The Fall movie going season? Whoop-doo!
As a paid movie journalist, I have access to just about every movie coming out at any given time. My inbox if full of invites to even the smallest arthouse flicks. Sometimes, I forget what a blessing this is. After ten years in this gravel laden ditch, I take films for granted. I've forgotten what a simple pleasure it is to pack up the car on a Friday night and haul the kids down to the local Cineplex. Not that I have kids. But my family would perform this ritual on occasion, and it was always an exciting endeavor. It could be as enchanting as the carnival coming to town, or having a long absent relative over for chicken potpie and homemade tacos. Going to the movies used to be fun.
In this line of work, it can be a chore. Trust me, that's not a complaint. I still love watching movies. But now, there is a whole lot of baggage that comes with it. Having to go to a junket every other weekend ruins the magic. Seeing every single film ever made ruins some of the joy of seeing the movies you really want to. It becomes a fact of life. A faucet of streaming images that never gets twisted off properly. When I have so many options at my fingertips, it's hard to imagine having to pick just one movie. But a recent visit from some out of town folks brought me back down to the reality facing most moviegoers in this day and age. They simply can't see everything that comes out. Heck, they hardly get to see one movie a year, let alone two. In talking with them, I found out some interesting bits of information.
I recently broke bread with two very different clans. The first was an all-American family made up of a mom, a pop, and a thirteen year old boy. They live about thirty minutes away from a huge Googolplex that houses thirty-six screens. The second family was younger, in their late-twenties, with a newborn baby girl. They live just five minutes away from a first run Quadroplex. The thirteen year old boy was going on and on about Land of the Lost. He wanted to see the film. Sure, it's got Will Farrell and dinosaurs. That sounds like it would be right up his alley. Thing is, he didn't know the film had already come and gone in a two-week blaze of glory that saw it shitting the fart out of the poo. The movie was a certified bomb. When an Internet suave kid in the sticks is your target demographic, and he has no clue your film has already left the building, you've definitely got a problem. As it has been said in the past, Land of the Lost is going to clean up on DVD and Blu-ray, and its destined to be a cult classic. Its theatrical run was but a meager advertisement for its pliable wares.
Both families only saw one film each this past summer. The All-American family made a day of seeing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It was a weekend mini-vacation they all seemed to enjoy quite a bit. The younger family, which hits more within my demographic, couldn't really get out to see a movie together. Their daughter is only seven months old. And the wife is more intent on keeping the flow of domestic life grooving along at a pleasant pace. Dad is a movie lover. But not a movie fanatic. His biggest pet peeve has always been crying babies. In movie theaters. On airplanes. In restaurants. So he's careful not to force those woes on other people. This summer, he snuck off to one film during work hours. That movie? Star Trek. He loves Kirk and Spock, and had to see it in IMAX. The man has long been a part of the studio system. He started out in cable access television, headed off to become a PA on a popular television series, then worked his way onto one of the biggest movie studio lots in Los Angeles proper. Today, he owns his own production company. He admitted, not with shame but with a look of sneaky glee, that he has become partial to downloading bootlegs off a feast server. It's the only way for him to see most Hollywood movies. And he claims he's seen Land of the Lost four times, loving it more and more each and every time he watches it. Told ya so. Cult classic.
This past Labor Day weekend, I decided that I would join my friends and go to a movie away from the junketing world. Just to get a taste of how the average person lives and works in this maddening plateau of crowded Cineplexes and horrible films not worth their weight in stale popcorn. That's when I was hit with a mad concession of my own. I had less than twenty dollars in my bank account. And I still needed to buy milk and coffee for the week. Being away from the actuality of paying full ticket price has numbed me to some of the hatred that is heaped upon certain flicks in this so-called "Age of the Internet". Dang, yes! I'd be pissed to spend my last pennies on Rob Zombie's latest horror opus only to have it vomit wiggling worms of disgust on my subconscious mind. I need groceries more than entertainment. And, like my friend, the young father, I knew I could go home and watch Rob's Halloween II on my computer screen for free. Heck, I'd already spent $60 bucks on the cost of Internet services. And another $53 on DirecTV. Surely I could find an equivalent there without spending more dough at the box office. I'll settle for Rick Rosenthal's Halloween II if it means eating food. And drinking beer.
That's why I am taking a different approach to this fall season. I can't look at it as a guy who gets to see everything under the sun. What if I only had enough money for one movie a month? That's only four movies from now until December. It's a reality facing a lot of Americans. We, as movie lovers, want to see everything that appeals to us, sure. But most of us can't afford to go on a film eating binge. Why do you think theater hopping is so prevalent? And bootlegging? Here, though, I can't do that. Putting myself in the place of the father, he needs to be at work or taking up baby duties. Putting myself in the place of an average, middle American family, there's school, and sports, and taxes. Home cooked meals and late night swim sessions.
Since it is nearing the "major" Holidays, the All-American family wants to see two movies together this fall. One on Thanksgiving, and one closer to Christmas. Also, the thirteen year old boy is going to see one film with a group of friends as part of a birthday party. He has to pay for his own ticket price. And Mom and Dad are going to have a free weekend soon. After dinner, they wouldn't mind seeing a film just for them. What are Mom, Dad, and Junior's best options in the next four months? That's a tough call, as there aren't too many event films coming our way this fall. (Damn, this sort of sounds like an SAT question.)
First, let's tackle the young boys' night out. Being thirteen means that he won't be allowed to see Jennifer's Body, which is the film he will most likely want to sneak into with his friends. And they will probably transgress that gate. These kids grew up with Napoleon Dynamite. They watch it, love it, swear by it. To this day, its in heavy spin rotation inside their DVD player. But, much like Land of the Lost, their awareness of Jared Hess' Gentlemen Broncos is nil. I know. I asked, only to be confronted by a blank face. They don't know what it is yet, and don't really care. It's another film that will find a second life on store shelves and cable. A couple of the boys in this group may want to see The Invention of Lying. But it will prove to be a "bit" too mature for some of the other friends in this group. It's mainly the appeal of Jonah Hill that will get them into theaters to see this one.
That leaves only three options for them. One of which is R rated. Believe it or not, Couples Retreat, though an adult comedy about relationships, is appealing to the junior high set. Some of the boys definitely want to see Whip It!, what with its girl-on-girl violence, its plethora of hot chicks, and its funny bent on high school life. Though, one or two of the boys may flip a finger at its girlyness, leaving the group with their only other option: Where the Wild Things Are. Spike Jonze's adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic book is one of the few films aimed directly at the thirteen year old boy set, and its long established roots as a literary mainstay will also appeal to whoever the chaperone may be. It's the one film made just for boys this season. (Huh? What about Bruce Willis' Surrogates? Well, the trailer bored the group of kids I showed it too.)
Now, you may think I am being sexiest by leaving the girls out of this equation. I'm not. There is only one film for females of all ages this fall, and I don't even need to tell you what it is. These chicks have been saving up their allowance to see it three times in one day. Birthday theme parties will be thrown around its release. If we add a girl into the average middle-American family mix I described above, this would be their Thanksgiving Day after dinner treat (and, yeah, I have a hunch thirteen year old Jimmy and Pops will enjoy it too). It's The Twilight Saga's New Moon, and after watching the trailer that premiered during the VMAs, I have no doubt in my mind that this is going to be a gargantuan hit. Heck, even I kind of want to see it now. Don't you? (Whatever, you liar!)
Now, with this being awards season, you'd think Mom and Pop would have a surfeit of films to choose from on their one date night this fall. Not really true. This is middle-America, and they don't want to be bored by some artsy award whoring dud that only the Academy could love. They've had a stressful week, and they want to be entertained. God damn it! At first glance, you'd think The Invention of Lying would be their cup of tea. Nope. They can rent that shit and watch it at home in a couple of months. Though it's been made by the great Ricky Gervais, its still not worthy of that exalted ticket price. Liam Neeson and Antonio Banderas' infidelity thriller The Other Man is something that certainly appeals to Mom, but Dad ain't having it. No way, no how. Dad, who used to be a military drill sergeant, is still harboring some hatred towards George Clooney and his role in Three Kings. So, the other two adult dramedies that look promising this fall, Up in the Air and The Men Who Stare at Goats, are completely out of the question. The one film mom and Pop can both agree on? Steven Soderbergh's The Informant! Which they both agree looks like a fun romp. And capable of ending their awesome night out on the town with a bit of uplifting brevity.
As a family, our group has quite a bit too choose from this Thanksgiving. If they want to go the family route, Wes Anderson's stop-motion animated flick The Fantastic Mr. Fox promises to be a feast for the imagination. It brings the acclaimed comedy director's wickedly dry sense of humor into Roald Dahl's classic, giving it just the right gravitas to appeal to children, teens, and adults alike. If you're looking to shake some of that tryptophan out of your system, Roland Emmerich's 2012 certainly looks like a goofy bit of Doomsday fun. And, as I stated above, The Twilight Saga's New Moon is kind of a no brainer. Though, its two Disney films, both opening on the same day, that will prove to be their best bet. Old Dogs, starring John Travolta and Robin Williams as troubled dads, is the kind of hilarious juncture our middle-American audiences love, while Disney's The Princess and the Frog is the company's first hand-drawn animated film in quite some time. Its pretty much a lock for box office gold.
Let's move on to the next holiday. While Sherlock Holmes and Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakuel are certainly options, this Christmas is going to be about one film. And one film only. It's a family film. It appeals to everyone. But that's not what's making it worth everyone's while. This is an event. A life changing experience. Or so I am told. James Cameron's Avatar is supposed to revolutionize Cinema, giving theater goers an experience like none they've ever had before. Its an experience that can't be replicated anywhere else. Its kind of like going to the circus. You simply can't have live tigers and bears walking around in your living room (or at least not until HD 3D Home Entertainment Systems are introduced next year). You know that old saying, "If you see only one movie this holiday season, make it this one!" Well, that's what Fox is banking on with Avatar. Will it work? I know for a fact that my middle-American family is going to see it. They have to. Its all that's being talked about. Now, if they don't make it on opening day, and word of mouth screams, "Stinker!" They may just head on over and watch Did You Hear About the Morgans?, which is, dare I say, looking pretty fucking funny at this point.
Now, back to the father who only gets to sneak away to the theater a few select times a year. We're going to go together, once a month. Because that's all we can both afford. For a single male, this fall is looking sort of bleak. Which is actually great. Because it will allow us to narrow in on some hidden gems that might have otherwise gotten lost in the shuffle. Being in our Late twenties/early thirties means we can see R rated flicks. Which makers it no big deal. But there's just something sneaky about Jennifer's Body. It reminds me of the horror movies I wasn't allowed to watch as a kid. And like those thirteen year old boys I mentioned above, I kind of want to see this (even though the few reviews that have come down the pike have been less than positive). It is the film that appeals to me most this September. The only other contenders are Extract and I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, both of which seem better suited for home viewing.
October is proving to be a hard month to choose from. There are plenty of fun offerings, many of which I desperately want to see. Joel and Ethan Coen have a new movie coming out called A Serious Man, which is being called one of their best comedies to date. Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island got moved to next February, so I don't have to worry about missing that one. Of course I, too want to see Where the Wild Things Are. And The Road. But only one movie has me stopping to watch the TV every time an ad for it comes on. Only one movie trailer has had me coming back for seconds and thirds. Only one movie makes me itch with anticipation, and that makes Zombieland my hands down pick for October. I wouldn't miss this film on the big screen for the world. And that's no lie.
November is really all about the family outing. There are only two movies that I would pay to see, and one of them is already being called "shockingly bad". Which makes me want to see it even more, because I love Emmerich's world disaster cheese, and I am infinitely fascinated with the end of the world. Yes, I would pay to see 2012. And I will probably love it. It's the type of B movie flick that demands to be seen on the big screen. I also want to see Wes Anderson's The Fantastic Mr. Fox, because it looks amazing. Since they both open on the same day, I may just have to sneak into one or the other.
That brings us to December, and I know you think I am going to say Avatar. But, quite frankly, it doesn't appeal to me in the least bit. I am intrigued by the theatrics of it all. And, like everyone else, I want to be visually dazzled and amazed. I want it to blow my eyes out the back of my skull. I want it to shit the fart out of the poo! Not because I have any vested interest in upholding James Cameron's career, or feel like I need to stand on his side. I just want something new and astonishing that transports me into another world. I don't care who gives it too me. Personally, from the preview reel I saw at Comic Con this year, I believe that Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones may have the upper hand on stunning visuals and inventive storytelling. Until I hear otherwise, his quieter, more personal work is what I plan on spending my box office cash on this Christmas. What about you?
That pretty much sums up this fall season. Sure, there are some other films coming out, but no one (except us junketeers) are going to see them anyway. So why worry about it? It's all fucking garbage. I hope you have a swell movie going season. We'll see you on the other side of Winter! Eat food! Kill Grandma! Whoop-doo!