Friday, February 15, 2008

Snowstorms and Cancellations

New at Since Last Week:
Definitely, Maybe
The Spiderwick Chronicles
Fool’s Gold

It’s been another crazy week here in movieland. Screening-wise, though, only the beginning of the week was crazy. It started bright and early on Monday morning—and you all know by now how much I do love a Monday morning screening. They always make my Mondays so…frantic.

As soon as I got to my desk on Monday morning, I had to get right to work on one of the site’s weekly newsletters. On Thursday, I send out the Weekend Reminder, but on Monday, I send out a newsletter to my contributors. As with everything else, it seems to take more and more time every week. So there was that. There was also the fact that I hadn’t finished a review that I had scheduled for publication that afternoon. So, needless to say, I was scrambling. I ran out the door to the screening about 10 minutes later than I would have liked, and by the time I got to the theater, I was totally frazzled. And it was only 11:00.

The screening was for Jumper, which was a bit of a big deal because it was Fox—and they were allowing us to see something earlier than the night before release. It was also a bit of a big deal because it was Doug Liman, and we were looking forward to seeing it.

The screening was pretty high security. We’d gotten an email on Friday, telling us that we were each allowed to bring one guest. When we got there, there were separate sign-in sheets for critics and guests. And our favorite security guys were there, reminding us to turn off our phones. They had metal detectors and stuff, too, but they rarely use those during the day.

Our usual spot was pretty packed for the screening—thanks to guests and all. And I suppose it was only fitting that, for Take Your Friend to a Screening Day, we had to deal with the regular screening mishaps. Even more so this time, actually. Apparently, the people running the projector had never actually seen a projector before. There were all kinds of aspect ratios attempted—aspect ratios that I’ve never actually seen before. There were little tiny squares and big, stretched out, vertical rectangles. Sometimes, they projected on the floor, sometimes on the ceiling. Fortunately, they got it figured out before we were too far into the movie, but we did miss all of the trailer for the new M. Night Shyamalamadingdong movie.

The trailer itself (despite the fact that we only saw parts of it, and in strange proportions) was quite exciting. Because as soon as it was over, David and I looked at each other and said, “Laser tag!”

You see, after I saw Lady in the Water (on the same night that David ended up at a screening of My Super Ex-Girlfriend), I was so angry that I begged David to save me from future Shyamalan movies. Because I fall for them every time. I keep falling for his shameless self-promotion and his undying self-love. And I keep seeing his movies, thinking that it’s going to be something brilliant—only for it to end up being…Lady in the Water. When I saw the last one, I was even tired, sore, and heavily medicated, having just broken my rib. It took real effort to get to the theater. And I was repaid for my efforts by having to sit through Lady in the Water. It was a cruel, cruel joke. So, after that, David promised that he wouldn’t let it happen to me again. So we agreed that, on the night of the next M. Night Shyamalan movie, we’d go out and play laser tag instead. We’ve since discussed other options—such as go-karting or bowling. But, needless to say, we’ll be doing something other than attending the screening.

As my fellow blogger friends would say, “Woot!”

Anyway…after the screening, I high-tailed it out of the theater (mostly because I’d been given a medium Diet Coke instead of the small that I asked for, and I was in serious need of a bathroom). There wasn’t a whole lot of chatting for me—because I had to rush back to the office to get back to work. I’d had an hour and a half to work before the screening, and I would have just a little bit more than that before I had to run out the door to my knitting group. When Miss A showed up to start knitting, I was still scribbling notes from the morning’s screening—so I wouldn’t forget anything before I had to go to that night’s screening.

Once again, I got out of knitting early—and I had an hour and a half to kill before I had to head out to the next screening. I though about heading home for a bit, but it seemed like a waste of time and mileage—especially since my husband was in physical therapy. So I headed back to Wendy’s again.

I’m thinking I’m going to have to find a new place to hang out before Monday evening screenings—because my regular Wendy’s is just a little bit scary. Sure, there were a few normal-looking people there—most of them dining alone, like me. There was the old lady who sat down to read in the exact, same booth as last week. There were a couple of college kids. And then there was some crazy homeless guy. And there was another guy who was dining by himself—but who, from time to time, would randomly burst out in the most terrifying laugh I’ve ever heard. At one point, he just went off in this conversation about (I believe) someone who’d gotten his hands on a bunch of guns. The interesting thing is that I don’t think he had a cell phone. After I finished taking a few more notes and writing a review or two, I quietly made my way out the door—hoping that I’d be able to walk out with my life. The crazy guy shrieked something as I left. I didn’t understand, but I wasn’t about to turn around and say, “I’m sorry, were you speaking to me, crazy man?” Instead, I hurried out and spent a few minutes in someplace much more refined. And safe. Barnes and Noble.

I didn’t have long to hang out at B&N, though—because I had to get to the Definitely, Maybe screening. Before it started, we were all still talking about our new favorite critic folklore—last week’s big Roscoe Jenkins brawl. Really, this stuff never gets old.

After the screening, we compared notes on the rest of the week. There was a Tuesday morning screening scheduled for Francis Ford Coppola’s Youth Without Youth, which I would have seen had it screened in December. Now, however, I was four movie reviews behind (let’s not even talk about the books and CDs), and I’d heard bad things about the movie—so I figured I’d skip it. Tuesday night was Step Up 2 the Streets, and I figured my publication schedule was already full enough, and I could do without another dancing movie. That just left Thursday night—the screening for the eagerly anticipated Be Kind, Rewind. There was a bit of confusion over the whole thing, but most of us had it down for Thursday night—so we were all planning on it.

When we’d finished our post-screening note-comparing, we left the theater to find the entire parking lot covered in white stuff. My husband had warned me that we were supposed to be dumped on, so I was prepared for it. I figured we’d just get a little bit and be done with it. As it turned out, though, we got more than a little bit. It was cold and blowing, and it was so bad that my husband’s office was closed on Tuesday. So that just confirmed my decision not to see Youth Without Youth.

On Tuesday morning, I checked my email and found one from David, pointing out that Thursday’s Be Kind, Rewind screening had been dropped from our schedule. That had happened before—when they pushed the release date back. But I checked my schedule, and he was right. It wasn’t there. After checking with the rep, David confirmed that the screening had, in fact, been cancelled. Apparently, New Line had cancelled a whole bunch of their screenings around the country.

There are usually certain kinds of movies that don’t screen. Horror movies, in general, don’t screen—because it’s probably best to keep the critics away. Other generally crappy movies don’t tend to screen—movies like Strange Wilderness, which, again, it’s probably just best to keep away from the critics. Larry the Cable Guy movies, in general, don’t screen (but they do promote—more on that later). There are other movies that don’t screen, too. Snakes on a Plane didn’t screen for press—because the studio figured they had so much Internet buzz that they didn’t need the extra press (and we all know how that worked out for them). There are all kinds of reasons. But there’s no reason why Be Kind, Rewind wouldn’t screen. It’s one of those movies that could probably use the extra press—and, since it’s one we’d actually been looking forward to seeing (and we’d already heard great things about it from Neil, who saw it at Sundance), it was pretty likely to get some good press.

When Neil heard about the whole thing, he was not happy. From his seat at Panera (where he’d stopped to rest up after missing the Youth Without Youth screening, due to horrible roads), Neil (who was angry from having missed the screening and a bit cranky from not having eaten breakfast yet) wrote about it. The response was an interesting email from a vice-president of something at the theater, who claimed that they hadn’t cancelled screenings at all—and, to prove his point, he included a list of all the cities where they’d screened it (or were going to screen it). The funny thing, however, was that Columbus was on the list—which, obviously, isn’t completely accurate. Sure, we’d had a screening scheduled, but it had been taken away. And we’re all pretty bummed about it.

But, I guess, on the bright side, it meant that we all got to take Valentine’s night off.

And…speaking of Valentine’s Day…the DHL guy stopped by to deliver a package on Thursday. I’d been expecting a DVD, so I wasn’t surprised to see him. I was, however, surprised to see two packages waiting by the door for me. I ripped open the non-DVD one first, curious as to what it might be. Inside, there was a Valentine’s Day card. From Larry the Cable Guy. No, really. I got a Valentine’s Day card from Larry the Cable Guy to promote Witless Protection. And then I got a migraine.

As David once said, if you want to send stuff to film critics to promote your movie, send booze. Do not send pillows with Ben Stiller’s face on them—or Valentine’s Day cards from Larry the Cable Guy. They will be entirely lost on us. In fact, they’ll most likely make us angry. Happy Valentine’s Day. Blech.

Next week, we kick it into high gear again—with three morning screenings. So I’ll be spending the weekend polishing off my travel coffee mug.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

…In Which I Miss Out on All the Fun

New at Since Last Week:
Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show

Every once in a while, things get exciting at screenings (as they did at December’s I Am Legend screening). But this week, I missed out on all the fun.

This week’s schedule started with a super-early screening of Will Ferrell’s new movie, Semi-Pro, on Monday night. Will was going to be in town this week for a comedy show, and a bunch of people were interviewing him, so we got to see the movie more than three weeks before its release.

I got out of knitting early on Monday night, so I had an extra hour to kill before I needed to leave for the theater. I could have gone home for a few minutes, but I decided just to head to the general vicinity of the theater instead and grab some dinner at the friendly neighborhood Wendy’s. It was a quiet night at Wendy’s, and it appeared to be ‘80s night on the Wendy’s Radio Network—so it was the perfect place to hang out for a while, get a little work done, do some reading, and kill some time (while singing along with such greats as George Michael and, I think, Wang Chung). Wheee! That, mixed with some food I probably shouldn’t eat (or at least that’s what John would tell me), had me in a pretty good mood by the time I got to the theater.

Since we were there for a super-early screening, we were in a tiny theater, which felt like one big family reunion. Though the theater was topped up with non-press, we took over much of the theater, which meant there was plenty of wandering around and chatting before the movie began. Colin brought a few left-over McLovin T-shirts (which, just for the record, I was thrilled about—and I’ll wear it with pride), and he filled John and me in on a college screening of Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins that he’d attended. He warned us that it was absolutely horrible—in fact, he couldn’t stop talking about how horrible it was. And that made me consider skipping the Tuesday night screening.

Not long before the screening was going to start, Neil arrived with his roommate, Richard (AKA Richard the Producer from Fat Guys at the Movies). We hadn’t seen Neil since Sundance, so he had plenty of stories. In fact, I don’t think I’d seen him at a single screening all year. So we had all kinds of catching up to do. Like I said…family reunion.

Since it was such an early screening and all, apparently they hadn’t worked out the glitches with the print—like the fact that we didn’t have any sound in the beginning. So Jason sang the opening jingles for us. He’s thoughtful like that.

It also seems as though we may have had the same cell-phone-obsessed security guy for this screening as the one we had last week. Usually, when a security guy is cell-phone-obsessed, it means that he harasses anyone who might have a cell phone on. And that’s a good thing. This guy, however, actually keeps his on. Last week, he was chatting on his phone during the screening. This week, I think his phone actually rang during the screening. Apparently, it’s okay for him to have his phone on during the screening—but not anybody else.

On Tuesday morning, we were all (well, some) back together again for a screening of Persepolis, which we’re still bitter that we didn’t see during awards season. Despite the fact that I still hate driving to the other side of town for morning screenings, it was kinda nice to be back. Not only that, but they’d baked fresh chocolate chip cookies for the occasion, and they were still warm and gooey. So there were no complaints from me this time around. Of course, it meant sitting down in seats that lost their padding sometime around 1982. But, well…there were fresh cookies—and that makes it okay.

After screenings on Monday night and Tuesday morning, I wasn’t exactly eager to go to another screening on Tuesday night—especially not for Roscoe Jenkins, which Colin had warned us about. Not only that, but we had another screening on Wednesday night—and I had a meeting scheduled for Thursday night. So I figured I’d take a night off. And, from what I’ve heard about the movie, I didn’t miss much there. I did, however, miss out on all the excitement.

During the usual barrage of emails on Wednesday afternoon, I found out that there had been an, um, altercation at the screening. So when I got to the Fool’s Gold screening on Wednesday night, I was eager to have Jason fill me in.

I had already heard that the screening was packed—because I’d given an extra pass to a guy from my husband’s office, and he didn’t end up getting in. So things were already a little tense. But that’s only the beginning. Jason and Bill had gotten there early and were saving seats for the rest of the gang. Jason had his coat on the press seat beside him to reserve it for someone. Suddenly, his coat was tossed on his lap, and some guy sat down in the seat he’d been saving.

“Excuse me…” Jason said to the man beside him. “You didn’t have to throw my coat on the floor.”

“I didn’t throw it on the floor,” the guy huffed. “I threw it on your lap.”

The two of them then got into a discussion about whether or not the other guy (who was not press) could sit down in a seat that was both (a) reserved for press and (b) being saved for someone. He was pretty sure that he could sit wherever the heck he wanted. There were words exchanged, after which the guy ended up mimicking Jason like a four-year-old.

Eventually, Molly, the rep, showed up to try to find more press seats—because they were running low—and told the guy that he was going to have to move. He told her that he could sit wherever he wanted, and she couldn’t tell him what to do. Molly explained to him that she could, in fact, do whatever she wanted to. And he could either find another seat or she could throw him out. In hearing about the exchange, I suddenly gained a whole new respect for Molly.

In the end, the obnoxious guy somehow managed to keep his seat—which seriously irritated everyone else. But the incident is sure to become Critic Folklore (along with the crazy I Am Legend screening and our screening of The Pursuit of Happyness, when we had to stop in the middle and wait an hour for the projectionist to finagle the print—clearly Will Smith movies are unlucky for us). It’s one of those stories that we’ll tell and retell for years to come. We’ll share it with young critics who someday join our merry band. We’ll tell the story so many times that the youngsters will start to wonder if the senile old folks just made it all up. It’ll go down in Critic History. And, sadly, I wasn’t even there to see it.

It did, however, make the screening of Fool’s Gold more entertaining. Because Jason’s story was the most entertaining part of the night. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one who thought so—because I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people blatantly playing with their cell phones during a movie (except, perhaps, during Happily N’Ever After, the longest 75-minute movie ever made).

Now, after all those screenings, I’m trying to get caught up on my reviews—after which I’ll dive into some of the DVDs that have started piling up on the coffee table again. And then I’ll write more reviews. And then I’ll start all over again on Monday—when we’ve got a morning screening and an evening screening. There’s just no better way to start the week off at a ridiculously frantic pace than with two Monday screenings.

I’m going to have to make sure that I stock up on coffee over the weekend…

In other news, the official invitations for the Cleveland International Film Festival Columbus Preview went out this week. I couldn’t find the information on CIFF’s site, but, as I said before, it’s Monday, the 25th, from 5:30 to 7:30. There will be munchies and prizes and things—so mark your calendars now.

Oh, and by the way…Clay wants everyone to know that what I said about him and John and their harem in last week’s post is totally untrue—but I’m pretty sure he’s just worried that I might have scared prospective harem members away.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Clueless Moviegoers…and Other Job Hazards

New at Since Last Week:
Over Her Dead Body

This week, we got to say good-bye to January movies and move on to February movies. But, as it turns out, just because a movie isn’t released in January doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be better than a January movie.

Take, for instance, our Monday night screening.

I can’t say that any of us were actually looking forward to seeing Over Her Dead Body. I mean, I’m a girl, and even I was dreading it. Fortunately, though, we turned a negative into a positive by meeting up at BW3 before the screening to eat wings (I got some nice spicy wings, hoping they’d dull my senses so I wouldn’t feel the pain of the screening so much) and compare notes on Rambo. Jason, David, and I had all seen it together on Friday morning, and Bill had gone with his brother on Friday night—so we ended up spending most of our meal discussing exploding heads and dismemberment. So, of course, we were all in a pretty good mood by the time we had to head over to the theater.

The screening was scheduled to start at 7:30, so we made our way to the theater single-file, Swingers-style, by about 6:45. We got to sneak in just before they started letting in the rest of the crowd. We were all settled in (except for Kevin, who was meeting up with us later) at about 7, when the lights went down and something popped up on the screen. We all looked at each other in confusion, wondering if they were going to start the movie a whole half-hour early—and, in doing so, give us an extra half-hour of our lives back. Either that, or they were going to play a half-hour of ads before the movie started—which would suck, since that would mean we couldn’t even talk for that half-hour.

But after a few seconds, we realized that it was, in fact, the movie. No trailers or anything. We were thrilled.

Or at least we were thrilled for about five minutes—because that’s when everything froze. Then the screen went black, and the lights went up. The rep came in and called it a “test” and said that they’d start the movie again a little closer to 7:30—maybe in 10 minutes or so. So I ran out to the bathroom and came back in, figuring they’d be starting soon.

At about 7:35, the lights dimmed again, and the movie started again. Before we even made it through all of the studio credits, it stopped again. This time, the aspect ratio was off (though I’m not sure how that happened, since it was fine the first time they started the movie. So then we had to wait for another five minutes or so—meaning that the actual screening ended up starting 10 minutes late instead of 30 minutes early. What a cruel, cruel joke.

To make things worse, not only was it a ridiculous movie, but I was seated next to a couple who were convinced they were in their living room—and they proceeded to chat their way through the movie. Halfway through the movie, the guy pointed out “Hey…this is kinda funny.”

Really? I considered asking him if he and I were watching the same movie. Because the movie I was watching was actually kinda annoying.

My personal favorite moment, though, was when, at one point, Living Room Guy asked his wife, “Where’s she going?” as Lake Bell wandered off somewhere. Like his wife was psychic—and she actually knew what was going to happen in the movie before anyone else did. Or perhaps she wrote the movie (which would explain why he thought it was funny).

Then again, I actually could have told him where she was going—because it was just that predictable. But, once again, I kept my mouth shut.

Then, finally, when the movie ended, much to the rest of our great relief, Living Room Guy loudly announced, “That was a good movie!” Then he applauded.

People never cease to amaze me. There he was, sitting just two seats down from me, and he clearly saw a totally different movie than I did. Weird.

On a side note, though, the most amusing part of the evening (even more amusing than the people next to me) was when the security guard (whose job is to catch people who are using their cell phones and throw them out of the theater) got a phone call—and actually answered it while he was standing in the theater. Brilliant!

So anyway…we had another screening on Tuesday. It was a daytime screening—and since it was the first daytime screening of the year, I figured I’d go…just because.

The strange thing about the screening, though, was that it was scheduled for noon. Daytime screenings are typically at 11, and that extra hour totally threw me off. I was so confused. And then I had to try to eat something before I left, since I’d be starving by the end of the movie—but I wasn’t really hungry before the movie. It was all very strange. Obviously, I don’t handle change well.

Finally, on Wednesday night, there was a last-minute screening scheduled—one that hadn’t shown up on our grid until Monday afternoon. The screening was for The Spiderwick Chronicles, a movie that my young friend, Miss A, has been telling me about for ages, and she’ll be so very jealous when she hears that I’ve already seen it (and I’m pretty sure I’ll have to give a full account when I see her on Monday afternoon). I almost didn’t go—which wouldn’t have been a huge deal, since there are screenings scheduled for closer to the release date—but it’s always nice to get to a screening early and get the review over with. The problem was that I still hadn’t finished writing up the reviews for the other two screenings I’d attended earlier in the week. But I managed to finish them both in the afternoon, so I decided to go.

The screening was held in a tiny room, hidden in the back corner of the theater—so there weren’t many people there. As always, we were there early—early enough to sneak in before everyone else. Usually, that’s a good thing—because it means we get the seats we want. The downside of that, however, is that we don’t get to choose the people we sit near. This time, for instance, we ended up right behind some people who had brought a little boy (I’m guessing he was maybe two or three years old) who clearly had no interest in the movie. He was, however, interested in popcorn. Also, he seemed to be pretty interested in standing up on his mom’s lap and staring back at me. He also felt like chatting quite a bit. Fortunately, his mom eventually took him out of the theater—which was nice both for me and for the child, since I’m thinking the movie probably would have freaked him out a little bit. But, since it doesn’t come out for a couple of weeks, that’s all I can say about it. You’ll just have to wait for my review for the rest….

It looks like we’re going to have a busy couple of weeks now. Not only are there a few more movies coming out, but they’re actually movies that are screening for press (unlike Strange Wilderness and The Eye, which Kevin, ever the glutton for punishment, was going to see in a double-feature this morning). Next week, we’ve got screenings on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday (actually, Thursday and Saturday, too—but I’ve already seen that movie). The week after that is full, too.

Meanwhile, I’m already starting to gear up for this year’s Cleveland International Film Festival, which is just weeks away. The festival was one of the highlights of my year last year, and I can’t wait to go again (especially if it means partaking in another Martini Night). For those of you in the Columbus area, be sure to mark your calendars for Monday, February 25th. From 5:30 to 7:30, WCBE is sponsoring a CIFF preview party at the Arena Grand. John and Clay are hosting, and I’ll be hanging around for moral support. Not only is the film festival a great time, but so is the party—where you can grab some munchies while getting a preview of the festival. Last year, I was only there for a few minutes, but at least I got to chat with an It’s Movie Time listener for a while. This year, I plan to be mingling the whole time, so I hope to meet a few more people. If not, I’m thinking I’ll pretty much be on my own, since John and Clay tend to amass a harem of attractive (and attentive) young women wherever they go. And since I’ve known them long enough that I only occasionally humor them, it means that I usually end up sitting back and watching their antics in quiet amusement. So please…plan to join me and share in my amusement.

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