>Ice Age: Continental Drift: Oh, the passage of time. I remember seeing the first Ice Age movie in Edinburgh, back when an emerging new animation studio was vaguely exciting, rather than presumed to copy the DreamWorks model to diminishing returns. That was more than ten years ago. Now there are four Ice Age movies, though I have still only seen one. I’m not sure if I can name a wide-release movie franchise from the last decade that I’ve seen less of than The Ice Age Saga’s twenty-five percent. I’ve seen all of the Saw movies. I’ve seen all three Alvin and the Chipmunks movies. That about covers the most torture-heavy ones. Does Madea count as a franchise? Even if so, I’m far more likely to someday watch a Madea movie or two than catch up with these Ice Age sequels. I mean, if I didn’t see the one with dinosaurs, I think I’m pretty much counted out for good.
Anyway, the Ice Age movies come out here every three or four years, make a little under $200 million without anyone really noticing or remembering, and break records overseas—in fact, Continental Drift has been out for much of the rest of the world for a couple of weeks now, and in that time has already made more than it’s likely to do in the U.S. by the end of its run. I know this is standard business practice nowadays, but I like to imagine Continental Drift receiving an early overseas release after the picketing of thousands of angry Australians, Frenchmen, and Peruvians. The U.S. may take some flak for its dumbed-down mass culture, but we can take some snobbish solace in the fact that the rest of the world apparently loves the Ice Age movies even more than we do.
Even here, the sequel has the weekend to itself, probably due to the impending release of Dark Knight Rises next Friday, ready to annihilate the second weekend of anything targeting the same audience. Still, so many movies are more or less single-weekend propositions anyway, I’m surprised that no one has bothered to program this weekend. Even the limited-release schedule is light on alternatives; most of this weekend’s new movies are the kind where you’re not one hundred percent sure they’re actually coming out theatrically. Red Lights, for example, comes from Millennium Entertainment, kings of the did-this-actually-come-out distribution strategy. It’s a thriller with Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, and Elizabeth Olsen—kinda seems like it could’ve come out around the time of the first Ice Age, huh? (Except for Elizabeth Olsen only being a tween then; Julia Stiles, you’re up! Or you would’ve been.) Only in 2002, it would’ve gone out in 2000 theaters and maybe actually opened to ten million or so and play on cable once in awhile, as opposed to getting a cursory opening at the AMC Empire (on, oh, I don’t know, I’ll guess screen 22).
Also, who knew Michael Winterbottom had a new movie? It’s called Trishna, it stars Freida Pinto in some kind of adaptation of Tess of the d’Urbervilles, and speaking of ten years ago, this sounds a bit like something Winterbottom would’ve made his second or third movie of 2002, not his first movie since cutting The Trip into a feature. The poor Englishman’s Steven Soderbergh just isn’t cutting it when pitted against the real thing. The schedule also lists a Mira Sorvino dramedy called Union Square (try Googling that one, yikes) and a Charles S. Dutton movie (for serious: one he wrote, directed, and starred in) called The Obama Effect, though I’m not sure if those releases actually go beyond regional.
Regardless, I guess I shouldn’t say that nothing is coming out this week. In fact, like eight or nine movies come out almost every week. Except next weekend, when seriously, it’s just Batman and The Well-Digger’s Daughter providing counterprogramming for those who hate Batman and/or really love well-digging. July just doesn’t have a lot on the docket; June had around fifty new releases and August has about forty (it’s possible that ten or twelve of them didn’t or won’t play NYC, but still), while July has a comparably paltry twenty-five. What I’m saying is: good thing there are lots of free outdoor movies and concerts in July, and/or good thing you’ll see that Batman movie two or three times? Because this weekend is a mini January in Summer type of deal.
Looking ahead, August looks clumsily programmed, too. For some reason, the fourth Bourne movie ceded the first-weekend-in-August event slot to a remake of Total Recall, even though if I had to guess which of these two potential underperformers is more likely to hit, I’d say Bourne without Bourne stands a better chance. Perhaps fearing the third Batman weekend in addition to the first Batman weekend, the second Batman weekend, and the weekend before Batman weekend, only the summer’s other trilogy-maker, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, dares come out on 8/3. This leaves a weird 8/10 clustercuss of Bourne, the new Will Ferrell comedy The Campaign, and the token Meryl Streep non-com Hope Springs. The audiences don’t quite cannibalize themselves, but they’re not exactly discrete quadrants, either. Then 8/17 heads into end-of-summer mishmash territory with The Expendables 2 (truly an event movie for the second half of August; I’m tempted to propose legislation stating that Expendables movies will only be allowed to come out in the second half of August, with possible waivers available for January, and any religious holidays), the Halloweeny stop-motion cartoon ParaNorman (usually I’d chastise the studio for not putting it out in October, but they probably want to avoid competition from Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie), musical remake Sparkle, and whatever the fuck Disney thinks The Odd Life of Timothy Green is going to be (it seems like maybe a hit, is what they think? I can’t picture it). Then it’s the usual horror and lower-budgeted action for the rest of the month. So in addition to catching up with the June indies, you might use this weekend to savor the time before Dark Knight Rises came out, for after it does, the summer seems kinda over, Charlie Brown.