Friday, January 25, 2008

The Ups and Downs of Entertainment

New at Since Last Week:
Mad Money
27 Dresses

Wow…it’s been quite a week in the entertainment world, hasn’t it?

First, on Tuesday, I got to my desk to check the list of Oscar nominees. A few nominees were blatantly obvious; a few were surprises. I, for one, was shocked and disturbed by the nod given to Norbit. Now, I realize that it’s for makeup. And I’m sure that it took some makeup magic to get Eddie Murphy to cross both gender and racial lines. But do we really want to encourage people to do it again? I say no.

But then came the real shock of the week. On Tuesday, I was scrambling to finish up a few last reviews before heading out to a screening, and I listened to a CD on the way to the theater—so when I got there, I had no idea what had happened. It wasn’t until we were all settled in that Kevin said, “So everyone heard about Heath Ledger already, right?”

“No,” I said, figuring it was some new role he’d signed on to play. “What about him?”

“He’s dead.”

It all just came out of nowhere, and it knocked the wind out of me for a second. Really, I thought Kevin was messing with me—because that’s what Kevin does. But he wasn’t messing with me at all.

Before the movie started, we just sat there, talking about how tragic it was, how it made no sense. At that point, speculation was still leaning toward suicide, and no one could really understand why. Why Heath Ledger? Some might say he was at the top of his game, but I wouldn’t say that—because the top of his game was still to come.

It still surprises me that Heath’s death hit me as hard as it did. It kept me awake that night. It distracted me the next day. And I’m still struggling with it today. And it’s strange—because celebrities come and go in the blink of an eye. But there was something about Heath. Ever since the first time I saw 10 Things I Hate About You, I was a fan (though, just for the record, my husband laughed at me when I told him that I thought Heath would be a nice name if we were to have a son one day). I’ve loved his work—and it was clear he was extraordinarily gifted. He was different. And, well, he was one of those bright spots in my job as a critic. He was one of those actors whom I always looked forward to watching. I looked forward to seeing what he’d do next. But, on top of all that, Heath actually seemed like a genuinely good guy. He never seemed to be obsessed with his own fame. He never seemed to be caught up in the life of a celebrity. He didn’t try to be a star. He just did what he loved—and he was good at it. And, outside that, he just seemed like an ordinary guy. He wasn’t the guy you’d expect to overdose in some dark alley—or to get drunk and run his expensive sports car into a tree. He was the guy you expected to do his job and then return to his own personal hideaway to dote on his kids. He was the guy you expected to take on those classic, memorable roles, to win Oscars, to grow old gracefully, to live a good, long life. And when someone like that leaves us so early, it’s tragic. Heartbreaking.

Really, it’s hard to just move on and blather on about the crap I saw this week under the circumstances. After I heard about Heath’s death, I had to sit through Untraceable, which was so stupid that it made me angry.

Today, though…today I was looking forward to getting out. And after such a heavy week, I needed something like Rambo.

Since Rambo didn’t screen for press, we actually had to wait for the day of release like everyone else. We had to actually pay to get in. But we just couldn’t resist. So David, Jason, and I met up for the 11:15 screening.

As I stepped forward to buy my ticket, I announced, “One for Rambo.”

The woman behind the glass looked a little surprised. “I would have taken you for more of the 27 Dresses type,” she said. That made me laugh—especially since I didn’t exactly love 27 Dresses, and I was actually looking forward to seeing Rambo.

We totally expected the theater to be empty. Really—and 11 a.m. screening of Rambo? But there were actually quite a few people there—and I think there were even two other women. And to add to the fun, we even got to watch a trailer for Midnight Meat Train. It just doesn’t get much better than that.

As for the movie, what can I say? It was one crazy experience. There were flying severed limbs and exploding heads. The dialogue—what dialogue there was—rarely made any sense. But it was so much fun. And, well, it was funny. At one point, I laughed so hard that tears came streaming down my face—and Jason was worried that I was going to choke to death. It’s just that over-the-top. It’s blessedly craptacular. And it was the perfect way to spend a Friday morning.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Norbit Sweeps Four Categories, Eddie Murphy Wins Worst Actor and Actress, and Dane Cook Named Most Overexposed and Cinematic Tragedy of 2007

(Beverly Hills, January 22, 2008) Although it was released almost a year ago, voters in the United Critics Organization (UCO) did not forget Norbit, which was named the worst film of 2007 in the GAG Awards. Sponsored by 7M Pictures and Film School Rejects, these annual award recognized cinematic catastrophes and just plain awful films.

Norbit swept the top four categories, also winning Worst Director for Brian Robbins. Eddie Murphy made GAG Awards history for being the first person to not only be nominated as Worst Actor and Worst Actress, but also to win both awards.

Men in fat suits and dresses were a popular choice for voters this year as John Travolta won Worst Supporting Actor for his role in the otherwise delightful Hairspray. On the Supporting Actress front, director Rob Zombie’s main squeeze Sheri Moon Zombie won the honors for her role in Halloween.

The Worst Screenplay category had a photo finish between Todd Komarnicki’s script for the thriller Perfect Stranger and Bill Kelly’s time-bending story for Premonition. After a tie-breaking analysis, Perfect Stranger came out slightly ahead.

Another nail-biter finale was between Things We Lost in the Fire and Lions for Lambs as Worst Oscar Bait (a new category this year). The Halle Berry drama edged out Robert Redford’s war-time snoozer by a slim margin.

While comedian-turned-actor Dane Cook narrowly escaped Worst Actor and Worst Supporting Actor awards, he was named the Most Overexposed Celebrity (the special Godiva Award) as well as the Cinematic Tragedy of the Year.

“This year, Mr. Cook was nominated for four awards, and he is only an actor right now,” said Kevin Carr, lead film critic for 7M Pictures and president of the UCO. “Imagine how daunting he will be in the GAG Awards if he decides to direct.”

Other movies honored for the lowest form of filmmaking include Shrek the Third for Worst Animated Film and Worst Blockbuster, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer for Worst Special Effects and Worst Sequel, and Michael Moore’s SiCKO for Worst Documentary.

“Anyone can make a bad movie,” said Carr. “However, it takes a special talent to make a film so bad that it leaves a lasting impression for months to come. All of the nominees should be honored for this recognition.”

In addition to Dane Cook’s honor as the Cinematic Tragedy of 2007, other nominees include Seth Rogan having sex with Katherine Heigl and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s bare ass in the opening scene of Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.

A complete list of awards follows, including the winners and other nominees:

Norbit – WINNER!

Because I Said So
Good Luck Chuck
Balls of Fury
Codename: The Cleaner

Brian Robbins, Norbit – WINNER!

Mark Helfrich, Good Luck Chuck
Rob Zombie, Halloween
Michael Lehmann, Because I Said So
Les Mayfield, Codename: The Cleaner

Eddie Murphy, Norbit – WINNER!
Jamie Kennedy, Kickin’ It Old Skool
Nicolas Cage, Ghost Rider
Dane Cook, Good Luck Chuck
Nicolas Cage, Next

Eddie Murphy, Norbit – WINNER!

Diane Keaton, Because I Said So
Halle Berry, Perfect Stranger
Jodie Foster, The Brave One
Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age

John Travolta, Hairspray – WINNER!

Robin Williams, August Rush
George Lopez, Balls of Fury
Dane Cook, Mr. Brooks
Dan Fogler, Good Luck Chuck

Sheri Moon Zombie, Halloween – WINNER!

Nicolette Sheridan, Codename: The Cleaner
Jessica Alba, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Malin Akerman, The Brothers Solomon
Mandy Moore, Because I Said So

Todd Komarnicki, Perfect Stranger – WINNER!

Bill Kelly, Premonition
Rob Zombie, Halloween
Josh Stolberg, Good Luck Chuck
Scott Wiper and Rob Hedden, The Condemned


The 11th Hour
No End in Sight

Shrek the Third – WINNER!

Happily N’Ever After
Bee Movie
Meet the Robinsons

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer – WINNER!

I Am Legend
Spider-Man 3
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
D-War: Dragon Wars

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer – WINNER!

Shrek the Third
Resident Evil: Extinction
Spider-Man 3
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Shrek the Third – WINNER!

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Wild Hogs
Spider-Man 3

Dane Cook – WINNER!

Lindsay Lohan
Jessica Biel
Terrence Howard
Nicole Kidman

Dane Cook’s continued existence – WINNER!

Seth Rogan having sex with Katherine Heigl
Phillip Seymour Hoffman's bare ass in the opening scene of Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Men in fat suits
The backyard scene in Transformers – My bad!
Peter Parker goes emo

About the GAG Awards
The annual GAG Awards are nominated and voted on by the United Critics Organization (UCO), which comprises professional journalists and film critics. “GAG” stands for “God Awful Guild,” which honors a new guild, or group, of films and filmmakers for outstanding cinematic disasters each year.

Visit or for more information.


Friday, January 18, 2008

January Throws a Curveball

New at Since Last Week:

It was another slow January week in Critic Land. There were three screenings scheduled for this week—one was Mad Money, which I’d already seen (yech!), one was cancelled due to bad weather, and the other was Cloverfield.

For months, Cloverfield has been one of those movies that frequently popped up in pre-screening conversations (along with the most anticipated movie of the year, Midnight Meat Train). Ever since that brilliant teaser showed up before Transformers last summer, there’s been a steady stream of Cloverfield buzz. But the closer we got to the release date, the more skeptical we were.

First of all, we’re talking about a January release here. It’s just one of those unspoken rules that you don’t release anything of value in January (thus…Mad Money and First Sunday). As I’ve mentioned before, January is not a good month to be a film critic. Just to emphasize my point, at the beginning of this week, my average January grade was somewhere between a D and a D+.

Secondly, Cloverfield was filmed using hand-held cameras. Now, I realize that the quality of hand-held cameras has gone way up since I was a kid. That’s great and all. But until someone figures out how to use hand-held cameras in a way that doesn’t make me sick, I’m going to be a little skeptical here. I still haven’t gotten over the nausea I suffered while watching The Blair Witch Project—and just hearing the name “Paul Greengrass” makes my head start spinning.

Then there were the rumors. Some suggested that the whole thing was just some kind of a cheap ploy—that it would somehow tie into Lost (since the screenwriter, Drew Goddard, is also one of the writers of Lost). There were all kinds of ideas floating around—and none of them made me all that eager to see the movie. Mostly, I was just curious.

Since the screening was going to be on campus, the usual gang of misfits decided to meet for happy hour on Wednesday before the screening. It was a tough call, really: would drinking before a shaky movie make it better or worse? As it turned out, I was too drugged on Wednesday to drink anyway. I wasn’t quite sure of the dangers of mixing booze and DayQuil, so I chose to refrain.

Despite the fact that I already made it through my post-holiday illness, I somehow managed to pick up another one. I’m going to blame it on Neil, who was sick for about three weeks (which means that he missed seeing things like, oh, Mad Money). But we went to a hockey game over the weekend (Go Jackets!), and I think I might have caught his SARS in the midst of all the screaming and cheering and the plotting for total world domination. Fortunately, though, the SARS was kind to me, and it didn’t come out in full force until Monday night. That gave me Monday morning to head into the studio and record this year’s It’s Movie Time awards season special (which airs a week from today).

But anyway…back to Wednesday…. After dinner, we all headed over to the theater. They had already started letting the public in, but, fortunately, Matt was the rep of the evening, and Matt knew to save a whole bunch of seats for press. And that’s why we love Matt.

But enough about Matt. Let’s talk Cloverfield.

Now, I’m not going to lie to you. Cloverfield is a shaky movie. Even if you have a strong stomach, you will most likely feel dizzy—and perhaps a little bit sick. I, however, didn’t. Perhaps it has something to do with the mix of DayQuil and Pepsi that I consumed before the movie, but I’m thinking it was mostly because I was prepared. I knew it was coming. I knew it was going to be bad. I knew there was a chance I’d end up throwing up in my brand new COCFA Mafia stocking cap. So I planned ahead.

The beginning of Cloverfield is just about the characters. It tells their story and follows them around while they hang out together and throw a surprise going-away party for Rob (Michael Stahl-David), who’s moving to Japan. The whole thing is shot like a home movie—shakes and all. But there isn’t really anything critical going on here—not much that you really need to see. So that’s when I closed my eyes. I watched every once in a while—so I could see who the characters were and what was going on—but I knew that I didn’t necessarily have to watch the guy with the camera wander around the apartment and film people’s limbs. I could hear what was going on, so I knew when to pay attention. If there was a conversation, I’d watch. But for the other stuff, I just closed my eyes. Had I not done that, I’m pretty sure I would have been sick before the really cool stuff started. Instead, I was free to watch those shaky monster shots—and I felt fine.

And, as it turns out, I was highly impressed by Cloverfield. Yeah, it’s shaky—and that’s definitely something I could do without. I’d much prefer to be able to watch the entire movie and know that I’m not going to get sick. But the idea is so good that I’ll let it go. It’s so creative and so clever that I couldn’t help but like it. In fact, the more I thought about it the next day, the more impressed I was. Cloverfield is, without a doubt, the best movie of the year so far. Gimmicky, yes. But still pretty cool.

Go figure—a January movie that’s actually pretty good. Huh.

Next week is another slow week. Looks like I’ll have another one-screening week—followed by our group outing on Friday morning to see Rambo, since it’s not going to be screened for press (Hmmm…a January release, and they’re not showing it to press? Can’t be a good sign.). Until things pick up a bit next month, I’ll be camped out on the couch, catching up on DVDs. Maybe I’ll even watch a few more of those screeners that I didn’t get to see in December….

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Friday, January 11, 2008

January Continues: Nominations and Awards and Parties and Bad Movies

New at Since Last Week:
First Sunday
The Kite Runner

Last night was the annual COFCA awards dinner, which unofficially marks the end of the awards insanity for another 10 months or so. If you want to check out the results, I posted the press release below.

I tend to forget that my busy season doesn’t really end with the last screening before the holidays. Over the holidays, I try to catch up on screeners and start making my lists. That continues right up until COFCA nominations are due (this year, I got mine in a whole 25 hours early, sending them in at 11 p.m. last Friday). Then comes voting (which ended on Wednesday night), followed by the awards party.

It wasn’t over then, either. I’d been so busy agonizing over my picks for the best of everything that I procrastinated on my picks for the worst of everything. But GAG award nominations are due today—so I sat down this morning and flipped through my lists until my nomination ballot was filled in. I got my GAG nominations sent in a whole eight hours before the deadline. Voting for that starts next week—so I guess I’m not completely out of the awards season fog yet, after all.

I have, however, made my picks. It was another tough one this year—even tougher than last year. As I trudged through the lists, checking and rechecking my notes from the year, my despair led me to create these T-shirts—because, after a while, I felt like I was just a cranky critic, unsatisfied with everything. If you share my despair, order a shirt. If you’d like to check out my thoughts on the movies of 2007, check out this year’s movie recap: “Movies 2007: Did I Miss Something?

Meanwhile, the January Blahs continue—and I’ve already begun creating a list of possible nominations for next year’s GAG awards.

On Tuesday, we gathered at the usual theater for a screening of 27 Dresses. Though it was supposed to be released this weekend, it was postponed a week, for some strange reason, putting it up against Mad Money and Cloverfield next weekend. But since I’m a week ahead of the release date, I can’t really say too much about the movie. The whole screening experience in general was pretty subdued, too—other than the post-screening re-hashing of our award nominations. At this time of year, critics tend to get a little feisty, taking sides and making bold statements. On Tuesday night, Bill remained solo in his I Hate Juno Club. Jason gave another “Why I Totally Hated Into the Wild” speech (which are always highly entertaining). And Bill and I are both proud members of the The Orphanage Scared the Crap Out of Me Club.

The real excitement of the week, however, came on Wednesday, when we headed to The Theater With the Balcony for a screening of First Sunday. It takes a very strong critic to tackle both an Ice Cube/Tracy Morgan movie and the Balcony Brigade—and only a few of us were up for the challenge.

As it turned out, getting there was part of the challenge. That night, the Dancing with the Stars tour was in town, and the worst drivers in the state were out in full force, making left turns from the right lane, making right turns from the left lane, and generally having no clue where they were going. But, fortunately, I did eventually make it. When I got there, the crowd was already lined up around the corner, and Bill and Kevin were waiting inside. We headed straight for the balcony, where a security guard did a very good job of trying to keep us out—until he found out that it really was okay. I was pretty proud of the security guard, though—sticking to his guns and all. Perhaps that would mean that he’d also throw people out for playing with their cell phones and blinding people during the movie.

Once we made it to the balcony, we chose the front row—where we figured that at least we wouldn’t have to deal with loud, obnoxious Balcony Brigade members in front of us. Shortly thereafter, the crowd started filling in. As usual, it was a crazy crowd—so crazy that we had to yell at each other in order to have a conversation. And when the giveaways began, it got even worse. Once again, Team Balcony backed one another up—and the demands for equal treatment/prizing eventually turned into personal attacks on the poor guy who was half-heartedly acting as host. There was much yelling. If there’s one thing that can be said for the Balcony Brigade, it’s that they’re loud. So loud, in fact, that nobody paid any attention to the poor security guy’s warnings. So loud that when the first trailer started—and it was totally blurry—the whole place erupted in shouts and boos. Really. It was crazy.

What’s crazier, though, is that the movie was even more obnoxious than the crowd. After listening to the crowd bickering for 45 minutes before the movie started, the last thing I wanted was an hour and a half of characters bickering on-screen. But that’s what I got.

As we walked out of the theater, Kevin just turned to us and said, “Well, welcome to January.”

Next week marks the release of the highly-anticipated, over-hyped geek-fest, Cloverfield. The closer it gets, the more concerned I get. But we’ll all be there to see it—and we’ll most likely be there early for a few preparatory happy hour drinks. Of course, the whole hand-held-camera thing mixed with alcohol probably isn’t the best idea, but I’m willing to give it a shot. I’ll have to remember to bring my barf bag.

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No Country for Old Men finds home atop 6th annual Central Ohio Film Critics Association awards

(Columbus, January 10, 2008) Joel and Ethan Coen's No Country for Old Men was named Best Film in the Central Ohio Film Critics Association 6th annual awards, recognizing excellence in the film industry for 2007. The film also won four other awards, including Best Director and Best Screenplay-Adapted (Joel and Ethan Coen), Best Supporting Actor (Javier Bardem), and Best Ensemble. Juno, which finished third on the Best Film list, was awarded two prizes, Best Actress (Ellen Page) and Best Screenplay-Original (Diablo Cody).

Two past COFCA award winners were acknowledged again. Daniel Day-Lewis was named Best Actor for his portrayal of a turn-of-the-century oilman in There Will Be Blood. Cate Blanchett was selected the Best Supporting Actress for her performance as the mid-1960s Bob Dylan in I'm Not There. Day-Lewis won COFCA's inaugural Best Actor prize for 2002's Gangs of New York while Blanchett was named 2004's Actor of the Year.

Other individual winners include: Actor of the Year Philip Seymour Hoffman for his exemplary work in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Charlie Wilson's War, and The Savages; Breakthrough Film Artist Sarah Polley for Away from Her's direction and screenwriting; Óscar Faura for Best Cinematography for The Orphanage (El Orfanato); and Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová of Once for Best Score.

Other honored films include: The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters for Best Documentary; The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) for Best Foreign Language Film; Ratatouille for Best Animated Film; and Air Guitar Nation for Best Overlooked Film.

Founded in 2002, the Central Ohio Film Critics Association is comprised of film critics based in Columbus, Ohio and the surrounding areas. Its membership consists of more than 25 print, radio, television, and new media critics. COFCA's official website at contains links to member reviews and past award winners.

Winners were announced at a private party on January 10.

Complete list of awards:

Best Films
1. No Country for Old Men
2. The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen)
3. Juno
4. Once
5. There Will Be Blood
6. Lars and the Real Girl
7. 3:10 to Yuma
8. The Savages
9. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
10. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Le Scaphandre et le papillon)

Best Director
-Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
-Runner-up: Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood

Best Actor
-Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
-Runner-up: Ryan Gosling, Lars and the Real Girl

Best Actress
-Ellen Page, Juno
-Runner-up: Amy Adams, Enchanted

Best Supporting Actor
-Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
-Runner-up: Ben Foster, 3:10 to Yuma

Best Supporting Actress
-Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
-Runner-up: Emily Mortimer, Lars and the Real Girl

Best Ensemble
-No Country for Old Men
-Runner-up: 3:10 to Yuma

Actor of the Year (for an exemplary body of work)
-Philip Seymour Hoffman, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Charlie Wilson's War, and The
-Runner-up: Josh Brolin, American Gangster, Grindhouse, In the Valley of Elah, and No Country for
Old Men

Breakthrough Film Artist
-Sarah Polley, Away from Her (for directing and screenwriting)
-Runner-up: Ellen Page, Juno (for acting)

Best Cinematography
-Óscar Faura, The Orphanage (El Orfanato)
-Runner-up: Roger Deakins, No Country for Old Men

Best Screenplay – Adapted
-Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
-Runner-up: Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood

Best Screenplay – Original
-Diablo Cody, Juno
-Runner-up: Tamara Jenkins, The Savages

Best Score
-Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, Once
-Runner-up: Dario Marianelli, Atonement

Best Documentary
-The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
-Runners-up (tie): In the Shadow of the Moon and No End in Sight

Best Foreign Language Film
-The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen)
-Runner-up: The Orphanage (El Orfanato)

Best Animated Film
-Runner-up: Paprika

Best Overlooked Film
-Air Guitar Nation
-Runner-up: The Lookout

COFCA offers its congratulations to the winners.

Past Best Film winners:

2002: Punch-Drunk Love
2003: Lost in Translation
2004: Million Dollar Baby
2005: A History of Violence
2006: Children of Men

For more information about the Central Ohio Film Critics Association, please visit or e-mail

The complete list of members and their affiliations:

Kevin Carr (, ; Nick Chordas (The Columbus Dispatch), Bill Clark (; Nikki Davis (Columbus Alive); John DeSando (90.5 WCBE); Johnny DiLoretto (Fox 28 WTTE); Chad Dull (The Other Paper); Frank Gabrenya (The Columbus Dispatch); Jordan Gentile (The Other Paper); Kaizaad Kotwal (C Magazine, Gay Peoples Chronicle); Kristin Dreyer Kramer (; Joyce Long (820 WOSU); Rico Long (820 WOSU); Clay Lowe (90.5 WCBE); Colin Mack (freelance); Hope Madden (The Other Paper); Paul Markoff (WOCC-TV3); David Medsker (; Neil Miller (Film School Rejects); J. Caleb Mozzocco (; Lori Pearson (,; Mark Pfeiffer (Reel Times: Reflections on Cinema; WOCC-TV3); Margaret Quamme (The Columbus Dispatch); Dave Redelberger (WBWR-The Brew @ 105.7); John Ross (Columbus Alive); Melissa Starker (Columbus Alive); Jason Zingale (


Friday, January 04, 2008

Let the January Blahs Begin!

New at Since Last Time:
There Will Be Blood
The Water Horse
The Orphanage (El Orfanato)
The Great Debaters
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
Charlie Wilson’s War

It’s a crazy day here at the office. I’m trying to put together my 2007 year in review—along with my COFCA nominations and my GAG Award ballot—but I had to take a few minutes out to wish you all a happy 2008.

After the annual Holiday Road Trip, which took us from Ohio to Toronto to West Michigan and back again, I returned home to a few Miramax screeners (hoorah!) and page after page of notes that needed to be turned into reviews. Then, on New Year’s morning, I awoke not with a hangover but with the flu instead. No surprise, really, since I always get sick after the holidays—but the flu was a bit of a change from the usual debilitating cold. Fortunately, though, it only lasted a couple of days—which meant that I was feeling a whole lot better by Thursday…just in time for the first screening of the year.

Last year, during my post-holiday illness, I missed stuff like Children of Men and Freedom Writers (as well as Code Name: The Cleaner, which sucked, since it meant that I missed out on a whole year of bad-movie jokes). This year, however, the first screening of the year was last night’s early screening of Mad Money. Since I hadn’t left the house in a few days—and since it was cold and snowy out—I almost skipped it. But everyone else was going, and I hadn’t seen the rest of the gang in a couple of weeks, so I figured it would do me some good to get out and see everybody again. And I was right. Jason and David and Kevin and John were there, and I was thrilled to see them all again. We were all eager to say our Happy New Year!s and share our holiday stories. And after I got home, I felt so much better that I actually sat down and ate, making up for the three days of soup and saltines. And today I was actually (somewhat) prepared to get up at my normal time and get to work. And to think that I have Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah, and Katie Holmes to thank for it.

Since Mad Money doesn’t come out for a couple of weeks, I’m not supposed to say anything about it yet. So I won’t. I will, however, say that Kevin almost got in his first fight of the year with someone who may or may not have been kicking his seat through the movie. And there was also a guy a few seats down from David who laughed so loudly (and in such a horrifying manner) that we were rather worried that he’d have a stroke.

But enough about that—let’s talk about January. Now, I believe I’ve mentioned before that August is pretty much the armpit of the movie year. It’s the time when studios toss out their trash—their bad slacker comedies, as well as a few not-quite-blockbuster-worthy films. Why? I’m not exactly sure. Perhaps it’s because it’s just too hot and oppressive outside to go to a theater to watch a serious drama. Perhaps it’s supposed to be a palate-cleansing month between blockbuster season and early awards season. Perhaps people are too busy thinking about going back to school to think much about movies. Whatever.

But if August is the armpit of the movie year, January is—um…what’s worse than the armpit?—let’s say that January is the butt-crack of the movie year. Apparently, studios figure that they’ve given all they can in December—with all their holiday films and big-name award contenders and things—that they’ve got nothing left to give. So they give moviegoers things like Code Name: The Cleaner and a whole bunch of movies that they don’t even dare to screen for the press. Perhaps they just figure that people are too burned out from the holidays to care.

As for us critics, January is a mixed blessing. Sure, after the award season push, we critics do appreciate the down-time that January brings—but the fact that it comes filled with bad comedies and other crap that couldn’t cut it any other time of the year (not even in August!) is pretty disheartening. It does, however, give us a whole month to brush up on our scathing-review-writing techniques, as well as providing us with a whole year’s worth of bad movie jokes. January movies are, for the most part, really bad—so when we hear that a movie has a January release date, we’re instantly skeptical. Incidentally, that’s why we’re just a little bit worried about the new J.J. Abrams-produced top-secret monster movie, Cloverfield. Sure, it looked good when we saw the teaser trailer before Transformers—but if it’s any good, why are they releasing it in January? (Stay tuned for the answer to that one.)

For the time being, though, we’ll settle into our January rituals, drinking just a little bit more and preparing for the worst, all the while looking forward to the warmer temperatures—and better movies—of summer.

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