Friday, March 16, 2007

Is It December Again Already?

New Movie Reviews at This Week:
The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen)

Lately, we’ve been a little bit spoiled. All these weeks with just one or two screenings have made us soft. We’ve been able to see our friends and family again. We’ve actually gotten (somewhat) caught up on all of our reviews. We’ve even had time to go bowling. So this week hit us like a knee to the stomach.

On Monday morning, something strange happened: I woke up. I’m not a morning person at all—nor am I much of a Monday person. But on Monday morning, I practically jumped out of bed, ready to face the week. I scrambled to get some work done before 10, and then (after a flurry of emails about whether or not the theater was ready for us to show up) I took off to Screening #1: The Lookout, which energized me even more—because I actually liked it. What a great way to start the week!

If I only knew what was coming…

That afternoon, I did my time knitting with the girls. Then, since the screening didn’t start until 7:30, I actually had some time to stop at Wendy’s to eat something and do a little reading before rushing off again. I was well-fed and relatively cheery (if somewhat tired) by the time I made it to the theater, where I took my seat between Mark and Kevin and prepared to sit through an entire hour and a half of Heather Graham in Gray Matters. Now, Kevin and I don’t always see eye to eye. But Gray Matters was one thing we could definitely agree on. It’s bad. Boy, is it bad. So bad, in fact, that Molly Shannon managed to look like the calm and collected voice of reason in the film. ‘Nuff said.

As we walked out, I announced that the next time someone insinuates that I don’t actually work, I will tell them to try to sit through Gray Matters. That was hard work.

So when we arrived for Screening #3 on Tuesday morning, Mark and I continued our rant of Gray Matters while munching on the fresh chocolate chip muffins that Mark had brought (yum!). Little did we know that we were in for something even more painful. Generally, I enjoy smaller indie movies. I’m all for supporting up-and-coming filmmakers. But Flannel Pajamas was not good. After the first scene, Mark leaned over and said, “I have a feeling we’re in trouble.” I gave it a little more time, but by the time the two main characters get married—maybe 45 minutes in—I was hoping that it would suddenly turn into an action movie, and that terrorists would bomb the reception, killing the bride and groom, along with all of their annoying friends and family members. (We call that The Kevin Carr Ending, since he often points out that many movies would be much more enjoyable if they ended with key members of the cast dying in a fiery explosion.) I didn’t like any of the characters, nor did I find them interesting. And when the eccentric little brother meets an early end, Mark and I actually cheered. I’m not even kidding. It’s not often that the thought of getting up and walking out even occurs to me—even if I don’t especially like the movie. But I didn’t really want to waste my time. And the fact that it was sunny and 75 on Tuesday just made me all the more angrier that I spent two very long hours in a theater drinking cold coffee instead of sitting outside, enjoying it while I could.

The whole Flannel Pajamas thing might explain why I didn’t mind Premonition so much on Tuesday night. Sure, it had a few inconsistencies, which Kevin announced gave him a Premonition Hangover on Wednesday morning, and he woke up hating the movie even more. I, on the other hand, was interested enough. And I didn’t hate the entire cast. So I was happy.

By Wednesday night, we were pretty beat—and perhaps just the slightest bit delirious. But there we were—me, Mark, and Neil, settled into the balcony of the theater downtown (which, incidentally, frightened me a bit, as it was the scene of the Number 23 Fiasco). This time, the people around us were almost just as chatty as they had been that night. But there was a big difference: I was trying to follow The Number 23. There isn’t much in I Think I Love My Wife that you really need to follow—even if you want to. And, well, I didn’t especially want to. So I found all the “Oh no he didn’t!”s to be extremely amusing—much more amusing, in fact, than the movie itself.

By the time Thursday morning—and Screening #6—rolled around, we could barely remember our own names, much less that of the movie we were about to see. Or where it was that we were supposed to be. We all clung to our coffee cups (and Neil to his energy drink) as we were told that they thought the screening was at noon instead of 11—and as we took our seats in the theater and waited for the projectionist to show up.

“What are we seeing again?” Neil asked as he opened his notebook.

The rest of us paused before remembering that we were there for a screening of The Host—which wasn’t as good as I expected, after Jason announced on Monday that he’d seen the screener, and it was “Frickin’ awesome,” I believe were his words. I’m leaning more toward “interesting.”

Finally, Thursday night rolled around. By then, we were all pretty quiet. None of us wanted to make any predictions about the next movie, since we knew it was our last great hope of the week. Other than The Lookout, I hadn’t really seen anything all week that was really worth recommending. For those of you keeping track at home, I was one for six. That, my friends, makes for a rough week. But our week was about to come to the perfect Kevin Carr Ending. As Neil once again opened his notebook, I reminded him that we were seeing Shooter—and thank goodness for that. After a week of bad movies, after a week of wishing that the characters in the movies we’d seen would die in a fiery explosion, we got to spend two hours watching people die in fiery explosions, over and over again. And it felt good.

Next week is another slow screening week (which makes me wonder what we did to make the people who scheduled seven screenings for this week—plus the Saturday morning screening which I will be sleeping through, thank you very much—hate us so much). But on Thursday morning, I head out for a few days at the Cleveland International Film Festival, where I’ll be watching all the movies I can handle. I promise to report back with as many details as I’m legally allowed to provide.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Bored with Gore

New Reviews at This Week:
Wild Hogs

First of all, I have a confession to make: since last Friday’s bowling excursion, I’ve been shopping online for my own pair of bowling shoes. David and I had so much fun that we’ve decided to make our therapeutic bowling excursion at least a monthly event—and since the cute little lady with the Marge Simpson bouffant and the bright painted lips charges four whole bucks to rent stinky old shoes, I figure a good pair of cheap bowling shoes would be a pretty decent investment. So if you know a good place to get cheap bowling shoes, do tell.

Last week’s beer and bowling had me ready to face another week. Or at least I was ready to face Tuesday—our one big day of screenings and appearances and things this week.

On Tuesday morning, we had a super-secret screening of The Lives of Others—the Oscar-winning foreign film. By super-secret, I mean that, for some reason, the email went out only to local film critics circa 1998, approximately four of whom are still around. The rest of us had to find out through those four. Fortunately, Mark filled me in, so I was there with bells on, filling up my coffee cup at a little before 11. I wasn’t totally sure that I was in the mood to sit through more than two hours of subtitles, but I hadn’t been to a daytime screening in an age (I skipped the only one we had scheduled in February), and I kinda missed them. I didn’t miss driving halfway across town, following behind people who feel it’s necessary to drive 45 on the highway. But I did miss hanging out with the gang—and being able to watch a whole movie without the distraction of the chatty teenage girls behind me. (As it turns out, sometimes film critics can be every bit as distracting as teenage girls, but that’s another story for another day.)

Fortunately, The Lives of Others is a fabulous film—well deserving of its Oscar. If you get a chance, check it out. Just brush up on your speed reading before you do.

By the time I made it back from the screening, it was already 2:00. So I scarfed down some sort of lunch while I did some work—because I had a lot to do and very little time to do it in. I was out the door less than three hours later, on my way to meet Mark, who was joining me for the big Columbus preview for the Cleveland Film Festival, which we’ll be attending in a couple of weeks (woohoo!). There, we met up with Clay, who was the event’s distinguished host.

I really wanted to hang around the event—and have a drink or two—but we were scheduled to be at the 7:00 screening of 300. Since it would obviously pull in a house full of fanboys, we needed to be there on time—to make sure we still had seats. So, unfortunately, we had exactly 30 minutes for the event. That gave us just enough time to chat with Clay, pick up our programs for the event, and nibble on some munchies.

In that 30 minutes, however, the strangest thing happened. As we were making our way back from the buffet of wraps and nachos and wings, Clay walked up and introduced me to David. David had recognized Clay’s voice from the radio show (which comes as no surprise, since you can easily pick out Clay’s voice—even from 100 feet away in a crowded theater lobby) and had stopped by to say hello. As he and Clay were chatting, David asked about me. Me. No kidding. So Clay brought him over to meet me.

As an online critic, I don’t get a lot of readers walking up to me and introducing themselves. None, in fact. I’m just a name. I’ll get an email every once in a while, which is always cool, but I never get strangers walking up to me in a bar to say hello. Sure, I’ve appeared on John and Clay’s radio show a few times. And I do realize that a lot of people listen to it. But I guess it never really occurred to me that people other than my mother were listening to me. So I definitely wasn’t prepared to meet David. It was, however, a pleasant surprise.

After gathering up our film festival programs, Mark and I were once again rushing out the door, driving back to the theater, where we met up with the rest of the gang. The poor little guy at the door tried to count me as Mark’s plus-one, but I made a point of giving him my name and outlet. I’m telling you—these people will get to know me if it’s the last thing I do.

Once we were seated in the theater, it became quite clear to me and to David’s wife, Deb, that we were horribly outnumbered. David pointed out that there was only one female in the whole row behind us—and that was poor Lori, another one of our colleagues. Mostly, the theater was packed with very eager and caffeine-loaded college-age guys—mostly of the geek variety. You know…the ones you used to find lining up days early for the opening of Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings. When the movie began, they all cheered and hooted. After a while, though, not so much. Maybe they were as bored as I was.

Perhaps I saw so much blood and gore back in December that it just doesn’t shock me anymore. But it was just all too obvious that the filmmakers were aiming the movie at the fanboys seated around me—the ones who cheer for any form of violence and/or sex. Show blood droplets in fancy CGI slow-motion, and they cheer. Show a nipple or two, and they cheer some more. But after about a half hour of blood and nipples, I’d pretty much seen all there was to see. In fact, after a long day of rushing around, I felt like curling up and taking a little nap. If it hadn’t been for the loud music, maybe I would have done just that.

The rest of the guys had been looking forward to 300 for ages (they were just slightly less excited about it than they are about Grindhouse)—so I figured I’d be the only one who didn’t like it. But I was surprised to find that there was a general consensus—that there’s just so much sword-fighting-against-green-screens that you can watch before it loses its excitement.

Following our one long day on Tuesday, the rest of the week was pretty quiet. The only other screening on the schedule was a Thursday screening of Pride—which most of us skipped because there are still approximately 14 more screenings until it hits theaters in a couple of weeks (and because very few of us actually want to see it). Right now, we’re all just resting up for next week. The screenings start on Monday morning—and we’ve got seven scheduled for the week (not counting the two kids’ movie screenings on Saturday morning, which we rarely attend—since being surrounded by kids and their all-too-eager parents is usually worse than being surrounded by teenage girls). It’ll be like December all over again….

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Friday, March 02, 2007

I'm Feeling Much Better, Thanks.

New Reviews at this week:
The Number 23

Any week that starts with a party can’t be half bad. This week started, of course, with Sunday evening’s First Annual COFCA Academy Awards Party. We showed up at the gorgeous party room of John’s posh downtown high-rise just as the red carpet fun was starting. We began the evening by toasting with some especially tasty martinis before diving in to the munchies—and, one by one, the gang began to arrive.

John, who usually doesn’t watch the annual Hollywood Hoohah, was appalled by Ryan Seacrest’s horrible interview questions—not to mention the Glam-a-strator, or whatever the heck they called the thing that the rest of the commentators used to draw squiggly yellow lines around the celebs’ cleavage. But I, being the not-so-secret Red Carpet Whore that I am, loved every minute of it.

As we partook of the Oscar party spread, we all filled out our Oscar ballots. Then we claimed our seats in front of the plasma TV, grabbed another drink, and settled in for a long night. Surprises on Sunday night were few and far between. Though we didn’t expect Alan Arkin to take Best Supporting Actor, after seeing Norbit, none of us were surprised that Eddie Murphy didn’t win. In fact, most of us were surprised that Murphy was still allowed inside the Kodak Theater. Not one of us was shocked to see Jennifer Hudson, Helen Mirren, or Forest Whitaker win. In fact, none of us were surprised to see Marty Scorsese win, either—especially not after hearing rumors that The Big Three directors were going to be giving the award. And even though I [grudgingly] predicted that Babel would take home Best Picture, I was so totally relieved that it didn’t.

In the end, when we were all good and tired and seriously sick of montages, Neil correctly predicted the most winners—and he took home a fabulous prize package, filled with nominee-related gifts. It was a tough race, but Neil pulled out in front in the end. If you see him on the street in his Dreamgirls dress-up shoes, be sure to congratulate him.

I was still trying to recover on Monday morning when I got an email from my esteemed colleague, Clay Lowe, asking if I’d be available to join their award-winning weekly radio show, “It’s Movie Time,” since his partner in crime, John DeSando, has been busy teaching night classes instead of attending screenings. The plan was to see Bridge to Terabithia on Monday night. But, since I was dead tired (man, I must be getting old), and since I spend my Monday afternoons as a knitting instructor for kids—not to mention the fact that I had other screenings scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights—I wasn’t exactly looking forward to catching a Monday night flick. So we settled on Tuesday afternoon instead.

Clay and I met for coffee on Tuesday afternoon. We chatted for a while (and Clay took some time to analyze why I am who I am) before heading in to the theater, where we were joined by maybe nine other people (not bad for a Tuesday afternoon matinee). When it was over, I decided I was much too mentally and emotionally exhausted to head right back out to Tuesday evening’s screening of Full of It. From what I’ve heard, I didn’t miss anything.

So then came Wednesday—the big screening of Zodiac. As I was shoveling down some dinner, I got a text message from David that he was running late—so I was officially on seat-saving duty. I rushed out the door, but, as it turns out, I didn’t need to hurry, since Mark and Bill were already there when I showed up.

Once we were all seated and discussing such fascinating topics as bowling, Bill announced that the movie was two hours and forty minutes long. He explained that he’d been preparing for it all day—by dehydrating himself. That, of course, led the rest of us to worry about the condition of our bladders. Sure, we’d just gone before we left home. But how much did we drink today? Should we go again—just in case? As David explained, the answer to that question is always yes—so we all scrambled out into the lobby and headed for the bathrooms. And it’s probably a good thing we did. Because, as it turns out, Zodiac is actually closer to five and a half days long—and it would have been difficult to hold it through all of that.

We’ve all decided that there should be a law against making movies more than two hours long. It shall not be done. COFCA has spoken.

On Thursday, I hurried to write up my Zodiac review before rushing down to the studio to record the show. Though I never did radio before I met John and Clay last summer—and though I was absolutely terrified on my first time in front of the mic—I enjoy it more and more every time I step into the studio. And, I must say, the three of us work well together. The only challenge is keeping the show down to five minutes—because we hate to edit out our jokes. If you’d like to hear this week’s show, you can listen at

After the show, I actually turned down post-recording drinks because I needed to rush back to the office to get something done before the next screening (despite the fact that Clay insisted that he’d called my office—and they didn’t really need me so much after all). I was scheduled to see Wild Hogs, which Clay totally loved—so I was looking forward to it. I’m not going to call it a brilliant comedy, but John Travolta does make me laugh. And at times I was worried that some of the people around us were going to stop breathing because they were laughing so hard. So that makes it better than both Norbit and (from what I hear) Reno 911!: Miami combined. Not bad for a bunch of old guys.

Today, I’ve been rushing to get all that end-of-week stuff done—because this afternoon, David and I are reclaiming a little piece of our lives. All work and no play and all that. Since we both seemed to burn out at the same time last week, we’ve decided that we’re long overdue to take some time out. So we’re going bowling. David, apparently, is some kind of Bowling Guru. I, on the other hand, am usually just happy if I can break 100. Should be an interesting adventure. Don’t count on me posting scores next week.