trailer but cut from the actual movie — I think I might have a problem. [They were not cut. You have a problem. -Ed.] Too bad, too, because I like Demetri Martin’s low-key non-performing style, and Lee could use a story that doesn’t look like it will end in death. “Ed.” suggests that at least the movie has good vibes, if few trenchant observations.

Big Fan: I go into this a bit more in my review, but if you’re pining for a companion piece to sit proudly next to Buffalo ’66 on your shelf, Robert Siegel’s dark comedy about an obsessed New York Giants fan will probably do the trick. Patton Oswalt is terrific in exactly the right kind of “serious” (sharp, weirdly funny, sad but not maudlin) role for an established comedian.

The September Issue: Pretty much the most entertaining aspect of the trailer for this documentary was listening to a buddy of mine flip out about how little anyone should care about the lady who runs Vogue, or Vogue in general, and how pretending fashion magazines are important is disgusting. The thing is, he wouldn’t have such a good point if the trailer made the business of making a fat-from-ads magazine look interesting or exciting. But the trailer is mostly just Anna Wintour looking grossly skinny and saying haughty stuff that doesn’t seem particularly insightful, or even really all that cutting, just vaguely irritated. I think I like the Meryl Streep version better. And I didn’t care much about that, either.