Thursday, May 24, 2007

Arrrrrgh, Mateys!

New Reviews at Since Last Week:
Away From Her

The screening slump continued this week, causing me to scramble to dig up older, unused, backup reviews to help me fill in my schedule. Thank goodness for new DVDs, which I’ll be covering over the weekend, for publication next week. If it weren’t for old reviews and DVDs, I’d be royally screwed.

This week began with more questions about whether or not we’d be seeing Pirates 3 at a daytime screening. The rep had secured a Wednesday night screening, but she was still hoping for word on a Monday or Tuesday daytime screening. I checked my email obsessively, hoping for news, but it never came.

Typically, we don’t have screenings on Monday nights. I have no idea why, but I like it that way. I have my kids’ knitting group in the afternoon, and it just gets too crazy if I have to run right out to a screening when I’m done. During December—and other busy times—it happens, and I deal. But you’d think that, since we have next to no screenings scheduled right now, we wouldn’t have to worry about Monday nights. But this week, we did. Mr. Brooks was screening.

Fortunately, the kiddies left early this week, so—even with a traffic disaster on my way home—I managed to make it in time to grab a quick bite to eat before running out again. Once at the theater, we met up with the rest of the gang and headed for our usual spot in the balcony.

Sure, we say that we prefer to avoid “other people” as much as possible when we attend screenings—because, well, people who aren’t there for work tend to talk a lot more and use their phones a lot more and bring a lot more small children to grown-up movies than people who are. Before the movie starts, though, the critics compete for Most Obnoxious People in the Theater. We tend to occupy a big, long row, and we tend to lean around each other to yell at people on the other end of the row. Kevin, who was at least five seats down, had to tell me about a podcast. Neil, four seats down, had to add in details. I discussed painkillers with Rico, three seats the other way, who’s just getting back again after two knee surgeries. It’s just the way it is. But, rest assured, once the movie starts, we’re the people you want to be seated near.

Unless, of course, the movie sucks. Then anything goes.

This week’s big movie gossip revolved around Pirates 3. As we’d been discussing for weeks, rumor had it that they were still halfway through shooting, and they still didn’t have a final script. The latest from the rumor mill was that the studio had still been working on the final cut just a week or so before. Talk about cutting it close! But someone Neil knows had been to the national press day that day, and he claimed that it’s spectacular—and since this guy hated Pirates 2 as much as I did, that gave me hope.

Though I wasn’t really expecting too much from Mr. Brooks, it was pleasantly creepy. There were a few things about it that bugged me, but I’ll admit that when I came home to a dark, empty house, I was just a little bit creeped out. So the movie did its job—and that’s what matters.

On Wednesday night, we all gathered to see Pirates 3. Since no one’s supposed to see the movie before it comes out, this was just a press and partners screening—a cozy night, in a tiny theater. As one of the guys explained to his guest, it was like a big family reunion. There weren’t any big crowds of members of the general public. There weren’t lots of screaming kids (in fact, not many of the critics even brought their kids—though I’m sure they wouldn’t have been screaming had they been there). It was just a lot of people we knew.

It was pretty clear, though, that none of the critics were especially excited to see it. For one thing, it’s almost three hours long (so I forced myself to run to the bathroom before they let us in—even though I didn’t actually have to go). Not only that, well, Pirates 2 was a disaster. I remember last year all too well. I walked in feeling like I had the best job ever, and I walked out feeling violently angry. I went up to my parents’ cottage for the Fourth of July, and I grumbled about it for days. And while I’m not necessarily blaming that movie for the accident that, days later, ended me up in the emergency room with a broken rib, you just never know. Anger and disappointment do some crazy things to a person.

Thanks to Neil’s friend, however, I decided to keep a relatively open mind. Yeah, I realized that I might hate it. But at least I didn’t go into it determined to hate it.

And you know what? I didn’t.

Once we got settled in, our faithful rep, Matt with the Hat, made the usual reminders—you know, like turn off your cell phones. Then he announced that the movie is almost three hours long (“Two hours and forty-eight minutes!” Frank called out from the front of the theater), and he told us to all get up and go to the bathroom. Lots of people listened. I, however, am all grown up now, and I thought to go before I walked into the theater.

Before the screening, we were all laughing about the letter we’d all gotten with our passes, asking us not to reveal any of the critical plot resolutions. First of all, that’s not what we do. I’m not going to write a review of, say, The Sixth Sense, and tell you what happens in the end. I’m not even the kind of person who will, for instance, yell at my girlfriend’s roommate as she’s walking out the door to see Se7en and tell her what happens in the end (his name was Mark, and I still hate him). But here’s the thing about Pirates 3: even if I wanted to, I don’t think I could give anything away. ‘Cuz I’m not totally sure what happened. There was so much going on that I really wanted to pull out my planner and start taking notes, just so I could go back later and figure it all out. In fact, my husband and I were still trying to talk through parts of it this morning. So the movie is, by no means, a simple film. While I was watching, I couldn’t help but think that the rumors must be true—because it feels like a movie that was written on the fly. At one point, one of the characters says something like, “Do you think he plans it, or does he make it all up as he goes?” That pretty much summed up the film’s script.

But it is, on the other hand, a heck of a lot of fun.

After it was all over, I walked away from my fellow critics, who tended to harp on the fact that the story made their heads hurt (which is totally true), and once again thought about our greatest job hazard: getting too caught up in the details. I will freely admit that I do it a lot. When you go into a movie knowing that you’ll have to write something somewhat intelligent about it the next morning, you tend to nit-pick the details. If I were Joe Moviegoer, I wouldn’t worry as much about the mind-boggling complexities of the story, and I’d just sit back and enjoy the effects and the sword fights and the other stuff. That might explain why, the last time I checked on Rotten Tomatoes, 40-some percent of critics gave it a positive rating, while 80-some percent of readers did. Because the readers probably didn’t get up the morning after and have an in-depth discussion about Davy Jones’s heart. I, on the other hand, did.

But I’m still going to give Pirates 3 a positive review. I definitely enjoyed it more than both of the summer’s other Big Threes.

And now I will end with my top reasons for appreciating Pirates 3:

1) Keith Richards playing Keith Richards in a pirate costume. Sure, he was drunk the whole time, but when, exactly, do you think Keith Richards is actually sober?
2) There are no appearances by the headhunters from Gilligan’s Island, and Johnny Depp goes back to acting like Keith Richards, instead of like Curly from The Three Stooges.
3) Some of Depp’s early scenes may remind you a bit of his role in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
4) Elizabeth Swann could wipe the floor with whiny old Mary Jane Watson any day of the week. Finally—a female character who does more than scream and faint…
5) (Courtesy of my husband, who is brilliant) While the movie does end up taking a slight turn into an arctic setting, there are, fortunately, no penguins.

This Week’s Film Critic Discussion Topics:

- Comments: Allowing people to comment at will on a web site is never a good idea. Usually, they’re too lazy to email you—but if there’s a comment field, watch out. While we all get a good laugh out of people who get so emotional about our opinions that they send us hate mail, why encourage it? Bill told us this week how someone on Rotten Tomatoes had called him a “whiny little b--ch who never shuts up” after reading his review of Spider-Man 3. Apparently, the reader hadn’t actually seen the movie—but once he did, he commented again and apologized.

- And, of course, Pirates (see above).

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