Friday, May 18, 2007

Where Have All the Movies Gone?

New Reviews at Since Last Week:
Shrek the Third
The Valet (La Doublure)
28 Weeks Later

This week was an eerily quiet week on the film front. Theoretically, that should have given me the opportunity to get caught up on other things—like the pile of submissions that I’ve been pretending don’t exist, or the CDs, DVDs, books, and games that have been piling up on my desk, begging to be reviewed before they become unbalanced, causing a deadly avalanche. But, in reality, the quiet week has given me the opportunity to sleep off my worst allergy outbreak in years (which has also led me to the perfect name for a band: Phlegm Bucket).

The only screening this week was Shrek the Third on Tuesday night. Had it been any lesser film, I would have skipped the screening and spent the night curled up on the couch in my jammies. But it was Shrek. I couldn’t miss it. So I rushed off to the theater to make sure I’d get a seat before they let in the masses.

It was pretty clear that the Shrek screening was a big one. For most screenings, one rep will show up and make sure everything goes smoothly. For Shrek, there were at least four reps present. One met us at the door. One whisked us past the mammoth line to the theater. (This, my friends, is the closest we get to feeling like superstars—though we didn’t even get to walk the special Green Carpet.) And two others were handling crowd control.

Inside the theater, there were sponsors galore. Usually, there’s a radio station and maybe a newspaper and/or TV station. But I can’t say that I’ve ever been to a McDonald’s-sponsored screening. Unfortunately, they were not handing out complimentary Happy Meals. There was, however, a ton of swag. From what one of the other critics told me, someone had been out in the hall, handing Puss in Boots masks to the kids, who were doing their best imitations of Antonio Banderas’s accent. In addition to the masks, there were posters and huge prize packages, complete with Shrek PJs (which, Bill noted, would make a fortune on eBay).

Since it was the only screening of the week—and since Bill had just returned from vacation—we all had plenty of movie chatter and critic gossip to get caught up on. But we had to talk fast—because once they started letting the masses into the theater, the place turned into a circus.

After every seat in the theater was packed, we still had another 15 minutes of mass hysteria until the beginning of the movie. And by the time the movie started, there were already a couple of crying children. At that point, the only thing Shrek had going for it was its mercifully short runtime.

Not far into the movie, we all started having horrible flashbacks. The chatter heated up in the critics’ row, until, after one of Prince Charming’s key lines, three of us huddled together with exclamations of “No way!” and “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Because the plot was shaping into that of January’s animated flop, Happily N’Ever After. I mean, frighteningly close. So close that it later led David to exclaim, “I’m telling you, there’s a spy at DreamWorks.” And, really, how could it be that a bunch of people, at the exact same time, decided to make movies about all the fairy tale villains getting together to overthrow the fairly tale world and have their own Happily Ever After? It’s an awful lot like the recent explosion of movies about pampered zoo animals returning to the wild.

So Shrek the Third turned out, not surprisingly, to be the same old thing—only even less funny because it’s the third time we’ve had to sit through it. As my husband wisely noted, it would have been good if it had been the first Shrek movie. But because it’s the third one, it’s really nothing special.

As we made our way out of the theater, trying to talk about something other than Shrek, Jason grumbled, “I hate those movies. All of them.”

So now, we’ve got two of the summer’s Big Threes down. Next week, Pirates 3 comes out, and, personally, I’m getting a little more worried with every passing week. It could be a colossal hit—or it could be even more of a colossal disaster than Pirates 2. (Might I say, for a moment, in response to last summer’s articles about how film critics are obviously stupid because critics hated Pirates 2, but it made gobs of money anyway: just because lots of people saw it doesn’t mean that lots of people liked it.)

Next week’s screening schedule is still pretty light, though. One on Monday night, and a couple of options on Wednesday night. The whole Pirates 3 thing still hasn’t been worked out, so who knows when we’ll be seeing that one. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a last-minute daytime press-only screening.

On next Friday, we’re taking off early for the holiday weekend—packing the portable DVD player for six-hour drive to my parents’ cottage in Michigan. So I’m hoping to get next week’s update up on Thursday. It may be overly optimistic of me, but I’m going to run with that for now.

This Week’s Film Critic Topics for Discussion:

- Pirates 3—though not really “Will it be any good?” as much as “Will they even screen it?” and “Will they trim it, or will they keep the final cut at a whopping three hours?”

- Summer movies in general—specifically, how long we’ll have to sit through the bad before we get to the good. Or, perhaps more appropriately, will there actually be any good?

- Cell phones in movies: Just turn them off already—or Kevin might have to turn it off for you.

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