A Light at the End of the Tunnel…?
In the Land of Women
After months of mediocre movies, we finally had something to look forward to this week—and I’m not talking about The Condemned. For us film critics, our screening of Spider-Man 3 marked the end of Spring Leftover Duds Season and the beginning of Summer Blockbuster Season. Woohoo! But before I get to that, let’s talk about Tuesday and Wednesday….
Tuesday night was the screening of The Condemned. Technically, I didn’t need to go. Thanks to a busy April, my publication schedule was pretty crammed. I was seriously considering skipping it. But David told me I had to go. He promised it would be absolutely craptastic. He called it Battle Royale with Cheese. And he talked me into it, darnit. What can I say? I’m a sucker for craptastic. So I met up with the guys before the screening. Bill promised that The Condemned, along with Next, would make this the most craptacular week of the whole movie-going year, and I was totally prepared to laugh my ass off and enjoy every minute of it.
As I briefly explained in my review, when it comes to bad movies, there are levels of bad. Some are Excruciatingly Bad—so bad that there’s no entertainment value whatsoever. Others, however, are so ridiculously bad that they move straight beyond Bad and right back into Good. You can call them Awesomely Bad, or you can call them Craptastic. Whatever you prefer. And then there are some movies that take it one step further. They’re ridiculously bad, but they move right past Bad, consider staying at Awesomely Bad, but decide to fly right through to Worthless. And that’s where The Condemned weighs in. It was so bad that the audience didn’t just laugh—they heckled. They didn’t enjoy the badness—they mocked it. It wasn’t the laughter of pure entertainment—it was the laughter of ridicule and scorn. You with me here? It was that bad. And then they put a Crown of Badness on it by ending it with a Nickelback song. Priceless, yet absolutely painful.
After The Condemned, I probably should have just learned my lesson. But I will never, ever learn. And besides, Nicolas Cage is in Next, and I can’t help but love him. (To quote a line from Next, he’s “odd. Charming…but odd.”) So, hoping for another craptastic Nic Cage movie, I once again headed for the theater.
Once the lights dimmed and the movie started, one of the guys pulled out a Subway sub. I have no idea where the heck he’d been hiding it, but it smelled really good, and he didn’t even share. When I was a kid, my teachers taught me that I couldn’t eat in class unless I’d brought enough for everyone. But I guess that’s just me.
Anyway…the movie. It was odd—but not all that charming. Afterwards, we stood around in a circle, arguing about which was worse: The Condemned or Next. My vote was for The Condemned—but it didn’t win by much.
So finally Thursday arrived. The big day. I was bringing my friend Chandra, who was so excited that she could hardly contain herself. When I picked her up at 1, she explained to me that Spider-Man had always been her favorite super hero. She also told me how her dad had revealed over the weekend that he was going to go to the Browns home opener this season—but once Chandra told her family that she was going to see Spider-Man 3 a week early, no one cared about her dad’s news anymore.
For us critics, it was a big day, too. For starters, it meant that things were starting to look up. The summer is just around the corner—which means that we could actually start having fun watching movies (as opposed to having fun mocking movies). It also meant perks. Contrary to what bitter directors of bad movies (the ones who are petty enough to blame critics for the fact that their movies aren’t actually any good) might tell you, we critics don’t actually get a ton of perks. Yes, we usually get to see movies for free. Sometimes, we even get a free cup of coffee. But we don’t get a lot of special treatment. We don’t get wined and dined. We don’t go to fancy parties with celebrities and open bars. We don’t get expensive gift bags with Rolex watches and free spa weekends. We just go to the movies (into which some of us occasionally smuggle Subway subs and leftover chocolate Easter eggs and homemade cookies). But this time was special. The studio was actually springing for free popcorn and things. This does not happen. Ever. And it was cause for celebration. Of course, that made us just a little bit skeptical. One of the guys (who, incidentally, was probably just jealous because he was going to be out of town that day) suggested that the whole free-popcorn thing might just be the studio’s way of trying to distract us from the fact that the movie isn’t all that deserving of the hype. Some of us, however, just figured we’d enjoy it while it lasted. Whether the movie was any good or not was yet to be seen—but we just saw it as our beginning-of-summer celebration.
Chandra, my little Spider-Man fan, brought Spider-Man temporary tattoos for the occasion. So we all got into the Spider-Man spirit by sticking on our tattoos as we stood in line for our popcorn and drinks. One of the other critics shunned the practice as unethical, which made me laugh, since he, too, was standing in line to accept free popcorn that had been supplied by the studio. Apparently, taking free food from the studio is okay, but having a little fun with a Spider-Man tattoo is not. Apparently, the little red and blue spider on the inside of my wrist (or, as Chandra called it, my Web Slinger) was going to seep into my bloodstream and brainwash me into giving the movie a better review than I otherwise would have.
As it turned out, the fact that I’d been handed a gigantic soda on the way into the theater only emphasized how very long the movie was.
Just a quick overview before my review is published next week: Spider-Man 3 is…okay. When I walked out, I wasn’t thrilled, but I wasn’t angry, either. To be honest, it was a hard review to write because I didn’t feel very strongly about it either way. In the grand scheme of things, though, it was better than anything else I’d seen all week, so that’s a start.
This Week’s Film Critic Discussion Topics:
1) Hot Fuzz. We still love it. You should, too. Jason also does a fabulous swan call.
2) Summer movies. We’re all making our predictions. So far, general consensus says that Pirates 3 could go either way (though it’ll be really, really long), and Shrek 3 will make us want to kill ourselves.
3) Fantasy baseball. Hey…critics don’t just talk about movies…. That's not to say that I talk about fantasy baseball. Usually, I just smile and nod.