Your Ass-End of August Weekend at the Sluggish Summer Movies

08/20/2010 10:32 AM |

Piranha_II_The_Spawning.jpg

Here more or less ends an unusually sluggish summer. After weeks of just a couple of wide releases at a time, last week we got some actual variety followed immediately by studios heading into fire-sale mode.

Piranha 3-D: The Weinsteins must be psyched that somehow, by some accident of scheduling, they’ve wound up with the biggest potential player this weekend. That’s not to say that Piranha 3-D will top the box office (it almost certainly won’t), or even that it’ll be the biggest new release (I feel like Lottery Ticket and Vampires Suck both have a shot). But from a movie nerd perspective, Piranha has somehow wound up the only wide release of this weekend that certain factions of the cineaste demo might kinda sorta want to go see, unusual for a company that has specialized in financing and buying movies just to turn them into shelf-dwelling also-rans.

Lending the movie some scraps of geek cred: it’s from one of those horror auteurs who’s made more bad movies (Mirrors; Haute Tension) than good (the Hills Have Eyes remake) but nonetheless commands some cult interest; it boasts an eclectic, cult-friendly cast including eighties mainstay Christopher Lloyd, Jaws alum Richard Dreyfuss, and dry comic star Adam Scott; and it’s a sequel/remake that has something to do with the original Piranha series that spawned the careers of Joe Dante and James Cameron (who had his name taken off the sequel, his first feature directing gig). Plus: Director Alexandre Aja has been heard boasting that he’s made the bloodiest movie ever made! Naturally, it’s not being screened for critics, because for some reason studios never screen the kind of campy, intentionally silly horror movies that tend to actually get some surprisingly good reviews, if only out of relief that they’re not the crap remake of the week. But if you want some film history with your knowingly lowbrow field trip to see Piranha 3-D, you can cook up your own double or triple feature with the Film Forum’s Classic 3-D series, which sounds worth braving the Forum’s legendarily crummy facilities [I assume you don't mean the projection capacity, which is is unparalleled. -Ed] I’ll be checking out Dial M for Murder and probably regretting not checking out Gorilla at Large.

The Switch: In contrast to the inherently cheesing-sounding Piranha 3-D, The Switch reads pretty good on paper: a relationship comedy starring Jason Bateman from the guys who did the thoroughly amusing Blades of Glory. Yet the trailer does its best to make The Switch look more like a cutesy, dopey Jen Aniston rom-com than a smart, Bateman-worthy riff; with its mistaken-sperm-donor plot and NYC neuroses, I’m hoping for a Batemanized Mighty Aphrodite, but I’m resigned to that probably not happening.

Lottery Ticket: This looks to follow in the fine tradition of a ton of funny African-American actors and comedians getting together to make a lame movie. You know which one of those was pretty good? Roll Bounce, which also starred Bow Wow, who here plays a kid who hits lotto but endeavors to keep his winning ticket a secret until he can cash it after the holiday weekend. The cast also has funny guys (Mike Epps, Charlie Murphy), tough guys (Keith David, Terry Crews), and otherwise engaging performers (Ice Cube, Naturi Naughton), but does it look good? Not really.

Nanny McPhee Returns: Weird how Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Ewan McGregor could appear in a Thompson-penned movie I have absolutely no interest in ever seeing, but, you know, here we are. I have nothing against children’s entertainment and I’m sure you can do worse for your kids than this stuff, but I’m also sure that the Ramona movie is probably more overall-tolerable for the parents.

Vampires Suck: And here, ladies and gentlemen, is very possibly top grosser for this weekend. The team behind every senseless, reductive anti-spoof of the past decade or so looked down and out after Disaster Movie flopped a few years ago, but then Fox commissioned a quickie Twilight spoof and Team Yutz is back in the game with another seventy-five minute episode of sub-Family Guy spoofery. Twilight is actually a great spoof target; the problem, apart from the obviousness of such apparently trailer-worthy jokes as, uh, a Team Edward and Team Jacob beating each other up (although: the thing about the bad vampires looking like the Black Eyed Peas is pretty funny), is that inevitably Hollywood village idiots Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer will attempt to spoof other recent movies, to the raucous laughter of idiots of who laugh at stuff because they recognize it and/or because it contains grotesque violence. Here’s a sample non-Twilight joke: someone shoots a gun… and the bullet hits Alice in Wonderland! LOL! It’s that girl from that movie I saw, only she got shot! After this, let’s get some crayons and scribble some boobs on movie posters! Unfortunately, a Twilight spoof is also a brilliant quickie release to throw into theaters in the wake of two $300 million-grossing Twilight movies and this thing will probably make some Epic Movie or Meet the Spartans style ill-gotten bank.

Stayed tuned for next week’s new releases which presumably answer the question: which movies did studios consider not good enough to release this weekend?

6 Comment

  • Wait, Mark, are you serious about Film Forum projection being great? Can I take this opportunity to tell my Film Forum Sucks Anecdote??

  • By all means do, especially if it relates to the clientele, but my impression, as a rep-house-goer, is that most formats look as good there as anywhere (plus they actually have the projectors for dual-system 3-D); I’ve never endured a projection fuck-up at a public screening there, which I’m not even sure I’d say is true for the also excellent BAM. It’s partly a matter of the quality of prints they get; my impression is that that especially is something Bruce Goldstein takes seriously.

  • Maybe this was just a freak occurence — and generally I do think more in terms of the uncomfortable seats and tiny screens in my bad experiences there, as they obviously have solid reptuations as film lovers — but this really soured me on the place in general. OK, so my lady friend and I went to go see Romance & Cigarettes during its brief theatrical run there. About halfway through the movie, as it was approaching what I heard was a pretty fun song and dance from Mr. Christopher Walken, something very strange happened: dialogue from what was clearly a later scene in the movie began playing over Walken’s number, rather than the song he was singing. Very disappointing. Then, a few minutes later, the print broke and the movie stopped entirely.

    Someone came in and said they had a projection problem and they were fixing it, but it would be a few minutes, and if anyone wanted their money back, they could leave and get it. We were satisfied that they were fixing it, so we stayed put.

    But when the movie started up again, we were past the Walken scene — and we saw the later scene whose sound had somehow played over Walken before, confirming that no, this was not some kind of arty Turturro touch (and really, it in no way seemed that was the case, because Walken’s singing cut off abruptly and no one else’s songs were replaced with future dialogue from the movie).

    Anyway, we finished the movie, and then went to complain. The mid-movie breakage didn’t really bother me, but it did bug me that such a big moment was lost in the shuffle. Rather than offering, say, passes to come back, the staffer there informed us that because we didn’t leave when the projection malfunctioned, we were not entitled to a refund or a re-entry ticket or anything. We protested and noted that it wasn’t as if we stayed and saw the entire movie with a brief break; the Walken scene was entirely ruined. The staffer then curtly pointed out that “this isn’t a Loews” (which, you know, we hadn’t noticed at all), that they can’t always afford projection fixes that they’d like to make, and that maybe if we donated to them, these things would happen less often. So, basically: customers, it is your fault this happened.

    My ladyfriend, sort of an expert at even-keeled complaint-letter-writing, wrote to the Film Forum… president? I forget; someone high up, when we got home. When she responded, she informed us that the error we described was actually impossible and that, essentially, we must have been mistaken (but she was sorry that someone was sort of rude to us, etc.) (and no mention of that easy movie-theater out: here, please accept these re-entry passes).

    Now, I don’t doubt that this is a very strange error and what little I know about how projectors work does make me wonder how it happened. But what I saw did happen, and anyone in the audience with me would’ve agreed. Maybe it was an error in the print and not in projection (although, if so, weird coincidence that the projector broke down shortly thereafter). But they showed a movie with a key (at least in terms of enjoyability; Walken singing and dancing, for lord’s sake!) scene muffed. And their higher-up reaction was: nope, didn’t happen!

    So, that whole series of reactions (as well as the small screens and uncomfortable seats and crowds of weirdly mangy audiences) made me reluctant to return unless I had to. I’m no fan of how multiplexes run things (mostly: with negligence!) but I can’t say the average art-house does a much more careful job. Usually they’re just more understandable about trying to fix things. And in this case, not so much, what with the “this isn’t a Loews!” and “what you’re describing is impossible!”

    I’m excited to see the Dial M 3-D for sure. But when the Godfather restoration turned out to be playing the Ziegfeld a few weeks after Film Forum, I was definitely relieved.

  • (It sounds like they just restarted at the beginning of the next reel.) You’re right though, that there are so many moments there where a Loews manager would have just finally done the whatever-the-customer-is-always-right thing, instead of the arrogant-not-for-profit thing. That’s a shame.

    In general though, small screens and disrespectful audiences aside, I’ve found the Film Forum experience to be at least as respectful of the film as anywhere else.

    Really, though, you bring up a good point, which is that a lot of places that “aren’t a Loews, you know” should really do a better job of making that distinction clear, by, like, actually caring more, and not, oh let’s just say, projecting the entirety of I Am Love with infuriatingly imprecise widescreen masking, LANDMARK SUNSHINE.

  • Oh snap! I usually hold the Landmark Sunshine up as one the most consistently good presentations in the city, because apart from one very strange Bubble glitch where the sound was out of sync for a little while (even though it appeared to be digitally projected?! I guess that’s like when my DVR playback is wonky?!), I’ve never seen a big error there and I’ve long held it as my favorite arthouse (outside of perhaps BAM which I think has also been largely error-free for me). Disappointing! I guess if you go to the movies in a big city long enough, eventually you’ll find problems almost everywhere, and I know no one can rock a perfect 100% record, but yeah, you’d think the Angelika or where-ever would be eager to compensate for the tiny screens and creaky seats with pristine presentation. I guess the IFC Center is still pretty spotless for me unless you count a digital presentation of some trailers that started skipping and had to be shut down.

    Theaters of NYC, take note: I hold grudges!

  • my fav Film Forum moment was moths or flies or something flying around in the theater during the opening sequence in Raygadas’ “Silent Light”, my first thought: Movie Magic!