Your Labor Day Weekend at the Movies No One Not Even Their Makers Really Expects You’ll See

09/02/2011 8:56 AM |

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Happy Labor Day! As far as junky clearinghouse weekends go, this one looks like it belongs somewhere in the middle. There’s no Statham vehicle or anything (we have to wait until late September for Killer Elite), but it’s not much grab-baggier or also-rannier than, say, the crop of new releases from two weeks ago. Still, if you’re going to the mainstream movies this weekend, probably you’ll want to do the traditional Labor Day catch-up if you haven’t seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Our Idiot Brother, or, I don’t know, Captain America or 30 Minutes or Less? Are those still playing?

The Debt: This movie’s release is cause for celebration, either because you’ve been breathlessly awaiting the new John Madden joint (hm) or you’re sick of this fucking trailer and never want to see it again (there we go) (and join it in hell, trailer for Warrior). If you’re actually dying to see it, well, I guess you could be an early adopter of a Jessica Chastain completism (understandable after her work in Tree of Life and The Help [Let’s not forget the somewhat uneven Season One Veronica Mars episode “The Girl Next Door” [pictured above right]. -Ed), or maybe you’re a big Sam Worthington fan (they must exist, right?), or maybe you were bummed when you realized no Munich sequel was forthcoming. Or maybe you’ve been waiting for Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds to have a Pacino/De Niro moment from Heat, rewritten for dour Englishmen: who can look more anguished, stricken, and generally disappointed with life? I’ll spare you an “audiences who see The Debt” joke, because Editor Mark makes it sound passable if not exactly inappropriate for the Labor Day dumping ground.

Shark Night 3-D: I’m a fan of both Renny Harlin’s Deep Blue Sea (by far the second-best giant shark movie ever) and the recent Piranha 3-D remake, in addition to the B-movie oeuvre of graduated second-unit director David Ellis (Final Destination 4 excepted) which you’d think would make me the target audience for a movie like this. But the more I think about it, the more I think probably the target audience is people who haven’t seen any of those movies (except maybe Final Destination 4). I was going to complain about the lack of wisdom in doing a PG-13 sharksploitation movie, but in fairness, I should point out that this PG-13 is attributed to “violence and terror, disturbing images, sexual references, partial nudity, language and thematic material.” That sounds way more R-rated than the inexplicably R Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. It also gets me psyched to check out what kind of rich, mature themes the movie explores. Just kidding, it makes me wonder parts they used for the partial nudity!

A good old-fashioned orgy, from SALO, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM.
  • A good old-fashioned orgy, from SALO, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM.

A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy: This summer’s unusually long parade of R-rated comedies has been capped by a couple of indie pick-up alterna-comedies that really could’ve been studio productions: Last weekend’s Our Idiot Brother and the actually Labor Day-themed A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy. Watching the latter, you might see why it wound up coming out in a few theaters from Samuel Goldwyn, rather than 2,000-plus like this year’s previous Jason Sudeikis starrers Hall Pass and Horrible Bosses. It’s not that it’s indie-level explicit; it’s not much raunchier than, say, The Change-Up. But it doesn’t show the crippling fear of actual sex that even the raunchiest comedies are expected to wield.

In a studio movie about a dude (Sudeikis) deciding to organize a between-friends orgy as the final party before his dad sells the family summer home, only the gung-ho fat guy (Tyler Labine here) would be in danger of actually getting some, and it would be as a gag, probably with an older lady or a pregnant lady or something else the movie understands to be totally gross. But while Orgy doesn’t skimp, understandably, on the ambivalence (nor, perhaps, on the wish-fulfillment), it’s refreshing to see a sex comedy that doesn’t melt into a drippy rom-com puddle by the end. This isn’t a hilarious movie, but Sudeikis makes a better poor man’s Chevy Chase than the more-ballyhooed Ryan Reynolds, and the rest of the cast—Lake Bell, Martin Starr, Lindsay Sloane, Nick Krohl, and the underused Will Forte and Lucy Punch [I can somehow see you complaining that Will Forte was "underused" in the hundreds of hours of footage taken by the cameras you've so obviously hidden in every room of his apartment. -Ed.]—create the kind of easy camaraderie many comedies need to telegraph via forced banter or just good old-fashioned exposition. I quite liked Bad Teacher and 30 Minutes or Less, among others, but if you felt burned by the sex-obsessed/sex-terrified likes of The Change-Up or The Hangover Part II, this might send the summer out on a better comic note.

Apollo 18: In principle, the idea of a Paranormal Activity knockoff set in retro-space isn’t such a bad one, but the Weinsteins have done their huckster best to make this seem like more knockoff than idea: multiple release-date shuffles, withholding press screenings, and finally putting it out on the heels of three or four other horror movies, presumably for the audience that simply cannot handle the two-month wait for Paranormal Activity 3. (Unfortunately for the Weinsteins, I’m pretty sure this strategy only works on hardcore nerds, and possibly only in the 90s: see the pre-Generations hit Stargate in ’94, or The Mummy making surprising bank pre-Phantom Menace in ’99.) They’ve somehow turned an idea I would consider seeing into something I could easily skip in favor of seeing Spy Kids 4 at a drive-in upstate this weekend. Also disappointing: this totally isn’t a feature-length exploration of the making of the fourth They Might Be Giants album.