Weekend Movies: Sleep with the Fishes

So this is what the dog days of summer look like – a pool of water filled with razor-toothed piranhas. Also: mediocre studio run-off. There are only a couple of weekends left in the summer, and it seems like the studios have more or less given up. We’re trapped in that twilight zone limbo of “after the big budget studio fare” and “before the upper-crust Oscar contenders,” where there’s virtually nothing exciting going on. At least around this time last year we had Rob Zombie’s underrated ‘Halloween II‘ and Quentin Tarantino’s certifiable masterpiece ‘Inglourious Basterds.’ This year we have…

… Well, the biggest movie, at least from my particular point-of-view, is ‘Piranha 3D.’ A remake of the Roger Corman ‘Jaws’ rip-off from 1978 (a pedigreed ‘Jaws’ rip-off, mind you – directed by Joe Dante from a script by John Sayles), this one comes courtesy of French filmmakers Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur, the uber-talented duo behind slasher masterpiece (slashterpiece?) ‘High Tension.’ These dudes are smart and unafraid to be politically in-your-face, as anyone who saw their delightful, gore-drenched ‘Hills Have Eyes’ can attest. Their take on this material excites me endlessly. This remake looks bigger and more out-of-control than anything they’ve ever done, and has a crazy cast including Elizabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, Jerry O’Connell, Eli Roth and porn star Riley Steele. They even managed to rope Richard Dreyfus back to cameo as his character from ‘Jaws.’ (Seriously!) Unfortunately, the studio (Dimension, the genre arm of the financially struggling Weinstein Company) decided not to screen the movie for critics. *Insert sad face emoticon*

But fear not! I’ll be seeing it this weekend, FOR SURE, and will be writing up my thoughts for all two of my regular readers! Get excited!

Besides the possibility of seeing comely co-eds (including the very sexy Kelly Brook) in all three dimensions, the cinematic landscape seems pretty barren. So barren, in fact, that I didn’t see any of the new movies coming out. It doesn’t say much when those other new movies are a tepid-looking romantic comedy called ‘The Switch‘ – which is the third sperm donation comedy of the past six months (the others: the brilliant ‘The Kids Are All Right‘ and the atrocious ‘The Back-Up Plan‘) – and something called ‘Nanny McPhee Returns,’ which is the sequel to a movie that nobody gave a shit about in the first place. I’m not going to talk about ‘Nanny McPhee Returns’ because I’m not even sure what it is. So let’s turn our attention to ‘The Switch,’ shall we?

Here are the alleged pluses: The script is a Black List-er (i.e. it placed on the annual Hollywood list of the best unproduced screenplays), based on a story by Jeffrey Eugenides, author of ‘The Virgin Suicides’ and ‘Middlesex.’ The cast is also pretty well rounded, with romantic comedy veterans Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston buoyed by indie players like Juliette Lewis and my buddy Todd Louiso.

The minuses: Well, Jennifer Aniston is pretty wretched. And Jason Bateman, while a hoot in ‘Arrested Development’ and a fine supporting character in films like ‘The Kingdom,’ has failed to really land a solid leading man role. Around this time last year, we were subjected to ‘Extract,’ a big Hollywood comedy (put out by the same studio, no less – Disney, what were you thinking?) that barely qualified as a film, it was such a loose, shambly mess.

But who are we kidding? I’ll probably see it…

On the list of things I will definitely not be seeing is ‘Vampires Suck,’ which opened on Wednesday. A cheapie spoof of the ‘Twilight‘ series (and, presumably, more risqué vampire fare like ‘True Blood‘), this looks borderline unwatchable. I saw bits of ‘Meet the Spartans‘ on cable a couple of weeks ago and wanted to commit hara-kiri. This one looks even worse. Yet it might end up at the top of the box office heap this weekend. (‘Meet the Spartans’ debuted at #1, we must remember.)

So things look pretty dire this weekend. And since A.O. Scott is off this week, there aren’t even any good movie reviews to look forward to. Sigh. There’s always next week…

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