It’s a lukewarm week for movies. Of the wide releases, we have two C+’s and a B-. At Rotten Tomatoes, B- is the cutoff for a “Fresh” rating, so I adopted that as my unofficial standard some years ago. But it’s tricky. A B- movie is “recommended,” but just barely, while a C+ is NOT recommended, but also just barely. Either way, B- or C+, we’re dealing with movies that are sort of OK but not particularly noteworthy. And you have plenty of those to choose from this weekend!
I saw “The Guardian” more than three weeks ago. Why they screened it so early, and subsequently had about six more screenings, I don’t know. Well, I do know. They were trying to build positive word-of-mouth. But why they thought this particular film was so worthy of it, THAT part I don’t know.
“School for Scoundrels,” meanwhile, is a Dimension product, which means I am not invited to screenings, as Paramount harassed Dimension into joining them in their boycott of me a couple months ago. However! The film screened in “sneak previews” last Saturday in about 1,500 theaters nationwide. Sneak previews are not promo screenings; they’re regular pay-for-a-ticket showings that are open to anyone. So I went to one of those and there WASN’T A DAMN THING PARAMOUNT COULD DO TO STOP ME. I’m hardcore like that. (And yes, of course I paid for a different movie and sneaked into “School for Scoundrels” so that Dimension wouldn’t get my money. I’m hardcore like that, too. The list of ways in which I am hardcore is lengthy.)
It had been a while since I’d been to one of these week-early “sneak preview” screenings. I recall going to a few back in Utah, either because I wanted to get the film out of the way without waiting for the press screening the following Monday or Tuesday, or because there wasn’t a press screening. The thing I remember about them, though, is that they were always packed. This one, for “School for Scoundrels,” had maybe 25 people in it. Was it because they put it on so many screens in so many cities, thus dispersing the audience? Did they not publicize the sneak previews well enough? Or were the ones in Utah always packed only because there was nothing else to do in Utah on a Saturday night?
The third major release this weekend is “Open Season,” an animated tale of whimsy featuring the voices of Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher. I knew I didn’t like Martin Lawrence when I could see him; turns out I don’t care for him when it’s just his voice, either.
In limited release is a documentary called “The U.S. vs. John Lennon” (no review yet, sorry), detailing the Nixon administration’s paranoia with regard to the ex-Beatle and his activist/bad-influence wife Yoko Ono, what with their anti-war protesting and love-ins and so forth. Lots and lots of footage from the early 1970s is included, along with new interviews of some of the participants.
The film was screened Wednesday night at Portland’s Fox Tower (an excellent arthouse multiplex), and sitting in the very front row was a man who was VERY passionate about the film’s subject matter. To wit: Every time a John Lennon song played, the man would raise his arms above his head and sway them back and forth. When Lennon would say something especially profound, the man would make his fingers into peace signs. When Richard Nixon or G. Gordon Liddy or some such person would appear, the man would flip them off. Over time, his reactions to the film became vocal, too, with shouts of “RIGHT ON!” or “[EXPLETIVE] YOU!”
Now, once was funny. The audience chuckled at his exuberance. All the subsequent outbursts, however, were annoying. Near the end of the film, with Lennon’s immigration status in question and Nixon winning re-election, it was finally too much for the insane man. He stood up with a roar and stomped toward the exit, apparently unable to take any more. But he calmed down and returned to his seat, swearing at the person near him who had said, “Go ahead and use that exit.”
You may know that these advance screenings always have a representative on hand to make sure things go smoothly. Most of these reps are impressively efficient and resourceful and are a joy to have nearby when there’s a problem. The rep on duty this time, however, is not particularly fond of confrontations, and thus spent the entire film pretending not to notice that there was a lunatic shouting things. FINALLY, with five minutes to go, he went and tried to escort the man out of the theater. They got as far as the aisle, and then the man said, “No, I’ll see the end!” and went and sat on the floor in front of the theater’s second section. The rep made no effort to prevent this, and the man stayed.
Afterward, as I left the theater and walked down the street, I spied the lunatic just ahead of me. He was ranting a bit, to no one in particular. He looked to be in his mid-50s, scrawny and stringy-haired. As I drew closer, I realized he wasn’t crazy, necessarily: He was stoned. Stoned out of his mind. (My first guess, actually, would have been drunk, but he didn’t smell like alcohol at all.) He said, “Did you see the movie?” Seeing this as my opportunity to have one of the post-movie confrontations that I always fantasize about but rarely engage in, I said, “Yes. Why were you yelling the whole time?”
“Was I yelling the whole time?”
“Yes! You kept shouting stuff at the screen!”
“Why were you doing that? What makes you think that’s OK? It wasn’t a concert, or a rally. It was a movie theater. You’re supposed to be quiet in movie theaters.”
He stonedly explained how he was very interested in the subject. I said, “Maybe you shouldn’t get stoned before you go to the movies.” He replied, “But I ALWAYS get stoned before I go to the movies!”
Now the whole thing was just funny, not annoying, because he was SOOOOO high. It was hilarious. He asked if he could talk to me while we waited for the light rail, and I said no because I had to go across the street to use the ATM (which was true). As I walked away, he shouted, “FINE, THEN!!”
Don’t do drugs, kids. And especially don’t do drugs and then go to the movies.