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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