Friday movie roundup – April 6

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Lots of movies this week, and I have anecdotes for almost all of them! I am an anecdote factory!

The big ticket is “Grindhouse,” Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s double-feature homage to the schlocky B-movies of the ’70s, complete with phony trailers during the intermission to enhance the experience.

Enhancing the experience for me was the fact that I had to sneak in to the screening. The film is distributed by Dimension, which (along with Weinstein Company and Miramax) is handled by Allied Advertising in Seattle. Allied, of course, was the agency that banned me from Paramount screenings several months ago, and they decided (or were strong-armed by Paramount) to take me off the invite list for the other studios they handle, too. That means I wasn’t invited to the “Grindhouse” screening this past Tuesday.

Well, not seeing “Grindhouse” wasn’t really an option for me, so I had to take drastic measures. I had to sneak in. The screening was at 7 p.m., and it was a promotional screening, meaning there would be screaming masses along with the press. I got to the multiplex at 5:50 and bought a ticket to “Premonition,” as that was the film that had started the most recently. It had started at 5, which made buying a ticket for it at 5:50 kind of weird, but the girl at the box office didn’t care.

Like most multiplexes, this one works so that once you’re past the ticket-taker, you can go wherever you want. So I watched the last 20 minutes of “300,” then caught a middle 20 minutes of “Blades of Glory.” It was about 6:30 then, and I knew the audience was probably just being admitted into the “Grindhouse” theater. Sure enough, there was a line of them trickling in, having handed over their passes at the ticket-taker podium, and I joined them as they entered the auditorium.

I sat away from my friends in the press and kept my head down so that none of the local representatives (who work for the ad agency) would see me. I’m friendly with most of them, so I didn’t want to put them in the awkward situation of seeing me and then having to decide whether to look the other way or throw me out. That’s why I’d had to show up so early, and why I couldn’t just wait in line with the screaming masses. I might have gotten away with “Oh, I’m not a critic tonight, I’m just a member of the public!,” but I might not have, too. I didn’t want to risk it.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that by now the folks at Allied have forgotten about me, or don’t even care anymore if I go to their movies. But if they do still care, and if they’re reading this, they may rest assured that your reps are doing their due diligence. None of them saw me at “Grindhouse”; I saw it totally without their awareness or approval. I regret having to add $6.50 to “Premonition’s” box office total to do it, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

(P.S. to Allied: Can we call a truce on the whole thing? I get tired of having to mention all the time how Paramount banned me and you added the other studios to the ban. Put me back on the invite list and I won’t have to talk about it so much anymore. Call me! We can totally be friends again!)

“Grindhouse” is the only wide release opening today, but “The Reaping” opened yesterday. Why Thursday? Who knows. Why open it at all, really? It stars noted horse-faced actress Hilary Swank as a miracle-debunker who has her hands full with a Louisiana town where the biblical plagues are happening in rapid succession. It’s not very good.

The trailer for this movie made me and Lady Dawn giggle every time we saw it, which was several times, since they started showing it a year ago and then kept pushing back the film’s release date.

It shows all these plague-related images, and then we see the words “What Hath Got Wrought?” Then another plague image, and then: “Hilary Swank

… in ‘The Reaping'”

… but at first it looks like “Hilary Swank” is the answer to the question “What Hath Got Wrought?” What hath God wrought? Hilary Swank, that’s what.

So Dawn and I giggled about that a lot, to the extent that on my way to the screening on Monday, I got a text message from her that said, “What hath God wrought?” I replied with the correct answer, “Hilary Swank.” And now, sadly, the movie has come out, and the joke is old. Sigh.

Before the screening began, I left the theater to use the restroom and noticed a young man, maybe 20, but with a big hippie beard, hovering near a garbage can and acting furtively. Curious to see what he was up to, I stayed out of his line of sight and kept an eye on him. I watched him reach into the trash and pull out a soda cup that bore the theater’s logo. He drained the remaining beverage out of it but kept the ice, and I realized what he was doing: He was going to go to the concession stand to get a “free refill” on his soda. I briefly considered following him and thwarting his plans, but I decided I’m not the soda police.

When I got back to my seat, I discovered that, coincidentally, he and his buddies were sitting behind me. I heard him tell his associates what he had done and urge them to go and do likewise, but they did not heed his words. True visionaries are seldom accepted by their peers.

Finally, “Firehouse Dog” and “Are We Done Yet?” came out on Wednesday. “Firehouse Dog,” despite not being screened for critics, is actually OK. “Are We Done Yet?,” which was screened (the same night as “The Reaping,” thanks a lot), is a truly awful movie. It’s in the running for worst of the year. Enjoy!

This week’s “In the Dark” podcast can be listened to and savored here. And if you haven’t subscribed to the e-mail version of “In the Dark,” you should do so here, don’t you think?

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