Well, the dust has settled, and in a surprise move The Final Destination beat out Halloween II at the box office. Even allowing for the inflated figures on the former—spawned by the $3-3.50 surcharge (depending on theater) for 3-D—it was a clear victory for the grim reaper and company. The likelihood of either one having any significant staying power—either on theater screens or in the mind—seems slim. Destination is just so much splatter candy and Halloweeen is just too messed up.
The real box-office disappointment of the weekend was Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock—and that was something that didn’t have to happen, or at least it didn’t have to happen the way it did. Lee’s film is a low-key look at a high-key event, a small work that, regardless of merit, never had a shot at being a blockbuster. Focus Features’ decision to put the film on too many screens at one time has effectively killed it. As an art-house release—or handled as one—Taking Woodstock would have been a modest success. If you combine the weekend grosses from the area theaters playing it—Beaucatcher, Carolina Asheville, Epic and Grande—it would have had a healthy little take that would have kept it around for several weeks. Divided by four, it’ll be lucky to get past the two-week mark. Movie distributors appear to be incapable of learning this painfully obvious lesson. My grandmother could figure this out—and she has the disadvantage of having departed this realm 29 years ago.
This week is a different proposition. There’s no clear battle on the mainstream front. You have a romantic comedy with a dubious premise up against a little indie comedy and an over-the-top action picture. The first of these—the Sandra Bullock vehicle All About Steve—would seem to stand the best chance, but the fact that Bullock plays, for all intents and purposes, a stalker weighs against it. That it isn’t being pushed suggests that it very possibly smells from herring, too. Bullock’s last film, The Proposal, is barely out of theaters and was a hit, which could either hurt or help.
The names Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor may mean slightly more to you as simply Neveldine and Taylor, but even then the cheeky boys responsible for the Crank movies are hardly household names. Their new film, Gamer, doesn’t look to be nearly as outrageous as the Crank films—at least based on the trailer. The stills (see photo off to the right) suggest otherwise. Even so, that only promises a niche crowd—and a fairly small one at that, if we go by Crank: High Voltage. Gerard Butler—currently on-screen in The Ugly Truth and in trailers for Law Abiding Citizen—is a name, but not yet a star with proven box-office appeal.
Mike Judge’s Extract—an R-rated indie comedy with Jason Bateman—is definitely in the long-shot category. Still, unlike Judge’s last movie, Idiocracy (2006), this one is at least getting a release. The problem is that it’s in almost the identical situation of last week’s Taking Woodstock. It ought to be opening on one screen and it’s opening on several. And once more the pie is going to be cut into too many pieces. So if you’re a fan of Judge’s particular style of quirky humor, I’d suggest you lose no time in catching it.
In the realm of the less mainstream, we get three new movies this week. The Fine Arts is opening both In the Loop (see review in Wednesday’s Xpress) and Adam, while the Carolina Asheville has The Stoning of Soraya M. (also reviewed in Wednesday’s Xpress). This, of course, means that the Fine Arts is losing (500) Days of Summer and Ponyo. The former is still going to be at other theaters, but Thursday is your last chance to catch Ponyo.
Still holding strong are Inglourious Basterds and District 9—and both are worth your while, as, in a different key, is Julie & Julia. The rest of what’s still hanging around … well, there are only so many movies for the number of screens out there.
Last week was pretty impressive. This week not so much. State of Play is a good movie, but it’s nothing I can imagine needing to see a second time—and certainly nothing I’m going to buy. Justin Souther gave high marks to Sugar, which almost no one (including me) saw, so it might be worth a look. Whatever value Earth had would seem to be significantly reduced by not seeing it on the big screen, which was its primary draw in the first place (especially since it was cobbled together from a BBC TV series). Sin Nombre is a worthy movie that’s worth a rental if you missed its theatrical run locally.
Otherwise, there’s not much hitting the street this week from my standpoint. However, next week promises us Crank: High Voltage and the week after we get Easy Virtue, so there are things to look forward to. Now, if someone could come up with a DVD release date for The Brothers Bloom, I’d be a lot happier.
Notable TV screenings
Dunston’s back—and Fox Movie Channel’s got him! Yes, Dunston Checks In (did he ever really check out?) returns on Thursday, Sept. 3, at 4:30 p.m. Those suffering from orangutan withdrawal take note. The truth about the coming week is that there are good things out there—especially on Turner Classic Movies—but we’re at one of those points where most of it has been shown recently or is in fairly constant rotation. For example, Rouben Mamoulian’s The Gay Desperado (1936) is back tomorrow. It’s a good movie and of even more interest if you’re interested in Mamoulian, but it’s been around several times of late. The same with the comedy/mystery A Night to Remember (1942), which I highlighted a couple weeks ago.
Going over the listings for the coming week, I saw a lot of perfectly worthwhile titles, but not a single thing that I’d make a specific effort to be sure I caught. With this in mind, remember that stack of unwatched DVDs I mentioned last week? Well, it might be even more valuable this week.