That’s sad, because I still have a real affection for the whole moviegoing experience. The formality of setting aside a more or less uninterruptible block of one’s time to physically travel to a location where one sits in the dark among strangers to consume mass media — the most public kind of private recreation I can think of — is something that’s special to me. If moviegoing is ultimately defeated by home entertainment and it turns out that, in the course of human history, it’s a phenomenon that only ever persisted for about a century, I’ll be glad I lived through at least a part of those hundred years.
That said, in the past several weeks, I’ve found myself with an unexpectedly numerous set of opportunities to go to the movies. To be sure, I didn’t seize those opportunities in the most culturally redeeming ways; my choices were invariably along the lines of ‘sensation candy’ rather than brain food. But I had fun, and that’s what counts, right? Here are a few quick recaps.
If your expectations for “Hot Fuzz” are based at all on the stellar job this British creative team did for the 2004 horror satire “Shaun of the Dead,” you’re likely to be disappointed. This send up of the genre of brutal action movies most often associated with the likes of Jerry Bruckheimer and Joel Silver has got a heart, for sure. It’s a kind of a sweet action flick — as in tender sweet. But it’s much more of an action film than a comedy, and there are more explosions than laughs. Unfortunately.
I more or less had to vow to set aside the time to see Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s extravagant double-feature “Grindhouse” before it left the theaters, and somehow I pulled it off. At over three hours, it’s truly a fully fledged double-feature experience, even with all its stagey reproductions of antiquated B-movie conventions. It’s worth seeing though, because there’s going to be nothing else like it in theaters this year; it’s an absolutely total immersion in the artifice of these two directors’ imaginations, executed almost completely without regard for what anyone could possibly say about it.
Of the two features, I was surprisingly much fonder of Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror,” which so satisfyingly recaptures the John Carpenter school of thrills and chills that I’d gladly watch it again and again. Unfortunately, in fact of how brilliant I think all of Tarantino’s previous movies are (that is, I think they’re genius) I found his garrulous, sometimes plodding and over-written “Death Proof” to be a wearying indulgence at times. Once the plot took off, I admit that it really took off, but it takes a long time and a lot of aimless talk to get there.
As an aside: regardless of the quality of the actual product, the graphical promotion for this movie has been nothing short of brilliant. Its posters and collateral, like this one and this one are fantastically assured and engrossing examples of vernacular design.
“Blades of Glory”
When Will Ferrell starred in the serviceably agreeable “Stranger Than Fiction,” I was sure he’d gone down the path of Robin Williams, turning a moderately interesting career in insightful comedy into a never-ending string of sentimental cheap shots. That might still turn out to be the case, but “Blades of Glory” is a convincing counter-argument. It’s silly and stupid as hell, and it’s absolutely not worth a minute of anyone’s time while there’s hunger to be relieved, war to be stopped and elephants to be saved. Nevertheless, it’s a really freakin’ hilarious movie that I enjoyed a hell of a lot, and I laughed with tremendous delight the whole way through.
Three movies in less than three weeks is something of an accomplishment for me, of late. It’s certainly out of the ordinary. But seeing these in such rapid succession, I was reminded of one drawback in such frequent moviegoing: one tends to see the same movie trailers, again and again. And, almost as a matter of course, one of these trailers was for this summer’s highly anticipated, can’t-miss blockbuster “Spider-Man 3.” I was burned by the first two entries in this franchise — I found them tedious and overly rendered where they should have been light and loose — and so I have very little enthusiasm for this most recent outing… and this even in spite of my already established affinity for anything comic book-related. Still, I want to know just one thing: does every comic book movie have to feature about a zillion super-villians in it? Why can’t they just have one super-villian, instead?