The Grinch After Christmas

January 05, 2009
A thought by James Berardinelli

Sorry if this seems gloomy, but I'm not in a good mood. I have an illness (congestion, post-sinus drip, fever, chills, body aches - most likely a bad cold). I'm annoyed by the lack of snow. And I just spent an hour analyzing the rest of the winter movie release calendar. Such an experience is not the way to cure any post-holiday blues.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, the most depressing thing about the new year is that now is the time to be subjected to January movies. I realize that many readers have not yet been able to see the cream of 2008's late-blooming crop, so those in that category have some good stuff ahead. For me, however, things aren't looking so appealing. It's time for me to start praying for big, crippling snowstorms so I can end up stranded at home and provide a legitimate excuse for not having been able to see some of what looks like the worst movie platter in memory. (Or at least since early last year...)

As I gaze over the release schedule for January and February, I realize with dismay that there's nothing I am even a little bit excited about. I can't recall such a dearth over a 60-day period since I began reviewing in 1992. Even last year, there was Cloverfield. Sure, maybe the "event" was as much hype as it was substance, but at least it got people excited. And, ultimately, it was a decent film (at least for those who weren't forced to bring barf bags with them). This year, there's no Cloverfield out there. Summit is trying to pump up interest in Push (they have sent out free comic books to critics and are flooding the market with promotional material), but it hasn't tweaked my interest yet.

For those who love horror remakes, there are a few of them. My Bloody Valentine uses the 3D gimmick, a sure-fire give-away that there's not enough content in the film for it to stand on its own legs in 2D. I'm in a state of unbridled 3D hatred that started the day I slogged my way through Journey at the Center of the Earth, one of the most physically unpleasant experiences I have had in a theater in a while. It is unlikely that I will see anything in 3D until Monsters Versus Aliens, although I won't make any firm proclamations in case something I'm not expecting shows up.

In February, we get a remake of Friday the 13th. I bet everyone has been waiting with baited breath for that one. At least this is a case when it's hard to envision the remake being much worse than the original. The first Friday the 13th was a garden variety slasher movie that had little or nothing to recommend it beyond a lot of gore. It helped establish the slasher standards that even today plague "horror" movies. Remaking it seems pointless but I hold out hope that perhaps the filmmakers will take the basic premise and rework it in such a way that it works as more than an excuse for copious bloodletting.

There's also a third Underworld movie, although this one lacks the only possible reason to have seen the first one: Kate Beckinsale in S&M fetish garb. Bill Nighy doesn't do the trick. I'm not sure why this movie was made and whether there are enough "fans" to keep the series going, but I suppose it's cheap enough that even a direct-to-DVD release would have been profitable. I don't know anyone who actually wants to see this movie and it won't be screened for critics. Nevertheless, I'll probably give up a Friday morning if only because I live in hope that something for which I have low expectations will suddenly surprise me.

Still, the most horrifying of all the remakes/sequels is not about monsters, vampires, werewolves, or serial killers. It's about Steve Martin once again disturbing the grave of Peter Sellers. As if the remake wasn't bad enough... now we have a sequel to the remake. There is one curious bit of casting, however. The part of Chief Inspector Dreyfus is now being played by John Cleese (who, if he goes into full Basil Fawlty mode, could be hilarious - he's in Sellars' league when it comes to physical comedy). In the earlier film, Dreyfus was played by Kevin Kline. Kline and Cleese are great friends and starred together in both A Fish Called Wanda and Fierce Creatures.

There is one movie I might be interested in if I had any assurances that (1) it's going to open, and (2) it's going to open near me. That's Fanboys. This movie has already been pullled from two or three planned release dates and it's hard to guess whether February 6 is real or imaginary. Even if it opens that day, it's a crapshoot whether it will open near anyone. Currently, it's slated for a big 50-screen rollout, which sounds like a dump to avoid the direct-to-DVD label. What amazes me is that a movie like this, if marketed properly and given and decent size release with some legitimate publicity, might be able to make a small splash, especially considering how dead things are at that time of the year. (Opening it opposite Push, by the way, is an exercise in stupidity - it should be moved up or back a week.) If I'm lucky enough to have it show up at a theater within 20 miles of my house (except the one where patrons shoot other patrons), I'll see it on the big screen. Otherwise, DVD beckons. Wonder if it will be available on Blu-Ray? Don't bet the mortgage.

It will be interesting to see whether the pathetic nature of what January and February have to offer will destroy my website-based revenue model. I suspect it will. I believe it's possible that the next two months will force me to reconsider the viability of this site as more than a hobby. Because I don't see things getting substantially better until the summer and, even then, one has to wonder. A part of me would like to be able to turn my back on theatrical releases and concentrate on DVDs, but such a scheme is neither prudent nor practical. Realistically, all I need is a couple of quality films to arrive during the next two months to retain my faith in cinema. That's all I'm asking for. We'll see if the distributors can deliver. If not, life is too short to devote oneself to the study and analysis of crap. I pay a monthly sewer tax precisely so such material will be flushed far away from me.