Check it out: this weekend’s movies are basically just last weekend’s movies in miniature. For example, instead of two wedding-related comedies, we get one wedding comedy in the form of Bridesmaids. It lacks anyone as famous as Kate Hudson, but it does star an ensemble of actual comediennes, not just ladies who simulate comedy by falling down: Kristen Wiig, who co-wrote the script at the behest of producer Judd Apatow; the delightful and somewhat underrated Maya Rudolph; veteran character actress Melissa McCarthy; and Ellie Kemper from The Office. It’s still directed by a guy, of course, but that guy is, by evidence of his Freaks and Geeks creation, extremely sensitive to his characters as well as funny. Everyone welcome Paul Feig back from the wilderness!
If the guys in your life match so closely to depressing statistics that they really won’t go see Bridesmaids because it stars chicks and is therefore indistinguishable from Something Borrowed, they can, in place of Thor, check out the lower-budget, lower-expectations, lower-grade, lower-everything Priest, the latest from the burgeoning Scorsese and De Niro of Screen Gems, director Scott Stewart and alleged actor Paul Bettany. They made Legion last year, which had its moments (angel fights! With Keamy from Lost!). I hope this one is better because, you know, even movies like this should probably be better even than marginally ok movies like Legion. The trailer, which has been playing, by estimates, since the beginning of time, makes it look like an unholy cocktail of almost every second-tier franchise out there: Resident Evil, Underworld, Blade (remember Blade? The godfather of Marvel movies and also modern second-tier franchises?).
Fans of second-tier franchises who don’t want to pay first-tier prices, take note: while the advertising campaign for Priest leans heavily on promoting its many 3-D engagements, this summer so far has seen a decent uptick in the availability of the cheaper, and often just as good or superior, 2-D format. Yes, the 3-D screens still outnumber the 2-D by a factor of two or three, but I remember last summer there wasn’t a single screen in Manhattan showing The Last Airbender in 2-D (as such, I never saw it; perhaps a blessing in not much of a disguise). Priest, if you’re so inclined, has a token 2-D screen at most Regal theaters (Union Square, E-Walk, Battery Park, Court Street), as well as the AMCs at Kips Bay and 34th Street. There also half a dozen theaters (many of the same) playing the 2-D version of Thor (though as the movie’s run wears on, the 2-D screens, with their paltry only-moderately-overpriced tickets, will likely get ditched first). This bodes well for not having to pay almost twenty bucks apiece for Green Lantern or Captain America.
Finally, in place of last weekend’s indie-movie deluge, we have the aftershock version: Hesher and Everything Must Go are both about depressed people being depressed, but played by famous movie stars (or at least recognizable TV stars). I half-liked Everything Must Go, based mainly on Will Ferrell’s work as a drunkard who’s been exiled out of his home with his possessions on his front lawn, and Rebecca Hall’s latest performance as an extremely reasonable, kindhearted, and beautiful woman. This is the kind of thing that would come off obnoxious from a bigger star and/or a less subtle actress, but Hall really does excel at playing nice people.
Weird movie-weekend trivia: Everything Must Go is (loosely) based on a Raymond Carver short story. Priest director Scott Stewart made his bones as a visual effects guy, but apparently got into directing via a short film called What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, which you may recognize as either (a.) also a Raymond Carver short story or (b.) the basis for the title of approximately twenty percent of all think pieces. For example, someone out there will head his or her Everything Must Go review “What We Talk About When We Talk About Adapting Short Stories to the Screen.” Or maybe Hesher will be involved in a retrospective called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Joseph Gordon-Levitt.” It is difficult and sad for me to consider that I might not like Hesher, as it stars two of my favorite actors: Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a mysterious hell-raiser who helps a grieving family, and Natalie Portman on the sidelines as a nerdy checkout girl. It looks sort of like a high-minded Beavis and Butthead episode, which only piques my curiosity further.