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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