Good grief. Summer is coming to an end not with a bang, but with a whimper. The crop of big studio fare shuffling into theaters this weekend is barely enough to raise an eyebrow. There doesn’t seem to be all that much happening on the independent side of things, either. But there is an upside: the Oscar season unofficially starts on Wednesday with the release of George Clooney’s classy international thriller ‘The American’ (to quickly be undone by the bargain basement trash of ‘Machete,’ out on Friday). What I mean to say is: hang in there. It’s almost over. Oh, and if you haven’t seen ‘Piranha 3D‘ yet, correct that immediately.
The weekend’s two big movies are a couple of studio pictures that look like late night cable fodder, and not in the knowing ‘Expendables‘ way. (Although ‘Expendables’ could have been a lot more knowing and a lot less late night cable, but we’ve already gone over that.) ‘The Last Exorcism‘ was produced by Strike Entertainment, which brought us Zach Snyder’s still-rewatchable ‘Dawn of the Dead‘ remake and Alfonso Cuaron’s masterful ‘Children of Men.’ It looks to be a kind of faux documentary exorcism movie. I talked to one critic that thought it was pretty miserable. He says that everyone is in agreement that the last five minutes are just unbearably bad, even those that kind of liked it. ‘Hostel‘ director, ‘Inglourious Basterds‘ co-star, and wet T-shirt judge Eli Roth co-produced ‘The Last Exorcism,’ which has me at least slightly hopeful. But I’m still getting over the faux documentary exorcism shtick of ‘[rec] 2,’ and that should hold me over just fine.
Then there’s ‘Takers,’ which looks like it’s going for the dubious distinction of being “this year’s ‘Armored‘.” (Except that ‘Armored’ was actually pretty damn good – particularly that unstoppable last act.) It has a laughably capital-B cast, featuring Matt Dillon, Paul Walker, Hayden Christensen and pop singers T.I. and Chris Brown. (You know, the one who likes to beat up women.) Besides my moral objection to supporting anything Chris Brown does, the movie looks like a weak Michael Mann rip-off of a bank heist movie. (It once had the laughably porn-y title ‘Bone Deep.’) Also, in keeping with Michael Mann’s recent output, the movie was shot in shoddy digital photography, much of which looks like it was taken on the fly by a cell phone camera running away from the ‘Cloverfield‘ monster.
Let’s just say that I won’t be running out to see either of these.
‘Avatar‘ also returns to select theaters this weekend as a “Special Edition.” Unfortunately, the studio didn’t hold a press screening of the expanded version for New York-area critics and it’s not playing anywhere near where I live in Connecticut. I’m actually curious to see what the new sequences are all about, even if they only add up to a few extra minutes. Director James Cameron handles the “director’s cut” phenomenon better than most of his contemporaries (cough, Ridley Scott, cough). I’d be eager to journey back into the fully realized three-dimensional world of Pandora. Although I’m sure what many of us are hankering for (scenes set on a desolate earth which were hinted at in initial trailers) will have to wait for the super-deluxe-whatever edition, and the super-duper-deluxe-whatever edition even further down the line.
Besides that, there’s not much else to report. ‘Get Low,’ the well-received Robert Duvall period piece, expands into more theaters. ‘Centurion,’ the bloody good Roman warrior movie starring Michael Fassbender, opens in select theaters even though it’s been available on On Demand for over a month. Still, it’s well worth checking out on the biggest screen possible, if only to feel the wet viscera on your face. Actually, for that you should just watch – all together now – ‘Piranha 3D’!
It’s a glum weekend overall, but maybe a good time to catch up on your reading. I, for one, can recommend the new Laura Lippman novel, ‘I’d Know You Anywhere.’ It’s fabulous and heartfelt and has a wonderful thriller core. If you’re interested in something on the movie side, I can also give the highest honors to the recently published memoir by Larry McMurtry, ‘Hollywood.’ McMurtry’s a born storyteller and this charts his not-exactly-insignificant contributions to American filmmaking. When you think about his mark being spread from ‘Hud’ all the way to ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ it’s kind of staggering.
See you on the other side of the weekend. Get your ass to the library!