Friday, June 29, 2007

Pre-Vacation Panic

New at Since Last Time:
Live Free or Die Hard
A Mighty Heart

As a rule, the week before and the week after a vacation tend to be so hectic that it sometimes makes me wonder if it’s worth taking a vacation at all. The answer is yes—of course it’s worth it. But it doesn’t always feel that way at the time.

So next week, we’re taking some time off. Or at least we might be. Since my husband just started a new job this week, it’s still a little bit up-in-the-air. Fortunately, we were just planning on visiting family—it’s not like we had flights and hotels booked or anything. So who knows. We could decide this afternoon that we’re not going—and then we’ll just go later instead. But I’ve been trying to prepare for it anyway, just in case.

So maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to skip Monday morning’s screening—since I’m currently trying to figure out an extra week’s worth of reviews. But I had a perfectly good reason. I wasn’t the only one who skipped Sicko, though. There were a few who just couldn’t stomach Michael Moore on a Monday morning. And there were others who admitted that there wasn’t really a point—since they’d already watched the whole thing on YouTube anyway. So I wasn’t alone in my absence.

On Tuesday, however, it was back to the grind. Tuesday’s screening was the much-debated Live Free or Die Hard (rated PG-13, much to Bill’s dismay). Despite getting ourselves caught in the mother of all traffic jams on the way to the theater, we made it there just as they were letting press in. I, however, sent my husband to get seats while I made a quick pit stop.

The women’s bathroom at the theater was almost entirely empty when I got there. There were just two primping teenagers, who left right after I walked in. I chose a stall somewhere in the middle of the bathroom. A few seconds later, two women walked in together and chose the stalls on either side of me. Now, as a woman, it is perfectly acceptable to walk into a bathroom with a friend and talk through the whole process. But if that’s the case, and you want to chat-and-pee, it’s customary to take stalls next to each other. And if you take stalls on either side of the only other person in the entire bathroom, well, that’s just plain weird. And if you happen to be talking about movies—and the person in the stall between you just happens to be a film critic—you shouldn’t be shocked if that person joins in your conversation. I didn’t actually butt in on their conversation about Evening, but I sure was tempted. And, well, they would have deserved it.

So anyway, I got into the theater in time to join in on one last discussion about PG-13 movies before Die Hard started. At one point, David stopped and asked, “Have we discussed this before?”

“Um, yes,” I replied. “We’ve discussed this every day for the past two weeks.” And I wasn’t kidding. Bill’s mortification over the movie’s PG-13 rating has turned it into a permanent discussion topic—ever since the rumors started swirling around.

But you know what? I don’t really think it could have been better if it had been an R movie. Okay, so the language could have been stronger—but it didn’t really seem that unrealistic. And not once does Bruce Willis call someone a “Motor Scooter.” So, when it was all said and done, even Bill (who had promised to add a few f-bombs, anyway, in his head) was satisfied.

The movie was, however, really long. And it didn’t help that we had to sit through six trailers before the movie even started. And then, when we got out at about 10, we all had to rush back to our computers to start working on our reviews—because the movie was released on Wednesday, and we all needed to get our reviews up on opening day. But I liked it anyway.

On Wednesday, we had another great adventure. After Tuesday night’s traffic jam (due, in part, to construction and road closings on every other street that would get us to the theater), I decided that I needed to leave even earlier to get to the License to Wed screening on time. It was an early screening, and my husband wasn’t going, since he had a hockey game that night, so I ended up talking to him for about ten minutes while I stood in the kitchen and ate something before running out the door. All the way to the theater, I prayed that I wouldn’t run out of gas—because I was low, but I didn’t have time to stop. Fortunately, I made it—at about 6:20. I stood around for a few minutes and filled the rep in on Die Hard before the rumors started—the print was at a different theater altogether.

Now, this has happened before—though not at a screening that I was technically supposed to be attending. It was two days before another one of my vacations, and I’d decided to do a double-feature, since Mark and I had been told about another screening that press weren’t supposed to attend—but we were told that we could, as long as we didn’t post any early reviews. So after the first screening, we tried looking for the second one—only to discover that the second one was actually at a theater across town (the same theater, in fact, that License to Wed had settled). They ended up holding the screening a half hour (not just for us, mind you—for everyone who had shown up at the other theater), and we made it just in time.

This time, however, we were told to sit tight—that they’d get the print, and we’d just start a half hour later (which made me so glad that I’d rushed to get there on time). Then they let us in, and we settled down into our seats for the long wait.

At 7:29, Sir John left his seat to talk to the rest of us. “They’re about to make an announcement,” he told us. “And since I’m looking at the projection room, and there isn’t a single light on, I’m guessing it’s not good.”

Just seconds later, one of the reps walked up to our row. Quietly, she made her way down the row, saying, “Go…go…go…go…” while waving us toward the exit. I’m sure the rest of the audience got that uneasy feeling when they saw an entire row of us running for the door—but we were glad to get out before the angry mob was released.

Outside the door, barriers were set up, sending everyone right outside, instead of out into the theater lobby. One of the guys’ friends wondered if it was all a little melodramatic, but you’d be surprised what people will do for a free movie. And if you take that away from them, they get pretty pissed off. In the end, they were all offered passes to an upcoming screening—but I’m sure that only helped a little.

After we stood around for a while, avoiding the mob, some of the gang went out for drinks—but I headed home. I met my husband just as he was pulling out of the neighborhood and heading to hockey—just in time to get him to turn around and take me with him. And it was actually a pretty exciting game—so at least that was some consolation for sitting in a theater and waiting for a screening that never happened. But I still have no idea what I’m going to be able to publish next week instead.

Then came Thursday. Thursday was a big day—the Transformers screening. We were all skeptical until we saw the first trailer—and after that, we were sold. We couldn’t wait for the screening. And then came the Great Screening Dilemma—we had two screenings scheduled for the same night. The only screening of Transformers was scheduled for the same night as the only screening of Ratatouille. How were we supposed to choose between the two? Fortunately, we didn’t have to—because more Ratatouille screenings were added. And we were all relieved.

Speaking of Ratatouille, now that it’s officially in theaters, I can say how much we all loved it. Sure, the kids in the theater weren’t nearly as thrilled as we were, but the critics’ row was rolling. We especially loved Anton Ego, the evil food critic. I loved it so much, in fact, that I already have plans to see it again once we get back from our week off.

So anyway…back to Transformers. As a chick who probably still owns a few Transformers toys from the ‘80s (have I ever mentioned that I was a bit of a tomboy?), I was pretty psyched for this one—but not as much as some of the guys. Granted, we were all a little concerned that it was directed by Michael Bay—and that it was well over two hours long. But we’re talking robots here.

The plan was to meet up for drinks at the bar next to the theater before the movie started. There was some confusion over where we were meeting—resulting in our getting a table for 12 at a nearby sushi restaurant. But we all ended up at the sports bar next door, stuffing our faces with beer and spicy chicken parts, so everything turned out okay.

The problem, though, was that the screening was at 7—and that didn’t leave a lot of time for beer and chicken. One of the perks of being a critic, though, is that we get those reserved seats. Other people were already waiting in line when we checked in before heading to the bar.

We did our best to hurry, though, so we could get some good seats—because you never know which seats they’ll reserve for press, and we like to have our pick. As soon as were finished, we sent Colin, the youngest of the group, to get us seats. But, as the rest of us waited to pay up, we realized that there might be a problem. Or, as Kevin so eloquently put it, “If eight hot chicks show up, we’re all screwed.” So David ran off to find the friend who was attending with him. And, shortly thereafter, I ran off to save the rest of the seats. I was hoping that I’d still be early enough—that they hadn’t started letting people in. But when I ran into the theater, I was met with a horrible sight: an empty hallway. In other words, they’d already let people in. And, to make matters worse, for some reason, they didn’t think that there would be a ton of press in attendance for the only screening of Transformers. So, even though eight hot chicks didn’t show up to take our seats, we were screwed anyway. And we ended up sitting at the far side of the theater. It was a good thing I’d run over, though—because if we’d waited too much longer, we’d either have ended up in the nosebleeds (which, in this particular theater, was very, very high up there) or in the second row. And, fortunately, the seats didn’t end up being too bad—though there was some guy across the aisle who had a conversation with his wife through the whole thing (oh, how I wished I had that little hand-held device, with the button that I could push to electrocute him!).

Since it doesn’t come out until next week, I can’t really say much about the movie itself (though I will say I was totally underwhelmed). Instead, I’ll talk about the trailers—or one in particular—that struck up an email conversation that’s been going on all morning. The trailer appeared to be for some sort of monster movie. It was all very mysterious, though—not even a title. But it’s directed by J.J. Abrams, and it’s coming out in January. And it looked really cool. So David, being the genius that he is, went online last night to start searching for it. As it turns out, the project is so mysterious that it’s not even listed on IMDb. So David did more searching and passed his findings on to the rest of us. According to the source that David found, the movie is called Cloverfield. It’s a The Host kind of monster movie that’s told entirely through home videos—shot all on DV.

Neil, who had gotten on his fancy phone right away to text a rep at Paramount last night, confirmed David's findings. And though Kevin is a little concerned that it might make him throw up (like Blair Witch), and we’re all a little concerned for Neil’s well-being (since monster movies tend to make him a little jumpy), I say we’ll be fine as long as we pack the Dramamine for Kevin (and okay…for me, too) and some sedatives for Neil. Bring on the monsters!

Mostly, I’m just glad that we’ll have something to look forward to seeing next January.

So, anyway…now it’s time for all that last-minute stuff. It’s time to pack the DVDs and the books and the CDs before hitting the road. Since I won’t be around next week, I’ll be skipping next week’s entry. But I’ll be back at it again on the 13th. Until then, have a great holiday. And, to quote a wise man I know, “See you at the movies, folks.”

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Thrills, Chills, and Steve Carell

New Reviews at Since Last Friday:
Broken English
Evan Almighty
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Sorry for being such a slacker this week. Friday was a crazy day—one that spilled over into the weekend.

Last week was a screening-filled week—but, fortunately, it wasn’t filled with bad screenings. The Dreaded Monday Morning Screening was 1408, which I was actually looking forward to seeing—so I was totally cool with dragging my butt to a screening on Monday morning. It definitely made for a hectic day, but it was worth it.

John Cusack + Stephen King = woohoo! I was glad to see my boy John in a demanding role again. And since the story was written by Stephen King, I kept my hand conveniently near my eyes the whole time—just in case I needed to cover them, peering through the cracks between my fingers. Typically, when I watch scary movies at home, I keep a pillow (a.k.a. The Scary Movie Pillow) nearby—just in case I need to bury my face in it—but I would have looked really stupid hugging a pillow at a screening, don’t you think?

According to David’s review, I was “a puddle on the floor in the lobby afterwards.” I’m just gonna take that to be a good thing.

The second screening of the week was on Tuesday night—Evan Almighty. And despite the fact that everyone else was convinced that it would totally suck, I was keeping an open mind. I guess I was just feeling generous. Either that, or I just couldn’t handle another bad movie. Whatever the case, though, I was hopeful.

Before the screening, a group of us met up for dinner. Apparently, a table full of film critics is a little more than some waitresses can handle. And after waiting for an eternity for our waitress to return to take our order, we flagged down another waitress, who informed us that our waitress had left for the night. I mean, I totally understand, since Kevin was at the table—and, the minute she walked up, he admitted to being an ass—but we were really hungry, and we didn’t have a lot of time. And since I like neither (a) being hungry nor (b) being late, I wasn’t exactly in a cheery mood. But we eventually got our food—and Neil graciously saved us all seats—so everything turned out okay.

The coolest part of the evening, however, was that I ate more than Kevin “The Carburetor” Carr, Columbus’s Competitive Eating Champ. Sure, Kevin claims that he’d gone out that morning to do some hotdog training—and that he’d consumed a dozen hotdogs for a late breakfast. And I, on the other hand, had only had a PopTart for lunch. But counting just that one meal, I ate more than Kevin did. I was able to eat a whole hamburger and half of a basket of tater tots—and I was even tempted to dig into Kevin’s basket of fries. And for that, I’m totally proud of myself. Thank you very much.

As for the movie, everyone but Kevin agreed that it wasn’t actually that bad. The crowd around us definitely seemed to enjoy it. The person behind me regularly stomped his/her feet out of, I assume, delight—and some random guy at the side of the theater kept letting out random “HA!”s at the most bizarre times. So I’m taking that to be a good thing. And although I’ve gotten my fill of Steve-Carell-falling-off-stuff scenes for a while, it was actually a cute movie. I’d even let my mom see it—so it can’t be that bad (then again, my mother’s taste in movies is a completely different topic for a completely different day).

After a night off on Wednesday, we were back to the theater on Thursday for Ratatouille. We’ve already been reminded approximately 14 times that we’re not allowed to post reviews of the movie until this Friday, so I’ll just say that the kid behind me was lucky to make it out in one piece, after spending the entire movie kicking the back of my seat.

Finally, Friday morning was the Evening screening. I had time to finish maybe half of my Ratatouille review before heading out to the theater. I never enjoy watching heavy dramas on Friday morning (this one being about a woman on her deathbed, looking back on her one greatest regret), but, fortunately, this weekend was Comfest. So after the screening, John and Clay and I recovered by embarking on a Friday afternoon adventure. For most people, there might be something strange about a young-ish woman, such as myself, heading out on a Friday afternoon to a hippie festival with two old guys who are pretending not to be looking for topless women (unfortunately for them, I was the only one who spotted the topless girl—10 points for me!). But that’s just another Friday afternoon for me. And I have absolutely no problem with that. In fact, I thoroughly enjoy it. As Clay and I hunted for any junk food we could find, John searched for shawarma meat that was served in chunks instead of shaved from a giant cone of meat. (Sadly, he never did find it.) Then we sat and ate as some balding 40-something on the stage prattled on about whether or not he should waste the weed to make some brownies for his conservative, tight-assed boss. And a good time was had by all.

This week should make for another busy week, since it’s the last week before I head out on vacation. And with the holiday approaching, we’ve got screenings for Die Hard (the PG-13 rating of which Bill is still totally distraught about), License to Wed, and Transformers.

Actually, I’m supposed to be at a screening of Sicko as I write this. But, for one thing, my husband got a new job (woohoo!), and he has today off before starting his new job tomorrow—so I figured I’d stay home and hang out with him a bit. And, also, Michael Moore makes me angry. That’s not to say that he doesn’t make some interesting points. He does. But while Al Gore, for instance, tends to make his points by calmly and rationally stating the facts, Moore makes his points by bullying people and making ridiculous assumptions. Personally, he lost his credibility when, in Bowling for Columbine, he walked into random homes in Toronto to prove that Canada is a trusting and non-violent country. I found this to be totally silly because (a) I know plenty of people in the States who don’t own a gun and who leave their doors unlocked when they’re home during the day, and (b) I know enough about Toronto to understand that if he’d tried to do that in certain neighborhoods, we never would have been subjected to another Michael Moore film—because the occupants would have shot him on the spot.

As another critic explained, he wasn’t going to the screening because, politics aside, he was concerned that after five minutes, he’d want to punch Michael Moore in the face.


But the rest of the week should be interesting, to say the least. And I’ll be sure to fill you in on Friday.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

This Week's Post...Coming Soon

I'm running a little behind this week -- after a Thursday night screening, a Friday morning screening, Friday lunch with the guys, and last night's NHL draft. I'll post this week's update early next week...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Things Finally Start to Heat Up…

New Reviews at Since Last Week:
Nancy Drew
Surf’s Up

Things have definitely started heating up around here—and no, I’m not talking about the summer movies. They’re as dull as ever.

Interesting story… So last Wednesday, I arrived at our screening to hear one of they guys at the theater talking about a Tuesday morning screening of a certain summer super-hero movie—a screening that none of us had previously heard about. This theater guy told us all to come—the more, the merrier—and he promised to send out an email about it later.

This screening came as a pleasant surprise to all of us. For one thing, I’d much rather go to a daytime screening than an evening screening—because, well, it’s just us. No fanboys or screaming babies. No crowds or radio DJs getting said crowd all riled up, so they end up talking and/or kicking your seat through the entire movie. Not only that, but it’s not fun to have to work three nights a week, especially when we already work five days a week. And it’s hard to maintain a marriage with someone you only see about a half hour a day (10 minutes for breakfast, 15 for dinner, 5 for watching TV before bedtime). So I was really looking forward to my one night off. I was also looking forward to being able to write up my review without being rushed—since I’d have almost three days until publication. Perfect.

On Tuesday morning, a series of quick emails confirmed that no one had gotten an email about the screening—but we generally agreed that we’d been told to show up anyway. So we did. We all got to the theater and signed in. The pots of coffee were out, so we assumed that meant they’d been expecting us—so we grabbed a cookie and a cup of coffee and caught up on the weekend’s gossip while we waited for the movie to begin.

Then, however, things fell apart. A few of us were gathered around one of the tables in the lobby when one of the guys from the theater came up to us and told us that we weren’t allowed to see the movie. The poor guy had to come out and tell a lobby full of film critics—most of whom had driven a pretty great distance (Neil had even skipped the first day of his golf league) to see the movie—that they weren’t allowed to see it. And he wasn’t kidding. A few frantic phone calls were made, during which the rep and apparently the studio confirmed that only the guy from the local paper was allowed to see the movie.

As my friend Chandra said later, when I told her the story, “What were they going to do, make you go home?”

And that, my friends, is precisely what they did do.

I feel pretty bad for the poor guy who, even though he hadn’t told us to come in the first place, had to tell us to leave. I’m sure it also must have sucked just a little bit to be the one guy allowed to see the movie—who got to walk in as we all watched, with sad, puppy-dog eyes, and who had to sit there, knowing that we were all standing in the lobby. At least we didn’t pound on the door—though, as it turns out, that probably would have made it a little more interesting for him.

But, in the end, I mostly just felt sorry for us.

Apparently, though, the studio had a policy, and that was that. We weren’t allowed to see it. So we stood around in the lobby for a while, continuing our discussions, before going our separate ways.

It’s nothing new for a studio not to want reviews to run before the movie’s release date—and we’re occasionally told when we’re allowed to publish our reviews. The same, incidentally, is sometimes true for book reviews (though not as frequently). And, as professionals, we comply with those wishes. Actually, I rarely publish a review before the morning of release anyway—just to be sure. But when we’re told not to publish early, we respect that. We know that if we were to ignore those requests, there would be consequences—and we don’t want to deal with them. But at least give us a chance here. Innocent until proven guilty, and all that.

But instead, we weren’t even allowed to see the movie until the night before release. That meant that local weeklies and radio shows, who require things like production time, will have to wait until next week to run reviews—and that online critics had to scramble to get reviews written in time for weekend publication. And that makes for cranky critics. But, from the sound of it, that’s going to happen more and more often—which just means that we critics will inevitably get more and more cranky.

So anyway, things were pretty busy the rest of the week—since we now had screenings Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night. There was one Thursday morning, too, but it didn’t take long for me to decide that I didn’t have the time for an indie this week.

On Tuesday, my husband had just given his two-week notice at work, after getting all the paperwork for his new job. So I picked him up and we had happy hour munchies to celebrate before seeing Nancy Drew. I really wish I’d had a little something stronger than water to drink—because it might have made the experience a little less annoying. Fortunately, though, I ended up sitting next to Bill’s mom, who was just as unimpressed by the movie as I was—and it’s always fun to have someone to heckle with.

None of us, though, were really there because we wanted to see Nancy Drew. We were just there because David’s wife, Deb, was bringing their son to say hello after the screening. Since Deb’s been busy having a baby and all over the last couple of months, we haven’t seen much of her lately—so we were all excited to see Deb and the little guy (who, incidentally, is the cutest little guy in the world). Much baby talk ensued.

So then, on Wednesday, while my husband went to play hockey, I once again met up with the gang to see A Mighty Heart. The security guards were out in full force on Wednesday—which we thought was pretty strange. Sure, we can see heightened security for a big blockbuster like Shrek. But who’s really going to want to pirate a drama about a journalist who was killed in Pakistan? I don’t care if Angelina Jolie is in it—it’s just not a movie that, if I were to consider a career in movie pirating, I would want to pirate. But, according to later reports, four people were thrown out of the theater—one of them a member of the press, attending his first screening (apparently, his notebook was shiny, and someone thought he had a camera…or something like that). We’ll see if he ever comes back…

Now, I commend these people for finally doing something about all of the idiots who show up to screenings and spend the whole time text messaging their friends (though granted, they’re not actually looking for text-messaging idiots—just pirating idiots—but they seem to kill two birds with one stone). So go ahead—throw them out. But at least be quiet about it. The first time, the woman in question was right behind Jason—and the security guard ended up standing in front of him, turning on her flashlight, and blinding him in the process of throwing the cell phone offender out. Numbers two and three were right in front of us, and two security guards spent all kinds of time yelling at the offenders, and then walking to the side of the theater and loudly conversing, and then going back to the offenders to yell at them again. I realize they’re trying to prevent pirating and all, but can’t they do so without ruining the movie for everyone else? In the end, they were actually more annoying than the people with the cell phones.

And, unfortunately, the security guards did nothing about the two pepperpots sitting behind me and to the right, who gave a loud running commentary on the entire movie. The security guards also did nothing about the person behind me, who spent the entire movie kicking the back of my seat—which probably didn’t do much to help the serious case of motion sickness that the frantically shaking footage had brought on. Actually, I spent a lot of the movie trying not to throw up.

But I wonder what the security guards would have done if I had.

So after two less-than-satisfying nights at the movies, I wasn’t really in the mood for the Thursday morning screening. So I didn’t go. From what I hear, that was a pretty good call on my part. Man, I love it when I skip the bad movies.

But on Thursday night, I was back to the theater again, to see Fantastic Four. The big topic of the night was the interesting little news item that we’d all come across, about a kid who’d been “suspended” (from the sounds of it, he’s pretty sure that means permanently suspended) from his job as a projectionist for posting an early review (a negative review, incidentally). Apparently, the studio had tracked the kid down and had threatened to cancel all screenings if the theater didn’t do something about the situation. Now, if the kid had signed some kind of confidentiality agreement, I could totally understand this one. But there was no such agreement.

I wonder if they sent big, mean-looking henchmen who threatened to break the kid’s kneecaps. And, if so, I wonder if any of them had one blue eye and one brown eye—because that would make them extra mean and scary.

As for the movie itself, even though I didn’t like the first one, I was kinda looking forward to the second one—probably, in part, because of the giant silver guy that’s been hanging out in the theater for the last month or so. He looked really cool. Unfortunately, the movie is not so cool. Actually, it’s a bit of a drag.

And, just for the record, if I were Jessica Alba, I would have gone for a different wedding dress. It was nice and all, but after spending two years working in a bridal shop in high school, I know that she couldn’t have found something more flattering.

After all the insanity of the week, I even had to sit out of this week’s Summer Festival Luncheon at John’s place. It’s become a bit of a tradition—every time there’s a festival going on downtown, I meet up with John and Clay to get some lunch and enjoy it on John’s balcony. And this week, there was even sangria. But I was two movie reviews (and let’s not even talk about how many music reviews) behind—so I had to miss the Latino Festival. But I’m sure there will be something next week. There almost always is.

But next week will be another busy one. Another four screenings—starting with 1408 on Monday morning. If you ask me, it’s a strange movie to watch on a Monday morning, but I’m looking forward to it anyway. I love Stephen King, and I love John Cusack. Together, they’re like strawberries and whipped cream. And that’s definitely worth a little rushing around on a Monday morning.

This Week’s Film Critic Discussion Topic:

Live Free or Die Hard is rated PG-13, to the shock and absolute devastation of poor Bill. This led to a discussion about what Bruce Willis will have to say after “Yippee Ki-Yay.” My current personal favorite is David’s: “Yippee Ki-Yay, Motor Scooter.”

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Friday, June 08, 2007

And So It Begins

New at Since Last Week:
Ocean’s Thirteen
Mr. Brooks

After last week’s slow screening week, things started picking up a little bit this week. The craziness began right away, on Monday morning, with a totally-last-minute screening of Ocean’s Thirteen. As it was Monday morning—which I tend to spend absolutely freaking out—I was running a little behind, but I did make it. When I arrived at the theater, I found the rest of the gang hanging out in shiny café booths that had been set up in the theater’s lobby—just for the theater’s run of Waitress. I slid into a booth during a little discussion about this week’s episode (#12) of Fat Guys at the Movies, which delves deeply into Neil and Kevin’s ongoing feud with some podcasting guys from Chicago. As it turns out, I got a plug on the show, too, in reference to last week’s Film Critic Discussion Topic about the electronic gadget introduced by Regal Cinemas. At one point in the show, they also announce that, since I’m a girl and all, they need to get me on their show. Either me…or a naked stripper. Either one.

Fortunately, however, I am one of the only people mentioned in this particular episode who was not proclaimed a “douche bag,” so I’m thrilled. And relieved. Thanks, guys! Oh, and good luck to Kevin Carr, our resident competitive eater, who’s in another hot dog eating contest this weekend.

So anyway…the new booths at the theater added an increased amount of insanity to the usual pre-screening chatter. Instead of standing around, waiting impatiently for the screening to begin, we grabbed our assorted cookies and muffins and cups of coffee and settled right in. It was like Cheers. It was so much fun, in fact, that we begged the theater manager to keep the booths. But alas, the fire marshal apparently wouldn’t be as thrilled as we were—so the booths will be leaving the theater along with Waitress. We’ll just have to enjoy it while we can.

Despite the fact that Ocean’s Twelve made me violently angry with that ridiculous Julia Roberts twist, I actually found myself totally digging Ocean’s Thirteen. In fact, I no longer cared that I had to see it on a Monday morning (had it sucked, however, I would have been totally pissed—I get that way on Mondays). In fact, I have officially declared Ocean’s Thirteen the best of this summer’s Big Threes. I even told my husband that I’d be willing to pay real money so he can see it, too. And that’s saying a lot.

On Wednesday morning, we once again got to hang out in the booths, waiting to see September Dawn. I almost skipped it, since I was a little behind schedule for the week. But, somehow, I ended up talking myself into going. Perhaps because it features Jon Voight with a beard. Or maybe because it’s about a massacre—and I just haven’t seen enough massacres lately. But, two hours later, I was totally kicking myself for leaving the office. As we stood outside after the screening, Kevin, Neil, and I kept trying to remind ourselves that the movie is based on a really tragic true story—and that lots of people really died—but that didn’t stop us from laughing about the movie anyway. It’s a lot like Home of the Brave—a movie that takes on a serious topic but does it so terribly that it ends up being inappropriately funny. During the screening, there were snorts coming from various corners of the theater. It was that silly.

While most people were seeing Surf’s Up on Wednesday night, I was watching my husband play hockey—so we caught the screening on Thursday night instead. It was a rush to make it, though, since I’d spent the afternoon downtown with John and Clay, enjoying the annual Arts Festival and eating food I shouldn’t eat. We ate up on John’s balcony, overlooking the city—and while John ate food that was fitting for his palate (his home-cooked chicken and pesto), Clay and I stuffed ourselves with all the junk we could. Because Clay and I like food. Bad food. (Clay, especially, likes bad food—I, however, draw the line at movie theater hot dogs.) Like pulled pork sandwiches and fried pickles and pecan chocolate mousse pie. And then we topped it off with John’s champagne. Needless to say, my stomach was seriously pissed off later that afternoon.

Anyway…I didn’t get a pass for the Thursday screening—and I never did get a response to the email I sent to the rep—so we had to find a way to get into the theater. Since there are all kinds of different people who work the counter at the theater, it’s not like they know any of us—which is why we’re supposed to have passes to get in. I’m not going to tell you exactly how I managed to walk right in, but I will say that my husband was thoroughly impressed. And amused. But I’m smooth like that. Either that, or they’ll just let anyone in. That could be the case, too. It probably has nothing to do with me or my inherent smoothness.

As we took our seats and compared notes on the week’s screenings, I was again struck by how varied the tastes of the local critics are. It’s a good thing we’re all so easy-going (or perhaps we’re just resilient), or we’d all hate each other. In fact, one of the critics who was there on Thursday didn’t agree with me on a single movie we’d seen all week. But it happens. We make our arguments, we occasionally mock each other, and then we move on.

So…Surf’s Up is, of course, a kids’ movie. Which means that there were, of course, a ton of kids at the screening. Which also means that the constant chatter volume in the theater was at about the same level as a Metallica concert. Our row was filled with critics and small children—one of whom I totally expected to climb onto Bill’s lap and grab some of those sour watermelon things that he’s so obsessive about. But, somehow, despite the noise…and despite the kids…and despite the fact that the movie is, in fact, about surfing penguins, we actually enjoyed it. Go figure.

The most exciting part of the screening, however, was at the beginning, when we got to watch a Guy With A Flashlight go after someone in the front of the theater. Bill and I were hoping they’d finally caught someone attempting to pirate a movie. After all, they bring in the people with the night vision goggles just for busting people who are trying to pirate the movie. It would be nice if they’d actually get to catch one from time to time. But alas, it was just a grandma with a cell phone. That’s not to say that she didn’t deserve to get busted—because anyone who’s stupid enough to make a phone call from the front row of the theater in the middle of a promotional screening of a kids’ movie deserves to be busted (or perhaps even electrocuted)—but I was really hoping for a busted pirate. Better luck next time, I guess.

This Week’s Film Critic Discussion Topics:

- Penguins. Are film critics the only ones who notice that studios keep releasing movies about penguins? Do moviegoers suffer from short-term memory loss, or do they actually realize that they’re constantly being duped into seeing more movies about penguins and buying stuffed penguins and penguin DVDs? Anyone? Before seeing Surf’s Up this week, we were discussing how the critics quoted on the movie’s commercials were calling it “unique”—which Neil wisely amended by calling Surf’s Up “The Most Original Penguin Movie Since the Last Penguin Movie.” Seriously, though. Aren’t there any other entertaining animals? How about monkeys? Whatever happened to monkeys? Or maybe even otters. Otters are cute. Or maybe llamas (because it’s fun to say “llama”). Or kangaroos. Anything but penguins.

- Bad promotional tactics. This week, I got an email announcing that the makers of Hostel II are sponsoring an eBay auction. They’ll be auctioning off autographed posters and things from the movie—to benefit the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Is it just me, or is that just sick and wrong? “Well, we’re auctioning off naked headless pictures of Bijou Phillips—but it’s okay, ‘cuz it’s for the kids.” In the wise words of my esteemed colleague, David Medsker, “That does it. Eli Roth must die.”

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Friday, June 01, 2007

The Slow Build

New Reviews at Since Last Week:
Knocked Up
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

It’s been another quiet week here in CriticWorld—which was actually nice, since it gave me a chance to catch up after taking the long holiday weekend off. Well, not off entirely, since I did take advantage of the 12+ hours in the car. While I drove, I listened to a new CD that I needed to review. And when I wasn’t driving, I was watching episodes from a DVD box set that I need to review. And then, of course, there were the books and DVDs that I took along to work on while I was gone. I left my laptop behind, though—which, if you ask me, is pretty impressive.

This week, we only had one screening—on Tuesday night. (Actually, we had two screenings—but they were scheduled for the exact, same night. How smart is that?) It was an early screening on the other side of town, which always makes for a frantic evening. It didn’t help that we were almost entirely out of food in the house (except for the caramel brownies that I’d made for the weekend and had then totally forgotten to bring along), so I had to run out in the afternoon to get a few essentials before running home to make dinner, which we then had to inhale in ten minutes or less before running out the door. It doesn’t help, I think, that we’re so out of practice with this whole screening thing. When I have a bunch during the week, I’m way more organized—because I have to be. When I only have one, all organization goes flying out the window. Actually, I was just lucky that I knew where I was supposed to be—and when. Because when I got to the theater and pulled out my phone to turn it off (as all good moviegoers should), I saw there was a message from David, who had ended up at the wrong theater (something that’s been happening to a lot of us lately) and was rushing to make it in time.

The movie of the week was Knocked Up, which was good for a few laughs—more, I thought, than Apatow’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which got really old for me after a while.

But can I just tell you how sick I am of the whole pregnancy thing? I mean, over the last year or so, we’ve had around ten friends and family members give birth. And we’ve currently got at least three more on the way. This is especially exhausting for me, since I knit—and since, when our friends started having babies a couple of years ago, I responded by knitting all kinds of baby blankets and sweaters and booties and things. And now everybody expects that I’ll reward them with cute little knitted things just because they decided to procreate. But now it’s not just my friends anymore. It’s not just both of my sisters-in-law getting pregnant, just a few months apart. It’s also all of Hollywood—Brangelina and TomKat and Gwen and Gavin and everybody else, who’ve decided, all that the same time, that pregnancy is hip. Fortunately, I don’t have to knit them baby blankets. But now, thanks to this whole pregnancy fad, there’s a pregnant woman in pretty much every movie I see. Let’s see…so far this year, we’ve had Claire-Hope Ashitey in Children of Men, Nia Long in Are We Don’t Yet?, Amanda Peet in The Ex, Fiona in Shrek the Third, and Keri Russell in Waitress. And then, of course, there’s Katherine Heigl in Knocked Up. Who am I missing?

Personally, I’m surprised that Mary Jane didn’t end up pregnant in Spider-Man 3. Or Elizabeth in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. But the summer is still young.

But really, dear Hollywood—enough with the stories about pregnant people already. You’re just giving the people around me all the more reason to regularly inquire about the status of my uterus, and I’ve had enough.

Next week, things gradually start to pick up again. We actually have three screenings. The summer releases are starting to pick up now—so I’m bracing for the inevitable.

Since this was a one-screening week, I’m going to close out this week’s entry with an extended edition of…

This Week’s Film Critic Discussion Topics:

The big news this week is that Regal Entertainment Group is rolling out a brilliant little gadget that will allow moviegoers to report problems with a movie—or tattle on the idiots around them. The device features four buttons: Picture, Sound, Piracy, and Other Disturbance. Is the picture half on the screen and half off? Push the button? Does the guy next to you have a video camera? Push the button. Will the idiot behind you not shut up? Push away!

We critics have decided that we should each be given our own little device. But instead of just pushing a button and having someone react, we want instant gratification. We want electrodes hooked up to the seats around us. So if you still want to text message your BFF during the movie—even after you’ve been told to shut off your phone already—be prepared to be electrocuted. Repeatedly. By every single film critic in attendance. Serves you right.

If electrodes are deemed cruel and unusual punishment, we will also consider catapults and/or trap doors.

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