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?